Tag Archives: love

Autumn Blanket

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Today I am in utterly in love with autumn. Despite the fact I live in the southern hemisphere and it is notably warmer than an autumn in the UK, I can still feel the change that moving through autumn and into winter brings within me. The shortening days undoubtedly send me into a slower pace of life and I find myself longing to hibernate under a thick blanket with a bottle of red wine and a pile of nostalgic films. The golden crushed leaves on the sidewalks have been swirling up around dogs and walkers alike and the south easterly wind sends my long hair flying free. As the wind whips past I am craving deep rich hot chocolate of an evening and thick oat-filled syrupy biscuits. I long to see root vegetables on my plate in all the colours of autumn from the blackest purple beetroots to the vibrant yellow of squashes and roasted sweet potatoes. As winter sets in I wish to have my dear friends over for poker nights and share my love of food, books and writing with those I know that care for such things. In all I am craving warmth, comfort and companionship.

 

In a nod towards those desires I have taken to making my own granola and I have packed the freezer with the resulting little niblets of heaven. My granola has so far consisted of a happy mix of oats, pumpkin seeds, chopped figs, cranberries, pecan nuts and almonds. All mixed up with a generous dollop of raw cacao paste and virgin coconut oil, many dollops of raw honey, a dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous sneeze of cinnamon. I baked the mix in the oven for 20 minutes on a low heat and I can honestly say it makes a perfect snack to go with a cup of tea. My next plan is to find a way of making it without baking so I don’t lose the goodness of the raw honey. Raw honey is number one on my list of must eat foods these days for health and wellbeing.

 

Autumn here is also a time of new beginnings for me. As the heat of the summer is becoming a distant memory I am able to run through my local wetland without falling into a heap of sweat and dizziness. I still turn heart attack red but at least I don’t actually feel like I may have a heart attack during the cooler autumn days. I am stretching my limbs to the bright blue sky in an attempt to regain my fitness one step at a time. I will become a better runner and I am also going to start practising yoga, which is something I have always wished to do but have so far avoided. It is time to get stretching my body and also my mind – which will be achieved with the inspiring world of TED Talks. I recommend to everyone that they watch at least one TED talk a week to experience their vibrancy and inspiration. The talks cover every topic one could wish for and really are an incredible motivator. First up on my list are these little gems and I can’t wait to watch them:

Success, failure and the drive to keep creating – Elizabeth Gilbert

Why giving away our wealth has been the most satisfying thing we have done – Bill & Melinda Gates

Why I must come out – Geena Rocero

My daughter, Malala – Ziauddin Yousafzai

The sunrises at this time of year are spectacular here and I am incredibly lucky to be able to witness many of them from the boat at work each day. Check out this little number courtesy of Mother Nature. A perfect work of art.

 

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As if that were not enough happiness I have also had the pleasure of my Dad visiting us for the past ten days and it has been blissful. My Dad and I have always shared an especially close bond, like many fathers and daughters, and our latest adventure has been perfect. I had the delight of showing off my gorgeous partner in crime to my Dad and vice versa and I have watched them form their own friendship and bond over long walks in the hills, evening fires and bottles of wine from Stellenbosch. Look at those happy faces!

 

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They say it all to me about the importance of family and friendship. I have also finally been able to share my beloved sharks with Dad and it was such a privilege to share his first cage diving experience with great white sharks. My Dad is an adventurous soul and inspires me to be positive and full of life in the years to come. I will always remember him lying horizontally in the cage, feet up on the edge, the sunshine beating down on him, without a care in the world and surrounded by magnificent sharks. What an awesome example of being free. I really couldn’t ask for more. Have a wonderful Monday and may you all be free and happy this week whatever the season and weather.

 

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Tailor-Made Life

Tailor-made (Adj) ~ made, adapted, or suited for a particular purpose or person

 

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I am feeling very inspired by the story of my sister-in-law after speaking with her yesterday. Let me introduce her to you; her name is Lisa and she moved to Australia from the UK a few years ago. Since moving she has been embarking on an incredible journey of self discovery and of creating a new career in Australia for herself and for her family. My conversation with her has really lifted me and reminded me of the importance of not just following dreams but of making them true to who you are.

