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Be the hero of your own story

Many years ago now I remember reading the Joseph Campbell quote “You are the hero of your own story” and I remember thinking “wow, yes, of course I am. Who else could be the hero of my story?”. 

Of course back then I was a naive 20 year old who had had a relatively sheltered life. Now as a more worldly forty something I apprecaite how easy it is to sit back and let someone else take the lead. 

It is easy to decide that you have nothing to contribute, that you aren’t good enough or that someone else is more important than you. 

 

Rubbish! 

In your heart there is a song that needs to be sung. There is a passion that needs to be expressed, an adventure that needs to begin or a journey that needs to be taken. Perhaps a project that has been waving at you in the distance for many years. Whatever it is, only you can make it happen. 

The world needs to hear that song, feel that passion, share that adventure or benefit from that project. As Marie Forleo would say “the world needs that special gift that only you have”.   

Don’t believe me? 

 What if the great inventors and influencers of all time had sat at home and played it small? 

 What if Isaac Newton, Einstein, Marie Curie, Brene Brown, Mozart, Ronaldo or Malala Yousafzai had just sat back and waited for someone else to take action? These are just the first names that came into my head but there are so many more. 

 Take a moment to think about all the people who have impacted your life; the teachers, coaches, authors, film makers, athletes, musicians, doctors… the list is endless. Think how much poorer you would be had those people not made the effort and put themselves out there. 

I can practically hear you screaming at your screen: “but I have nothing to contribute to the world, those people were like a different species to me, they are geniuses and I am a mere mortal”. Well, maybe that’s not exactly what you were thinking but I know I have thought similar things over the years.

You have a lot to contribute to the world. 

There are people who you have influenced more than you will ever know. Lives you have changed with a comment or a helping hand. You don’t have to be a celebrity, have given a TED talk or written a book to have made an impact on the world.

Perhaps you said something kind to a girl at school when you were 12 years old and because of that her self esteem was restored and she went on to invent something amazing. Everything you do, every day, makes changes the world in a small way. 

What sort of story will you be the hero of? 

If you don’t feel like life is going quite the way you expected it to, perhaps you are a hero stuck in the wrong story? The Hulk probably wouldn’t have been a hero if he had landed in Oz, equally Dorothy would be pretty useless when up against Abomination.

Are you following your bliss? 

If not you might want to take a moment to work out what your story is supposed to be. 

What sort of hero are you?

 When you find the right story things will start to click into place. This quote from Joseph Campbell sums it up perfectly.

I have had several instances in my life when I have made a decision, sometimes one that felt a little crazy, and suddenly everything aligns to make it happen. That is when you know that you are on the right path.  

I have literally been picked up and put onto the right path a couple of times in my life. The most significant time though was just after I had my son. I had been pregnant or ill for 5 years and felt like I had lost who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I had been reading lots of “self help” books (I hate that phrase) and I sat down one day and decided that I needed to make a change. 

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell

Author, The Power of Myth

I sat at my computer and typed “distant learning course” into Google and the top course was from the Institute of Counselling. It was a course called “Certificate in Spiritual Care”. I took a look and it was as though the course had been created for me. I had no intention of it leading to a career change, I just wanted to get my brain working again and feel like I had achieved something. Little did I know that that one decision would lead to me doing my Reiki attunements, getting back in touch with my spiritual side, doing qualifications in mindfulness and creating two amazing businesses. It was magic. I trusted the universe (or whatever force you believe in) to point me in the right direction and it really did.  

I have been trusting my intuition and the universe to point me in the right direction ever since. I pay attention to every sign and comment. If someone mentions a person, technique, book, event… and it comes up a few times in quick succession, I look it up and find out more. If I am feeling a little lost I take time to meditate or read or even just have a bath and try to work out where I need to go next. I know that if I am having to force something it isn’t right. 

Are the hero of your story? 

Why not let me know your story in the comments below?

Have Yourself a Mindful Little Christmas

Could having a mindful Christmas really be the answer to holiday stress? 

Christmas time can be so stressful. There are food preparations, gifts to wrap, cards to write, social occasions, friends to visit, family to visit, traditions to be remembered, the list seems endless. 

Add to that the pressure for everything to be “perfect” and it can be a really toxic combination or stress, guilt, financial worries and emotional exhaustion. We all want magical memories of Christmas, particularly for our loved ones, but all too often we are too stressed and exhausted to be able to remember anything let alone enjoy it. 

