Letter to Linda

Dear Linda

Meeting you again last week reminded me of something… It reminded me that no matter how crazy or remorseless life can seem, that there are still quiet moments of sanity and clarity to be discovered and treasured. And even if those moments last for the merest of seconds, then we must seize them, capture them and understand their worth.

I know you know this. You have your journal, where you write out and ponder your life. I love the act of positive journaling – it allows that instead of getting caught up in the mire of daily madness, we can instead muse upon the myriad of amazing things we encounter and let their gorgeous impact ripple through our being… So thank you my love – meeting you again reminded me of who I am.

 

You see Linda, I frequently forget who I am, so the time we spent together and what passed between us, was very precious to me.

 

I have a sudden throwback memory… I am sitting with my father. He is clearly mentally ill. He has been acting out. I’m just out of university, in my early twenties. I have done what I can. I visit doctors and social workers who ignore me. I cut up his food and spoon it into his mouth. I literally cleaned up the shit of his life. It never got better. But one afternoon I went to him and held his hand. “I love you” I said. He thanked me lovingly and told me that in that moment he felt sane. But was just a moment and soon he got back on with business of playing out his death throes, for that is what they were.

So he died, disgracefully, in just about every way imaginable… And I can remember all the shit or what I or the world should or could have done differently; or I can remember the truth of that moment when I held his hand. That sweet transaction which characterised our father daughter relationship and the love and empathy that we had, in its purest form.

Now I will jump back to the present day and seeing you again. We were in a crowd, in a huge conference room, but we found each other, easily. I crept in late, as always and quite serendipitously it would seem, out of the 200 people there, I had managed to sit myself down at a table surrounded with people I already knew, you included.

I was happy to see you. I revel in your ‘go get it’ view of the world, and that combination of surety and fun you have, which means that I will throw my ideas and experiences into the furnace of your intellect, to see what sparks are thrown back. And did you know that I do this because we don’t always agree? But that is something else I like about you too – your feedback will always be honest and to the point.

 

On that day, in that room, I was, truth be told, feeling sorry for myself. My health has been under par for a while and I’ve been feeling low and tired. So not only was I listening to the speeches from the stage, but to the thoughts grumping round my head – spoken in a whining voice muttering negative diatribes to me about the rotten state of my life. As a result I didn’t really feeling like engaging with anyone there. I wanted to be the naughty child – to cross my arms, pout and not play.

Ironically, the event we were at was all about the voice I could hear in my head. In that circle we call it ‘The Script’ – a lifetime of negative conditioning, which began before I was even born and has subsequently been nurtured into me, unwittingly, by family, education, culture and habit. Its’ angry, self-pitying tone is so engrained in my psyche that I can, if I am not aware of it, believe its’ negative maunderings to be fact, rather than a moaning, self-pitying form of fiction.

In that moment, in that place I made a decision. I wasn’t going to wear my cross, frazzled heart on my sleeve and make a show of my misery; instead I chose the truth of my situation. So when I was asked, by a myriad of people “How are you?” “I’m amazing” I replied, truthfully. And I am. It’s just that my Script was having a bloody field day!

 

Most people did not go past ‘amazing’ – they hugged me and walked away. I wasn’t miffed though, I had realised that I had now gone beyond my Script and made a choice about how I would think and feel. This was a good day, because it was a day on which I could consciously do that.

Many words passed over me and through me in the span of time that followed. There were speakers on stage, tears, laughter and applause. There were hugs, murmurings, truths and trivialities traded. There were conversations, hugs and exchanged looks of laughter and insight.

I remember giving you a kiss on the cheek, as a fond hello. You told me, unbidden, that it was a difficult day for you. You had lost your lover, your partner in crime, over a year ago and yet his birthday had still come around again, even though he was gone. And over time, more times were marked by his absence, more occasions carried on without his presence. It was your fresh hell, asserting itself into your psyche, while yet, you carried on with life, literally zip wiring your way through.

 

I felt your pain and touched your hand. Then the tears started and somehow it was simply the most natural thing that you were curled into me, crying, whilst the world carried on around us.

Later came more words and questions. Questions from someone who usually seems so sure… How could I possibly answer, what on earth qualified me to open my mouth and respond?

Actually the answers did not seem to come from an earthly place. They came from my core – a quiet, calm place of certainty. In the coaching texts it’s called ‘unconditional positive regard’, when you are focussed on a person and holding a space for them where they can unfurl and gain clarity.

We spoke of many things, with a short hand of straight talk and a deep level of mutual understanding. Our words were interlaced with tears, smiles and hugs.

Of the many things we debated, I told you about my current quest for acceptance. My theory is this – if I accept the facts of a situation, no matter how tragic or trivial rather than bemoan or belittle it, I can make my peace with it and decide how to respond, from a place of clarity and certainty. In doing this I am not stoically denying or ignoring my feelings. Neither am I smugly stepping away from the perceived rights or wrongs. Taking such a stance means I am not sanctimoniously forgiving and forgetting, but rather than I am giving myself space to see the situation for what it is.

I can so easily get caught in a dramatic dirge of all the ‘dire’ things I am going through. But then Linda, what I can do too, is remember how it was when I held a space for you. I remembered who I was and what my purpose on this planet is

That was a gorgeous knowing…

In the pragmatic, practical way of things Linda, I don’t know what the future holds for you or for me. But when I reach into the core of my being and realise how things really are and speak my pure, unfettered truth, then I fly beyond the Script and all its diabolical stories.

