Follow ‘Your Way’ 🥾➡️🚶🏻‍♀️

I’m not long back from completing the first leg of the Camino de Santiago beginning in France and crossing into Spain. I took a long, well overdue break from social media and blogging. The Tough Cookie needed to head off, reconnect with herself, nature and life! What better way than to contemplatively ‘Walk the Way’ for one week.

Lessons Learned along My Way:

Senses:

Before I had left to head off on my adventure I had felt very stressed, had lacked energy and vitality. I had deadlines for my college work, my own work with UNLOCK had been hectic and I realised that my head was so busy, clouded over and I lacked focus. Some might have thought I was crazy heading off when I had so many important assignments due two weeks later, however it was just what the doctor ordered! Do you ever feel like you’re on autopilot each day, not noticing the world around you, the people, the places? While I was walking, it honestly was as though my senses were reawakening – I could ‘see’ the beauty in nature around me, the diversity of people (such as Koreans, Sweedish, Americans, English, Africans) so many people from all corners of the world come and walk the Camino. You sometimes don’t realise how blurry your eyesight is while ‘running’ through the to-do list of a normal week.

Walking approximately 23km each day for roughly 7hours including little breaks along the way, I began to feel every fibre of my being, my muscles and limbs! I thought I had a reasonable level of fitness, that is until I began to climb the winding roads and inclines each day. During some steeps you wonder if you’ll make it to the top or not! Not to mention carrying a 10kg backpack in 22degree heat!

I will never forget the first day, I believe it was the toughest (walking along the Pyrenees) without sight of a café or shop for miles. It was a hot day and I feared not getting any food or fluids into me. After not much sleep and no reserves I remember spying a tiny trailer in the distance and hoping and praying it was someone selling water and some fruit! It was!! A man had his little stall of coffee, bread and bananas!! It was as if I had won the lotto, I nearly ran to meet him I was that weak with hunger! The smallest and most basic things can be the biggest and most important elements. It taught me a big lesson to be more grateful for food and water in my life. Those everyday essentials that we all too often take for granted.

Pain:

It’s said that during the Camino people go through various ‘stages’ – physical pain, emotional and spiritual pain. Most travellers were there to complete the whole five stages which would take over 5weeks. I admire those people as after one week I could really feel my body crying out to me! You begin to have aches in places you didn’t realise existed!! At some moments I wondered why I was doing it, why did I put my body under this pressure?! However the sense of achievement, the ability of the body in proving your head wrong is ALL worth it. Myself and my friend whom I travelled with did struggle physically at times but that’s when we uplifted each other, we offered up our pain through prayers and intentions for ourselves and others. The Way doesn’t have to be spiritual or religious however we did pray each day and for me it made all the difference. Being in such peaceful and calming surroundings in nature along with prayers, reflections on our life, our friends/families and pain that we have suffered to date helped feel as though we were cleansing our being, letting go of past hurt and clearing the way for the future we envision.

Belly Laughs:

Isn’t it awful how we can forget to laugh? Well I know I certainly can anyway! Sometimes I can take life too seriously, get all caught up with the ‘adult’ things that need doing and forget to embrace the silly/fun and child side of myself. During this trip there’s no mad nights out, no partying (which I’m not into anyway!) but boy did we laugh! On one particular evening I remember (photo evidence above!) being bent over on the side of the path in complete hysterics to the point I was fearful I’d wet myself!!! My friend had mentioned something that was funny from earlier in the day, she caught me unaware and I was falling over with laughter. It felt so wonderful it was just what my body, heart, mind and soul needed. Laughter helps us Live Longer, that’s for sure. It taught me to take more time out for those fun moments, to meet up with those people who are naturally humorous and help me laugh!

Prioritise:

As mentioned I had been feeling quite work out and exhausted before I had left. The trip really helps you to begin to prioritise yourself, your well being, physical and emotional. Myself and my friend while walking chatted about so many topics, we also had times of silence. I realised that I hadn’t prioritised myself within my life lately at all and all too often I put others needs first. Because your body and mind is tested and challenged within the walking/climbing/heat, you begin to have moments of epiphanies where your life becomes clearer and you can see what areas you need to look after more. For me it was most definitely about fuelling my social life, wellbeing and fun more. There must be a balance between work and play!!

