Let me write to you…

This is the kind of email I write out to my subscribers. I sent this on September 20th 2018…. I would love to welcome you to the tribe…

September 2018 Newsletter

   Lee Bul   's art work at    The Hayward Gallery    this summer: Art so often holds the answer for me, or more accurately offers me another way of seeing...

Lee Bul's art work at The Hayward Gallery this summer: Art so often holds the answer for me, or more accurately offers me another way of seeing...

In March I spoke with a gorgeous handful of you for an hour or so about the lives you really wish you were leading and the obstacles you are experiencing. I think about you all A LOT.

I think about you creatives, writers, artists and spiritually called. You had such fires in your bellies about the work you want to do. I also think about you bold mothers holding such fierce love for your young, a love that runs in parallel seams to your desire to nourish a little bit of your identity: the woman you know you are alongside your maternal reaches. I was inspired by your responses and your reflections, your capacity for ambition and creative passion, touched by your generosity - you went all in to be honest and open in response to my questions and share. I am so grateful to each of you for that. I loved that you shared with me and I really love that still I feel those connections with each of you. I think about all of you on my newsletter list and that I want your signing up to hear from me to be something you are so glad you did. 

Here in the UK it is autumn (fall) - which is my favourite season. Much has happened since I last wrote in March: I have been trying out as a wellbeing coach, working with groups of young people - and realising for now that it is fully grown women I most want to work with in my classes. I had a public speaking gig - a stretch beyond my comfort zone that I may not repeat for a little while! I went on a Podcast to talk about a shadow from my past: (My episode is Episode 7, Rapunzel) I loved talking to host Alysia and I think her process is really special. I have made leaps within my own work was an Artist and feel another shift happening there. All this since freeing myself of some of my own obstacles by doing some inner work (with my own coach). I sold some work and have started teaching Art regularly again (three times per week) - which has re-hydrated my sense that Art is the answer (or at least the pathway towards the answer) to some of our big, deep questions. With that knowing re-awakened, I am working on gathering a few more venues for classes locally, bringing creativity and women's health together. I am excited about this and ready to get back on with it after a few false starts earlier in the year.

By now I expected to have everything ALL figured out, to have my coaching course package for women all written, my video pieces and interviews made and to be uploading and finishing up on Thinkific. I thought I would be writing to you to share the sign up details. I did record a mini course this year (which, dear blog reader: you can catch on my booklist if you subscribe...)

But you know what? I am not quite ready to record and run an interactive course yet, I haven't yet hit upon how best to create a course that combines my own passion and speaks to yours in a way that re-ignites your inner spark, and that is the course I want to make. That is the course I will make. Somewhere I can hear marketing experts gasping right now, I mean the LAST thing I should be doing is revealing an area of in-expertise or uncertainty, right? To me, not presenting myself as your Guru and instead being honest with you is far more important. I want to stay authentic, in it’s real sense and I hope connected to you more sincerely because of that.

This week I realised that pretty much every aspect of my life is in either an incomplete limbo or rebirthing or needing to be cast to the past right now. I don't know what I am doing and I don't know how I am supposed to best connect with you, but I know FOR CERTAIN that I WANT to continue to connect with you - I think you might just be my tribe! It feels like the most natural way for me to stay in touch is to write to you. I am focused on evolving that thought and expanding it in a way that has meaning and elevates you. I am currently running a beloved writing project here, do join up if you would like to receive my postcards, or click on the image above to sign up.

The new project I am developing (based on the fact that I love writing to you all) is something I briefly flashed on Instagram earlier in the year: A letter service that delivers coaching via letter writing, because I want to write to you on paper, a real letter that hits your door matt and makes your heart smile. 

At the moment I am fine tuning this offer, I would love to hear from you if you are interested in receiving regular letters from me - by the way my letters will always include hand made paper goods; like my zines or ready-to-fill-in gratitude books, so that every envelope would be a beautiful creative bundle to unravel, created with you in mind.

Thanks for reading. I will get in touch when I have more to tell you, in the mean time, I am always open to working with new clients and because of some of the schedule clearing I have been doing, I have space for three new clients to join me, one to one. My fee is £55 per 1 hour session. We start working from wherever you are, with compassion, love and my faith in you and your ability to create some magic for yourself (you've totally got this...)

Simply hit reply to contact me or use the contact button above.

Love

Susannah

Zero Birthdays...

There is something about zero birthdays. Moving into a new decade feels monumental, almost too much to get our minds around. When I turned 40 in 2016, I was ready! I had already marked the beginning of the new decade for myself by buying two Dachshund puppies. On the big day, I took them on a day trip to the coast. I wore the new Birkenstock sandals that I was particularly proud of and had wanted since University 20 years earlier. My actions in response to the approaching birthday had been philosophically rooted thusly: 'life is too short to dither'. Buying two dogs and expensive sandals seemed natural when you applied this logic: If you have always wanted to be a dog owner, do something about it, and so on. By the time the day rolled round I felt pretty relaxed (perhaps in part due to the comfortable sandals) and happy in my own skin. Local friends came over with flowers, we toasted the day and in the evening we had curry from my favourite takeaway place. I felt truly lucky to have such a relaxed day centred around two little sausage pups and hanging out with my best friend in our garden on the monster retro sun loungers he bought me. I thought about the preceding 10 years and how they had prepared me for this birthday.

I was ready for the shift 40 would trigger within. I knew that zero birthdays have an electrifying effect on me - and a lot of us, truthfully. You see, eleven years earlier, on my 29th birthday, I had had a terrible realisation. In 12 months time I would be 30. THIRTY. Ancient. Properly grown up. As ridiculous as it sounds I had not, until my birthday paused to consider that after 29, the next birthday would be thirty. I mean I could count at that great age, so it feels rather odd that I hadn't made the connection.  

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At that time I was locked into a serious and long term relationship. I had been swallowing down the inner knowing that I didn't want to be in that relationship anymore because I felt too deeply entrenched to escape. I had ended up buying a house with this man by accident, sort of out of politeness really - I mean, the moment when I knew I should not buy a house or continue to be in this relationship happened at the most inconvenient moment possible: when we were sitting in the Solicitors office at our meeting to sign the mortgage papers. Together. I signed, because I didn't want to waste the Solicitor's time - true story!

