I am struggling with my writing this week since finishing the first draft of my book…all 123,000 words of it! It has been my baby for the past year and a half, which has incidentally been the biggest 1.5 years of change in my life. It has been incredible and at the moment I am truly missing writing my book. I am feeling nervous as I stand on the edge of the abyss preparing to find a publisher. The usual human fears are popping up about whether anyone will want to read it, if it is worthless, if it is boring blah blah and yet I know that none of things those are true.
It is a flipping brilliant book, it really is, and I created it in the hope it would inspire people. I wanted my book to be a piece of work that someone would pick up during a difficult time in their life, sit down with a cup of tea and read from cover to cover. I wanted that person to read it and say to themselves by the end: if she did it then so can I. That book…she is funny, hilarious at times, heart warming, emotional, heart breaking, ridiculous, unique and just brilliant. Really, a great read. I say that not as the author (that would be terrifically arrogant of me) but as the person that experienced the story happening to themselves and so was the hands through which it was written. I am merely the storyteller and I can say the book needs to be out there and shared. It really, really does and I do not yet have the contacts to make that happen….yet…in the way I would like to do so.
At the moment I am thinking about how to reach the most people possible so that nifty little book can get to work inspiring others. I need to swallow my fear and find the courage to approach agents and publishing houses. Honestly, it scares the inspiration out of me. It does not feel like an easy task right now and I am faltering.
In the spirit of being courageous and making a new change in my life I decided to share the first two chapters. So here they are, warts and all at this link.
Welcome to the first edit of the first two chapters of my book. (Deep breath on my part).
Would you read it? Let’s see if I reach anyone that might just be willing to help or inspire me to give this book a life.
On a different note I also realised it is high time I brought this blog of mine back up to speed. It has taken a back seat lately, I have lost my blog mojo and I really want to let it blossom into the great site it has the potential to be. I have been rooting around to find my inspiration to get going and found a Blog Challenge to join. Here are the basics:
I’m super excited to have joined the free Start-A-Blog Challenge with Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend. It comes with a free 7-day course to help build a successful writing habit and a private community of over 1,500 writers, and I’d love any of you friends to join me! You can access the free course and join the challenge here: http://liveyourlegend.net/start-a-blog-challenge-2015/
Over the next seven days I have a number of blog tasks to complete relating to the course, so watch this space. The first question I am prompted to answer is
What really makes you angry about the world?
Quite simply it is when people stop trying. We all have setbacks, failures, shortcomings and fears. ALL OF US. But guess what, here is the great bit, we can all try to overcome them. Every single one of us has the tools, talents, gifts and ability to make a change in our lives for the better every single day – be it large or small. We can either give up or get up and create something good in the day and inspire ourselves (and others in the process) to bring positivity into the world. Few things make me angry and frustrated but one of them is when people give up trying. In fact I’d go so far as to underneath the anger is sadness. It makes me incredibly sad when people no longer feel able to try.
Life is a gift and it should be lived to its fullest by every single one of us, every single day. Onwards team, go try!
“Reach out to me with your gentle heart. Let me see your sunshine and smiling face, your laughter and your glory. Let me hold your hand and enjoy the moments of celebration in life as we share a picnic on summer meadows filled with nature’s beauty. Butterflies kiss the air overhead with the beating of their wings. Let us laugh, recalling success and happiness as we find shapes and faces in the fluffy clouds passing by.
But let me also witness your storms, your failures and your fears. Let me sit by you through your moods and emotions, your darkness and your sorrows. Show me the shame sitting heavily in the palm of your hand that weighs down your limitless mind with thoughts of I Am Not Enough. Whisper in my ear the admission that you too have moments of insecurity, moments of not knowing which way to turn. That you doubt in tomorrow and hold your pain from yesterday. Don’t hide from me the tears in your eyes as you tell me you cannot go another step because it is too much. Let me see those tears. Let me understand all of you.
Let me share with you my cup of tea and be the gentle hand upon your shoulder. The soothing voice that tells you everything is okay, that you are okay. The warmth that tucks a soft blanket around your knees. The kindness that passes you the last biscuit from the tin whilst you curl deeply into the armchair. Breathe and know I am by your side. Watch the roaring fire as the storms in your mind fade away.