Trust:

For the last day my friend was unable to walk due to her five blisters on her feet. She encouraged me to walk solo for that last stretch and she would meet me by taxi in the last village later that afternoon. I was worried, anxious and unsure whether I would be safe and ok on my own. I realised that I had relied on her to know the route and to guide me as she had done it previously. This was a big challenge for me! Some 31year olds might laugh at this but it honestly did scare me. I was up for the challenge! I left the room at 6:20am alone in a city searching and looking for the well known scallop shell or yellow arrow (signs to guide you on the way!) eventually I found some other walkers in the darkened streets and began the route. Very early I met a Sweedish lady who had lost her phone in the bushes. I began to help her and we found it. From that moment we sparked conversation and this was my new ‘buddy’ for the day. We conversed about all topics of life – work, family, loss, health, travel, romance! We clicked instantly and found out we were quite alike! This is the experience of the Camino, meeting people from all walks of life, sharing your story and connecting deeply! I knew she was sent to help me complete my final leg that day. That last day helped me to see to trust myself more, to know that I’m capable, safe and able to complete anything I set my mind to!

Since returning I feel much more refreshed, it has sparked a travel bug within me, to add more adventure to my life and most importantly to think of myself more often! It feels good to trust myself! I’ve got this 🙋🏻👍🌟💜

Fight the FEAR 💪🏻🌟

Does FEAR of Failure & the Unknown Hold you back? Are you afraid to give it a go incase you let someone down or more importantly Yourself?

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I had signed up for a Half Marathon last weekend. I had it booked over a month ago. I was really contemplating cancelling it as I had been unwell & hadn’t trained very much. I hadn’t gone past 10miles in training so I really didn’t feel confident to be able to reach the 13mile mark. I was afraid of failing.

Then I thought about it & decided that I wouldn’t be failing, I’d go & remove any pressure on myself, that I’d enjoy the trip to Connemara & do the best I could. A friend of mine had also signed up so it was also going to be a sociable trip of catching up with great friends. I had been working & studying constantly the last few weekends so I knew I needed a little break away!

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Once I removed all pressure or targets from myself I didn’t feel as scared or worried about the race. My goal was to try to keep jogging without stopping. Mind you I did stop once during a never ending hill! In the past that would have even eaten me up! I have noticed that I’m not as hard on myself, I’m acknowledging my efforts & ability much more & I’m proud of myself for deciding to Try rather than Avoid! It really is Mind over Matter & Self-Chatter is crucial.

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Ways I got by:

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*Positive Self-Talk: What we tell ourselves really does affect what we believe & how we feel. At times when I felt tired or unsure if I’d make it through I repeated positive mantras to myself such as “I am strong, I am fit, I am fast, I am doing this” It helped me to keep believing in myself when all too often that doubting voice can creep in & tell me I’m not good enough.

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. *My Why: During it I kept the vision of the end Feeling in sight. I know the buzz I get after a race & the sense of achievement I feel. I kept connecting with that & visualising what the end line would look like & more crucially what it would Feel like.

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. *Gratitude: I know there is a LOT of talk out there about being Grateful & having this ‘Attitude of Gratitude’. Again there is Truth in what they say! I dedicated a mile to someone in my life. It kept me focused.

#nofear #goals

Acceptance?? 🤔🙅🏻‍♀️

You CAN Achieve Anything You Wish 💪🏻🌟
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For the last few years I’ve wanted to get back running the way I used to able to before snapping my ACL or my struggles with my gut health. Some days it felt like it would NEVER happen, some days I had given up on that dream, thinking I had to ACCEPT the way things were.
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You DON’T HAVE TO ACCEPT anything you don’t want to. I always think back to the GRIT and Determination my Mam had when she got diagnosed with Cancer, was told she’d live for a maximum of 3years. She didn’t ACCEPT that and lived for nearly 9years. I completed my first 10mile race on Saturday in roughly 6years, I kept visualising that feeling crossing the finish line, I trained and kept my dream alive. As myself and my friend were prepping beforehand, commenting how it is mainly in the head, a big part to see you through being psychological, the brain being one of the most important muscles to exercise.
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What Step could you take Today to be that Step Closer to a Dream that You have had and perhaps have given up on? Don’t ACCEPT that it’s the way it has to be.
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Ways I Keep My Dreams Alive:
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*Book It: If it’s something you can plan and have pre-booked, just DO IT! It’s Never the ‘Right’ Time. Once you have it booked you’ll work harder to achieve it/reach it.
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*Smaller Steps: Sometimes we can get Overwhelmed by Big Goals/Dreams, I’ve broken my Dream of a Marathon in 2019 into those smaller more achievable goals. Take it however slowly You need to, you can get there taking it a step at a time.
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*Your Why?: Keep Asking Yourself your WHY? Why did you set that goal or dream for yourself in the first place? Remember WHY you’ve started. For me it’s to get my Health and Physical Activity back to how it used to be and even better. It’s what uplifts me and gives me that buzz!
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*Mark the Next Step: Once you’ve hit a ‘landmark’ Keep the next stage/step alive. Congratulate yourself, Feel the Positive Vibes, Be Proud but keep going further along that road. For me I’ve booked a Half Marathon in a months time to keep me focused and training. 🙋🏻💪🏻🙏
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#neveraccept #keepthedreamalive #yourwhy #goals #thebuzz

Never say Never 🧚🏻‍♂️💫

Are you adding some much needed FUN into your life? What does fun look like for you? Have you allowed life to harden you, to take the playfulness away, to consume you of your worries and tasks rather than taking some much needed time to embrace your inner child?