When it comes to you, I have a deep belief, that you have got this. Not that the grief will go away today, but that you will carry on with your amazing journey, come what may. I know there will be tears and laughter ahead. I know that you will learn and evolve and still be the Linda I love.

How can I end this piece of writing now, without specious or plausible platitudes? I shall recognise the struggle and on this day, graciously walk away, blowing a kiss as I go.

Yours, simply,

   Sandie xx

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Fiction: The Sparrow Scarer

When a moment of irritation, is turned into a piece for one of my books.  So instead of being angry, I decided to get creative…

SAM_0243

The Sparrow Scarer

She woke to claps of thunder and torrential rain, comfortable and safe in her bed, where she relished the sound and stretched herself awake, sitting up and luxuriantly stretching out her wings, which spanned most of the width of the tiny room.

She folded them in again, then washed, dressed and made her way down to the breakfast buffet, which was divided from the street by a row of plant pots separating the dining area from the outside world and traffic constantly rumbling by.

Having eaten half a banana and a nectarine, she nursed a black coffee, charmed, as she was every morning, by a handful of sparrows, who hopped about opportunistically, seeking cheeky left overs and crumbs on the floor. She would watch their quiet antics, whilst most people there, barely even registered their existence.

Today the restaurant was almost empty and the torrential rain had driven in a small flock of them, hopping around the table legs. Suddenly, a group of them flew up and landed on the 2 chairs opposite her. She looked them over – mainly female, but as 2 flew off, alarmed as someone walked by, so two males came and landed in their place. One cheeped and wiped his beak on the top of the chair. “Is that a sparrow being macho then?” she mused, with the slightest of smiles.

She chopped up the remains of her nectarine and softly dropped it onto the plate she had deliberately slid to the other side of the table. They stayed put, constantly moving their heads, warily gauging their surroundings, but never taking their eyes off her and the food.

She looked at their markings – one male had a small collar of black feathers across his neck, whilst the other had a string of them intermingled with grey, almost like a native necklace.

The sparrow with the collar hopped down, edging his way towards the food.

Suddenly someone was clapping loudly and they rose and flew off. Assuming it was one of the waiting staff, Ariel was surprised to hear a female English voice say, very pointedly “Nuisance!”

“Not to me” Ariel said to the sparrow scarer – a be-trousered, tall, falsely blonde woman, somewhere in her 60s, who turned on her heels. “Bitch” Ariel intoned, just loudly enough that her nemesis would hear as she returned to her own table and husband, who was quietly ingesting a plate full of scrambled eggs and bacon. Ariel’s bile rose, as their table was at the far end of the restaurant, where no birds ever intruded.

Had this woman been watching her covertly trying to feed the birds and decided to ruin the moment? To what end? Was she scared of them? No – “nuisance” did not indicate that.

So what were the sparrows to her? A danger? A harbinger of dirt and danger? “Honestly,” thought Ariel, “what harm did a sparrow ever do to anyone?” As far as she was aware, a sparrow had never swooped down, cheeping ferociously and stolen a rasher of bacon off a breakfast plate. A sparrow had never viciously attacked anyone, for heaven’s sake. She had never heard of any one dying a slow and painful death from a virulent, sparrow originated disease. They were quiet brown creatures, simply taking advantage of left over human detritus – tiny feathered street urchins – opportunely cleaning up and then flying away. There was therefore, absolutely no need to bully and chase them away.

Neither was there a need to interrupt her breakfast or censure her, also a quiet, brown little creature, minding her own business, on the edges of existence. “How dare she!”

A few sparrows drifted back inside, keeping their distance and once again hopping round table legs close by.

Having finished her coffee, Ariel strode pass the couple as she made her way towards the Exit. She clapped out a loud ‘rat ta tat tat’ as she walked past their table. “Nuisance!” she barked out, hoping that they too would dissipate into the ether at her staccato command.

Instead of flying away however, the ignorant clay foots remained rooted to their chairs, suddenly frozen in mid-chew.

Ariel strode away, anger now dissipating into laughter.

~ Sandra Peachey – Bird Watcher

PS: My book – Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life has been featured in Psychologies Magazine and The Lady, it was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.  

The book takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a satisfying structure – that will make you feel the love, entertain and enlighten.  It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which sees love in everything we do in life – from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too.

Buy the paperback on my website – here for just £7.99 including P&P…

  • Or get it from Amazon for £11.99 and from all great book websites anywhere in the world.
  • You can also buy it in Kindle format…

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here…

Poem: Where are the Words?

Where are the words?
It’s as if my soul has gone to sleep…

The words I want should stem and stream from the heart,
the creative centre of me.
But that is somehow cold and still…
A void, instead of a magnificent vortex.

It’s not as if I have no words…
I can be mechanical – sucking up the sounds around me
then puking them back out,
in some sequential semblance of order.

But the words I seek should well from within,
whereas instead, the well is dry.
Or if not dry exactly,
then certainly stagnant, devoid of sensibility.

But in bemoaning my sterility,
ironically I am writing myself out of it.
I find the words flow –
connecting and colluding to form this entity of a poem.

