Jody Day : Living Proof You Can Be Happy and Childless

Helen : Jody, Welcome to Happy and Childless.

Jody : Thank you. It is great to be here.

Helen: I am really excited and honoured to be doing this podcast with you. Seven years ago, I googled, can you be happy and childless with the obligatory can you lose a stone in a week type search and your video, which was taken at the South Bank Centre in 2013 was the first to come up. I remember feeling instantly relieved that here was a young, attractive, confident, intelligent woman saying it is okay to be childless. And that was the very start of me just wondering, if things maybe did not turn out the way I wanted them to that things could be okay.

Jody: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know something crazy, like short of 50,000 people have watched that video, so you are definitely not alone and you are probably not alone in googling that either.

Helen: Yeah when I look back now and I look at my Google searches over the last five years, can you be happy and childless? This is a crazy one that I had to ask?

Jody: Well, I guess if you think about it, what we hear from the culture and what we hear in our own mind where, you know, what we have internalised about childlessness is that it is not possible. So I think it is actually shown that something really powerful was happening for you, that you even googled that because that was actually quite a radical thought.

Helen: Well, I thank you for being there at that time and you have helped so many women. You are the voice of childless by circumstance women. So many have looked to you for support and inspiration, including myself.. who helped Jody?

Jody: Gosh, that is such a good question. I’ve got to be brutal. I am going to say no one, I think if I would been able to find the help I needed, I would never have done what I did. I mean, I found that I was trying to talk about my childlessness to friends, to therapists, to Dr Google, of course. And you know, I was not getting anything back. In fact, you know, I was getting back what a kind of expression that comes from the child-free community, which was bingos, which is I would just get these, Oh, you still got the time or kids are not all they are cracked up to be, or why don’t you have one on your own or why don’t you just adopt or whatever it might be. Those kinds of statements just shut us down. And what was really interesting is when I was actually in the process of coming to terms with it not being, you know, I had accepted cognitively I had accepted that I was not going to be a mum. And actually, I remember having this very powerful conversation with a girlfriend of mine, trying to talk to her about that. She is seven years younger than me. And she said it is not okay with me, for you to be okay with this. You know, she said, I cannot cope with you coming to terms with this. You know all she could cope with is if I stayed in that place of doing everything and hoping that it would come true. But actually for me, trying to talk about coming to terms with it was actually too challenging for her. And I just kind of realised that there was nowhere I could talk about it. And so I had been blogging for a few years on a sort of personal blog and I just thought, I am going to start blogging about this. So I started a new blog called Gateway Women. Thought I might get one reader. And you know, I got my first piece of PR the day after it launched. And I had women from all over the world very quickly leaving comments on my blogs, telling me how they felt. And really, I think for me saying, how do you know the exact words that are in my head? I thought it was just me with these thoughts. And I remember sitting there with tears streaming down my face at my desk on my own, in my flat just thinking, Oh my God, I am not going mad. I am not alone. And that for me I suppose the support I got came from when I started reaching out through my blog, meeting other bloggers from around the world and just anonymous women like you and me speaking their truth and not telling me to shut up.

Helen: Haha, I would never do that. I think social media was there years ago, but there is so much more immediate access to support for people like myself, through blogs, through Instagram, through other people you can access that support. I guess you were the start of that support.

Jody: Extraordinary. I mean I have to say, I still cannot quite believe it, but it does seem to be the case that you know, I certainly was not the first blogger. You know, there were a couple of very influential bloggers, you know, in the US and Canada who were blogging about coming to terms with life after infertility and infertility treatments. But I was a different kind of voice. And I guess I started to do other things with it. I started Meetup groups. I had a lot of experience of healing in the 12 step programs. My marriage broke down because of my then-husband’s addiction issues, which matched perfectly at the time with my co-dependency issues. So I had got a lot of healing after my divorce from 12 step groups. And that had really shown me the power of peer to peer healing, that you did not need to be an expert. And it gave me the confidence that if I brought a group of women together, created safe boundaries and a structure for us to talk within, we could help each other. And that is how the very first kind of gateway women sort of groups and courses began, which turned into everything else…

Helen: Absolutely. I think from social media, there is so much positive that can come from that, but also families, children, lock down, build things, paint things, do things for children. That is a huge pressure. From social media to childless women and men, what do they do in lockdown? You know, there is so much social media pressure I think.

