Cygnets aren’t ugly, they’re just not ducks! ?

A couple of days ago in church, the poor little ugly duckling came up as an example of the need for transformation. I didn’t say it at the time (it doesn’t go down well when you interrupt to disagree with the person at the front! ? ) but the idea I couldn’t let go of was that actually that “ugly duckling” wasn’t a duckling at all, he was a baby swan. They were judging him all wrong.

I understand that it’s meant as a story of personal transformation, to remind us that it doesn’t matter what our beginnings were like because we too can be transformed into the mighty swan etcetera etcetera but, personally, I think we might be missing the point.

About five days out of seven I take the dogs for a walk around a big pond near our house. (As an aside, yes I did just have a conversation with my fella about ‘pond’ versus ‘lake’. I always call it a lake but I’m told that my dear friends in North America would snigger to hear this expanse of water that I can walk the perimeter of in about fifteen minutes described as a lake.)

This pond is home to loads of ducks and geese and yes, swans too, and last week I noticed mama and papa swan have had two babies. Have you taken a look at a cygnet recently? They’re not ugly at all, these little grey fluff balls are really cute! They’re just not ducks.

If we judge a fish on its ability to fly or a tree on its ability to lay eggs, both will always come up short. Same with our dear little cygnets. They’re delightful and lovely and really very cute in their own right, and it wasn’t until the ‘ugly duckling’ stepped into his true identity that he really shone.

Same with you and me. The sooner we stop trying to measure up against a yard stick meant for someone else, the happier and more content life will be. You are wonderful and delightful, God’s work of art and master piece, and he doesn’t need a do over.

And so today, consider this a reminder if you need one. Take a deep breath, pull your shoulders back and step into this brand new day as you: wonderful, delightful you.

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Beautiful things happen when you let your little weirdo out to play.

Have you considered recently the magic that happens, simply when you let your inner weirdo out to play? Spoiler alert: It’s brilliant!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with a lovely lady in one of the local hospitals. She’s great at what she does, is super nice and, as one of my big stepping FitBit friends, helps keep me (literally!) on my toes.

But it’s not what she really wants to do. She started telling me about her husband’s business and that what she’d really love is to work alongside him. And me being me, I asked her … what’s stopping you?

Easy for me to ask of course, much harder to actually navigate. We chatted a little longer, said our goodbyes, and I thought nothing more of it. Until last weekend, when I found out that yesterday was her very last day at the hospital. That’s right, she found a way to let her weirdo out to play, the stuff that lights her up and gets her all excited, and she’s actually doing it. When I found out I was delighted. I love stories like that!

The way I see it, life’s too fleeting to spend it not doing the stuff that lights you up.

And it got me to thinking about how often we initially discredit stuff, think it’s not possible or talk ourselves out of it, but when we actually allow ourselves to play with the possibility, to embrace our little weirdos if you will, real magic happens.

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What if simply showing up, all in, was ninety per cent of the battle?

Having played with daily ‘morning pages’ for two weeks now (long enough to make it a thing but not quite long enough for it to be a habit yet!) I got to thinking about what I’ve learned so far from the process.

It’s not that I’m doubting the method, but I guess you could say I’m keen to see if I’m getting anything out of it. After all, it might be only 500ish words but those words all add up. If I’m going to ‘invest’ them in this process, I’m keen to know there’s value in doing so.

Guess what though? I was forced to come to the conclusion that it has been (and will therefore continue to be) totally worth it!

Not only have I come up with loads of random ideas for these daily emails, writing random anythings that come to mind have also resulted in the title for a new non-fiction book series, helped me figure out the answers to things I didn’t even realise were bugging me, plus helped make my day to day routine feel calmer.

By simply showing up and playing with words, with no real sense of expectation or pressure to create, magic can happen.

Maybe you’ve had this happen to you … You start the day with the barest bones of a plan but, simply by showing up, you have a wonderful day. And sure, it might not always be the magic you’d have expected if someone had asked you to predict how the day would go, but magic all the same. Exciting!

What if this is a case of art imitating life? What if, by simply showing up, all in, real and honest, with a sense of playfulness but no concrete expectations or pressure, we allow delight and wonder into our day to day life?

Show up, the real honest to goodness you, and watch the magic happen. You in? ?

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What’s at your root?

Ten days or so ago, as we found ourselves at the very beginning of a spell of delightfully warm weather (although yes, being Brits you can be assured that it didn’t take long for us to start moaning that it was too hot!) I took it upon myself to tidy the garden.

