You Have A Nice Face

As a teenager, I used to catch the bus home from university every day. If I was lucky, I could catch an early bus, then a second one and be dropped almost neatly at my front door. If class ran late, I’d have to wait around for the last bus that went into my neighbourhood and then hope that my dad would realise I wasn’t home, and be waiting for me when I stepped off the bus.

If I tell you that I’m highly neurotic about time, you can predict that, pretty often, I was keen to get home on the early bus, so I was regularly at that dirty little bus stop a little more than I should’ve been (with apologies to my lecturers. I’m sure your classes were great).

It was during this time that I started to notice what my mom would call “nice face disease”. Random people would walk up to me and start talking to me. I never once had a bad incident with this, as I could generally sniff out someone who wished to do me harm from five paces away, and it led to interesting conversations while I waited for either the early or the late bus(if it was the late bus I was waiting for, you can bet your bottom Yen that the number of crazy people around increased exponentially. It’s science. I actively calculated this to highlight how important it was for me to get on the early bus once). My mother and father had the Nice Face too, and I know both my siblings have it too. They’ll have a barrel of these stories to share too, if I asked them. I remember my mom saying it’s because “we have open faces, that invite the world in” once.

The bus stop wasn’t the safest place in the city, but it was what I had to work with, if I wanted to get home. I tried to apply the don’t talk to strangers rule, but it didn’t always work out that way.

There were quite a few of these Nice Face situations, but two people who will forever stick in my mind are Flower Man and Bag Woman. I have no idea what their names were, and I hope they can forgive me for calling them this. I spotted Flower Man walking towards me, dressed in his dark suit, and green tie. He walked as though he’d not been off his feet since last year, and yet had a smile that made me think of the colour yellow as he ambled along. Flower Man walked up to me, smiled, sat down next to me and gave me a purple flower. While my mind raced thinking that it might be laced with something, he said:

“So many people walk up to young girls and tell them to smile. I’m telling you that you don’t have to, but that this flower is for you. You look like you could use one.”

Then he got up, walked away and I never saw him again.

Bag Woman sat down next to me a few weeks later, opened her bag, tapped me on the shoulder and said:

“I have everything in here that I will ever need. Except for my husband. He’s dead. I haven’t emptied my bag since he died because I can still smell our house a little bit when I open it. The house is gone, he’s gone and I have nothing to do except go to work and catch this bus.”

I hugged her, held her hand and together we picked through the contents of her bag, and she showed me bits of paper (the last time they ordered KFC)and the lipstick she was wearing on the day she got the phone call. He’d died three years ago, but she clung on to those things like they were gold. They were her gold and all she needed was someone to acknowledge her treasures. I missed the early bus that day, and waited with her for hers to come. I looked out for her every single day thereafter, and never saw her again.

I’m long past the days of catching buses and avoiding boring lectures now(oops, sorry, I mean, you were great! I learnt so much!) but “You Have A Nice Face” has stuck with me. Just yesterday, I had an inspiring conversation with my cashier around her ideas on how to change the world. I told her to write them down, so we could write a business case for them, because they sounded really cool. I never expected she’d email me this evening, but there it is, sitting in my inbox.

I often wonder what happened to Bag Woman and Flower Man. Sometimes, if I doubt myself too loudly, I start to think they were figments of my imagination, dreamed up to save my mind from wasting away while I waited for the bus home. But if I look into my scrapbooks from 1999 and see the pressed flower, I’m reminded that these people were not imagined. They were as real as the ideas contained in the email just sent to me, and the young woman who is determined to be far more than a cashier in her life.

If you’re reading, Flower Man and Bag Woman, and the host of characters who once peppered my days at that smelly and dreary bus stop, I want you to know that I remember you; that your treasures are real and your life is worth more than those grey afternoons that couldn’t go fast enough.

Disconnection and Reconnection

I was relatively verbose about taking a true break from this wild streets of the Internet during then holiday season. It took a lot of willpower to work myself towards the place where I uninstalled apps, turned off a bunch of notification settings and eased my eyes away from the screen.

