Monthly archives "November 2015"

Big Journeys and Big Magic

Big Journeys and Big MagicThis week there’s been a very distinct theme to the conversations around me. Journeys. Everyone has been talking about journeys. Some have talked of actual journeys being taken or being planned, but others, the ones that have really stayed with me, have been where people are talking about their personal journeys. I will never get bored of hearing about someone’s personal journey, their path to finding what they’re looking for – whether that’s love, or work or happiness or fulfilment.

I’m also in the middle of a wonderful new book – Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. In the book, I’ve just got to the part where she talks about the journey to true creativity, and it’s making me itchy with excitement and hope. (It’s also making me yearn to to go back and read Eat, Pray, Love in which she documented her own journey back from the wilderness – if you haven’t read either of them I highly recommend both). And of course, all this talk and reading got me thinking about my own journey to something I love.

My journey only truly started when I acknowledged that I wasn’t happy with my life the way it was. And it took some huge signs from the Universe (like two bouts of cancer within twelve months of each other) to get me to stop and really think about where I was going in life and whether that was a destination I had ever even aimed for.

It turns out I hadn’t aimed for it, and once I’d worked that out, I could set about trying to change course. Unlike those cheesy Hollywood movies, my journey wasn’t rags to riches, despair to delight or gloomy to glorious. It wasn’t easy or a linear path either. I’m quite impulsive by nature, and as soon as I realised I wasn’t happy in my career I jumped straight into another one. One that at the time felt perfect. When that still wasn’t quite right eighteen months later, I jumped again, into a completely different direction. Finally, when I’d run out of money and options I dejectedly shuffled back into the career I’d started in and wanted to escape from. It was worse this time, because I knew I didn’t want to be there. The problem was, I still didn’t know what I really wanted to do. And then, through a series of circumstances which at the time I raged against (including the contract from Hell that I had to endure for six months and was so awful I needed to share the experience it to purge it), I stumbled back into writing. And I knew I’d discovered my thing. Or to be more precise I’d rediscovered it after giving up on it the first time around.

Wonderful, right? Kind of. There’s a little bit more to it. When you find your perfect thing, the one that makes you feel like you’ve come home, please take a moment to accept that it won’t necessarily and magically fix things. It won’t make life suddenly perfect. But it will make the struggle worthwhile. That’s how it was (and sometimes still is) for me. I know what I want to do. In fact, I’m actually doing it. Sadly it hasn’t magically made my life instantly perfect. Instead, it has brought me joy, satisfaction and hope, and that’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Here’s what I’ve learned from my journey so far:

  • Sometimes the biggest win is recognising you are ready to go on a journey,
  • Sometimes it’s about embracing the search without worrying about the outcome and,
  • Always it’s about knowing that it’s ok to start again and try something new.

Finally, there’s an aspect of the journey that I’ve struggled with myself, and I’ve also seen others struggle with. And that is acknowledging that your ‘perfect thing’ right now might not be (actually, accepting that it almost definitely won’t be) your perfect thing in ten years. My perfect thing was writing. It’s always been writing. However, that perfect thing had never been in the shape of a non-fiction personal development style book. But that’s exactly what my first book is – a non-fiction, personal development guide to coping with working life. I’d survived the contract from Hell and I needed to share my experiences of the Horroffice. And so Coping with the Horroffice was born. I’m working on my first fiction book right now, which feels perfect for me at this particular moment. I also know that whilst I will probably still be writing in the future, that may be a different version of perfect to the one I’m pursuing today. I might choose to write screenplays or song lyrics or poetry. I might even be studying for a Literature degree. Who knows? The point is, there is no end point and no certainty. My search will continue and so will yours. As it should.

That’s the final thing I want to share that I’ve learned. It’s ok for your perfect thing to change – and for you not to know what’s next.

So if all that’s true, could it also be true that the trick, the magic ingredient, the way to create big journeys full of big magic is to find happiness in each step?

“Big dreams create the magic that stir men’s souls to greatness” – Bill McCartney

Let’s go out there and look for our big dreams, enjoying some big journeys as we do it – what do you say?

Light and Hope

Light and HopeI don’t know if you’re aware of this, but every week I write a newsletter to my lovely subscribers. In addition, every week, I write to you via this blog. Sometimes the theme of the newsletter and the theme of the blog post are similar. But each piece of writing is unique.