Maybe my write self doesn’t need to feel the muse after all.
It’s all there,
beyond feeling,
and so my soul is speaking after all.

A Love Letter to Love

Love letters

This is a recycled blog that I first posted in February 2012.
It’s not a Valentine declaration for a significant other – instead it’s an exploration of how we can find love every where we look – whether we are single, double or otherwise…

Dear Love

So here we are – you and I – together, quietly, with everything in place. And because I’m sort of stubborn, this letter nearly didn’t happen – simply because some one said to me ‘and of course if you’re writing love letters, then you’ll write a letter to Love …’  Now see, these are MY love letters and I get to make up the rules… but any way, yes, here indeed it is

So… awkward pause again… here we are… And what to say / how to start? Well the starting is the thing with love isn’t it? It can crop up unexpectedly, unbidden – suddenly shaking your world; or then again it can creep up on you and slowly envelop you, falling softly on you and through you, like a feather floating down from the sky…

And it can start as a glance, a realisation, a declaration; something known, or on the tip of the tongue; it can be at the back of the brain or from the bottom of the heart … And love comes in many shapes and shades, then forms itself in solidarity or as shimmering waves.

So it’s not surprising then that we don’t always see it in our space.  However, spend a little time with love and you realise how much of it is around; despite the fact that so often we can be strangely pre-occupied with how little of it we have in our lives.  Yet love is an abundance when you consider it in its’ every kind.

Let’s begin with the old cliché of loving yourself – the very best place to embark on this journey, in my own writerly opinion.  For me that is a waxing and waning; and far from loving myself, sometimes I can be my own worst hated enemy.  Yet self is the starting place of all our loves, so we must take care of loving ourselves.  Pay that first love its due, treat it with affection, shine a light on it and show yourself that you are loved.  And the easiest way to do this is to be kind to yourself – do not silently chide or scold you and don’t listen to the dark voice that tells you that you cannot… be loved… Instead, love yourself.

And it reaches out, this love – to those around us, born to us, sent to us by fate as friends, chosen, gifted, sought.  So if we are not healed and solid in our own hearts, how can we reach out for more and give of our own best love?

For love moves and grows and can also stay unfettered in our being, unacknowledged for those around us, not named, when it should be praised and thanked and explored.  Well I’m biased in this of course, for these very letters are a gratitude of love, an exploration of, a voyage through it.  And to my surprise they were largely unchartered waters, so I simply trusted and sailed upon them – sometimes through choppy waters and sometimes through calm, turquoise bays.

Where to sail to next?  Love is in many ways is the simplest of things and then again it can get so obscured.  How strange that at times it can feel it’s way through our hearts as such a strong force, and then again be something that can wane away, grow pale and die. Does real love really die?  I say no: I say you may not feel its’ force in your daily world, but there it lies and shall shock you or sooth you when it rises out of the past and introduces itself to you again.

So to those friends and lovers who have titled me that way in the past, then moved on, please don’t think that you don’t live on in my heart, in some semblance; and never, ever imagine that you have left me for good (or ill).  Love doesn’t work that way – it is alive, even when dormant, and even when it’s object is on a distant unseeable horizon.  And I understand that you may say that you love that thing or that one, no more.  Yet I reply that love changes, transmutes, shifts and transforms.  It can hide, but is always there, around and in you.  Love has been your lesson – providing the research for the life that you life now.  Love is what makes you; love can guard you, buoy you; and when you think that you lack it – shrivel, shrive and waste you.

If then you appreciate love in all its’ forms and not only the romantic him / her version – your world expands; the frequency of love vibrates in you, it pulses and increases and comes to you often and more – so much more when you choose to see it, in all its every glory.  Quite simply like attracts love … and so this letter ends ….

    With love, love, love … from Me xxx

PS: Love in ALL its’ forms is explored and celebrated in the book of the blog – Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life published in paperback and kindle.  For a St Valentines’ Day special offer of a signed author copy – go to my website now and buy the paperback for just £7.99!

Writing about Writer’s Block

I’m part of a writer’s group that get together every month to debate themes around writing, critique work, share ideas, etc.  The following comes from this month’s theme which was “Writer’s Block.”

Writers BlockWriter’s Block
~ Or… When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you…

I put my hand up for this topic for very selfish reasons… It really was a case of ‘physician, heal thyself’…

To kick off the process, I researched the meaning of ‘Writer’s Block’ which, I discovered, was frequently described as a ‘condition’.

So if I’m going to tackle this condition, I first want to pin it down and define it – this then is what I came up with:

Writer’s Block is the condition of being unable to think of what to write and how to start, proceed with or complete your writing.

So tell me about when you have experienced penned procrastination or writer’s block?

So what can be creating such creative slowdowns or stops for us?

We’re all different with our own blocks and triggers, but let’s look at some of the more widely recognised common causes:

These include:

  • Time / Timing: It’s simply not the right time to write. You feel as if your ideas may need to percolate a little longer in your brain before writing them down.
    It could be that that voice in your head is telling that you have more important things to do with your time.  Writing is not a priority.
  • Fear: Many writers struggle with being afraid, with putting their ideas (and themselves) out there for everyone to see and criticise. Fear is a major reason that many people cite for never becoming writers.
  • Perfectionism: You want everything to be just right before you ever put pen to paper / touch a keyboard. You try to get it straight and perfect in your head, but never do, so you never even begin.

