1. Tangled roots and slowing down

with tips from Sophie Harris on finding purpose in a pandemic

Welcome to Notes On, the brand new newsletter from The Imposters Club. Every other Monday we’ll be sharing what’s on our minds, what we’ve been loving and thoughts & tips from our community.

Melissa: on not being a plant person

I’m not the kind of person to have houseplants. Houseplants will require my time just to look pretty- what’s the point of that? A houseplant isn’t going to get me a board position or reply to an email. I’m jealous of plant people- they put effort into learning about things like propagation. They probably also enjoy long baths and have a skincare routine that they sit down every evening to do. They know how to be in the present. I want that; I want to want that. 

Before you think I’m spending all my time working, let me assure you: I like to chill. When I’m in chill mode, everything else feels like an effort. I’ll even try and persuade my husband to go to the toilet for me (he won’t, annoyingly). Maybe it feels like an effort because my brain is a swirling vortex of things I should be doing. There’s no space for plant watering in there.

I have built my self worth around accomplishing things. I’m known for getting things done. I’m that person that turns a hobby into a business. Well, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it properly, says the voice in my head. But what happens when it stops?

Lockdown happened. I got put on furlough. So, I got a houseplant. 

I got 4 houseplants, actually. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it properly

The world I’d created for myself over the past decade stopped, and my motivation disappeared. I decided that if I look back on this time and can say that I enjoyed myself, that will be a success. But I don’t know how to do things for me, just for fun, there’s no outcome with fun. Fun was saved for friends or my husband. I don’t do fun things on my own, There’s something ‘better’ I can be doing with my time

So I worked out every day and returned to my original love of dance- but only to learn pieces of choreography, for the quick accomplishment hit I needed. I cleared out cupboards and tackled that ‘should’ list in my brain.

I found a shady patch under a tree and visited it daily to read. How many books can I complete during this time? I was starting to find that sense of accomplishment in other things and enjoying myself whilst I did it, but it was still about ticking something off a list. 

The one thing that managed to bring me joy for no other purpose was my houseplants.

When work returned the reading tapered off and the dancing stopped. Some socialising returned over the summer, and joy was back to being something I shared. But the plants stayed, it’s like they sprouted something in me.

I started reading before I went to bed. It felt weird to leave my husband and go spend time on my own in the same house, doing something that wasn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still trying to work out how quickly I can read the book and therefore how many books I could complete in a year, but I’m slowly quieting that voice. Promise.* 

The other day I moisturised my legs and enjoyed the feeling of it. I slowed down. It wasn’t just about completing a task; it was about a connection to myself for a moment without thinking of the next thing. I’m starting to believe that looking after myself is productive; finding joy- just because- is worthwhile. 

Maybe I can be the type of person who has houseplants.

*The answer is 23 books: 2 a month, with a buffer.

Sinéad: on outgrowing the pot

The thing is, one bedroom flats are not designed for two people to live their entire lives in. 

They’re the base from which we go- to work, to meet friends in the pub, to visit family (imagine!)- and the place we return to. Not, as I’ve discovered, the place of all the things

In such close quarters, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling lonely. You’d think lonely is the one thing we couldn’t feel when, within three months of getting engaged, my partner and I were spending every waking moment together. With one door between us, our working days have been completely intertwined. We can now tell which colleague the other is talking to just by the tone of our ‘hello’. I can’t even embellish a story of an outrageous meeting because he’s heard it in real time.

It’s my fault, really. I’m the one who fell for the A Little Princess romanticism of a Victorian attic, with steep-angled walls and ‘characterful’ beams to bang your head on (I will never get over the beautiful amnesiac dad shouting for his daughter in the rain- do what you will with that, Freud). I had largely forgotten the misery Sarah and Becky endured before their kindly Indian neighbour magically filled their attic with orange silk and sausages. 

Life in this attic over the past year has been somewhere between the misery and the silk- but, thanks to our local butcher, abundant in sausages. Now in our third lockdown, we have lived every season within these pitched walls. We’ve sweated through unbearable heat and, as I write, flurries of snow are piling up against the windows. Yet here I am, rain or shine, in the same corner of a sofa which is rapidly developing a permanent imprint of my bum.