Impetuous as I am, I knew the novelty would soon wear off so I threw myself into the task with wild abandon. After attacking some brambles, I turned my attention to the ivy that was threatening to take over the path and garage.

When I cleared the path it was like pulling up a little carpet of roots. Very cool, thought I, and then I went on with my day and thought nothing more of it.

Until today.

Because today the sun is (sort of!) out again and, having ventured back outside, I just noticed what’s happened to the ivy on the garage now that it’s carpet of roots is no more.

If your fingers are even just a little greener than mine you’ll already know of course … without the roots, the rest of the plant is struggling. I’d feel guilty if it wasn’t for the fact that this thing has grown so much, it’s now threatening to take over the inside of the garage too!

But looking at the now wilting ivy, it got me to thinking about us. You know when things get really crazy and you find yourself stretched? Maybe you say ‘yes’ to things that aren’t in your best interests and put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own?

Without that connection to the very core of what it means to be you, it can be all too easy to find yourself feeling just as shrivelled and dried out as the ivy on my garage. (Metaphorically speaking of course! ? )

It all starts with actually knowing yourself (a a whole other story for another day!) but in case today finds you flagging, take this as your reminder to take a look at your root. ?

Know someone who needs this?

Everyone’s a little bit crazy …

Some people are just better at hiding it than others!

Because it’s been so ridiculously hot here the last couple of days, yesterday afternoon I left a few minutes earlier than usual when it was time for school pick up. I decided there wasn’t much worse than rushing if I didn’t have to! Having arrived at school early, it gave me time to catch up with one of the other mums. Her son’s in the infants so I tend not to see her unless I’m early so it had been a while.

About this time last year she made the decision, with the support of her family, to go back to university and study for a degree so it was fab to hear just how wonderful her first year had been (after we both got over the shock that she’d finished her first year already!)

She then asked about my work and we chatted about how much we both appreciated the flexibility and freedom to do things our own way. I don’t remember how it came up in conversation but I made some throw away remark about how everyone’s a bit crazy, some people are simply better at hiding it than others.

She agreed and we spent a delightful few minutes talking about some of the wonderful crazy people that have impacted the world.

It wasn’t until later when I was back home that I realised this is what I really mean when I talk about you being you. It’s always felt like quite an abstract concept. You being you. What does that even mean?!? But thanks to my friend at school I now have a new picture, a better way to express it.

Because on the face of it, most of us look pretty normal. Married, kids, dogs, mortgage. Unless you dare to have a conversation and actually get to know most people, you’d never even know that underneath they’re just as crazy as you are!

But what if we let the crazy out to play?

You don’t have to be obnoxious about it. It can be a light touch, a little bit of whatever makes you quirky. The majority of people will never even notice but those that do? Instant connection. Smiles. A little bit of brightness in the day. And let’s face it, who doesn’t need more light in their day?

And there’s a deeper side to all this too, because it’s the crazy ones who change the world.

Maybe you have a crazy dream, something so bonkers you sometimes don’t dare speak it out loud, except maybe in a whisper. But no matter how many times you ignore it or push it aside, that crazy dream keeps coming back. (I love the crazy dreamers, they’re my favourite people to be around.)

What if you didn’t ignore it this time? What if you embraced the crazy and let it out to play? What might that look like? And how is that going to change the world?

Over to you …

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What if we embraced the itch?

I don’t know if it’s simply because of a change in the weather, with the promise of summer serving as a physical reminder of the pace at which 2017 is running, or just because life’s feeling pretty steady so my brain decides it’s time for a shake up to keep things interesting, but I’m starting to get that itch.

Maybe you’ve felt it too? That niggle you get from time to time, calling you to take a look at what you’re doing on this planet and if it’s everything you hoped it would be. And it feels a bit like picking at a scab – you know you really shouldn’t but you just can’t help yourself.

What if we changed the dialogue around that niggle?

What if, instead of seeing it as something to be wary of, a flaw in our makeup, proof that we simply can’t stick to one single thing, what if we embraced the itch?

It’s a bit of a running joke between me and some of my closest friends. Spirally spiral we call it. (I don’t keep a running calendar of how often it happens but a quick search tells me May , June and October last year were all spiral months! That I’ve gone a whole nine months before getting niggly again must count as something of a record! ? )

What if, instead of beating ourselves up, we took the itch as our cue to spend some time reflecting on where we are and where we want to be?