In our last session we explored creativity and writers block is the antithesis to this.  In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield defines this as resistance – that is, the things that prevent us from sitting down and doing our best work.

  • “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

Pressfield describes resistance as a force that can’t be seen, touched, heard, or smelt.  Instead it is felt.  It’s a repelling force.  It’s negative.  Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.

  • “Most of us live a double life – the one we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

This being The War of Art, he likens the writer (artist) to a warrior.

  • “The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

He cites the example of Hitler, who was a would-be artist, but found it easier to start World War II than face a blank square of canvas.”

“Resistance here is experienced as fear and the degree of fear felt equates to the strength of Resistance experienced.  Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.

That’s why we feel so much Resistance.  If writing meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance around it.

“If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying” you, Pressfield tells us, “you wouldn’t feel anything.  The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.”

When we start to think about what has to be done to realise our artistic projects: “Rationalization is Resistance’s right-hand man.  Its job is to keep us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our art.”

In the war of art, like the warrior “The awakening artist must be ruthless, not only with themselves, but also with others.”

So when it comes to the trouble of resistance, “The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work.  She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it in her work.”

So essentially “Resistance is fear.  But Resistance is too cunning to show itself naked in this form.  Because if it lets us see clearly that our own fear is preventing us from doing our work, we may feel shame.  And shame may drive us to act in the face of fear.”  Resistance doesn’t want us to do this.  So it brings in Rationalization.”

Pressfield then explores what it takes to be a professional – taking the principles we often apply to our first lived life and applying it to our artistic one.

“Those defeated by Resistance share one trait.  They think like amateurs.  They haven’t yet turned pro.  The moment an artist turns pro is as life changing as the birth of his first child.  With one stroke, everything changes.

“The amateur plays for fun.  The professional plays for keeps.  To the amateur, the game is a hobby.  To the pro it’s a vocation.  The amateur is a weekend warrior.  The professional is full time warrior.”

For me that is owning and defining myself as a writer.  This fact is fundamental to who I am.  I therefore describe myself as such.  It is part of my life, including my working life as a coach and Human Resources consultant.  Having applied for a job several years ago, I faced an interviewer who had clearly done their research.  If I wanted the job I was told, my public persona would have to be as their Personnel person.  This would include not linking my blog or describing myself on Linked in as a writer.  I politely explained that I was a writer and this, along with my HR experience is what I bring to the party of life.  My writing has never been about my HR work – the 2 would not necessarily marry well.  Yet to my mind the fact that I write makes me more rounded, interesting and observant.  So, it was their loss…

My writing is every much a profession to me as HR.  But “resistance hates it when we turn pro.”  But the path we follow is not necessarily an easy one: “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not.  He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”

So how do you turn ‘pro?  In one of the most oft used quotes on the subject “Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration.  ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied.  ‘Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’”

What then are the qualities that define ‘professionals’?

  • We show up consistently (every day).
  • We show up no matter what.
  • We are committed over the long haul.
  • The stakes for us are high and real.
  • We accept remuneration for our labours.
  • We master the techniques.
  • We have a sense of humour about it
  • We receive praise or blame in the real world.

Yet still “The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love.”

“A professional acts in the face of fear.”  Whereas “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work.  The professional knows that there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”

Did you know “Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five.”?

That then is the theory, so now how do we stop staring at a blank page and start writing, in practice? For this section I have turned to author Lisa Cherry and her book ‘How to stop staring at a blank page and start writing’ for some practical advise.

First of all I would invite you to think about what motivates you to write – what are your reasons and drivers?  Why do you (want to) write?  So what are your writing ‘whys’?

If we can understand why we write, then we can turn that understanding into action.  These ‘whys’ can now be translated into tangible steps towards achieving your goals.

When it comes to motivation, one of my major issues is around the solitariness of the process of writing.  It is something that I embrace, since it is something that I can claim is truly unique and individual to me.  Yet, my contradiction is that as well as being solitary, I am also social.  So social goals have been one of the best motivators that I have found.

What are your best motivators?

So what can stop you achieving these goals?  Often we are programmed with a number of ‘Self-limiting beliefs’ which are mental blocks, negative thoughts and excuses.  They tend to have a negative effect on you, on how you feel, on what you feel is the ‘right’ thing to do.  They are about keeping you safe and hence small – encouraging you not to break their dark boundaries.  They therefore get in the way of you striving for and ultimately achieving your goals.

Common ones for writers are:

  • I’m not good enough to write
  • No one will be interested in / want to read my writing
  • That writing is a luxury which I don’t deserve
  • That I will fail and be criticised

Does that strike a chord – what are your self-limiting beliefs? 

How does this translate into reasons why you can’t write?

Take each of these reasons and write a positive solution to each of them.  Even if you don’t believe the solution – decide to choose it!

For example “I can’t write because it’s indulgent” could be reframed as “I am creative and writing is part of who I am, which is worthy of expressing.

You can then use the answers that you come up with here as positive mantras / affirmations to repeat to yourself when resistance rears its ugly head.  Learn them by heart, repeat them – resistance is trumped by persistence!

Now it’s time to deal with the excuses that resistance is putting in your way.

First of all, of course, you need to list them out.

By analysing them you then get to understand your own usual suspects.  Then you can work your way through them.

