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  • How I’ve started doing shadow work (and why it matters)

    shadow work for money and life

     

    What is shadow work and why the hell should I care?

    This, along with reparenting, is pretty new to my lexicon.

    It’s all part of healing. Moving forward in life despite your baggage. And it pays off in improvements to your self-esteem, relationships, finances, LIFE.

    You know that feeling that you’re just playing at being an adult? It’s because really most of us are just children running around in adult bodies. We’re reacting and behaving instinctively and not in a particularly conscious way. These deep beliefs and instincts sprung up in childhood and are often based on something that might seem really trivial, once you trace it back to its origin. Often, they actually wind up sabotaging us.

    Until we wake up to this, we go around operating from/focusing on our conscious awareness, and that’s only part of the picture.

    Shadow work: a definition

    We all have flaws. There are parts of ourselves we don’t like. Some we don’t even acknowledge.

    Psychologist Carl Jung conceptualized our disowned parts, our ‘dark side’ and repressed desires as ‘the shadow’.

    Unfortunately, many of us do not know what is in our shadow — and these disowned parts may still be driving the show in creating our reality.

    – Thought Catalog

    Shadow work is about bringing those out into the open. Facing them. Accepting them. Uniting with them. Becoming your full, whole, true self.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a strong sense of self. It’s a product of various things, but the main two in my upbringing were:

    1. my parents and how they held their own perceptions/projections of who I was
    2. moving countries and feeling totally adrift, then trying to desperately fit in

    Facing your demons isn’t for the faint of heart. You may not be ready yet. I know I wasn’t, 10 years ago. Not even 5, or 3.

    Anyway, that’s all really fluffy sounding shit. What, exactly, does this process involve?

    Broadly, it starts with awareness. Then this allows you to start observing yourself in the moment. And eventually you’re able to choose a different path, a different thought, a different action. You’re taking control and acting consciously.

    In bringing in our shadow, we shine light on it and diminish its power over us. We learn to coexist with it and to gain control over it.

    Once you’ve got the awareness, then you can start to take action in the real world with tangible results.

    How I’ve been doing shadow work

    You guessed it. Writing. Journalling about things like:

    • Some of the things I believe
    • Why I have those beliefs
    • What results that’s gotten me
    • What other beliefs I could adopt
    • What emotions I was discouraged from expressing
    • What common excuses I use
    • How I sabotage myself
    • How I judge others

    That’s where the awareness begins. Then it’s about applying awareness in real life situations.

    Practicing awareness

    In a challenging or confronting moment, pause and breathe. What emotions are coming up? I try to walk toward the feelings. Acknowledge them. Name the sensations.

    For example: Spud is screaming in the middle of the night. I’m feeling ragey. I need sleep! Guilt. Was it the ice cream he begged for this afternoon – was that too much dairy for his system? Oh my god, why haven’t I learned? Worry. Can the neighbours hear and what will they think? Empathy. Poor thing. He must be having a horrible time right now. 

    I’m feeling hot, throbby, and having flashbacks to previous nights when he was younger and screamed his way through countless night wakings.

    Another example: Someone’s come to me with an inquiry about a project and I’m not sure how to charge. I’m feeling uncertain. Anxious. How can I scope this out?! It’s gonna take so much time – I’m already so busy! How can I make sure I make it worth my time? Will I scare them away? What’s the right answer here?

    I’m feeling panicky, with all those imposter syndrome vibes rushing up, my old beliefs that I need to work hard for money, that I’m not worthy of charging high rates (anchored in my old career and in early experiences knowing my parents’ hourly rates) and general scarcity mindset.

    Taking action

    Then I decide what to do, from a deliberate and unrushed place.

    There’s not much to be done with a screaming Spud. Hold him if he wants. Lie down with him, if he will. Offer milk, and add a few gas drops to it if he wants some. Refrain from self-blame.

    I think about what I feel is a fair project fee. I might Google to get an idea of what others charge for this kind of work, and what tiers there are. I take the time to thoroughly review the material, if applicable, and might spend a few minutes working up a sample for myself to get a feel for how long it would realistically take.

    I contemplate the true worth of the project. It may not be hugely profitable for the client – but that’s not the goal. The aim of this piece of work is to help them convert more clients as a result, to establish their expertise through valuable content. I think about all the other clients I’ve already helped and how they raved about the end product. I encourage myself to raise that number a bit from my original estimate.

    The result

    I’m a calmer, steadier parent, no longer sending off vibes of panic, guilt, and stress. Better for me, better for Spud.

