The elephant in the room

There’s an elephant in the room that I have to address. I touched on it in last week’s post — that was my attempt to let a little steam out of the pressure cooker, but it’s still building and now I have to say something.

I have blogger’s block. More specifically, there’s stuff I can’t talk about on the blog and it’s blocking the way for any other posts to emerge.

As some of you have guessed already, it’s the dating. Not that there’s anything major to report in that area right now, but I’m so acutely aware that current and future dates will be able to read my blog (some have been clever enough to try Googling “Susannah” and oh, there I am, plastered all over the bloody internet for all to see). Being famous in my own virtual living room is proving to be as much of a hindrance as I feared it might be. I mean, there’s SEVEN FREAKING YEARS of archives to explore — it’s like handing someone my diary. And yet it’s not. This blog is the public face of the last seven years. It’s what i felt comfortable sharing with the world, and there is plenty I have not shared. But when you dive into the archives for the first time… it’s overwhelming. God, it overwhelms ME sometimes.

I mention this because I don’t want to leave you guys hanging, and even though blogs are more like online magazines these days, this space remains personal for me. I have no intention to fill the pages with guest posts and impersonal Tips for Fixing Your Life. I started blogging to chronicle my healing journey, and here we are, nearly eight years later, and things have changed. A lot. The healing journey has morphed into a life lived with intention and curiosity. I share my stories and experiences because that is what I know. And I do it in the hope that it might be useful to someone else, and frankly, because it’s helpful for me, too. There have been many moments over the years when I’ve wondered why I think anyone would give a toss about me and my journey. But then I only have to look at the majority of the books on my shelves to see that sharing stories and experiences is the language I understand best. Leading by example. Reporting back from the trenches. Yes and yes, I love all of that. The books that have had the greatest impact on my life are all personal tales from women sharing what they know. Writers like Julia Cameron and Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Dawna Markova and Ann Lamott. May Sarton. Joan Didion. Erica Jong and Natalie Goldberg. Diana Athill and Cheryl Strayed. Anais Nin and Sharon Olds. I’m not saying that my writing comes even close to the magic of this tribe of extraordinary women, but these are the writers who’ve inspired and supported me over the years.


I wrote the first part of this post yesterday. This morning I woke with a possible solution — perhaps it’s time to blank slate this space. To let go of the literal archives that weigh me down. I no longer need the ballast of my story to justify my presence here. As I wrote the book in 2011 I knew I was putting the past to rest; now it’s time for the blog to catch up. So as of right now I’ve started archiving the archives. 2006 has gone, 2007 is next. Then 2008. Maybe some of 2009. I won’t get rid of everything as there are still plenty of useful posts here, but I’m ready to let go of the heaviness of the story. It’s not me anymore and honestly, it hasn’t been for a long time. I honour the past — and yes, i still have my moments — but I am more interested in the future. And the awkward humbling reality of the present.


The Permission Slip

The Permission Slip |
I wrote this poem last year after a morning of internet reading. Even after seven years of blogging I still get triggered. Social media in all its forms has the power to keep us connected, and it’s a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes knowing everybody’s business all the time can be draining. It’s hard to keep our eyes on our own page when “everybody else” seems to be rocking the shizzle out of their life/business/relationship (delete as appropriate).

Sometimes it’s inspiring to see what’s possible, to join the slipstream of positivity and HELL YEAHS! and be reminded that if she can do it, so can I! *shakes pom poms* But then there are the craptastic days when all it takes is a single Facebook update read in the wrong moment to make you wonder why you even bother.

Does this ever happen to you?

I’m self-aware enough to know that any time another person’s blog or bit of news or whatever triggers me, it’s because it’s probably something I aspire to myself. I also know that anyone I have a strong reaction to (read: don’t like) is likely just reflecting back the things in ME I struggle with. (When you really start to get a hold of that last point it’s amazing what you start to learn about yourself!)

I shared The Permission Slip in a Love Letter to my mailing list last week and was blown away by the amount of replies I got back. This is (still) a brave new world we are navigating. The hyper connectivity of life online brings extraordinary blessings and opportunities with it, yet more than ever we need to figure out how to exist in a space that also provokes strong emotion at times. I’ve blogged about all this before and am still trying to find my way to balance the inspiration with the energy sucking why-do-i-bothers. I love the internet, and I love that my work is internet-based. But sometimes I also need to retreat and remind myself to plug into my own wise counsel. The truth that I see with my eyes. That I feel in my heart. No Facebook updates required ;-)

As a little gift, Jo and I have created a downloadable PDF of The Permission Slip for you:

Permission Slip 1 (beige) | Permission Slip 2 (purple)

Read it. Print it out. Share it along. Remember it. I hope you find it comforting if you’re ever caught in the eye of the social media crazies (I’ve pasted mine into the front of my journal, just to be sure).