Time is so often at the top of many people’s lists.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time.  You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

— H. JACKSON BROWN JR.

We have so many distractions these days, which suck up the precious commodity of our time.  TV, phones, iPads.  They are your excuses for not doing what you want – writing!  Conversely it may be that now isn’t the right time to write, because you do have more pressing priorities.  That is OK – you can now plan for the time when you will be ready, rather than resistant.

Then work your way through your list of excuses and come up with the solutions.

By going through these processes, you take responsibility for your writing, you then have the where with all to change your approach to it.  Fundamentally you are changing the script.

Listen to the excuses your resistance puts in the way and prioritise them honestly – you can then decide if they are unnecessary concerns or genuine issues which you need to think through to a solution.  A simple example of that is the concept of finding time, vs that of making time.

In his Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in 1903:

[Letter 7] “…it is clear that we must embrace struggle.  Every living thing conforms to it.  Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all costs, against all resistance.  We can be sure of very little, but the need to court struggle is a surety that will not leave us.

Rilkes also tells us:

“Your doubt can become a good attribute if you discipline it.  It must become a knowing; it must become the critic.  Ask it, as often as it wishes to spoil something, why something is ugly.  Demand proof of it, test it, and you will find it perhaps perplexed and confused, perhaps also in protest. Don’t give in; demand arguments.  Act with alertness and responsibility, each and every time, and the day will come when doubt will change from the destroyer to become one of your best fellow-workers, perhaps the wisest of all that have a part in building your life.”

My fundamental piece of advice to anyone who asks me for advice about getting started with their writing – is just to sit down and begin!  Just write – don’t judge, don’t compete.

In fact I’m with Charles Bukowski, who states:  “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

On day 25 of my first ever blog challenge, I was definitely feeling the resistance, so decided to write it out:

25 February 2012

Letter 25: To Resistance

Dear Resistance

‘Love your enemy’ is the first phrase that comes into my head now.  Since I sat down and pondered who or what to write to next, as I am so tantalisingly near to finishing my cherished challenge of writing a love letter a day, every day, for the Valentine month of February.  That is twenty nine epistles … shooting out into the cosmos, reaching into the void … may be to over reach and be sent unseen; or may be to touch and to torch another creature’s flame.  Well so it should be, if indeed 29 there were in existence.  For I stared at a white page and racked a blank brain for an object of inspiration … and there was none … Just five letters to go … the end in sight, but now no sight, no sense of next.

So then suddenly, there it was – my enemy: resistance, procrastination, pfaffing, dawdling, dreaming, distracting or whatever name you are going by today. 

Now I want to have this out with you and I’m guessing this won’t be once and for all, this stalling, this staying, this stopping of my strived for success. 

Why can’t I move beyond this solid wall, this barrier, this self-created strange protectionism?  Why am I so static, so staid, so very stuck, so often?  What weight is this, what darkness, what blindness to my future?  What rocket, what change or what challenge will shift you out of my path and let me stride, rather than stress myself forward?  I am staggered that not even grief, tears or terrible fear motivates me on and over you. 

So I must consider this and think … well … could it be that now is not my time to move; or may be here is my lesson – my learning obstacle to be climbed up and over and scaled like any average mountain of life.  But then this mountain is unseen, and it feels so solid, so heavy, so truculent, so frustrating, so scream generating, if I let it stick and let it raise steam …  There I am pulled back to black – stale, pale and aged. 

So forward now … I see you and I raise you … I am aware of you and I name you.  Not to shame you, though shame is tempting, but to acknowledge you, to understand you, to know your role, to push your boundaries, then to blast through to freedom.

Someone told me there is no real cure.  “My name is Sandra and I am a procrastinator” … I wait for the acknowledged applause to die away …

Now I know you Resistance, I can start to step away from you, to walk around, climb over or sail in you.  I know how you tick, I see how you move, I hear your special solid voice.  That voice not to be a vice to me now.  For in the very act of stopping me, I learn to step around you, to dance away. 

For me the solution is to share.  Your weight is too much to bear alone.  Life is not meant to be for one.  I chose to connect to cherished colleagues, not fellow workers, not to sharing inmates.  I chose to commit to promises, rather than to (other’s) deadlines, I move to the light, to the way forward in ways that work for me, that work with my rhythms, my wants, my true skills, my loves.  I trace the naturalness of my form, my thoughts, of my heart and I replicate that out into the world.  Then I chose to share the un-natural, the unwanted tasks and transferences with those who have the gifts which are my strangers, my sloth and my burdens.

This is not one lesson learned and kept close.  So often I slip back, absorbed into alternate realities, distracted by your square solid form blocking out the sun.  I forget you are there, lulled into old life patterns, long learned forms of being and of seeing.  Now in my new life there is not the pattern of average days to give me reason and meaning, so I create my own way and my freedom.  And freedom is not resistance, it is grace and flow and ease and these I love.

    Farewell old fiend.

                 Not yours, Miss S E A Peachey

There is no one perfect answer to Writer’s Block, resistance or procrastination.  We all have our own scripts and sometimes the story in them changes.  That’s why working through our patterns is so important.  It isn’t just a one off exercise either.  On the journey of my life, with it’s ebbs and flows, I realised recently, that I wasn’t making writing a priority.

