Dreaming Seriously

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For a very long time I have wanted to be a writer. Wanted to be but never thought I would actually be one because I thought that in order to be a writer I would have to get published or be paid to write in some capacity or another. And I figured neither of those things would happen for me because I assumed my writing would never be good enough. So I continued to daydream about ‘being a writer’ without really doing anything about it. I didn’t even write as much or as often as I wanted to because I couldn’t see the point. It felt self indulgent to write for myself so I continued with the odd blog post here and there, the odd scribbled poem in my notebook, and random snippets of ideas that never became anything more.

And then I had an epiphany.

I couldn’t even really tell you where it came from, or exactly when I became conscious of it. I suspect it had been building up in the back of my mind for some time. What I realised was that the only thing I needed to do in order to be a writer was to write.

I know, I know, it seems stupidly simple. Or maybe it just seems stupid, I don’t know. But I suddenly accepted that I could write just for myself and call myself a writer. That I could write without it being my job or career or providing any sort of income and call myself a writer. That it was the act of writing that would make me a writer and not anything else.

I also began to recognise that if I wanted any hope of writing becoming my career/job/source of income then I would need to get better at it, need to get into the habit of building it into my day and committing time to it. And in order to do those things I had to start writing.

Once I had this moment of enlightenment I was full of all sorts of ambitious goals for myself. I would write every single day, without fail! I would get up an hour early to write! I would write at least four blog posts a week, finish a writing a novel in a month, write and publish a poetry collection and produce some short stories! I was not especially realistic and after 3 days of trying to get up early to write and either failing completely or getting up but just being too tired to write, I also realised I was going to have to make this work for me.

I’m still working on a regular writing routine, but what I have been able to do is write far more regularly than ever before. And I’ve loved it! I’ve seen increased engagement on my blog, I’ve written over 11,000 words of the novel that’s been in my head for six years, I wrote and submitted some poetry to an independent publishing house and, in the last week, I wrote and submitted my first paid piece of freelance writing and was invited to be a contributing blogger for a local not-for-profit mental health organisation.

The act of acknowledging myself as a writer is the very thing that triggered opportunities where others might see me as a writer.

I don’t know where these opportunities might take me. I don’t know if writing will ever be my full time job. But I do know that by taking my dream seriously it has started to become a reality.

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Our Own Unexpected Wisdom

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This past year I have been mentoring a student, meeting with them at least once (often twice or three times) a week, to support them with their studies and help them work through the various stresses and anxieties that were proving to be barriers to confidence and success. It has been an incredibly rewarding process, though stressful at times. It has been a real privilege to watch this young person grow in confidence and find that they do in fact have the strength and resilience to face challenges.

I saw them for the last time this week. Their exams are over and it’s time for the start of the next, exciting chapter of their life. I was honestly a little sad to be saying goodbye. I’ve spent so much time thinking about and worrying over the best ways to support this student, that suddenly not having to do it anymore is a strange feeling – I keep thinking I’m forgetting to do something!

I was really touched, then, when at our final meeting, my lovely mentee presented me with a box of chocolates and a cuddly fox, which she informed me was the next best thing to having a Daemon (we’re both fans of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials). More moving than these thoughtful gifts, though, was the card she gave me alongside them. Inside she had written a lovely thank you message, but the thing that moved me to tears was that she had listed everything she felt I had taught her.

My first thought was: Wow, you were actually listening!

My second was: I didn’t realise I was so wise.

My third was: I could do with remembering some of these for myself…

As I read the list they had written, I felt so happy that they had taken these lessons from me. I also genuinely found myself realising that some of the lessons I had worked so hard to make them hear and learn, I’m really not all that good at paying attention to for myself.

So I’m going to share that list here, in the hopes that I will do better at remembering these lessons myself, and that maybe there’s something here for you as well.