 

I believe wholeheartedly that we should all strive to achieve our dreams and live our lives how we want to rather than follow what society expects we should or ought to do. But what is even more important is that we follow the path that is right for who we are as individuals, for each dream is no doubt as unique as you or I. We shouldn’t all try and conform and do what we see is available or possible based on what others have already done when they followed their dreams. Be more creative than that! I think it is better to be building our own reality based on our own set of gifts, talents, needs and desires. A tailor-made life for each and every one of us and it doesn’t matter what it is you choose to do. All that counts is that is brings you a feeling of peace and contentment, a sense of being true to who you are.

 

Let me come back to my sister-in-law for a moment to explain this more clearly. Lisa is in the process of retraining as a hypnotherapist, which is pretty cool in itself. I am a huge advocate for alternative therapies and will highly recommend Lisa in the years to come because I know she will be fantastic. Anyway, when she told me of her new career I imagined the hypnotherapists I have seen in the past with their lovely quiet treatment rooms, their row upon row of fascinating books and their soothing voices. Voices that heal. I imagined a stereotypical therapist and then I heard her story. Lisa’s plan is not just to be a hypnotherapist but to also incorporate her other talents and loves into her business. Lisa paints beautiful pictures and, as a mother of two, is very interested in the healing power of alternative therapies during pregnancy and birth. She has a strong connection with dolphins, longs to own an art studio, practices yoga and meditation and is also a very talented writer (and yes Lisa is also an awesome wife and generally great person. We all love her). Check out some of Lisa’s writing at her blog Deep Field. Whilst Lisa isn’t writing her blog at the moment her existing posts are well worth a read and maybe this will give her the nudge to get back into it….hey Lisa what about Deep Field as a name for your blossoming business??

 

I felt sheer admiration when I heard how Lisa is going to bring all of those aspects of who she is and her passions into her future business. I could hear the excitement in her voice. And guess what? Lisa isn’t superwoman and she doesn’t know how to run her own business but she is doing it anyway. Lisa hasn’t started off thinking…

 

 

How should I behave as a hypnotherapist? What stereotypes and expectations should I adhere to?

 or

How do I earn lots of money doing this?

 

My amazing sister-in-law has come from the viewpoint of…..

 

What do I absolutely love to do?

 And

How can I combine all of those passions and interests into my daily life and my business?

In short, she is putting her talents and desires first and working on it from there. Not once did I hear the words shouldn’t, can’t or failure. All I heard was someone who has spent time discovering who she is and what she wants to do. And now she is doing it. Failure isn’t an option, money isn’t the driver. Passion and self belief are the words of the day.

 

The business that Lisa is creating is very specific, unique to whom she is and that alone has made me pay attention. As I look towards the next five years I have various ideas of the business I wish to create but I find myself limiting my mind to what I have seen done already and what I believe is financially possible. By doing that I am already clipping my wings and feeling a loss of dreaming big and free. So today I am taking this reminder to heart that I need to be focusing more on what is right for me, not what is right for everyone else. I am going to open my mind to infinite possibility over the next few years and get creative. I am planning to be spending the next five years working on yachts and traveling the world and I will use that time wisely to also consider who I am and what I want to do when I put my roots down on firm land. It is my time to imagine the finer points of what I want to do without any fear of not being able to make it happen and it is my time to then get creative with it. So far I can tell you this:

 

1. My life will involve being a writer and it will involve helping others. I will write book upon book and publish them all in the hope that somebody will pick them up and it will brighten their day, inspire them to keep going or simply make them laugh out loud.

 

Watch this space for my first book…No Damage. It is already 40,000 words in the making and I can’t wait to share extracts of it with you when it is a little nearer completion and ready to be seen. But then maybe it’s already time for me to be brave and showcase some of my words on here with you?

 

2. My home will have sunshine and the ocean on my doorstep, there will be two much-loved dogs at my feet and I will be creative. My life will reflect who I am and my work will contain art, baking and so much more. Did I mention my love of painting marine life and seaside life on scraps of wood and other natural materials?

 

Check them out here at KatFish Creations. Maybe you’d like to purchase a painting or commission a coffee table piece? Or maybe you’d just like to look and dream of summer and the beauty of the oceans. Enjoy!

 

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This post is my commitment to creating a life that includes those aspects of me and more in the years to come. I start walking that journey today.

 

Are you on the cusp of following a dream, maybe a passion, or perhaps you are thinking of changing your life? Are you holding back for fear of failure? Whatever it is you are dreaming of I urge you to make a commitment and get started today. Here is to being unique and to creating a tailor-made life.