If you’re a list maker, you might like to start by listing out all the things you’re delighted with in your day to day life right now. What things are you already doing every day or most days that light you up, help you feel at peace with the world, feel like they’re exactly what you’d like more of?

On the other side of the page (and this is the fun bit!) list out any things in your day to day life that you’re ready to do less (or none!) of.

(And in case you like printables, I’ve made you a handy dandy little PDF. Print it out or, if you prefer playing with these things on your computer, you’ll see I’ve made it editable so you can type and save it directly on your machine. Click here to download it.)

The first time I tried this I was surprised by how much longer the left hand column was.

Left unchecked, my itch had me believing that everything in my life right now was directly at odds with how I wanted it to be. In my head it was all about the things I didn’t want to do any more and I was miles away from doing the work that lights me up.

The reality is yes, there are things I want to bring more of into the world, there’s an impact I want to make that I’m not making yet, a message to share that’s not being spoken, but it’s definitely not all doom and gloom and certainly nothing that a few tweaks wouldn’t fix!

And maybe that’s true for you too. If so, great! ?

But even if the list on the right is huge and there’s what feels like a massive chasm between where you are and where you want to be, getting clear on paper what that looks like is the very first step towards making a change. (And yes, you really do need to write it down. Doing it in your head does not count – just in case you were wondering! ? )

Are you ready? Great! Choose ten minutes when you can play with this uninterrupted and see what comes up.

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If everything ever written boils down to just seven plots, how are there so many different stories?!?

Three, six, seven. The “official” number varies according to who you talk to and which book they’ve been reading but it’s widely recognised that there are a finite number of unique plots in the world. Try and come up with a brand new plot and you’re likely to drive yourself crazy!

But that’s not to say that as writers we can’t be original. No-one wants to trawl through yet another rewrite of Cinderella, even if she is bouncing around the universe in the TARDIS! (Okay, I admit it, I would totally read that story – but I’m sure you get my point.)

If you stop for a moment and consider how many millions of stories are published (and that’s not even taking into account all the unpublished works of genius gathering metaphorical dust on hard drives up and down the land) it’s staggering!

Millions and millions of stories from just seven plots. How is that even possible?!?

Plot all on its own is dull. It’s not really about the plot at all, it’s what you do with it. Putting characters in messy situations and watching them wiggle their way out of it. (Or not, that’s always an option too.)

And the same is true of real life. (Which of course is why I’m bothering to mention it! ? )

Ask a roomful of experts the step by step process for doing something tricky and you’ll only get a small handful of unique answers. What really makes a difference, the thing that’ll help you stand out, is how you execute those steps.

Do it with a bit of pizazz, show us who you are, inject your personality into it, and we’ll love you for it.

(Some of us, maybe even most of us. Others will hate it and might not be particularly quiet about telling you so. You’re not to pay any heed to those people. They are not your people.)

It’s like your mother always told you, it’s not so much about what you say but how you say it.

Or, to take your mother’s advice and tweak it to serve my purposes, how you show up saying it.

There are a finite number of chromosomes in the world, we’re all made of the same basic DNA, but like the millions of stories spawned from just seven plots, each of us is a unique story, itching to be played out.

Your story is yours to tell, and we definitely don’t need a rewrite! ?

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What if you made a contract with yourself?

I just got back from a Friday morning coffee with my fella and something we were chatting about got me thinking about you. Let me tell you the story …

So we were talking about 10 years from now when he can retire. (No, he’s not as old as all that. He’s a policeman and the job is structured such that he could leave as young as 50 if he wants to.) That totally fits with my dreams of travelling round France ten years from now and so I agreed that it was a fab idea. Between you and I, I’d love him to leave sooner, it’s not a fun job and there are days when it breaks him but, we’ll see 🙂

Anyway, as soon as the words were out of his mouth he started second guessing himself. He said that lots of his colleagues, when they got to that age, start talking themselves into staying a little longer because of what it does to the pension.

And that’s when I said the thing that also made me think of you …

“What if we do the sums now and get things set up such that, when it comes time, there is no discussion about if you should stay on a little longer because we’ll have already been planning for it and anything else would be breaking what we’d promised ourselves?”

Clever chap that he is, he agreed. (He knows better than to argue with a woman on a mission!) But of course I thought of you …

What are those things that are important to you? And what’s it going to take for those things to become a reality?