I have my niece and nephews (all under 5) at home at the minute for Christmas and New Year. As much as it can be a ‘mad house’ it is also great to have children around, to play, to laugh at the little things in life and to remember to have that sense of wonder, awe and innocence. I know I for one can get too bogged down my all I have to do, being that adult can be tough work! Do you remember how carefree you were as a child? Feeling like you lived in the moment? I know it’s not that way for every child but the majority have that sense of limitless wonder and belief that is so unique and special.

  • I took my niece and nephew to see Peter Pan pantomime yesterday and I think I loved it the most!! There are soo many important themes and messages within the story:
    • Peter Pan was a lost boy, who fell out of his mother’s pram as a baby. How many of us feel lost in life at some stage? Like we don’t belong? Not sure where we are or where we are going? Can you create a vision for going forward today? What would you like to accomplish or achieve?

      He also never wanted to grow up, I’m sure we have all felt that way at some stage, whether it be the responsibilities that come with age or at times too the deterioration of beauty?!!! Those wrinkles and grey hairs start to creep in 😂🙈 Are there some responsibilities that you don’t have to have, could you let go of some or delegate them to another to help you out?

        He teaches how if you have faith, trust and a little bit of ‘magic fairy dust’ that your dreams can come true. It takes belief and determination. What dreams would you like to come true? Are you fully believing in yourself and what you can achieve or have you given up? Do you trust yourself enough to follow through?

      • In Peter Pan’s world Time is never planned, there isn’t a concept of time. It seems limitless. What would you do if you didn’t worry about time, about all that you have to do today? Or another way of looking at time is what could you achieve if you knew you didn’t have a lot of time left? I don’t like being morbid but we never do know when our time is up, I try as much as I can to not live with regrets, to seize any opportunity that comes my way and to ensure I leave my mark on this world. What mark are YOU leaving? Do you need to clear up any regrets/mistakes?
        • He states that it’s not in doing what you like but liking what you do, that’s where real happiness happens. Do you like your work? Does it bring you happiness and fulfilment or are you just going through the motions? Is there another route you could take that would light your life, spark that flame within? What is it? What adventure could you go on? Could you have some believe, trust and take a step today in reaching your dreams and goals?
        • Take some time out to remember to release that playful & innocent part of you. Why does life have to be so serious, full of responsibilities all the time? I am thankful of having children around me to remind me of taking some time out for that balance of work/play!

          “Release that Child

          A Chance to be Wild

          Have some Fun

          You might just

          Be Stunned!”

          (Deirdre Ward)

          Go Deep Within the Soul 🖤

          https://youtu.be/Voo86mlxZvA

          I went to see the film ‘A Star is Born’ on Saturday night. I’ll be honest it didn’t blow me away but what I took away from it were a few important life lessons!

          For me Love happens when you least expect it (what everyone has been saying to me the last 3 years!!) Ok I believe you all now! I do in fact believe that a deep, strong connection happens with the one, the soulmate you find to share your life with. I do believe you just know when you know. As much as I believe in this concept I also believe in having strong connections with various people at different times in life. Surely this is natural? Life wouldn’t be so interesting if this didn’t happen, if we didn’t have strong feelings to many throughout our lives. Isn’t this how we inter-relate, learn about ourselves and others and be in relationships?

          In this song one line really struck me,

          ‘the part of me that’s you will never die’

          What would be the point in spending the rest of your life with someone that you didn’t feel complete with? That one person who remains forever in your heart, for eternity? I’m now 30years of age and of course I’d love to meet someone to share the remainder of my life with but what I have learned from being single is to NEVER settle for less than you deserve, not to loose faith that the ‘one’ is out there, that day will come when two souls become one. It’s not a fantasy, you will make it a reality! There’s only one life, why not make it the best?! Also I love to think that a little piece of everyone you meet and connect with remains in your heart & soul. This too can have negative connotations for those that we feel hurt by, let down or angry with however we always can let those pieces go, learn from them and transform them to have new meaning/memories.

          The film centres on Ally (Lady Gaga) becoming a star, her journey to fame and consequently Jack’s (Bradley Cooper) career slowing slipping away from him. He made a statement to her before one of her concerts that I believe we ALL need to listen to, take note of and act upon.

