(And why a gratitude journal didn’t)

A woman making herself smile by pushing either side of her face up with her hands
A woman making herself smile by pushing either side of her face up with her hands
Photo by Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

I feel a lot of tenderness for my teenage self. She was unhappy, but I don’t blame her for it. Her reactions were understandable responses to the dysfunction and denial around her. …


Encourage them to think outside the box — and explore the world beyond their preferences.

A bunch of colourful helium balloons is floating up through a clear blue sky.
A bunch of colourful helium balloons is floating up through a clear blue sky.
Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

Imagine this scenario. You, an adult, have a new job. Your manager is showing you the ropes, and you interject:

“What’s your favourite bit of the job?”

“Uh, well — probably liaising with clients.”

“Who’s your favourite client?”

“Sorry?”

“Your favourite.”

“Um, I’m not sure — “

“You’re only allowed one!”

Your manager would probably be regretting hiring you at this point, but words like “immature” and “childish” might also come to mind. Unfairly, I think, since it’s not children who perpetuate this weird form of interaction, but adults who — lacking a way of meaningfully engaging with children— impose…


The more you try to “fix” yourself, the more broken you feel.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

I was 25 years old and I’d just fallen out with a friend. We’d both said things calculated to hurt one another, but when I reached out to make a half-baked apology (of the ‘if you’ll say you’re wrong, I’ll say I’m wrong’ variety) she didn’t take the bate. She was talented, volatile, funny, charming, sensitive, cruel, and kind: in other words, she was a person. In childhood I’d been able to brush off scraps with classmates: “so what, I never liked you anyway!”. But this time, however much I wanted her to conform to my idea of a villain…


(And start making radical changes to your life)

Photo taken from above of a woman in a pink dress lying on grass, her hair fanned out — one hand on her head and the other on her chest.
Photo taken from above of a woman in a pink dress lying on grass, her hair fanned out — one hand on her head and the other on her chest.
Photo by Luis Machado on Unsplash

As a teenager, I’d always felt “wrong” for being so anxious and unhappy — I saw these feelings as a sign of my failure to fit in, and as long as I felt them, I thought I would never be the well-adjusted person I so wanted to be. If only I could just be like everyone else. If only I wasn’t so uncomfortable.


(Your fear of being different is holding you back)

A woman is falling — slowly — one arm reaching up, her body covered in a projected floral wallpaper pattern.
A woman is falling — slowly — one arm reaching up, her body covered in a projected floral wallpaper pattern.
Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

Family folklore says that toddler-Me had a lot to say. My aunts, who were teenagers at the time, like to remind me that on babysitting nights I’d talk so much at bedtime that they’d shut me in the cupboard to try to get me to stop — and I’d happily continue the conversation from the other side of the door.

Then school and adolescence happened, and I learned to pipe down, hold my tongue — and eventually keep quiet. At fifteen, I didn’t even know what I thought, I’d got so used to nodding and agreeing: obedient to the extent…


Maybe we need to stop being so defensive.

A mother is kneeling and whispering into her young daughter’s ear. The girl is smiling.
A mother is kneeling and whispering into her young daughter’s ear. The girl is smiling.
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

I was speaking with an older and wiser friend recently — a mother of three grown children — and I mentioned a prickly interaction with a family member who thought I was overindulging my three-year-old by letting her co-sleep with me. I was grumbling about being scrutinised, misunderstood, about my family member’s lack of understanding about early attachment and child development, and about the audacity to pass comment on the decisions I was making.

My older-wiser friend stopped me short: “Pffff: you’re a parent: you signed up for this.”

“For what?”

“For being judged! It’s part of being a parent.”


(It’s part of the creative process)

Photo by Maahid Photos on Unsplash

How the myth of creative genius is failing you.

I used to be one of those people with a drawer full of abandoned first drafts. Writing meant the first part: scrawling pent-up confessions in the middle of the night, or the breathless beginnings of novels that seemed like a sure thing until I saw them in the unforgiving light of day. When they failed my quality test, as they invariably did, they went into that drawer. Better luck next time.

I associated rewriting with an entirely different kind of person: business-minded, dispassionate, perfunctory, possibly wearing a suit — basically, a whole different personality that it would be unnatural for…


I feel like it’s finally time I got my license — but I don’t want to.

Photo by Yogi Purnama on Unsplash

The only car I should be driving is a driverless one — and I’ve been saying this for as long as I can remember, and long before, I imagined it would be a real possibility in my lifetime. They’re overdue now — the Guardian predicted we’d all be “permanent backseat drivers” by now. Regardless of whether or not driverless vehicles will be hitting the market any time soon, it’ll be a while before I can afford one, and in the meantime, as plenty of people remind me, I should really learn to drive. The ‘really’ is important here. It’s all…


Dive deep into a writer’s work and see your own improve.

A cluttered, cosy desk space with a stack of novels and notebooks, and a pale pink mug on top.
A cluttered, cosy desk space with a stack of novels and notebooks, and a pale pink mug on top.
Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

Be faithful to your obsessions. Let them guide you like a sleepwalker. — JG Ballard

I was in my late teens and didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d already “tried” university — studying literature— but found myself distracted and uninvolved, so I pulled out after just a term, drifting from one temporary job to another, confused and upset that I’d been a bad fit for a degree I thought I’d love. I read books, I loved books — and I even had a few favourites — but I read haphazardly, picking up this and that, trying one thing…


It was a trial for a job I didn’t get — but I took plenty of notes.

Picture of an incredibly grand palace, with an ornate garden and marble statues in front.
Picture of an incredibly grand palace, with an ornate garden and marble statues in front.
Photo by Leyy . on Unsplash

I couldn’t tell if I’d been there for five days or a lifetime. The rest of the world had melted away behind those huge walls which encircled the compound— we were in a controlled atmosphere where everything a person could possibly want was delivered by people who bustled about behind the scenes, waiting on us.

I’d already forgotten we were less than a kilometre from a multi-lane highway, and 500 metres in another direction from a chicken farm. What was real was the house, and the views of the garden through the tall, many-paned windows: here a gorge running below…

Anna Valerie

Naturally secretive, trying to be brave. New to Medium. Words in Curious & Modern Parent, & you can join my email list here: https://www.annavalerie.com/

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