How can mindfulness help?

I’m sure many of you are nodding with a deep understanding about the stresses of Christmas. How can mindfulness help though? 

Well, by staying calm and in the present it can help you to lower your physical stress levels as well as feeling more present and organised.

When we are busy and there are lots of things to think about it is easy to be constantly living in our heads. Constant streams of; “I must remember to…” can be distracting and not always as productive as we might try to convince ourselves. 

 

My top mindfulness tips for a calm and happy Christmas  

Be organised   

When we are organised and feel on top of things we always feel more calm. Deal with things as soon as you can and make lists for everything to make sure you don’t forget everything. By writing them down you don’t have to keep them going round and round in your head. 

Preparation is key   

Do as much in advance as you can. There are so many things you can get done really early so that you aren’t dashing round at last minute. Get your veggies parboiled and in the freezer. Wrap your presents as soon as you can. Whatever you need to get done do it as soon as possible.

Let go of the myth of perfection 

We all want our memories of Christmas to be greeting card perfection but in reality we are all just human. Often it is the imperfect that makes the day special. You don’t have to have an instagram worthy breakfast, have some toast so you can sit and enjoy watching your children open their presents. Realistically something will happen that will ruffle your feathers; you will forget one of the veg, misplace a present, drop the Christmas pudding, whatever it is you will survive.  

 

Breathe

It doesn’t matter what I am talking about, when it comes to feeling in control and calm breathing properly is always my top tip! When you breathe slowly and in a controlled way your brain knows that there is no need to worry and it begins to calm your whole body.  Even just a couple of minutes breathing in time to this little video is enough to calm your mind and body. 

Mindful Drinking

Why not try making a hot drink and really taking the time to explore all the effects it has on your senses? Watch as the hot water mixes with the dry ingredients. See the steam swirl out of the mug. Smell the aroma. Feel the steam hit your face. Then take a sip and really taste it. Feel how warm and comforting it is as it flows down your throat and into your stomach. Really take the time to savour each mouthful and enjoy some quiet time. 

Quiet moments

During the big day, try to find little pockets of calm. Even if it is just stirring the custard or making a coffee. If you can manage a quiet half hour with a book or a quiet walk with the dog, even better.

Remember, these festive days are for everyone to enjoy. You are allowed to relax and enjoy the day too. 

If you want to learn more mindful tricks to help you have a wonderfully mindful Christmas why not sign up for my Mindful Advent Calendar? It’s completely free and you will learn so many amazing mindfulness strategies in just 5 minutes a day.

 

Mindful Advent Calendar

Do you always feel stressed and exhausted by the time Christmas arrives?

Sign up for my FREE Mindful Advent Calendar and ensure you have a calm and happy Christmas.

If you need someone to talk to over Christmas please know that there is always a listening ear at the Samaritans they do incredible work. You are never alone. I may not check my emails as often over the holidays but I do check them every day and will always be there for  anyone who needs a listening ear.

Other blogs you may find interesting:

Time for a change

Why you need to start practising mindfulness

It’s a Wonderful Life

Life is wonderful! 

Don’t panic, this is not a blog about the ‘C’ word, not this early in the year. As much as I love Christmas, the start of November is all about fireworks, bonfires and toffee apples, not fir trees and baubles.  

The reason I have used this title for my latest musings is because this is not only one of my favourite festive films, it is also the phrase and the story I think of when I think of gratitude and being grateful for everything you have in your life.  

This week was an interesting week for me. Within three days I had to face the third anniversary of my beloved Grandma’s passing, face some personal fears and contemplate the 12th anniversary of my surgery and what would have been my other Grandma’s 99th Birthday.

Those are some hefty emotions to deal with in the space of 72 hours!

I’m not even going to pretend that it has been easy. There have been tears, even some anger (which isn’t like me at all!). I have journalled, meditated, talked to friends and loved ones, and emerged in one piece – just about!

I miss my Grandmas, very much. Particularly my Grandma Smith, the lovely lady shown above. We were kindred spirits, partners in crime and best friends, all my life. Despite missing them, I don’t feel sad that they are no longer here. I was blessed to have all four grandparents until I was 18 years old. I then had my remaining three grandparents until I was 33 years old! My precious Grandma Smith died a few months after my 40th birthday. They had truly wonderful lives. I can’t be certain but I don’t think any of my grandparents would have had an regrets. They loved and lived life to the max. They taught me so much. This fact combined with my joy and delight at being alive, and relatively uninhibited by my condition 12 years after my surgery,  reminds me that it truly is a wonderful life.