I managed to make it through 18 months of self denial in that house. 18 months of tending to my fear that it would be the end of the world to leave.  But, when I turned 29 something dislodged in me. The following Autumn, I found myself packing bags and hiding them under the bed, on autopilot. Even at the point when obedience to my new reality kicked in and I witnessed myself taking the last steps to actually leave, I had not understood what a monumental step into the unknown it was and was still in a state of denial about needing to go. When my actions sunk in, I was excited by my audacity, angered that I had wasted years of my twenties and felt an empowered relief to be a single woman in contrast to smothering myself in an expired relationship for so long. Overwhelmed by all the feelings leaving generated, I attempted to discharge them without having to experience the pain of self examining. I channeled my new time and energy towards obsessing over finding a new boyfriend. Instead I  found three short term encounters that I tried to spin into long term relationships. Each of the men was wildly unsuitable for me and totally unready to settle down with me - thank goodness.

Each was the antithesis of the last. All three entanglements, a power struggle and exercise in deluded self punishment. I put finding a partner at the top of my to do list. I was desperate to quickly fix the predicament of being alone and to avoid taking responsibility for my own happiness and wellbeing. In their own way each of these unsuitable men was looking through me for something else too. The very reason I had broken up with a gentle and caring man, who I just did not love was because something in me knew that there was more in store for me, more to go after than I could see in our collective future.

I had made a brave, bold leap, but failed to look within and understand that a big part of my problem was my fixed idea that I HAD to be in a relationship. I was afraid of the commitment I needed to make to myself if I stayed alone and I did everything I could to avoid it. I behaved irrationally, burned myself up with desire for the various targets of my infatuations. I crawled on my knees through broken glass, balled and asked the Universe to love me and to make something spectacular happen for me. I unconsciously continued to fatten up the chapters of the story in my head about not being lovable and not being safe or whole as a single woman. Even when things began to shift and I started to have an inkling that there might be more to adult life than chasing relationships and to wonder if perhaps I had something I could offer the world beyond being someone else's plus one: Even then, I still clung to that reductive belief that I would be better off on someone's arm.

When forming a relationship didn't work and still acutely feeling the need for change, I adjusted my focus and splurged energy at the idea of furthering my career by moving to London - (also in my head was: London, bigger dating pool...). Exhausted and numb after my sixth interview, on the train home. I wrote in my journal... 'Or you could just leave all of this and go travelling.'  After forcing myself through all the emotionally gruelling post-big-break-up nonsense I had been making myself chase and looking in all the wrong places for change, I no longer had the energy to fight against my solitude.

My urge to travel was another somewhat naive leap into the unknown and it could be argued another displacement activity in which I actually ran a way on a global scale from my problems. I was still externalising and avoiding taking responsibility for my own life, when I should have been looking within.  My decision to travel was another autopilot moment, an instruction from my intuition: 'ENOUGH. Enough now. You need to get yourself out of all of this and create time and space to think...' If turning 29 was the preface, travel was chapter one in my transformation story. Unconsciously I understood that what I needed to do was go ALL IN, to being alone. At the moment of making that huge decision I suddenly felt still, quiet. Calm. There would be no going back on this.

That's how transformation happens. It is ignited by a quiet realisation, a tipping point after all the little learnings have built into an undeniable critical mass. You can know something, but until you do something about it, until you live by it - you don't really know it yet. I kept quiet about my realisation for a little while and then, I made it real by talking about it, I started to tell people, to plan and bring it towards me. My core belief about being more than alright on my own took a while to mature, you can read about it here. That quiet moment on a train, changed my self awareness for good.

What's your secret wish? The big LEAP you are quietly thinking about? Find out how I can help you get quiet and find a way to take your own inspired LEAP : Contact me here

Beyond Belief

A belief is defined as something that we perceive to be true, to be the unshakable 'reality' of a situation and our understanding of the definite or probable outcome/consequence of a particular action.

Beliefs which limit us are the ones we allow to stand in front of opportunities for our personal growth and freedom: Limiting beliefs manifest in our words and actions. They are the real motivation underneath statements like: 'I can't because...' 'Theres no point because...' 'Ill never...'. Limiting beliefs are assumptions, short-cuts to a conclusion in preference to us having to take a risk towards something.

We all have limiting thoughts and beliefs and we generally have a handful of beliefs that revolve around a central theme. When these 'limiting beliefs' are stripped naked we mostly find that their source is that most reductive of anxieties: The fear that we are not good enough as we are. So now that we know this, we just have to stop having these beliefs. Easy, right?

Here's the thing about these quirky little false-truths we believe about ourselves, how we are and what we can expect from the world. They are more often than not SO well camouflaged and so woven into us, so within our wires, that they can be almost impossible to see. We carry them and design our lives around them without even knowing that they are there, stealthily driving us towards or away from actions and situations. They can be wrapped in complicated layers of experience and emotion. Their purpose is to keep us firmly rooted within our comfort zone. These beliefs are designed to protect us from the danger and pain of growing and if we let them, they keep us pocket sized and fearful.

One of my core beliefs previously, was that to survive and thrive in adult life, you need to be in a loving long term monogamous relationship. So embedded was this belief that I would describe it as one of the old pillars of myself. It formed somewhere in childhood/adolescence and wrong headedly drove a lot of my behaviour from being about 14 years old. Around being 19 years old, through to being around 31 years old I existed either in a relationship, trying to get into a relationship, or re-animating a DNR relationship or in the capricious currents of grief, after the end of a relationship. I had no idea that I held a belief about being in a relationship being the only way I could be happy and safe.

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Had you told me between those times, that that was just a story I was telling myself about the world, I would not even have understood that there could be any other way. I would have considered myself normal for thinking this way. I had no understanding of the idea that I could be a complete and happy human being without having a significant other.

We always have something to gain from shaping our lives around our limiting beliefs. Even when it became apparent to me that my belief around needing to be in a relationship was part of my map of the world and that it hadn't exactly always been helpful - I ignored my knowing. If I tackled this belief or tried to edit or erase it, I would have to replace it with something and I had no idea how to do that or what to replace it with. I would have to be in charge of my own happiness, my own life - I was not conscious that this could be a choice I could make. That it is possible for humans to manage their own emotional states was absolutely beyond my comprehension. If my stunted view changed, I would have to accept that my future might not include a husband or children. My life might not look the way my inner 9 year old believed it had to. I would have to let go of certainty about what lay ahead. I would have to start to think for myself and make my own decisions, big scary decisions all on my own.

