"FUIMUS - We Have Been"

"FUIMUS - We Have Been!" motto of Clan Bruce


All material on SHIMMERCASTDREAMS copyright of Marie Bruce and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.


Thursday, 24 December 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Christmas Rose

A Rose in Winter

It's 9pm on Christmas Eve and the weather has turned suddenly chilly, almost as if the sky deities know that people are dreaming of a white and frosty Christmas.  I'm curled up by the fire, with the lights of the tree twinkling and sparkling around me. A cinnamon chai WoodWick candle crackles as it burns, filling the room with a warm spicy fragrance.

I feel content and a bit dreamy tonight.  Although it is only the beginning of Christmas my mind has already turned towards the goals I want to set myself for next year.  2015 is drawing to a quiet close and I am happy to leave it behind. It hasn't been a bad year; but I have been in a state of anger, grief and sadness for much of it.  Now that a new year is waiting in the wings and I am in a much calmer state of mind, I feel ready to welcome new adventures.

I have greatly missed Scotland this year, but having a break from it was the right thing to do, for several reasons.  I'll be continuing the break through 2016 too. Friends there have my number and can call me if they miss me meantime, and the motorway runs both ways - they can always come to Yorkshire. 

But for now my college course has to take priority, and pass or fail, I have only 18 months of studying left to go and then I'll be free of night school.  So I plan to return to Scotland after completing the course; perhaps to Dornoch for the autumnal equinox in 2017. That is something I can look forward to and it will be a nice treat after four years of studying, essay writing and exams.

This time away from the Highlands has served to help me reassess how I feel about what I've experienced there, because it isn't all romance and pipe-dreams. There is a harsh side to Scotland; the cold weather takes its toll on me because of my thyroid illness; some of the local women there can be hostile at times; and my straight-taking Yorkshire ways simply cannot fathom the two faces of the Scots. Do they know they can seem false to those who might be unfamiliar with their ways? Why can't they just say what they mean? Why talk in riddles and in the 3rd person when I'm standing right there?  I needed a break from it.

I needed time to get back to my honest Yorkshire roots; to good old fashioned English values.  An Austrian called Sven told me "You are an English rose"...I've been thinking about this in recent months.  What does it mean to be an English rose and have I allowed the Bruce to be too dominant a side of my personality?  I am the rose and the thistle combined, English and Scots by birth and blood, yet I've never thought of myself as an English rose before - it took an Austrian tourist to point it out to me.

An English rose is pale skinned, with rosy lips and cheeks..so in that respect I fit the description.  The White Rose is the emblem of Yorkshire, so that fits too.  Yet I always imagined an English rose to be passive, easily charmed and that's where I falter.  I'm too bolshie to be passive - yet roses have thorns, so maybe I am one after all. It has certainly given me food for thought.

To me an English rose is peaceful, gentle, charming and joyful; while the Scots Thistle is prickly, defensive, vigilant and wild. 'None shall irritate me unscathed' and I have certainly exhibited thistle behavior this past year, so perhaps it is time to cultivate my inner rose instead and see where she takes me. Perhaps she will help me to remain calm and serene under pressure; receptive and open to bright new prospects; blossoming towards a new adventure.  

Maybe 2016 will be my English Rose year; a year to soften the edges and come to full bloom once more.  Perhaps it is only by embracing my English side that the rose and the thistle can co-exist peacefully together within my personality. And its not like I'm turning away from my Scots side because the white rose was also the symbol of the Jacobites...so I guess whichever way you look at it rebellion is in my blood! 

And so tonight, a Christmas rose is born...and a Merry Christmas to all the other roses out there x






Wednesday, 16 December 2015

MUSICAL DOLL; If I Die Young

Lay me down on a bed of roses...

Send me away with the words of a love song...


The ballad of a dove, go in peace and love.


Friday, 4 December 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; My Mercurial Mind

Preparing to dive into a new essay assignment...



Tonight is writing weather...by that I mean it's dark, stormy, wet and windy...the perfect weather for hiding away in my little study and putting together this blog post. It's been a while since I posted anything on here and that is because I've been concentrating on my night school classes, course work, my columns and freelance writing.  Oh and I had my birthday last month too! So I've been quite busy.

