Remembering who you are? Overcoming fear, disappointment and failure.

I used to dream big dreams. Crazy, seemingly unachievable dreams. I used to encourage others to do the same. As a teen I secretly believed there was something special about me. That I was put here to achieve something big. I wanted to make a difference. I believed I could. I wanted to make people’s lives better. I believed life could be better – for everyone. I honestly believed I could do or be anything.

If you speak to a child, they still have this. You ask them what they want to be and do and it ranges from an astronaut to a bus driver to a rock star to a marine biologist. They believe it’s as simple as deciding what you want to be and do and you know what?…it is! It really is as simple as deciding what you really want to be and do and then working towards that. However, the tough part is staying the course.

I did do some pretty amazing things. I did see some dreams come true. Some pretty big dreams and then, I stopped. Why? I guess the bottom line is I stopped believing. Somewhere along the way I forgot who I was and stopped believing. Things got in the way namely disappointment, pain and failure. Life turned out to be so much harder than I expected.

However, the truth is the goal still stood and my chances were/are still the same, I just didn’t believe it anymore and this was the only real obstacle that stood in my way.

Unbelief, which is actually a lack of hope, can rob you of your dreams and your destiny.

Unbelief, which is actually a lack of hope, can rob you of your dreams and your destiny. It is actually the only real thing you need to overcome in order to get back on track. All the things you think are holding you back – that broken relationship, that mounting debt, that lack of resources, that lack of education, that tiredness, are not your real problem. Your real problem is lack of hope and belief in spite of these things.

Lets look at a few of these things that hold us back and how they are not true obstacles except in our own minds:

FEAR

Fear is the enemy of Faith. Fear is the monster under the bed. You kind of know the thing you fear probably doesn’t exist but it still has the ability to make you stay on the bed anyway. You’ve never actually seen this thing you fear (usually because it has not actually happened) you just worry it might happen – and yet it immobilises you.

Fear only has control over you because you let it.

To start with make yourself take a good proper look at the thing you fear, even if it’s just peeking through your fingers. Now this is the scary bit. What does this thing look like? If you look at it you may find it is actually a lot smaller than you imagined. But, let’s say this fear, when you look at it, is actually pretty ugly.   Ask yourself what can this thing do? What power does it actually have? What can it do to you? You may realize that even if it did it’s worse you can see you would get through it, or around it and most importantly on the other side of it, leaving it behind. Even if you look head-on to your fear and you know that by challenging this thing it is going to get messy, you may see just by facing it that just behind its murky, dark, intimidating silhouette there are tiny glimpses of light shining through. Beyond this shadow that is casting itself over your life is the source that is creating this shadow – your future! This may just give you the hope and strength to do battle with this thing because, at the end of the day the only way out and to that light that is waiting there for you like a promise is to get through this fear.

One thing is for sure, it doesn’t work to wait until the fear goes away. This troll will diligently guard the entrance to the cave you’ve found yourself in day and night. It is not going anywhere. Instead you have to feel the fear, face it, see it and proceed forward anyway.

If you let fear dictate what you do you will stay in that cave. If you let fear give you directions, you will just be guided down another tunnel. Its purpose is to keep you in the dark so you cannot see the big, beautiful, bright world that is out there for you beyond it.

Fear also tells us lies. It’s important to remember this. Fear is a big old bragger who loves to exaggerate its power. It will tell you lies about yourself, about others and about your circumstances and it especially tells lies about the future. Do not listen to fear. It is a liar. Sometimes fear might be telling you the truth about itself, but it never tells you the whole picture because then you might actually deal with it and leave it behind and it would lose it’s power.

Fear only has power over you because of what you believe about it but often those beliefs just aren’t true and this is why the truth (about anything) always sets you free.

It’s not easy facing fear but it is necessary.

Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.

DISAPPOINTMENT

One of the biggest things that prevents us from having hope and believing is disappointment. This is one that has taken me on a huge detour from my dreams in recent years. When things haven’t worked out how you hoped and when you’ve trusted and felt let down again and again it is easy to start to believe that perhaps you got it wrong. Perhaps the ‘good stuff’ is only for some people and you’re just not one of those. Perhaps it’s foolish even to keep believing – it just sets you up for yet more disappointment. In some respects this is true. Believing again does set you up for more disappointment, the potential is there, it could happen again – maybe. But what does the alternative look like?