Ps. Roll on the August Break! I really cannot wait :)

Where I am

I just received some feedback from a kind-hearted blog reader who enjoys my blog but feels a little disappointed when ‘Something for the weekend’ is still hanging around long into the week. So I thought perhaps it was time to give you a wee update on what’s happening in my world.

I’ve just started running my new course, Journal Your Life, which I’m loving putting together and seeing everyone geek-out with our mutual love for stationery and self-enquiry. Whenever I run a course my first priority is always to the participants — I’m honoured that anyone would choose to take a course with me and i want to make sure they have the best experience possible, so i put all my heart and soul into these classes. As Journal Your Life is brand new I’m currently writing 1000+ words a day to create the content. Unfortunately this doesn’t leave me much brain for blog posts, hence the sparsity of posting lately. SFTW posts are easy and fun to put together but I’m not a fan of ‘filler’ posts — you know the ones? The posts that are just there to fill a space — I’d rather wait till i have time to write something with a bit of grit in it.

I’m also currently enjoying a cold that’s morphed into a sinus infection, so I’m doing the best i can to juggle the balls and not beat myself up about the ones that fall down (there have been many *ahem*).

There’s quite a few posts I’d love to sit down and write, but right now my first priority is my course.  So for the next few weeks new posts here will be sparse as I focus all my energy on making the journalling course the absolute best it can be. But hey, my 7-year blogiversary is coming up soon…. definitely want to write something for that. I’ll be back with tales of my perfume obsession and antics with anti-depressants before you know it ;-)

Love you guys. Thanks so much for being here xo

From the heart

I have this week’s Something for the weekend ready to go but I’m going to post it tomorrow because first there’s something else I want to get off my chest. After yesterday’s post sweet Kerstin commented on Facebook: “Oh, dear Susannah, do you know how many people look at you and think YOU have an amazing life?” A couple of other people have said this to me, and this morning I feel compelled to address this and let you see what’s been going on behind the scenes.

The work I do, being self-employed, the books, the bits of travel, moving back to London. All of this has come at a price. I have been alone for the last eight years. The first half of that I was bereaved; the second half I devoted to building my business. For the last four years I’ve worked seven days a week, taking a few days off here and there to visit family, but mostly, I am sitting here with my laptop. I usually start work around 9:30am and work through till 9 or 10pm. I’ll stop and go out to the supermarket or just stretch my legs. Sometimes I’ll find a reason to go into town so I can see some new scenery and take photos. But generally I’m here juggling intense periods of concentrated work with procrastination. I recently joined a gym with the hope of getting “back” into shape, but have yet to go — the siren call of my laptop is too persuasive in the morning.

There have been enormous learning curves (I never knew I was building a business until suddenly I had one and had to learn how to look after it — and I’m still learning) and some key achievements. I feel very fortunate to have found a way to pay my rent that doesn’t involve having to work in a more traditional environment — I did that for many years and suffered as a result. I’m also grateful that the work came about in an organic way — had I tried to plan any of this I get the feeling I wouldn’t have got very far. If I hadn’t gone through bereavement…. If I hadn’t started this blog… the last eight years would have looked very different. I love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else. The emails I get from people who’ve read the book or gained something from my classes makes my heart sing in ways that can only be equalled by how my nephew makes me feel. I feel useful, and that is one of my greatest joys.

So I understand that from the outside the work stuff looks enviably great. And most of the time it’s pretty good, but that’s not the whole story. I do try to do all this as elegantly as I can, but of course that means I hide the less-fun parts — the stress, the RSI, the sleeplessness, the constant admin, the self-inflicted pressure, the panic that it could all fall apart if I stopped for a moment. The bigger London rent that means I can never coast with any of this — my bills are huge and there’s no one else here to shoulder it with me. Moving here was my choice and was definitely the right decision but with it comes with new stresses.

