Category Archives: Personal Growth

Things I’ve learned the hard way!

Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison in which you put yourself. Tony Benn

My work as a mentor and personal development trainer brings me into contact with people who have lost all hope: their script is so powerfully bleak that it would be easy to feel as though I am drowning, just by listening to them talk. But it is my job to throw them a lifeline, not to drown with them: if I can’t see beyond their hopelessness, then how can I expect them to? I tell the people I work with that they are absolutely brilliant at convincing themselves that life will never be anything but hellish, but that no matter how powerfully they project this I will never, ever believe them. This often makes people angry and afraid in the short term but sometimes by the time we say goodbye, together we have sketched a mental note which says ‘I can and I will’ and this is the beginning of a new chapter.

I consider it a privilege to hold on to hope for someone that isn’t ready to reach out and grab it yet, but to be truly effective in my work I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk: people know whether you are authentic. It leaks from your every pore. Part of what I do is simple salesmanship: I can’t sell the idea that life can be brilliant unless I am walking advert for the notion. If I am miserable, you won’t believe there is any point in reaching out for something different. I don’t give the impression that my life is perfect: I have subtle ways of letting people know that I have problems too, but that it is possible to accept this and still move forward, even if just inch by inch. Integral to this process is the ability to hold on to hope, no matter how bleak your circumstances feel. Our experiences shape our beliefs and our beliefs shape our experiences: it’s a subtle interplay between the two that creates our world. Many of the people I work with have had some awful things happen to them, and for this I have enormous compassion; however, I also believe it is possible to draw a line under the past and start with a blank slate, tomorrow. All that is required is hope, which is essentially the belief that things can be different than they are. A lot of what holds people back from making this leap of faith is fear: a negative script can also be comforting. It is what you know and feel comfortable with. To live in hope requires something more of you, opens possibilities: light, when you have been in the darkness for so long can hurt the eyes. But in light we can see where we are going, direct our steps and choose a path.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to do the work I do and I don’t believe it is any coincidence I was drawn to it. It has given me meaning and my desire to be good at it has meant that I have made changes to my own script, and begun to further evolve and grow as a person. Changes are afoot in my career, but I will never forget the people I have worked with over the past year: they have taught me so much. I hold the hope of progress still for every single one.

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Filed under Personal Growth

Biography

So many girls and women in my story: it’s overflowing with them. Blonde, brunette, red headed- all of them serious. And fathers and daughters- absent fathers and present fathers: it’s all the same in the end. They thread their way through the girlhood self-narrative like clumsy stitching. These women are artists, scribblers, diarisers, poets, novelists- to varying degrees- the best a published author, never populist, but in print; the worst a writer of terrible, cliché poems about sexual desire. And then there is me, who has the biography of a writer- the miserable childhood, in which survival relied upon the reading of others, de-coding their double speak; the voracious book reading, classics all devoured like so much breakfast cereal by the age of eleven; the early attempts at poetry, aged 9 and later, the implausible short stories with nuggets of gold; the love of language, leading to the first class degree in literature at a good university where a published author lecturer nurtured and nudged raw amoebic talent; the urge to write, to speak, to sculpt, to capture, to understand; seeing the profound in the mediocre every day, measuring time in sentences, paragraphs and chapters instead of minutes, hours and days- but the novels don’t come, they won’t write themselves. Life comes. And now, even when history is at my feet, begging me to write it, I see only a basket of snakes, weaving in and out, hypnotising me- I cannot even see which tail belongs to which head. I could become a snake charmer, but a snake charmer is not a writer.

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Filed under Creative, Musings on Life, Personal Growth

Letting Go…

There is a beautiful song by Nitin Sawney which kind of sums up how I’m feeling today…

Ok, ok, I know I said I’d post once a week but I’m still on holiday right now so it’s allowed!