 

Check out Alan Watts awesome motivational speech – What if Money Were No Object? Absolutely everybody should listen to this at least once in their lifetime. We need more happy people and I believe this is the way to create them.

 

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Related Articles that inspired and lifted me today

–          Gazillian Zinnias

–          29 Life Lessons

–          How to Manifest Everything you Want

–          What is your Bliss?

 

Better Together

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Today I find myself being thankful for togetherness as I walk the dusty cobbled side streets of Egypt. The early afternoon sunshine beats down gently upon my shoulders whilst I trundle along in my flip flops. It is ever so quiet at this time of day as the local men of all ages gather at the mosques for their Friday prayers. Old bent grandfathers with whiskery grey faces walk peacefully alongside young children skipping and bouncing with the energy of youth. They share the togetherness of family, of male companionship and religion and I enjoy their moment. The streets are empty, prayers are whispered in mosques across the town and I walk in my own peace. I treasure it against the usual noise of beeping taxis and people going about their business every other day of the week. Through the togetherness of their Friday payers I can enjoy some solitude and daydreaming as I place one pink flip flop in front of the other and walk on.

 

I pass my favourite bougainvillea as I turn a corner towards the sparkling ocean. It sits atop a strong sand coloured wall and is touched by the sun. This bougainvillea is huge; tumbling and cascading down the wall in a mass of heavy boughs and tendrils. It is covered in magenta pink flowers that peek and poke out of every curved branch of thorns and leave no space for a birds’ nest or even just a little bird. I cannot help but admire its vibrancy, its sheer obviousness, yet few people see it in this quiet corner. With just one flower it wouldn’t amount to much but the togetherness of many hundreds of flowers make it utterly magnificent and beautiful.

 

The ocean calls me across the deserted road to admire her fringing reef and shades of turquoise water that lap at soft sand. I smile to myself at a cloud of sand swirling and drifting in the water from an aqua aerobics group marching in the shallows. Together they twist and turn energetically to the music and encouragement of their instructor. Their pump their hands high, determined and coordinated and no doubt tired in the hot sunshine. From my cliff top view I simply cannot tell which one is the instructor as they circle closer in, they are that enthusiastic. I can only admire their sense of togetherness as they splash some more. I smile and walk on by with the occasional twist and turn of my own to the music of my iPod.

 

As I open the front door to my apartment I see our shoes lined up together, ready for the next adventure. I see walking boots that have taken us across foreign countries together as we laughed until our sides ached and had to lean upon each other for support. I see your sandals that have taken us on walks as we held hands and gave us time to talk at cafes and restaurants in our togetherness. Times of good food, shared jokes and references; a private language and world of our own. The same sandals that you wore to hospital when you held my hand through illness and didn’t let go. I place my cracked pink flop flops gently beside them, they look so tiny next to you.

 

I ask myself what life would be like without togetherness as I pour my cup of tea and settle into my chair. It would be empty and dull, like an old fusty sock lying at the roadside on its own. Unclaimed and unwanted as people walk by and wrinkle their noses. If we lived a life of isolation, of being apart from friendship, community and love I think we would fade away just like that sock. It would be like walking life with one shoe; painful, awkward and slow. Without togetherness there would be no mass of flowers to enjoy, no quiet prayer time on a Friday, no shared enthusiasm and no hand to hold. There would be so little joy.

 

A simple walk is all it took to remind me today that life really is Better Together. I am so thankful for the hand that I hold each day, for the opportunity to be others’ support and for people. They make my life what it is. A pretty, perfect, peaceful Friday.

 

 “And as ridiculous as it may sound, sometimes all any of us needs in life is for someone to hold our hand and walk next to us.”
James Frey

 

Hopeful Flower

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My beautiful niece with the flowers she loved to admire in Gran’s garden

 

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.

Sweet Transformation

I saw this quote two days ago by Lao Tzu and have not been able to stop looking at it. I am struck by its simplicity and its absolute relevance to my world this week. I have read it over and again, rolling the words around my tongue like a cherished red sweet whilst I pondered it in the light of stories and some wonderful advice given to me just the other day.

I have been graced with these stories by strong and beautiful women in my life this week; privileged that they let me into the world and shared their darkest moments, the fears they hold within their hearts and how they found ways to forgive and love again. I will carry those moments with me quietly to my end but what I can say is this: These stories involved emotional and physical pain that was inflicted by hands that should have cherished and loved these women. Hands that should have brought comfort and warmth, strength and love yet they brought tears, fear, physical injuries and long-lasting emotional turmoil.