And that’s my current struggle: I’m doing all of this on my own. And I feel proud that I am able to take care of myself and am strongly independent, but I’ve been having reoccuring moments of wishing there was someone here to share it with. Relationships are a lot of work, but it’s work that I welcome. My life has been out of balance, and a girl can’t survive on work alone. I miss spooning in bed with someone I care about. I miss eating dinner while we moan about our day. I miss having another soul to worry about so it’s not just all about boring old me. I want to plan a future with someone.

I turn 40 in 11 days and am grappling with a lot of sadness around the fact that my 30s were ‘wasted’ and I’m about to start a new decade of my life alone and without a family. And I know they weren’t wasted at all, but in my more tender moments that is what I feel. This isn’t how I imagined my life would be at this age — some parts of it have exceeded my expectations, but other parts are sorely lacking. Eight years is a long time to be alone.

And there’s something else I haven’t shared here. Looking back I now see that the last half of 2012 was a slow slide back down into depression, something I didn’t see until I hit the bottom in December. Depression has dogged me all my life, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to see the pattern. In December I finally went to my GP to ask to go back on anti-depressants. [This is a topic for another post, one that I want to share soon.]

So it’s hard to put yourself out there and go on fun dates when you feel this soul weariness, which is why I’ve started working with a therapist again. I want to unravel myself some more to figure out why I’m blocking myself from finding love. Because it’s not just fear and it’s certainly not grief anymore. Life circumstances and my own temperament are conspiring to keep me single, but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m at the edge of the old universe and wanting so badly to push through to the new one. So I’m doing the work to find my way there.

So yes, I know the shiny parts of what I do look good. Before I’d written a book I looked at bloggers who had achieved that goal with a bit of envy, knowing it was what I aspired to do too. I’m so glad I did it and am proud of the book — even though there are parts I wish I could go in and change! — and I hope I get the opportunity to write another. It’s nice to have something tangible to show for these years devoted to work and growth.

In her comment on yesterday’s post, Carol said: “But you know what, it’s not about them, it’s about us. The problem is ours. If people want to convey happiness via their blogs, well that is their truth that they have chosen to put out there. And people have the right to communicate whatever ‘truth’ feels right to them. Not everyone feels comfortable laying themselves bare via their blogs.”

I agree with this, absolutely. It’s pretty clear that blog reading is my own personal kryptonite. I’m much more productive on the days I don’t have time to browse my Google Reader, so I know what needs to be done. And yes, it is all about my triggers and the things I wish to draw into my life. Of course it is. I don’t begrudge anyone their happiness. I simply need to be more responsible about how I spend my time online. Avoiding the blogs that trigger me would be a start as I come up against this time and time again — I never learn!

I’ve blogged about blogging so many times in the past — it’s a subject that still fascinates me. After seven years of writing in this space I know that what we share is never the whole story. I know that for some a blog is a way to mark the good in their life, a way to practice gratitude, to record memories. It’s the one creative space we can control, putting our best face forward into the world. I know that some bloggers feel compelled to create an upbeat helpful space to promote their coaching business, or courses, or whatever it is they’re offering. There are no rules to blogging other than the ones we create for ourselves. When your work is online the blogosphere and your Twitter feed inevitably becomes your workplace and there will always be stuff that winds you up. I’m trying to find better ways to navigate this world — it’ll help when there’s someone here nudging me to close down my laptop in the evening.

I’m glad I have a corner of the internet where I can talk about this stuff. In everything I do I try to lead by example — to report back from the trenches in the hopes that what I share might be useful to someone else. I’m glad I don’t have to look like I have the answers, because obviously I don’t. No one does, even if they’re peddling a programme that they claim does. Whenever I find a post that’s sliced through with honesty I admire the blogger all the more. I can celebrate the good stuff — and we need it to keep the balance — but it’s their vulnerability that stays with me the longest. I’ll always respond to blogging from the heart the most, but i’m glad other flavours are out there, too. It’s what makes blogging so brilliant.

So I continue to look for labels to help me make sense of my self. Introvert. INFP. HSP. She who takes everything far too seriously. Who lives life on the very edge of her emotions. Over-analyser. A cynic who’s communed with the other side. Who walks with the black dog nipping at her heels. Who loves with everything she is. An exercise-hating, green juice-avoiding, pill-popping regular human being doing the best she can.

[A word about comments: I’m not looking for any advice here, loves. Just wanting to share another piece of the puzzle. Writing this has been therapeutic, as usual, and I nearly didn’t post it but I figured some of you might find this helpful to read. More on my dealings with the pills coming soon — i betcha can’t wait for that post, eh? ;-) x ]