Jody: I think there is, you know, social media is a reflection of the mainstream media, which is entirely driven by pronatalism, which is, you know, the ideology that says that the only real way, acceptable way to be a fully mature adult is to be a parent and that the lives and issues of parents are more important than the lives and issues of those who aren’t parents. And this, this is actually just a belief. It is not a truth, but because it is an ideology that underpins our whole culture, we often can’t see that it is as prejudiced as racism or sexism as age-ism as homophobia. It is a system where we decide, okay, these people are on the in-group and these people are on the out-group. These people are more important than these people. Well, it is not the case. We were all born childless and we are all valuable. And I think sort of social media and the media is very much behind the curve on this. I really hope to see some changes coming on in the next 10 years because as the millennial generation, the eldest of whom are now around 38, you know, start to rise in positions of power with other parts. You know, I really hope that that attitude and that openness and their willingness to challenge societal norms start to show up. And we start to see a more inclusive representation of life in all of its areas in the media.

Helen: I am the age that you were when you started your journey of acceptance, that was 12 years ago. What would you say now to me at a very similar age and situation and more importantly, what would you say now to your 43-year-old self?

Jody: Well, my 43-year-old self and yours are a bit different in that I was kind of still a bit hopeful at 43. I was in denial. I think if the person I am now were to meet the person I was then, I probably would think, well, bully for you that you are so happy being childless, but that could never be my life. I am never going to get over this. I am never going to be okay. And I think I hung on to that belief that it was motherhood or nothing. And so in the background, I was grieving and sort of realised I did not know it was grief, so many of us don’t, but I think I would have found the idea at first that this was just something I could recover from that I could rebuild my life..I could have a great life anyway… I think I would have not believed it. And so the advice, I mean, you are in a, you are in a different place because you know, you are doing this podcast, you have, you know, you have read my book, you have been engaging and questioning yourself around this issue for a while. So your mind is open. I think when before the mind is open the prospect of a childless life, and this is, you know, the media’s fault as well. It is basically, you are destined to have a life of misery. No one is going to proactively start researching that until they absolutely have to. So I think the important thing is if you still got some hope, even if that hope is totally illogical and very unlikely, it is really difficult to embrace the idea that you, you know, the ideas that I put forward. And so I would, so if I was speaking to a 43-year-old, who was like me, I would just listen to her and I would just be really kind and really understanding. And I would not try and fix her pain. I would maybe just be a kind of a role model of a different way to be a childless woman, but I kind of would be very gentle with it in a way because she’s living through heartbreak and you know what it is like, you know when someone comes at you with solutions when you are hurting that bad. But if I was with someone who was perhaps coming out of that stage and was beginning to think, okay, how do I do this? Then I would have very different answers. But at all times I think actually just listen and be incredibly kind. We just do not get enough of that.

Helen: No, absolutely. And I am a 43-year-old who physically probably could still have children. But I think the acceptance that do I search for that at 43 or do I accept and try and find a new chapter, a new life? And when I was 42, two years after separating from my husband, I woke up in a panic, until 42 was over, you could still have IVF. And two years separated we went to see whether I could still have IVF. You know, the humour, you have to see that in certain situations. And when the crushing moment came that the IVF consultant said, you don’t have enough eggs, the quality of eggs is not good enough. We won’t be able to treat you. And, and then I never realised the reverberations of a car park, underground car park in Manchester, the wailing and crying, at a situation, which was never going to happen anyway, because that option was not the right option, which we decided two years ago. But the finality of that was quite hard. And at that point, that is when you have to accept that there has to be something else you can’t put yourself through that pain forever, you have to look forward. And then that is where people like yourself are so influential in helping transition to a different stage of your life and without yourself and the books that you, you know, that you have read that you have written, sorry, and people are writing now more and more saying it is a very isolated place to be.

Jody: Yeah. And I just want to say when you were describing that moment in the car park, I was really with you and it just, I can just feel the heartbreak. And I just want to say how hard that must have been.

Helen: Thank You. I do look back though and laugh. My husband, who is still a very good friend looking at me and thinking, could you cry a little bit quieter because this is reverberating across the whole of Manchester? But yeah, I mean, for me at 42, 41 40, I struggled turning 30, so turning 43 has been difficult. So there is so much more to process. It is not just about accepting that you are not going to be a mum. You are not going to have a family, but there is the whole ageing thing that comes with it.

