Monthly archives "October 2014"

Happy Diwali

diwali greetingsToday is the fourth day of the Diwali festival for Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.  It is the start of the New Year.  To all my lovely readers who celebrate this – Happy Diwali and Sal-mu-barak!  Diwali is a time when we celebrate the triumph of good over evil, light over dark, hope over despair, understanding over ignorance, the dawn of a new day.  This is why Diwali is known as the festival of lights.

There’s also been an eclipse and the arrival of a new moon.  New beginnings are all around us.

One of the loveliest things we do as a family at this time of year is to gather over some delicious and plentiful food, and each of us takes a few moments to share how the previous twelve months have been.  What we’ve learned, what we’ve achieved, where we might have struggled.  We then each set our intentions for the coming year.  We say aloud, in front of each other, the things we plan to work towards and accomplish in the coming twelve months.  (We do this on 1 January each year too).

As I thought about this yesterday evening, I have to admit I was surprised at how far I’ve travelled this year, metaphorically speaking, and where I’m currently standing.  This time last year I was two months into a contract that was making me miserable.  I was also running an online jewellery business that wasn’t going as well as I’d have hoped.  Although I was getting by, I wasn’t truly enjoying life.

If my fairy godmother had shown up with her wand in October 2013 I would have asked for a lottery win, a thriving retail business, and alcohol that didn’t leave me with a hangover.

But then I wouldn’t have experienced the last six months.  And the last six months have been amazing.

Suddenly, everything is moving and flowing.  Having left the awful contract after six months, I thought it might be something worth writing about.  Just as I started drafting the outline of a book, an email inviting me to join John Williams’ 30 Day Challenge came through.  I used that challenge to finalise the first draft of the book.  Through the challenge, I also found the most fabulous mentor, Judith Morgan, without whom I wouldn’t have taken those next steps towards following my dream of becoming a full-time writer.  Judith then introduced me to the fantastic Deborah Taylor, who is helping me launch the book.  And we’re now at the point of discussing publication dates!

Twelve months ago I wouldn’t have dreamt I’d be where I am now.

So when I was talking about it yesterday evening, I realised that even if I had a time machine and could go back and change things, I wouldn’t.  I needed to go through those experiences.  Without the terrible contract the idea for ‘Coping with the Horroffice’ would never have been born.  Without the online retail business I wouldn’t have started writing blog posts, and wouldn’t have fallen in love with writing all over again.  Without that feeling of despair I wouldn’t have been in search of a new challenge.  I had to go through all those experiences and emotions to get to where I am.  I didn’t know that at the time though.

And I guess that’s my message – we have to keep the faith, even in our most despairing moments.  We have to keep our own light alive, even in our darkest days.  And we have to trust that everything we’re experiencing has its perfect place in our lives, even if we can’t see what that place will be.

May the lights of peace, prosperity and joy guide you through the coming year.

Stormy weather

stormy weatherI’ve been a little bit quiet on the blog front in the last couple of weeks.  For lots of different reasons.

My beloved pooch had a minor operation yesterday, but the anxiety kicked in for me earlier in the week.  He’s my furbaby and every time he has a health blip it sends my anxiety up a couple of notches.  He’s now back home and recovering well.

After the initial excitement of quitting a truly terrible contract, the phone has stayed eerily silent – there is no new contract on the horizon, or even the peep or promise of one.  The bills still insist on following their regular pattern though, and are arriving on a disturbingly regular basis.  On top of the regular costs, there have been the unexpected – vet procedures, photo shoots, book copy edits and book designs – none of these things come for free.  I’m not used to being this close to the financial edge.  It is a painful experience.  Especially when I think back to the financial ease I was living in a few years ago.

Paradoxically, things are going great guns with the book.  The copy-edit process is complete, as is the photo shoot.   My editor and I are now talking book design, press campaigns and even a launch date.  I am actually living my dream.  I am writing and publishing a book.  It’s exhilarating and wonderful and also slightly terrifying.

So much has changed in the past four weeks – on one hand I’m moving forward in the direction of my dreams and things are progressing faster than I could have imagined, and on the other I’ve shed things that aren’t good for me, although that means I have no idea what’s going to happen in terms of new contracts and my finances.

And because there has been so much change I’ve felt a little bit like I’ve been caught in a storm.  One set of work worries tossing me this way, another set of financial fears throwing me that way, health headaches battering and bruising me a little in the process.  It happens every now and again.  We all have rainy days and crappy days.  And at this point in time, it makes sense, really.  When we make fundamental changes to our lives I guess we should expect a little stormy weather as we change course.  The last ten days have felt rough and stormy.

But not once has it made me want to go back to what I was doing before.