I’d been putting off editing my latest book, as my script had told me it was a chore that I would find impossible to fit in around the business of earning a living.

Then Caroline, a friend of mine died in September.  She was only 2 years older than me and had so many plans for living her life to the full.  But suddenly she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died only a few days later.

Her passing unlocked something within me, made me want to make the most of every conscious moment.  She had always been a fan of my writing and now I turned to words to work my way through the stages of processing my grief and the plethora of emotions that accompanied it.  Out of this came a number of poems and a tribute, which I published as a blog.

What it did too, was spur me to return to my novel.  Far from being a chore, I found that editing my book was actually pure, motivational joy which uplifted me and gave me a deep well of contentment.

I have since made a conscious choice to put writing at the top of my list of priorities.  Not just as a one off decision, but as a continuous process.

To round this topic off, Steven Pressfield cites that:

  • Ultimately, “The more Resistance you experience, the more gratification you will feel when you finally overcome it.”
  • And that so many people put their lives off until their deathbed.”

I don’t intend to be one of those people.

And whilst I thank Mr Pressfield for his wisdom on the subject, I’m going to give the final word to Terry Pratchett:
There’s no such thing as writer’s block.  That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

~ Sandra Peachey
With inspiration from Steven Pressfield, Lisa Cherry, Rainer Maria Rilke and Terry Pratchett

PS: My book – Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life has been featured in Psychologies  Magazine and The Lady, it was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.  

The book takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a satisfying structure. It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which has allowed its’ readers to laugh, cry and think – seeing the love in everything we do in life – from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too.

Buy the paperback on my website – here for just £7.99 including P&P…

  • Or get it from Amazon for £11.99 and from all great book websites anywhere in the world.
  • You can also buy it in Kindle format…

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here…

I’m also variously known as:
* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor.
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* As being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.

Poem: Mermaid Dreams

Feet

I’ve rediscovered my inner child… Standing ankle deep in the sea, waiting for the waves to break over me – laughing like a loon.
Suddenly I remember being small again and playing tig with with the waves – letting them chase me and catch me – to tickle, caress or push me over.

Even though I’m older now, the sea still wants to play…
So I wade further and further in, feeling my way deeper – letting the waves reach higher and higher up my body;
feeling the velvet smoothness of soft, weed covered rock beneath my feet.

Suddenly I’m ready and so I dive right in.
Now pulled with the heartbeat of the waves –
alternately swimming against,
then riding them back to the shore.

My senses are dazzled – the sounds of the waves crash in my ears
and the tang of Ozone fills my nostrils as I inhale the ocean air.  I float and play like a dolphin’s daughter, then remember who I am – allowing the sea to run me aground with my gravity bound feet.

My evolution from child back to woman means I wade out of the water and return to leggéd land.
Time now to dry out with the smiling sun and
languidly forget my girlhood mermaid dreams…

PS: My book – Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life has been featured in PsychologiesMagazine and The Lady, it was also honoured as a Finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards.  

The book takes the best posts from this blog, adds new content and wraps it all together in a satisfying structure. It’s an easy yet satisfying read, which has allowed its’ readers to laugh, cry and think – seeing the love in everything we do in life – from the big themes to the tiny, trivial minutiae of it too.

Buy the paperback on my website – here for just £7.99 including P&P…

  • Or get it from Amazon for £11.99 and from all great book websites anywhere in the world.
  • You can also buy it in Kindle format…

If you want to get in touch, you can contact me by clicking here…

I’m also variously known as:
* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching;
* The Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor.
* A 2015 International Book Awards Finalist, in the Women’s Issues Category;
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award in 2013;
* As being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards 2014, also nominated in 2012 & 2013; and
* Being nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award in 2015.

A Love Letter to Caroline

My friend Caroline Ashby passed away suddenly, in her 50s, just over a month ago, with so much to live for.  She was a special woman who made a difference to so many – not least in brightening the timelines of the myriad of her Facebook friends. 

My heart now wants to share my story of her – including a number of postings from Facebook – the platform which she embraced so brightly and beautifully…

Caroline FB

I first met Caroline when I was a Director of an organisation called Damsels in Success, when she joined her local Group, which I ran, in Ashby de la Zouch.

We became Facebook friends that day and this is the first of many typically bright and breezy posts I saw on there, which I would soon come to take for granted as part of our everyday online lives:

I found out about Damsels in Success about 2 p.m., yesterday and went to my first meeting last night.  It’s only 19th January 2012, and already I have made a great move and become a member.  Thank you to everyone for making me feel so welcome and energised! X

She immediately became one of our most treasured and stalwart members, staying with us until the group had its last meeting 3 years later, when we took this picture:

Last Meet
Damsels Pauline, Sue R, Me, Caroline & Sue B

Damsels in Success (now known as Simply Sisterhood) is a network for women who work for themselves, with a philosophy that by creating a loving and supportive environment for women to be in – their natural essence – i.e. who they really are and what they bring to this party of life – blossoms.  Then, when such women come together, they can make a real difference to their own lives, the lives of their families, communities and the world.

For me that encapsulates why Caroline became such an important part of that particular community – since she naturally embodied and lived out those values.

She truly embraced everything we learned and shared in that setting.  In her typically generous and positive way, she let us all know how much being part of this community meant to her.  It meant so much to those of us who shared it with her, that she was part of it too.

