“I thought we were going somewhere fancy for brunch – and you are looking like that?”

My eight-year-old niece pulled on her faux fur jacket and looked at my “just got out of the shower, and pulled on some clothes” appearance in disgust.  “I mean, seriously?!!”

Well, I’m on holiday, and yes we are going to Hillsborough Castle for brunch, and yes she has dressed herself up in her sparkly sandals – but my trainers have sparkles too.

I am at the end of my week-long holiday, and to be honest, I don’t give a sh!t.

Because my holiday nearly didn’t happen.

Too much guilt about spending time on my own, and doing things for myself.

And to be honest, if I want to go to Hillsborough castle in my trainers and combats, I will – even if my niece finds that embarrassing.  She would get over it … eventually.

Because, you know what, I can, and I don’t care what anyone thinks.

But just over a week ago, I was very worried about what people would think.

I was feeling guilty.  I was thinking about the idea of having a full week off, and already feeling guilty.  It wasn’t that there were lots of things that needed doing – but the idea of not doing anything to do with work just felt, well, weird.

My niece was in town staying with mum and dad, and I felt a whole bunch of shouldas coming up – how I should be a great auntie jojo, and should spend lots of time with her, and should take the pressure off mum and dad by not leaving them to entertain my niece 24/7.  And when I was thinking to myself that actually I would really like to do things for me, and go some places I wanted to go to, or read a book and do things I would find fun – and yes go see my niece, but just not 24/7 – I felt even more guilt.  And a sense of dread about telling my mum and dad that I wanted to do other things than come spend 24/7 with my niece.

And then I heard myself say – you know what, just work through the week.  Tell everyone you can’t possibly take any time off and then you don’t have to say anything.  You can just stay at home and be in hermit mode.

But at that moment, I remembered some things I am working on around mindfulness – and that choice point in my patterns and thinking.

Sure, I could just do what I might normally do – avoid doing things for myself, that I would really enjoy, and just use the excuse of work.  and spend the week doing work.  Or I could choose to let go of the guilt, and actually put in place things to make sure I could actually take time off work.

Because it hit me.

I was letting fear of being “selfish” stop me from having a rest.  And I haven’t had a proper rest in more than a year.  And I was bloody knackered.

And isn’t that what I wrote a book about?  About how I kept on believing I couldn’t look after myself because it was selfish.  Till I burned out big time.

So, just like that, I discovered what it meant to really let go of the guilt – and instead plan things for me to do and have a single week where I came first, and work could take care of itself.  Breakfast on the terrace every morning; walks at Malone House with mum, dad, and niece each afternoon; my niece coming for a sleepover and movie; and a really nice hotel in Belfast (5 miles down the road) overnight with my book and alcohol-free mojito.

I’ve written about this, done TEDx talks about this – about giving myself permission to take time for me.

But I must admit that this feels like a very long time since I have actually lived it.

And it has been bloody amazing!


PS – despite her wildest fears, my niece did not die of embarrassment from being in public with her auntie 😉