Deadlines and The No Game
Because work is a fluid, and often flurried, attempt at making things happen and ensuring we’re all still eating, it goes against my nature to turn things down. But I was determined to and – to be really honest – it sucked, because it felt like I was disappointing people. To turn down a job that entered my inbox about ten minutes before I said I was shutting up shop for the year was a turning point for me – but it was one I had to take. Had I accepted it, I would’ve ended up working through the holiday season and, for yet another year running, have locked eyes with my daughter over my monitor, and not the Monopoly board. On that note, I probably disappointed a few people this holiday season. But the truth is, I didn’t disappoint the life in front of me.

But I’m glad I did it. Without the distractions of my phone bleeping every five minutes (oh the emails came in, I just didn’t read them until many days later… if you needed me during the holidays, you could text me), I slowed down. It took me about a week to really start feeling like I was no longer in hyperdrive but, when the relief hit, I swam with that current. And it was good.

So good, in fact, that I started to realise a few things. These were them:

  1. Not everyone expects you to reply to an email within 25 seconds. In fact, most of them can wait a day and, if not, they’ll phone you. Promise.
  2. Absolutely nothing feels sweeter than not waking up to an alarm clock. I want to work on waking up naturally every day, if that’s even possible.
  3. There is a lot of joy to be found in spending six hours playing Monopoly and not worrying about deadlines.
  4. You probably need to do this a little more often than you’ve let yourself (this is the first time I’ve taken a true break and not worked – even a little bit – in many, many years).
  5. Taking three hours to cook dinner is a delicious way of wiling away some time and not feel like you’re eating in a hurry.
  6. The perspective gained from logging off is far bigger and more important than the one you gain from logging in every day.
  7. Taking a day to do absolutely nothing is sublime. I used to have this rule that we would do this at least once a month… and then I realised we hadn’t done it at all for a very long time. I need to reinstate our Do Nothing Days.
  8. I have a compelling need for things to have a beginning and an end point. Life doesn’t always work like that though, so leave some space for meandering stories and stop waiting for everyone to ‘get to the point’. Sometimes, the story is magical just because it is.
  9. Read more books. Read way more books. You really need that.
  10. You are enough, even when you’re not doing anything particularly productive. It is okay to not be doing something, some of the time.

I’m back now – reconnected and logged back in, but I’ve kept some apps uninstalled on my phone, and become a little picky about what I’ll let bleep at me throughout the day. Maybe it’s not that I needed to disconnect at all, it’s that I needed to reconnect, but do it on terms I was consciously aware of. After all, I realised that on the days I feel powerless to the whirls and windmills of what I face before me, I have the power to turn away from it and focus instead on the life lived in front of me.


Mama Bear One

“Mama Bear One, this is Mama Bear Two, check in”

This is how it is in my head, most days. No, that’s how it was.

I am Mama Bear One to a child who is growing up faster than I can handle, and I am Mama Bear Two to all the other aspects of life that need to be managed, tangled, assuaged and confronted.

Here’s the thing though, that I’ve realised during this self-enforced holiday I am sad to bid farewell to: Mama Bear One and Mama Bear Two need to be nicer to each other. In fact, they need to be the same person.

The duality that exists between being a parent and being a person is something I used to think I had snapped up and zipped in pretty well. I lived a very compartmentalised life, which saw me living it up in a number of ways but it left me exhausted. Talking with a friend this afternoon, I realised that I lived a lot of years on auto-pilot, and constantly forgot to apply self-care to my life. It’s no wonder to me now that, looking back, I was really very horrible to myself.

During the holidays, I realised that when Mama Bear One is in control, I am happy. I feel like I’m kinda winging it, but I’m happy. I love that home life we’ve created, and I live for those little moments where a smile spreads across the dinner table like spilt treacle. Slowly but significantly, and then it sticks.

When Mama Bear Two is in control, I’m a different kind of happy. I feel effective and aware of the world around me, even though it’s often not a very happy place to be in. It’s that which irks me, that keeps me compelled to do better, be better and… the thing I’ve realised is that I need to – again – redefine my own version of success.

