Every year I grow an amaryllis flower in memory of my grandparents.
Every year I look at the bulb before I plant it and wonder at the fact that even though it looks dead and lifeless it is only dormant and there is a whole plant and bloom in there waiting to emerge.
In faith, I bury it in the soil, water it, position it in good light and wait for the growth and the glorious flowers.
Every year they appear.
I took my daughters to the cinema this afternoon to see Aquaman. A fun trip out together and a way to get a few hours head space and distraction, or so I thought. The story really spoke to me and it became a much bigger experience than I was expecting.
Arthur (Aquaman) is running away from his destiny, pretending he doesn’t care and trading on his strength to bring him popularity and acceptance.
The movie follows the classic hero storyline and so Arthur realises he’s the only guy that can save the day and he has a choice - will he step up to embrace his destiny?
Lots of challenges follow and ultimately he has to face the things he’s running from:
hurt, guilt, fear, vulnerability and inadequacy. He doesn’t think he’s up for the job but as a wise woman tells him - they don’t need another king they need a hero.
A hero who embraces his failings and his apparent lack of qualification but who still finds within himself what is needed for victory.
It left me with a couple of questions:
What are we running from and afraid to embrace about ourselves?
What is it we think disqualifies us from our destiny and yet is the very thing that might qualify us?
One of the lines from the closing song sums it up:
‘Everything you are is who you’re meant to be’
Go see the movie.
At the start of the last quarter of 2018 I was feeling pretty happy that I was on track with my goals for the year, apart from one. I’d challenged myself to hold a solo exhibition of my felt art and I was ready to bail on it. I had made all of the artwork but the thought of actually exhibiting it felt too big, too hard and was making me feel too vulnerable.
After a bit of internal wrestling I decided to see it through because I saw the incongruity of working as a coach to help other people push through the challenges and achieve their goals yet not pushing through on my own goal.
This is what I learnt in the process:
The bigger the goal, the bigger the departure from your comfort zone.
I was happy tucked away in my studio creating art for my theoretical exhibition. The thought of actually exhibiting this art was a bit terrifying. It wasn’t feeling any more comfortable the more I thought about it. The only way to achieve the goal was to leave the comfort and security of my studio and do it. I couldn’t achieve the goal and stay in my comfort zone. It was one or the other.
You never feel completely ready.
I had lots of reasons why it just wasn’t the right time and I wasn’t prepared enough. There was too much to do and too much I didn’t know (turns out there was actually a ton more stuff I didn’t know but at least I only discovered that once I’d started!) I took the first step of seeing if my dream venue was available and it was! From that first step the momentum started to build and it was a steep climb but I learnt what I needed on the way. Its the first step that takes the most courage.
Telling someone it was happening meant it had to happen!
I started talking about my goal to trusted friends and family. Once I had spoken it out I had to see it through!
Achieving a goal is a team endeavour so find the people who are cheering you on.
I couldn’t have done this on my own! My husband and daughters were total rock stars and totally got behind what I was trying to achieve and pitched in to help make it happen. They kept me going when my confidence would falter and they completely believed in me and my ability to do this thing.
It was really hard work.
I’m not going to lie, it was harder than I thought it would be! From the learning, to the prepping, to the actual exhibition, it was a marathon. I slept for 12 hours straight once it was done.
It was totally worth it.
I am so proud that we pulled it off. There were moments that I thought we’d bitten off way more than we could chew but we pushed through and that feeling of accomplishment is pretty heady stuff.
Next year’s exhibition is already booked!
We put our Christmas tree up at the weekend and it comes with a bit of a story.
My husband has a long held hope of a potted tree that lives in the garden and comes in every year to be decorated for Christmas. It will grow and mature and become a family legacy.
We started this plan a couple of years ago but we didn’t tend the tree properly throughout the year and it started to look a bit forlorn.
This year we had a choice. Keep going with our beleaguered tree because we’d made a start and pride said we had to stick with it, give up entirely or use what we’d learnt from our first attempt and begin again with a new tree, tend it well and keep the hope alive.
We went with the new tree.
So that’s the story of our Christmas tree. Perhaps it’s about something more too.
It’s okay to start again.
Transitions can be hard.
I’m working with some amazing and brave people who are deeply grateful for their life so far but they don’t want to settle for comfort when there is more to do and become.
The morning of our lives is when we learn and discover more of who we are and why we’re here.
Our afternoon is about having the courage to put that knowledge into action and become more of who were created to be.
The great news is that you don’t have to be who you once were.
You are allowed to change.
This transition to a second journey is often called a midlife crisis. Perhaps, instead, it is a midlife opportunity.