Let me be your friend. Let me see all of you and love every moment, every aspect of who you are. For what you see as character flaws and physical imperfections are what make you so very unique. Unique as a snowflake. Each one equally as vital, as important, in creating the beautiful hush of snow across our wintery world. Your vulnerability and shame that you think ought to be hidden away are what make you real. Show me your vulnerability and shame and you are showing me true courage. And with that open heart, that courage, the world and all her love will be yours.”
As I read that passage I am reminded of the fact that we all have vulnerability at our core whether we care to admit that or not. Each and every one of us holds it deep in our hearts and tries to push it down alongside fear and insecurity. As humans we are inclined to only show the very best parts of us. The shiny, the incredible, the magnificent, the awesome. We hide the traits we see as less desirable, we hide our fears and longing for connection. We diet, we have surgery, we lie, we cut and dice away in the hope we can become someone else. Yet all we achieve by doing so is never truly answering the question
Who Am I?
Instead we perpetuate the belief I Am Not Enough.
Like everyone else I try to hide away my darkness and my vulnerability. I diet, I think I am not enough at times and it is an incredibly painful journey accepting who I am. But slowly I am being vulnerable, facing my fears and being All of Me. I am starting to realise I am as unique as a snowflake and equally as valuable as the next. Just the way I am.
So why do I mention this today? Because yesterday I had the privilege of being awarded a Versatile Blogger award.
This is an award given by fellow bloggers as a sign of appreciation, respect, and support for their offerings to the blogosphere. A huge part of my journey has been the discovery of my passion for writing and the creation of my blog. By writing I have found my voice and have begun to find my way back to me. Without writing I wouldn’t be where I am today and I certainly wouldn’t be expressing my vulnerability and facing my fears. I would still be hiding parts of me away.
As friends old and new have read my words they have shared their own fears, the ‘Oh me too. I so do that!’ moments and inspired me. I have become part of an online community that I adore and have found daily inspiration, laughter and support through the words of other bloggers. To think that my writing is a part of this community and is valued leaves me humbled and touched.
And who is the fellow writer that kindly nominated me for this award? The wonderful DaveCenker. Thank you so much Dave. It means the world to me. For those of you that are not already reading Dave’s blog, you are seriously missing out. His writing is powerful, insightful and uplifting when you need it most. His aim in life is to Inspire and Be Inspired and he does just that. Check him out today.
There are an agreed upon set of rules that accompany this award. You are asked to nominate up to 15 other bloggers to receive the award and you are asked to share seven things that people might not know about you.
So here we go. My seven facts, vulnerability and fears included.
I walked into my glass patio door last week. I had forgotten it was closed
I am addicted to granola and dry Bran Flakes. I eat them at least twice a day, every day
My greatest loves are eating, running, the ocean and her sharks, writing, red wine, inspiring others and books
I won a Care Bears colouring in competition as child. I can still picture the drawing, the pens and the prize cuddly bear vividly. Precious memory.
My greatest fears are emotional intimacy, realising my potential, dying alone, having my wings clipped and waves.
I sleep on my stomach, spread out like a starfish
I am 34 and I have a bear called Hugs. He is awesome.
Now for my nominations for the Versatile Blogger award. These are blogs that, whether they know it or not, are much appreciated by me. Some I have known for a while and some are new to me. Their writing and images bring sunshine to my day, inspire and encourage me when I need it most. Thank you.
There is a flower called hope and she lives in us all
I am sharing something quite different today, so bear with me. Put the kettle on, settle down with a cup of tea and let’s see how we go.
Since the loss of my wonderful Mum three years ago today I have striven to become more ‘me’ in this life. I have taken hope and inspiration as my friends and let myself blossom, no longer hiding away my gifts. As part of this I have begun a journey of words and started writing my first book this year. A book of my tumultuous life in recent years, of inspiration and of helping others. With this in mind and in honour of my Mum today, I am putting myself out there with you. Here is the very first draft of a part of that book.