This past week we were given one of our assignments for the course; an essay to be completed in the next four weeks. I have been gathering together my counselling books to assist me as we have to include references throughout the work. This doesn't really sit well with me to be honest - I'm used to writing all my own words, not relying on other authors for back-up! It's one of the differences between commercial and academic writing. 

I am still finding the whole academic side of things to be very pretentious.  Basically, academics like to take a very simple thing and dress it up in as much pomposity as they can manage in order to try and pass it off as something extremely complex that only they and their ilk can understand.  But I just can't buy into that kind of bullshit. I find it totally ridiculous.  The other day for example, our tutor must have spent at least an hour defining the word 'evaluate' - an hour!! I mean, it's not rocket science is it? It's just a word.  I find it difficult not to roll my eyes. 

Some of the course content is quite interesting. I enjoy the self-awareness side of counsellor training and when I can relate to something I find it keeps hold of my attention for longer. But the rest is just too far up it's own rear end for my tastes. It brings out my moody side.  

I have always had a very mercurial mind and I do experience swift and sudden changes in temperament; it is easy to make me laugh, but it is also easy to make me furious!  This is magnified whenever I get stressed and it triggers my forgetfulness too, so for the past few years, what with juggling the course and my writing and coming to terms with five deaths in three years, I have been a mood-swinging enigma!  

People never know what kind of response they will get from me - good or ill-tempered.  Recent bereavements have only added fuel to the temperamental fire, as it would with anyone. But I'm starting to move into a much calmer place now.  I'm still sad at the passing of three of my friends in the Highlands, but there is a quiet serenity to my sorrow these days.

That's not to say I'll never display another ill-tempered backlash to a time wasting cold-caller, because I probably will. But I am remembering to try and breathe through the stress before I respond to anyone.  To slow down. To think before I feel.  And true friends make allowances anyway.

The silver lining is that, just like me, some of the strongest women in history have also been of a very mercurial mindset - Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria - so maybe it's not such a bad thing after all. Maybe it is  a mark of my strength. 
Could it be a sign of your strength too?




Friday, 13 November 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; As Snow White Sleeps...she dreams...


"Love...
...Silhouettes and shadows...
Love...
...I'm waiting in the dark...

Oh, heavy hearts are healing...
Oh, Love...

I cry your name, in pleasure,
every time that I'm in pain..."

...She waits...she's waiting

"If we let go - don't you let go...
...We, we tremble, so be gentle..."

I wait...I'm still waiting...

Love this song...  and the Snow White inspired video on the Kiss Me Once Tour DVD is a beautiful work of art. Enjoy! 
Love M x

Friday, 23 October 2015

POET'S CORNER; The Last Rose


The Last Rose

Like the last rose of summer she is a wilting flower
Drooping, head bowed, weighed down by the weight of isolation
Her petals are as faded and as crumpled as her spirit
She is a wraith, haunted by her past and the echoes of time
Keening silently in her dreams where no-one can hear
Desolate and dejected she roams the earth
Wailing for her companion, her lover, her friend
She shall be his last lullaby...
Until she fades away with the mist, lost in her aloneness - 
This is what dying of heartbreak looks like...
The silent, invisible fall into desolate, eternal oblivion.

By Marie Bruce

www.arantza.info


Friday, 16 October 2015

BOOK NOOK; Peace & Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Image result for peace and plenty sarah images
"Solvency feels better than anything you can spend money on"
Sarah Ban Breathnach
There is no greater comfort in the world to me than the familiar voice of a favourite author.  Curling up on an damp autumnal day, being deeply absorbed in a book, is one of my go-to tricks for instant relaxation, and that is just what I've been doing.  Yesterday was fraught with a rather fruitless and pointless study group, which left me feeling drained and out of sorts, so today I have been utilizing my self-care skills - deliberately not thinking about college at all, and resting up with a great book.