As I grew to know her better, I realised this was just so beautifully typical of her…

Caroline was well known and loved not just in our local Damsels group in Ashby, but also with members UK wide, who she met at national events and on the web.  We had an online forum, where she was a bright presence on almost a daily basis – both sharing her wisdom and asking for support.

Working in my home office the week before her celebration service, a bundle of papers tied up in a pink ribbon, caught my attention.  I wasn’t looking for them, but somehow from the corner of my eye they sparked a memory…  I had saved them from one of our Damsels meetings where each of our members had written down a promise to themselves.  We were in the habit of transcribing our dreams and plans on paper, so as to commit them to our hearts and our futures, as the starting point for creating action to turn these wishes into reality.

And suddenly here in my hands, was a promise that Caroline wrote in her own hand:

Autism will be seen as a beautiful gift – showing the world how to live in the now and not stressing about the future.

Promise

In tandem with her membership of Damsels in Success and what she had learnt there, it was during this time that she developed the idea for her Autism Nanny Coaching business.  The Facebook page she created for it, has nearly 4000 members, with this as its stated ethos:
Helping families with autistic children, live a fun, creative, easy, fabulous life.

I can feel Caroline so much through those forthright and shining words…

Under the aegis of the Autism Nanny, she supported parents and families who had children on the autistic spectrum, providing them with practical and emotional support in a way which only someone who has a gift of a child like her own darling daughter – Emily, can; delivered in her trademark – pragmatic, yet joyful way.

I have a recording of when, in July 2014 she was a speaker on a BBC Radio Gloucester programme, where she talked about her learnings from her time spent with the Son-Rise program® in America and how these had informed her mission as a mother of a child on the autistic spectrum, and then as The Autism Nanny – which was fundamentally, about making a meaningful connection with your child, on their terms.  In her words, from that interview, this was about:

Trying to connect – be a real observer.
Stop trying to make them be like everyone else.
Then join them in that space and develop and move them forward.

Also in 2014 – both as a result of her being a true ‘Damsel in Success’ and her work with the Autism Nanny, she won the Most Inspirational Damsels in Success Member Award, at a sparkling awards ceremony in Birmingham, where we danced the night away to celebrate!

That was one of the proudest and happiest nights of my life…

Pres
At the Awards Ceremony with myself, Joanne & Sue – fellow Damsels members

As her mentor, Caroline made me feel like she was a number one fan and we watched each other with pride as we walked our own ways through life.  When I published my first book – Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life, she told me again and again how much she loved it and how proud she was. And I watched her grow into her Autism Nanny business – with its ups and its downs, with more than matching pride.

We stayed friends after the Damsels group closed and she brightened my Facebook world daily, not just with her Emily updates, but also her constant affection, support and comments on my own posts there.

The woman I knew was garrulous, funny and colourful in every sense.  She was caring, determined and all embracing.  Somehow she seemed simultaneously childlike and incredibly wise.  She soaked up knowledge like a sponge and gave wings to her thoughts and wishes. This woman was an action taker and so much of a giver.  You would know exactly how she was feeling and always, whatever was going on, the glass was at least half full.  If I did something daft, (which I am prone to), she would say “I still love you.”  And I have to say ‘thank goodness’ that I told her I loved and appreciated her too – it is one of the things that gives me comfort now she’s gone.

When she moved to Brighton from the Midlands, I was sad, since it would be harder to meet, but knew that she was doing this for Emily, to get her the very best support at a college there.  And so her Facebook posts then told of the new home that she, Robert and Emily created.  It wasn’t all plain sailing though.  The local authority had different plans for Emily… So then Caroline and Robert had to fight for her to have a place where they knew she would get the best support.  It took a lot of time and energy and also the services of a barrister.  Caroline, most definitely was not going to give up on everything they had worked towards and relocated across the country for.

They won their case and the posts showed her daughter blossoming more and more.  In between we chatted about meeting up and what the future held – not least that whilst the Autism Nanny had been put on hold during the move and settling Emily in, now she wanted to start it up again.

On Facebook, the world shared all the show reel moments of their lives.  Here is one of the posts Caroline made on the occasion of Emily’s 21st Birthday:

HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY EMILY

21 years ago today, I walked (ok staggered) into the Maternity Unit in Gloucester. I knew that within 24 hours my life would change forever, but had no idea how massive that change would be.

Emily was born at 2.47 p.m. on 13th August 1997, weighing 8lbs 6 ozs and I was the happiest person on earth. She was and still is the most precious person on the planet to me and she has given me so much. Being Emily’s mum has not always been easy, but what a journey we have all been on together.

Tomorrow, when Emily turns 21 years old and becomes a young woman, I will be so proud of her. To live for 21 years, with little language and understanding of the seemingly random acts of people, in this crazy and often complex world and to have such a sunny disposition and be so gorgeous, is wonderful.

Emily is my inspiration for everything I do, both within my own family and in helping other families with autistic children and she remains my most powerful teacher … live in the moment, always try your best, laugh when you want, cry when you want and never let anyone else live your life for you.

Thank you so much for being in my life, my beautiful Emily. I love you to the moon and back. Happy, happy 21st Birthday.