I slowly melted my belief around being able to be happy alone, the hard way. Honestly, it was only when it became too painful to ignore the damage the belief was doing to me that I began to change. If we don't positively participate in them and listen to them and fight them instead, our inner shifts can be really difficult. Our need to change and grow is part of us, is human. We don't have to wait for a crisis or shock to focus on our growth, we can commit to nurturing and initiating it NOW. 

We have choice. We can start to explore our beliefs and behaviours without having to snap first. We can also ignore them. Carry on thwarting ourselves and missing out on everything we could have because we just won't take the step to explore what living a different way might be like. More than 10 years after my first steps towards change, I don't like ANYONE making ANY decisions for me or having other people's voices crowding in on my decision making process. I shudder at the thought of having everything laid out before me and life's future milestones locked down. I have an understanding of the great power I have in my own life and I enjoy not knowing what's going to happen. The liberty I have everyday to continue to live a happy and fulfilled life is something I don't take for granted and I use my power to choose in minute and BIG ways. Going to the next level, I have learnt to spot my self limiting thoughts when they come up, identifying my truth even when I don't like what it says. 

My limiting beliefs haven't stopped existing and will never fully go away, because I am human. I work daily to detect and disarm them when they crop up and make sure I am focused on a different paradigm instead. If we are to go beyond the beliefs which hold us back, we have to find them, expose them, work around and through them. Personal growth - the imperative of ALL healthy human beings can only happen when we allow ourselves to stretch out of our comfort zone. It takes time and repeated attention to shift your mindset.

When we visualise the road to enlightenment, we get caught up on the spectacle of light at the end, the glimpse of a saffron robe and be-sandalled foot just slipping into the edge of bright joy filled light. Think instead of the actual path, of being on the path every day, finding a way to understand yourself and see yourself in a different way, everyday. The first step to rooting out the beliefs that hold us back is to notice. Just notice. How do you react to the outside world? Observe. In witnessing the way you are, the things you say to yourself, the things you do and don't do, you can begin to untangle the behaviours and repeating themes that might be holding you back. Further than that, you can free yourself and free up your energy to pursue the thing(s) your higher self REALLY wants.

I found and still find it fantastically helpful to read about all of this stuff. There is so much written work out there to inspire and illuminate. The first book in my continually expanding Library was 'The Road Less Travelled', which I drank thirstily when I returned from my trip around the world in 2008. Ive been pretty much chain reading books about psychology and growth ever since. Join my Newsletter group list here for my free recommended reading list:

My journey to the  designed life I lead now was long and involved a lot of experimenting and exploring, wondering and wandering in the dark. I had no plan in the beginning and went in circles repeating mistakes I had already made. To begin with changes didn't stick because I didn't know how to go deep and tackle the real underlying issues. I learnt how to and love sharing what I know through my work.  You can vastly accelerate the process of identifying your own values, beliefs and true desires, then get them working alongside each other by working with me. My speciality is mindset shifting for personal transformation - because our mindsets are at the root of everything we do and want to do. Your beliefs are the gatekeepers to your potential. I can help you to make sure they are kind, supportive Bouncers who let you through those gates to freedom every time...

Work with me:

MINDSET SHIFT specialist and FREEDOM COACH

Clear your path...

CONTACT ME

📝🖌🖍 Soul Cries: Anyone can be an artist

Everything about our frugal family life stretched me to be resourceful, to see the objects around me in an unusual way and to repurpose everything. As a child, I spent hours in my room (I shared until I was about 10, then: unparalleled JOY! My own bedroom) - a space to make and be quiet away from a noisy family environment. I don't think I ever took that seclusion for granted. 

In my room I made cardboard sculptures and furniture, clothing out of my dad's old jumpers and old sheets (which I painted to look like embroidered waist coats). I hand-sewed, sculpted, painted and drew and was the most unselfconscious an instrument for the creative muse that I have ever been. In those precious years I taught myself how to use materials and objects in unconventional ways, I approximated and experimented and didn't worry that I was not doing things 'properly'. I was at ease in my inner space. Ideas came easily and the need to make was a daily drive.

I went to Art college at 16 and started to learn new skills. I started to formalise my making a bit without ever doubting what I was doing. University really shook my world. A Fine Art degree varies hugely from institution to institution. There are no set rules about what you can and can't do, but doctrines exist, instructions to follow in order to describe yourself as 'Artist'. Gradually I absorbed the 'house style' at my conceptual art leaning University. After initially freezing in the face of new/different, I threw myself into my degree course, opened myself up to new teachings and tried to forget (and cover up evidence of having been) the girl in her bedroom making stuff. I loved University and was excited by the work I could make and the opportunity to exhibit all the time. I think I showed my work 8 times through my 3 years there (not including my final degree show).  I had different work and ideas for each showing, I made sculptures and explored video and photography. My work always had a scrappy energy and 'homemade' look about it, tell tale signs of my early self schooling which proved harder to erase than I wanted. 

At art college a culture exists to question, examine and explore all work. There are organised 'crit groups' which consist of groups of students and a tutor who discuss presented work and criticise it in the context of contemporary and historical art. It seems a bit bizarre now, when I describe this process out loud. Essentially the function of 'crit groups' is to decide whether you are on the right tracks and your work is acceptable in the eyes of the assembled people or not. As you can imagine, these sessions have the power to crush or swell egos. If you are not very careful, you can be making work purely for the placation of the groups of your peers and their tutor, rather than listening inwards and making the art work you really want to make. I worked hard and was so engaged in my methodology and in flow that I found the crit groups helpful and drew on them as a resource to help me make work. Unbeknownst to me, in tiny increments an angst about getting it wrong, not doing things properly and getting a thumbs down in crit groups for my efforts, began to metastasise within me. 