For a long time, I used to think that Mama Bear One was a successful single mom with a happy kid, while Mama Bear Two was a career woman who was both committed and energetic. Living that life where the two had to be constantly maintained left me feeling particularly unsuccessful though. It stressed me the heck out to try and keep the two at good levels of success.

Finding and sticking to the place where I could feel successful took work. It took setting boundaries and sticking to them, unashamedly. It took, in large part, turning away from all my pre-conceived notions of Mama Bear Two’s success and focusing more on how and when Mama Bear One felt happiest. At some point, Mama Bear One had to win, otherwise I’d have lost all this magic forever. I’m glad she did, but in some ways I (selfishly) miss a bit of Mama Bear Two. She’s gone now, for good, but her ideas and busting-pokes-at-things have reapplied themselves to Mama Bear One’s life, which is how we ended up playing Speed Monopoly on Saturday evening and showcasing the best strategy for bankrupting your opponent to a ten year old.

Letting go of Mama Bear Two had to happen so that I could live a Mama Bear One life that wasn’t lacking, it was just expanded. Bashing down that mental wall – those compartments between the two – is something I had to do.

If the holidays taught me anything, it’s this: That stopping to gain some perspective is an essential part of this funny life journey, but when that train comes round to pick you up, it’s up to you how you choose to step on again.

My friend Stacey wrote this about her New Years Resolutions and having a theme for each year. For me, my theme is to let things happen as they need to. Things either fall in place or fall away and, while I can go out and get the things I want to have fall into place, what falls away needs to be left alone to live (weirdly, since consciously making an effort to apply this to my life, it’s happened more easily, more perfectly and ended up in really beautiful ways). No more energy wasted on trying to make things fit into these compartments I created. It is what it is, and what’s here is so damn beautiful, that I should stop and look at it now and then.




Thoughts Over Tea

I feel an intense pressure on myself (all self-created, I know and realise) to have some insightful thoughts on turning 35. Normally, ever year, I take a little time out to reflect on the past year, but this year, I didn’t. I didn’t write about it (I have, for ten years, every year) and I didn’t stop to wallow in my inner sense of what I call “Birthday Emo”. There’s a really good reason for that.

Thoughts over Tea

By nature, I am horribly insecure, needy and annoying. I say this to myself, every day. It’s not a very nice thing to say to oneself though, and it’s also something I’ve been very aware of, especially over the past few years. I have a tendency to overthink everything, take anything said to me as a personal affront, and hit up the defence mechanisms the moment I feel hurt. It’s not been a very successful way to live, and it didn’t make me happy. It also didn’t make the people around me happy.

Perhaps it comes with age, but actively working on my inner monologue has helped to stop myself from constantly trying to gain approval. Yeah, I’m a big mouth about this, because I’ve been all “I don’t need your approval blah blah blah” since my teens but, truthfully, in my head, I’ve wanted it for a long time. It might be a side effect of getting older (cough*wiser*) but I need that less and less every day. I’ve learnt to say no when I need to, and yes when I want to, and to not over-commit myself. Something that the last year has taught me, is that taking care of me, makes everything else easier.

But there’s another side to this. The aggravating level of introspection I’m prone to, led me to beating myself up a lot, and constantly replaying things in my head where I thought I’d failed people (a big thing for me – not so long ago, I did fail at something, or I thought I’d failed someone, but I’ve learnt it was not just me in that situation, but a whole bunch of circumstances too). That beating myself up? Made me feel incapable. It didn’t serve me. It didn’t fix anything. It just made me sad. And, as surprising as it may seem to some people, I actually don’t like being sad.

Dear friends tell me I deserve good things, that I’ve worked towards where I am in my life, determinedly. I don’t think that dogged determination makes you immediately qualifiable for good things, because determination can often mean that you (unwittingly or otherwise) trample over other people. I don’t like trampling on people, possibly because I’ve felt trampled so often in the past.