Peace and Plenty is the latest book from Sarah Ban Breathnach, one of my favourite inspirational authors.  Her writing style is gentle and calming; nurturing and encouraging.  In this book she explores the relationship between women and money.  Yes, money.
It can be a scary word sometimes, causing many a sleepless night to the overspent.   It is not a book about stocks and bonds or financial planning as such - this is a book which looks at how women really handle their cash.  SBB mentions the ingenuity of the 'envelope system' which is something I've used myself for years and plenty of women I know also use it, so it must be quite effective.  Apparently it stems from the war years and rationing, when housewives had to stretch their income as far as possible.

But what can a millionairess author know of everyday money troubles?  Isn't SBB loaded?  Well, yes she was, but due to overspending on frivolous luxuries (Marilyn Monroe's furs, among other items listed in the book! WTF???) and a bad marriage/divorce to a fortune hunter, she is now broke and nearly broken by the experience.  She's had to sell her English writing retreat Newton's Cottage and set up home all over again in a small apartment in the States.  So far, so fallen.

She writes with honesty and humility about the financial mistakes she's made in the past and how she has learnt to pick herself up and take better care of the pennies, now that she's been reduced to rubbing two together and counting every one!  You just know as a reader, that this is a writer who really lived the authorial dream, who had it all and who is now kicking herself for letting it slip right through her fingers. I like her even better for her candor.  It makes her even easier to relate to, for in the wake of the longest and deepest global recession ever, haven't we all had to tighten our belts and felt the pinch now and then? 

Peace and Plenty is full of reassurance though.  All tides turn - those who were once well off and secure can become poor, while those who were poor can look forward to better days ahead.  The book offers advice on how to find peace of mind when money worries keep you awake at night, how to stay calm in the face of debt collectors and where to create small moments of comfort for yourself so that you can feel truly enriched no matter how much money you have in the bank.

Although I don't have a debt problem to manage (my student debt not being due in for a few years yet), Peace and Plenty has made me look closely at how I spend my money, and why. I do believe that women are emotional spenders and I include myself in this.  A quick shopping trip can perk up a low mood and make pms seems more bearable; a new dress soothes a jilted spirit; while a shiny new stash of make-up can be just what you need to put your best face forward.  Retail therapy is good for you, providing you can afford it - that is with cash left over after all the bills are paid, the groceries are in, the car is paid for and the savings account has been topped up by its regular monthly amount. But if you're spending on credit cards, catalogs or bank loans, you're heading for trouble.  And the more money you have, the more debt you can accumulate, so more money isn't really the answer - it's learning how to handle the money you do have, in a responsible manner, that will make all the difference.

Peace and Plenty is a great self-help book for any woman who wishes she was a little bit smarter about money.  It aims to leave the reader with tools for creating a sense of financial serenity and solvency, and provides lots of anecdotes along the way. One thing SBB is good at is putting the laughter into a tragic tale and you will chuckle along with her as she recalls some of her more outrageous money missteps! 

This book isn't remotely depressing.  Quite the contrary. It is an uplifting tome of feisty feminine spirit in the face of financial adversity - and in the current economic climate, with more cuts to come,  who doesn't need a dose of that? 



Saturday, 10 October 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Five Year PLan

Image result for red squirrel images
"Most people overestimate what they can do in a year...
 and completely underestimate what they can achieve in a decade."
Anthony Robbins


I love this quotation from motivational author and speaker,Tony Robbins. It somehow always reminds me of the phrase 'the five year plan'.  Of course that phrase is usually associated with women who have only one agenda - to get pregnant and married asap - usually in that order! But as that has never been my life plan, and as I sit here willfully destroying my fertile eggs with a glass of red wine, I've been pondering on what my own five year plan might look like. Where do I want to be in autumn/winter 2020?

I've always believed in the power of goal setting - it's how I got published, got a column, got a recording deal. Set the goal then let it go and allow the opportunities to flow towards you.  But what are you to do when the goal seems so very far away; when you cannot see your way ahead?  How do you go about dreaming the impossible dream, without feeling disheartened and hopeless?

I suppose we have to approach the big dreams in the same way a squirrel approaches the onset of autumn and winter - by gathering resources, one nut at a time and stashing them away, knowing that each small step taken, each nut gathered will increase our chances of survival in an unpredictable climate.  We also have to spend time clearing out the nest and making room, ready for the dream season to manifest our goals.