For a long time I tried to ‘not believe’ and to not hope. I found I’d get disappointed anyway. And what it comes down to is a case of whether you want to just exist or live. We have to keep going. Somehow you have to pick yourself up and start walking forward again. It might be a crawl at first or perhaps you’re dragging your feet, staggering forward without the energy to jog let alone run but just make sure it is in the direction of your dreams and away from what has held you back. The alternative is to lay down and die and a life not lived is no life at all so that’s one disappointment all in itself.

Recovering from disappointment is very painful and often slow but, we simply must go on. Borrow the strength from friends and from God if you don’t have your own. Ask them to drag you but get moving, inch by inch, step by step and that disappointment will get further and further away from you and you’ll be able to look back on it because it will be behind you. You’ll see it was just another obstacle – one you really could get through and over.

The important thing is to not stay in disappointment – keep moving.

The important thing is to not stay in it. Do not stay in a state of disappointment. Your weapons against it are hope and faith and if you don’t feel those (which I didn’t) simply put one foot in front of the other and start walking until you begin to feel it – just don’t stand still in it.

PAST FAILURE

Linked to disappointment is failure. When things go wrong it destroys our hope and our faith. Especially when we feel we have caused or contributed to the failures by our own bad choices, wrong-doing or lack of wisdom, strength etc. We think we deserve the failure, we caused it so who are we to expect to get out of the circumstances we are in? We made our bed, we have to lie in it. Perhaps we’ve even had a second chance at something and felt we blew it – AGAIN, so we’ve used up our good vibes and don’t deserve any more and so we stop believing.

The problem with this thinking is we are not acknowledging that failure is a part of life not the end of it. We struggle with anything negative – pain, failure, conflict, disappointment, fear – because these things aren’t ‘nice’ in fact they sometimes hurt – a lot. In our brains we equate pain with ‘badness’ yet there is necessary pain, good pain you could even call it: Child-birth, surgery, growing pains. It doesn’t mean the pain is nice, it can be pretty horrible, but it doesn’t mean it’s not necessary or that it won’t produce good things. We cannot go through life avoiding pain. If we do, we will also avoid growth.

There is such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘necessary’ pain.

It is very easy to get stuck in failure, to succumb to it and to make it your identity. Failure sometimes is your ticket to another chance. Don’t stay there. Don’t give up. Failure is not the final destination. If you let it, a failure can colour (discolour) or even dictate the rest of your life. This can be something you’ve messed up yourself or something outside of your control that someone else has done to you or that circumstances have dictated. Staying in failure makes you a perpetual victim. Some people never get over one incident, mistake or event that happens in their life. They make it their final destination rather than making it a lesson, a temporary set back or even a spring-board.

Failure is not your final destination.  It could be your ticket to another chance.

Accept failure, learn from it and move on.

Moving on from disappointment, fear and failure?

There is life to be had out there. The future is coming whether you like it or not so be an active part of it. Allow your heart and mind to start to see the infinite possibilities that could happen rather than dwelling on the disappointment, fear and failure that has already happened.

What you need to know right now is that it isn’t the end.

Whatever has happened has happened but where you are right now, whatever age you are, you are not at your final destination unless you stay where you are and do nothing. Navigate the obstacles of disappointment, fear and failure or whatever else is holding you back. See them for what they are; just obstacles. Yes they are in the way but they can be overcome. Don’t just lie down and give up.

If all you can do today is sit up, then sit up, if you can manage to stand, then stand, if you can take a baby tiny pigeon step, then do that. Just don’t stay where you are. As you exercise movement, as you look in the right direction, your hope will return and your faith will begin to grow. It may feel at first like you are making very little if any progress at all, but believe me you are because the changes must start in your mind and your heart before any lasting change can happen in the physical.

Decide today to wake up. Decide today to live.

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The Art of letting go

Is God a nice God?

Is ‘letting go’ a brave act of surrender or merely giving up?

They say the hardest choice you’ll ever face is whether to walk away or try harder, but what if someone else gives up before you.  Do you let them walk away? Or do we grab hold of their leg shamelessly losing all self-respect and let them drag us a long as they try to get away from us? Do we even have a choice?

I’m pretty sure there is an art to letting go.  I’m pretty sure I don’t have it! In fact I’m certain I’m absolutely rubbish at it!  It says a lot about me I guess.  I am fiercely loyal.  Ask any of my friends, they know full well and from experience, you mess with one of them I’d personally rip the face of the perpetrator if they wanted me to – they never do funnily enough.  I also work hard.  I believe life is difficult and meant to be worked at in order to get the most out of it.  I believe good things don’t come easily and you have to work to get them and work even harder to keep them.  I think this should be true of everything perhaps except love.  Surely love should at least come easily even if it’s like holding on to a slippery eel to maintain it – or at least in my experience.