One of the first ever posts I left on here, about a year ago, was about coping with traumatic life events, and when I talked about about my experience of doing this, I put a little message in brackets which said (more on this later)- well, this is the later, which I didn’t know at the time but there we are. I had a HUGE epiphany today. I’ve been dabbling in mindfulness, not for the first time, but the first time in a long time. I’ve had a bit of a miserable Christmas if I’m honest, and been fighting feeling all those resentful, why me feelings about it- ‘It’s my first holiday since August and the last until I don’t know when, why wasn’t it happier?’ I think mindfulness practitioners call this ‘rumination’, the process by which you feel an emotion which you find negative, and your brain jumps in and puts a further negative spin on it: following this road takes you to some pretty dark places, I know it. Well, I decided not to ruminate- my Christmas present to myself- and instead, every time I felt desperate, and sad, I put my ruminative negativity (you are a misery, your life will always be rubbish, blah blah) into a cloud and floated it off into the sky, then, I sat down and tuned in to the sadness, breathed into it and said ‘welcome.’ (I guess that last sentence is a bit trite: it’s not as simple as it sounds to say welcome to a pounding heart and churning guts, but it gets easier with practise.)What happened when I did this today, is that instead of being caught up in my ruminating intellect, my senses opened and sent messages to my brain about where these feelings originated, what they are about and what I can do to move my life forward. Over the period of the last few days, slowly, a new clarity has appeared: I know where I need to go, I know what I need to do, I have a had a taste of serenity, of the feeling that, what happened over the last week needed to happen, that life is unfolding as it should, that it will continue to be difficult at times, and joyous at times but that I can and will always cope with it, whatever it is. I happened to be driving in my car at the time and the song Letting Go was playing, so hence its mention here. It felt serendipitous, as there are some people in my life whom I need to let go of and hanging on to them has been hurting me, and them. It’s a bit more complicated than I can explain here, but I need to let them go, so that they can return in a healthier form, or not at all: I guess that bit is beyond my control and I wish them love and light in their journey too.

The human psyche is so complicated: right in the middle of the moment of serenity I started to panic that it wouldn’t last and of course, it disappeared! I reminded myself that everything is transient, I just have to accept whatever comes: serenity or lack of serenity and of course, it returned. Happy New Year WordPress lovelies…may your ‘it should be’ become ‘it is’ and your “I want’ become ‘I have’.

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December 31, 2013 · 6:36 pm

On being OK with being OK…

I had a long and lovely lunch today with a true and trusted friend whom I love. (How pleasingly alliterative that sentence was!) I wasn’t my usual, fizzy self: I often find, that once the truly joyous bit of Christmas is over -giving to my little ones and making sure they have a wonderful day- and the new year draws closer, I become somewhat brooding and retrospective. I ask myself where I am going, what I want from the coming year and dwell perhaps a little too much on what I don’t have and would like. For me, this isn’t about material possessions: I am not lusting after new cars, or bigger houses, but rather examining the quality and quantity of my relationships with others. Having been through an incredibly heart wrenching break-up/make-up scenario with my partner over the last few years, a drama which continues to play out, wreaking havoc with my emotions, I found myself crying into my wine on Christmas night, having seen on Facebook that a guy I once dated has just got engaged. He, and his intended, looked so happy that I fell into a well of self-pity that I just couldn’t seem to clamber out of. Why, I asked myself, is my happy ever after taking so long to arrive?

I poured all of this out to my beautiful friend, who after a few rough years, finally got her happy ever after when she married her partner, and father of her equally beautiful son, last year. Her response surprised me: she told me that she had been grumpy and touchy over Christmas too, which had impacted on her partner and was now making her feel a bit guilty. Oddly, this grumpiness was also bound up with a Facebook induced disgruntlement: she noticed that an old school friend of hers had posted a picture of her and her husband on the impressive veranda of their new home, in Africa. When her husband, a steady and pragmatic man known as Bear, who is not prone to flights of fancy, returned from work, she greeted him with, ‘I think we should move to Africa, or France, or get a place out in the country, miles from anywhere.’ His reply? – a simple but effective ‘No’. It sounds like a rather terse response, but he knows her so well, and loves her better. He is her ballast in the stormy sea of life, and while she wanders around looking for the next challenge, the next achievement, and the next celebration and paints all her experiences with high visibility gloss, he is understated and hard-working: for him, things don’t have to be amazing, they just have to be good enough.