After Graduation, slowly, subtly I started to lose faith in and connection to my voice as an artist and belief in the validity of my ideas and work. Outside the creatively dynamic bubble of Art college, I found the prospect of standing on my own two feet to sell myself as an artist and to allow myself the time space and budget to explore what it could mean to be an artist too daunting to pursue. I made earning a living a bigger priority (I did have to work to start to pay off debts and to eat and exist). Something deeper than just pragmatically responding to financial expediency was happening: The story I told, out loud and to myself quietly in my tiny bedroom in my shared house at night, was a tale of banishment from the art world because of a lack of resources and time.  I lost belief in the validity of the risk of making art. I feared that my art might not stand up to criticism. I extinguished my inner flame and put my need to make and do on hold: telling myself that I would let myself glow again only after I could get financially stable. Rather than risk getting art wrong as a part-time artist, I slowly began to let go of it as something I could hope to have in my life.

I had been conditioned very subtly to feel the need to have my art work approved of. I had also given credence to the idea that if I couldn't be an artist full time then, I couldn't call myself an artist at all. Art work could not be considered completed if it hadn't been picked over by fellow students and tutors. Caring what people thought had been amplified within my methodology. Getting an approval stamp and pleasing people: essentially being praised for making a pretty/witty/clever piece became my artistic raison d'être. The creative muse had left the building and been put in a taxi to the wilderness. The need to be impressive, to please, to be admired became an enormous obstacle for me. Rather than enabling me to be happy about showing my work and able to discuss the concepts behind my work, (which I assume is the aim) being a crit groupie hydrated my latent predisposition to care far too much about what people think. I lost spontaneity and the ability to make without concerning myself about what the end user/audience might make of my output. I was all about stuttering to explain my work and by extension myself. The truth, my truth is that I don't believe art should be explained. A few notes about background or inspiration is fine, but if you have to explain to me exactly what a piece really means or how I should feel about it, it damps down the magic and stops it being art: becoming a kind of propaganda instead. It stops being about internalising and making sense of the external and starts to become about being instructed on how to read, respond and think. 

As a viewer of art I don't want to be told what to think of a piece of art and as a born-again-artist, I don't want to have to get too involved in explaining my work. I am only just back on speaking terms with the muse and a lot of the time even I don't understand the work I am making. My hope is that you will make your own sense of it and that it will touch you without you needing me to explain how it should make you think and feel. 20 years after art school I am still calling myself an 'Artist'. It has taken a long time to recognise and then admit that I have built my own obstacles to prevent me playing a bigger artistic game. In amongst all of the doubts I still feel that the word Artist belongs to me and I to it.

Lately, I have stripped down to my metaphorical underwear and returned to making art the way I used to when I was a child. I am still self conscious and forget to trust the process all the time, but the difference is that now I remind myself each time I make art that I do it out of love. I do it because I believe, I KNOW that everyone is creative and has a right to explore their soul cries to make art (in whatever form that takes) and that includes myself. I KNOW that this undefined space is where I belong and that I / we have a birth right to connect pen/paint/pencil to paper or thread to fabric or kinks to wire, to make marks on surfaces, to let our responses, thoughts, feelings tumble from brain through hand and body out into the world. Humans are richer and more deeply engaged in the energies of this world when they adventure in creative activity. We are also better connected to our inner world and our truth through creative practice. You don't need a degree or a certificate or someone else to approve, you don't need permission from anyone. You don't need to dress in an alternative manner or go to the right parties. Ask that little girl in the bedroom: anyone can be an artist.

All images from creative drawing classes taught by Susannah Elizabeth, working with all comers from trained artists to brave beginners & nervous novices.
Subscribe to hear about classes near you.

Talking and Listening

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Have you ever noticed that when you need to chew over an idea, at a certain point you might start to tell people about it? You talk it through, test for reactions, watch facial expressions and maybe take advice from people about your idea. You refine the idea each time you discuss it, explaining it gets easier as you rehearse it.

To begin with you might be selective about the people that you tell. You might share a part of your idea and hold some of it back. Talking is part of the sharing process but the biggest most important part of what you are doing is listening. Listening to yourself articulate something new.

Everytime you tell a bit of your story about decision making or your hopes for the future or fears or regrets or happy reminiscences, you are talking outloud to yourself. You might be reminding yourself why you didn't take that particular job offer or why you did, why you won't be going to that party - or will be. The sharing of our stories grounds us in our sense of who we are, have been and want to be. Story telling is a natural and ancient human urge, it unites collectives and defines us as individuals.

We talk about the past to get a handle on it and to make sense of events. When I work with people one to one, I focus mainly on their desires for the future. I know that the past has a huge impact on the future at an individual level. Important for me to understand my client's contexts but more importantly essential for my client to have the chance to see their past and to see themselves located in their past. When we reflect upon our past and take ownership for the choices we made, we free ourselves for our futures. We can only understand and start to see the truth of our stories through retelling them and listening to ourselves tell them. Telling our stories gives us power over them, as our perceptions change we understand ourselves more deeply and give ourselves permission to try for something different. We find self acceptance and healing through conversing with our past self.

My role as a coach and creative teacher is to help you to listen to you by making the time and space for you to tell your story.  I ask questions you may not have asked yourself. I hold up a conversational mirror so that you can see yourself and situations differently. I don't judge or advise or ask you why. I listen and help you to recognise unhelpful echoes from the past and make a clearing for new. When you are ready, together, we consider and write your story the way you truly want it to be, chapter by chapter.

I would be delighted to help you make your life a real page turner...

 

 

Mexico Dreaming

YES TO POSTCARDS

I am sharing exclusive photographs and reflections from my solo journey around the world in 2007/08. So far, I have travelled (back in time in my mind to ten years ago) through Belize and the southern tip of Mexico (and sent out a few postcards)...

To get my next postcards straight to your inbox, all you need to do is join the mailing list.

Just hit 'YES TO POSTCARDS' above (or below) to join the postcard mailing list...

Here's postcard from Mexico:

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I have always been a bit obsessively in love with dogs. Not all dogs, Smooth short hair is pretty essential - I'm a bit prejudiced about long haired dogs being a bit smelly. Ridiculous closed mindedness, because my own short, smooth haired, mini Dachshunds are actually quite odorous, in spite of their short, manageable hair. It's the aesthetic of the short haired dog I love. Being able to see their quadrupedal form is important to me. Anyway, I digress. The genesis of my yen to go to Mexcio was a magical visit to the Museum of Mankind. My mum took me when I was around 14 years old. One of those delicious moments in childhood where a bedazzling glimpse of another culture sucks you through a portal and changes you forever. It was the 'Day of the Dead' Exhibition. My mum knew that I would love it. I was enraptured. I made a visit to Mexico an essential item on my list of things to do when I grew up and began drawing skulls and folksy pattern on everything in preparation for my visit. That exhibition is a big piece of the origin story for my whole journey and especially the reason I went to Mexico, my 'why'.

