The Stick Shop
One bright sunny morning, a confident and beautiful woman named Sue was walking down her local high street. As she turned a corner, she noticed a woman coming out of a new shop. The women paused and looked each other up and down as women do, comparing hair, clothes, shape and general air of confidence. Sue decided they were evenly matched except for one thing. Their sticks. Sue’s was short, shabby and gnarled with overuse whereas this woman was carrying a magnificent stick. Long, firm and, more importantly seemed to match exactly the woman’s image and demeanour.
‘Oh My God!’ Sue cried. ‘I love your stick! Where did you get it?!’
The woman smiled. ‘It is rather fabulous isn’t it? I can’t believe how well it goes with everything I own and that I can take it with me wherever I go and is just perfect for any situation.’
The woman then smiled and nodded her head toward the shop she had just come out of. ‘Go see for yourself! They are brilliant at finding what works best for you.’
Intrigued, Sue entered the shop. It was a dimly lit space with rows and rows of shelves, all containing sticks. Long sticks, short sticks, knobbly sticks, different coloured sticks all nestling in their own box.
A young girl appeared from behind a long desk, smiling briskly. ‘Good morning. Welcome to Sticks. Do take a seat. ’She pointed to a large chair in front of the desk which contained a pen and a very long list of questions.
‘Did you bring your current stick with you?’ the assistant asked.
Sue glanced down at the stick held in a loose bag across her back. She always had it with her and couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t there.
Carefully, she laid it out on the table in front of the assistant. The girl picked it up. ‘Hmm, his has obviously been used well, from early teens I would say but has lost some of its sharpness and you clearly aren’t using it as much as you used to.
Sue looked at the girl in amazement. ‘How do you know that?’
The girl smiled. ‘Oh, I’m very experienced. Now let’s get started shall we?’
There then followed a long list of in-depth questions.
How old were you when you first started to use your stick?
How old are you now?
How many times a day do you use your stick?
Are there any particular situations where you use your stick more?
Are there certain people that inspire you to use your stick more often?
Do you use your stick when just alone or when prompted to by others?
Do you use your stick in all your relationships or is it used more with some than others? For example, husband, parents, old friends, work colleagues?
What is your pain threshold gauge for using your stick?
Do you ever share your stick or indulge in group stick use?
How do you react if someone tries to either persuade you to stop using your stick or tries to forcibly remove it from you?( If this happens frequently you may need to also see our additional range of customised armour and self-defence tools.)
What do you do with your stick when you experience any feelings of happiness or self-acceptance?
In a daze but with a growing sense of shame, Sue answered all the questions, distraught at recognising how often in her life she had been tempted to put down her stick and stop using it.
‘Who will I be without my stick?’ She moaned.
‘Don’t worry,’ the girl said as she gently removed Sue’s stick from her. ‘You’re not losing your stick, it will always be a part of you but the time has come for a new stick that more accurately reflects who you are now.
The girl went to a shelf and selected a stick. It was beautiful. Longer than Sue’s previous one, thicker and with a sharply pointed end.
‘This is one of our most popular models,’ the girl explained. ‘The sharp point is excellent for reaching those really deep places that have had a lot of memories and habits attached to them.’
Sue held up her new stick and felt wonderful. She couldn’t wait to start using it!
Sue handed over her payment and the girl explained the guarantee and warranty.
‘Now, this rarely happens but we want to be through in our service to you. If, for any reason, you feel you no longer need or want your stick we ask that you return it so it can be donated to a charity we have set up for young girls who are just beginning to learn about using sticks. If however, your stick becomes damaged or broken through overuse, then we will replace it immediately and also provide you with a celebration certificate and membership of our exclusive stick club which meets here every Wednesday.’
Sue emerged, dazed and happy from the shop, proudly carrying her new stick. As she did so, she caught the eye of a young, attractive girl whose eyes widened in amazement when she saw Sue’s stick. Sue smiled and went to greet her.