    I’m quoting from a place of confidence and wholeness, trusting myself as an expert. Showing up with a different energy. I’m okay with hearing no; I’m not desperate for this. I remind myself that I don’t want to wind up resentful for quoting too low. My rate needs to be one that I’m happy to work for. I’m even making more than I ever have before. I’m enjoying it more, and honestly, I think I’m doing better work because of that! What a result.

    For me, the core of it boils down to: respond, don’t react.

    Acknowledge memories it’s brought up. Question the story I’m telling myself. Is this true? Be kinder to myself; start with empathy not shame, and extend the same to others. It’s a new and gentler, more conscious approach to everything in life. I’m liking the results, and the more I do it, the better it gets.

     

  • Money & marriage: Navigating the awkward conversations and more

    money for couples - money and marriage

    True story. When I was in my teens, the most important advice my parents saw fit to pass on to me about relationships was to get tested … to check that my partner and I were genetically compatible.

    Honestly, there are so many more things it’s important to be compatible about in daily life. Like housework, and leisure time … and money.

    When a saver + spender come together, there’s so much to compromise on. The little stuff, like snack runs to the corner shop. The big stuff, like planning and paying for trips, through to saving for the future.

    And navigating through all the stuff is HARD. Talking about it, let alone managing it!

    When financial coaches Saver Street reached out to me about their new offerings, I was stoked to see how deep their program for couples went. They’ve got a free Money & Marriage Conversations Checklist to kick things off, as well as a 5-week Money & Marriage course that dives into all the juicy stuff to help you get on the right track. There’s guidance on some of the most common financial issues facing couples, like:

    • Agreeing on big expenses
    • How to give gifts
    • Putting together a budget
    • Deciding who plays what role in the finances

    Each week there’s a quiz for you to take individually as well as prompts for reflection. Then, you come together to reconvene using the guides for discussion, and you can join the group coaching calls if that’s your kinda jam.

    I LOVE that Week 3 looks at how love languages and money intersect. I’m such a huge nerd for psychology and self-development; and so very very much of personal finance is mental and emotional. Our backgrounds impact everything, whether it’s how we view money or approach parenting.

    There’s essential insights to be had around spending personalities, and they get real and honest about combining finances (including when it may not be the right time/move for you now. Let’s face it, this is not the best idea for everyone!)

    And importantly, it all culminates with practical steps: building a budget and action plan, and agreeing on roles and responsibilities – who does what, with super specific, nitty gritty tasks from managing taxes through to car maintenance.

    If that sounds like something that’d be helpful for you, you can sign up for the Money & Marriage course here for 20% off today. 

  • 5 no-regrets purchases that make life with a toddler WAY easier

    5 NO REGRET PURCHASES - that make life with a toddler way better

    Voila! A list of things that are making life way better. Because toddlers are hard work.

    In comparison, it feels like we needed so many more baby products when he was younger (here were my top must-haves when Spud was little.)

    I got sick of hoisting Spud up to wash his hands. A  bamboo step stool has now taken up permanent residence at the bathroom basin. Most importantly, it has saved my arms and back, and many splashes…

     

    With two dogs and a toddler around, the floors are in a constant state of disarray (emergency, even?). A dustpan and brush sometimes feel inadequate and it’s not always convenient or practical to whip out the vacuum constantly. Enter the BISSELL manual sweeper! It’s like a contained broom and it’s a godsend. The carpet sweeper ‘vacuums’ up carpet nicely, controlling pet hair, and it does a reasonable job of hard floors too. There are a lot fewer crumbs in my life now and I’m much happier for it.

     

    It’s not uncommon to see railway tracks chalked all over our driveway and the footpath outside our house, all in bright colours courtesy of Crayola sidewalk chalk. Great fun on dry days!

    Speaking of tracks, I nabbed Spud some secondhand wooden train tracks for Christmas and they were a hit. These are his fave toys at daycare. I was reluctant to double up at home, but really, he loves them – why deny him?

    The long days, short nights and 2 year sleep regression hit hard. Later, I figured out that granola for breakfast was probably causing a lot of the painful wakings (sleep and eating issues are still closely linked for Spud even at this age … and the traces of nuts in the granola were probably the culprit). As for the prolonged bedtimes, I resorted to trying chewables with magnesium to help support/encourage falling asleep. No idea if they actually helped, but now they’ve become a key part of the routine: vitamin, books, and bed.

    Next up on my wishlist? Bath crayons to keep bathtime engaging.

    What are you loving right now for your little ones?

  • Lockdown silver linings? In which I try to find some meaning in 2020

    Oh, 2020. What is there to say?

    Were there pros to the pandemic? Silver linings in the lockdowns?

    The one that first comes to mind is work flexibility. The dream! May it last.