          ‘Go Deep Within Your Soul’

          He also commented how the world needs to hear what she has to say. It resonated with me, why I write this Tough Cookie blog, do the work with children that I do (UNLOCK) and constantly strive to be more and more authentic, open and honest each and every day. People want to hear YOUR Story. We all have a unique story that’s individual to you, no two people ever experience life in the same way. Isn’t that an incredible way of looking at the world? Of looking at another human being? Imagine how much we could potentially learn from each other if we were to listen that bit more, to give time to others more and be open and honest enough to dig deep within our hearts, our souls and be fully in relationship with others? I know when I’m being fully me, I come alive there’s a spark ignited within me that burns brightly!

          In the film life certainly was NOT easy. Fame brings with it pressure, exposure and demands. Life can be hectic and in order to survive, cope and get by people react and behave in various ways. Some lean towards alcohol and drugs, others to anger/rage, lashing out or totally hiding away and isolating ourselves. We all have our unique ways of attempting to protect ourselves and cope with difficulties that come our way. It is normal. However HELP is there. It’s not too late to go ask for and find some support and help to overcome challenges.

          One of the most beneficial things I’ve done in my life is go to Personal Therapy. I went believing it would help me with grief for the loss of my Mam. Yes it did that however what I found, was that there was a lot more to find beneath the surface that I was unaware of. This may seem scary to some of you but what is more scary – never having dealt with feelings/experiences that have been suppressed all your life, having lived life never fully clearing out that baggage and letting go? Or at the end of your days knowing that you lived life to the full? That you didn’t allow anything to hold you back? I know which I’d prefer!

          “Go Deep Within

          Look Right In –

          Your Soul

          You’re Never Too Old!

          Clear up the Past

          I Promise

          Those ‘hard’ Feelings

          Don’t Last

          Don’t Wait for Life

          To have Passed”

          (Deirdre Ward)

          The Tough Cookie Treks 🏔

          Hi Tough Cookies, I’m BACK!!

          Thank you to everyone who shared a piece in the last two weeks, each and every story, nugget of insight was invaluable and no doubt touched those people that needed to read them. I for one know that each piece brought some comfort, support, guidance and truth for me. You can feel proud for sharing a piece of your journey to help others.

          I have to admit as much as I was SO grateful to others for sharing blog posts I missed writing my own! Doesn’t writing your thoughts and feelings just bring about such healing and help you to understand that bit more clearly what is going on inside your body and mind? It makes us slow down and connect that bit more fully.

          Life isn’t easy by any means but what I am really focusing on at the minute is it’s beauty. Especially during this beautiful spell of sunshine we here in Ireland are being blessed with at the minute it is much easier to see and feel gratitude each and every day. Gratitude for the smallest things that we too quickly take for granted – friendships, nature, health, a smile, a hug.

          Yesterday I went on an adventure and climbed Mount Errigal here in Donegal, it was just what my soul needed. A wonderful friend, giggles, contemplations on life, fresh air, exercise, one or two stumbles along the way 🙈, meeting strangers and a lovely meal shared.

          This is what life is all about. Taking time out to enjoy simple pleasures right on your doorstep, meaningful friendships with those people who uplift you and connect with you, getting outdoors moving your body, filling your lungs with fresh air and feeling grateful for the bright days.

          As I write this I have a smile on my face along with a slightly swollen and bruised hand! I smile because reflecting on my ‘falls’ (yes it’s plural) yesterday as I made the descent down to the bottom of the mountain, the first stumble I had, I laughed it off, a shock but relatively unhurt. The second fall (within the next 10mins!) almost mirrored the first, the same impact, the same body part and yes much more painful!

          I smile because isn’t life a bit like this? We stumble, we fall, we fall many times, repeating the same mistakes, taking the same path until we take the ‘final’ blow and get fed up of the pain, the hurt. We decide to take a different path, we decide to rise and get up, mustering up all the strength we can find and feel determined to overcome that particular hill/peak/climb.

          This is exactly how I feel. I have felt like I have been climbing an uphill battle for sometime in particular with my grief & health, yes along the way there have no doubt been some even and smooth terrain, but there have been many falls, loose stones and shaky ground. I heard the passage at mass this weekend in one of the readings that ‘our weaknesses make us strong‘ and I know and trust that this is the complete truth and every stumble has been for an important reason. Choose to view your struggles and ‘falls’ in this light and you WILL overcome them.

          “I have Fallen

          Over & Over

          I have made the same

          Mistakes

          Again & Again

          But I Trust

          In the Path I Pave

          Step by Step

          It’s How I’m Saved”

          (Deirdre Ward)