There’s a reason we didn’t spend all day here together in the Before Times: there’s no room. No room for two desks, or desk chairs, or the varying ephemera that accumulates when every detail of life happens in one space. 

In the past year our attic- not totally minimalist to begin with- has filled with replacements for our old life. From the printer, to the cocktail shaker, to the piles of books, stuff is spilling out of every corner. We manoeuvre around bits, bobs, each other, unable to sort through it because the other person is working, unable to take it anywhere because the charity shops are closed. Unable to get rid of it because it feels as though it’s all we have, now. 

Like the orchid in the window by my desk, our roots are rapidly outgrowing the pot. Tangled, contorted and unsure where one ends and the other begins. 

We’re physically together, but mentally elsewhere. His intake of breath to tell me some news is interrupted as I tuck my hair behind my ear, revealing an airpod with a different voice in it. I hear him laughing, and wonder if I’ve ever made him laugh like that on a Monday morning.

By Friday, enough is enough. We tear our eyes away from screens and down tools. My kitchen desk detritus disappears into the boiler cupboard, replaced with a pink linen tablecloth and the fruits of scrolling through Deliveroo. We look at each other. We talk, silently thankful that another week is over. Silently thankful that the other person is still there.

Somehow, in this tiny, hot attic, little flowers are still forming. 

Things we’ve loved

Listening to the Some Families podcast - particularly the episode with Dustin Lance Black, sharing his journey to surrogacy. He’s such a beautiful storyteller and it was really eye opening learning about the process. MM

Watching Call the Midwife - or Downton Abbey, or Poldark… if it belongs on a gentle Sunday evening, I’m watching it. In scary and uncertain times, I’m turning to the gentle, low-stakes blanket of comfort TV. SKK

Reading Glennon Doyle’s Untamed - As you might have noticed from a few Instagram posts- I loved this book. In fact, stop what you’re doing: go read it! It’s a memoir detailing Glennon’s journey of self-discovery and freeing herself from external pressures & expectations. MM

Cooking Alison Roman’s Sticky Apple Cake - I love my Oddbox, but it means I have an ever-multiplying collection of tiny, unloved apples. This is the easiest, most satisfying way to use them up. SKK

The Club: Sophie Harris on finding purpose in a pandemic

Sophie Harris is a psychotherapist who has been working in mental health services for 13 years. She specialises in supporting new mums to feel confident and content in their new role as a woman and a mother. Here, Sophie tells us her favourite ways to find purpose and happiness during tough times.

Times are tough. Lockdown restrictions have been long. A lot of us are struggling to feel like 'ourselves'. This helpful exercise will support you to create an individual plan of what matters most to you and what you can do to make yourself feel happy.  Give it a try to bring a bit of contentment to these winter lockdown days.

1) Identify what values are important to you. An internet search of 'personal values' should provide plenty of inspiration. Pick 3-5 values of what feels most important to you. Examples may include: compassion, spirituality, adventure, health, security etc.

2) Think of some activities that help you to act in line with each value. Despite current restrictions, there is usually something that we can do to meet these. For example, for my value of adventure: perhaps I can’t currently include bungee jumping as a way to express my adventurous side.  However, I can include going hiking somewhere new, going for a bike ride or planning a trip to look forward to. Alternatively, activities that help me act in line with my spirituality may be joining an online meditation practice or reading a religious text.

3) Schedule it! Plan 2-3 of your activities each week. Try to alternate these to keep a balance of the things in life that are important to you.  

follow Sophie on Instagram @sophieharris.co

Listen to The Imposters Club

Ali & Finn from The Positive Planner on Managing Imposter Syndrome, Journaling and Finding your Authentic Voic‪e

In this bumper season finale, we’re joined by the founders of The Positive Planner, Ali McDowall and Finn Prevett, to talk about the power of journaling for supporting mental health, understanding your authentic voice and raising your self esteem. Plus, we chat through everything we’ve learned about managing imposter syndrome, perfect porridge and a surprising new role for Tom Hanks.