This is the story of one day in my life that brought hope when I thought there was none
I will resist the urge to say ‘it isn’t perfect, it isn’t very good blah blah’ and instead say I just hope you enjoy the read. Thank you for bearing with me and have a wonderful day x
I had never experienced the funeral of someone I utterly adored and I was frightened and apprehensive of what to expect. I didn’t know how I was supposed to behave; what I should do and say when I felt all eyes would be on my family and our grief. I wanted to show the world how incredible this family was, how we would celebrate Mum’s life and be strong for her. Could I do that?
I awoke early in my bedroom and peeked behind the blind. The early morning sun touched my hand whilst family members were waking up in the rooms around me. I could hear them all amid the quiet atmosphere in the house and listened as they rose and trooped upstairs for breakfast. My family were starting the day as they meant to go on; together, loved and as one. The laughter of my two young nephews and niece filled the air upstairs. Their footsteps thundered across the kitchen floor and brought life to us all when we needed it most. I knew they missed their Gran terribly but they smiled their innocence and lived for the day. Strange things happened that morning as we moved around one another in the house with hushed gestures. Electric appliances failed time and again, switches ceased working. We just knew mum was with us and keeping us on our toes. I could see the sparkle in Dad’s eyes returning for a moment as he thought of mum sending him jobs to do by causing these failures. We shared a moment and laughed. Mum knew Dad needed to always be kept busy, especially in her absence.
As I looked at my reflection in my warm, sunshine filled bedroom I placed a silver heart pendant around my neck and pulled my new dress on over my head. The beautiful pendant sat with its pink beads just next to my heart and I knew my sister would be placing her identical pendant over her heart. Mum had asked that we wear bright colours to her ceremony, that we make her day full of colour and celebration. So my sister and I did what we have always been taught to do by Mum throughout our adult lives. We shopped and my goodness we did that moment proud.
My sister and I roamed the streets of Padstow a few weeks earlier during a surreal and memorable shopping trip as we searched of our dresses. The tiny back streets were busy with tourists and hugged by cottages in pastel shades of pink, turquoise, lilac and cream. The shops reflected the day with their slate edging as children pressed hands against the windows and searched for sweet delights and fudge. It was busy, bustling and seagulls wheeled overhead as we weaved in and out of every shop that sold clothing. My sister and I had spent many hours shopping together previously but this was for our mother’s funeral whilst she lay resting in her peaceful hospice bed. It was utterly confusing and exhausting. We jostled with conflicting emotions yet found our joy in admiring jewellery that mum would adore, comments that she would have made by our sides. Should we be enjoying this sisterly time together? Enjoying a day out by the seaside being girls when the reasoning was so sad? We visited every tiny little shop that town had to offer, browsed and thumbed dresses of every imaginable style. As we sauntered past yet another shop, wondering when we would find the right attire, we saw an inviting open door and walked in. The shop was tiny, full of ladies browsing and we grabbed every dress we could find.
My sister walked out of the changing room in yet another dress and looked me straight in the eye. She squared her shoulder backs, stood proud. Her face deadpan yet with the merest twitch of a smile and a twinkle in her eyes.
‘Oh my god. Sue. You cannot wear that!’ I clutched my knees as I fell about laughing at the dress we had both loved on the hanger.
It was a fish print tea dress and we felt the fish print might be a nice way to represent mum living by the seaside. The trouble was Sue looked like she was wearing an apron. A very pretty apron, but an apron none the less. We imagined us arriving at mum’s funeral in such attire and couldn’t help ourselves. The tears fell down our cheeks as we leant on the changing room door for support and tried to snigger and snort quietly. Every time we looked at one another we burst out laughing again. The other ladies in the shop began to avoid us and glance at us with disdain. Poor mum deserved so much more than her daughters turning up in kitchen clothing. We scuttled out of the shop laughing and enjoying a moment of release from our grief. As it turned out we later found two stunning flower print, summer style dresses that day. We would be beautiful and elegant and a tribute to the woman that brought us into the world.