Jody: Yeah. And I do think that’s something that people who give those flip bingos, you know, like, Oh, you get to travel and lie in and do all these things. And, you know, often do not realise, or even some cruel, you know, it is been said to me and to others that I know, you know, aren’t you over this yet? Childlessness isn’t like, we don’t get a baby. We don’t get a family. As you said, we do not get to give our parents, you know, grandchildren. If we have brothers and sisters, we don’t get to kind of have that bond that we’re both parents now. We lose our friendships as they all become mums and move off into another lifestyle. And then as we age, many of them will have grandchildren. We won’t, and there is a sense that this is something that is going to affect the entire life course. And something I like to remind people is that not having a child impacts your life just as much as having one, but people don’t realise that because our stories and our experience you know, not having children has been the most sort of shaping experience of my adult life, possibly even more so than getting divorced from my partner of 16 years when I was 38 because there has been an opportunity, I am in a loving relationship now to possibly meet another life partner. You know, it is not a done deal, but it does happen to some of us who are lucky enough, it happened for me. But you know, once you don’t have children, that is it. It is such a profound ending of so many things, which is why it brings such profound grief and a cry that is really loud in a car park.

Helen: I think you put in your book, you say, you know, I was referring to the changes, you know, the changes in the hair, the changes in your body, hormones, hot sweats, mood swings, the changes as a woman, you know, you say in your book no longer subjected to the male gaze, nobody’s partner. Nobody’s mother. There is just, when you read out loud, so much to cope with where there is an avalanche of things to look out for and deal and process as a woman who, who is looking now at a different chapter, a massive chapter change. Just dealing with transitioning into an older person, has its challenges.

 

Jody: I think that, you know, the midlife and the menopause come, it comes at a different age for each of us, but it is a huge transition as a woman. And interestingly, I have been sort of writing and talking about the experience of the childless menopause for about eight years, but it is only in the last, in the last year, actually, that I have been interviewed for three books coming out about the menopause. One of which came out, which is called “Still Hot”, which came out very recently, a sort of slightly more technical hormony one. I can give you all these details for the endings and also one which is coming out soon with Mariella Frostrop. In each of those, which are interviews with a lot of kind of prominent women of which I am considered to be one, which is like, okay, you know, finally childless experiences are starting to be included in the story of what it means to be a woman. It is as if we’re left out of everything. I mean, so far every menopause book that I read seems to presume that every woman reading it has had children and this makes it incredibly difficult for us to relate to them because you can kind of put the blinkers on, but when it is like on every page after a while, you just say, Oh, get lost you know, where, where am I? And I think there is a real need for understanding that for childless women, the menopause is not just, you know, the transition into your grandparenting years. It is not just as you are moving into the autumn of your life, your daughter is coming into her spring and these awful phrases that I have read. It was like, no, for us, it is yet another chapter that is closing. And for many women who’ve held on to the last bit of tiny, tiny, tiny bit of hope. It is crushing. It is like, no, this is really over for me. I am never going to be a mother. I am never going to be a grandmother. And it does change the way, you know, if you are heterosexual, it does change the way that the opposite sex starts to look at you because you are nobody’s mother and nobody’s potential mother. So, you know, under patriarchy, which is still the structuring principle of our society, kind of don’t have a function. So, you know, have to really dig deep within yourself to, to really find your own value and your own values to live by to get through this period. And if you are also grieving your childlessness and you have lost your friends and you are struggling at work, and God knows what else. I mean, it is such a tall order to do without support.

Helen: Absolutely. And you seem happy. It is inspirational to see you can be ok but I think the question from all of us and is how the hell do you get there then?

Jody:Well interestingly, happiness is one thing but I think for me, a lot of my happiness comes out of meaning, creating a meaningful life. And sometimes the meaning isn’t always happy. Sometimes it is a lot of hard work, sometimes it is quite heavy. So I think for me, creating a meaningful life with happiness in it has been, what has got me through. And each of our definition of meaning is as unique as each of our definitions of love. So it is a path for all of us to explore. I mean, this isn’t a shameless plug, but the fact is my whole book is about taking you on that journey to unpack the things that stand in the way of a life of meaning and hope and happiness. And I think probably the number one thing I would recommend is educating yourself about the voices you have internalised from the culture that are telling you either that a happy life isn’t possible, or that you have any less value as a human being as a woman because you are not a mother because we do have control over our beliefs once we’re able to analyse them consciously. And I think liberating myself from those beliefs, liberating myself from the opinions of others absolutely transformed my life. And I really recommend that as part of creating happiness.

