Two Words for Tuesday

fruit, flowers, chair

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things.~ Veronique Vienne

Words.

I love words. I cherish and curate them and still use a dictionary every day.

Working with language is my introvert’s comfort zone and an endless, enjoyable safari that has gifted me with poetry, joy, clarity, connection and five different career strands.

I love how words have layers of meanings like the ripples from pebbles dropped in a pond; I love how they feel when they roll around the tongue or dance around the mind; I love untangling threads of meaning, cultures and essence when I translate.

I love communing with people at a slower pace, through words and music and all the silences in between.

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. ~ Anne Lamott

I’ve recently been teaching myself the language of computer code, trying to build a new website theme that resonates with how I want the blog to feel now that its bustling bistro days are long gone. (I’m due a theme update but this one will bScreenshot (1)reak if I update it; I messed with the code in all the wrong places before I realised what I was doing.) There are only a few of us left, so with the new theme, I’m going for something simple and quaint, yet light and airy.

That’s why today’s Two Words for Tuesday are untranslatables; a Danish one and a Greek one that capture the essence of what I’d like blogging to feel like again, in a digital world that’s become much too busy, fast and shallow for me, maybe for you, too.

I’d like my new blog to feel more like the Danish word… HYGGE.

Hygge (pronounced like a cross between hoo-guh & hue-gih) is so multilayered, it’s at once untranslatable yet instantly recognisable. It’s used as an adjective and a noun and it’s an attitude of living in the now with well-being and presence; it’s comfort, cosiness, warmth between people and a heart glow; it’s the art of creating intimacy; it’s pleasure from simple things and the absence of annoying things; it’s what makes the everyday beautiful and special times magical; it’s drinking mulled wine and eating gingerbread by candlelight in front of the fire at Christmas or reading a holiday book alone at a sunbleached table in a warm sea breeze as the sun goes down slowly over the Greek ocean.

And the Greek word? One of my favourites. (Sorry this theme can’t cope with Greek fonts.)

meráki  (mer-AH-kee) When you create, do or learn something out of love, primarily for you, and you leave a bit of your self, your essence and your soul in it.

For me, it’s been my writing and my Greek.

If I stay on track, I plan to share more words with you this week. I hope that’s OK with you.

What speaks to you of hygge? What could you do today to have more of a hygge home and live a more hygge life?

How does meráki show up in your life?

Gifts

The following piece first appeared in 2008, in the column I wrote back then, called ‘Coaching Moments’. In my last blog theme, I had a sidebar widget showing some of my own favourite posts and ‘Birdsong’ was one of them. What I like about ‘Birdsong’ is how it still transports me back to that morning, to the overwhelming feeling of peace, joy and clarity I was left with.

Every time I read it, it reminds me of the difference between writing with a clear purpose, for a defined audience, and blogging.

I blog for connection with like-minded folk, for fun and friendship and to capture and curate some of the moments that matter to me, but back then, my writing was sharper, more focused; I wrote for coaches and specifically for those who were aiming to get certified. As a certified coach who’d struggled to get certified, despite living and breathing the concepts integral to coaching, I wanted to help others do what I’d managed to do. Ego was never involved; I never needed an excuse to write, and really just wanted to inspire, to support and to connect. Doing that in a monthly newsletter over which I had no technical or design control and which had no comments, comment numbers or public replies, meant I could simply focus on writing.

All but one of my editors actually liked my work and were supportive and easy to work with, but here, on my blog, I get what I call blank cheque-itis. Too many choices of what to write and for whom; too much design and technical freedom; not enough information about what folk want, need or like to read here. Just doing whatever I want makes me feel like I’m slipping uncomfortably into the realms of ego. But a blog that helps no-one, inspires no-one, supports no-one makes me feel equally uncomfortable. I have regular visitors here who are better bloggers, better writers, better coaches, better photographers and more together people than I am. So why do I blog?

Not being able to answer that question easily, confidently, when faced with sneering, nosey, scoffing cynics – yes, there are people whose reasons for reading my blog are questionable – is one of the many complex reasons I’m a deciduous blogger and often lapse into periods of cyberhibernation.

But what always brings me back to my blog is clarity around one thing: all I’ve really offered over the years, in my column, my blog, my coaching and my life is one message, something I captured years ago in a post about harnessing the power of authenticity:

“Be brave enough to explore the depths, to find a way out and shine a light for others to find theirs. Don’t be scared to live, to hold out your heart in both hands like a trembling bird and say “Here I am, love me as I am or leave me.” Be more afraid to die with your song still in you, to cheat your loved ones, your readers and the world of the greatest gift you have to give. You.”