I know relationships are hard work but shouldn’t it be easy to love someone and to be loved??

Cliché phrases come about because they usually have some sort of truth or wisdom in them even if they do become a little simplistic or sugar coated along the way.  For example, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is – I realize I secretly believe this.

The problem is whatever we secretly believe determines our outlook, expectation and experience of life to a large extent in my opinion.

Do I believe God is nice?  I believe he is good as in ‘just’ but do I believe he is nice?  Hmm, I’m not so sure… Would he do something just because he thinks I’d like it?   Doesn’t everything have to have purpose in the big ole master plan?

Recently I was given something so beautiful, so perfect, so taken from my innermost secret dreams that I wondered if it was too good to be true. Well, guess what?  It was!  So what was that about?  Did I just serve a purpose in the plan, did the experience exist for the greater good of the greater plan. Or was it just a bit cruel?  Not so much a sick joke in a sadistic way, but not very kind.

Certainly as I get older I’m less sure about much more and realize I actually understand very little.  I’ve been contemplating the notion of whether we have a ‘right’ to be happy and fulfilled in life which is of course the message sold to us in this generation more than ever.

I’m known for going on about going for your dreams, about holding out for the life you’ve dreamed of and not accepting any less.  I still believe we should aim for the sky but I am less convinced we are entitled to this privilege.  I read a thought-provoking article recently that challenged the sense of entitlement today’s generation expects.  There are simply not enough dream jobs or dream people to go around.

When is it time to let go of the dream and start accepting reality?  But don’t the dreams to an extent also create our reality? My head hurts!

Even if we do want to let go, how do we do that?  How do you stop believing even something you no longer want to believe?

Recently I’ve been really gaining some spiritual revelations through The Magician’s Nephew by C.S Lewis while reading it to my son. Yes it is a kid’s book!  Like this is exactly what I meant about dreaming and hoping:

“Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to hope.  Hope is more than wishful thinking but I think it is also different to the certainty of faith.  I came to the conclusion that Hope can only come from believing that God is a good God and also a nice one.  When Digory (in The Magicians Nephew) resisted picking the apple for himself to take to his mother to heal her but stuck to what Aslan had asked him to do and returned with just one apple for him, he was sad and afraid that he had let his mother down – that his dream of seeing her well would no longer happen.  However, he’d forgotten about the power and heart of the one who had asked him to go on the task.  Of course, Aslan then gave him an apple to take to his mother.  The key was waiting until Aslan offered the fruit rather than taking it.  This is how it would have a lasting affect.  Aslan goes on to explain that although the witch would gain the benefits of the youth and beauty of the fruit, it was spoiled for her due to her stealing it, uninvited:

“Child, that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Oh, the fruit is good, but they loath it ever after.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

I’m sure it was no coincidence that I also heard Philip Yancey an Inspirational American author speak at the weekend on suffering and pain and our response to it.  He said many amazing things but the quote that stands out to me was, ‘Nothing that happened to you is irredeemable.  God is the great recycler who turns our junk into something better.’  So I guess there is always hope.  And as C.S Lewis says;

“When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start to go right they often go on getting better and better.”
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

It’s a scary thing to wait, and not take matters into your own hands.  To trust that there is an even better plan. One that is given as a gift to you rather than a poor reflection from something you’ve plucked yourself at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Image

I strongly suspect that this might be the Art of letting go.

What I learned from travelling

Well I’ve been back from my travels for a few weeks now but it feels like much more.  Bear Cub started school last week so we’ve been focused on that and the sense of ‘all-change’ has helped in returning to routine and normality.  It’s a different routine so that helps a little.

I’ve lost count of people who have asked me whether I had a good time, what was my favourite place and whether I was glad to be back.  Only a few, my closest friends who knew my reasons for going, asked me if I got out of the trip what I wanted to – did I feel changed by the experience and what was I going to do with what I’ve gained?

Obviously, travelling gives you a lot of time to think.  Once you are free from the pressures of your every day life you somehow realize you are never as trapped as whatever situation you’ve come from has led you to believe.  By the very fact that you are away means you did it – you escaped.  I congratulate myself for having gone.  For having done it, whether I achieved my goals or not.

I’m pleased to report however, that I feel I did achieve most of my goals:  I wanted an adventure – check.  I wanted to challenge myself, scare myself even – check. I wanted to get away from my life – check.  I wanted to change within; my perspective on my past, my present and my future – check.  I wanted to feel alive – check.  I wanted to gain new enthusiasm, focus and energy for the future – check.  I wanted to fall out of love (well I did say most of my goals)!