 

Helen: And your book, I bought the first edition seven years ago, and I will be completely honest. I couldn’t read it because I couldn’t accept where I was for the pain of getting. I think I got to chapter three.

Jody: Well done.

Helen: It was not your writing style. It was where I was at. I couldn’t read it. And I have gone back to it for years and still just not being able to read it and then “Living the Life Unexpected”, this last edition, I have read that. I found that fantastic. I found that liberating and it is just, it was so interesting to see how I could engage with the book now a little bit further on than when I was in the midst of confusion, uncertainty, I couldn’t read it at all, but the grief process has different stages and until you’re ready to get to that stage where you can listen and calmly look at how you can plot your way forward, that is different for everybody, isn’t it at different stages. And your book will resonate with people at very different stages of their journey.

Jody: Absolutely. And you will not be alone in having bought a copy and not being able to read it. I know women who have sort of had it on their nightstand for two years, and it is been glaring at them and they just haven’t been able to, you know, to continue with it because there is an unconscious sense by reading this book, I am admitting to myself that I am childless. So actually it is even very confronting, allowing yourself to read it because, because of the message that that is giving you. So I think if you still have a little bit of hope and hope is actually a form of denial as well, it can be really difficult to engage with it. Also, I think it is really important to know that reading is something that is very challenging during grief. Grief brain makes it very hard to take in written information. A lot of people, myself included, could not read. And I was an amazing reader when I was younger. I read a lot for my work but I lost and, you know, for my studies, I had to read a huge amount for my psychotherapy studies, but the ability to read fiction or to read for pleasure, I lost it for several years. It is only just coming back. So I think one of the things I want to do next year is I really want to record an audiobook for my book because so many people have asked me, they said, you know, at the moment, I would love, I would love it. If you could record it.

Helen: I have looked for that for my journey to work

Jody: Next year, next year I would be doing that.

Helen: There are lots of things I learned in lockdown, I can’t do burpees, Joe wicks isn’t for me, but also I tried to reading and I agree I couldn’t concentrate. Yeah, not only because I look at my phone every 10 seconds, so that was highly distracting, but my concentration levels were shocking.

 

Jody: Yeah. I think a lot of us, our concentration levels have been impacted by stress, by lockdown, by grief. Certainly, for me, I have to read a lot for my work and I do have, you know, in a way I have built my concentration muscle again, but if I am doing it for pleasure, my concentration is still all over the place. So it is, it is interesting. Just that I think, like you say that ability just to get really lost in a book when there are so many other things calling for our attention, you know, social media and just to check on this and do that. It is very different. I had this experience when I was in Australia, a couple of years ago, I was there. I was leading a workshop and I went to stay in this kind of remote sort of Bush farm outside Melbourne which had kind of kangaroo and koala bears the grounds just absolutely amazing. Got there, no mobile phone reception, no wifi. And I was just ecstatic because for two days I knew whatever was happening, I couldn’t deal with it so I didn’t have to worry about it. You know, everything was already organised from my workshop, which was going to be happening in a couple of days time. And just the sense of spaciousness that opened up in my psyche and the creative thoughts I was able to have, I have to say I loved it. So I think, you know, I think for me, I would really recommend taking, you know, taking time out, whatever it to do to get rid of your digital devices is very empowering to discover who you are without them. You may discover it is actually quite nice.

Helen: Happy and Childless, this podcast is to help share tips and techniques, to living a fulfilling and happy life being childless. And you have spoken about ways in your book, you say you create a life of meaning through a place of existential bleakness, being very courageous and finding a meaning again so that we don’t endure the rest of our life, but we actually start to enjoy it. And one thing I am wanting to do is to, is to show that journey from 43 to 53, that the things that we can do to be happy. So what are your tips? I know in your book, there are lots of different techniques that really stand out that you could summarise to say, now, this is what you could try and do, which will move you forward.