I try to be a good person, as best I can, but there’s always something that I know I could be better at. Like I could do more charity work, or give more time to things, or, oh I don’t know, reorganise my cupboards in a better fashion. Perhaps I could learn to cook better meals? There’s a list longer than the Great Wall of China of things I could probably be doing better. But that list doesn’t matter in the real life I live, where I am who I am because of what I work towards. I have dreams and goals, ideas and ideals, and if I can go to bed at night having made some personal headway towards them, then I know i am okay. I know I am enough, but I have to remind myself that I am, because I am my own worst enemy sometimes, especially in the wallow of introspection.

So when I woke up on the morning after my 35th birthday, with my dog squished between me and my boyfriend, and my kid cuddled up next to me on the other side, I didn’t question it. I didn’t feel the need to analyse if everyone was where they wanted to be, or worry wart over “gosh, is this the life I wanted? Is this the life they want? Am I enough? Do I deserve this?”

Instead, I lay back, patted my dog, kissed my kid on her head, squeezed my boyfriend’s hand and looked outside to the chilly winter’s morning. And I liked it that way.

Adages and Inadequacies

I know, I know. You know that old adage…

“The shoemaker’s children are never shod”.

It’s true. As the world has swirled up and I write more and more for everywhere else (which is what we all wanted, anyway! so thank the stars for that!), so this blog of mine – the very thing I love and from which this all, originally started…has been neglected. I’m not here to make some wild promise that I’ll blog to make up for it, or here to delete the whole thing and pretend it never happened. Neither would make me happy.

So, I’ll beat myself up a little more and quip that, in September 2008, I blogged 22 times and, well, at that time, we were going through some pretty horrific stuff and I actually stopped blogging for a bit. Comparatively, this September? This is my second blogpost for this month.

Okay, okay, I’m done whining. So I’ll do this. I’ll make you a lovely playlist, and I’ll bore you with something I found. You ready? Good. Let’s do this.

The Playlist. Here’s a list of songs that are keeping me company this evening:

I have absolutely no idea why I like this song but, there it is:


This song sounds like it should’ve been playing in the background of my life in 2007.  It reminds me so much of one of my favourite movies, that absolutely nobody likes to watch with me. Hah.


This song is almost perfect. The only issue I have with it is that – well – the live version is better than any other version in existence.


This is another song that sounds better live than it does on an album. Frankly, the album version is an embarrassment in comparison to this version.


Maybe that’s the point. 

Maybe, as I’ve illustrated in the songs above, life’s better when it’s up close and messy, lived out loud.

I was chatting to a friend of mine this week, about loud emotions and responses to life’s tricksy situations. It was at the end of a day that had left me feeling frayed and gulping. But just talking to him about bigger life things, large concepts (that day had a little *too* much reality in it for me…) helped. It gave me perspective and, truth? When I’m gulping at the end of a day, I do need perspective.

The crazy, intimidating nature of messy, loud life emotions can make us want to cower and run away. But, if we do, we’ll just be stuck listening to those bland, album cut versions of the songs we kinda don’t like that way. I don’t think I was made for the clean cut hum of album tracks. Neither were you, my friend.

And then, that part from the past I promised you.

Source: Flickr (click on image for original)

I was cleaning up my bookmarks the other day and, I found a bunch of things I published somewhere and then forgot about. This one is six years old. Forgive me, I was going through an “e.e. cummings” phase. 

your hair smells like oranges this evening.
you put your little arms around me and say

“i love you mommy. i sorry i cried when you say no”

i look at you and kiss your head
we cuddle up on the couch
and watch the most annoying dvd of all time
(kidsongs. parents, just do not buy them. please)

you love it.
the singularly-expressioned children

fascinate you
with their silly songs
and little antics

i don’t care that it is giving me a headache.
this uncomfortable position does not bother me.
and you could not care that i have  not showered yet. 

not a single thing matters
not the bills on the table
the wolves at the door
not the deadlines
or the screaming phone calls

not what i did or did not
not how i looked or not
not the smile or the grimace
not a single achievement or failure.

everything in the world that matters
is snuggled under my chin

*csmj – 2008*


The Spring Jump

Spring always brings with this funny, lovely sense of renewal, like we shed winter’s baggage and move on to new things. It sounds trite but it’s true, for me, at least.