I re-read this book recently which is full of letters from brilliant women to their younger selves. The letters are inspiring, encouraging, heartbreaking, funny and so very wise. I found myself crying and laughing in equal measure and was left with the conviction that our capacity to overcome and to really live is quite amazing.
I started to think what I would write to my younger self.
Would I document all the highs and lows that were going to come or would that take away the sense of adventure and discovery?
Would giving too much away about the life that was to come detract from the learning in the hard places and the joy of the mountain tops?
Forewarned is forearmed as they say and perhaps I would rob myself of the lessons I needed to learn when I found myself challenged beyond what I thought possible and I had to dig deep to find treasure I hadn't know was there.
After much thought and re-writes, I think this is what mine would say:
“Dear younger Jo,
Life isn’t going to turn out how you thought -and that’s okay. It’s going to be so much better, so much harder and so much more worth it than you can imagine right now. Your heart is going to break and expand in ways you didn’t think possible.
You can do it and you are enough.
It’s going to hurt at times but trust the process, let people in and always, always look for the joy.
You’ve totally got this.”
What letter would you write to your younger self?
We had a hard conversation at the beginning of our sailing holiday.
My daughters have always crewed for my husband and have got used to winning most of their races. This year, we suggested they step up and learn how to helm the boat for themselves.
A new challenge which meant moving out of their comfort zone, accepting they wouldn’t win but they would learn a new thing and move up in their sailing skills.
They accepted the challenge and in doing so they have both discovered an even deeper love for sailing. It turns out they were pretty good at it too! Fifth overall in a fleet of 14 and first youth helms!
The magic only happens when you step out of your comfort zone.
Go on, give it a try!!
I’ve seen this meme doing the rounds on social media and it sort of jarred with me a bit. I get the sentiment; be grateful for the present and enjoy the moment but it just speaks a bit to me of guilt and pressure I guess. What about when you’re wondering how to manage the next 18 minutes let alone the next 18 years!!
Here’s my thoughts having reached the end of those 18 summers.
Some summers I had activities all planned, others I worked and depended on grandparents, one was spent mainly in hospital, a couple we were skint so ‘fun activities’ were mud pies in the garden. My girls survived them all.
We decided to do one thing well every summer. We’ve holidayed at the same place for 14 years and cultivated family hobbies around that. It’s become a big rock in our family rhythms. Even if it’s a day that stays the same every year or a weekend, make a family tradition. It’s what memories are made of.
Children have different definitions of successful summers than we do. Did we laugh more than we cried together? Did we bend the rules on sweets and bedtimes? Did we do something something outrageous for the sheer joy of it?
It takes a village to raise a child. Find your village and ask for help. Team tag childcare, commiserate over gin. Whatever it takes. We’re in this together.
18 years aren’t all you get. My girls are still here, hanging out with us, coming on holiday with us. It’s different; we’re friends, debaters, encouragers. We share each other’s joys and challenges and we’re a team. This stage was hard won but it’s worth it. I’m grateful for what I had but I’m grateful for what I have now too, for what was and what is just beginning.
Please don’t live in fear of ‘losing your children’ to adulthood. It changes but it’s beautiful too.
Lastly, to my girls who occasionally read what I write:
I love you with every fibre of my being. I didn’t enjoy every single moment of your childhood. And that’s okay.
Normal. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word this week and what it can mean to us. It’s definition is ‘usual, expected or standard.’
When we’re chasing goals and wanting more ‘normal’ doesn’t really feel very exciting or fulfilling but normal is often when we get to breathe out, to rest and just be.
Normal can be a major achievement too. I still need 3 monthly reviews and blood tests as I’m less than 2 years post stem cell transplant. I saw my consultant yesterday and all my test results are still normal.
I wouldn’t want to be anything else.
I read this quote a week ago and its really stuck with me and made me think. I’ve re-written this post a few times as I’ve tried to work out what I want to say. I think that’s because I want to love people without conditions but once you’ve been hurt a few times it gets a bit harder.
Life can be tough and people don’t always behave towards us in a way we would like. We can feel as though we need to build a defensive shell around ourselves. It can feel like the sensible thing to do is to be more wary of the next person, the next situation and to not love as abundantly, to give of ourselves so freely.
I know though, that what happens when we do that, is that we become a shadow of who we would like to be because we’ve been shaped more by people’s reactions and behaviours than by who we are on the inside; who we were created to be.
The good news is we can choose to change. We can stop to listen to who we really are and we can choose to live that out. We can choose to live a life defined by who we want to be and not by other people’s opinions or responses. It takes bravery and courage to live a life that’s true to ourselves but it’s so worth it.
Let me know if I can help.