Jody: Yeah. I mean, there is a section which is all about kind of uncovering your joy and as an exercise, which is called, I think it is called Russian dolls where you start to really look yet where you look back on the things you loved at different stages of your young life and your adolescent life and start to really uncover what kind of drives you. What really interests you. And to start to think about ways, you can explore those again, because often what we find is that when I ask women like in my workshops and on my courses to start daydreaming about their future, a lot of them panic, because they don’t want to dream about their future again. It is like, well, my last dream nearly killed me. I’m not going to have any dreams anymore. I just want a safe life, but actually, we need to kind of get our daydreaming engine going again. One of the ways I suggest you do that is to kind of do that exercise, the Russian dolls exercise, and then take a tiny step towards joy. And it has to be something that is quick, that is easy, that is cheap, that is risk-free because you have to make it, you have to get it so that your ego doesn’t tell you, you cannot do it because your ego hates change. It wants to keep you safe. Which means no change, please no chosen change. So if you are thinking that part of it is, I would love to go. You know, I really wish I had  gone to art school instead of doing that business course. I would love to go to art school. That is way too high a bar, but it might be, getting my sketching book out again. It might be doing online course on, on, you know, just a weekend course on sketching. Just something that is like really, really low risk. And one of the things you will discover from that, that you will experience so much resistance it’s not true because almost we start to resist the possibility of happiness. We resist the possibility of joy because when we start feeling happy and joyful, again, all kinds of other changes are going to start taking place in our life and in our relationships. There will be a cascade of change in our lives and that’s going to be quite scary. So what our ego likes to do is it likes to keep us where we are, even if where we are is miserable, because we’re safe rather than to start moving things around. And this is not understood when people talk about positive change and things like that, they don’t often talk about the shadow side of it, which is also that all change involves loss and all loss is processed by grief. So if you start to create changes, even ones you really want, it will also bring up loss because to change something, you have got to stop doing something else. So you need, you need support. You need to cheer leaders around you. There is a great group actually in the, in the Gateway women online community, which is the “Get Shit Done” group, which is where women sort of support each other. They have kind of goals each week that are trying to get things done that they are struggling with and they support each other with those goals. And it is getting your life moving again when you have got stuck in childless grief is really hard. And I would say, be really gentle with yourself and try and do what you can to get your daydreaming engine going again, and be prepared for some surprises because what sort of fire you up at 20, it is probably not going to fire you up at 43. You are going to discover different things that interest you now. And so it is like, how do I explore that? And how do I be kind to myself as I am doing it?

 

Helen: Yes, we need to take action. But that action doesn’t have to be so monumental.

Jody: I highly recommend tiny steps because it’s very easy to have a big plan and then do nothing because it is just too overwhelming. Whereas it’s like, what’s the next thing I need to do to move me towards that. It could be buying some new paper and it is like, that you can put on a list, buy art paper or, you know, rather than, you know, go to art college, you know, you have to make it really small so you can sneak it past your ego’s radar. That actually what you are planning to do is redirect your life back towards happiness and meaning.

Helen: One thing I would love to explore with you when my start of moving forward, the book, The Secret, the law of attraction, you can bring into your life, everything that you focus on, which clearly can’t be true for those who have struggled and pursued a child and a family for years. One thing you say in your book is despite the kind of manifest your dreams, thinking promoted by books like the secret, we’re not as in control of our lives, as it would be comforting to believe that it is a contrast of what I first believed, but absolutely in agreement that we can’t bring into our lives, plucking children from the universe or be a millionaire coming from the universe, just because we think about that can be quite a dangerous philosophy for people like myself, but also there are some things in there that are quite helpful. So that statement really jumped out of me.

Jody: Yeah. I mean, some aspects of what’s in books like that which is around, you know, helpful, positive psychology, and helping you with gratitude and things like that can be really powerful. And they are part of many popular psychologies and positive psychology techniques. They are part of CBT, they are part of many things they can and mindfulness, they can be very, very helpful. The parts that I have an issue with is this idea that you can, you can bring into your life, whatever your heart really, really desires. I think the human race would be very different and probably quite a lot more chaotic if that was possible, but it is a very seductive ideology when you are feeling powerless over something that you want so, so, so badly. One of the problems I have with it is that it can stop you from moving on. It can stop you accepting your powerlessness, which is often one of the first steps to really coming to terms with your childlessness. I think when we get humble and go, okay, this is, this is not going to happen. Then the amazing creativity of the human spirit can rise and go, okay, so what now? But if you are still locked on to that one thing that you are convinced is the only thing that is going to complete your life, then you are locked into that and you can lose years in there. I lost years in there. I would hate to see someone else go through that.