It’s also made me appreciate all that I have.  A wonderfully supportive family, a fabulous group of friends and an even deeper conviction in my new path.  It might be wet and windy right now but I know the sun will come out, and I can’t wait to see where I am when it does.

It’s all about Perspective

PerspectiveIf you’ve been following my FaceBook updates you’ll know I had a photo shoot today.  (If you haven’t, come and join the party!)  I need some nice pics of me for the book and the website.

Although I’ve been excited about this (getting hair and make-up done by a real proper make-up artist and seeing how I brush up), I’ve also been absolutely dreading it.

I hate having my photo taken.  I don’t think I’m particularly photogenic.  I’m on the generous side of cuddly.  I am short.  If you were being nice, you might describe me as a cuddly Flump (remember them?!)  Although I know all of this – I see it all in the mirror on a fleeting daily basis – it’s still different when it’s there in glorious technicolour.

Luckily, I’ve been working with a fantastically talented and extremely understanding photographer, the fabulous Louise Young.  So I got there, nervous and excited.  And we did the bit I was looking froward to.  It feels very decadent having someone else do my make-up and the hair, and I loved being preened and pampered.

Then came the bit I dread.  Taking the actual photos.  Louise was calm, patient and great at guiding me.  In fact, for a while I completely forgot that the end result wasn’t just me feeling awesome, there would actually be some photographic evidence of the day.  She took plenty of shots, in various outfits, at an array of angles.  We had a laugh at some of the contortions required for a good shot.  And actually, before I knew it, it was all done.  Much much easier than I had expected or imagined.

But then came a bit I hadn’t even expected, so didn’t know I’d dread.  Louise asked me to have a quick look through what we had so far, to make sure I was happy.  And as I started to go through the photos, all I could see were my big tummy, or double-chin, or chubby arms.  Or a combination of all three.

But that’s not what Louise was seeing – she was pointing out shots she thought looked good, angles she liked.  When I pointed out the flaws I could see, she was kind but firm – they were nothing to worry about, she hadn’t noticed, but if I was worried she’d get it all sorted in the final edit.  Her perspective on those photos was completely different to mine.  It was almost as though we were looking at two different things.

Then she said something that has stuck with me all day, and I hope sticks with me much longer than that.

“Don’t be so picky about those bits Heena.  That’s not what we’re looking for.  Look at the whole picture.  It’s really good”

And it hit me just then.  I know she meant the overall photo.   But don’t we do this all the time, in life.  We are so hung up on the flaws we see in ourselves – however minuscule – that we just stop looking at the whole, beautiful picture.  And that means we’re missing the joy of it too, whether it’s a picture or a relationship or our life.

I vow to remember as often as possible to look at the whole picture from now on.  I hope you do too.

Relax, it’s the weekend

Relax its the weekendCongratulations!  You’ve made it through another week at work.  You’ve done a few late nights, as well as some early starts.  You’ve pushed yourself, stressed yourself and probably exhausted yourself.

And you can officially relax, it’s the weekend now.

Or can you?

What have you got planned for the next two days?  What are you doing with your precious time off?  Do you have any downtime built-in, or is your weekend just full of a different type of work?  Do you have a list of ‘stuff’ that needs to be done?

Does it look anything like this – washing, ironing, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, washing the car, getting the shopping in?  So that by the time you get to Saturday night you’re practically comatose in front of whatever is on the TV?

And how do you feel at the end of a weekend like that?  Energised, rejuvenated, enthused and raring to go?  Or just knackered?

In my last coaching call with my fabulous mentor, Judith Morgan, we were discussing work-time and down-time.  She was suggesting that I give myself plenty of down-time, time to do things I wanted to do, not just the things I needed to do.  It felt a little bit naughty initially.  We’re all taught that a good solid work ethic is a key factor in success.  So to actively plan to do non-work things or ‘fun’ things felt a little like a guilty pleasure.

But there has to be balance.  And I think that’s what we’re losing in our current crazy-paced ‘do-everything-and-do-it-now’ lifestyles.  We’re forgetting the bit about balance.  We’re forgetting that it has to be Yin and Yang, not one or the other.  Downtime doesn’t mean we’re being lazy.  In  my downtime this week I’ve read two books that have fed my soul and my enthusiasm, as well as spent time meditating, and just playing and laughing with the pooch.  I even managed to make a couple of fresh green juices!  The effect all this has had on my work and my writing has been tremendous.  When I get to the laptop I’m bursting with ideas and enthusiasm and energy.