The trip did not change my life or massively change me but it did change my perspective.  And after all, how we think is the first step to changing how we act, who we are and who we will be.  As I suspected, the key was to step out of my life and to have an adventure.  It didn’t really matter where I went or for how long, as long as it was away and although I could have travelled for longer and further away – it was enough!  If there is one thing I would want to say to encourage any one out there thinking ‘I’d love to do something like that’ is to just do it! It may sound overly simple but I mean it.  To whatever your means are – do it! Create that adventure and that space for yourself so you can be centered, and hear, and find out who you are again, and find out where you want to go next.  If that for you means getting a friend to have your child for a night so you can book a SuperSaver train fare to Brighton for 2 days and walk on the beach and listen to music and write and breathe in the sea air, stay in a cheap hotel and eat fish and chips with the wind in your hair – if that is all you can do then I really believe it will be enough.  If you go with an open heart, expectant and wanting of change I believe it will happen simply because you’ve created the space to realize things you already know.  To give airplay to dreams you’ve pushed down under the daily grind, buried beneath your disappointments, responsibilities and pressures.

A word on the cost of my trip. I had to completely re-plan my trip after money issues meant I could not do my original idea of a road trip across the West Coast of the U.S.  I’m a single-mum in a debt-scheme due to my divorce and working only part-time in a fairly poorly paid job.  Yet I managed to do an amazing trip on a mega budget.  Here’s how I funded it: My house is meant to be remortgaged so I ‘borrowed’ some money from my son’s savings account (money put in there from the divorce) I feel really bad about this but I intend to replace it before the end of the year and I also hope that my son gained an experience he’ll remember for his whole life.  The other half of my trip was entirely funded through gifts from my friends.  I have the most awesome, amazing friend in the world.  I did not ask anyone for any money yet I was overwhelmed by how much support I had for my trip and how much my friends were behind me and championing me and willing me to do this adventure.  One friend even thanked me for going on my trip and therefore challenging and inspiring her and gave me a monetary gift as a response!  I wanted to mention this to show how much people will be on your side when you speak out your dream. You may think people will want to put you in your place or pull you down or think you’re crazy but the truth is you’ll find people mainly want others to succeed.  Your own dreams will in turn inspire others in theirs and they will want to get on board and support you in any way they can.  I was truly humbled and amazed as I saw this truth unravel before me.  I absolutely could not have done my trip without the help and support – both practical, monetary and otherwise – of my friends.  I want to be totally transparent about that.

One of the things that was most interesting about being away was the fact that every single day I truly felt like I was living.  Actually living in the moment.  In my life here in London I often feel like I am always rushing or otherwise waiting.  Rushing the days by looking forward to something to look forward to or waiting for something exciting to happen or just busy on the treadmill of life.  This mindset can make you feel like you’ve ‘wasted’ a day when you don’t get what you had planned done or even if you’re just relaxing.  Alternatively you feel like your days are rushed and full but with nothing that really and truly matters to you.

When I was travelling I never felt like this.  Each day that stretched out before me was not even thought about in a way and I certainly didn’t think about the day after that.  I just lived each day and loved it.  I have never felt more ‘in the moment’ and present in my life before and it was a wonderful and freeing feeling.  I suspect it is a key to lasting and everyday happiness.  How we spend the majority of our time, who we are with, what we do and what we look at needs to be what we want our life to look like and be like.  It is hugely important and key to our happiness and fulfillment.

So in that sense, it was life changing.  I just need to work out how to keep that mindset and not lose it now that I’m back home.  Time for change I think.

France Part 1 – Planes, Manses & Lanuejols

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Perpignon – Planes

After getting a little lost (again) we actually managed to return the hire car to Girona airport no problem.  We then had to get a bus back to Girona train station where we would be getting a high-speed train to Perpignon via Figueres to start the French leg of our travels.  My plan was to drop the backpack in Left Luggage and walk round Girona town again as we had a few hours before our train.  However, one thing I have learned about travelling with a 4-year-old is to ‘under plan’ everything and to allow double the time to do everything.  Bear Cub had woken that morning complaining of a ‘funny’ tummy.  I was worried at first that he had eaten something that disagreed with him but I soon realised he was literally exhausted and the many late nights and early mornings had finally caught up with him despite napping during car journey’s in the day.  He really did look ill, poor bear, and was very pale.  I put him to sleep in the car and he thankfully had almost an hour while I dismantled the tent which gave him enough energy to make it to the airport and the train station.  However, I could feel an imminent meltdown once we’d reached there so we decided to hang out in the cool air-conditioned train station.  Bear Cub actually constantly kept falling asleep and napping on every chair he sat on.  It at least kept him from being bored so that before we knew it, it was time to board the train.