Terrible Titties and Other Bitties 

Just to remind me a little more how blessed I am I was asked to talk at a local support group last night; The Terrible Titties and Other Bitties. They are an incredible charity, based in Stafford, who support people going through, who have been through or who love someone affected by, cancer. 

I got a message at 3pm asking if I could do a 30min talk at the meeting because their speaker was ill. I had an hour and a half to think about what I could say. I grabbed a notebook and scribbled a few notes down so I had a rough structure but apparently that wasn’t what I was supposed to say!

Off script as usual 

 

As is often the case for me when it comes to public speaking, my higher self knew what I was supposed to be saying any of the things I had in my notes. Instead I found myself talking about the importance of self care and positive thinking. Just what I needed to say as it turned out.  

I find it very easy to talk about positivity because I am naturally a very positive person. I also have the advantage of having some pretty huge reasons to be grateful. I may not have had cancer, but I have supported loved ones on their cancer journey and I have experienced the fear of having a potentially life limiting illness. I know how it feels to enter an operating theatre and wonder if I will ever see my loved ones again. I could relate to the amazing women in that room, and they opened their arms and welcomed me in.  

Most of the women there were on a personal journey with cancer. They were mostly incredible positive and smiley, but it was interesting to talk to them about their experiences of how it had changed them in a much deeper way than the physical scars – something else I can relate to. 

 

Don’t judge a book by its cover 

I talked to many people, who all looked fit and well from their appearance alone, but once you dug deeper many were still living with treatment and hidden conditions; brain tumours, breast cancer, MS…

One thing I am really passionate about is raising awareness of the many invisible but life changing conditions that people are coping with every day. That’s a big part of the reason I am taking part in The Real Full Monty next year. So many people you meet are fighting issues you may never know about; illness, mental health struggles, caring for a loved one, financial difficulties… It is so important to be patient and kind when we are dealing with others, no matter how well you may think you know someone you will never know everything they are experiencing. 

As we approach the festive time, we can all make a difference to someone. Whether it is checking on an elderly relative or neighbour and making sure they won’t be alone this Christmas, donating to a charity, taking some donations to a food bank or donating gifts to a children’s hospital you can make someone very happy this year. 

Have a look at all the amazing things my little friend Noah has been doing! 

Noah saves his pocket money every year and then gets donations from companies and shops and delivers hundreds of Christmas presents to children’s wards every Christmas. He has been on the tv this week for his amazing work. If you don’t know about this amazing little boy please do take the time to read about his life. I first met Noah before he was born, when I was sending healing to his Mum, Michelle. At that point she had been told that Noah wasn’t going to survive and between the emotional upset and the impact of pregnancy on her body she had asked me to help her. I knew from the first moment I felt him that he was a fighter and an amazing little boy and I haven’t been wrong so far. 

Born with only 2% of his brain and so many complications it is just untrue, he is know 7 years old and living his own wonderful life. I am so happy and proud to know this family, they inspire me every day.

Pause and appreciate

When you are doubting that your life is wonderful, stop and take stock. I write a list of ten things I am grateful for every night and it really helps me to get my life into perspective. With Thanksgiving at the end of the month it’s the perfect month to remind ourselves that yes it might be getting colder and darker here in the northern hemisphere, but we have so much to be grateful for. 

What is making your life wonderful today?

 

Thriving not Surviving

On the 7th November 2007 my life changed.  

I have always been a fighter, and most people wouldn’t have known that there was anything wrong with me at the time (apart from my facial changes). I have always been a believer that thriving not surviving is what life is all about. 

Six months before my surgery I had been diagnosed with Acromegaly, a condition which is caused by a tumour on your pituitary gland which results in your body producing too much growth hormone. I was in pain, I was exhausted and my mood was all over the place. If you want to read more about my story at that time I wrote a blog about my experiences.

It was a lot to cope with, mentally and physically at the time. I had been told for 6 months that my body wouldn’t return to what it had been before, that I wouldn’t be able to have any more children and it is a long and invasive surgery which took me a good six weeks to recover from. 

I have never experienced fatigue like that.

 

I had just got my head round the fact I couldn’t have any more children when I found out I was pregnant with my son. This was a huge blessing but also led to lots of unanswerable questions; would I go full term? could I go into labour? would I be able to breastfeed? My consultant wanted to do follow up tests which couldn’t be done because I was pregnant so it was a time of uncertainty.