That’s why I’m asking you what you’ve got planned.  I’m sure you’ve planned all the chores you need to get done over the weekend.  But have you planned some actual downtime?  Have you planned just an hour to read a book, or go to the park, or whatever it is that makes you feel alive?  Because it’s just as necessary to plan and do those things as it is to have a clean house and an empty laundry basket.

Here’s to a fabulous weekend for us all!


Eat that Frog

Eat that FrogI don’t enjoy doing my taxes.  Shocking, I know!  Even though I’m an accountant and a natural number cruncher, as well as a writer, my annual taxes are a source of pain.  I don’t know why – they’re not particularly complex.  I don’t even have to prepare them myself, someone else does that for me.  All I have to do is check it all then sign it off.  Easy peasy.

But I always put off getting my initial bits of info to my lovely tax accountant.  This time around I handed it to him a month later than I should have!  And I only did that because I got a letter from HMRC and needed him to sort it out for me.

In fact, I left the HMRC letter until I’d had two reminders!  I think I’ve just set it up in my head as a chore, and so its easy to keep putting it off.  Of course, putting it off just means it takes up precious head space.  Because every time I remember I think to myself “Oh crap, I really should sort out my tax stuff – definitely tomorrow.”  Then tomorrow comes and something better to do magically appears.  And my head space gets more crowded because now I’ve got to add “Why didn’t I just get the tax return out of the way today.” on top of “Oh crap, I really should sort out my tax stuff – definitely tomorrow.”

Taxes are my frog.  I don’t know if you’ve come across the saying, or the book by Brian Tracy, the idea is that you tackle the most challenging thing in your day first.  That way you’ve already achieved something and your day can only get better, because you’ve dealt with the most difficult thing.

But I’ve been doing lots of de-cluttering recently (here’s the low-down on that), and so I decided not just to tackle my taxes, but to clear all my financial stuff.  I decided to eat that frog.  And it worked!  I can officially confirm my taxes are done.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  In fact today ended up being a really productive today.

And I freed up so much head space.  It feels lovely not to have to constantly remember what I need to do, worry about it, and worry about possible consequences.  It’s all done.  Clear.  As is my head space.  Lovely.  I highly recommend it.

So tomorrow, work out what your frog is, and go ahead and tuck in to it for breakfast.

Done is better than perfect

Done is better than perfectOnce upon a time I worked in a lovely place where I negotiated a four-day week.  The reason I chose to give up a fifth of my precious salary was so I could stay at home and write for one whole beautiful day a week.

Because I didn’t want to be in the lovely place long-term.  Because I knew I was meant to be a writer.  Because then I could have a perfect writing day every week.

So Mondays were my writing days.  I had at least five years where I didn’t work on a Monday.  That’s 260 days – I checked.  In that time, would you like to know how many novels I completed?

None.  Not a single one.

Never mind.  It’s not easy writing a novel.  (Fun fact – Ladies of the Club took Helen Hooven Santmyer over 50 years to write!)  So – how about how many writing projects I completed?

Still none.

OK.  What were my other achievements from my Mondays off?

Yup.  We’re still at none.  (Unless shopping and daytime TV count?  No.  Didn’t think so, but worth a shot, eh?)

And why didn’t I achieve anything?  Because I hadn’t learnt probably one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learnt.

Done is better than perfect.

Do you know how long it took me to get the format and first draft of Coping with the Horroffice done?  A month.  One month.  ONE.  That’s only thirty of my precious Mondays off.  I’d still have had 230 left to play with!  Numerous redrafts later, it’s still not perfect but it is done.  Done enough to be ready for a copy-edit.  And that’s four months down the line, some of it whilst in a full-time job.

It all changed when I realised that waiting for inspiration wasn’t getting me anywhere.  I was always waiting for the perfect day, the perfect time, the perfect story.  And it never all came together.  it’s possible that if I waited long enough it would have happened.  But how long would that have taken?  And then I’d have to wait for the next perfect moment to move things on.

When I sent my book out for feedback I realised that most people don’t see the imperfections I see.  Yes, there are things they raised, that I needed to work on.  That’s what feedback is for.  But the point is it was feedback on something I had done.  In their eyes the book was completed, ready, it just needed some tweaks.

It was the same thing with the garden (on a smaller ‘life-story’ scale obviously!) – (check it out here).  I spent ages waiting for the perfect day, or for a perfectly affordable quote, or for a perfectly free day.  None of those things happened and my garden was a no-go zone for over four months.  The whole of summer.  Yesterday I finally did it myself.  It’s messy and there’s more to do but it is done.  The pooch and I can now wander around the whole garden not just the outskirts.  Done is better than perfect.

So when you look at what’s important to you, is there anything you can just get done, even if you know it’s not done perfectly?

Because done is better than perfect, and perfectly undone is worse than useless.