My dress was the palest sky blue, covered in bright spring flowers with sparkles at their centres. A summery pink shawl hugged my shoulders as I continued to ready myself. I placed a much loved high heel shoe on each foot and rose from my bed. I smoothed down my beautiful dress, observed the pain and strength in my eyes and breathed deeply. I heard the voices of my family in the hallway and adrenaline coursed through me. I could do this; I would do this for mum and play my part to make the day uplifting. Find a way with grace and love to remember. I closed my bedroom door gently and walked forwards with family by my side.
The hearse was shiny and black, like an enormous beetle carapace, and our funeral director welcomed us sincerely as he dipped his head to the ground. I had always expected funeral directors to be thin, hunched, with pursed lips and a yellow tinge of morbidity. Ours was more like Father Christmas but in less fanciful attire. As I looked towards him and blinked at the bright morning sunshine I was reminded of his kindness in recent weeks. Reminded of his round belly and wonderfully warm smile. He had kept us going when we felt like falling apart and had brought moments of laughter into our darkest of hours. I couldn’t help but feel safe with him by my side, guiding us through this day. I sat deep into the cream seats. Again my expectations were entirely different from reality. As I huddled close in the back seat to my brother and his family, like birds on a wire, we chattered and smiled. We remembered happy times, we enjoyed the scenery of Cornwall rolling by and we found strength in our huddle. I was surprised at how uplifting the day felt so far, though I knew the hardest parts were yet to come.
The crematorium loomed in front of us as we arrived and adrenaline spiked within me again. Inside the magnificent cream building there were friends and family members waiting for us, waiting to be there for us. There were Aunts and Uncles that I had not seen in recent years. Cousins, old friends, family friends, neighbours and more. My hand shook as I reached for the hearse door but the grounds surrounding me took my breath away. We stepped out onto a terrace backed by the cream walls of the crematorium. The land rolled gently away into gardens filled with young and delicate trees. Their glossy bottle green leaves swayed heavily with the weight of summer as insects danced around them. Butterflies drifted down to beds of rainbow coloured flowers that hugged the trees, lifted my spirits and carried me into the welcome room.
For a moment I just stood, tensed and stared at my feet. I couldn’t begin to imagine what to say to this sea of faces. How was I supposed to speak when all I wanted to do was run outside and far away from the moments ahead? And then I looked at my Dad and, without knowing it, he gave me the hand on my back that told me what to do. I knew his pain like I knew my own yet he stood tall, handsome in his suit and colourful tie. He moved around the room and spoke to everyone with a smile on his face. I watched as he made genuine connections with people that loved him and could see it brought him a sense of belonging. I scanned the room and saw my sister and brother talking to cousins and dear friends. There was serenity in their movements. I scuffed my shoe heel on the floor and wondered how I could do the same. Dad must have known my hesitation for he brought people to me for introduction and I followed this lead. The kind gestures and expressions of sorrow knitted us all together for mum.
The seats were hard and I was reminded of church choirs from my youth as we sat for mum’s service. I could feel the quietness behind us from rows of loved ones gathered together and a feeling of peace enveloped me. Peace wrapped her arms around us and quietly settled us in. Mum’s casket was magnificent, an absolute artwork of spring and summer flowers and she would have adored it. Mum had always loved her garden and spent many hours admiring seasonal flowers as the years went by. She had adored the sunshine on her skin and on her lightly freckled face. She found peace in her garden birds, roses, lavenders and more. It is fair to say that Dad had always been the gardener, been the one to dig and plant tirelessly for his beloved wife whilst Mum had happily played her part in creating pots full of pretty annuals. Mum would sit on her garden bench with a cup of tea and admire it all whilst Dad, ever busy, would dig some more. They danced this way every season and I loved it. The parts they played were familiar and comfortable. In a final tribute to mum, she was surrounded by not just the fresh flowers filling the room but also by the flowers on our dresses and the sunshine she had given us to carry in our hearts.