    The second is time with Spud, albeit with wayyyy too much screen time.

    And with the dogs.

    The reduced cost/time of commuting is great. On in-office days, it still provides a nice buffer in the morning and evening to myself to switch gears and get into the right mindset.

    How did I ever manage laundry working FT in the city?

    Being able to do more daycare dropoff and pickup – connect with parents and teachers, which I couldn’t really do before.

    Appreciation for my neighbourhood – easily walkable to greenery, cycleways, parks, playgrounds, the local horse farm. Shops, transport, pool and other amenities not far away. Having my own house and yard to quarantine in.

    Being stretched and finding new depths of resilience, patience, and awareness as a parent and a person.

    Not gonna lie, though. It was an effing horrendous year that nearly broke me.

    Going into 2021…

    Upgrade is my word of the year. My mindset, and my results.

    I’ve written a bit about conscious parenting and soon I’ll be delving into intentionality and consciousness around money. Bringing this mindful approach into all areas of life. Woo as it sounds, I now know it’s the key to levelling up and creating a new reality.

  • What I learned from my kid’s disappointment in a crappy Christmas present

    CHRISTMAS GIFT ENVY IN KIDS

     

    As a rule follower, I shouldn’t be surprised by now when other people don’t play by the rules.

    Especially in this case. Gifts for kids are fraught!

    The daycare Christmas party had Santa handing out presents to every child, with each parent responsible for buying a gift for $10 or less for their own offspring.

    I personally didn’t expect whatever I chose for Spud to even make it back home from daycare – even more reason, in my mind, to keep it simple.

    But as it turns out, we had a massive outage at work that morning, and so with nothing to do … I nipped up the road to daycare to attend the Santa visit and witness the gift exchange.

    As some kids unwrapped big, cool trucks and whatnot, others (including Spud) quickly got Christmas gift envy. Longing stares and subtle drifts towards the coveted toys started to converge from all directions. Spud even threw his tiny toy on the floor and declared that he didn’t want it.

    This was a major trigger for me. We didn’t do presents in my household growing up (Not a money thing.) I still have issues around lack, scarcity, comparison and envy of other people’s stuff.

    My first instinct? SCREW IT! NEXT YEAR WE’RE GOING BIG! Forget the budget limit, clearly others totally ignored it!

    But I eventually came to see the real lesson here. A life lesson for my kid.

    Some people will have more than you. Some people will have less.

    It would be silly and futile to bend over backwards to spare him disappointment. That’s not how life works.

    I acknowledged that he wanted those other trucks. That maybe the others would share and they could all play together – but ultimately, that would be up to them.

    It was a lesson for me, too. To let him feel and express those feelings. To be his teacher and to steer him through the ups and downs of being human. If one thing is for sure, it’s that there will be countless more to come.

    Have you ever had to deal with Christmas gift envy?

  • Are regular baby formulas not working for you? Here’s what to try next

    not sure what baby formula to try? Read this

     

    What baby formula should I buy for my infant? It’s a question that probably only keeps getting harder to answer. There’s a huge spectrum of formulas out there – and I’ve spent quite a bit of money trialling different ones.

    If your kid is doing fine on a basic supermarket formula, you’re good to go!

    If you’re struggling with reflux, eczema, colic, etc – then you might be wondering what to try next.

    There are dedicated Reflux formulas or Colic + Constipation formulas on the shelves. Honestly, I haven’t tried these and don’t know anyone who has, though we definitely struggled with all those symptoms. But having narrowed down the cause of Spud’s stomach and skin reactions, we have been through the gamut of practically all other formula types. Turns out we were dealing with a pretty common problem…

    CMPI vs CMPA – intolerance or allergy?

    Our journey was harder than the average. Spud had severe intolerances to multiple foods that took months to identify with trial and error. And the worst of the bunch was dairy.

    I knew nothing about this beforehand, but oh how much I’ve learned since. How dairy lingers in your system for weeks. How most babies are reacting to the proteins in milk, not the sugars (ie, it’s not the lactose that’s the problem). How freaking common of an issue this is. And how dairy is in SO MANY THINGS. Even foods you might not expect.

    I quickly got up to speed with acronyms like CMPI (cow’s milk protein intolerance) and CMPA (cow’s milk protein allergy). Allergy = probably pretty self explanatory.

    Intolerances don’t show up on allergy tests and can sometimes just result in digestive and temperament symptoms. (And that’s if you can convince a doctor to test your baby, as many are reluctant to, and tests aren’t always reliable at a young age.) The only way to figure out if you’re dealing with CMPI is a food diary and elimination diet.