Spring day will mark two years since I took the leap and became a freelance writer.

I’ve decided not to spend this post looking back over the past two years, because a lot has gone down. Some of it incredible, some of it scary and, well, most of it left me with a sense of gratitude. For that, and through that, I know I have learnt.

I have had to, out of necessity, withdraw into a little cocoon a lot, over the last two years, in an effort to *just get things done*. There were some people who made me feel bad about this but, they don’t matter to me or my life anymore. It’s been a two-year period of learning to focus, and sticking to that focus. The ability to focus on one thing at a time seemed like a mystery to me for so long. But, I have learnt focus, and I have become very aware that I should not apologise for it.

When I made this jump, it was done with the full support of the people who matter – one of them, in particular, made damn sure I followed through on it – I don’t think I can ever repay her for that. Another person, my absolute confidante and life partner (what a term…he deserves a better term…) consistently believes on the days I cannot. 

But, I did not just make this jump for me, or because of something my parents said to me before they died (they both did, and thinking of it now, I should’ve listened sooner). I did it for someone else entirely, too.

About twelve hair colours ago (which would make it about six or seven years ago), I was conversing with a then-colleague, who remarked:

“You know, now that you’re beyond the survival mode of nappies and wiping butts, you have a girl to teach. And you can’t teach her by dictating to her. If you want her to grow up thinking she can follow her dreams, you have to show her”.

I came away from that conversation, petrified. You can read every parenting book, buy every expensive toy, have your child on a routine and provide them with sensory learning experiences until they are blue in the face…and you’ve still not even begun parenting.

That conversation shocked me and scared me for a long, long time. In fact, it probably made me even more scared of even, ever trying to “be a writer”. Suddenly I had been made aware that, no matter what I did from there onwards, I was not just doing it for me, but it would be the example my daughter would lean on for the rest of her life.

That sense of responsibility sat in my brain for a long time. Suddenly (and yes, I realise I was slow to this game…), I began to understand that all the things I did were not only being watched, but truly assimilated into someone else. This, therefore, gave me an influence I had not expected or thought about at 2am, when I was way more concerned with trying to figure out how to rebundle a sick kid into bed and avoid sleeping in vomit.

But, there it was.

About a year after that conversation, my life uncobbled. It untangled and laid bare a mess I had not wanted to confront. I was completely at a loss, because I’d kinda bet on something, and it didn’t work out. Even worse, was realising that to untangle myself from being driven into some weird and dark life place, I had to use my own mental strength to get out of it. I was scared.

And it was at that exact moment that I got my very first opportunity to write professionally. I read that now, and I want to cringe, because I know just how much life has happened SINCE then…yet, at the time, I thought life was entirely derailed.

But. That moment was the spark that led me towards believing I could do this. I’ve had such incredible opportunities come my way, since then. I have worked with (and still do!) some of the planet’s most fantastic citizens. It was that spark that started my path towards here.


I had no confidence when I began. Everything that came to me, at that time, seemed like it was a favour. I know now that it wasn’t. It was just someone else believing in me, before I could. I am so grateful for their belief in me. 

Every single goal since then (bar one…that was minor, happened this year and really should not have affected me as I let it, silly Cath) that I have set up for myself, I have been given the opportunity to achieve. No, I haven’t achieved all of them but, that doesn’t matter to me, because every single time…I’ve learnt. None of them came easily to me, and I know that, throughout my days. It makes me prouder of them, and the mistakes I have made along the way. And, oh boy, have I made some clanger errors.

So, come Spring Day, I’ll be thinking of the new sunshine, marching my kid off to school in her Spring Hat and, well, I’ll be happy. I have new dreams, and new goals I’d like to achieve. I have new projects and fun things to investigate.

But, most importantly, it’s the look on my kid’s face when I can say to her :

“Remember when I said, I’d like to do this…”

and she goes


and I get to say:

“Cool, you can read it now”. 