The sticks we carry come in all different shapes and sizes and are used for reasons that are as unique as the people that carry them. Get in touch on the askbeccy@lifehouse page to share your stick stories or to ask any questions as to how you can lose them!
It’s September, already! And if you are one of the millions of people bemoaning the fact that summer is over and so is all the holiday fun, consider the advice offered yesterday on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show. According to research, September, is actually much more a beginning of a new year, complete with making resolutions, than January and I think he makes a very good point.
And why? September is the beginning of a new school year, so it feels more like a natural time to make a fresh start than I the aftermath of Christmas. This actually makes complete sense. Summer is the traditional time when most people take a well earned holiday or break and use that time to reflect over the past year before beginning a new term or new phase of work. If you are lucky enough to actually go away then a holiday affords us a true break from all the stress and pressure of everyday life and is when we try and cram in all the promised ‘quality me time’ that has been neglected for months into a few short days or weeks. It may also be a time when we take stock of where we are and what changes we want to make in our lives.
And this is exactly what I did. For a whole range of reasons, I began the summer feeling frazzled, unfocused and frustrated with certain friendships while not following through on any of the self -care practices I so regularly preach to others as essential for our emotional as well as physical health. Instead of choosing to focus on one thing at a time, I scattered long lists, notes and to do lists for each area of my life in my study, creating a backdrop that Jackson Pollock would have been proud of.
Far from feeling focused, I was feeling woefully inadequate, not to mention emotionally and physically drained coupled with the stress of seeing the health of my beloved Labrador deteriorating and the guilt of feeling I was losing precious time with him.
So, I took a holiday. I didn’t go away anywhere but instead, I gave myself permission to simply stop. Stop worrying, stop running around, stop obsessing about my endless to do lists and stop trying to be there for everyone else except myself. Now, I’m not saying I kept this up for the entire summer, the guilt monkey jumped up and down a fair amount and I also didn’t become a recluse and totally neglect my nearest and dearest. I just chose not to neglect myself for once and to actually take the time out to figure out what exactly was motivating me to run around the way I did and to reflect on what was really important to me
So I did absolutely nothing. Well, that’s not strictly true as I did a lot of things, mostly involving hanging out with the pooch who was delighted to have so much more of my focused time and attention, spending hours at the beach or going on outings. What I mean is I gave myself permission to only spend time doing what I genuinely wanted to do and not what I felt I should do and what a revelation that was!
By considering more carefully what I actively chose to do I found myself naturally spending time on projects I had long been promising to do such as studying Reiki and EFT, spending time with friends I hadn’t connected with in a long while and spending less time with others. The rest of the time I read, made plans, overhauled my long term goals, took better care of my physical health and needs and actively sought out time to just be, not do, just be.
Now I know this is completely unsustainable in the real world but actually, is it? Chris Evans continued to say that the research he was referring to also advised that we keep some elements of the holiday feeling alive in our day to day life. What I learnt was that the very things I often didn’t find time for are the very things that enable me to have the energy and even the enthusiasm to do more of just with a different focus.
I will be expanding on this in the coming weeks but for now, I urge you to embrace this new year and whatever plans you have made over the summer and to keep some daily time to still give yourself a sense of holiday freedom, we just won’t tell anyone!
Receiving loud and clear!
‘Tell you what, Love, don’t say anything to anyone else like, but I’ve just taken those 2 trees ‘round back of neighbour for £160 so if you like I’ll sort yours for £140.’
Oh how innocent this sounds and what huge job was this kind man offering to do at such a lovely discount? Rid me of the stump of a large palm tree bush that has been blighting my front lawn and I had so far spent two weekends hacking back.
Now, I understand if you are reading this and thinking, ‘had she flipped her lid or what?!’
Fair comment well presented, yet there is more to confess. While everything in my gut was telling me that this young man, despite the reputable business card and work van was, indeed, pulling a fast one, I still found myself mumbling that I didn’t have that amount of cash in the house and if he’d just like to hang on I’d pop to the cash point.