I’m changing that today. I wrote a newsletter on Sunday that I found really hard, but I felt I needed to share it. After this morning’s events, I feel strongly enough to share it again, in its entirety, with you. So, for the first time ever, here’s the newsletter I sent out on Sunday.


(If you’d like to hear from me on a Sunday evening, just drop your email details in the form on this page).

Here’s the letter…

“I’m going to be honest with you – I wasn’t sure I could write to you today.

Earlier on this week, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment, and scribbled it down – I thought it would make for a great letter. But then Friday evening happened, and I wasn’t so sure anymore.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and going back and forth on it. It feels wrong to stay silent on those events. It also feels wrong to keep going over something that I know has been filling your newsfeed, and timeline and TV screen and thoughts just as much as it’s been filling mine.

So I went back and looked at what I’d scribbled midweek, and actually I think it’s even more important now to say it – so here goes…

This week I’ve been celebrating Diwali with my family and friends. Celebrating Diwali mostly consists of spending lots of time cooking the most delicious food with my mum, and then spending lots of time sharing that food with those that I love. It means lighting candles and bringing out the twinkly lights, and it means enjoying that happy, ‘fresh-start’ vibe that’s ripe with hope and joy.

Diwali is the Hindu festival of light. At Diwali we celebrate the triumph of good over evil, of knowledge over ignorance, of love over hate, and the triumph of light over darkness.

One of the things I noticed over the course of the week is how kind everyone has been to each other. We’ve been more tolerant of those little niggles that family members are so good at honing in on. We’ve been keener to make an effort. We’ve been more willing to laugh. So the thing that I scribbled down was this. ‘How can I be kinder at work? How can I keep this feeling going?’

I know that I’m sometimes so focussed on getting the job done that I cut corners elsewhere – I spend less time listening to my colleagues, I isolate myself a little, so I can clear my workload. I’m not the only one. My colleagues do it too. It’s become normal. We’re all busy, we’re all stressed, we’re all working to impossible deadlines. So we all disconnect a little bit. We have less patience and tolerance. We’re more easily irritated. We might get the work done, but it makes for a less happy, more miserable work environment.

And actually, a little kindness can go a long way. What’s more, it doesn’t have to cut into my precious time too much either. So here are a few ideas I’m going to play with when I go in to work tomorrow – I’m going to pick up some coffees on the way in, I’m going to save the link to the funny cat video for a colleague who loves cats, I’m going to go out of my way to say thank you and compliment a colleague on making that extra effort. Probably not all at once. But every day, I vow to do something.

The way I see it, that’s how I can keep the light turned on. That’s how I can keep the underlying message from my week of celebrating Diwali alive. I know it’s not much, but it’s something, it’s a start, isn’t it?

In our darkest time, when we may feel that we have no control over anything, we can choose not to give up or give in. We can choose to find that one tiny spark of hope and we can nurture it. We can treat each other a little more kindly, with a little more patience, with a little more love.


“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Martin Luther King

Wishing you a week ahead full of love, light and hope.



I hope you find a way to keep the lights turned on in your heart and your world, not just today, but every day.

Happy Diwali!

HAPPY DIWALIIt is that special time of year when I get to wish you all a very Happy Diwali!

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, the end of the current Hindu year and the eve of the New Year. It is one of the biggest, brightest and most joyous festivals in the Indian calendar. Diwali signifies and celebrates the triumph of good over evil, of knowledge over ignorance, of love over hate and of our own inner light overcoming spiritual darkness.

It’s this aspect of Diwali that I was thinking about today. We are all of us, always, either working towards or away from those things – goodness, knowledge, love and finding our inner light. We may not necessarily see it in those terms, and very rarely is it a big, dramatic, all-guns-blazing kind of fight.

Instead, I think it’s the myriad ways in which we live our lives on a daily basis. We all have darkness inside us, just as we all have a beautiful inner light. And throughout our lives, throughout our individual journeys, we are making a choice – we are choosing to allow either the dark or the light to guide us.

We demonstrate those choices in a million different ways, the choice to nourish our souls with laughter, with meditation, with music that makes our souls sing. Or to go the other way and drown in the bad news the media are so keen to push, to become irritated by the annoying habits of those we purport to love, or to deprive ourselves of the things that bring us joy. The choices we make with our food, are we nourishing ourselves or making ourselves ill? The choices we make with our time, are we devoting it to making our lives better, or spending it watching other people living their lives instead?