The smile that she gets on her face, as she realises I’ve done something I had told her I wanted to…the idea that is planted in her head that “my mom had a goal, and she achieved it”…That is why I do this.

I write for money, professionally, and I love it. It is the one thing that gives me a sense of purpose and enables me to feel that I can use my talent for good.

But, the thing that makes me breathe, and gets me up every day… is knowing that I’m showing a notsolittle girl that, no matter what life throws at you…you can achieve the things you want to, if you are prepared to work for them. Throw in a big bucket of good friends, a supportive family and ditch the fear of being rejected (you probably will be, quite a few times)

and…you can do just about anything you set your heart on

(and sometimes, if you’re really lucky and work really hard, you’ll get to do the things you didn’t ever expect to). 




life is… the great editor.

I’ve just finished off my work for the week and am settling down for a little quiet night to myself. But, maybe, just for a minute, I’d like to just write, just for me.

While I was working this evening, I came across my dad’s name while searching for something online. It surprised me (it shouldn’t), it catapulted my heart into the ceiling, and I ended up doing the crysmilesoblaugh that my family members are so very well known for (When we’re happy, we cry. When we’re pissed off, we laugh. When we are many things, all at the same time, we do the crysmilesoblaugh and occasionally stomp our feet). It felt weirdly comforting, for so many reasons.

But it got me thinking. I write. It is what I do, and I don’t think I can do much else with as much glee or intent. The hardest part of writing, though, lies in the editing. So, yes, all you funny people who email me “lyk dis, becuz you wanna be a riter becuz it luks eezi and i am gud at it” (THESE PEOPLE EXIST GUYS!), I’m certain you have some talent, somewhere. But it’s not your writing I’m ever going to look at. I’m probably going to look at where you edited yourself, if you did. Trust me, it shows.

But while I’m here, thinking about writing, editing and all the little nitpicky things I bang on about every day (see Twitter for rants), I realise…I’m not the final editor of my life. Heck, everyone gets edited. And subedited. And then edited again.

I absolutely can create the best story I can. I can fill it with ideas, activities and colour. I can stock it with daytime naps and dreamy sex, love and friendship. I can commit to composing stories that riddle together like cheese on toast and I can depict as much of my story as I want to.  I can edit and sub and scratch out, backspace and delete as much as possible but, I am not the final editor.

Life. Life is the final editor. She’s the one that injects the surprise twists in the tale, kills off characters and gives new ones a grand entrance into the plot. Life is the one that leaps the story ahead when you least expect it and forces you to pore over each word of a sad scene, over and over again. She’s the one that takes the story, shakes it up or she lets it glide along for a chapter or two.

i found my dad through my work tonight.

So when I found my dad through my work tonight, I remembered. I’m in a stage of my life now where I *know* he’d enjoy it so intensely. Not just as a grandparent, not just as my dad. But as my greatest sounding board. I wish for him, when I have to edit my own work (which is, lovely reader, all the time). I wish for him when I need a question answered and I want someone to explore a peripheral idea with me. I wish for him, because he’d understand the nuances I want to explore. I want to call him up, fight with him over a sentence I love and he hates, have us slam the phone down on each other in frustration and then laugh about it all again the next morning.

I remembered, all too strangely tonight, of the days I’d work away at essays for University, and he’d edit me. I giggled to myself over how I would secretly send him articles I wrote for my first “proper” corporate job, and he’d edit them, and then send them back to me, so that my boss would receive beautiful work, each time (I was a silly 22 year old then, and mostly insecure about everything). I want to juggle angles on stories with him, and find a little hook to hang my coat of words on.

But I can’t do those things anymore. I haven’t been able to for nearly 9 years now. I’ve had to learn to find his voice within myself, and use the critical but kind guidance to cross out lines that don’t work. Sometimes I can’t find him, and I want to throw my hands in the air and scream: “It’s shit! It’s all shit! I should go be an accountant or something!”