On Holbox and Isla Mujeres I came closest to feeling that magical Mexicania I had imagined from the wonder filled cabinets and artefacts at The Museum of Mankind. The tourist season had finished so my new friend Nicole and I were able to explore unencumbered. My inner world no longer revolved around imminent danger. I was actually enjoying myself! I was completely fixated with the porky Chihuahuas padding about Holbox. They varied in size from fat Guinea Pig to medium sized Staffy. All super chilled, utterly flea infested and shuffling about looking for patches of sun to sit and blink into. Though no physical contact happened, I felt a deep bond with the little beasts. I felt seen by them and companioned. They reminded me of the pot bellied terracotta vessels and effigies of dogs I had seen in that exhibition about Mexico at 14 years old. somehow I felt that the dogs understood my story and that I had been waiting a long time to meet them. During our 10 days or so on the islands, Nicole and I watched sunrise from the eastern most point in Mexico, walked round the edges of the isles and the lacework of sand tracks through them. We watched birds, lolled in hammocks and I had my second attempt at snorkelling - which I couldn't quite decide whether I liked or not.

My flight to my next stop, San José left from Belize City, so my final test for this first chapter of travel was to head back there, to that hostel to stay one last night before flying to Costa Rica. I could have stayed at a different hostel, or even a fancy hotel but I had actively decided to return to North Front street. Returning would be my slightly perverse way to measure how much stronger I felt. I recall a gut tightening sense of foreboding incubating within me on the bus from Chetumal. I braced my whole being against the associative fear of returning to Belize City. I revisited the city as a stronger woman. I spoke comfortably to fellow tourists at the bus terminal; handing on my knowledge to a young and nervous looking French couple about how to get to Caye Caulker. Chatting to shop owners and greeting the sour hostel receptionist as an old friend, I felt like a different person in a different place. You see no matter how scary the unfamiliar, the brand new, the totally alien is; it IS possible to get through it and to find your emotional feet and reconnect with your 'why'. Meeting Chihuahuas on Holbox and remembering that visiting Mexico had been an inner longing since childhood grounded me enough to feel ready to move forward with momentum and excitement and to own this adventure for myself. I was even ready to begin to share my learning and belief in what I was doing with others (remember; the French couple). These stretching experiences allow us to grow in ways we don't even know are possible before we pass through the first 'test' and circle back on ourselves. On to Costa Rica: 

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Guarding Security ✨

I have oodles of time on my hands at the moment, because I am without a job. Money is tight and were this any other time in my life I would be seriously freaking out and riddled with guilt about not earning. I'm not feeling that though. Instead I am choosing to enjoy my current state. I am not trying to be glib, I/we have been saving (for years) to give myself/ourselves a bit of a financial buffer zone for this change and we are being frugal. I have been preparing in a focused way for this move for about 18 months, but really the last decade has been about getting myself to right here, right now. Now I am finally here, I want to think and feel and live out of intention everyday, I want to embrace the opportunities here to re-invent and grow. So rather than setting myself a time to be different about things in the future or waiting to evolve into this newness of being or jumping back into old easy or established habits, I am working everyday to BE inner change, nurturing new ideas and exercising new pieces of myself. I am resisting the pull of overly self critical thinking and internal whisperings about how I should be going about things as a functioning adult in society.

Choosing to think differently about what employment in the future will look like means starting now. I have to be tough with myself about where I spend potential career option energy and focus. Previously in this position I would have been throwing myself at any and all jobs I saw advertised. I would apply, interview for and accept the first employment I could get my nervous hands on. This time, I am being selective and thinking about what I want, what aligns with my overall Life-aim (which is to choose the direction I want to go in and the work I want to do).

This sense of relaxing into unemployment hasn't come easily and in reality feels more like a kind of discipline or practice than you might imagine. Being unemployed won't last forever. Before I know it I will be working hard again - for the risk averse and security focused adult I am, the temporary nature of this state feels like an important context for now. 

So much about the way I chose to exist previously was about guarding against insecurity. Grinding on, keeping on turning the hamster wheel. Keeping on earning because the idea of being without money, without security has been so abhorrent to me that I run from it, as fast as I can. Being secure is important, allows autonomy and comfortability. When in employment, money isn't a worry, I can buy what I like and save and be generous. Feeding my sense of security can be a demanding, time-engulfing task. It can mean feeling trapped all month for the sake of a routine amount of money appearing in my bank account. Quieting the thought that this isn't quite what I meant to do with my life with the answer: 'but it's money, isn't it'? Working my guts out for someone else, doing someone else's work under the impression that it will keep me safe from the wolf at the door, when all the while the wolf moves freely, wants something else of me and anyway, might turn up at the door in spite of the years of service given. Worst of all focusing only on security in the past has meant sliding into lazy familiarity in jobs I knew backwards that no longer offered healthy challenge, but feeling too tired and apathetic to do anything about it.

It has taken a few attempts to be here. I have out run joblessness and lack of security many times before, this has always meant running back into jobs I didn't entirely want and spending years not quite committing my whole self to them. I know job change anxiety very welI. I know that a big part of feeling insecure about not earning for me is my distaste for a lack of free spending power and saving power. Not being able to bury financial acorns every month makes me feel very unstable and down - if I let it. I also shrink from the idea that if I see something I like, I can’t just buy it.  I am choosing to pause, to give myself a chance to go after a life I really want instead of allowing my need to constantly save and buy be at the root of all my life decision making.

Beyond enjoying being unemployed, I am retraining and reframing how I think of my employment status. I think of myself as self employed. A freelance Artist, Coach and Teacher. I am building the skeleton of my business, developing resources and ideas and studying. I am getting up every day and thinking about who I am as a freelance Artist/Coach/Teacher. I am working my new inner state into an external reality and thinking about how, when spring comes,  I can have all the seeds of ideas ready to germinate and ultimately flower.

For reflection:

  • How are you feeling about your work? Is there something inside you telling you that you would love something more/different?
  • Is there something you could change about your relationship with work to align it more with your personal values?
  • If ANYTHING was possible, what could you do, right now, to change your working life?