When we had finished laughing, we explored our disgruntlements together over a glass of vino, and came to some rather enlightening conclusions: Facebook can be depressing ( so different from the wonderful warts and all human warmth I have encountered on WordPress), it doesn’t represent reality (tsetse fly, malaria, droughts, snakes- beautiful friend is NOT an intrepid girl), it can bring out the worst in human nature- jealously and feelings of inadequacy and finally and perhaps most importantly, that my beautiful friend has to stop believing that life should turn out like an 80s movie, that she is addicted, as am I, to overachieving and being seen to be doing well, and making everything amazing, instead of just, well, nice or good enough and that this doesn’t lead to happiness or contentment. Perhaps, Mr Bear has it right? I think that is, unconsciously, part of the reason she married him.

My New Year resolutions: to start my new job as I mean to go on, by being good enough, and not spectacular; (another down side of expecting so much from life, is the way in which you punish yourself, and others when it doesn’t live up to expectation: my friend is a teacher, and if she takes one less than enthralling class, she feels utterly inadequate and useless); to count my blessings every day, and narrativise my life, and the lives of others, in ways which do not leave me feeling inadequate and depressed. Is my happy ever after already here? – But, because I am convinced other people are having a better one, or it doesn’t match the one in my head, I can’t see it. Maybe I had it and it didn’t last because there is no such thing. But I have two beautiful kids, a wonderful family, a new job, a nice home and a friend like beautiful friend, whom I can pour my heart out to and who understands. In 2014, I am resolved to count my blessings.

Her New Year resolutions: to stop painting everything with high visibility gloss (she started this one straight away by admitting that the spa we went to before lunch was, not amazing if it had been a bit hotter, but shit because it was cold and that the lunch was not amazing, but just really nice and then squealed about liberating it felt to tell the truth!) We decided that from now on, amazing will be reserved for weddings, births and the like and coined a phrase, deciding that we need to learn to be OK with being OK. Not amazing, not brilliant, but…well, OK.

I love beautiful friend: she called me later and thanked me for an ‘amazing day’.  Oops.

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Filed under General, Musings on Life, Personal Growth

I’ve been to me and frankly paradise is more appealing

I appear to have been ambushed by life. It waited for me in a side street and then just jumped me, coshed me on the head with a sock full of sand and stole my va va voom. I have spent the last few months lying, dazed and confused in a metaphorical back alley trying to find the strength to get up again. I’m now half sitting, half lying, which is progress of sorts.

On Wednesday I had the day off work so I got on a train and went to visit friends who live 60 miles or so away. It rained constantly, so after a delicious lunch we trudged around a shopping centre, our sodden trousers flapping around our ankles and looked at things we couldn’t afford. It sounds dull but it was something to do and it enabled me to raise my mugged top half from the cobbles. I love travelling by train. I love the fact that you can get on a moving vehicle and sit down and do nothing and it will just whizz you into a new environment with no effort on your part. I thought it a good bit of marketing, the advert which said ‘let the train take the strain’. I had a rucksak instead of a hangbag, which always makes me feel like I might be running away: a good feeling. At the station I had to fight the tendency to just get on a train to London and have an adventure. I stood in front of a massive billboard advertising a performance of Madame Butterfly and I felt tears welling at the back of my eyes: I’ve never seen Madame Butterfly, I’ve never been to the Albert Hall and I want to. In fact, to subvert the lyrics of an awful song, I’ve never been to Georgia or California or anywhere I could run, taken the hand of a preacher man and made love in the sun, or been to paradise but I have been to me and frankly it was jolly hard work and a bit fraught. If I could, I’d write a strongly worded letter to the travel agent who sold me this damn awful holiday demanding my money back.