A friend who visits my blog regularly and who knows why I obsess about themes, CSS, functionality and creating a welcoming feel to the site, recently commented in an email about my new blog theme; what she said, with joking sternness, gave me a heartwarming shove in the right direction… “Give us all a gift and write something instead of worrying too much about the wrapping paper!”

Birdsong

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil Gibran

I woke very early today, too early to start clattering and clanging in the kitchen so I grabbed a book, a pen and spiral bound notebook and wandered out into the garden, heading for the table,  sipping the glass of blueberry juice I’d poured for myself.

I laid my books on the table, the blue and white tablecloth dew-damp under my sleepy arms, and I sat there thinking ‘These birds are really loud!’ Cheeping, cooing, chirruping, whistling, trilling, tweeting, chattering…I slowly started to single out each songbird’s soaring celebration of a new morning.

The sun, burning off the last few patches of mist, cast shafts of light through the laurels, turning web-hung droplets to twinkling crystals whenever the fresh morning breeze rustled the branches, dark green against a clear blue sky.

I breathed in the fragrance of moist earth and caught the scent of the mock orange blossom by our back door. Feeling more alive than I had for months, I thought about writing some morning pages, hoping to explore and dispel the shadows that have been settling round me.

I opened the notebook, half heartedly fiddling with my pen as I sat listening to the birds.  Soon I would hear the sound of distant traffic; the humming of an aeroplane across the sky; the faint clattering of cereal bowls and spoons; the sound of kettles and radio alarms carried on the breeze. I put down the pen and leaned back in my seat, unwilling to leave the moment even to capture it.

A big fat bee came buzzing around the bushes by my feet and made me smile! I hadn’t seen one for months. So many tales of the bees disappearing; with them would go the soundtrack to my childhood garden memories of damp grass and daisy chains, dandelions and buttercups.

Suddenly, a flash of red and a choot choot choot –  a robin, on the fence behind the berberis bush. He stopped, looked at me, bobbed his head three times  and flew off.

And I knew, knew then as I know now, with a certainty that leaves no room for fear or doubt: I was meant to write this piece. I was meant to write. I was meant to wake up early, to love that bee, to be that robin, to share with you the beating of my “winged heart” on a grateful spring morning.

And you were meant to read this. For without the life and the breath and the experience you bring to these words, they would only be pixels on a screen. Like the bee, you touch the lives of strangers, you’re woven through the fabric of a million memories, you create moments that leave the world a better place. You and I – like the robin – have a message to bring, a song to sing in the eternal dawn chorus.

Today, as you choose to wrap your heart around the moments that make up a life, how will you share your precious gift with the world? You were born with talents, you’ve worked hard to build skills, to create connections – but they’re just the channel.  You are the gift.

A Lyrical Leave-taking

Back in 2009, I set up my blog using the Thesis theme; it was a trailblazer in its day, allowing non-programmers like me (and many others who visit/ed my blog) a lot of built-in flexibility and control. For years I tweaked it as much as my limited skills would allow, but when you hit the wall with Thesis, you really hit the wall. Last year, I spent more time delving into CSS – changing layouts, fonts, and colours and trying to make Thesis responsive – than I did writing.

Which is daft.

But then I asked myself Why? and that was really smart. I realised that the feel of my blog has always been important to me; creative self-expression, does, after all, sit quite comfortably at the heart of personal blogging. We all evolve and recalibrate as we get older, reaffirming our values and letting go of what doesn’t serve us any more and it’s been happening as much here as anywhere else.

I’m old school; my blog’s not just a place to showcase things that make me go mmm… It’s my online home, and as such, a place that needs to feel cosy and welcoming, yet reasonably light and airy and uncluttered, like my real home. I need it to be functional and responsive but – and here’s the Aha! moment I had last year – it doesn’t have to be toned-down, like the home I currently share with my husband, teenage son and daughter who don’t share my craving for colour. (My longing for a patchwork, floral-patterned, vibrant, multi-coloured sofa recently met with horror.)

After years of deciduous blogging and jeremiads, it stuns me that I still have visitors, but now that my blog is kitchen table intimate at best, a boarded-up ghost town saloon at worst, I decided to change the theme to reflect how I’ve changed as a person.

Sharing the Journey started off as a bustling wee online bistro; I wanted to fill it with music, photos, writing, film clips, quotes, and above all, community. I wanted to be a barista who knew everyone’s names and stories. People used to drop in, write comments as long as posts and even chat with each other in the comments boxes when I wasn’t there. I didn’t fully realise at the time how blessed I was with the quality and quantity of visitors I had here and discovered recently that 2009 was considered to be a noteworthy year for personal blogging, especially blogs written by women.