I completely embarrassed myself. I poked myself in the eye by accident and let out a high pitched squeal into the hushed room. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me at that moment before the service began. I sounded ridiculous and, to make it worse, it also made me want to laugh. Emotions were high and thankfully Father Chris joined us and brought me to my senses sharply. He was much like the funeral director in that he had a warm welcoming face and a sparkle in his eyes that I admired. It occurred to me that his name was almost the same as Father Christmas as well. He guided us onwards and weaved a beautiful story of mum through us all. He lifted us with memories gathered from close family. He brought us gently through the understanding that this was a goodbye but also a great celebration and a moment to cherish. My sister in law was the image of summer in her butterfly print dress and held her daughter close whilst she spoke her poetry. She had always been a peaceful and intuitive soul, just like mum, and her words were stunning. We sang with our hearts, we let tears roll down tired cheeks, we smiled at happy memories and held hands as a family united. As the service ended I rose and walked towards mum and her flowers. In life she had been my best friend and sunshine. In death she was still sunshine and flowers, willing me to go on. As I touched those flowers goodbye I knew I would never be the same without her. None of us would. But I scanned the faces in front of me and saw just how many lives she had touched. How many hearts she had lifted and cared for and inspired with her gentle manner. She was truly an inspiration.
The sunshine was glorious as we regrouped outside and dropped our shoulders. I could sense people relaxing and beginning to share their stories and memories. I walked alone amongst the flower beds and made friends with the butterflies surrounding me. Dad joined me after a short while. We had been an inseparable team these past two weeks; propped each other up from the moment of Mum passing through every step of planning the funeral and beyond. With words unspoken we admired the hills around us and acknowledged we had made it. We had given mum a service that told of who she was and celebrated her incredible strength in life. It was time to move on to the wake and I longed for a summery, ice filled, gin and tonic. Longed for a comfortable chair with my loved ones by my side.
The setting for the wake was meant to be, I knew that from the moment we first saw it. It was a country pub nestled amongst picture perfect thatched roofs, surrounded by a traditional English village green in the height of its summer. Ducks paddled across soft grass and quacked their afternoon stories in the breeze as we arrived and entered. The gravel crunched underfoot as guests followed us, eager to relax their grief. A procession of colour and life. The slate flagstones, oak beams and ash filled fireplaces around every corner soothed us all as we propped up the bar. We found laughter and conversation in the bottom of draught beers, gin and tonics, wine and more. But the best was on the horizon as we gathered our family and friends. We led them to the sun filled oak conservatory and I smiled.
Mum was everywhere in this room. She was in the lightly coloured soft furnishings of rattan and cotton. In the heat from the sunshine, the flowers and the beautiful food served for us all. But most of all she was in the huge olive tree that stood at the very centre of us all. Mum had been given the name Olive for her golden skin as a baby and, like the olive tree, she had been a lover of warmth and the Mediterranean in life. I looked around to my left and saw friends perched happily on chairs, tables and window ledges. They were laughing and smiling and creating new friendships with one another. I looked to my right and saw family members bonding after years apart due to the time constraints of modern life. Everyone looked happy, relaxed and truly celebrating the day. With our love of mum and our love of life we had created something more akin to a wedding party than a funeral. I leaned back into the soft cream chair and breathed out. I kicked my heels off under the glass table and tucked my tired feet under a soft cushion by my side. I let down my hair, I let down my defences and I admired the people around me.
Under the branches of that great olive tree they were Olive’s legacy. Under her watchful eyes across the years, Mum had loved and inspired every one of those people. I realised there never was a goodbye that day. There never was a real loss, for Mum continues to live on in us all. In our gestures, in the warmth in our hearts and in every sunrise that touches the freckles on our noses.
Glasses clinked on the table around me as one by one my family flopped onto cushions and brought familiarity and laughter with them. A fresh gin and tonic was pushed into my hand, the ice melting slowly. We raised our glasses and began to create the next chapter of our lives sat atop those cushions. We began to live again.
Oh my goodness I have been nominated for an award on WordPress! I can’t stop smiling! Yesterday Katherine Bassfordnominated me for the Liebster award. I am absolutely delighted to have been nominated by a fellow blogger; especially this lady. Check out her blog You Can’t Hide The Spark. It is all about finding your spark, no matter how deeply it has been hidden, and letting it shine brightly. It is about being You and I love her words. Prepare to be inspired to find your spark ladies and gents.
