Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Great Clearing

I walk the beach, the sky is blue, the air clear and still, fresh frozen February chill, the mist lying in the hollows of the valley, the skylarks singing as they begin their mating season: picturesque...

But here too are signs, everywhere, of what has been.

The rock pools are pulverised, shattered by the sheer force of the sea. The birdsong mingles with the sound of a roof, which was torn off like a candy bar wrapper, being replaced. The shoreline has been redrawn by the wind and the waves, since last time I was here, and now stands 10, 20 feet in places, further back than a week before. Skeletons of poles stick up, rooted in concrete, standing lonely on the new bare sand. In weeks gone by they held life buoys, to rescue life from the waves… now stolen away by the sea. 

What will emerge here in this newly uncovered sand, stripped bare? Which wild plants will take root, stones find their resting place, picnics be had?  I am minded that even after devastation, life always finds its way back. New, different, but life all the same. 

The bog is bare and low. In summer you can barely see across it for the waving reeds but now it looks like a hummocky field. The inlet wide and deep now, more like the mouth of a river, weaving its way through the bog with grace. The tea house peeps out from the trees. And the massive arboreal stand that my father in the great optimism of a ten year old, planted, that now shelter and cradle his home and family.

And I think of the winds that swept through here last week. The worst in a generation… or maybe more. An ominous sign of things to come, perhaps, as our environment kicks back. We were all shaken by the winds. They swept through our souls, as well as over our houses. The eye of the hurricane rested here. Trees thrown over like pick up sticks, trampolines like tissues. We saw how poorly rooted these things were. How the wind if she wishes can make us her puppets, rags dolls to be thrown through the air at will.

These winds cleared out the dead wood. The rains washed out that which was not deeply rooted. They forced resilience. Forced us to look again at where we live and how… and how we need to maintain and live within, not simply build over, nature’s systems. Shorelines and floodplains, river valleys and mountain tops may be beautiful, but they have purposes beyond our need for beauty, they are functional parts of a dynamic whole. We cannot live wherever we want without consequence.

These two months of storms are the weather equivalent of the financial storms which started back in 2008, which we are still only recovering from. They are a clearing out of all our systems. Leaving us feel exposed, vulnerable, being forced to reconsider, rebuild, rethink the way we live.

We long to return to life as normal, the way things were. But these shocks and storms will keep coming, intensifying the need to rethink everything, and pull together, to find a new way forward, on this newly exposed ground. There are no life buoys, all we have is faith in the great unknowable mystery, our earth, ourselves, and each other. That is more than enough for magic to occur.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tables and Chairs: Creative Downloading and the Anxious Brain

You may not know that I catered for my own wedding.
I also led the ceremony.
And wrote it.
And made the wedding invites... with my dear hubby.
And designed my own dress.
People say their weddings are the best day of their lives.
Mine was truly the scariest.

For months before hand, including 6 days of a 10 day silent meditation retreat my mantra was "tables and chairs... tables and chairs..." Where to source them, how to fit them into the room, who should be sitting next to who... That and menu planning - how to make a feast for almost 100 on a tight budget.

Because you see we paid for the wedding too!

Tables and chairs is my brain's way of dealing with the larger panic of "holy fuck I'm getting married and is this a good idea and what if it's not and what if we get divorced...." and all of that lightweight stuff.

So I am starting to see a little pattern emerging. Event planning. Shoestring budget. Control freak nature. Wanting to make everyone happy. Wanting to do it uniquely. Anxious highly sensitive tendencies. High stakes... My brain is currently in tables and chairs mode.

If I focus on the logistics of the tables and chairs. If I make enough lists, I can control my feeling of being totally out of control. Of facing the unknowable. That's what I tell myself. I'm not sure how true it is... but it certainly makes use of some of my adrenaline and acts as a distraction from the anxiety.

It also makes me pretty distracted company.

And I tend to TOTALLY lose sight of 1) why I am doing the thing in the first place... and 2) that I'm any good at it, and everyone actually likes the process.

So I'm here. Trying to remind myself of the whys. Whilst my brain screams HOW? and my little girl self curls up in a corner in the foetal position, refusing to come out cos she's SO scared.

So how did I get here?

First I was excited. Super, mega excited.