My tagline used to be Soulfood and Support for Coaches, Writers and Homemakers. It showed up in Google and was emblazened across my header tulips. For a while that’s what my blog offered – and Thesis made sure I had lots of search engine traffic – but it’s hard to be supportive of anyone when you’re not even posting! The new tagline, on the surface, is a better description of what the blog has become, a synaesthetic memory scrapbook…

…a lyrical album of moments

I’ve always enjoyed capturing, exploring and sharing those fleeting, intense moments when presence and learning align, when inspiration flits in and life overflows, but my decision to warn readers of impending lyricism may raise some eyebrows. Lots of folk are repelled by lyricism, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my lyrical tendencies; to be honest, the layers of meaning in the word lyrical actually seem like qualities a blogger should feel no shame in aspiring to:

1. (of literature, art, or music) expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative and beautiful way.
synonyms: songlike, lyric, melodic, musical, melodious, rhapsodic, poetic; expressive, emotional, deeply felt, personal, subjective, passionate

I decided to keep my tulips – they always make my heart sing – but this time, I’ve used a photo that includes one of my favourite jugs. Jugs are very symbolic for me; it’s how I write. Life simply fills the jug and overflows. I gave the photo ripped paper effect edges and used a typewriter font for the title because my blog’s curated itself into an old fashioned memory scrapbook.

I spent weeks, probably months, swinging between four or five free themes I like. The others were clean, simple and minimalist – which I love – and one was very easy to customise, but I finally decided to activate the one you’re seeing now (horribly named Lovebirds) because I find it quite gentle and unassuming and it doesn’t rely on fantastic photography to bring it to life.

Just after my last post, we had a death in the family that’s led to tragic knock on effects like dominos falling in a line. When I logged on last week, after yet another lengthy cyber-hibernation, I was glad I’d tweaked this theme to remind me of spring, flowers and new beginnings.

It’s been a season of letting go: I’ve been able, finally, to let go of Thesis, of the dreams I once had for my blog and of the sadness I used to feel scrolling through the archives.

I have fun experimenting with new themes and will probably ‘redecorate’ again, but what you’re seeing now is a victory in my struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. There’s still a lot of theme-tweaking I want to do – evolution is what keeps us creative, alive and human, after all – but I’ve decided it’s better for me to focus on tweaking one theme rather than five.

And what’s even better still? Writing again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~X~~~

How often do you change the appearance of your website, if at all? If you do change it, what criteria do you use? How concerned are you by the functionality and feel of other folks’ blogs?

 

Meet the Crew

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then . . . . I contradict myself;
I am large . . . . I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman (from Song of Myself)

hearts by Heleen - Dutch Colours/ Dutch SistersIt’s blog spring cleaning time again and all of my selves are enjoying the process of renewal. Everything, everything is made easier by my decision to craft my life around how I want to feel.

My editor brain is enjoying the quest for clarity; the re-writing, the deleting, the cutting, pasting and re-ordering of my narrative.

The life coach in me is enjoying the big questions: Who am I? How do I serve? What do I want to share? With whom? Why? How? Where do I want to go? How do I plan to get there?

The lingust and language teacher are evangelists for connection, for learning and sharing.

The translator instinctively understands – lives and breathes – the concepts of heart connection, vibrant expression, authenticity… the filtering of essence and soul. (Perfectionism? Anxiety about getting things ‘right’ before they’re made public? Part of the territory.)

The homelife coach shares those obsessions, but she applies them to the notion of homes as sanctuaries, galleries, gathering places, life-museums: her realm is the relationship between function and form, the balance between simplicity and warmth in the shared spaces, between serenity and cosiness. Am I living my life by design? What am I holding on to? Why? What does it say about me? These are her questions. She loves letting things go to make room for what matters most. She’s the one who HATES the clunky, stuck, cluttery, unfixable bits of her blog and so spends hours learning CSS and HTML and searching for that perfect – but elusive – free WordPress theme, the one that’ll pull everything together.

The homemaker – mother and wife? She wants to create a home where folk are loved, cherished, supported, championed, heard… She curates, treasures connection and is always available.

The daughter? Exhausted. Caring for a ninety year old father is an honour, a hymn of gratitude and also, sometimes, a challenge; she often has to press the blogging OFF switch.

The writer? Ah, well, she has the easiest role; as long as she can be authentic, everything’s fuel.

The songwriter, lover of music and poetry? Desperate to share her favourite music, lyrics and poems but frustrated by copyright laws and technology.

The poet? Waiting. She doesn’t mind; she just keeps soaking it all in and taking notes.