Helen: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the good philosophies that come from those books are that what you do think is how you feel, sometimes you can control it by those positive thoughts. You know, I have been there recently. I set off for work. I was in full spirits, singing, happy, couldn’t believe how happy I was considering I was on my way to work and then I saw a guy in the car who looked very similar to a relative, a close relative that had recently passed away. And then I thought about that relative and what that meant to me and the times we spent together and within 10 minutes, I was flooded. I was in floods of tears, the memories that were lost and then realising I had a meeting in 15 minutes I had to quickly get that mindset going again. The thoughts have to be positive. And I was in work doing a meeting in 15 minutes. So it was the real, real-time, real-life moment where my thoughts really controlled how I felt. Positive thoughts to feel good. It also works in the reverse. So allowing your mind to have these thoughts, which take over, can bring you down to a mood, which you are trying to avoid. So that control of thoughts I believe is quite important.

Jody: It is important. It is nothing new. I mean, if you study the ancient texts of the Vedas of the Buddhists of all of the ancient philosophies of the world, this is not new. However, I would say, I think we need to allow space to feel down. We need to allow space to sit in our car to cry. I don’t think there is anything wrong with those feelings. I can see they are incredibly inconvenient if you have just got to go into a meeting. But I think it is really important that we do not demonise any of our feelings because they are all there for a reason. You know, sadness is there to help us process loss. And this was obviously someone very, very dear to you. But I think allowing ourselves, as you say, to be at the mercy of our thoughts, without any tools to help us, when we need to kind of shift gear, it can be incredibly painful.

Helen: And I think the answer for me from this whole law of attraction, bring into your life is really, you can only work with what you can control now, the areas of your life, that you can actually do something about the moving forward and being positive and finding a new way. It is just work within what you can control.

Jody: I can’t deny that when so much is out of our control and that can also be wonderful. I mean, people love luck. Well, luck is something that is completely out of our control, but it is interesting when people talk about things that are out of our control, it is always something negative. You know, the universe is a wonderful and extraordinary and unpredictable place and sometimes that is wonderful and sometimes it is shite.

Helen: Yeah, absolutely. One thing I wanted to talk to you about because again, this is a time of year, which has meaning for people, which can be very hard at Christmas, coming up to Christmas. The whole children, no children at Christmas is a real painful cross to bear for some. And this run-up to Christmas. I always, every year I have a game with myself of which shop I am going to boycott for subjecting me to that Christmas music too soon. This is the run-up to Christmas. I want to change it for me this year for the last few years, it is been one that I have dreaded  or should have had. Christmas music fills me with dread but this year and reading your book, the Russian doll analogy, I absolutely loved it because I believe that there is a child within me that needs, needs some fun needs to be nurtured. Christmas for me as a child, I was the most excitable child at Christmas and to be fair, I have been throughout my adult life, but in these last few years where the acceptance of not having my own children has causeda lot of pain. It is ….how can I enjoy Christmas again?

Jody: Well, I mean, yeah. How do you enjoy Christmas again? What are your thoughts for this year?

Helen: Well I am going to go with your analogy of the Russian doll. I am going to nurture the child within, I am going to look for ways to have the childish fun that I used to have, I avoided Christmas films. I always watched Mary Poppins with my mum that has not been watched for a while because it had the Christmas connotation to it of the years prior to accepting I am not going to have a family. So I was just going to ask you did you ever go through that dreading Christmas or?

Jody: Well, I absolutely. I avoided it for a while and I am still very close to my ex-husband’s family and, and to my ex-husband and I don’t have siblings. So his, you know, his siblings, children are my nephews and nieces, and I was very close to some of them. And you know, would often spend Christmas with them. It was just too painful for me to go and spend Christmas, you know, in a sort of loving, happy family setting anymore. And I tried all kinds of things. I tried going on a Buddhist retreat. I tried staying at home. I spent quite a few Christmases abroad. And in the end I kind of thought, well, as, as I started to come through my grief, I really, I think it was probably about 2012, 2013, I thought, okay, I am going to reclaim Christmas. Christmas is for everyone, not just for children and not just for families. I thought, okay, I am going to reclaim Christmas. And so I consciously leaned into those things I had been avoiding. So I started going to carol services, going ice skating, doing all the things that I loved. I think not so much because they were about Christmas, but they were, I think it was more about the winter solstice and the winter events. I just loved them. Lights in dark winter trees in the city.

