The word



Last year’s word was visible, and even though I said it out loud I didn’t know just how visible i was going to become. I guess i expected to choose a word and then just forget about it and go about my business; apparently that’s not how it works. If you set your intention on a word, it might just come true, hence the need to choose your word wisely. In 2009 I finally attached my full name to this blog, started posting videos of my face (!) and was accosted by two blog readers in public (which i’ll admit was really really lovely :) Lately I’ve been feeling like i’m all over the internet which occasionally gives me the shivers (i googled ‘susannah’ the other day and was on page one of the results. Page one! It was a weird feeling, people – a bit like leaving the house without any trousers on).

I thought my word for 2010 was going to be love, as that is the one thing/state I have yet to draw back into my life, but over the last few weeks I realised that I want a bigger word, a word that will encompass all that i’m wishing to create in my life – in love, work, living and playing. So, after more thought, my word for 2010 is…



The last year has seen the creation of a solid foundation, and now I’m ready for take off. I envision this next year as a pliable thing, something i can knead and mould, and make into any shape i want. So why not make it BIGGER? Expanding to make more room for abundance and creativity. Horizons stretched, barriers conquered. An expanded heart to welcome my nephew into the world; an open door for love to find me again. I want to chase after my dreams and make them happen; I want to be brave and bold in my choices. I want to live widely and colourfully; to believe whole-heartedly and shine my light brightly.

What’s your word for 2010?

Anything is possible! I’ll meet you back here tomorrow next year with something pretty for your desktop… Happy new year, friends!

~ On being an auntie ~

MesnakeThis is a Polaroid of me from around 1981; i asked my mum to dig it out for me, and it is exactly as I remember it – the green jacket, the stiff denim jeans, the little sticker on my ear that I pretended was an earring. I remember how the snake felt in my hands, warm and supple, not cold and slimy as I was expecting. We were visiting a wildlife centre somewhere in the south of England, and if you paid a pound you'd get a Polaroid taken with the snake. My sister did it too.

This is the same sister who we found out last week is carrying a boy – my nephew. She rang me as soon as she left the hospital, and when she said the words i really did scream. A boy! A baby! It's suddenly all feeling very real. So many of my friends have children, you'd think i'd be used to it by now, but this is something different. This is family. This is my sister. We think the same; at times we are the same. And yet now she has embarked on a very different road from me, and it has brought up a lot of stuff.

After she rang me from the hospital, i sat in my chair, reeling. I felt such an intense rush of emotion, it was unexpected and overwhelming. At the heart of it all was love – love for a little baby that i haven't met yet. Now i knew he was a HE and real and on his way, i could feel my heart expand as i took it all in. I could imagine how i'd play with him, and take him to the park, and teach him about girls and buy him the futuristic equivalent of an iPod. I could see Christmases and birthdays with my family gathered round, a family that has been just the three of us for so long. Boyfriends and fiances have found their way into our tiny tribe, but now there's someone new. Someone connected to me by blood.

I was truly happy for my sister when she fell pregnant as i knew that was what she wanted, but at my age you can't help but look at your own life and compare.  I don't know if i will ever have children. In all honesty, i don't know if i want to. The urge comes and goes, often off the back of an assumption of how my life should be unfolding, but when i look into my heart i don't know if motherhood is something i truly want. Maybe if i was in a relationship things would look different (and predictably everyone says that to me all the time) but i know myself well enough by now to know that i see a different path ahead of me, one that has a partner-in-crime, a thriving work life, a chance to explore the world, and a nephew i will dote on. Being an auntie feels like such a gift to be given – when i felt that ache of love for the baby my beautiful sister is carrying, i saw my world take on a new shape. I wonder if anyone has ever written a book about being an auntie – the Art of Auntiehood. How we get the honour of helping bring up a child without the sleepless nights. Now I know someone will visit me* when i'm old and grey and surrounded by cats – my handsome sensitive and talented nephew :)

Maybe all this sounds silly, but it's comforting to get a glimpse into a possible future. After five years of independent living you find yourself existing in the moment more and more, the future a mystery when you don't know who you'll spend it with, if at all. Our society is so wrapped up around the family, around relationships, around 2.4 kids and the school run and the woman in the bank calling me "Mrs Conway" so once again i have to correct her. My 37th birthday is fast approaching and still i do not feel the urge to have a child, and a part of me wonders if my books will be my babies, just as my nephew will be my little pal. The thought of it makes me smile. Whatever happens, I'm sure it will be okay, either way.

* fingers crossed.

Allowing dreams


Allowing dreams to manifest without getting in their way

Sometimes we don’t believe we are worthy of receiving what we dream of; sometimes we don’t believe it could ever happen. Sometimes we are so convinced of our apparent unworthiness we do everything we can to prevent the good stuff entering our lives. We don’t do this consciously, of course. I’m slowly learning that all i need to do to help the good stuff manifest is to step out the way, to stop littering the path with my worries and insecurities, and all the endless head-chatter that scares the dream whisps away. In some ways it’s easier to sabotage our dreams than help them become reality – that way, when they don’t happen we can shrug our shoulders and say, ‘see? I knew it. I’m not worth it.’ But lately i’ve been trying this idea on for size: what if i AM worthy? What if it is okay for good things to come into my life?

There was a part of me that assumed life would be easier once i survived the grief – that i’d embrace a new life-is-short credo and let go of all my fears, gliding through life feeling the power of survival under my wings. But that didn’t happen. Life still felt as difficult as ever, if not more so. But today I realised that i’ve reached a place where i’ve let go of some expectations – of what my life should be looking like by now, of what i am capable of doing, of who i could be. I’m starting to embrace what is, and that includes giving my dreams more space to breathe.

