What a year it has been… and it is only February! Right now the sun is streaming through the windows, the sky is blue and it is a heavenly day!
As you know I’ve been reading ‘Romancing the Ordinary’ – (it is a year long book, so I might be mentioning it a lot!) Of course when we get to February it is only right that we talk about Passion – but it is not about the romantic Mills and Boon Passion – no, it is about the deep passion that reaches right down to the soul.
Now, if any of you are the soul searching types, one refrain of this ‘self empowerment movement’ is the concept of your soul’s purpose. Now, my soul’s purpose has bothered me for many, many of the years I’ve been reading self improvement books – because I had no idea what on earth I was supposed to do. It actually frustrated me – call me ‘special’ but I was ignoring every single clue!
Well, now, I will let you into the secret of finding your passion, if you want to know where your passion lies, it is in the question nearly every adult asks a child… what do you want to be when you grow up?
Now, if you had asked me what I wanted to be aged 12 – 16, I would tell you that I wanted with every fibre of my being, to be a writer.
This beautiful quote is from Happy Tech – click here.
Well, even though I knew what I wanted to do – I somehow got lost along the way, it was always my dream.. but somewhere between the age of 12 and 50, the whole idea has been shelved, all for good logical reasons.
1 – When my English teacher pleaded, unsuccessfully, for my parents to send me to university because he believed in my talent as a writer. I decided that I needed to go to university to be a writer. I thought I had a great excuse, until a work place offered to send me to university as part of my job – so I could earn and study at the same time.
I’ would like to say, that as soon as I finished my course I started writing… but no – I came up with another excuse.
2- I attended a writer’s conference, where a publishing agent told the assembled crowd of hopeful writers – that it is impossible to get your book published. The world of publishing was in decline, every day, twenty or thirty unsolicited scripts landed on her desk, most of which would not even be read. Poor woman, she was embittered by her industry and she made sure that our dreams were well and truly squashed in the 20 minute talk.
Fifteen years later – we can publish an ebook without having to go through the eye of the needle that was literary agents or publishers. Love her or hate her, Shades of Grey began life as a blog – if she can do it, then anyone can. Just like a poet can put out their poetry you tube or a singer can sing their song, there are no gatekeepers any more.
3 -I don’t have the time.. I used to have a lovely job driving round the New Forest in my open topped sports car visiting people in outlying chocolate box villages.. where I would find myself passing the time as stories and ideas came in every direction. I never wrote a single one of them down.
The frightening thing about not following your passion, and you may have justifiable reasons is that in the end you will have to surrender…
I changed my job, to a busier one, Managing a large team- that took all my energy and had me working 12 hour days… I burnt out, very quickly – ending up unable to stop crying in the Christmas Decorations Isle in Tesco of all places.
3 – so Six years, Yes, Six years ago, I took a less demanding job, one that offers again, time and space for writing. Despite my best efforts to make my job more demanding – it all fell pretty flat- in fact every time I have pushed to expand my role, it has been well and truly crushed, until in the end I have to accept the work for what it was and put my energy into something else.
I’ve had readings, quotes that have dropped into my Pinterest feed, my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed. twitter.. that is a lot of feeding. (I did say I was ‘special’)
So, now we come to what happened to me this week! I had an email on Tuesday from an awesome lady I am delighted to call a friend, inviting me to attend a workshop with her entitled ‘finding your voice’.
Now, the twelve year old writer would have jumped up in delight, but the 50 year old practical woman responded that she had to work that day.
Well, here is the warning in this cautionary tale, dear reader, by 4pm I was feeling exhausted, so much so that I went to bed and slept for two hours. The following morning, every muscle ached, I was in terrible pain throughout my body, tiny darts of pain and throbbing shot through my calves, my hips and my arms. I had to call in sick and go back to bed and sleep. I slept until 2pm and then woke up groggy.
I sat up in bed and drank some tea, and picked up a book from a pile next to the bed, it was all I had the energy for and read the following:
There are so may insidious ways that we betray ourselves Self sacrifice is one of the more popular for women because it is condoned by society. Do we get extra points for suffering? I don’t think so. Did you know that both the Koran and the Talmud teach that we will be called to account for every permissible pleasure life has offered us and that we have refused to enjoy while on Earth. I don’t know about you but I shudder to think about that reckoning.
Is devotion to the needs of others a cover for the hungers and the needs of the self, of which one is ashamed? Anais Nin asks. ‘I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise.
Something More, excavating your authentic self, Sarah Ban Breathnach
What words! – it took me about half an hour to wrestle with the guilt I’ve carried since my first child was born, (where all this ‘self sacrifice’ began). I first emailled the course co-ordinator certain that the course would be full. I had an email back saying they had booked me in… (I was only enquiring if they had space.. another excuse blown) Within an hour I was feeling well, the pain subsided and I was well enough to work the next day and book the leave. No-one batted an eyelid, at the late notice – the sky wasn’t about to fall in because I had booked some time for me.
I think God, the universe or what ever you like to call destiny has a sense of humour! The course was run by the ‘Choose to Work’ team run by the local City Council.
The course invitation included these words…
Trying something new often requires courage
Finding the strength to summon up courage is itself a benefit. Once released, your courage grows and swells. How wonderful to open up to a flood of courage and be carried on its waves to unknown, exciting destinations.
Trying something new opens up the possibility for you to enjoy something new
How often are you faced with an opportunity to try something totally new? We want you to come and enjoy an experience that you would not ordinarily have exposed yourself to and who knows, you may discover a love for something you had no idea would capture your imagination.
Trying something new keeps you from becoming bored
We all need to be challenged from time to time – personal growth does not happen by doing the same thing day after day after day.
I wish I could remember the Tutor’s name, she was a successful writer who wrote song lyrics for operas and plays for Radio (a medium that had fuelled my love of writing in the first place).