    The formula options

    When it comes to babies who don’t tolerate cow’s milk formula, the options look something like:

    Retail formulas  

    • Soy formula (if over 6 months old)
    • Goat’s milk formula (very similar to cow’s milk in terms of the proteins, and not recommended for that reason BUT Spud was okay on goat’s, and I’ve heard of lots of other babies doing all right on it as well)
    • Aptamil Allerpro formula (hydrolysed – i.e. the proteins have been broken down)

    Prescription formulas

    • Aptamil Pepti Junior (lactose-free and extensively hydrolysed – i.e. the proteins have been broken down)
    • Neocate (elemental formula based on amino acids, i.e free of cow’s milk proteins)

    We mix fed from the beginning. I spent 5 days in hospital where Spud was EBF. When we came home, he started on the odd bottle of goat’s. I was annoyed that T had bought the most expensive type (goat’s milk formula is NOT cheap), but in the end, I was glad for it.

    Because Spud did NOT take well to normal cow based formulas. He was already a spitty baby, but once we switched off goat’s (I was trying to save money, as it was literally twice the price of some of the regular cow’s milk formulas) his reflux hit the next level.

    Over the coming months we experimented with different cow’s milk formulas, then worked our way through the alternatives: Allerpro, Pepti Junior, and eventually Neocate. Allerpro and Pepti Junior did nothing for us; goat’s was still better. Doctors said to avoid goat’s, as per the conventional wisdom – but I had to trust my own eyes and instincts, because the evidence in front of me said otherwise. So we stuck with it, until I was able to nab some Neocate to try.

    And as soon as we were able to get a prescription for Neocate around 7-8 months, I weaned him. Between Spud growing his first (ridiculously sharp) teeth and the ever-growing list of foods I could not consume, it was time.

    Neocate was the game changer. The reflux stopped. The eczema improved. Spud slept through the night every night, no longer waking with tummy pains.

    We recently finished our last tin of Neocate. It was a little bittersweet; the end of an era. T always complained about it. And I can’t argue with him – but, ultimately, who cares how nasty it was, if it was the one formula that actually worked?

    The stuff is gross. It smells foul. It tastes nothing like milk. Lots of kids don’t take to it because of the flavour. But Spud didn’t take much coaxing. He was always a champion feeder. And I like to think that he knew, somehow. That this was the magic formula. The stuff that wouldn’t upset his gut. The stuff that would finally bring him – and me – peace.

  • The REAL reason parenting is so dang hard

    the real reason parenting is so hard

     

    Think you’re emotionally healthy and mature? Odds are, parenting will make you rethink that.

    Parenting is, some days, like one consistent trigger. The constant flashbacks that This Is Us hits you over the head with used to bug me, until I realised how reflective of reality this truly was if I just stopped to consider it.

    I had a good chat to a group of fellow parents recently, and we all agreed that our gentle/empathetic approach is going well for us and that our generation is raising the next in a new way. We aren’t going to be get it right every time. Nobody is perfect. But if we can get it right more often than not, and try to avoid the mistakes of our parents, that’s a step in the right direction.

    Even seemingly throwaway words and actions have a lifelong impact, especially on a sensitive child. And I want to do all I can to avoid doing the same to Spud.

    I do my best to validate/praise, and not be dismissive of him. To let him feel his emotions, no matter how uncomfortable that is for me. To encourage him and let him be himself.

    As he gets older, I hope to be able to maintain a realistic view of who is he. To let him be his full, true self. My dad had overblown views of my talents; my mum probably quite the opposite. No wonder I’ve struggled to calibrate my own self image and establish my own identity.

    I hope to maintain healthy boundaries. To not put him in the middle, and never to use him to share my adult problems.

    In hindsight, moving countries was hard for me. I was a sensitive kid. Never bullied, but little comments from classmates here and there, and visibly being different, made me feel extremely self-conscious and insecure in ways I never really interrogated; ways that I’m waking up to now and working to heal and integrate. It must also have been incredibly hard for my parents, and I think it was the turning point for a lot of things going wrong there.

    At least they modelled some good financial habits for me, and that is something I hope to pass on. Spud has already gleaned that you need money to go to the shops and buy things … and I tell him that I work to earn money that pays for our house, clothes, food, toys etc. I’m almost looking forward to when he’s old enough for an allowance and to start to manage some of his own money 🙂

    When I get overwhelmed by rage and frustration and grief all over again, I’ve learned to turn it into words. If you’ve run out of people to talk to about it, the good news is that writing is even more powerful. I journal out the anger as part of releasing it. And I forgive others, as I forgive myself, for doing what we could and what we knew at the time. Forgiveness journaling has been a sanity saver these past few months.

