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 :)

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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 ]

The year in review

It’s been a really big year for me. Sitting here in the last days of it I’m wondering if perhaps it’s been a little too big as I’m tired and not filled with as much excitement for the new year as I usually am. It’s been a year of accomplishments, each spurring me on to the next, the momentum keeping me going until I landed back in London, the place I left nearly eight years ago. I’ve been living here for two months now and while I started on a high the last few weeks I’ve been honouring my need to retreat — there’s been a lot of inner and outer unravelling going on, much of it taking me back to my most tender places. This year was so mapped out it feels odd to be facing a new year with no concrete plans in place; rather than let 2013 be a fallow year, I’m plotting my next escapades, while also being aware of how down time and space is essential to my sanity. There are places I want to visit, a new course to unveil, a retreat to teach and two new books to plan for…. but first, a look at what went down in 2012:

… in February Jen, Amanda and I led a week-long Polaroid retreat in Marrakesh

…. the same month I launched a brand new course

… in April my favourite person in the whole world turned two! [photo above by his mummy]

… in the spring I dipped my toe in the dating pool

… and I started taking driving lessons, again

… in May our book, Instant Love, was published (it’s already gone to a second printing)

… and in June my own book, This I Know, hit the shelves

… in July I did a freakin’ 4-week book tour across North America with just a carry-on!

… I also cried in front of a Picasso

… I began writing monthly magazine columns for The Simple Things and Somerset Life

… in August I watched my beautiful little sister get married

… in October I explored painting with Flora on a hillside in Italy and taught Photo Meditations in North Carolina

… and if all that wasn’t enough, a week after getting back from the States I moved back to London


Fave books of the year: Dying to be Me | This I Know (obviously) | all of these

Fave music of the year: Bat for Lashes | School of Seven Bells | Ben Howard | Of Monsters and Men

Fave moment of the year: Getting chatted up by a devilishly handsome man at the top of the Rockefeller Center

Disappointment of the year: Stress = I started smoking again

Physical accomplishment of the year: I started exercising and lost 15 pounds

Fave sound of the year: everything that Noah says: ‘Let’s make some cooking, Susie’ | ‘Skipbits’ instead of biscuits | ‘cuggle’ means cuddle | ‘I luz you, Susie’ | ‘Father Crispie’ for Father Christmas

Fave posts of the year: How to make dreams come true | My ABC of important things | The rug seller’s portrait | Sometimes | Always wear your invisible crown | Ode to a life a do not yet have | How to write a book | This I (don’t) know | Following my heart | We all have to start somewhere | The universe doesn’t mess around | The permission slip | The fire of change | On clarity, crapness and tiny flames

Fave blog readers of the year: all of YOU. Seriously, none of this would be possible without your support, understanding and kindness. I’ve received some of the most humbling emails from blog and book readers alike this year, and every time it renews my commitment to keep doing what I’m doing — putting my story out there so others feel less alone. So thank you so much for visiting me here in my online home — you rock my world xxx

Other years in review: 2011 :: 2010 :: 2009


If you’re in need of a tool to help you look back over this year and plan for the next, you can download my Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook over here