The painter? Also waiting, but resenting that blogging takes her away from days spent inspired, immersed in colour, details and texture, watching something recreate itself in paint. I suspect she also plays a major role in the longing to log off.

The crocheter? Couldn’t care less about blogging; she’ll post pictures of colourful blankets someday, but she comes to life when the laptop clicks shut.

The quotehunter? The reader? Longing to share everything, but biding their time, reading… filtering… building up to that moment when the jug overflows… they’ve gathered thousands of quotes to share, but ah…the filing and sorting is a chore.

So that’s a few of my me’s, but enough to illustrate my complex relationship with blogging.

How many you’s make their way into your blog? Do you ever feel like you have multiple blogging personality disorder? Which of my blogging selves do you resonate with most?

In my clearing out today, I found this version of my very first post, published in 2008 on a simple wee practice blog before I  launched properly. My decision to keep it got me wondering why, so I decided not to bin it. I still visit craft blogs for pleasure, and it seems I still have the same blogging values as I did back then.

Autumn Hearts

I love unique blogs full of exuberance, creativity and pure authentic passion. Blogs that feel like snack food for the soul. Blogs that don’t make me feel like my only purpose as a reader is to bump up the numbers at a vampire fest. I logged on today to learn from some of the world’s top pro-bloggers and ended up feeling like the poster child for how not to blog. A few of my crimes?

  • I use the word ‘I’ more than ‘you’.
  • I write about myself, my home and my family – one blogger called this “egocentritis”.
  • My favoured format isn’t daily How To… lists or Top 10 anythings.
  • My posts are so long they’d land me in blogging jail if there was such a place.
  • Even my short posts aren’t easily scannable by folk who like to whizz through dozens of posts a day.
  • My post titles aren’t written with search engines in mind.
  • I still think of you as a reader, not ‘traffic’ that needs to be ‘driven’ somewhere.
  • I haven’t stuck to one niche.

That’s why I was delighted to come across today’s Daily Mmmm… while I was doing what I call synchronicitous surfing, letting my natural curiosity take me from one link to another for the length of time it takes to drink a coffee.

A couple of curious clicks led me to a Dutch blog by a stay at home mum and part time teacher who makes little works of art, creative pieces rich in colour and detail. I love hand-made craft items that take time and love to create; in much the same way, I enjoy blog entries that aren’t just dashed off to feed the insatiable hunger of the search engines.autumn-hearts

I smiled when I came across these wee hearts; they warmed mine on a cold autumn day full of low self-esteem, self-doubt and ranting frustration. I wrote to the artist and asked her for permission to use this photo; she replied, in English, within minutes and her warm, appreciative response made my day.

Dutch colours: hearts | Dutch Sisters

Brave Authenticity

0901130011I read an article today about the SEO value of paring down categories and cleaning out archives. (February would seem to be my favourite month for clutter clearing – I’ve already shredded the contents of five photo albums in the last few days!) Fired up and ready to start culling and consolidating, I started off with posts in the AUTHENTICITY category.

At the end of an ancient ‘patchwork post’ from 2009, I found a list of some of my favourite authenticity quotes. As a cluster, they were a prescient glimpse of the blogging journey that lay ahead of me, and I smiled to myself, realising that my blog has always been a quiet manifesto for brave authenticity, one where even my absences and frequent jeremiads about ‘deciduous blogging’ have their place; many of us need periods away from the internet to replenish our spirits and reconnect to the real world.

Finding these words of wisdom today reminded me, too, of how much I feel at home when I’m quote-hunting, that simple, deliberate act of having a pen and notebook to hand when I read; I love the synchronicity of it, the filtering, the distilling and the sharing of other people’s gems and journeys.

Just rediscovering these quotes has thrown up ideas for new posts to write, old posts to revisit and an old manuscript that’s been haunting me… Do any of them resonate with you?

What we are really looking for is a sense of the real and an experience of true significance, true meaning. That can only come from one source. Deep down inside, every human being hears the echo of the experience of unity and wants it back. So we live our whole lives with only a vague sense of what it is we want but with the absolute knowledge that we had it once and it’s possible to have it again if only we knew how. ~ Sarah Susanka

The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is insincerity. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

If  I choose to ignore myself when I am in desperate need of my own attention, I will resent those I have deemed more important than me. Even though I might spend the day trying to be happy and pleasant, underneath I will feel depleted because I have made a choice that has depleted me. ~ Debbie Ford

Instead of trying to hide the emotional refuse that is festering with rot, bring it to light and stick it in the compost bin to be transformed into useful fertiliser that will grow your future better self. ~ Kathryn L.Robyn and Dawn Ritchie