My five year plan then includes such things as completing my studies and seeing Level 4 through to the end, until I qualify as a psychotherapist. This will take two years of study, plus the time needed to rack up the 450 clinical hours required; all whilst maintaining my writing career.

In addition I need to start thinking of my long term goal of moving to Scotland; this is bound to take time, but unless I start to make some real preparations for it, it is likely to remain a pipe-dream.  I'm not really one for pipe-dreaming - I like to make my dreams my reality, or what's the point of dreaming?  Dreams show us our potential so that we can take steps to live up to it.

So I need to begin a major declutter of the entire house.  I do declutter habitually, but I have a bad habit of hanging onto things for sentimental reasons.  Not anymore. I am going to be ruthless, because the idea of having to move EVERYTHING I currently possess to Scotland is frankly overwhelming. The more I have the more it will cost in removal expenditure. So I need to start paring things down a bit. 

I've decided to ask myself, with each item, "Would I take it to Scotland with me?"  If the answer is No - out it goes! I've even made a note of what items of furniture I want to take and which pieces I would like to replace once north of the Wall. I'm even going to declutter my library and film/cd collections. I plan to donate lots of my books to local libraries, whittling down my collection to only those books I love and read repeatedly.   

I made a small start on this declutter earlier today.  Some things are difficult to throw away, but as I didn't know why I was holding onto them (my very first riding hat from childhood! Engagment cards for an engagment that was broken off nearly two decades ago! Why do I still have these things???) getting rid of them was the right thing to do.  And as soon as I had chucked them I immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me.  It made me realize that these items were actually weighing me down, not lifting me up.

I am never going to be a minimalist - I am a woman and I love to have pretty things around me, because on darker days they can be a comfort. Pretty things are a woman's shield against a sometimes cruel world.  Her nest is her safe place, her home is her retreat.  But if you start to feel a tad weighed down by too much stuff - it's time to start letting go.  

I have realized that the most important things to me are not the wardrobes, four-poster bed and chaise-lounge - all of which I plan to leave behind when the time comes and buy new things in Scotland - the most important things to me are a basic library of books, films and music; my piano; my mermaid altar table; my desks; my laptop, rocking chair, tree screens etc and a few special ornaments, such as the Lord of the Rings goblets.  With these items I can build a new home for myself anywhere.  And as they will easily pack into boxes, along with the remaining items of furniture, a big move no longer seems like such as impossible task.

A fresh start deserves a fresh colour palette, some new furniture and a fresh new look, with old favourites to bring the comfort of familiarity in a new place.  It may take longer than five years - but all I know for certain is that I can finally see my way ahead; I can finally start to make some small preparations; I can finally visualize the plan coming to fruition. And what you can visualize, you can manifest into being.  
Where do you want to be in 2020?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

BOOK NOOK; The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Image result for taming of the queen images


"But seeing those words that were first written, and scratched out, and rewritten again in print and bound into a book, I know that I love the process of writing and publishing.  To take a thought and work on it, to render it into the clearest form possible, and then to send it out into the world - this is work so precious and so joyful that I am not surprised that men have kept it to themselves." Kateryn Parr

Quotation from The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory.






It is 9pm on a Saturday night and I have just spent a lovely afternoon and evening curled up reading Philippa Gregory's latest Tudor novel.  I have been a fan of her work since I read Wideacre when I was 18 and I always look forward to her new releases.

The Taming of the Queen is the story of Katherine Parr, or Kateryn as she is known in the book - the unfortunate woman who is chosen to be Henry VIII's latest wife. She is famous for being the one who outlived him, who managed to survive marriage to a wife-killer, but she is also the wife most equal to him for intelligence and personal ambition. 

At the beginning of the marriage Henry loves his clever wife, encouraging her to debate with him and speak her mind, but as he begins to tire of her, as he tired of all his wives, her scholarship and opinions start to irritate him and an irritated Henry is a dangerous man to be around - Kateryn has to talk herself out of trouble on more than one occasion. 