 

 

🌎💫The Inside Story

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YES TO POSTCARDS

I am sharing exclusive photographs and reflections from my solo journey around the world in 2007/08. So far, I have travelled through Belize and the southern tip of Mexico (and sent out 4 postcards)... Don't worry, you still have time to sign up. Just hit 'SIGN ME UP' above to join the postcard mailing list...

Here's a little context: The very beginning of my journey...
Almost exactly ten years ago, I set off on a solo journey around the world. I had dreamt of this journey and fantasised about it since childhood. I left my career, apartment, car, a partner and shrank my collection of worldly possessions to fit under friend’s beds and in my parents' loft. I was ready. I had taken a lone trip to Venice, a surfing course in Bude, had done the three peak challenge in less than 20 hours and had been to America twice on my own before. I was ready, wasn't I?

Desperately excited, antsy and a wired kind of exhausted, I boarded a plane headed west. I read a bit and stared out of the window, watched a film, drummed fingers on surfaces, flicked through in-flight literature and sighed dramatic sighs because the Ocean is so wide. I got as close to pacing the cage, though still in my seat, as I could. I was ready. I was ready. I was ready.

My first week was spent in a deep comfort: eating, talking and deeply inhaling a delicate and benign smoke of sisterly love in the company of my dear friend Heather. This was my first meeting of her twin babies who were about ten months old. Our blissful cinnamon and balsam scented week together was a shared mothering of those two animated pumpkins. They were always by our sides, on our backs or in our arms. It felt like coming home. I relaxed for the first time in months, I slept and ate and felt the deep nourishing acceptance and connection I always feel in Heather’s company. We held each other and reflected our lives to each other, shared our secrets and hopes and truly saw each other. Being with Heather always raises me up. Friends like Heather are like an amazing vitamin shot for your confidence, so rare and true. The week passed quickly and then it was time.

I had not expected to be a ball of howling frightened grief at leaving her and had not expected for the grief to quickly transform into a dark sense of terror about what I was doing. I was emphatically NOT ready. How could I have dreamt that this was a good idea? What had possessed me to give up a perfectly good job to pursue this childish dream? Who was I kidding? This wasn't me. The real me was a quiet girl who wanted nothing more than to have a secure wage and move through life in comfort without bothering anyone. I mean, I could see Mexico and Malaysia and Australia on film and in books and read about travel. How had I ended up here on this ridiculous quest? Flowing tears were wiped away. Sighs were sighed. Heather, who was having her world shaken beyond all recognition at this time, took me by the shoulders and told me how proud she was of me. She told me that she knew I could do this, I would be alright and I would not regret a single choice.

Safely delivered to the airport by Heather’s sister, I buttoned myself up ready to go out into the world. I met some kind American women at the airport who seemed confused and concerned at the notion of me going to Belize City on my own. I shared their worry, yet, that was what my ticket said and that was what I was bound to do. Internally I reprimanded my self for being so impressionable, so susceptible to their emotional response to my choices. I could not rationalise my way out of feeling dread churning in my gut. In the end I felt I had no choice but to sit in my fear, squelch through it from lounge to plane to lounge and out into hot unfamiliar air and a cracked-windscreen-taxi which drove me to the real beginning of my solo travel around the world. I don't think I have ever felt so afraid, so alone, so vulnerable and so green.

The fear was physical, emotional and I could not escape from a possible truth somewhere in its foundations: I mean - wasn't this just a terrible and dangerous idea? A woman alone turning up at a hostel in a very deprived area, in a country with conflict happening at its borders where the people all around her had comparatively nothing. Add into this frightening reality that I was a luminously pale white girl. I was the only luminously pale white girl I could see. I was a luminous and pale white girl with a ridiculous posh soft voice and a shameful grasp of Spanish. I had learnt ‘Quiero Llama me embajada’ and thought I was all set. I was not all set. 

The woman at the hostel had all gold teeth and did not speak English. She was an unfriendly, tough hunk of hard knocks in a peach crochet T-shirt and a short denim skirt. She sucked her mesmerising teeth at me and called me ‘Puta’ out loud. The two identical keys she gave me for the padlock to my cell did not seem to work which forced more interaction with her. She openly despised me and I felt desperate to get her on my side. Smiling and gushing was not a valid currency. A silent old man in a worn out fishing gilet on the porch of the hostel sat in a rocking chair with a rifle cradled in his lap.

When I finally closed the door to my room behind me the panic oozed out of me. I crouched and held my head. I beat questions about changing my mind, reversing my decision and going home around the room a while. I quizzed myself about my strength and ability to do this alone. At this fragile moment the experience ahead of me felt like an eternity and an ordeal. The sensible risk averse girl inside me was in total freak out and helicopter-me-home panic. The part of me that was interested in growth and had put me up to buying the round trip ticket in the first place acutely believed that I could not go back, changing my mind was not an option...

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YES TO POSTCARDS
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Wish you were here...

Ten years ago, I set off on a solo journey around the world. It was a lifelong dream to backpack my way from West to East and back again. I had paid off student loans, saved like crazy, planned, dreamt, schemed and taken the scary step of leaving a new and promising career in teaching to make it happen. I didn't know why I was so driven to act upon this desire, I just knew that I had to answer the calling inside me to go out and see the world. 

My exciting mission was heaped with expectation and anticipation. Although I hated people telling me that I would 'find myself' and would 'come back a different person', feeling those things to be such clichés (and I wanted this to be a journey of uniqueness) I was secretly convinced that I would float through arrivals at the other end of my journey entirely at peace with myself with a backpack full of worldly wisdom and a deep sense of self assured knowing about my path, past and future. 

I expected to fast track my way to enlightenment, through immersion and rubbing shoulders with different. I thought that moving through these things and places of otherness would be enough to embed permanent positive change. When I did return to England, I was different and I had learned about myself - not in the way I imagined; because: Isn't that how things work?

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of setting out on my incredible, messy, scary, funny, eye opening, heart warming and emotional journey I will be sharing stories of my adventures and the surprising things I found to be true for a woman travelling alone. I am sending postcards to my subscribers: 
All you have to do to receive my postcards is subscribe below. See you on the road... X x x 

🖥💬🙄 Internet Excess and 'Fair Use' Policies

In ancient times, on first hearing about the idea of people using computers to make friends online, I remember feeling a glow of pride for us as a species (I really did). 