The High-speed train was lots of fun and the changeover was smooth except the journey was so short, Bear Cub was a very grizzly bear indeed when I had to wake him at Perpignan.  We then had a very stressful 40 minutes of trying to locate the Hertz car hire place which was supposedly ‘at’ the train station – me sweating and straining with the huge backpack and Bear Cub in tears from tiredness.  It’s amazing the internal dialogue I have had in terms of my parenting along this journey.  It ranges from patting myself on the back and thinking I’m doing pretty good as a mum when Bear Cub is ecstatic at spotting a lizard or climbing a ‘real’ mountain, to wondering if I need to report myself to Childline when I’m forcing my son to trail round a railway station in 34 degree heat with a backpack on his back while I hiss and moan at him for being whiney!!!  Anyway, it turned out the Hertz place was actually not in the station but across the road and down the street.  By now it was 6.30pm and I was aware we still had a 2 hour journey ahead of us to our campsite. What made matters a little more daunting was that I soon discovered that the car we’d been given had the power of a moped and was no match for the winding roads and steep hills of the Pyrenees!! At some stretches we were crawling a long in 2nd gear and must have looked quite a comical sight – though at this stage I wasn’t really finding anything funny!! Bear Cub immediately fell asleep and I was left to take in the breath-taking scenery.  I really have never seen such amazing views and it helped to calm me and quiet the voice inside condemning me for my bad parenting!

The journey was long and was pretty scary on some of the steep bends around the beautiful Pyrenees but we eventually found our campsite and it was well worth the journey.

L’orri de Planes is an Ecological Country House with a Gite, rooms, Eco-tents and free camping sites too.  It was small but perfectly equipped, immaculately clean, with a pool and WiFi.  The ethos of the owners, Arif and Marta is to create a site that is as sustainable as possible.  The food was all locally sourced, everything was recycled, the whole place was solar-powered and everywhere you looked were signs advising you not waste water, lights or any energy.  The restaurant is apparently known to serve some of the best food in the region and we gratefully sampled a delicious Lasagne when we arrived exhausted from our journey.  By this time it was almost 9pm and Bear Cub was beside himself with tiredness.  I relented and asked Arif if they had any rooms free so we could get a good night’s sleep and he did but also offered us the cheaper option of the Gite. The Gite was actually like a Scandinavian style hut like hostel with 10 beds in the room.  There was only one other person staying in there so we opted to sleep on the mezzanine level which had 4 beds and a measure of added privacy due to being elevated.  This was the best decision Id made that day and we stayed 3 nights with Bear Cub sleeping until 10am one morning and much better for it!

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L’Orri de Planes is a great place and I can’t recommend it enough.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there and Bea Cub especially enjoyed a ride on Le Petit Train Jaune which is an open top train that takes you on a ride along the cliff top edges of the Pyrenees.  We also climbed a mountain (just a little one) and paddled in a natural waterfall/river.  With more children at the site Bear Cub even made some friends so it was smiles all round!

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Manses near Mirepoix

After feeling much more rested we headed to our next stop – Belrapayre – Europe’s only Retro Trailer park in Manses near Mirepoix.  Coline, the owner along with her husband, Perry had warned me that it was their annual retro airstream meeting that weekend so if it was a quiet stay I was after it was not the place! I thought it sounded like fun but opted for just one night just in case.  I now wish I’d stayed longer!! We had a fantastic time!

Driving everywhere in France is beautiful.  Passing fields packed to the corners with Sunflowers, hills, mountains and trees you can’t help but drive along with a smile on your face.

We found Belrapayre fairly easily thanks to NavFree France and the place immediately has an impact on you. Belrepayre is not only full of amazing, immaculately restored retro Airstream trailers but the whole place is decorated to fit in with the retro feel.  The reception is a trailer adorned with classic, American car signs, 60’s decor and mannequins kitted out in the appropriate gear.  The trailer pitches are surrounded with pink flamingos and the walkways have half old cars and old-fashioned bath tubs filled with flowers.  The play area has a real old double-decker bus and London taxi parked up and a red phone box that made us feel at home 🙂

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Perry and Coline are fantastic people and have a wonderful story to tell. Perry, originally from Surrey U.K, was actually one of the most famous clowns in Europe and his Father was a well-known British actor.  He persuaded Coline to run away to the circus with him and they eventually had their own circus that travelled round Europe along with their four sons.  After many years they sold the circus and set up the Airstream Retro park that is Belrepayre and what a wonderful place it is.  They are the perfect welcoming guests and everything is a bit tongue-in-cheek, kitsch and fun!