When you are adrift from your core, the space between your surface and your depth fills up with anxiety. Too much time away from your inner home leads to homesickness. ~ Carrie McCarthy and Danielle La Porte

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In order not to cheat yourself, you have to make writing a high priority. You have to make it very nearly sacred. But you have to live the rest of your life. too; you have to allow room for all that makes you you, for all that feeds you. In my mind, being more than a writer means you’re more of a writer. ~ Elizabeth Berg

We are not powerless specks of dust drifting around in the wind, blown by random destiny. We are, each of us, like beautiful snowflakes –  unique, born for a specific reason and purpose. ~ Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

When you do not seek or need external approval, you are at your most powerful. Nobody can disempower you emotionally or psychologically…You cannot live for prolonged periods of time within the polarity of being true to yourself and needing the approval of others. ~ Caroline Myss

I Find Your Love

The sun, the sky, the rolling sea
All conspire to comfort me ~ Beth Nielsen Chapman

This song is by Beth Nielsen Chapman, my favourite singer songwriter. She can still write like this after being widowed, surviving cancer and the removal of a brain tumour that affected her use of language. It’s one of those songs that makes sense of things, that leads me back to love and connects me to those I’ve loved and lost or simply can’t be with.  It’s also an invitation to keep open, to not harden my heart when things get uncomfortable or difficult, to love myself and remember we’re all waves in the same ocean. To embrace what Buddhists call maitri – unconditional kindness to oneself.

It reminds me what it feels like to be touched by grace.

Even when my blog’s dormant, I see things everywhere I want to share with you – photos, songs, helpful things I’ve learned.  Blogging makes me want to connect with love, to rise above challenges and find the common red threads of humanity that connect us all. I have nothing to share but my journey through life and an overwhelming curiosity about yours; no niche, no stunning photography, no marketing magic, no seaside cottage renovations to share, no insanely useful writing tips, specialist recipes, expert crochet patterns, computer wizzardry insights, invocations to boldness, conversations with goddesses or insider knowledge about surefire ways to coach certification.

All you get here is my filtering of the world as I live out my life wondering what it’s all about, wanting to jump up and down like a wee kid tugging at your sleeve and pointing when I figure any of it out.

I’m still haunted by comment boxes that were full of chat, laughter and support, but the harder it’s getting, the more my heart’s opening, letting go and smiling. Pain peels back layers, lays you bare like love does. There’s no place for ego in writing; you either want to write or you don’t. Then you write – or you don’t. You have to trust that if you send your words out in a bottle, they’ll reach someone who needs to hear them.

Beth Nielsen Chapman couldn’t stop writing songs even if she wanted to. I know how that feels and I think that’s what I wanted to share with you here today. Please don’t stop writing; whether your blog gets visitors or not, keep writing. Stay connected to the beauty in everything around you, like you do when you’re in love. Stay open. Be kind to yourself…

I’ll catch your smile on someone’s face
Your whisper in the wind’s embrace
Through diamond stars and songs, and dreams
I find your love in everything
The sun, the sky, the rolling sea
All conspire to comfort me
From sorrow’s edge life’s beauty seems
To find your love in everything
I’ve come to trust the hope it brings
To find your love in everything
Even as I fall apart
Even through my shattered heart
I’ll catch your smile on someone’s face
Amazing grace

Blog Gardening

garden path2The thing about blog gardening, the pruning, weeding, rearranging, cultivating, propagating and planting most of us do in our websites and blogs, is that no one else can make the hard decisions for you. One of the beauties of self publishing, of being your site’s owner, designer and chief gardener is the control it gives you. But along with that comes an overwhelming array of choices and decisions. Right now, I’m deciding whether to rip everything up, take cuttings and gather any seeds that shake lose or simply prune back old posts and do a gentle, gradual weeding.

But behind even the gentlest of weeding and pruning sessions is a decision, a question: what stays and why? For any kind of life laundry, clutter clearing or blog maintenance, we need a toolbox of questions.

What’s useful? What’s beautiful in its own right? What feeds the soul? What needs to go for the sake of health? Is there anything that evokes memories so precious that to remove them would feel like destroying the folk whose essence, whose presence created them? Do those same memories tether us to sadness, to a past that’s gone and not enriching the present?

lavender

In my real garden, I have evergreen trees, scented mediterranean shrubs and herbs, flowering perennials and weed-supressing ground cover plants.  They grow slowly, but I like the structure, the predictability, the privacy, the seasonal flowers and berries. I adore the birds that flit through the branches, their fleeting lives reminding me to capture moments without holding on too tightly.  I rarely plant annuals in my actual garden; I get sad when their season is over and I have to rip up the withered plants. But I do like seasonal flowers in containers; old broken teapots and jugs, mini wooden barrels, old olive oil cans full of red geraniums and fragrant sweet peas. I like the flexibility of being able to move them around, like words in a poem, notes in a piece of music, delighting in the unexpected combinations of colours, cadences, heights and shapes that take on a life of their own.