  • You can be grateful for what you have … AND strive for more

    gratitude vs ASPIRATION

     

    Let me guess. Everything you’ve heard or read about getting through this goddamn pandemic involves practicing GRATITUDE.

    Gratitude is great

    Yes, there’s a lot to be said about taking the time to consciously feel grateful and appreciate what you have. Especially in these COVID times.

    Even when it feels like it’s setting the bar pretty damn low to be grateful for fresh air and sunshine.

    Sure, I have been taking time to appreciate the small things…

    Sunny days, spring blossoms, being able to hold a conversation with Spud (game changer!) and see horses every day if I want. The pony club is a 5-minute walk away and it’s always a thrill to see the horses calmly grazing … or occasionally, out on the cycleway or on the road! The perks of living close to the countryside!

    To find the silver linings…

    Resources are being slashed, but I still have work, that I can do remotely, with the best team ever.

    I’m under an immense amount of pressure, but I am a warrior.

    These are all helpful actions to ground me and keep me from completely losing the plot.

    AND I am striving for more at the same time

    I have so much and I’m very grateful for it. And I also want more. I know that I deserve more.

    I won’t get into details here, but there’s a huge area marked NEEDS IMPROVEMENT in my life. I get to set standards and I do not have to be satisfied with crumbs. I’m working to change that.

    Gratitude alone won’t sustain us. You don’t have to be content with what you have now. You can still be grateful, and be working towards something better.

    It doesn’t mean that you have to settle. You  don’t have to live with this forever. The status quo does not have to suffice if it is actually not enough.

    You can still strive for more. You get to make that call.

    Gratitude and striving for more are not incompatible.

  • When there’s no substitute for doing the work

    I’m often bemused at what people expect from technology.

    Nothing works perfectly 100% of the time. Yes, I work in digital. No, I don’t know why that email isn’t rendering for this one individual, or why this YouTube view count is stuck right now.

    Why does Word crash sometimes? Why does Excel freeze? These things just happen, and there’s not always a tidy explanation.

    And tools can only do so much and take you so far.

    I think T had some unrealistic expectations about exactly what accounting software could do for him. It’s a programme/platform, not your personal CFO/accountant/banker/debt collector/analyst/money minion! And definitely around the effort involved in setting things up to begin with, in terms of configuring settings for business finances and all that jazz.

    There was a period of time at a previous job where I found myself having to constantly explain to people that [insert tech here] is not their silver bullet. Sure, there’s that lovely long list of dazzling features and benefits that promise to solve all your problems. But how well that can actually be applied to your circumstances and requirements is a different thing altogether.

    Sometimes it’s a manual process, to varying degrees. Sometimes there’s nothing else but to get hands-on and stuck in. Some things you’ve just gotta do things the good old fashioned way.

    Just like there’s only so far that visualisation, mindset and flow can take you, ultimately you’ve got to get yourself over the finish line.

  • An ode to the ex-flatmate

    It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

    We set up the larger of our spare rooms on Airbnb at the start of 2017. Got our first guest, and then, boom – a friend of T’s needed a place to live because his flat was breaking up. So he moved in with us … just overlapping with our guest by a night.

    It was a truly ridiculous shuffle, moving him first into our small spare room and then over into the bigger spare room the day after.

    In terms of room size, location, general house amenities etc … our place doesn’t have a lot to offer so it was about branding on affordability and coziness rather than anything else. And combined with this mate’s financial situation, this was definitely more about helping out a friend than a money maker.

    Over the year and a half he lived with us (up until shortly before Spud’s birth) I would say we’d be lucky to have broken even with the extra bills and stuff given how much money we actually received. Again – preserving the relationship more than anything.

    On the plus side, which I frequently had to remind myself of!

    He was home a fair bit, which was good for the dogs. He was great with them and had always been their favourite visitor. Having him around was really helpful especially over winter when they started clashing more and were a bit of a handful sometimes. (Not to mention the time the fibre installation guy didn’t close the gate properly and the dogs got out early the next morning … after T and I left for work…)

    And he did help out from time to time in other ways around the house, doing a few handy things, helping with lawn mowing, providing tools, jumpstarting the car … He doesn’t cook so kitchen clashes were not an issue, and typically went to the laundromat to use the dryer there.

    Sans the money thing, it was fairly ideal.

    It’s hard to imagine what things might have been like in an alternate world. Would he still be our flatmate, if Spud hadn’t come along? Would he have quarantined here, part of our bubble? 

    Who knows.

    Have you ever had a flatmate more for the intangible benefits than the money?