I’ve been a mother for almost 20 years, and for at least three quarters of that I’ve been going it alone and it’s made my world somewhat small and confined. As I bed down in to my 40s and learn more about destination ‘me’ I realise that I am a person who would like to put on a rucksak and get a train to London and see Madame Butterfly and that’s just for starters: Georgia, California and paradise here I come. But here I don’t, because I have a mortgage and children and a job in addition to ageing parents: the wild woman I feel chuntering away just below the surface, who at last has the confidence to start exploring, to have an adventure, to live out of a rucksack, to take a train or a plane to somewhere new and to talk to strangers along the way, has to find a less dramatic way to break free or she will hurt those that depend upon her.

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Filed under Musings on Life, Personal Growth

Silence

Fury carves eyes round as wrecking balls

Makes good for nothing hands:

Fists can only raze and ruin

Lips sewn together

With words that slash and hack

Behind my teeth

Forgive me if I cannot speak.

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Filed under Creative, Personal Growth

Things I wish I’d known at 18…

Reading Birthdays, goodbyes, and hope made me think about my oldest child’s 18th birthday celebrations a few weeks ago: it’s hard to believe I now have a child who is legally an adult. Quite apart from the fact that I know damn well she isn’t, and that I wasn’t either at 18, it made me feel shockingly old and a little bit wise (which makes the old bit bearable)…

On her birthday, we had a big meal out with about 20 odd friends and family (both meanings of the word ‘odd’!) and I passed around lots of photos of her though the years and a journal I had bought, which invited guests to leave her a comment: I suggested that if they were over 25, they left something along the lines of ‘something I wish I’d known at 18 but didn’t’. Shockingly, or perhaps very British-ly (good grief, we might have to talk about something deeper than the weather!) only one person wrote something warm and wise, so, I’m going to run with this here, and hope that you’ll join in. I’m going to leave my top 3 ‘things I wish I’d known’: please, don’t be shy (or British) let me know yours too…if they’re really good, I’ll have them laminated and send you a copy by carrier pigeon 😉 I’m expecting something spectacular from Rule of Stupid involving badgers, spiderman and a length of twine.

1) THE INNER SELF

Putting a safety pin through your nose, crimping your hair and wearing an old man’s herringbone overcoat does not make you cool. You look like you fell into your grand-dad’s wardrobe after sticking your finger in a plug socket. You will not want to look like this forever, no matter what you think now- your mum was right when she laughed at you and told you that one day you’d wear pencil skirts to the office. I know this was not the reaction you wanted but don’t take it to heart. Oh, and take the safety pin out asap. One day it will really annoy you that you have a hole in the side of your nose which will never go away. In all seriousness, stop worrying about being cool i.e. how you appear to other people, and start thinking about who you want to be for yourself. Grow your insides and the rest will follow.

2. WORK

Just because you can sing, doesn’t mean one day someone will give you a recording contract. This goes for any talent you may have. The only difference between a dream and a reality is hard work. You have to actively seek the things you want and take risks to get them. Lighting a joint and pretending you are Prince’s backing singer will not get you a gig in a working man’s club let alone the Albert Hall.

3. LOVE

Love is a way of behaving not a word. If someone says they love you and then sleeps with your best friend, they don’t. If someones says they love you, you don’t have to say it back, sleep with them, forgive them for sleeping with your best friend or lend them a tenner. You will know when you truly love someone because you will stop worrying about yourself and your feelings and start putting them first: it won’t matter who loves who more and you won’t want to sleep with their best friend to get them back for sleeping with yours. Love is not the same as hurt: in fact, it’s the opposite. Ah, fuck it: just accept the fact that love probably won’t come in to it for the next decade and bad sex will have to do.

Well, that’s me done. Feel free to add to the list and if I ever have a time machine, that laminated list will come in really handy…

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November 21, 2012 · 12:16 am