I like my garden to feel like a haven.blackbird-mum-with-four-chicks1

Knowing that about myself, knowing my values and needs and how I want to feel makes any kind of designing and decision making easier. After three years away, I have this one chance to view my blog – and the blogging, online world in general – with fresh eyes.

The first day I logged back on, I loved the bright welcome I got from my tulips, a moment captured one sunny day at my kitchen window. I thought how sad I would be to see them go if I upgrade the mechanics of my blog and have to create a new banner. In a blogging world where niche, ‘useful’ content, advertising, marketing and message broadcasting reign supreme, I still value the feel of blogs I visit, the pleasure or fun, empathy or companionship I get there, whether I’m seen as a potential customer or not. I still love the tone my tulips create, the welcome they provide, the message they gently radiate… “Make yourself at home… How can I support you?” Even if I’m the only one here to appreciate them.

As I make bonfires of worn out dreams, dead links and dated posts, I’m strangely peaceful. This blog was always meant to be about sharing and self expression, about connection and supportive companionship, but it was me who walked off, neglected the folk who’d always supported me with kindness and uplifting words; me who let the weeds choke what was left of this once vibrant wee blog. I’m the only one who can decide what to do next. While I decide, I dig, I weed, I cherish, I let go – one word at a time.

Please believe me when I tell you how much I appreciate your visit here today. I’ve never called silent readers ‘lurkers’ like many bloggers do. I read stats; I know that folk read without commenting. I often do the same, and we all have our reasons. But you’re here today, reading this, and for that I’m grateful. My comments boxes may never be full of poetry, birdsong and bees again, but there’s peace, still, in the sharing of lives in quiet companionship, in silently watching the cloud shadows and dappled sunlight as the seasons unfold.

Janice

How to Harness the Power of Authenticity in Your Writing and Your Life

freesia stem with hyacinths(Hi, there. I’m having to do some scary maintenance over at the server and fix a few problems caused when I recently upgraded some plugins. Technology is my nemesis! 🙁 Until I post something new, here’s my favourite oldie-but-goodie sticky post. ~Janice )

Authenticity is not for the faint of heart. To fly in the face of history, circumstance and uncertainty, with your truth fully unfurled, takes some serious moxy. When you want to love and be loved (and what else is there really?) your truth becomes a very tender thing, and sharing it is a mighty gift. So perhaps being genuine is an every day act of heroism. ~ Danielle Laporte  and Carrie McCarthy (from Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design)

This is a long post; it wasn’t meant to be. It blossomed. I could have chopped it up, spread it out, but I chose not to. I feel it’s important.

It dawned on me that I can just leave this post  up for a while, let you sit with it, give you time to maybe come back and share some of your responses and creations with us. I had a dream of this being a soulfood café-bistro, so this is a long, leisurely Greek meal of a read, with a variety of mezedhes, salads, main dishes, bread, fruit and wine. I hope you find something you like. Why don’t you grab a glass of something fresh or put the kettle on…

This is a taste of what I hope to be exploring in the coming weeks. This is my heart, who I am. It’s my way of saying thank you for visiting. There are many wonderful blogs out there. I’m glad you came here.

If you want to know how to harness the power of authenticity, to improve your writing  – and your life – here are the answers;  it’s up to you to live the questions. You have time. You have a lifetime.

Enjoy being as much as doing.

Try writing a To be/Do/Have list and not just a To Do list. Maybe just try a To Be list for the day and stick to it. Today, I want to be a devoted mum, a serene friend, an inspiring writer. What about you?

Be you.

Don’t just skim this one. Are you trying to be the next ………? How about being the first YOU. In this blog, you’ll always find questions to discover who you are. It’s like drinking water. One glass may be good for you, but it doesn’t end there.

Strive to be your best self…

Overdeliver, in everything you do. Build reserves of trust, respect, energy, goodwill, wellbeing. Edit like you were going for a Pullitzer, even if you’re the boss of your own blog. Write endless drafts, but cherish the best. Write like you’re writing to repay the gift of life itself.

…but love your whole self.

Strive to be your best self, but love yourself with the unconditional love you’d give a baby, or a toddler who’s just learning. All of our drafts are necessary. In the big scheme of things, we’re all children of the universe, learning from our mistakes every day of our lives, overwhelmed and striving to keep up; our memes are exploding exponentially while our genes  – a relic of earlier millenia – can just about handle love, fear, anger and the need to belong.