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The Airstream meeting in the evening consisted of everyone dressing as retro as possible and enjoying a special 3 course meal with a live French duo performing and the evening culminated in the annual slap-stick performance from Perry and one of his sons, Correo, who is also a professional performer.  Nothing is taken too seriously and a lot of fun was had by all.  Perry ended the evening with a DJ set as his alter-ego ‘Johnny Lotion’.  Somehow Bear Cub managed to stay up until midnight and we had a fabulous time.

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This stop was the one where I first made some real friends who made a real impact on me and I intend to keep in touch with.  Dr Egbert Mulder is a Director of the biggest Yoga centre in Amsterdam and has attended the Airstream meeting 3 years in a row.  This year was the first on his own with his 3 children since he separated from his wife.  Egbert was a successful businessman and consultant and decided to radically change his life and do something of ‘meaning’ so sold his businesses and now focuses on developing the centre. He was amazingly wise and calming and hugely positive.  He kept reminding me that ‘Life is something that happens while we’re busy making plans!’ He also showed me some great techniques for dealing with stress.  It was interesting to me that he told me ‘stress’ is not about being busy, it s about any negative emotion.  And all negative emotion immobilises us.  We’re then unable to think straight, make decisions or plan ahead.  We are literally incapacitated by all negative emotion.  We therefore need to deal with ‘stress’ so that we can move forward in to the future.  This was spot on for me.

Another lovely person I met was Lenka, a Thai Massage Therapist from Czech republic.  She instantly befriended me and we talked for most of the evening.  I also attended one of her workshops the next morning and it was wonderful!

All in all Belrapayre was a great experience and I fully intend to go for the Airstream meeting next year!

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On the way to our next destination we stopped at Carcasonne which has a beautiful and magical castle with lovely little shops, artists studios and cafes within its walls.  We didn’t have time to pay and go in the castle part itself but loved the bustling vibe and Bear Cub enjoyed playing Knights and hunting Dragons in the grounds.

Lanuejols

Our next stop took a lot longer to get to than I anticipated as we basically had to drive down to the coast before we could go up back into the Mid Pyrenees and our skateboard car did not like the windy roads at all! It took almost 4 hours and our petrol tank was low – really low! I can tell you now I was praying like mad! It was a Sunday and all the little petrol stations, few and far between were closed.  I was kicking myself for not filling up in Millau the nearest big town to our site which was actually 40 mins away! By the skin of our teeth we limped into Domaine des Pradines exhausted – more from the stress and worry than anything else.

I have to admit, Domaine des Pradines was my least favourite campsite so far.  It was rustic and wild which I’d come to prefer to the more commercial campsites but I found the toilets and showers dirty and the facilities a bit unkept.  However, Bear Cub had made friends before I’d even finished putting the tent up (which I now have down to a fine art by the way!) and with a small pool, two parks, a table tennis room and tennis courts, he was more than happy! For me it was a bit isolated.  There was nothing outside of the park except for the little village of Lanuejols which didn’t have much and was not exceptionally pretty like some of the places we’d seen.

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I got to work booking our next stop.  We did have a campsite earmarked that was again in the Natural Parks and mountains but the owner had irritated me by refusing to communicate to me in anything but French even though she was actually English! After her first email I replied in my very basic French politely saying my French was poor.  She simply sent a much longer, more complicated reply in French! I had to use Google translate in the end! It took 3 emails back and forth just to find out how I could actually book.  Now I know us English are very lazy with languages and I admit I’ve been ashamed of my French while here when Ive come across Swiss, Dutch and Czech people all fluent in both French and English.  However, I felt she was taking her point too far – especially as she was English! So we sacked that one.  Besides, we felt we needed to get back to the coast and the beaches and away from the winding roads of the Pyrenees in our ‘skate-board’ car.  It was pretty taxing winding down a mountain for hours on end at 30 mph!!

We have been in France for just a week and it has been exhausting and exhilarating.  We’ve already experienced so many different sides of this beautiful country.  The French countryside  is both inviting and embracing, it massages your soul into peaceful reflection and the sights and smells literally lift your spirits as you take them all in.  I’d also personally finally begun to feel the changes within myself that I so desired on this trip: Clarity, vision for the future, peace and being okay with being on my own.