Things I (apparently) managed to teach my mentee and need to remember myself (in their own words):

  • I CAN do things, even though it might seem hard.
  • Things are hard but do get better.
  • To acknowledge my own worth.
  • It’s okay to reach out for help.
  • Other people are allowed to care about me, and do.
  • To be me no matter what everyone else thinks.
  • I am important!
  • To be strong and independent.
  • To do what I want to do.
  • It’s okay not to be okay.
  • To look after myself.
  • To read as many books as I can. (This one I’ve got down…)
  • My anxiety is not me.
  • To be selfish sometimes and that is okay.
  • Stick up for what I believe in.
  • ‘Alot’ is not a word. (Good to know I managed to teach some English in there somewhere!)
  • 5 hours sleep is not enough.
  • Reading always helps. (This I know to be true.)
  • Harry Potter is amazing! (This too!)
  • To have faith.
  • It’s okay to trust people.
  • We are all human and make mistakes.
  • Resilience.
  • Magic can be found in everyday life.
  • To try, even though I might fail.
  • To have a day off sometimes.
  • It’s ‘should have’ not ‘should of’.  (This one is ingrained in my brain from repeating it so many times…)
  • Poetry! (And not just the stuff on the exam!)
  • The Quibbler podcast is amazing! (It is.)
  • Keep reading. (I’m sensing a theme…)
  • Sleep and eat!
  • To keep trying and trying.
  • Change doesn’t happen overnight.
  • It’s okay to show emotions.
  • Sometimes you need a book, a hot chocolate and a cosy blanket. (Most times, really.)
  • Life is going to get exciting.
  • I am not a disappointment.

 

Have you ever discovered you’ve imparted unexpected wisdom? Which bits of your own advice do you find it hard to follow yourself?

A Word For The Year – 2018

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Another year gone. Another twelve months of highs and lows and everything in-between. The years seem to be flying by ever more rapidly and, as always, there is a strange mixture of excitement and melancholy as one year ends and another begins.

As with the last couple of years, I won’t be making any resolutions but instead I have chosen word that reflects my intentions and hopes for how I will choose to live these next twelve months. Last year, I chose ‘Nourish‘ as my word to live by. I wanted to nourish myself and my relationships with others and, whilst I can’t reasonably claim that I was driven by this unswervingly all year, it was definitely something I came back to repeatedly and it helped me to refocus when life became overwhelming.

This year, my chosen word is ‘Serenity’. This word choice was inspired by the well known and loved Serenity Prayer and so encompasses more than just its inherent meaning.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”

In choosing ‘Serenity’ to drive my year in 2018 I am actually choosing (or maybe seeking) all the things in the prayer: serenity, acceptance, courage, and wisdom.

Turning 30 in 2017 made me increasingly aware of the many expectations I have, both of myself and others: expectations that are not always reasonable and that can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. I feel the need to continue developing my self awareness, to be able to recognise when I am holding onto things that I need to let go of, and to be brave enough to make a change (or stand up an demand one) when it’s needed.

I’m looking forward to whatever excitement 2018 has to offer and ready for whatever challenges it might bring. I wish you all a happy, healthy, prosperous year.

Whatever The Weather

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur.

We’ve gained a family member in the shape of the most beautiful springer spaniel puppy; I’ve been more poorly than I’ve been in a very, very long time; my less than lovely anxiety beastie has been going a bit haywire, causing me all sorts of exciting issues when it comes to, you know, functioning; an work has been busy, busy, busy and I’m starting to come to know more of the challenges of my new role.

I’m not going to lie, some days have been really, really difficult. Some days it has felt like it is only my skin holding me together. I have felt lost and vulnerable and scared and wondered what on Earth I am going to do.

And then I realise: I’m already doing it.

Difficult though it can be I am doing it. I am getting up every day and, even when I feel anxious and panicky, I am living my life. Even though my proud streak makes me delay longer than I should, I am asking for help when I need it. And through all the hard, horrible, dim, grey days, there is always a little sunshine. There is my wonderful husband who knows just when to hold me quietly and just when to distract me and make me laugh; there is our gorgeous puppy who, even though she can be mischievous and is SUCH hard work, greets us every day with complete adoration and has brought even more love, fun and laughter into our lives; there my fabulous friends, who are always there with a kind word and a hug; there are my incredible colleagues, who are beyond supportive and make my job a joy even on the crappy days; and all my amazing family, whose love, support, wisdom, and understanding is abundant and invaluable.

So this half term week, as I balance rest and relaxation with puppy training and quality time with hubby, I will keep finding that sunshine. I urge you to do the same.