By the time I returned, he had chain-sawed the stump but still had left a hefty large lump and all the surrounding earth. 5 Minutes, a bit of poison on the root or so he claimed and £140 in his pocket. Nice work if you can get it.
I did actually find my voice to squeak that the £140, (I keep saying the amount as a harsh reminder to myself of the expensive lesson learned) seemed a lot of money for such a simple job that actually, still left me with a large stump that, in the 3 weeks since, has not rotted down as promised and is even sprouting new shoots. His response was to say,
‘Look Lady, if you want me to show you how much a new chainsaw blade is and the cost of taking tree stumps away you will see I have done you a massive favour.’
By that point, I knew I had been had but there was nothing I could do about it other than severely beat myself up, spending the next 24 hours repeating the phrase,
‘What on earth were you thinking????’
So what, indeed, was I thinking?
Well, the message was coming through loud and clear that, yet again, I had resisted asking for help, despite many offers. Had I really become so single and independent that I resented asking help for anything at all, preferring to spend money I don’t have to in order not to feel I’m putting anyone else out? In a nutshell, yes.
Not consciously of course. Though I am well aware that my default position is to be a giver rather than a receiver and this is often a topic that is raised with my coaching clients. So many of us, and I have to say women in particular, find themselves in constant giving mode; of their time, their energy, their love, their money yet find it difficult to accept they ‘deserve’ the same in return, despite their outward confidence. Instead, they will spend vast amount of energy ‘coping’ rather than feel they are imposing on others by asking for help.
When I was younger, this pattern was reinforced by a need to be constantly busy helping others as a way of avoiding addressing my lack of self-care. I am now much better at this yet still, the experience with tree stump man would indicate that this is still a dormant auto-response. At least I now have more awareness to recognise and deal with this response differently, even though I am £140 lighter for the lesson.
When I coach clients, the first thing I ask them to do is consider what they would say to a friend who had this pattern? Most people say they would offer reassurance, remind their friend of how generous and loving they are and that they deserve to be taken care of too sometimes. And, most importantly, by not being willing to receive we are blocking not only our own self-care but denying others the freedom and joy giving to us may bring to them.
I have had this levelled at me more than once that by not being willing to receive help, gifts or whatever else is being offered with genuine love and care, I am making the relationship imbalanced and disrupting the natural flow of energy that connects us all. Something that when I do open up to receive, does indeed make me feel more connected, not only to others but to myself too.
So, my advice to myself after this incident was to actually be ok with accepting offers of help, that others like to help as much as I do and that accepting is just as important as giving even if we start with baby steps. Reminding myself to be mindful of being my own friend as well as a friend to others and to next time perhaps spend that £140 on some yummy treatments at Lifehouse instead or perhaps a decent gardener!
‘I’m sorry but if you don’t communicate with me, how on earth am I supposed to just turn up and produce choreography for different parts of the play, with different groups of people without having seen them or the staging first?! I’m sick of feeling like a disappointment to you and am going home!’
As I sat sobbing in the car, I was hit with a Deja-vu sensation as this was a very familiar pattern. While there was certainly some justification for my frustration, my reaction had nevertheless been extreme and in no way deserved by the stunned recipient. So what was going on?
As I sat blubbing to my friend who had come out to join me, I realised that actually, my tears and frustration were due to my beloved dog, Oz, showing a sudden and rapid decline with his arthritic condition and the sheer enormity of the possibility of losing him was breaking my heart. Not helped also by my feeling of guilt that I had let him down by not doing enough to prevent this.
I had calmly shared this with friends but not acknowledged the reality of the pain I was feeling. However, when I began crying at almost every act of Britain’s Got Talent and any commercial with an animal in it, I really should have guessed that something was soon going to give!