Helen: Did you go and see Father Christmas?

Jody: No, I have never been particularly in to Father Christmas, I do not think I have ever been to see Father Christmas. I would be more likely to go and see Mother Christmas in her cave with her potions, I think than Father Christmas. So I did, so I did, I got myself a tree. I was single. I was living by myself. I got myself a tree having not had a tree for years and I decorated it for myself. And no one saw it except me and the cat, but that was the beginning of going ,actually ,my life deserves celebrating too. And that was a real turning point for me because I just, I stopped waiting for someone else or something else to give me permission to have Christmas. I thought, no, I deserve Christmas too. It is been fine for me ever since, you know, I, although, you know, I do still have moments, wobbly moments. A couple of years ago, I went to a lunch with my mother-in-law, to raise money for an old people’s charity. And I wasn’t expecting this, but the local primary school suddenly sort of shipped in to sort of sing carols. And many of the kids there, their grandmothers and grandparents were, were at the lunch and it was just these sweet children singing Christmas songs. And I hadn’t kind of prepared myself for it. And it was just so beautiful and, you know, grief sometimes can sideswipe you because it was, it was just so poignant their voices at that moment. And knowing for me, grief sometimes sneaks up on me when it is like, Oh, I am not going to get that either. Oh, and I am not going to get that experience. And I thought, you know, I am never going to have that sweet moment of watching my child sing badly in a carol concert.

It passes but I am no longer afraid of those moments. And I, I don’t let them stop me living the life and having the experiences I want. If I get a griefy moment, I know how to deal with them. I know what it is about. They pass.

Helen: You book, you mentioned rituals. And I think Christmas, I am going to start rituals. I am going to create rituals for myself, for my inner child, whatever that may look like at the moment. And I am going to give my child, my child in a child that the best Christmas. I am going to reclaim Christmas.

Jody: I think that is a beautiful idea. Absolutely beautiful. I am certainly, I guess my, my inner child, I think she might be a bit quieter than yours, But my Inner child, it is like a big fire, a lovely new book, you know and sitting on the sofa, my feet up with Christmas films in the background, eating too much chocolate and reading. So yeah, I am looking forward to that and I do enjoy all the cooking I have already made my Christmas cake. I have never made a Christmas cake before in my life. I have made my Christmas cake and it is sitting in the cupboard or wrapped in foil waiting to be iced. Well, I have got more time indoors this year.

Helen: I think this year, there is little more Christmas trees that go up before December than any other year.

Jody: I am still fighting…last year, my partner was just waiting until the 1st of December because I wouldn’t let him do it before. This year, I may just have to accept it is any time from now.

Helen: So thank you. Some quick-fire questions, if I can.

Jody: You are welcome.

Helen: Are you happy?

Jody: Absolutely. Very happy. Yeah.

Helen: What advice in a snapshot would you give somebody to access happiness?

Jody: Okay. It is going to be a bit, counter-cultural this, the friend, your grief, your happiness is part of your grief. The other side of your grief, making friends with your grief is your heart. You know, grief is your heart. Happiness is your heart. Don’t run away from your grief. That is not the way to find happiness.

Helen: Okay. Thank you. I work with the Happy and Childless Life Matrix. So a nine-box matrix of all different areas of my life. And when I was focusing just on that family, all the other areas were neglected. My friends, my family, personal development, my health, fitness, they all went to the wayside. What three boxes were important to you when you were 43 and are those 3 boxes the most important to you now?

Jody: Definitely not. Like at 43, I was still very, very caught up in the dream of motherhood. so I would say probably sort of say  family, family, and relationships. I probably had two in family and one in relationships. And it is interesting. Now I would say my work makes me very happy now, personal development. It is probably where a lot of my area is and wellbeing. So I mean, yes, friends and family is still very important to me, but there is not a huge amount of them around at the moment because of COVID. So yeah, work, personal development, wellbeing.

 

Helen: Thank you. And thank you so much for doing this podcast with me. I really, really do appreciate it.

Jody: It is been an absolute delight and I am sure it’ll help so many people to find their happiness.

 

Helen: Thank you, Jody.

Jody: Thank you.