It is not mine to judge the circumstances that brought about such destruction in their lives, not mine to do anything other than listen and be humbled by their extraordinary courage. The courage that one lady nurtured in order to survive and the courage it has taken another lady to admit she needs help and begin to walk the steps of her journey into a brighter future.

 

What struck me about both stories was how the beliefs these people hold about themselves have been, and continue to be, the keys to their freedom

 

How yet again I have been given a reminder that it is self-esteem and self-love or lack of them that defines so much about how one interacts with others, reacts to circumstance and ultimately finds inner peace and contentment in this crazy time we live in.

The world around us is truly a mirror of every belief held within. If you hold painful and negative beliefs about yourself as a chain around your heart, then you will find the world treats you according to this. This is so fundamental I wish I could shout it out and it is true to every single one of us.

 

If you believe you do not deserve to be loved, that your opinions matter no more than the delicate and easily lost seeds from a passing dandelion clock, then those around you will reflect that belief back to you

 

You will find yourself accepting being treated poorly, spoken to rudely, perhaps even emotional and physically hurt. Your heart and dreams will wither away slowly from lack of love and belief. And the saddest part of this? That such treatment will ultimately reinforce those beliefs within. Like a film reel on repeat this old cycle will just keep on going until you step back, bring about the awareness to understand what your own self-limiting beliefs are and make a change. It will keep on playing until you do something to set yourself free of your own mind.

 

But the beauty of is that by understanding this pattern and changing your beliefs about yourself you can change the world around you

 

The reflection back upon you can be filled with happiness, laughter, support and unconditional love the moment you nurture those qualities from within your own heart for you. All you need to do is step back and ask yourself one tiny little question:

 

What are my negative and limiting beliefs about myself?

 

Be honest, you don’t need to tell anyone the answers. Make a note of them in your journal with that favourite coloured pen of yours. Spend some time delving into the dusty corners of your mind and find out what beliefs you hold in there. Don’t judge them, don’t ask why and don’t dismiss anything. Just let them exist, acknowledge them and write it all down. I believe the moment you have that awareness is the moment you can begin to make positive change. You can begin to do whatever it is that will make you sweep away those dusty old beliefs until they are gone. By acknowledging those beliefs they lose their power and mysterious hold on you. By being aware of when they come into play as you interact with other people and circumstance you can make a choice as to whether you continue to live by your old negative beliefs and react as per the mental film reel on repeat. Or whether you stop and say:

 

No more will I do this. I choose to respond differently with self-love and positive beliefs about me at my core

 

And it gets even better than just using mental awareness to make change.  By doing the things that you love in life, the things that make you feel good about who you are you get to create new positive self-beliefs without even knowing you are doing so. You are having fun and gaining confidence whilst nurturing and growing new beliefs all at the same time. I wholeheartedly encourage my mind to get busy with having some fun with that. Not only can a mind sweep out the dusty old corners but it can fill itself with sunshine and laughter instead for a rainy day.

 

So what of the stories I was told?

 

They are perfect examples of how self-belief has been instrumental in making significant positive changes in life. One of the women has been to hell and back in her younger years with more physical and emotional pain inflicted by loved ones than I can begin to imagine yet she still believes in her worth and who she is as an adult. Not only has she found a way to forgive the hands that hurt her but she knows that she deserves love, deserves to be treated well and will not settle for anything less. Of course she carries her hurt and regrets just like the rest of us and she no doubt feels her grief and loss. But she is kind and open hearted, strong and beautiful and she didn’t allow herself to cave in and believe she was worthless in the face of hardship. Her positive self-beliefs quite possibly saved her life at times and they certainly continue to help her blossom and live a life filled with happiness as she chases her dreams. She has created a world where she is surrounded by people that genuinely care for and adore her.

As for the other lady, she is at the start of such a journey and I can only hope and pray for her. Hope that she finds the courage to start to believe in who she is; looks in the mirror and questions how her self-beliefs may be contributing to the painful and abusive situation she finds herself in right now. She is an incredible woman and it defies logic that she is in such a sad chapter of her life. She is intelligent, funny, talented, driven, open-hearted and more. I know she has begun to see this within herself as she has already admitted the dreadful situation she finds herself in. She has waved a flag for help and that alone takes a huge amount of courage and vulnerability. Please keep waving that flag lady, look inside and know you deserve more than this. For the love of yourself start taking steps to walk away from that pain and start dusting out the negative beliefs and find the good in you. You are worth so much more than this and you can be the one to make that change. In the words of Lao Tzu:

 

Truly the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation

Can’t Stop Smiling…An Award for Me!!