I can’t do that either though, so I must pummel through and keep looking for his guidance somewhere, for life is the great editor and she, she needed me, my siblings and my mom, then, to start writing our own stories.

Just like all editing that happens though, if you look really carefully, you’ll still find the remnants of the original story. That punchy word, that funny little phrase or the great perspective that makes you think long after you’ve finished reading. So it’s that, that is my rebellion against life. Even though she edited my dad out of this world, I can still find him, somewhere, in my words, in my work, somewhere in my head.

You might be the great editor, Life, but I am still the one who writes this story. My dad taught me that.


I miss him every day.


be your own cheerleader.

 This morning, as dawn broke and Facebook came alive with almost everyone posting about their return to work…I realized something. There’s a bunch of people starting new things, flying out on their own (one of them is my ridiculously clever friend Neal over here) and beginning to do things differently. Maybe it’s their New Year’s resolutions, maybe it’s new projects, sometimes it’s a whole new life style.

I find that invigorating. It’s inspiring to see how people have taken new jobs, are starting afresh or actively taking steps towards making their dream a reality. Now, I’m NO motivational speaker – not even a little, tiny bit…but, I did once do something to help me achieve a personal dream. In the spirit of the new year, I thought I’d write it five little things that have been swarming around my head about it.

1. You’re going to deal with assholes. These will be the assholes who tell you that you cannot do it, that you’re not good enough and that you’re being silly. Sometimes this asshole will be yourself, sometimes it’ll be the asshole who won’t pay you for work done. Sometimes it’ll be some weird obstacle you weren’t expecting. Sometimes it’ll just be an asshole. Sometimes you’ll mess up and be your own asshole. It’s okay. Assholes are learning experiences and, at some point, you’ll thank them for being an asshole. Be prepared for the assholes. Understand that they have a purpose.

2. Tell people about it. Whatever your dream is, WHATEVER it is – whether it’s a shiny new title at your company, or a brand spanking new project…tell people about it. Start with “I’m committing myself to this”. You’ll probably be able to weed out a lot of future assholes from just saying it.

be your own cheerleader, even if you don’t know a single dance move.

3. Pompoms for friends. A corollary to telling people about it is that it may actually get you even closer to your ideal. Once you’ve got your support team chucking pompoms, you’ll find it gets really easy to believe in yourself.

4. Pompoms for you. Keep chucking your own pompoms. Be humble, but dammit, don’t discount yourself.

5. Exhaustion is normal. Understand that working towards your goal will probably make you feel tired, annoyed, frustrated, worried and – at some point – disheartened. Excellent things are not achieved overnight. I promise you on that one. Keep going, especially when you feel like giving up. Stop, have a bigfatcry, sleep and carry on. You can, promise.

6. Plan, schedule and plan some more. There is no such thing as too much planning. Be one month ahead of yourself if you can, in your plan. Oh, and don’t look back unless you need to. Sometimes you will never need to again.

And, lastly, be proud of the fact that you committed to a change. You’ll see – that commitment, no matter what your goal or dream is – is what makes it work.

ten rules for recuperating.

I tweeted this today.

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I also tweeted this today.

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It got me thinking.

At the time I mentioned in the first tweet you see, I firmly believed my life was over, forever. I had mentally resigned myself to pulling a Bridget Jones and living knowing that I’d end up, alone and half-eaten by Alsatians. No, really – I’d even made a weird kind of peace with it.

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But what the last four and a bit years of my life (where a very musically talented person has loved me, often in spite of myself) have taught me is:

1) Life doesn’t care what you resign yourself to. It will change and probably into some sort of good thing for you, whether or not you make it happen, or not. For me, that moment in my life was actually the turning point in my life, for good. It was the very significant second which created my life path, and opened up the world I’d always wanted to be a part of, but always been too scared to admit to want to try. That moment, was when I became a writer, for real and the very first time someone paid me to do the one thing I always wanted to do with my life – write. It’s over here, for you to read.

2) You probably won’t end up half-eaten by Alsatians, cuddling a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. At some point, your inner self does actually go “Hey, chin up and go out, you miserable git”.

