Following my heart

One of the gifts of the book tour was getting to spend time with some of my dearest friends and deepen my connections to pals I’ve made online. We talked about life and work, mused on our plans and dreams, and made space for plenty of laughter and gossip, too. Nothing unusual about any of that, for sure, but what was most interesting — and useful — to me was how often the topic of dating came up. In my “real life” at home I have no single friends — everyone I love and trust is coupled up with a significant other. Literally, everyone. So to be able to talk with single women about the twisted path we have to traverse to find love was so… fantastic. Liberating. Galvanising. Life-changing.

These women were aged from 29 to 49, so I’m not just talking about chicks my age. I got to hear about so many different experiences and peek in on so many different viewpoints. Earlier this year I dipped my toe in the online dating pool and found the water far too chilly for my nervous feet. But here were these amazing women boldly swimming in the water, surfing the highs and holding their breath for the inevitable lows. With every conversation I felt more excited to don my water wings and get back out there. Because it wasn’t just me who struggles with all this. They all do. And they are still trying, and hoping, and keeping their hearts open to the possiblity that someday somebody wonderful will walk into their lives and make the twisted path make sense.

Three and a half weeks away from home was enough time to cut the ties to this town. Living out of a small suitcase reminded me that home is not the place I live — it’s a feeling I carry inside me. Soaking in the energy of every city I visited made me more and more excited to take the leap to the place that has been calling my heart home: London.

So I am back in Bath, but it’s not for much longer. I’m currently down-sizing my possesions, letting go of anything I no longer need. My book collection has been reduced by three-quarters; 80% of my cameras will soon be listed on eBay. I’ve given away furniture and clothes. I’m working my way through every cupboard and shelf, editing my possesions down to the things that i absolutely love, absolutely need or absolutely can’t get rid of just yet. My college dissertation? Gone. The knitted cat my mum made while pregnant with me? She stays :)

This is the third time I have declared I’m moving to London on this blog. This is the first time I have been truly — TRULY — ready. To me, London means expansion. It means stepping into the life I want, the bigger, braver, bolder life I am ready to inhabit. And, frankly, it means being in a place where there are more boys to meet. Because, hey, that’s important too. Bath has been beautiful to me and I will always come back to see the magnolia trees bloom in the spring. But it’s time to move into the next chapter and there’s much to do in preparation. As I’ll be out of the country for much of October I have set my moving date to the first week of November.

It is done.

And, honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Or more ready.

What happens on tour stays on tour*

I took these two Polaroids on the drive down to LA from Santa Barbara. Lisa took us the scenic route, pulling over to dip our toes in the ocean and sit on a rock, watching the seagulls. That night I was doing my second book event at Marisa’s house and the closer we got to the city the more nervous I felt. Those nerves never went away. I did seven events in total and each one had its own flavour and charm. It was such a joy to meet everyone who came along, many of whom had taken my classes. Some drove over three hours just to be there. Once everyone had gathered I read a couple of passages from the book then opened it up to questions and answers before sitting with each person to sign their book and chat. This was always my favourite part of the night: looking into the eyes of each person in turn and hearing their story. What blew me away again and again was how helpful others found the book. You can’t help worrying that no one will connect to your words when you’re sitting alone writing it. So to be out in the wild, listening to tales of connection, understanding, comfort and validation was an incredible gift. Each person had something to share with me: an affirmation, a story, a question, a confession. There were tears from some, and fierce hugs from others. Some sweet souls were shaking when they sat down with me, something that tickled me so much. “Don’t worry, it’s just me,” I’d say as they stumbled over their words. And really, it was just me: the shy girl who grew up and survived a fire. Who was amazed that anyone would want to come and talk to her.

Writing a book doesn’t make me any more special than any of the women I sat with at the events. Each person had a tale to tell, and each of those tales is important. We can learn so much from each other and if nothing else I hope that my book (and actually, this blog) encourages people to open up and share their story. To be real and honest about their life so others feel less alone. So WE feel less alone. There is so much collective wisdom out there, it really is a gift to be living in a time when we can share with each other as easily as we can. Blogs… books… courses… social media. I see tribes forming online and marvel at how much support and love there is out there. So to get a taste of that in real life while on the tour was off the charts amazing.

At the end of each event I was exhausted to the point of shaking on some nights. I would make sure I ate beforehand and didn’t touch a drop of wine all evening, but still I was completely wiped out by the time the last person left. As I planned the tour back in the UK I’d worried that my introverted soul would be sucked dry by the time I got home, and I was certainly battling exhaustion as I went from city to city. Some people would be energised by the experience of meeting so many people — and I was definitely charged up at each event — but I also needed the downtime afterwards. I needed to recharge and replenish so i was able to give my absolute attention to each person I spoke to. Because I wanted to make sure I spoke to every single person who came to see me (which is why all the events ran over time :) It was my gift to each person — proper time to sit together and talk. To be present with them. To hear them. To see them. And I think I managed it.

The entire tour was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I loved the travelling, the cities, the deepened friendships, the people I met, the wisdom found, the unrelenting a-has, and the gift of every person who sat with me and shared their heart. Hell, I even didn’t mind the flying (yay carry-ons!). From an energy-level it’s not something I could do very often, but if i publish a book every two years then I should be okay. Because I definitely want to do it again. Oh hells, yes I do.

Big squishy love and gratitude to the souls who helped me make the tour happen: Kelly Rae, Marisa, Lisa, Kristen, Mati Rose, Alex, Denise, Amanda, Holly, Jamie, Tanya, Susan, Elizabeth and Monica. You women rock my world! xo

* not really.

My New York

I’m home now, scanning Polaroids, washing clothes and trying to find my way back into my normal routine. It’s very clear to me that I’ve returned home a changed woman, with plans and intentions that no longer fit my life here in Bath. I no longer fit here. And I had a feeling this would happen, but it’s gone far deeper than I’d ever imagined. I’ve got a lot of processing and preparation to do — the jet lag is not helping, oh my — so I’ll be back soon with more musings, including thoughts on the carry-on experiment which was a resounding success and, quite frankly, life-changing :)

For now, glimpses of my New York shot on B&W Impossible Project film…