Liebster Award

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I cry every time I watch The Snowman. I just can’t hack it when he melts.
  4. 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.
  5. I tried to steal Robbie Williams’s pants from the washing line in his garden
  6. I faked a panic attack/fainting in a queue to get Chesney Hawkes’s autograph
  7. I had three perms as a teenager and no friends. Also see 6 and 7 to understand why
  8. 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.
  9. I love skinny dipping whenever and wherever possible and have been caught by various people in various countries
  10. I am terrified of scuba diving yet I am determined to become a scuba diving instructor
  11. 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.

  1. 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
  2. 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:

  1. To sing in front of an audience with a jazz pianist accompanying me
  2. 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!)
  3. To publish my book
  4. To be swept off my feet by the man of my dreams and not have to always be good at doing DIY!
  5. 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!

Who stole my peace?

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I lost my peace this past week and no matter where I looked I couldn’t seem to find it. I have hunted high and low for this peace; under the bed, in the kitchen cupboards, behind the door, in the bottom of a packet of biscuits and in my shoe. It was nowhere to be seen and left me feeling lost and uninspired. And then I looked in the mirror and realised that actually I hadn’t lost my peace. It has been there all along; as the sparkle in my eyes, the smile on my face and that feeling of knowing deep in my heart. I had just been looking in the wrong places and forgotten to look within me.

I have been so preoccupied with looking towards others and outside of me to validate who I am this past week that I had stumbled onto a path of my own fears and self-judgement. It hasn’t been pretty and I have watched my inspiration and passion take a back seat on the comfy sofa whilst I’ve been stirring a pot of negativity in my mind and working my way through the chocolate. I was greeted by two old friends of mine: fear and judgement.

 

Fear and judgement

Two perfect ways to ruin your day, squash your dreams and give up

 

They are free for all, widely available within ourselves and spread by our words and actions towards others. We all experience them in our lives and they are difficult to eliminate because we nurture and share them so carelessly. Often without even realising what we are doing.

It makes me sad to think I have wasted precious time judging myself this past week for making two tiny mistakes and have flicked on the fear switch that says in its childlike tone ‘I can’t do this, I’m just not good enough’. I thought I had firmly kicked that in the backside a while ago but it would seem fear is persistent and rears its ugly head when you least expect it. It turns your rational mind upside down, your brain inside out and is a ridiculous waste of time and space. And that is just what I have done to myself. It is a scary thought that I created that all by myself without so much as any judgement from elsewhere. Try as I might I have not been able to find anyone else that is judging me in the way I do. And believe me I tried! There appears to be no-one else to blame but me. Damn.

 

But here is the good part. If I can create the fear and judgement within me then I can also create its opposite.

 

I can sweep away those negative patterns within my mind and bring in the good, the passion and joie de vivre once again. All I need to do is put some effort in with my mind and let the good thoughts roll. So what are the opposites of fear and judgement?

 

Faith, Hope & Love (and a big piece of cake)

 

It was a conversation with a friend of mine that reminded me of these three cornerstones to bringing about peace internally. His grasp on the importance of these left me feeling somewhat humbled and I paused in my feverish stirring of the fear pot to take note. Everyone has faith in some form; be it religious, spiritiual or something entirely different. He reminded me that by cultivating Faith and sowing seeds of Hope every day, you realise that actually everything will be okay. Life is as it is meant to be right now and even when it is dark you can keep focusing on your Faith and Hope. You can create your own sunshine and smile right now at the beauty in your life.

 

And then there is Love

 

Love is the absolute opposite of fear and judgement in all its forms. It is the medicine we all need, it is free to give and receive and feels divine. We all need to experience and share more Love; for the sake of ourselves and for the world around us. It can only bring good into our souls and lifts us every moment it is shared.

 

Because with Love comes Peace

 

So whilst I can still feel fear and judgement niggling inside me I am going to turn my attention away and start cultivating more Faith, Hope & Love today and every day. I am going to head out into the sunshine and let the good thoughts roll. And yes I may also indulge in a big piece of cake.

May you all have a wonderful week and find reasons to keep on smiling today. Go and tell someone you love them, spread some happiness and hope and watch the peace within you grow.