At that time, it felt as though the age of technology could be the end of conversation, communication and togetherness. My pride, was in the notion that we had been able to take something potentially isolating: like having a fold up computer at home and turn it into a tool for community. I remember thinking 'I should have had more faith in us. I should have known we'd use it for good...'

There was a big gap between hearing about this phenomenon and being in a position to join in, for me. And then an equally large gap between being in a position to join in on social media platforms and actually joining. When it came to me personally, I wasn't sure I understood why I should get involved. My biggest fears being judgement and the thought of putting myself out there only to never be able to take it back and hide in anonymity. I still think hard before I post anything and I think that's a good thing, its also very me!

Over time I have learned to keep reminding myself to keep a self-compassionate eye on my dance of engagement with the web. The internet like so many of the external things we encounter, is a mirror. I can discover mermaids are real if I want to, or that vampires live down the road, with videos available to prove it. Whatever I need to be 'true' the internet has got my back. This goes for dodgy and fake 'facts' as well as how I choose to regard and talk to myself.

Before consciously teaching myself how to use social media in a way that would work for me, I would often feel a gloomy hollowness sink into me like dark ink blotting out onto paper, when I put something of myself out in the world, via the internet. I don't think I am alone in having experienced this.

Using the internet to share thoughts, art, ideas and works can trigger so many jangling, discordant and conflicting feelings. The process of sharing can magnify insecurity and become an amplifier for the shadowy and unfiltered ideas my subconscious mind holds up to me about my lack of worthiness to take part in this constantly changing gallery, magazine and market place. When I saw myself experiencing these feelings each time I put something online I decided to step back and think about a fair usage policy for myself...

👁 ❤️ Tarot

I know its trending and that hundreds of people are using Tarot cards all the time and everywhere now. Tarot decks are all over Instagram. The imagery of Tarot even found its way onto the catwalk this year. When exciting underground things become fashionable and a bit more mainstream, we sometimes either dismiss them or try to take a stance of having been in on the secret for years to project authenticity in our love for them. I'm not sure why we have the urge to do that and I going to try not to do that here. My new love for Tarot cards is puppyish and well behind the curve. I am nervous about sharing the fact that I have a new interest, but here it is; Its a novel and exciting habit for me and an expression of a girlhood desire to connect with and understand the world within and around me through mystical symbolism. I am only 9 months into ownership of my own deck(s). Maybe it will just be a phase, but for now it feels grounding and permanent.

I first became aware of the existence of Tarot cards when I watched the James Bond film 'You only Live Twice'. A marvellous film, still my favourite of the genre. I wanted to be Solitaire for a long time. My sister and I, always into witch museums, knowing about our birthstones, the idea of feminine magic and making secret toothpaste/shampoo/lotion-potions, added reading each other's fortunes in the aloof enigmatic manner of Solitaire, to our repertoire of mystical activities (using playing cards). We played unselfconsciously at being able to predict each others futures.

Recently my sister and I talked Tarot when I dragged her, in the rain to Mysteries New Age store in London. I recalled that I had craved to buy my first Tarot pack during my first term at University, to be admonished 'you can't buy yourself Tarot cards, someone has to buy them for you' by a person who seemed to know about such things. The law abiding soul that I was, I hung my head and accepted that I would have to wait indefinitely for someone to buy me a pack, wait to be invited in to the tradition. At roughly the same time, my rad sister on the other hand, gave herself permission and bought herself a Rider Waite pack which she referred to regularly during her first years in her big city job. My rad sister, gave herself permission....
 

Decades later, in the last days of 2016, I shrugged off the ridiculous commandment about not buying cards for myself and had my first full deck The Wild Unknown by New Year's Eve. Then The LineStrider Tarot found its way to me (from me) in early 2017. I love these cards. I am still a total beginner and revel in feeling like a foal tottering about in a new and unknown environment when it comes to knowing about the cards. I feel the pull of a community (I haven't yet got to know) of Tarot people. There are so many hundreds of beautiful cards out there to use and explore. In spite of the ubiquity of Tarot cards, I adore that this is something that feels so personal, I have a deepening relationship with my beautiful picture cards, every time I use them. The cards help me to look within and listen to myself. Through the cards I have been able to feel a deeper sense of connection to my whole self, the difficult darkness and illuminating strength of my own being.

Most of all I love that I bought the cards for myself. I discarded internalised sanctions: broke someone else's imposed rule, I proactively didn't ask permission or seek advice. I just allowed myself to cross over into a place of listening to my heart even about something so seemingly small and inconsequential. I ignored received wisdom and made my own decision. 

My process of coming to the world of Tarot reflects everything that Tarot cards are about: Making space to hear and listen to your self. Allowing your intuition to help you to interpret your world, with a little help from visual archetypes and carefully constructed symbolic images. My coming to Tarot was a quiet journey of soul awakening and an effort of letting go of false wisdom or the need to be invited to participate in something, by someone else. Sharing my new affection for Tarot cards with you is an important part of that journey. In first listening to myself and exploring something new, then pushing myself to be open about it, even though it feels uncomfortable, I am allowing another part of me come into the light. 

When we left Mysteries New Age store this summer, my sister passed me a small delicately patterned box. 'Here' she said smiling. She handed me the invitation into the fold, a box full of secret wisdom: Tarot cards in gift form! When I stopped waiting to be invited in, along came the invitation.

For reflection...

  • What are you waiting for an invitation for, because of someone else's rule?
  • What's your closet passion? 
  • Could you dare yourself to share? What might it feel like to have people in your life know about your secret passion?

💭 Acceptance

This week I went to Cheshire for some training. I haven't been up to that part of Britain in a long time. Unexpectedly a few difficult memories surfaced in anticipation of my journey.

I mentally passed through some personal history during the train journey up the country and revisited a period of my life that was frenzied and well meaning but very off balance in all sorts of ways. Rather than feeling it all, all over again as I had expected, I felt a non-judgemental distance settle and a healthy detachment. It felt like acceptance of my past self, the things she did and said and the things she didn't do and didn't say. Her silly mistakes and ideas that would not work. It was such a relief, to meet my former self and feel able to let her off the hook. 

