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

The permission slip*

You are allowed to unfollow the people who make you feel bad,
the ones who curate their lives like interior design magazines,
whose day never seems to be filled with the
dirty dishes of your reality.

You are allowed to unfollow the old school friend
who’s busy repopulating the world
while you wonder if you’ll ever find love again and
listen to the sound of your ovaries going mouldy.

You are allowed to ignore the quick-fix merchants who
offer ten reasons why your life doesn’t work
and then tell you how to fix it
if you buy their program today! Click here!

You are allowed to unsubscribe from the emails that
clutter your inbox. To ignore the teleseminars
and free trainings and video secrets and offerings
that never seem to teach you anything new.

You are allowed to boycott the blogs that trigger
the shit out of you. You know the ones.

Instead, you are allowed to sink back into your
own wise counsel. To make the space for your own
desires and dreams to dance and delight,
no longer distracted by the comparisons and competitions.

You are allowed to be still.
To be quiet.
To just be.

* wrote this for me… thought you might appreciate it too.

We all have to start somewhere

I sometimes forget how vulnerable blogging can make us feel; I’ve been doing it for so long it’s become a muscle I guess I take for granted. As I watch my current Blogging from the Heart group take flight with their own blogs and sharings, I’m reminded that it can be scary to put our thoughts and feelings into words for others to read. That we get choked up with perfectionism and wonder who we think we are to do something so daring. We want others to like our words and for connections to grow. We’re hungry to be seen just as we’re shy when people see us.

I still get nervous about certain posts. This post I wrote earlier in the year was raw and straight out of my disappointed heart, and it took a lot of courage to leave it online when all i wanted to do was take it down the next morning. I still remember the posts from the past that were turning points in my healing. And there are plenty of others that no longer exist on this blog, deigned not good enough and deleted out of space and time.

I tell my BFTH peeps that a blog is a constant work-in-progress, a space that’s never finished. How often do we get to create a place that’s just for us, an online home we can change and evolve as we ourselves change and evolve. Last week I showed them screengrabs* of older versions of my blog so they could see how it has developed over the years — and, frankly, to reassure them that we all start somewhere. I’ve loved every incarnation of this space, and if i’m honest I sometimes miss the simplicity of my first Blogger blog. Blogging felt simpler back then — I had absolutely no expectations for it. I wrote my feelings out onto my computer and put them online. It was such a release, such a joy to be able to get it out while I was still reeling from my bereavement. And then people came and said hello – the community feel was like it is today but on a much smaller scale. There were no ecourses, no advertising, no Facebook, no Twitter. Flickr was the new kid on the block and figuring out how to upload a new banner onto my blog remains one of my greatest tech achievements :)

So as I looked at my old blog designs last week I felt such tenderness for the beginning blogger I was. The links in the sidebars reminded me of the blogs I used to visit (some of them I still do; others no longer exist) and the people who have come in and out of my online world. But most of all, I remembered what it felt like to be sitting at my desk with a cigarette in my hand and those first blog posts pouring out of me. It feels like a lifetime ago, and yet, as I make my plans to move back to London nearly eight years after I left, it could have been yesterday.

Time doesn’t really have any meaning any more. I think when we write a blog we’re really making a time machine for ourselves.

Ink on my fingers, April 2006 – view full sized here

Ink on my fingers, August 2006 – view full sized here

Ink on my fingers, November 2009 – view full sized here

*hat tip to Kelly Rae for finding this fantastic site