Be comfortable with silence.

Inspiration slips in through the silences between the thoughts.

Be present.

Give what you’re doing this very second your undivided attention. This is the only moment of life you will ever have. The past is gone; the future does not exist. This is it. Make it good. Thank you for reading this. To gift our community  with your presence is awesome.

Listen to others with your whole being.

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give anyone, listening with empathy, love, respect, kindness – not chomping at the bit, preparing your own response, desperate to give advice or talk about yourself, even if it’s to prove your credentials for being able to empathise. If you give people this attention while you listen, when you read, it will be returned  – by the people you need it from and by the universe itself.

Taking notes, immortalising quotes as you read a book or a blog is sending a message to the universe that you’re really listening, that you’re open to the wisdom of others, to signposts sent straight to your soul.

Listen to the sound of your inner voice.

Listen to its wisdom, its colours, its rhythm. That’s your unique voice, right there. Transcribe it!

You have the answers already; all you need are the right questions to unlock them. Check in with your gut. How does your body feel about your choices? Is there discomfort? Learn to trust your instincts, really trust them.

And listen to the voice that speaks, that reads aloud in your head. Write it down: listen to which words it stresses, to the increased peaks and dips where your natural intonation goes up and down, when you’re excited, gushing and happy; listen to how it slows down when you’re stressed, sad…weary. Capture those rhythms, inflections, silences.

I’ll be doing further posts on this. It’s an obsession, a passion of mine.

Love details  – live details with all of your senses.

Another obsession. How can you be happy if you’re not grateful? How can you be grateful if you don’t notice? How can you attract abundance if you’re not grateful for what you already have?

We all need to have a big picture, a framework for our lives, the border of our jigsaw, the fabric of our tapestry – but it’s the details that make us feel rich, make us feel alive, make us unique. Use all of your senses. Listen more, smell more, relish every morsel of life, make every day a feast for the senses.

Discover your essence.

What would be left if your body evaporated and your mind, heart and soul were transplanted? The clues are in everything and everyone you love.

Discover what you adore.

Your choices, your preferences, your passions, what you choose to filter through you are all windows to who you are. So choose with your heart and soul, not just your head. But choose! If you’re lucky enough to be able to eat an apple, drink clean, clear water, why would you want to choose to drink  litres of brown sweeteners, carbon dioxide and chemicals?

Express that essence.

Why skim, scrape, swipe, emulate and live on the surface, in the shadows when you could be telling the only story that hasn’t been told yet – yours!

Express your essence in what you wear, what you read, what you eat, who you keep company with, what you contribute, how you celebrate your rituals, how you adorn your home, how you listen, how you converse, how you bring flavour and fragrance and music and movement to your life. Express your essence in every semi colon, font, plugin, widget, button, colour and photo on your website, in every word, syllable and silence of your writing.

Strunk and White have this advice for all writers: ” Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one.”

The same applies to being yourself, to loving yourself. How can we love others as ourselves – as we are told to do by every religion – if we do not first love ourselves, and love ourselves well.

Long to connect.

If you treat people like traffic passing through your life, someday you’ll be run over, or left behind to smother in the smog.

There are hearts out there to capture, real people to reach and inspire and support with your gifts. Money’s good – it buys food, clothes and education, medicine and shelter, entertainment and art. The more you have, the more good you can do. But it’s not the only form of currency. Don’t buy financial abundance with your soul.

Long to leave a legacy.

The love and memories you leave behind, the people you touch, your words and gestures scattered across the internet, around the world, they’re your legacy. If you want to know how to harness the power of authenticity, to improve your writing  – and your life – here are the answers;  it’s up to you to live the questions. You have time. You have a lifetime.

Be brave, be vulnerable.

Be brave enough to explore the depths, to find a way out and shine a light for others to find theirs. Don’t be scared to live, to hold out your heart in both hands like a trembling bird and say “Here I am, love me as I am or leave me.” Be more afraid to die with your song still in you, to cheat your loved ones, your readers and the world of the greatest gift you have to give. You.

~~~~~~~x~~~

…”Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”  This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style. ~ Strunk and White, (from The Elements of Style)

It’s a lot to take in. Here are a few questions to help you discover your real self. Sit with them a while…roll them around in your soul. Add a “Why?” to any of them and you have a personal safari to discover fuel for your writing. I promise, your writing will improve. So will your life.

What scares you?

What thrills you?

What do you want more of?

What do you want less of?

What do you say YES! to?

What do you say no to?

What expands you?

What contracts you?

If your writing was a drink, what would it be? What would you like it to be?

What do you find yourself longing for?

That voice that whispers in the depths of night, what does it say?

If you were a fragrance, what would you be?

Who do you long to reach? What do you want them to feel?

If you could carry one object in your pocket that represents you, what would it be?

If you were an animal, what would you be?

If you were a colour what would you be?