I always thought i’d be married with kids by now, that i’d be more successful by now, and more established blah blah blah. What i’m starting to grasp is that this is it – this is my life – so why not have some fun with it? View it as a malleable batch of bread dough and see what shapes i can create. Because no one else is going to do it for me, and, heck, maybe some good stuff will happen. This weekend I made a good start on my book proposal, and in doing so i drop-kicked the whiny but-who-do-i-think-i-am-to-write-a-book out of my third-floor window.

My part of the deal is to work hard, be committed and have a little faith. And to make room in my life for the good stuff to flow. We are allowed to have our dreams, big and small and everything in between. Think of them like your children, to be protected and nurtured, believed in and encouraged – and when the time is right, you need only get out of their way so they can stretch their wings and fly.

I made a new desktop wallpaper* to remind me of my commitments – i thought you might like it too.


Small: 1024×768
Medium: 1280×1024
Large: 1600×1200
Extra wide: 1900×1200

* The images are for your personal use only and I retain the copyright, etc etc :)

~ Thoughts on Unravelling ~

Looking back through my diaries I see that the first time i wrote about putting some kind of photography course together was June 2008. Abby and I had spent the day in Bath, walking around as i tried to decide if this was a place I could see myself living. As we drove back to Bristol, we talked about what i could do when i got here – at the time my sister was working for an adult education centre and she uttered those fateful words as we hurtled down the motorway: 'Why don't you create a course for us?'

I don't know if i ever fully conveyed on this blog just how nervous I was about my first time leading a group of students – I was can't-eat-can't-sleep nervous. I feared I would sit with these women and not know what to say, so i prepared and prepared and tried to put together a lesson plan that i hoped they would enjoy; Abby helped me plan the first session in 15-minute chunks so every minute was accounted for! And something amazing happened – fifteen minutes into our very first session, i completely relaxed. I could feel the nervous knot in my stomach loosen as i explained what we'd be doing in each class. By the end of our first two hours together I was smiling.

My little evening class in Bristol had taken about two months to fill up – I left postcards in coffee shops and made posters for the local library. Most of the participants had read about the course in the college prospectus; they took a chance on this curiously-titled photography class that wasn't really a photography class. Unbeknown to them they took a chance on a first-time tutor. Fast forward to last Monday, and my autumn Unravelling class sold out in just 83 minutes. People, it was insane! Clearly a lot has happened in a year.

Annaunravelled09web[A glimpse into Anna's unravelling, shared with her permission]

Recently I've been getting emails from people on the mailing list who are frustrated that the courses always seem to be sold out by the time they click over to the registration page – going forward into the new year I want to find a way to organise staggered enrollments that's mindful of all time zones. What excites me the most about the course is that moving it to an online venue has not only made it so much more dynamic and rich but it also means people get to know each other from all over the world; i know Unravellers have been getting together in person and there are lots of emails and phone calls flying around the ether.

In a recent comment Anu asked me: what have you learned from your Unravelling
classes? What has it excavated for you that surprised you?
It's interesting that even though the class is based on stuff i've tried over the last few years i still find i have bits of me that can be stretched some more. I share personal thoughts with the Unravellers, and one of
the most surprising discoveries is that I now feel more comfortable making videos; I feel i can be more myself and embrace how i look; there's no clever lighting or fancy cameras, just me and my webcam.

What has also become apparent is just how incredibly passionate i am about doing this work. I have never felt this passionate and committed to any other work i've done since i left school. I always struggled to fit into the regular world of working – I struggled with a salaried job, i struggled being freelance.  I was a student for many years; i've
worked in cafes and shops. I once worked in an oil
canteen serving greasy breakfasts to hungry men at 7am. I tried my hand at portrait photography; I've done
tele-marketing and PR; I've made sandwiches for the minimum hourly wage. When my love died I was unable to work for the first year
and felt adrift in my
life and without purpose; I didn't know that his death had set me on a path that would eventually lead me here.

When I launched the first class in January I had no idea that it was going to turn into a business – for some reason business has always seemed like a dirty word. It's as if i assumed that meaningful-work would be accompanied by harps playing in my zen office space as i shared my work for free and didn't need to worry about silly things like paying the rent. The reality is that i am working harder than i have ever done in my life and I'm learning how work can be an important exchange of energy for both the giver and the receiver. I'm learning about how to promote the work you do (i did my first ever podcast interview here – BIG learning curve for me), how to create a working model that is sustainable, while keeping my focus on creating courses that are enjoyable and multi-layered, and making sure I am as available as i can be for every participant who reaches out to me. I'm constantly asking myself what would i want from this course? What would my own expectations be? It's a constant challenge that i'm enjoying trying to figure out.

With every testimonial or email of thanks i get, there is a 15-year-old girl inside of me whose eyes sparkle as she thinks 'wow, i made that happen. That is so cool.' The girl who never thought she had any talent. The girl who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, quietly said: an artist.

To go on a blog-book tour across North America, Europe and down under is one of my wishes i shared in yesterday's post – i'd love to publish my Unravelling book, with stories and assignments, case studies and exercises to do at home. I'd love to be able to do that book tour, not even necessarily to lead workshops, but to create a space where we can get together for coffee and poetry, chats and sharing. Take the online network into the real world. To build a tribe of Unravellers*.

Heady dreams, perhaps, but the 15-year old girl is enthusiastically nodding her head: 'That would be so cool.'

* This is a big wish i'm sharing. I actually feel a little nervous putting it out there, so it must really be a heart wish!