The blueprint for the next year downloaded into my head a couple of weeks back before breakfast. I scribbled down the details as fast as I could. Said yes and thank you for the information. Told Mr DA who also said yes.

And now here we are.

My stomach feels sick with anxiety. I am researching like there's no tomorrow - all the techie things I'll need, all the new learning, the things that need to be done to make it happen. Techie stuff is NEVER my strong point... it always brings out the jitters. As does spending money. Oh, and getting help.

Hello fears. Looks like we're all hanging out together once more...

This is when I ask myself why I don't, why I can't just settle for a job in TESCO to support the family. Why the need to challenge myself at this level.

But lists of information and planning downloading as I drive... or walk on the beach... or try to sleep. I wake at 4.30 every morning and keep downloading whilst the house sleeps. 6 hours is never enough sleep for me, but my body just won't do any more.

It is not hypomanic... everything else is calm. This is creative download. This is how it happens for me.

I spend months working away uninspired at stuff, then suddenly, like buses it all comes along fully formed. Only thing is, then it's up to me to make it happen.

And it's usually something I find scary. Bigger than anything I've done before. And the agreement seems to be you get the info, you get the income at the end, and the glory... but you gotta to the hard work. You've got to push yourself to the far reaches of your comfort zone. There are no guarantees. But this is what is needed and how it is to be done.

And I'm like - really, me? But I'm scared, and I'm tired and I'm sick, and I have QUITE enough work to be getting on with.

And then I'm like - why the obsession with "helping" people - they'll get on just grand without me.

But I know... and the Uploaders know that once the idea's planted, it'll be done. That's how it works.

I've just got to figure out how. Find a way. Stop whining and get on with it.

Which is where we are now.

Deeply, deeply uncomfortable. Researching like mad. Energetically calling it all in. And my inbox is proof to that - two unbidden emails within an hour telling me I was on exactly the right track.

Deep breaths.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A-Z of life at Dreaming Aloud

I have been quiet on the blog - I have been called on to share so much of me in the book launch, with radio, newspaper, magazines and online, that I needed a little private space to recoup.

I'm aware that I haven't kept you in the loop about what’s been going on behind the scenes – I find it hard to verbalise when I’m doing new things, and also am rather superstitious that if I share things too early on, it can jinx them…

But now the time for New Year’s resolutions is well and truly gone… and my plans are taking firm form, and results are being seen… I feel able to share.

So here is my A-Z of what I am letting go of and what I’m calling in, (created thanks to Leonie’s mindbogglingly fabulous Create your Amazing Year planner - it's NEVER too late to start creating an amazing year!)

Realising I needed three of me to keep up with my work, now I am finding myriad ways, large and small, to support myself whilst I continue to build my work. Including paying for help. Wow.

Last year I hit a couple of bottlenecks – literal and metaphorical – where my neck and shoulder froze in excruciating agony. Both times coincided with my busiest times of the year. So this year is the year of avoiding bottle necks.

I tend to zap in and out of connection with everyone in my life – my kids, my partner, my family and friends. I find maintaining connection hard. So I’m starting with Mr DA in cultivating physical and emotional connection. It feels good.

Since coming out about my mental health last year, I have had the most stable few months of my adult life - in the middle of lots of sickness and a book launch and being called onto a bigger stage than I’ve ever occupied before. I’m monitoring myself, Mr DA and close friends are now aware – we all keep an eye on me.

Really focusing on being aware of my energy levels, and doing this revolutionary thing called resting. A lot. And saying no. A bit. From my planner, in bright red ink: “It is up to me to set limits. Energy in must be equal to or more than energy out.”

I am LOVING Facebook as a way to connect, and am really focused on extending connections from real life, work and email contact over to Facebook. (Do connect with me on the Dreaming Aloud page, or perhaps my personal page.) I am getting (a bit) better at reaching out to people I know less well… and not presuming that the person I am reaching out to wants me dead. Or thinks I'm weird.

Goddess Sized
So since writing my popular post on shopping when goddess sized, I tried dropping wheat and sugar for a month, my skin was so excruciatingly itchy, and someone suggested it might help. It did. I’m now eating about 1/3 of these that I used to. Which means I’ve had to learn other ways to deal with anxiety than pasta. Or cake. Or alcohol. Or sugar. I’m also leaning consciously towards eating much less meat – being what is known as a flexitarian. And I am eating according to appetite. Not fear. And I’ve lost eight pounds. Without dieting. Whilst immersing myself in images of beautiful curvy women. Celebrating my curves… caring for my health. It's all good!