What if you promised yourself that it would be so, no excuses, no second guessing, just taking it as so and moving forward from there? What would that look like?

Too often we make all sorts of promises to other people but when it comes to our own passions, the things that get us fired up, we let them take second place to the wants and needs of others.

And there are times when this must be so. Children need to be fed. Nappies need to be changed. Homework needs to be helped with.

But who says that that stuff must be all that you’re about? And (dare I say it?) who says that you must be the one to do it all? (Gasp! Sacrilege, I know!) But seriously, you don’t have to do everything and you certainly don’t have to do everything to the detriment of yourself.

The stuff that lights you up, that thing that you can’t forget about or let go of, that stuff is vital to this world. It is your magic. Your secret sauce. The very essence of what it means for you to be you.

Choose you.

Make a promise to yourself and keep it.

Decide what’s important and declare that it will be so.

Show up, all you, all in.

And on behalf of the world, I thank you 🙂

I’m ready to come out. How about you?

Random question but, do you adore Doctor Who? Once upon a time, thanks to one of those conversations that, afterward, feel somewhat serendipitous, I found out that a higher than average percentage of lovely people around here are Whovians.

That delighted my little mind greatly but it also got me to thinking …

Is it a case of attracting like-minded people or more that, because I might randomly quote The Doctor from time to time, it then causes people to go “oooh, I love Doctor Who too!”?

I believe that life should be fun.

Sure, there will be times when it’s stressful or you have boring stuff to do but even then, I’d prefer to be like Mary Poppins and find the fun.

That’s probably why I get so stupidly delighted when I find out that yet another person around these parts is into Doctor Who. I mean, it’s not like it’s a requirement or anything (although it’d make for some fun marketing eh!) but it does make me smile.

So then I got to thinking some more about this idea of outing ourselves.

It’s tied to my love of you being youier of course. Where’s the fun in hiding those quirks and silly little things that make you you?

It drives my husband ever so slightly bonkers that I can not help but do foot jiggling, head bobbing and shoulder dancing, every time a slightly upbeat tune is played in a film but does that stop me?

No way!

It’s fun and it makes us both giggle.

And the same is true for you too. There will be things that make you, you that, for some people, will be a major problem. But do you know what? Life’s too short to waste time and energy on those people.

My biggest goal is for you to live a full-to-the-top-and-spilling-over life of joy, love and happiness.

That doesn’t come from dumbing down or playing small.

God created you to be you, in all areas of your life. There is nothing that makes him smile more than to see you being you. So full to the top with his love that it can’t help but leak out onto others.

This world needs you to be you.

God needs you to be you.

And so my challenge to you is this:

Look at where you are right now, the person you are showing up as. Is that you? Or are there parts of you that you keep safely stored away in a box?

It’s time to get really honest with ourselves. Are you game? 🙂

What are your obligatory scenes?

I’ve been working on the outline for that new novel idea from earlier in the week (ideally just enough barebones to allow me to gauge my interest in exploring it properly but not so much that I throw myself off track on the other one I’m actually meant to be writing right now!) and I got to thinking about the ‘lovers meet’ scene.

You know the one I mean, it’s in every romance novel the world over, that moment when we first set eyes on our heroine’s love interest. He strolls onto the page and even if she doesn’t know it yet, we the reader know that he will be “the one”.

And yes, it’s a total cliche because real life doesn’t always quite work out like that, but without it, the whole thing just doesn’t work.

I didn’t want that to be true so I went in search of exceptions to the rule and yes, I found some and yes, they were terrible!

In chic lit at least, we have got to meet “the one” and the sooner the better. We can experiment with how it plays out, bring a new perspective to the scene in a bid to break free from the cliches but, like it or not, the scene is obligatory.

Which got me to thinking about you … what are your obligatory scenes?

It helps if you know what kinda story you want your life to be telling of course (lots of stories have a love interest but it’s only really in the romance genre that the two must meet and soon!) but even if you’re not totally sure, think about it …

What are the ‘must have’ or set pieces you want from life? When all else fails, do you believe that it’ll all work out well in the end or is your story fairly tragic?

Here’s the really neat part … you totally get to choose!

The stories you live by are not the final draft.

If you don’t like how things are playing out, all is not lost. You can tweak the plot. Make a new choice, change the direction of the action and watch a whole other story unfold.

You simply have to choose 🙂