We started the day, a motley crew of women – not really sure why we were there and what finding your voice really meant – is it assertiveness or something? After the first exercise – forming an acrostic with our names, we were inspired. We all read ours aloud and it was amazing that in a few short words, so much of our story came spilling out. One lady, Sally, moved us all – she spontaneously produced, simply beautiful poetry that moved us all.
The tutor was skilful, we wrote from the heart and then she picked out every gramma rule that we had used, without realising it. Enjambment, alliteration, repetition, structure, plotting – we all did it! Grammar without fear!
By the end of the day, we were all excited and full of fire – exchanging numbers and deciding to meet up regularly to write.
I nearly missed it all.
Thankfully, fate has a way of treading on our toes – and thank goodness it does.
I am sharing this, dear reader, not because I imagine my life is that interesting, but with a hope and desire, that you, too, will untie the apron strings of our own procrastination and choose to live, deeply and passionately.
So, tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Oh! Isn’t waking up on a Sunday morning delightful? No rushing around, no alarm clock or to do list. You can simply slip back into bed with a cup of tea and cosy between the sheets while the soft grey light of February invites hibernation. I’ve been using the wonderful iPad app to catch up with bloggers, it seems to be easier to find and discover new blogs and much nicer to read than the News,- it is well after 11 when I finally emerge, with no raised blood pressure .. and blissful ignorance of politics and economics.
I am wallowing in sensuality this year- mostly guided by Sarah Brethenach’s Romancing the Ordinary – A year of every day indulgences – I can’t recommend it enough. In our busy lives it is so easy to lose sight of the amazing every day experiences -all it requires is a little focus and attention.
Cold, grey, wet, muddy mornings make the shortest month seem the longest. But lingering afternoons and pink sunsets hold out promise. Like matters of the heart, February is full of surprise, contradiction and the spell of the sensuous. Cherish your romantic impulses. Succumb to cabin fever. Indulge in armchair adventures, unusual sleuths, film noir. Become your own courtesan. Light your own fire. Have a clandestine affair with contentment. Play with your own food, hide under the covers. Rediscover, red lips, nails and shoes. Slip on bangles or slip into silk. Trade the treadmill for the Tango. Chocolate becomes you, so show off your curves. Remember flirting is good for the soul. Make peace with your past. Lose your heart to Life.
Doesn’t it make you want to snuggle deep, savour every moment of what February has to offer? The other wonderful delight at this time of year is the chance to see the sunrise at a normal waking hour. There is nothing quite so beautiful as seeing a day unfold while the kettle gently boils, watch it for 10 minutes before returning to a warm bed.
Sunday morning breakfasts are also something to savour, there is no hurry to be out the door, no phone calls that require our attention, no bags to pack or sandwiches to make… just time to relish – conversation over the breakfast table – fluffy omelettes and dark black tea. These soufflé omelettes need a little more time so they are perfect for a Sunday breakfast.
Place a pan on the heat to warm, while you separate three eggs. Whip the egg whites until they will stay in the bowl when you turn it upside down! Then quickly fold in the yolks carefully so as not to knock out all the air.
Shuffle a knob of butter around the pan and then add the egg. Turn on the grill to high. while you grate a small amount of parmesan and sprinkle generously, if you like your eggs cheesy. Then place under the grill to cook the top.
Turn out onto a plate and eat while they are still warm and fluffy. They really do taste delightful and airy -a good start to the day.. or maybe as a brunch…
When we visited Paris – I was delighted with the cakes and pastries mostly because they don’t use as much sugar as we do in the UK.
Like so many others at this time of the year, I am trying to eat less sugar and fat but weaning off sugar is not easy! I find 4 0’clock is when my body craves a sugary snack, so I thought I would come up with a healthy alternative – where I can indulge a little sweetness without nullifying my exercise sessions! While a lot of flapjacks in shops look healthy, they are usually packed with too much sugar or fat.
This is made in layers – for the base and crumble topping you need:
200g or 2 teacups of rolled oats
150g, or 1 1/2 tea cups of wholewheat flour
2 oz or 50g of Apple puree (apple sauce is a good alternative if you don’t make your own)
2 oz or 50g of butter or you can use coconut butter
Fruit sugar or honey – 1 – 2 tbsp depending on taste
The fruit layer
Fruit – cherries, blueberries, blackberries approx 1 lb
Fruit sugar or honey – 1 – 2 tbsp depending on taste
Firstly, mix the flour, oats into a bowl and rub in the butter, then add enough apple puree to bring the ingredients together – aim for crumbly rather than paste. Add a little sugar to taste, (if you bought your applesauce then it might contain enough sugar) Try to keep it to 1 tbsp if you can.
Set aside about 1/4 of this mixture for the topping, and then press the rest into a well greased, (or lined with parchment) swiss roll tin, (8 by 6 inch).
Bake in a medium oven (baking oven on aga, GM 6, 180c) for around 10 minutes. This makes the base nice and crisp.
While the base is baking, put your fruit into a saucepan and enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan and slowly bring to a simmer. You can add sugar or honey to taste, or without if you prefer. Once the fruit is soft take off the heat.
In a small cup, mix a little 1tsp of arrowroot with water to form a milky solution – add it to the fruit mixture and stir rapidly, until the sauce thickens.
Add the fruit topping to the cooked base and sprinkle with the reserved 1/4 topping. Return to the oven until the top is golden brown.
Cut into slices and allow to cool.
This recipe cuts down on the amount of butter by using apple sauce and you can reduce the sugar down to make it less sweet. If you are trying to wean yourself off sugar then this is a great alternative to cakes or the sugar laden flapjacks. These will stay in an airtight tin for a few days ! if you can leave them that long!