3) Which is usually the exact moment where you realise you have really incredible friends, who will not only let you blast the Michael Bolton really loudly and sit with you whilst you up the shares at Kleenex and swear off love forever. It’ll be them who also, a while later, sit with you as you assess the new romantic possibility that lands on your doorstep (because, at some point, it usually does, or – even if it doesn’t, the same friends will be sitting there assessing your new life with you, and the opportunities that present themselves beyond your breakup. Trust me, they will happen, and usually not in the way you expect).

4) I always find it hilarious when I see those “how to survive a  breakup” stories or allegedly helpful lists. Nobody survives breakups, especially when you’d hedged your life on the what-actually-was-but-you-refused-to-admit-it-flimsy relationship that led up to it. Breakups are not survived – to say you survived it, means you got through it and came out the same.  That is not true – breakups are lived through, and you come out the other side, remarkably changed.

5) For me, at that very vulnerable time, I turned to the things I knew I could – blogging, venting and *embarassingly so* social media. I’ve often wondered if I should delete the things I said at that time, but I’ve come to realise that they were formative moments for me.  That makes them incredibly important parts of me, so I’ve kept them. Yes, even these cringeworthy ones, where I just posted lyrics of other people’s songs because they meant the world to me at the time. It is absolutely impossible to see past those moments, at that time, and that’s okay.

6) Because it was then that I taught myself how to focus the attention away from pain, and allow myself to indulge in a little stupidity. Not even stupidity, more like things-that-mean-something-to-me-and-nobody-else (but which my best friends applaud me for doing, rather than laughing at me for them).

7) There is no flippant or easy-fix way to live through something as big as that. That old adage of “the  best way to get over something is to get under something else”, (yes, I went there) is really just siff and I loathe it. Also, it just screws up your healing process. I don’t recommend it to anyone in pain, because it’s usually just a strange pathway to crap backlash.

8) At some point, when you get beyond the gulping first bits of a breakup, you learn to breathe again. You don’t even notice it, at first (your friends will, before you do, and beam at you, and you’ll wonder why – they won’t tell you, but they will beam). And slowly the breathing turns to smiling, and the smiling turns to…a reality you were not expecting.

9) I am a complete believer in the overly-dramatic expressions, so long as you don’t lash out at the person you just split up with or make a complete anus out of yourself publicly. Crying on your friend’s shoulder and venting it out in blogposts and stuff like that is cool. Sending your ex 85 psychotic text messages and numerous 2am phonecalls is not. When the breakup I mention in this post happened, I changed my ex’s number to my best friend’s on my phone, so my BFF got all the ranty texts, and my ex was none the wiser. It worked, and I’m so grateful I did it. You’re allowed a certain level of pathetic when you split up. You’re not, however, allowed to lose your class – you won’t prove a thing to or of anyone that way, least of all yourself.

10) Oh, and my last rule – understand that this is a grief process. Grief isn’t something you work through and then it’s gone forever. It’s akin to losing a friend, a family member or a pet. What you learn from it, will live with you for the rest of your life, and become a personal touchstone. It will not, however, define you forever.

Trust me on this one. I promise.

(Sidenote – I wrote this today, because someone dear to me is battling through one of these moments. I don’t know their circumstances or intimate details, but I wanted to say it to them today, in the way I know best). 

Funny thing, life.

Three years ago today, I went out to dinner. I laughed so much, discovered a mind that shared many of my common interests (including Weird Al and required phone fiddling timeperiods during dinner) and didn’t care that pasta shouldn’t be eaten the first time you share a table together.

The next morning, I got on a plane and went to Cape Town for a week. That week changed me, reminded me and is the place I go back to in my head when I need quiet and a semblance of calm thought. It showed me friends I didn’t know I had and places in my head that were actually home beyond my own.

That dinner and that week was the nascent beginning for my new life. An absolutely unexpected surprise. A 360 kickflip that led me here. To this life. The one I live today, right now and right here.

a ridiculously appropriate post-it.

All I am is grateful.