There is an on-going sense of duress throughout the book - you can feel the net closing in around Kateryn as her enemies plot against her and she has no idea if she will be the next queen killed.  To add to this duress, all the gifts her husband presents her with in his generosity belonged to someone else.  She is expected to wear Anne Boleyn's crown, Katherine Howard's furs and Jane Seymour's hood - and be grateful for them.  All her gowns have been worn be former queens, former wives and she is acutely aware that she is simply the latest in a long line of royal playmates. After sitting for a royal family portrait she realizes that she could as easily find herself on the scaffold as on the queens' throne.

There are a few historical milestones mentioned in this novel - the sinking of the Mary Rose is described in tragic detail; the execution of Anne Askew, the first woman ever to be tortured in England because Henry changed the Law specifically to stretch her on the rack (such a nice man!);  and the swinging back and forth between the papist and reformist religions, depending on what mood Henry is in and who are his favourites at the time.  It is all so very precarious.  Laws are changed in a moment, just to accuse and condemn someone; people are favored one day and in the Tower the next. 

In spite of all this though Kateryn Parr steadily moves towards her own ambitions of pushing for a more tolerant and reformed Church.  She works with theologians to translate prayers and religious texts, believing that common people have a right to understand the word of god and read the bible in their own language. This is partly what gets her into such trouble. 

Having said that, Katherine Parr was the very first woman in England to write and publish her own work, under her own name and for breaking that glass ceiling, every woman author since owes her a huge debt of gratitude. I certainly have a special fondness for her and I admire her greatly for achieving her ambition in such dangerous circumstances and for paving the way for the rest of us to follow in her footsteps down the path to publication. It's not easy to publish now - it was downright life-threatening then. 

The Taming of the Queen is such an interesting book and like with all Gregory's novels, the history is told in an entertaining and vivid way so you learn as you read. It's a decent size, weighing in a 425 pages and it will have you gripping the edge of your seat as Kateryn negotiates her way through a marriage that could turn deadly at any moment. If you like Tudor novels, you will enjoy this one. 





Thursday, 24 September 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Wildest Dreams

"Say you'll remember me, standing in a nice dress, 
staring at the sunset...red lips and rosy cheeks, 
say you'll see me again even if it's just in your wildest dreams"

Taylor Swift's Wildest Dreams is my favourite song of the moment...it reminds me of a midnight walk I took with my soldier, by the ocean in Oban.  The night was cold, but the November moon was full and cast a romantic silver glistening on the waves. He was in his uniform, looking tall and dashingly handsome. I was wearing a long red velvet dress. It was the night I turned 40 and somehow this song takes me right back to that moment in time; walking, talking, laughing, happy.  All the best things happen to me when I am in Scotland!

I had my second night class this week and I'm happy to say it went much better than the first.  It was a fun class and I learnt a lot.  We had a traditional style lecture, which is how I learn best, so I enjoyed it.  Hearing the other students talk of their lives really made me appreciate things a lot more too.  It made me realize what a very nice life I have and that I have already made most of my own wildest dreams come true.  Psychotherapy training is just a back-up plan for me and an extra string to my bow.

I do think it is important to limit the drama in your life - by that I mean you should be careful who you allow into your space and if someone consistently pulls you down, cut them out of your life if possible.  I have stripped a lot of dead wood from my life over the last few years - I regret none of it.  In fact, I'm glad to be rid of the hangers on to be honest.  It's been one long sigh of relief since I dropped false friends. Life is too short to spend time with those who are only hanging around because they hope to see you fall, or because they have a hidden agenda and they want something from you.  Set yourself free and see how high you can fly without the dead weight dragging you down.

Real friends will always be there for you, no matter what. Betrayal simply doesn't feature in a genuine friendship - only in a jealous one.   Distance will only break a relationship if it is a purely physical attraction; if there is a genuine attachment of hearts and minds, you can work around the distance, and keep working around it until the time comes for a romantic reunion. Until then enjoy your wildest dreams and do whatever you can to make them come true.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; College Daze

Autumn is a time for reflection and dreaming up the future...
It's early evening on a beautiful autumn day, as the equinox fast approaches.  The sun has been shining on the newly turning leaves and all the pretty autumn colours are just beginning to show.  There is a chill in the air as I type this so I'm burning a Yankee Cinnamon Sticks candle to create a cosy atmosphere and sipping on creamy white hot chocolate to warm up a bit.  I feel the cold far too easily due to my thyroid illness so flickering candle flames and spicy autumnal scents help to keep the chill at bay. 