The release of my rampant emotions in the car did make me feel better as crying always does. But I realised I had to apply a bit of, ‘physician heal thyself’ philosophy to get to the root of what was really going on and to give me different options of coping that did not involve blasting innocent people with my emotional outbursts.
So, first of all I looked for the pattern. When did these outbursts usually occur? Who with and for how long? What was usually happening immediately before, during and after the outburst?
So, for me, my trigger is when I feel any sense of physical or emotional overwhelm which can lead me to feeling resentful of others making demands on me or feeling I am letting them down while also angry that they are not being supportive enough of me. The pattern is that I rarely actually express this and carry on saying yes to things while not communicating my own difficulties or asking for help or support. Instead, I turn to my old friend, Snappy who is always ready to leap into action!
What? Who is Snappy? Well, my emotional outburst employee of course!
I met Snappy when I was doing my training with Mark and Magali Peysha of Strategic Intervention. We were doing an exercise about gaining emotional mastery and they had a very playful take on how to get close to a difficult emotion and understand its purpose. This then paved the way to create different emotional responses that brought more control and well-being.
Having identified my emotional outburst as someone called ‘Snappy’, I then invited her to sit with me. I gave her personality and clothes (bright green with huge teeth and very thick glasses as she was very short sighted.) We had a chat and I asked her why she kept coming up so much and what she was trying to get me to see.
She explained that her job was to be on constant alert to immediately defend me and keep me safe from uncomfortable emotions. This was wither by blocking them or making me sensitive to external triggers against which I could externally vent and avoid looking at what was really going on that was more painful. She was very good at this thank you very much, so why was I now being so ungrateful?
Why indeed. I thanked her for doing such a splendid job but pointed out that actually, this was stopping me taking proper care of myself and was making me feel worse, as well as alienating me from people and the support I craved
So, as her caring boss, and taking note of the feedback offered, I vowed to take back some responsibility by exploring other options and invited her to take early retirement with the understanding that we would always stay in touch as she had been of so much value over the years.
So what other options did I explore?
Well, first of all, I began to notice the pattern of my emotions and which people or situations triggered me.
I kept a journal to track this and also to note down which emotions lay beneath the trigger and what they really meant. For example, as well as guilt, not feeling good enough and fear of losing something I loved, other emotions such as long held anger, frustration and sadness from the past began to surface.
I gave myself permission to feel these emotions and rather than fight or resist them, I began to simply just allow them to surface then let them pass. I also wrote down any information or insight they brought which helped release them in a more loving way.
I found that what I needed was to show myself the same compassion I would a dear friend and cut myself some slack. I also gave myself permission to cry and express my pain either through writing or talking with a friend, allowing for a different perspective and therefore different behaviours.
So, if like me, you also suffer from the trying to stop a burst emotional pipe with your thumb and watching it explode out in different directions and causing havoc type, then I invite you to try the exercise. If you would like any further information, help or support with that then please do get in touch.
And Oz? He is living to fight another day and I am embracing my tears by crying at every episode of Britain’s got Talent and The Supervet!
How valuable are your values?
Most people, if asked, will say they are very clear about the values they hold and will easily list what they feel their top ones are. These can range from authentic, fair, compassion, adventure, beauty, to fun, status or wealth. The idea being that these values are what drives us to experience or create in our life both professionally or personally. Yet, I have often found when coaching that this simply isn’t the case.
Trusting Your Instincts in a Relationship
The following is an abridged excerpt from chapter 7 of my book, ‘Start with You’ Trusting our instincts is always difficult when we are determined to make a relationship work, regardless of the facts in front of us. Does any of the following resonate with you? I would love to hear about your own thoughts and experiences!
‘Oh, hello! You back again, D? Did you like the bouquet he sent you last week, hon? He is spoiling you, isn’t he?’
Oh, what a priceless Candid Camera moment that was as I stood in a florist’s shop with my then boyfriend, buying flowers to take to friends we were about to visit. And did the florist pause and realise the impact of her words? She did not.