Our favourite song in the pink house is Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” – we sing along to it almost every day. We have more music in our lives since I had to prepare for a radio show where I shared my favourite tracks. I never made it on. Vomiting bug. Not seen the video? Then watch it here - to enjoy people of all ages, sizes and colours being HAPPY! I dare you not to boogie along!

Income Streams
My income streams have gone from tens of tiny trickles, to fewer, more substantial streams. And what’s more exciting is that I have a plan for the next year plus. Which will consolidate my work and earning further. Very exciting!!

Big news. I’m leaving. My choice. And quite a sudden one, although it’s been a long time coming. I need to free up the energy and head space I pour into it. It’s been over 7 years I’ve been involved with the magazine. It feels like a death. And also like it's allowing space for new growth.

They are growing so fast it’s scary. I try really hard to be fully with them when I’m with them. I’m semi successful. They’re great, just so completely themselves: quirky, cute, clever, creative and flipping strong willed!

I keep practicing. I still like to talk more though!!

Moving my body
I’m going for a walk on the beach by myself a couple of mornings a week, after dropping my youngest off at play school, and before I start work. It’s a good little window of opportunity for what others call “exercise”.

I am practicing saying No. As much as I can. It doesn’t come easily for a girl who likes to say Yes, is turned on by life, hates missing out, and can’t stand disappointing people.

Painting is NOT happening again. L Stuck, stuck, stuck… Here's one I made earlier...


Reach … Roots
Reach is my word for the year in my work life. Last year my social media followers went from 2000 to 8,500. They’ve grown by an extra 1,500 in the first six weeks of this year. Roots is my word for the year in my soul life.

I decided to grow up about my sexual self, following a simply incredible e-course with Pixie Campbell. It feels really good, following my rules, not my internalised parental and societal ones, choosing pleasure and connection, giving myself permission.

As in Red ones… After a couple of years of dreaming we are only days away from our first Red Tent. There are nearly 90 women signed up to our Facebook group in less than 2 weeks! It seeks there is a hunger for something like it in the area... and a nervous curiousity. We let our old women’s group go with love and intention for finding a different form to support ourselves and each other in December. A new co-conspirator and new excited women mean that we will have the reality of a red tent in our neighbourhood soon!

We have a family dream goal that I have set for us – 5000 copies of The Rainbow Way means a family road trip to America to visit my family there. We’re not there yet, but well on our way… I’m hoping we will make it for the Fall. I haven’t been over in 4 years – before this whole creative entrepreneur and writer extraordinaire adventure began! I’m longing to meet my cousin’s new baby – who’ll be 3 in a couple of weeks – and see him, he’s like a brother to me. And to see my cousin, Kevin Pearce, the snowboarder you may have seen in Crash Reel – last time I saw him he was only recently out of hospital and still in recovery from his horrific accident. I am also longing to meet a number of women who I have met through my work and the wonders of the web in person – and perhaps do a couple of book signings along the way!

After being invited to take part in the Red Tent summit, I had to submit a video - you can see it here. My e-course (s) will have videos in. So I’ve set myself a challenge to make a video or audio every work day. I haven’t made one yet!!

My writing is flying when it comes to my new books. With shorter pieces like articles and blog posts I am struggling to find the time, energy or desire. I signed up to a wonderful writing e course in January 2013. I have only done one assignment. I don’t have time to write. I don’t know how to write - I tell myself… Ridiculous I know, from someone who makes their living from it! I spend most of my time it seems writing emails, newsletters, advertising copy, web copy for the Cookery School, or on Facebook.

Are top secret I’m afraid… REALLY, REALLY exciting new developments lie ahead in the next year which make my heart nearly explode with joy. I’m so glad to have you here with me on this creative adventure and look forward to unfolding more as the time comes!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The winds here are Biblical. Planes and boats grounded. Our 10 foot trampoline is currently hanging out in a tree. Wild does not begin to describe it. With each gust I am sure the windows will blow in.

And then, silently, the power went out.