I already have a lot to thank France for and I think this is the start of a lifelong friendship.  I’ve always fallen in love easily but I’m falling fast even for me with France!Image

Travelling sideways

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I see my reflection looking back at me in various windows.

Travelling my journey to new found places within me as well as without.

My expression is non-perplexed.  Serene even.

A curious, demure look privately exciting myself,

at the prospect of the next discovery that awaits at my next stop.

A revelation about myself revealed by a place.

Unwrapped before me in the form of challenges and fears faced and conquered.

Gradually I begin to embrace the fear.

I ride anxiety, using it to propel me onwards, upwards and beyond my own barriers I’d previously believed impenetrable.

This is what growing feels like.

This is how life sounds when it’s allowed to breathe: A glorious exhalation, letting out limitations.

I watch them float away from me and know they will never return.

My wings are stretched.

I am poised to fly.

Every now and then you need to scare yourself to remember you’re still alive… Here’s what I’m doing!

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Around last Christmas I started to feel like I needed a challenge, like I really needed to give my life a huge kick up the bum!

I tweeted, ‘Some times you have to scare yourself a little just to remind yourself you’re alive’. 

By New Year’s Eve, when I was doing the obligatory (and depressing) year’s reflection, I vowed that I would not allow my life to be the same in 2013 as it was in 2012.  I needed to step out of my comfort zone.  A plan began to form.

The year Bear Cub was born was both the best year of my life and the worst. Best because he was, and continues to be, one of the best things that have ever happened to me bringing me an unending source of inspiration, joy and love.  Worst because it is the year my marriage broke down.

When I fell pregnant (after much deliberation) I could never have dreamed in my worst nightmare that I’d end up a single mother before my baby was 18 months old!

It’s been a hard few years.  My friends and family have been amazing and I feel as though I’ve been propped up, carried and cheered along by them all.  Somehow I got through the worst of it and somehow I’m surviving though it’s particularly tough financially, often tiring and sometimes lonely.  But that is all it has been in some ways – survival.  I’ve only had the strength to just about do what I needed to in order to provide for Bear Cub, make sure he is ok, get to work and back and complete the daily logistical nightmare that is the life of a single, working, parent.  It was New Year that I realised that although I could not say I am fully healed, I am standing on my own two feet again and I have run out of excuses to continue to just coast along.

My friend Ruth and I started More than a Mum because we both are big dreamers who desire and believe we can have the lives we truly want as women even if we’re mums!  I’ve always been passionate about wanting to encourage people to go for their dreams, to be the best they can be and not settle for anything less.  Understandably, and possibly forgivably, I’ve not had the strength to live life in this way this last few years but now I want to take up  the challenge again for myself.

After all, how can I inspire and encourage other women to do what I’m not living out in my own life?

It’s true to say I’m at a cross roads in my life and with Bear Cub starting school in September it will finally be my time to fully concentrate on my own ambitions and dreams again.  However, sometimes fear and life experiences bury those dreams down pretty deep and it takes some real digging around to resurrect them again and it takes even more courage to dare to believe you can achieve them.

I realised I was on a journey and I realised I needed to get off the merry-go-round of life for a while and to find some space and time to hear, to think, to know and to plan.  I needed a sabbatical and I needed an adventure.

What better way to realise a spiritual journey than to go on a physical one – so I decided I would go travelling with Bear Cub.

What started as visions of travelling for a year in Bali, Thailand and other exotic places was scaled down to a three-month road trip across the West Coast of the U.S and finally has been reduced to 6 weeks backpacking across Europe.  Throughout the planning I have faced numerous obstacles, let downs and disappointments but the revelation I received was that it was not so much the destination that was important, but the journey itself.  Furthermore, the length of time initially felt like  a bit of a cop-out but then I realised that you can change your life in a day let alone a few weeks! Six weeks is what I have so six weeks will have to be enough.

So there you go, that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve never done anything like this in my life let alone with a four year-old in tow so I am both excited and terrified in equal measure.  But I’m much more scared of not going at all.  Experiences will be had and experiences change you so I will come back changed – or at least clearer in terms of the direction I want my life to go in next.  That is my only agenda – that and having a really special, bonding, adventure with Bear Cub!

I never want to be one of those people who hear about people doing amazing and exciting things and then says, “I wish I could do that!’ The answer is we all can.  We just have to have the guts to do it.

