We’re at the halfway point in the “gentle renovation” that is Operation Foxy By 40, so it’s time for a check in.
One of the Operation’s biggest aims is to “hide less and have more fun”. Progress has been slow on that front, until… MEGA NOVEMBER!
Thanks to both planning and luck, I backloaded about a few years worth of non-hiding and fun into this one month (which proved a timely antidote to political events). I want to get it down in writing, so if I start getting too hermity again I can re-read and remember that most of the really good stuff happens when one actually leaves the house.
Out with the old…
Birthday 39 began in the wee small hours of November 1, hunched over the loo in my friend Sunita’s Manhattan apartment.
Is this a metaphor? Hurling up my guts to ‘clear the decks’ for my fortieth year!?
No, dear! It’s that rogue chicken salad from earlier on.
I’m glad to be part of the last generation that remembers life before the internet, so that meeting online folks is always a delightful novelty. Sunita wrote a Goodreads review of Dietgirl way back in 2009 and there was something about her turn of phrase that made think, I wish she was my friend! Turned out she felt the same way, and we’ve moved from shy messaging to multiple transatlantic meetups. Thanks, internet!
Not only is Sunita hilarious, deeply intelligent and kind, she knows how to plan a ripper of a birthday. We started with fancy facials then she took me for a Sephora makeover. It was supposed to only be 45 minutes but ran well over an hour due to the twenty minutes taken to disguise my under-eye circles with three types of concealer… snort!
We finished off with dinner at a Korean restaurant, including some spectacular garlic fried chicken that I’m still fantasising about six weeks later. Sunita, you rock. Best birthday ever.
(Yep, I bounced back quickly from the food poisoning… my brain strives to be even half as brave and resilient as my stomach!)
Up & Not-really-any-Running
Next up was a long-awaited Up & Running meet up in South Carolina. Up & Running forum avatars coming to life never gets old! I was meeting many of these amazing women for the first time after nearly six years of online shenanigans, so you can imagine the delirium.
Lori rented us a fab condo right on the beach for three days of talking and beach walking and eating and imbibing and pedicures and shopping and gawking at sunrises/sets and talking and talking and talking and talking. Plus one round of crazy golf.
One day out at lunch I stopped to look round at the table at those beautiful dames. To paraphrase the Bee Gees, it was just emooooo-shun, taking me over! Just the random luck of knowing them and all the U&R gang… had they not taken the punt on training for a 5K, over the internet? I nearly blubbed right into my pina colada.
Speaking of dodgy stomachs earlier… shoutout to Jilanna (pic of us below) who I finally met in person after 11 years of friendship – she found this blog via the spewnami story about the elderly gent who was ill in the restaurant. So everyone – this is why you should always whatever bonkers thing you want to write, because you never know who Google could introduce you to!
Interlude: A tribute to Mags
The middle of November saw a beloved boss move on to pastures new. I worked with Margaret for nearly eight years: first as my day job boss, then latterly as The Generous Bestower of Freelance Work (I’m known as Shauna Seagull… always swooping on the scraps o’ work!).
Margaret rocked into our world in 2008, the new head of the marketing team. It barely took half a day for it to become apparent this woman had personality. And early on there was talk of books, cake, and whatever was on BBC Four on a Saturday night. Jackpot!
I’m sure when she sees this she will say, “Calm down dear, I didn’t die!”. But I was gutted at her departure. For a huge chunk of my working life she’s been there as a generous, supportive, bullshit-free boss and mentor. Through oft-stormy seas and endless changes – new faces, new owners, and a total of nine team babies – she lead us through with humour.
Christmas was my favourite Margaret season. Every year she does this mad Running Every Day In December challenge, so she’d be frantically squeezing in a minimum three miles a day amongst the ice, snow, Christmas parties and inevitable end-of-year deadline frenzy. She’d do this and still find time to a) bake these incredible stollen bars (she converted this marzipan sceptic) and b) treat each team member to a wee bag of Christmas gifts that always showed she’d paid attention to who you were as a human, not just a marketing lackey.
She was my coffee buddy, my freelance encourager-er, my fellow procrastinate-y blogger. She showed me that leadership can really contain kindness, strength, generosity, hilarity, real talk… and occasional moments of pure slapstick.
I know it’s not the end, Margaret, but you need to know awesome you are. So there.
Image by Libby VanderPloeg
Would you cop a load of the retreat house, deep in the beautiful Cotswolds? You can almost hear the bellowing, “Have you no consideration for my poor nerves, Mr Bennett!”
I was so chuffed to be part of the team. Sas gave me the title of “Director of Ship Shapery” which is a delighful way of saying I helped out with the little things to make sure everyone was present, accounted for and cosy.
What a flippin’ magical weekend. I’m always amazed by what happens when you gather a group of women, away from the annoyances of every day life. Time and space to put on our cosy pants, slow down and get quiet… and suddenly this safe, glittering little world is created.
Sas led us through some powerful workshops that delved deep “into all of the parts of ourselves that we find unacceptable”. By crikey, all my proverbial bodies got dredged up. Exploring the light was even more sweary and uncomfortable. But – so bloody hilarious, liberating and fun. I was blown away by the courage, openness and quiet power of all the Rascals. I did a lot of late night blubbing!
There was also incredible food, cooked by super talented Joanna Bourke. When I am dreaming of that Korean fried chicken, Joanna’s scones and/or lemon posset always follow for dessert.
One of my most excellent retreat responsibilities was to light various fires. I had to get a bit of help with the opening ceremony cauldron after realising I hadn’t actually lit a fire of note before. But after that one, I was BLAZIN’!
After our gorgeous retreaters went home, the four of us went for a walk to the labyrinth. File that under: Things I Wouldn’t Have Done If I’d Stayed Hiding At Home.
As we walked round the soggy turns and swirls towards the centre, the idea is you think about what you’re ready to let go of. That was very easy. On your way back out, you think about what you’d like to replace that with. After such a weekend, and such a month… it felt like anything was possible. I’m trying to hang on to that feeling.
To finish, some words of wisdom from Sas, the Chief Master Rascal herself:
“…when as women, we make peace with ourselves – when we can feel compassion for the shadowy parts that we learnt to see as unacceptable, when we feel supported to claim our place in the light – we become more of ourselves.
We stop shutting ourselves down to protect other people. We stop distracting ourselves with the acquisition of stuff. We stop literally and metaphorically starving ourselves. We stop trying so fucking hard to be likeable. We unhook ourselves from needing the approval of others.”
Here is Team Rascal, resplendent in the beanies Tamsyn’s partner James knitted for us. Such fun, sparkle and ease working with those brilliant dames. That’s pure joy on my mug, I tell ya.