The Liebster award is for blogs with less than 200 followers. Although WordPress includes my Facebook friends as followers and says I have 259, I actually have 54 treasured followers. I never thought 10 people, let alone 54 would want to hear my words and share their stories with me. It staggers me that I have 54 followers and I am so thankful to each and every one of you. I haven’t forgotten the terror of publishing my first blog post and wondering how it would be received. I literally shook with fear as I hit the publish button. So thank you for being a part of my journey and helping me believe I can do this; you don’t realise how much you all inspire me.
So what is it I hope to achieve with my blog?
To inspire you in return. To help you believe in yourself, to make you realise how wonderful you are and to be that cheerleader for you as you reach for your dreams. To pick you up when you stumble, remind you of the reasons to keep on hoping, dust you down with a gentle hand and send you onwards knowing you can do it. To think I may have done that for one person let alone more leaves me a very happy lady indeed.
Here are the Rules for Leibster:
• Post 11 random facts about yourself
• Answer your nominator’s 11 questions
• Nominate 11 deserving blogs with less than 200 followers and ask them 11 questions
Let’s get started then with 11 random facts about me
I can’t believe I am going to admit to some of these….Feeling the fear but let’s do this!
I once ate even desserts in one sitting on a cruise of Doubtful Sound in New Zealand. I ended up in hospital shortly afterwards with an ‘unexplained’ stomach condition and was unwell for weeks. I couldn’t bring myself to tell the doctors what had caused it.
I am prone to the occasional mishap at work (ahem) and in the past eight years I have: fallen backwards into the river I was surveying, had to be rescued from a deep field of snow after my colleague and I got the car stuck in said field, fallen off my chair and into my filing cabinet, electrocuted myself twice, caught the crotch of my trousers on a barbed wire fence and had to ask my dear old male customer to unhook me from the fence and fallen into the office main doors in my inappropriately high heels.
I cry every time I watch The Snowman. I just can’t hack it when he melts.
I have been pooed on by birds in excess of 12 times as an adult; once on my cheek whilst as I was chatting up the man I fancied.
I tried to steal Robbie Williams’s pants from the washing line in his garden
I faked a panic attack/fainting in a queue to get Chesney Hawkes’s autograph
I had three perms as a teenager and no friends. Also see 6 and 7 to understand why
I squashed my sister’s hamster by dropping a chest of drawers on it (by accident!) I told her it had a heart attack…sorry sis.
I love skinny dipping whenever and wherever possible and have been caught by various people in various countries
I am terrified of scuba diving yet I am determined to become a scuba diving instructor
I am hopelessly in love with my best friend and now my secret is out
And here are my answers to Katherine’s questions
What do you like best about being a blogger?
The part I love the most is connecting with people and having the freedom to just be me. The freedom to express myself through writing with no limitations, no rules and always in the hope that I will inspire someone to keep on smiling. When I hear that someone likes my post or sends me a comment, it means more to me than anything else in this world.
If you could create your own cocktail, what would be in it and what would it be called?
It would be called The AquatiKat. It would be a delicate pink mix of the finest champagne with a dash of lychee juice, fresh mint and a syrupy pink hibiscus flower nestled in the flute. It would be presented to me by the staggeringly handsome Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters whilst he serenaded me with my favourite song My Hero.
How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?
First of all I step back and ask myself what I could do for me that would comfort me and do whatever it is as soon as possible; be it taking a bath, reading a book, blogging or having a glass of wine etc. Then I get an extra long sleep that evening and the next day I ask myself what it is I am so scared of. What is the fear? Then I think of my Mum, her incredible courage when she was ill and her peace with life, remind myself never to give up and shout chaaaaaaaaaarge loudly in my head as I just do it anyway. If that fails I eat a lot of chocolate and have a good cry until I feel better.
What is your favourite day of the week and why?
When I worked Monday-Friday it was Thursday because I was excited the weekend was approaching and I could lie in and be less hectic. Now I work less predictable hours and days, doing a job I adore, I love every day. Each one is magical, unpredictable and reminds me how good it is to be alive.
What helps to keep your creative spark ignited?
A combination of two things keeps my spark ignited.