~~~~~~~x~~~

Has it been a while since you wrote poetry? Try writing and randomly rearranging your answers to some of the questions above. You may surprise yourself. This is off the top of my head…

a sea green pebble

worn smooth by the restless tides

a gift from the sea

How to Beat the Blogging Blues

(Hi, there. I’ve been spring cleaning my blog, ready to upgrade it and start again or convert it to a memory scrapbook – not quite sure yet. Until I post something new, I thought this oldie-but-goodie might make a useful ‘ sticky ‘ post in the meantime. ~ janice)

How to Beat the Blogging Blues

Let’s get straight to the heart of things.

1)Why do you blog?

No, it’s not a daft, simplistic question. If you were a major corporation, meetings would be held regularly to discuss the firm’s direction, branding and mission statement – especially if profits and morale were down. If you’re blogweary, it could be that you haven’t poked around in this question deeply enough for a while, because you’re scared of what you might find there.

If the simple answer is “To make money.” Then fine. Your blog’s a vehicle. See this article as a way of cleaning it up, tuning the engine. Upgrading to a newer model.

Or maybe your blog’s your brand, your shop front, the front porch of a cottage industry, the smart business suit that announces you when you walk into a room. Either way, spring cleaning is always good. So is touching up paintwork, clearing out and doing basic maintenance.

Clearing out makes way for abundance, for fresh ideas, for new inspiration and direction. Maybe your reasons for blogging aren’t the same as they were last year when you built your blog, or last month even, when you weren’t anxious about money. We evolve. It’s natural. Continue reading →

No More Jeremiads

*Since posting this, I’ve had several unsubscribe emails. At first I thought people simply didn’t like the post  – it is a bit of a non-post – or the way the last three or four posts have made them feel. Then I had a sinking feeling; I mention below that I don’t want to return to writing regular blog pieces unless I can get back to writing  them as well as I’d like to, as well as I used to. I reread the paragraph and suddenly realised I’d made it sound awfully final. Just so you know, it’s the jeremiads I don’t want to keep writing, the long lamentations and explanations about why I’m not writing. I do hope – plan –  to return to writing, whether I post regularly or not, and to some healthier blogging, if I can manage it. I’ve tweaked the last paragraph, but thought I’d add this prefix, just in case it still sounds ambiguous. And if you do unsubscribe, please drop me a line and let me know why. It’s all life lessons. This post was important for me; it marks a crossroads as the domain’s up for renewal soon and I really didn’t know how I wanted to take things forward.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~x

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. ~ Confucius

painted eye sketchI surprised myself by doing a wee bit of  painting last week. I’d offered to give my daughter some tips for capturing her features quickly in the self portrait part of her art exam, but I ended up inspired, transfixed, longing to do some ‘proper’ painting of my own again. Here’s the first eye I’ve ever painted; my daughter’s so beautiful, I could paint her all day long! The universe has a canny knack of nudging us with synchronicity, of healing us by reuniting us with our deepest desires to create and share something with love, whether it’s a meal or a beautifully decorated table, a painting, a patch of garden or a piece of poetry or music.

Today I found myself wanting to share the sea-twinkle in my daughter’s eyes. When I master the technology, I’ll post a clip of her singing. Her voice is as warm, clear and sparkling as her eyes.

I’ve not had a great year since the last time we spoke. There have been more funerals than weddings and christenings, more illnesses than recoveries and more redundancies than new ventures. In the last nine months, we’ve been badly affected by floods, ice, a volcano and freakish amounts of snow that brought most of Scotland to a standstill for the second year in a row. If you read my posts last year, you’ll know I have strong feelings about snow and the metaphors it evokes.

snowed in

If you have the time, please have a look at that post; I just reread it and was stunned by my own quiet strength and faith in humanity. I’ve become almost unrecognisable to myself, and feel, with serene clarity, that if I can’t regain that kind of flow, that ability to find the perfection and learning  in every situation, then there’s little point in me returning to regular blogwriting. The only way I’ll get better at writing and have something of value to offer you is if I write more of the kind of pieces I enjoy and fewer of the kind the blogging world tells me I should be writing. No more shoulding all over myself, and no more boring you with jeremiads when I long to get back to writing prose that resonates like a song, something you can enjoy.

I hope you’ll leave a comment so we can reconnect again, but if not, I’ll understand. Best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and happy 2010!

 

Janice