Each of these tiny, seemingly insignificant choices are in fact part of the path we are walking, and on each occasion, at each decision point, we are either choosing to move forward towards the light, or shrinking back into the dark.

Darkness in itself isn’t a bad thing. If it were daylight all the time, we’d struggle to get our bodies to rest and we’d never be able to appreciate the beauty of the moon. Life is all about contrast, about light and dark.

For me, the last few months have been particularly dark, as the light of one of the most precious souls I ever met has flickered and faded away. But he has left love, and the memory of good times. Having enjoyed that light for so long, the darkness of his death is bearable because it’s the natural effect of the light of his life.

And so, this Diwali, I choose to appreciate the beauty of the dark, whilst turning my head towards the light.

I hope the lights of Diwali illuminate your path, allowing compassion, knowledge and love to flood into your life. I hope the brilliant colours of Diwali colour your days with love, laughter and wonderful memories, and I hope the sparkle of Diwali showers you with joy, health and happiness.

Happy Diwali!

Pinches and Punches

pinchesDo you remember the saying ‘A pinch and a punch for the first of the month’? I thought about it on Wednesday when we hit November, and I’m grateful the 1st of the month doesn’t mean a having a sore arm as it did when I was at school!

Apparently the saying goes back to the time when people thought witches existed. The pinch refers to a pinch of salt, which was thought to make witches become weak. Once the salt had done its job, all you needed to do was give them a good punch to banish them completely.

Anyway, back to the first of this month (with no witches). It was a Sunday, and for me it was a symbolic new beginning as well as an actual new month kicking off. I spent the day travelling to and from Wales, visiting a breeder with someone who is potentially ready to become a pet parent. We weren’t checking out Golden Retrievers, so I thought I’d be ok. And I was, most of the time. I spent two hours playing with, cuddling and walking four gorgeous dogs (two sets of potential parents). It took every last ounce of control not to add my name to the breeder waiting list for the new puppies though. I hadn’t realised how much I missed this particular type of company, and for a little while, the idea of a new puppy felt too exciting to walk away from.

But now is not the right time to make another twelve to sixteen year commitment. Simba is still the only dog I really want. Until my heart has learnt how to remember him without falling apart, and how to live with the joy of his memories rather than the sadness of his loss, it wouldn’t be fair to bring another dog into the equation. It hit me hard on the way home on Sunday evening – the stark physical ache of his loss. I will never hear his paws clattering on my floor, I will never smell his particular doggy stink, and I will never be able to wrap my arms around his furry neck and give him a cuddle again. 

The absolute finality of his loss feels sharper at the moment precisely because of the contrast – because on Sunday I saw someone who was at the beginning of that particular adventure. It made me ache for what I had lost, even whilst I was excited for them and their new incredible journey.

But we can’t live in the past, can we?  And I’m not. I’m moving forward. After a few months of letting myself go, I’m finally taking a few small steps to a healthier lifestyle. I’m eating a little bit better (or rather, I’m not eating quite as much rubbish as I have been), and I’ve started finding ways to add back some of the exercise I’ve been missing out on the last couple of months. The new book is also slowly starting to develop and take shape. There have been days when my house feels more like a hotel, as I enjoy my new unwanted freedom. Ever so slowly, I’m adjusting to this new chapter in my story, and I won’t lie to you – there’s an element of excitement beginning to blossom too (I think Simba would have approved – I choose to take the two actual new buds appearing on ‘his plant’ as a sign that he does).

I don’t know what the future holds, and I’m starting to come to the realisation that I don’t need to know. I’m learning to accept that things change, to acknowledge I can’t control it, to trust that I can handle it and to hope that I will enjoy it. I’m learning to allow myself to go with the flow. Some days will be harder and some will be a breeze. Life moves inexorably forward whether we like it or not. We can never go back. So forward is our only option. Which means it’s not about the actual moving forward. It’s about how we move forward. Can we do it with style and aplomb and our heads held high? Or are we going to throw a tantrum, dig in our heels and fight a battle we’ll lose? I’m learning that fighting the flow is exhausting. I don’t want pinches or punches to get me moving. I’d rather just do it willingly, in my own way, on my own terms and preferably in a sparkly pair of shoes.