Welcome to life unplugged. Suddenly it is apparent just how much of our lives depend on this invisible power source that we take for granted – except for monthly grumbles about bills – first and foremost no light, and no heating. No phones, or internet – so my Skype interview was now off the cards… but I had no way of contacting the woman – cos no email, or Facebook. No internet so no research, no blog posting, or updating social media. Suddenly I feel very disconnected. Powerless. My lap top has 3 hours of battery. Suddenly so very precious. What will I do, I wonder, when it runs out? Tragically I can feel my anxiety rise at the thought of it.

I think of this evening – no hob or oven – so beans on toast… only to realise that that means no toaster too! So it’ll be beans on top of the wood burning stove, toast made on it.

The women in the office here have gone home – with no computers or phones there is little they can do. Downstairs the pottery is ominously quiet – no power means no till, no lights in the clay store, no pug, no wheels, no kilns, no way of heating the wax, no loud ram press thumping the clay into moulds. Quiet. Stillness. Except for the wild wind outside. We are returned to a slow, less distracted state of being. It is less easy to be busy, to be rushed or overwhelmed.

Maybe this is the answer. I know there is a trend for turning off our technology, for screen free time. But totally powering down, in the way that is being forced upon us, immediately forces our hands. It insists that we engage with the outdoors and each other, with our immediate surroundings. Suddenly I am not a global citizen, but very much rooted in the immediate environment – reliant on sun for light, fire for heat. I am powered down… and the irony is that when cut off from the grid – both power grid and extended human grid – I am once again turned on to myself and my immediate surroundings. I am reconnected with reality.

I love the internet… adore it in so many ways. Ditto ovens and TV … but part of me realises that this could be the way of the future – as power outages become more common due to adverse weather, energy wars and rising prices.

With our wood burner and store cupboards, candles and torches we are more resilient than most… but isn’t it incredible how quickly everything changes when the lights go out?

And so I wonder how we as individuals, as a family, as a community can remain powerfully connected, when we are power- less.

I guess we're going to have to start learning fast!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Joy Pockets

Little gratitudes in the midst of everyday living...

snowdrops in the garden

being a comforting mama to a sick girl

a safe, warm house as the storm blew around us

a really exciting top secret project

eating avocado with my fingers

a boy who has discovered an unstoppable passion for reading

a husband who is fully on board with my next big plan

Facebook connections

this review of me - from a blogging course I taught at the weekend: 

"She was immediately likeable, a ball of energy. It was like crossing the ultimate earth mother with Bridget Jones (not just down to the English accent) with Oprah Winfrey... She remains the adorable yummy mummy of her blog and three kids. Most importantly she's real..." 

Please do share your joys - big or small - in the comments section below or over on the Dreaming Aloud Facebook page ... and if you're not a member of the page, do join, there are daily doses of inspiration there and a great community.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Saying No

Sorry so quiet here, dreamers, it is not that I don't want to be here. Blog posts form in my head, or seeds of them get parked in my drafts folder. And then time or energy desert me.

I cannot tell you how insanely busy life is at the moment. Good busy, exciting opportunities dripping like honey from almost every moment and interaction I have.

Exciting... and overwhelming... and of course I have been sick for weeks...

It's decision central here. Every day.

I'm really having to step into my Yes and my No to keep my head above water and sustain my energy. I get all excited and say Yes, Yes, Yes... forgetting that I cannot do it all... and that No is essential to my sanity and physical health. It has always been my weak spot. I don't like to say No - to turn down opportunities that will not come again; or turn down money that we could use; or not want to seem anti-social, or unfriendly...

I was delighted, therefore, to re-read my own "wisdom" as I was proofreading the Spring version of Juno magazine (out March 1st) and came across my column on just this topic.

"No need not be negative. It is simply a statement of clear boundaries. A wise man I know taught me that the greatest gift I can give my children and myself is to learn to say No with an open heart. To say No with great love and compassion for them and for myself. 

Saying No with deep love centres me in my own power and connects me with the source of my own creative energy once more. By saying No I free up the energy that was attached to the situation or event, so that I can use it in other positive ways. It takes me out of alignment with my ego, which so desperately wants to be liked and admired, which wants to have and do everything. Saying No moves me from passive to active. From observer to participant. 

No means I respect myself and my needs as much as yours. I do not say it lightly when I say that learning to say No without fear is one of the most empowering things you can do. "

How are you at saying No? What helps you in decision making?


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