‘It was a beautiful bouquet. All your favourite flowers in it, he said, and the card! So thoughtful and loving.’
Through gritted teeth and sideways evils at my boyfriend, who was turning greener than the foliage he was holding, I told her that no, the flowers had not been for me.
‘Are you sure? I delivered them myself.’
And there we have it. The flower lady had indeed delivered the bouquet, and this last comment prompted the boyfriend to mutter that they had been for a ‘friend’ and not me. As we walked away from the florist in stony silence, he assumed a nonchalant air and an increasingly familiar sneer.
‘I suppose you’re going to have a go at me now, aren’t you?’
Oh, well done. Meaning that any genuine emotional response to convey my shock and hurt was now going to be dismissed as being irrational and nagging.
Amazingly, instead of taking the flowers we’d just bought and shoving them where the sun doesn’t shine, I stayed incredibly calm.
We had only been together for about five months, having met through mutual friends at a barn dance. There had been an instant physical attraction, and as it had been three years since the breakup of my last relationship, my radar at the time had been on overdrive:
‘Alert! Alert! Potential new partner. All details to be filtered and distorted to suit desire to mate.’ When he asked me out he clearly said that he was still going through a messy divorce and had only just come out of an on/off relationship with someone he had met when he first became separated. My radar at that point flashed, ‘Ignore! Ignore!’ as I replied, ‘No problem. You are only asking me out for a drink, not to marry you.’
Long story short, we did go out and had some lovely times. However, I soon realised that he really had meant it when he said he wasn’t in a good place. I found his mood swings difficult, and became exhausted trying to second-guess his feelings in order to pep him up or appease him.
Back to the flower shop and his response to my question.
‘It was her birthday, and I as I hadn’t acknowledged her at Christmas and she’s going through a tough time, I thought it would cheer her up.’
On the face of it, that was fair enough as he was emulating the warm friendship that I still enjoyed with my ex. Except, this was all happening one week after I had encouraged him to meet up with her so they could have the adult conversation they hadn’t had when they’d broken up.
After the meeting in question, he’d duly reported back that while it had been great to see her, she had stated clearly that she still loved him and wanted him back, so he had made it equally clear that he was now happy with me and they should wish each other well and move on.
Marvellous. I should have felt no doubt at all about his commitment then. Certainty and significance should have been abundant, along with more love and connection than you could shake a stick at. How proud I was of his growth, and of my contribution to that. The elastic of my superhero pants was positively twanging with self-congratulation.
Then came the flowers. And the fact he hadn’t told me about them.
I swallowed my outrage while managing to squeak, ‘OK, but I too have been going through a tough time recently, and yet I have never received any flowers. I feel you are valuing her needs over mine here.’
Meaning, ‘Now listen, mate, you haven’t exactly pushed the boat out in terms of making me feel sure of you, despite me constantly building your confidence and sense of self-worth by telling and showing you how important you are to me.’
‘I didn’t know you liked flowers.’
How I then stopped myself from jumping on his head is beyond me. In that moment, the calm adult would have said, ‘You know what? It’s not the flowers I’m hurt about. It’s the fact that after you met with her, I specifically said that if you had stirred up any unresolved feelings and you felt you owed it to her and that relationship to try again, then that is what you must do. There is no point in us being together if you’re not sure. So actually, I want to end this here and now as I realise that we are not right together. We don’t meet each other’s needs and this clearly isn’t what either of us really want.’
Did I say that? Did I heck!
All of my uncertainty rushed to the surface, along with a maelstrom of emotions. What if I pushed him away by being stroppy? Was I being unreasonable? It was a nice thing he did, and after all, he didn’t go back to her. He chose me, so why make waves?
But why did I feel so rejected and devalued? Why was I clamouring for reassurance so I could feel that all was how I wanted it to be? Because deep down, I knew it would never be so.
My superhero pants were now bunched saggily around my ankles.