People: Being around others and hearing their stories inspires my creativity hugely, as does positive feedback and talking about life on that deeper level with those people
Time alone: I need time to go for my daily run or walk on my own, to sing to myself, to daydream and hear my inner voice. That ignites my spark when all else fails
Did you set out to blog professionally or just for fun?
I set out to do it just for fun and as a form of therapy for me. Having said that, I want to blog and write professionally but I am still working up the courage to do so.
First paying job?
Shop assistant at Legends Surf Shop in Leamington Spa, England
Favourite teacher from school?
Miss Jones. My first teacher in kindergarten. She had this incredible way of lighting up the class with her creativity and long auburn hair. Miss Jones gave me my first prize for completing a project at school – a little fluffy bumblebee. I have never forgotten that moment.
What are your hopes for your blog?
That more people read and follow my blog and find my words inspiring and uplifting. That I can find the courage to write and publish an inspirational book and change peoples’ lives.
Where’s your ideal place to live?
Somewhere in the sunshine with an ocean full of sharks on my doorstep and sand to run along each day. My perfect home is cosy and peaceful with a patio to sit on so I can enjoy a good bottle of red wine. So far South Africa gives me all of this and more but we shall see where my free spirit takes me…
What’s your biggest dream(s)?
Excluding the dreams I am currently experiencing in terms of sharks and diving. I have five others:
To sing in front of an audience with a jazz pianist accompanying me
To stand on the TED stage and give an inspirational talk to those that need it most Check out TED here. Talks I cannot live without!)
To publish my book
To be swept off my feet by the man of my dreams and not have to always be good at doing DIY!
And most importantly….to keep on growing, learning and laughing every single day of my wonderful life
Okay, so enough about me. Here is the part where I can to nominate 11 deserving blogs for this award. Except I am instead going to nominate four, as most of the blogs I follow so far have thousands of followers already and I think these four are truly wonderful. They deserve to be read more, encouraged and loved for being who they are.
First up is ChocolateButterflyGirl. This blog is brand new and the creator Marie deserves a HUGE round of applause for how she is turning her life around and finding the courage to follow her dreams. My wish for this lovely lady is that as many people as possible support and encourage her every step of the way. Go check out her blog and be a part of her story as it unfolds.
Second up is The Live Simply Community and the creator of this, Amanda. I love the way Amanda describes herself ‘I am young and reportedly out of my mind’. Her words and beautiful photographs inspire me and bring me peace when I need it most. She has some great practical ideas on how to live life simply and I adore her style of blogging.
Third up is Travel Live Life. Words cannot describe how beautiful the images by Veronika are on this blog and the posts constantly make me want to travel more and live for the moment every single day. This blog is a work of art that needs to be seen to be believed.
And finally, Piano with Rebecca-Singerman-Knight. I love to play the piano and this blog reminds me of my passion for music and deserves to be read by all. Rebecca had the courage to follow her dreams of becoming a professional piano tutor and made her dream a reality. She inspires me to keep reaching for my dreams and to never give up. Awesome!
I met an unassuming, quiet girl this week during my working day. She wasn’t feeling very well throughout the trip to sea and she lay at the bow of our boat under layers of clothing and towels. She was mostly fast asleep all morning, curled up small and unresponsive to me trying to assist. I didn’t spend a great deal of time with her – knowing she wouldn’t want to talk when she felt so seasick. She appeared to be your regular young girl on holiday with her boyfriend, perhaps straight out of university, and I left her in peace to rest.
I met a confident, gentle, well spoken Asian lady this week during my working day. She was on her honeymoon and she joined our boat for the day with her husband. Whilst the other guests onboard couldn’t decide whether to go shark diving she was the first to volunteer and she calmly got ready with her husband by her side, slid into the cage and they enjoyed their first dive with a beautiful white shark. I admired her confidence, her ease at being the first to volunteer without hesitation on what was a cold and foggy day. She was tranquil in a situation that most people find challenging at first if they have not dived with sharks before. I assumed she must be a regular diver with plenty of experience; she had the grace of a mermaid.