Even the tiniest glimmer is still a light in the dark and I’ve never known a star shine alone.

Here are just a few of my sunshiny stars:

In Turmoil

This morning I woke up in a sudden and unexpected turmoil of doubt. I don’t know where it came from or what exactly I’m going to do to tackle it (6am is just no time to be faced with a sudden realisation of all the things you don’t know -at that time, no one is awake enough to deal with that kind of shit). It already feels like a difficult day but this popped up on my timeline: a beautiful bunch of tulips and a hand made card from the young leaders I trained 4 years ago.


 I still carry this card with me every day. It normally lives tucked in the back of my planner but this morning I got it out and I’m looking at it right now. I have, and have had, so many people in my life to lift me up when I am down and I’m trying to hold on to that right now. 

I might come back and share more about what plagues me at another point (although at the moment that feels more than a little self indulgent and potentially whiny) but for now I just had to acknowledge and thank those people who love, support, and encourage me every day. ❤

A List of Lovely Little Things


It’s been some time since I did an appreciation post for the little things in life but now seems like the perfect time. I’m currently holed up in a beautiful little cottage, just outside Oxford, for a weekend with some of my favourite women in the whole wide world. It’s a quite Saturday morning and all but the baby amongst us (and her mum, I suspect!) are sleeping soundly. I am awake and full of contentment, mulling over all the wonderful little things that make life so lovely. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Conversations with like-minded people.
  • Laughing until you cry and your sides hurt.
  • A real log fire.
  • The quiet stillness of the countryside in the morning.
  • Baby smiles.
  • Baby laughter.
  • Baby cuddles…(there’s a lot of baby worship going on here!)
  • Good books.
  • Good food, especially nibbly finger food.
  • Climbing into a bed made with freshly laundered sheets.
  • Waking up after a good night’s sleep (especially when you don’t have to rush to get up).
  • Knowing it’s the weekend.
  • A message from someone you love.
  • Knowing you’ve done a good job.
  • Learning something new.
  • Helping someone out.
  • Knowing there is so much to look forward to.
  • The smell of fresh flowers.
  • Watching flowers open from bud to bloom.
  • Surprises from friends (or strangers).
  • Realising that you take more joy in life that you ever have before, and feel positive that joy will only increase.

And that’s just a few of the little things making my life lovely right now. 

What little things have you noticed recently that have made you smile and appreciate life just that little bit more?

Urban Wanders

Yesterday, hubby and I went for a wander round Manchester. We headed out in a direction we don’t normally walk and just wandered around enjoying the city. It was lovely. The sun wasn’t exactly shining but it wasn’t raining, the air was crisp and cool, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable morning. We discovered some fabulous street art we had never seen before, and found quiet corners of the city we had never visited, all only a few streets away from our usual haunts. It reminded me once again how much I love the city of Manchester: it is vibrant and full of hope in spite of the many issues faced by many of the residents.  Here are a few snaps I took along the way. 


I encourage you to go for a wander around your city or town and rediscover it: head in a direction you wouldn’t normally go and see what you discover. Even if you don’t find anything new, just enjoy the wander and look at the things you’ve passed hundreds of times with new eyes. Love where you’re from. Love where you are.

The Family We Choose

I have known from a very young age that family is important. I have been blessed to have a family that knows this too. My family, both immediate and extended, has always been a close one: we enjoy spending time together, take care of one another, love one another, and treat each other with respect. This has always been important to me and I have always been grateful for the family I have. I know not everyone is so lucky.

The care and closeness between us is always especially apparent at times of grief or trouble. When the chips are down everyone pitches in and we hold each other up. I could write a considerable amount about my wonderful family and the way in which we rally round each other in good times and bad, but I actually want to write about something else. I want to write about the family we choose. I want to write about friends.

I have never been one for having hundreds of friends: a small number of particularly close friends has always suited me better. I have been very fortunate over the years to have made friends with some incredible people, and they have become the family I chose. They have rallied round and held me up through good times and bad. They have celebrated with me in triumph and have consoled me in sorrow.

I have more friends at this point in my life than I have ever had before and I have been truly overwhelmed by their love and support as I come to terms with my family’s latest loss. There have been small gestures in the form of text messages and post it notes simply saying ‘I love you’, ‘Ring if you need anything’, ‘Have some cake’ (left with cake!). There have been specific pages in specific books, bookmarked and left for me, from friends knowing there is nothing they can say to make it better but that I might find comfort from the words of a favourite character or author. 