Fortunately I’m built of tough stuff and 14 months after my surgery, my son Dan was born. 

Happy, healthy and almost 11 years old now.  

It was a difficult time looking back but it’s incredible what we can do when we need to. I challenged my body as much as I possibly could have all within months of my pituitary surgery. During the first three months of pregnancy your pituitary gland grows significantly, which six months after surgery probably isn’t adviseable. But here I am 12 years on and I’m still thriving.

Is my life the same as it was before my diagnosis?

No of course not.   

I am acutely aware at times that my energy levels are seriously affected. I have to plan my work around my body’s capabilities. I rarely book more than two days out of the office in a week because if I do it takes me a few days to recover. I have created a business that allows me to work around my numerous medical appointments, my energy levels and my physical limitations.  

I was asked the other day if I would ever consider going back to teaching. The reality is that I couldn’t, for many reasons but mostly because I couldn’t cope with the long days, the amount of standing and squatting (I taught primary), the amount of marking (my hands are probably the part of my body most affected by my joint damage) and no school these days would employ me knowing that I need one sometimes two days off every six weeks for my injection, the consultant appointments, MRI, colonoscopy… I’m not exactly an appealing prospect anymore. 

More importantly though, for the first time in my life I have realised that sometimes it’s ok to put myself first. For years my priority was making sure everyone else was cared for and happy. I can’t pretend that I don’t still care for everyone. I’m a mum and a wife and a sister and a daughter… but I have learned that if I am taking time to care for other people I need to give myself the same amount of time, sometimes more.  

I don’t  give myself a hard time for needing a nap or an hour in front of Netflix. I will go for a long, hot bath if I feel that it is what my body needs. Whatever it is that I need to do to help me feel calm and as though I have enough energy I will make sure I do it if I possibly can. 

Life has changed a lot in the last 12 years. I have gone from having a fiercely independent 3 year old daughter to having an even more determined and amazing 15 year old young woman. I have gone from thinking I would never have any more children to having a lively, brilliantly funny, football mad little man. My marriage is stronger than ever. I have discovered who my real friends are and made lots of new friends. I have built two businesses from nothing and grown in confidence in every part of my life. 

I was reborn

It might sound dramatic but that one event in my life changed me forever, for the better.

Yes I have physical limitations and I have to be very careful what I eat and how I care for my body, but the mental and emotional changes were possibly even more dramatic. 

I have learned:

  • The world keeps turning with or without me.
  • I don’t have to do everything.
  • It’s ok to ask for help.
  • To wear clothes that make me feel happy and confident not save them for best.
  • To not keep anything for best. Every day is the best day to wear/eat/use your favourite things whether it is perfume, crockery, clothes…
  • Busy isn’t always better. So many people think that being busy makes you more important. It’s ok to not be busy all the time and to be happy doing nothing.
  • To appreciate everyone in my life. My family and friends are amazing and I love them all very much.
  • It’s ok to create a life that works for you. It might not suit anyone else, that’s the point.
  • To do what makes me happy.

I have met so many people who have been though similar life changing events and come to similar conclusions. I just think it is a shame that for most people it takes a health scare or a big tragedy in their lives for them to starting living life to the full. 

What small changes can you make today to ensure that you are living your best life? 

 

 

A little help from my friends

Help is a difficult word for many people. 

We would often rather strugle alone than admit that we need help and support with a task or situation.

I know I am guilty of this, and always have been. 

I have had several reminders of this over the last 24 hours so I thought I would get some thoughts out and see if you can relate.

Yesterday my husband, son and I went to a barbeque at a friend’s house. It was only local so my daughter (15) asked whether she could stay and get some work done and relax so we agreed. 

When we returned home it was clear something had happened.

I won’t go into details but she was upset and worried and it was all over nothing. No-one was hurt, nothing was damaged, but her mind had run away with her and she had had half an hour of worrying when if she had just called and spoken to us we could have set her mind at ease.

I was heart broken that she hadn’t called me but she didn’t want to interrupt us and doesn’t like to ask for help. 

 

How can I be mad about that when I am so bad at asking for help myself? 

All my life I have been stubbornly independent.  

I didn’t like being helped, I could do it!

If I didn’t know how to do something I could find out. It has caused more than a few arguments with my very patient husband over the years.