I meet different people every day in my work, from all walks of life and they come to spend time on our boat for many reasons. Part of the joy of my work is getting to know these guests, hearing their life stories and being inspired by who they are. Everyone has a story, absolutely everyone, and it is a privilege to be able to listen to their stories when they decide to share them and take home their words of wisdom and apply them for my own growth.
I love sharing my knowledge as their guide on our marine safaris but I wonder if they realise they also guide me?
So, these two guests I mentioned earlier…When we returned to the harbour I escorted our group to the shop for mugs of tea, hot chocolate and coffee. Hands were warmed around colourful mugs; steam rising to soothe cold cheeks as it had been a brisk morning in the elements. I was afforded more time to get to know the guests as they shared their excitement at seeing the sharks and other wildlife. I asked the quiet young girl if she was feeling better now that we were ashore. What followed was a conversation in which she explained to me she was visiting Cape Town to investigate moving here in the next couple of years and because she was celebrating opening her first school in Tanzania.
She is from Italy and has spent the last few years working in Tanzania with local underprivileged children and one day decided to build a school for them. She has funded it herself, built the school, obtained the teaching materials and books from overseas, will be teaching the children and is training the future teachers. She has achieved this on her own, overseas, away from family support and her school is opening next week.
By the way, she is 24 years old.
She had the good grace and honesty to laugh and admit that most people are surprised when she explains what she has achieved. She knows she looks like every other girl her age, dressed in the latest cool clothing, and hanging out with her peers. Yet one day she woke up and decided she wanted to create a school so she did it. Without any prior experience or qualifications to do so. I was speechless at how she had a dream, a BIG dream, decided that it would happen and made it so. She didn’t tell herself she couldn’t do it, she didn’t give up and she didn’t expect others to make it happen for her. She just took one step at a time, tackled each hurdle with confidence. Her walk turned into a run and now she is considering where to open her next school.
Remember the confident gentle honeymooner that was first into the cage? As we talked about how much she enjoyed her cage diving experience her husband gently took her in his arms and told me this; with an incredibly proud and loving smile upon his face and in his eyes:
His wife only learned to swim four weeks ago. She was terrified of water, absolutely terrified and throughout her life she had only been able to go calf deep in water before having a panic attack. She literally fell apart mentally at the thought of going into water but she wanted to overcome this fear so she could cage dive with her husband. She wanted to give him this gift with all her heart and so she spent time with a coach in the final weeks before her wedding, learning to swim and overcome her fear. As if pre-wedding preparations and stress were not enough, she took on this challenge as well. It turns out that on our boat she was terrified, she didn’t want to get in the water at all and she felt her old familiar panic rising at the prospect of not only being in deep water but also with a shark nearby. Yet she did it without a word of complaint or hint of nervousness to the guests and crew around her. She did it, she loved it and the look in her husband’s eyes told me everything I needed to know about overcoming your fears and about true love.
We are so much more than we appear to be to the world around us and first impressions, whilst important, can be so misleading. They are subjective and based upon peoples’ own experiences in life and their own judgements and expectations. They are a trick of the mind and only a tiny flavour of the depths we all hold.
I never would have known from the demeanor of those two guests that each would have such a story to tell. I was wrong about them and these two people left a lasting impression.
The stranger in the street, your colleagues, your loved ones, the people that pass you by as you walk your life. They are where the real magic lies, where you can find everything you need to encourage and inspire you if only you truly see them without judgement. Let them in just the way they are and listen with your heart rather than your subjective mind.
As I left work that day I was reminded just how important it is that we all hold back from judging people if we are to let them in. Not only when we first meet someone but throughout our time together. To really get to know someone, to let them truly touch our hearts we must let go of our expectations and our own history. Only then can we see the real person, hear the real story and go home to share it with others. Go home and cosy up with a mug of steaming tea, a smile in our eyes and the phrase
Today I found my inspiration in a cup of tea…..As I sat at the beach cafe pondering life and all her charms I hugged my extra sweet cup of tea. I don’t usually take sugar but today I needed a sweetener; some courage and inspiration as my own reserves were running low. Who knew I would find the words I needed on the back of my sugar packets.