There have been deliveries of beautiful flowers, late night visits with doughnuts and more flowers, thoughtful gifts to make me smile: the list goes on. The care and attention my friends have given over to lifting me up when I feel down has moved me deeply. I feel so blessed to have this family that I chose as well as the one I was born too.


I’ve run out of words. I don’t quite know how to express what’s happening in my head and my heart. So I’ll finish with this: to all my friends, thank you for being the incredible people that you are and for the love, care, and friendship you have shown me. Whether this has come as messages, hugs, book pages, flowers, gifts, cake, or simply a smile, thank you. It means more than you know.

Xx

Making My Own Happy New Year


Champagne was popped, glasses raised, fireworks burst, and a chorus of ‘Happy New Year’ waved off 2016 and welcomed 2017 with open arms. A lot of people were glad to see the back of 2016: it was a difficult year for many, in many different ways. It certainly had its up and downs… Whilst there was much that was good for me personally last year, 2016 did not end happily. On 28th December, my family was greatly saddened by the sudden death of my beloved Grandad. He was a remarkable man with a character almost as big as his love for motorbikes, Yorkshire pudding, and, of course, his family. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, not least because he was the sort of man with whom you couldn’t even have a passing conversation in the pub without him leaving some sort of lasting impression. I have spent the last few days reminiscing with family, sharing stories and going through old photographs. It has been bittersweet at times but I am eternally grateful to be part of such a close, loving, and supportive family.

It would be easy, at this time, to sink into sadness and dwell on our loss. But I do not think that is how he would have wanted us to live and it certainly isn’t how I want to live. I would much rather live and love and laugh in happiness, even though it might be coupled with heartache – Grandad so loved to laugh and his terrible jokes would keep us in chuckles constantly.

With that in mind, I have resolved to make this year a happy one, in spite of some of the sad and difficult times ahead.

I say I have ‘resolved’ this but it is not a New Year’s resolution. It is really more of a choice. A statement of intention. You see, I no longer make New Year’s resolutions – they’re too easy to give up on after week one and only become a source of guilt. Instead, last year I chose a word to inspire the kind of intentional living I wanted to focus on for the year. Last year was ‘adventure’; this year is ‘nourish’. I also set some goals and aspirations that I want to work towards – not the kinds of things I’ll feel bad about if I don’t quite manage, but things that I care about achieving and that will enrich my life. I find this a much more positive process and one that really does stick with me for the whole year. (If you struggle with New Year’s resolutions, I really recommend you try it.)

I chose the word nourish because I sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed, rushed by all the ‘should’s and ‘must’s that bombard us every day. It’s tiring and distressing and unhealthy to feel so much demand from these abstract ideas and expectations. I want to dedicate more time this year to nourishing and growing all aspects of my life to be what I want them to be, not what the media or society or anyone else tells me they should be. And more than that, I want to take more time to enjoy my life and all the wonderful people, opportunities, and ‘things’ I am blessed with.

In keeping with my chosen word for the year, my goals are centred around ‘nourishing’ the things I care about. Whilst the things I care about are many and myriad, my goals are few. In fact, just two:

1) To develop a more regular practice for writing, mindfulness, and self-care, in order to help me manage my anxiety and develop the skills and interests I enjoy.

2) To try to find a more balanced routine for managing our home (I’m terrible for letting chores mount up until I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed by it all), and to declutter to more easily enjoy our lovely home.

Whilst there are many other things I will be investing time and energy in this year, such as spending quality time with friends and family, finishing the decorating we want to do in our house, training for my next (and final!) dance exam etc., I’m hoping these two personal goals will be nourishing for me and, as a result, will enable me to nourish the other areas of my life: family, friends, community, and work.

I had no real idea what I wanted to say when I sat down to write this post, only that I needed to put into words some of what has been buzzing round my head. To express in some concrete way my intention to be happy, and find positivity, even when there is sadness in my life.

Whatever you felt about 2016, whatever position you find yourself in as we begin 2017, I wish you the Happiest of New Years.