Then, when I was very ill, I couldn’t physically do everything alone. I tried, I really tried, but the combination of pain, chronic fatigue and a toddler made it impossible. I was convinced that if I didn’t do everything myself it wouldn’t get done (or certainly not the way I wanted it to be done – me control freak?). 

Imagine my frustration when I had to spend six weeks convalescing at my parent’s house, a hundred miles from my own little family! For the first time in my life I had to trust other people to care for the most precious thing in my life, my daughter. She was only 3 years old and still needed so much help. She was also already stubbornly independent, but she needed feeding, her clothes getting out, taking to nursery… I could do nothing to help. I could barely walk to the kitchen to get a drink let alone drive a hundred miles and make my daughter one! 

But do you know what. She survived. Better than that, she thrived. She was spoilt a little, but that’s ok sometimes, she was dressed and fed and happy and all without my input. 

That was the moment that the world wouldn’t stop spinning if I didn’t do it all alone.

From then on I stopped worrying about being the “perfect” mum. I put my own wellbeing before the need to appear to be coping.

I asked for help.

Did I ask for help as often as I should? 

No, of course not! None of us do. But I don’t struggle with something if I know there is someone who will be able to do it better/quicker/easier than I can. 

I ask my husband to cook tea if I’m tired, I ask him to make a graphic in photoshop if I need it because he is so much better and quicker at that! I ask my children to help with housework. Everyone in our house does their own laundry. It isn’t laziness, it is contributing to the house you live in, and at 10 and 15 years old they are more than capable. 

“Dependence starts when we are born and lasts until we die… But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those that help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help.

Brené Brown

Rising Strong

Since my diagnosis I have had to be realistic about my limitations. I might want to live in a perfectly clean and tidy house all the time but sometimes I have to decide between using my energy to have fun with my family and using it for work, when faced with these choices, using it for housework doesn’t get a look in!

There are some jobs I find almost impossible. For example scrubbing things or very close work like sewing. My hands cramp very easily and I struggle with anything repetitive. I try to make sure that I eat the right foods for my body and take supplements to help my joints, but unfortunately they were damaged by my acromegaly before my surgery so they will never been as good as they should be.

Being forced to ask for help sometimes though has taught me that it isn’t as scary as I used to think.

It isn’t admitting defeat. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It is just an acknowledgment that you have a lot to do and that there are some things that you could be helped with rather than doing it all alone.

This morning my best friend, Callie, sent me an email (as she does every Monday) with an oracle card from Colette Baron-Reid’s “Wisdom of the Oracle” Deck. Every week she sends a newsletter with a message for the week.

This week’s message was all about asking for help. It resonated with me so strongly. The next couple of weeks I have a lot to fit in. I have trips, meetings, writing, resources to create for my schools, meals out with family, even a trip to the West End. Once upon a time I would have been heartbroken if my family had arrived for the weekend and the house wasn’t spotless. Now, I will make sure the beds are up and clean (there will be 10 of us sleeping here this weekend), I will make sure there is food in the cupboards and I will have a quick clean and tidy round.    

I won’t beat myself up though if I run out of energy and can’t dust everywhere. Or if I can’t present them with a show home. They are my family. They love me and they know my physical restrictions. They would definitely rather I have the energy to enjoy our trip to London on Saturday than spend a few hours in an immaculate house! Let’s be realistic, by the time my children have come in from school and their shoes and bags have been joined by another six visitors with bags, shoes, coats and tranklements (as my father in law would call them) it won’t be tidy and clean anymore anyway. At most it will last a few minutes. 

The important thing about this weekend is quality time spent together, not how clean the carpet is, not whether you can see your face in the taps. Time and memories are so precious. Priorities can be blurry sometimes, but let me tell you, you will never regret spending quality time with loved ones. You will never regret putting your wellbeing before your need for the appearance of perfection.   

The problem with trying to do everything alone is that we aren’t designed to be lone wolves. We are pack creatures. We function better in ever way the we play to our own strengths and when we share the emotions and stresses of life. When we attempt to do it all it can cause physical and emotional stress and you don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t good for you.

What can you ask for help with today? 

 Perhaps like me, you need to ask a friend to collect your son from school one night? Maybe you could ask someone to help you with something at work? Whatever it is, take a deep breath and ask for help.

The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Helping others gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Why would we deprive our friends and loved ones of the joy of that feeling when they are able to help us?

5 Mindful minutes

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