Before she posted the news about her brain tumour publically, Caroline shared her diagnosis with me.  I was scared and shaken by her news, but given her generous and positive nature, she made it easy to discuss.  As always, even in the midst of trying to process it all, her courage and humour continued to shine through.  When I asked her about Emily’s understanding of what was happening, not least the surgery she was scheduled for, her response was “Obviously… that will be a really new experience for both of us.  I am thinking colourful headwear for the winter would be good.”

So I planned to surprise her with a beautiful scarf in her favourite colour – purple, after the surgery had taken place…

With typical brio, she soon shared the news on her Facebook timeline too:

I took the view that if anyone had a good chance of beating something like this, then it was Caroline.  Her sudden passing therefore, 4 days before the surgery was scheduled, and only a day after this post, was a terrible shock…

Robert Ashby Announcement

The scarf arrived in the post after she had gone.  It was pretty, purple and sparkly, just like Caroline.  When I saw it I cried and was comforted simultaneously.  Instead of giving it to her, I got to wear it at her Celebration Service instead, along with a beautiful purple dress she would also have loved…

After the shock wore off – grief and sadness set in, as I started to process what had happened.  And yet also, in the strange soupy and complex mix of emotions I’ve been going through – none of which I could quite accurately label, I have also been resonating with the sheer joy and blessing of having known this genuinely unique and beautiful soul.

A few years ago, when Caroline suddenly lost one of her precious pets, I penned these words for her and now, somehow she has given them back to me:

That you were on loan for us for such a short time feels hard to bear.  But what a gift you were and are!  We have learned so much from you, gained so much laughter and light and so now let’s choose your loving legacy.

It feels like you were taken from life too soon.  Too soon for us, anyway.  Is that fair?  That is what I have felt, but not what I know, when I think with love of where we are.  For me, the knowing is that you had your time.  You see, that was the thing about you, it was always YOUR time and so thank you, so much for giving it to us.  For that gift was a rare one, indeed.

We now have to allow time to grieve and be sad, for that honours what we felt for you.  Because you gave us so much, we feel so much now.  But I want to celebrate you too.  To celebrate the distinct sparkling light that you were.

In the days before her Celebration Service I felt sad that it was time to say farewell and yet also joyous that I would somehow be close to her again.

Despite the fact that I traveled to Brighton the night before the service, I still managed to be a few minutes late and it had already started…

Feeling flustered, I dashed in, round the front of the service hall, squeezing pass her casket – rather than entering quietly through the closed back doors. I flung myself into the nearest chair trying to be inconspicuous, yet Robert – Caroline’s husband smiled at me – all was well.

I took in the sight of her wicker casket, with purple banding woven in, adorned with flowers.  Beyond it a glass wall was opened out and I could see over the natural burial ground, to the South Downs beyond. To make the scene even more heart breakingly beautiful, the sun was shining in an almost cloudless sky…

The Humanist celebrant conducting the service, told Caroline’s story, most of which I knew – as one does with a friend – like random pieces of a jigsaw, scattered through time.  All those pieces were now being assembled into a portrait of her life with new ones added in to create a more complete image.  I smiled my way through, but wondered how I would hold it together when a recording of Aretha Franklin singing ‘Bridge over troubled water’ was played. Her family gave readings and poems.  I laughed and sniffed away my tears simultaneously.

Lucie Bradbury – the founder of Damsels in Success, had snuck in to the service even later than me, but just in time to hear some of my words, read by the celebrant, about Caroline’s time with Damsels and the Autism Nanny – my sharing of that part of her glorious story.

One of Caroline’s brothers also read out many of the Facebook postings which had poured out after her passing was announced.  Her family had the quite brilliant idea of doing this by printing them on cards, dropping them into one of Caroline’s many colourful hats and then asking members of the congregation to serendipitously pick them out.

The service drew to an end and it was time for her committal.   We filed outside and I held back to greet Lucie, who rushed towards me.  I could see that she had been crying, so my own tears fell unchecked as we hugged long and tightly. We then took each other’s hand and walked to the graveside.

The celebrant finished her ministrations before the casket was lowered into the ground. “Now” she said, with solemnity “it’s time to say good bye.”  She then had to pause as a train noisily rumbled by somewhere in the ether, before she could continue.  Inwardly I smiled – “you did that on purpose, Caroline – trust you to have the truly last laugh.” For me that moment was Caroline telling us not to be too serious.  It was another joyous moment in a truly celebratory day.

So everyone there said goodbye to that earthly part of her and later gathered together for the Reception.  I had carried with me the promise that Caroline had written some years before, that:
Autism will be seen as a beautiful gift.  I slipped it into the Remembrance book, happy that I had finally returned it to her.  This ‘beautiful gift’ was just one of many that she gave to us…

One of the things I gave her was the nickname of ‘My Sparkly One’ – both for the constant sparkle in her eyes and her vibrant personality…

Me & C
She & Me: Purple & Peach

Thank you for so much, my Sparkly one – “still love you.”

Heavenly hugs,
Sandie xxx

Caroline was a true advocate for Autism, which was in every way, her life’s work. Her family have therefore set up online links to various charities in support of her memory, including Research Autism:
www.justgiving.com/CarolineAshbyResearchAutism,
as well as Cancer Research UK (she had a brain tumour) and Humanists UK (she had a beautiful Humanist Celebration Service).  It would be amazing if you could make a donation.  Thank you…