We’re on a mega budget and I’ve not booked anything yet and we plan to leave week of 22nd July so if you have any travel tips (particularly with little ones), places we should visit, friends we can stay with or equipment we can borrow (I’m serious!) or potential sponsors, then please do get in touch.

I hope to blog once a week for MTAM while I’m away so I’ll keep you up to date on our adventures (and mishaps)!

The Problem of potential

I have a problem with potential.  It’s a notion I’ve been exploring in my mind for quite some time.  What has struck me recently is the fact that on the surface it seems like such a positive, encouraging word – ‘so full of potential’.  And it is….if it is realised.  And herein lies my issue with the word.

po·ten·tial

Adjective:  Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.

Noun: Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

Synonyms:     adjective possible – feasible – eventual – contingent noun.  possibility – potentiality

On the one hand potential speaks of new beginnings and hopeful futures.  A fresh, exciting, anticipation of greatness.  ‘Shows great potential as a student, singer, artist, lover…..’.  The potential you see in someone, or that that someone sees in you, is everything you could be.  In some ways it’s even more certain than that, more of a promise than an idea.  Based on what is inherently evident in you, if you carry on that path, progressing in that manner and at that pace it is almost a sure thing that you will succeed in that area, flourish, glow and be great.  It is a word if spoken over you at a certain stage to be taken as great encouragement and inspiration.  However, as I mentioned before, this in only the case if this potential is actually reached and realised.

If potential remains unfulfilled it becomes the most depressing, hateful, stinging word ever.  What was hopeful becomes a crushing, ever-present reminder of what a person, situation or circumstance could have been but is not.  What was well within our grasp but simply not reached.

When it comes to potential in ourselves, its important to take note of what others see in us as an indication of what we could be as sometimes we can’t always see it but, it is always more important to identify it for ourselves.  In this I mean having some self-belief about becoming all we want to be and having our deepest dreams and desires fulfilled, refusing to settle for second best.

People who don’t reach their potential often use ‘blame’ as an excuse for their lack. It will always be someone else’s fault for not helping enough, encouraging enough, or circumstances were against them holding them back or standing in their way somehow.  However, I have found this to be true through observation in others and myself:

It is only you who can stop you from fulfilling your full potential. 

True, people and circumstances may make it harder or even delay your journey but really and truly, it is only yourself who can ultimately hold you back and no one else will be to blame.

We can often get stuck on this word potential in ‘others’ in relationships in particular.  We choose someone based on what we see they could be or become – hoping that they will, ignoring where they are now.  It may be true and your judgement may be correct – this person really could deal with their problem/s, make the required adjustments, mature, grow up  and develop – however, just because this is something within their power to do, it does not mean that they actually will.  I have been flabbergasted to find there are people who actually don’t want to get ‘better’ who to a large extent, not necessarily enjoy but take comfort, in their pain and issues.  It has become part of their identity and they perhaps fear who they will be without them.  They therefore hold on to them, refusing to open themselves up to healing, growing and moving on no matter how wonderful the promise on the other side is.  I’ve seen before my eyes people forfeit amazing treasure and certain happiness and fulfillment in return for staying where they are, wallowing in their own disappointment and regret. Giving up a bright and hopeful future in place of holding on to a dark, disappointing past.

As a person who embraces change, loves life and basically wants to be happy, I find this utterly astonishing and cannot understand it in the slightest.  I too feel pain and regret, and disappointment just like everyone else but as we all know, life really doesn’t turn out how we often expect or hope it to be sometimes and we have to deal with it.  We have to choose to let go, to face the pain full-on and walk right through the middle of it and it hurts like hell.  But you know what?  One day you come out the other side and the sun is shining and you realise the pain is behind you. You see, when you try to dodge pain and walk around it, you end up going round and round in circles, simply circling the pain and never moving on from it.  You might be travelling but you’re certainly not getting anywhere!

It’s not wrong to base decisions on potential – we may choose a house on it’s potential or a project but there are always risks, often hidden ones, along the way.  And most importantly we have to know when to call it a day.  One of the most powerful quotes I have come across recently is this:

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.

As a fixer and someone who is passionate about dreams and seeing people live theirs out to the full, I rarely get the balance in this quote right.  It deeply saddens me to see people bound who could so easily be free.  To see people burdened and sad who could so easily be happy.  What I have had to learn though is that we can only be responsible for our own walk and our own actions and our own potential.  We can’t live someone else’s out for them.  We can encourage and spur on and believe and hope.  But in getting stuck on someone else’s unfulfilled potential we can sometimes neglect and miss out on our own.