I had expected the journey to be an emotional storm. In fact, I reflected upon the nervous-excited, busy, wholehearted young woman that I was, throwing herself at job interviews, desperate to move to the (golden promise of) London, fighting for that to be her path and trying on different selves. She was fuelled by good intentions and aspiration. She was moving so fast, she was totally unaware that she would need to learn herself much better if she ever wanted to feel content. She would need to stop running away from herself.

Previously I have cringed in shame at remembering her or felt a sharp sadness for her, because I know how desperate she felt and how much she was trying to channel herself in the right way, without really knowing what she was looking for.

She was trying. She was failing and falling down and being embarrassing and breaking things. Somewhere in the mess of being, she was learning about how to be an independent person, how to stay safe emotionally and physically and that she could expect and aim for so much more than red faced mediocrity in every part of her life. Its too easy to remember those days and blush. This is where I need to continue to challenge myself to 'do the work', because if all I garner from those difficult and testing experiences is a sense of shame and an arsenal of tools for self flagellation, then I am missing the point. I am missing the opportunity to identify learning and personal growth.

The 'work' is thinking about what I did and the choices I made, using them to help me open up and know myself. This involves taking responsibility for foolish or self serving decisions that potentially hurt people or myself, but also being able to recognise that I did what I thought would work at the time, without having the experience, answers or hindsight to guide me. Each painful consequence to an action had something to teach me about myself and the world. It is up to me to reframe the way I regard my past self and acknowledge that every little battle fought and scar attained is as much part of my readiness now to fulfil my purpose as the celebrations, the successes and toothy-grin moments are. After all we aremultifaceted and complex beings. Of course we are not made up of only sugar and spice.

Making mistakes, being selfish, getting it wrong and being embarrassing are things every human on the planet can own up to, yet as a default so many of us still feel a hot prickle of shame about our mistakes and return mentally to them, dwelling on the emotion of the event and using them them to beat ourselves with.

My past self is part of me now as much as she isn't. That tired, bewildered but determined young woman deserves more than my embarrassed pity. Sometimes, I can easily accept that she did foolish things and I can understand. Sometimes, I really struggle and I judge her harshly. The willingness to come back later and accept yourself right where you are, as the sum of the mistakes you have made as much as of the successes, even if you don't completely understand yourself, I am sure is the key to being able to move yourself forward.

To be able to be in a respectful partnership with yourself, to actively trust yourself for another try and another, even if the first time(s) something didn't work takes hard work and intention and effort. Forgiving yourself  for past mistakes and being able to regard yourself with compassion also takes effort. By returning to your own memories with new eyes and trying to pin down the learning, the important rites of passage, the revelations and finding a way to let yourself off the hook, you begin to work at accepting yourself. Its a daily challenge and for me still a work in progress. Meeting myself on the train to Cheshire and feeling a level calmness about letting her just be who she was, I realised that my hard work at all of the above is paying off.

 

For reflection...

  • Is there a decision or memory that makes you cringe or self flagellate?  (what if your greatest learnings came from those awkward moments?) Can you re-frame it and think about it in a different way?
  • What are the positives you can pull out of that experience? What did you learn?
  • Which of the memories that you re-run in your head can you set an intention to let yourself off the hook for?

 

 

🌸🎟Becoming

I have always enjoyed the tradition of setting up thoughtful, useful and achievable New Year's resolutions. In December 2016 I made a change to my normal ritual and went for something more holistic and resonant. I spent time deciding upon a word for 2017. A delightful self discovery and development project devised by Susannah Conway, this process has a magic to it that set me up for the year so effectively. My word for this year is 'becoming'.

Finding your word is all about setting intentions, meditating on the energy and focus you want for the coming year. Getting to the bottom of what you really want and what feels important to you. You hold your word in your mind for the year and return to it as the months turn over. I did the journaling work around my word in my diary, so every so often during this year I have flipped back to see what I listed as my 'want more of' items and other reflections. It has been so grounding to return to my lists and notes and to feel the little spells written in my book coming to pass.

Knowing that I wanted to have my written journaling work to hand through the coming year meant that I went out and searched for a diary that I felt an affinity with, with an elegant cover and space to write and draw. I started a new tradition to do this each year from now on; rather than going for the cheapest and most functional diary I can find. It felt like an investment in the belief that this year would be important. I set time aside to find my word, working through my own twists on Susannah's thoughtfully put together (and rule free) exercises just before Christmas and on New Year's Eve. The gap between Christmas and New Year is always a reflective time. It feels really important to make time to understand where you are now and how you would like to move forward in time for the fresh start in January.

Things have shifted for me this year. 'Becoming' to me, is a kind word, a word about behaving well and appearing in my best light. 'Becoming' is also an action word. I have felt it by my side as I have made important decisions, from speaking out about difficult issues to making career decisions. 'Becoming' has allowed me to grow, to be in process, on the way to something. 

 

    .Setting intentions appropriately is an important part of the achievement of them. It seems simple: You make a decision about what you want and how you want it to look and then take action. Writing a list or impulsively selecting a New Year's resolution sometimes isn't enough to get things done. Intentions that have value - your value within them - sometimes need a bit more depth.

    The process of choosing my word for this year was a ritual. A mediation on my own path and desire to move forward in a particular way. Using the set prompts, I developed a resource of words and thoughts and gradually brought 'Becoming' to my own attention. This powerful work sewed a viable seed which I have been tending all year. I believe the exercises and the honouring of my intent by undergoing a process of seeking out my word, were necessary mental preparation for this year. 'Becoming' has been a bridge to change. I don't believe 'becoming' would have had nearly so much impact if I hadn't examined what I wanted from it, what it means to me and what I wanted my year to look like.

    Writing has power to it, write something down and you are far more likely to achieve it. Not just because it's how you remember,  but because in writing it down you are saying it out loud. You are creating a contract for your self. Giving yourself time to act upon what you have committed to is of equal importance. The ritual around identifying and understanding what you really want and how it will improve your life should be in depth and stretching. It should be the prelude to isolating your intentions. When things get tough around working towards what you really want, its the solid preparation and work around identifying your own values that will help to see you through and finish achieving what's on your list.

    For reflection:

    • What do you want to start working towards next? 
    • How do you know that this is what you really want? How will it improve your life?
    • Could you write yourself a postcard telling yourself the 'why' and 'what' of this dream, a postcard which you keep somewhere handy to check up on over the next 6 months/year?