This afternoon I went shopping with my mum. We really enjoy going shopping together and today was no exception, even though we had a completely different set of shopping goals. Mum wanted to buy some new lounge-wear for when she's relaxing around the house and I was on a mission for college supplies.

I have a pile of old work from the first three levels of my Psychotherapy training, which was just sitting in a heap in my study.  It looked untidy and I just can't concentrate or write in a mess - I need to be tidy and organized so I can think straight. Although this work is from previous levels of study, I might still need to refer back to it at some point, so I can't just throw it away, or archive it like old published work.  I need to have easy access to it, but in a tidy, organized fashion.  

So I wanted to get some sort of storage sorted out and I found some very pretty magazine files with a delicate butterfly design.  It looks feminine and elegant and I've spent a happy hour sifting, sorting and filing all my academic work to date, in order and sequence, so that I can find what I want without too much drama - there's nothing worse than being in the middle of a vital essay that counts towards your final grade and not being able to locate the written piece you need; it just adds to the stress.  Hopefully, now all my old work is in a butterfly file, I won't have this problem.

I also bought some note-books; some in camouflage print to match the binders I got a few weeks ago, and some in a pink tartan design that I love!  The camouflage ones are for college, but the pink tartan is for my own personal journaling and for dreaming up new writing ideas on the page.  WHSmiths have currently got some brilliant offers on, so I took advantage of those, even buying a set of 20 coloured ink ballpoint pens for when I'm keeping track of my current deadlines and academic assignments. This will be easier if each publisher I write for has their own colour, and collage work a different colour.  It will help me to keep things organized at a glance.  I almost bought next year's dairy too, as they have some really beautiful ones in, but I'm making myself wait for that - it is still a bit early for diary shopping!

Another thing I've been doing this week is purchasing the text books I need for this next academic year.  Wow, I'd forgotten how expensive 'required texts' are (not to mention dry as sticks to read)! Thank goodness for Amazon because the student book shops in my home town (I live in a city with two Universities) were twice as expensive.   

That's the thing about academic books as opposed to commercially published ones - because they are 'required texts' they tend to be on the pricey side, simply because students have to have them for their course.  It's a bit of a scam really and while I usually love purchasing books, my working class upbringing struggles to accommodate this type of elitist-based academic shopping list. I can think of better things to spend my money on to be honest.

My first class was last week and it did not go well.  I'm not sure about the new tutor as he is very full on, with an intense stare, and I think he was trying to scare us all a bit, laying the pressure on us at a very early stage in the course - day one! I appreciate his passion for his subject, but all of us in class have real jobs to maintain and simply cannot make the course the 'center of everything' as he seems to expect, so most of us will fall somewhat short of his expectations in that respect, especially those who have kids to juggle too.  I'm certainly not prepared to put the course ahead of my writing career, but I think once we get into the syllabus, it will be easier to assimilate the course work into my writing day, as I have for the previous three levels.

So it was a pretty fraught first lesson - we didn't really learn anything, other than what a task-master he is clearly going to be.  This might not be a bad thing, as we are at the stage now where we will need to begin working up our voluntary hours in clinical practice.  This means that we will be training with real people who have real problems, in GP surgery's and clinics, so we have to be ready to perform to a high standard of clinical practice.  But it still sucks to be brow-beaten in the very first class!

I have quite a bit of academic reading to do before next class, but for tonight I'm going to put away my new stationery (yay!), shelve the textbooks (boooo!) and settle down to watch BBC2 Special Forces, before taking Philippa Gregory's new novel, The Taming of the Queen, up to bed with me to read. That sounds like a nice plan...and I do deserve a wee rest after all that shopping :-)

Saturday, 12 September 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Sit Down With Your Ego

"You just need you to take you higher...
Off you go..."

Don't forget to cure cancer while you're at it.


One of the best 'Good Riddance' anthems around!


Beware of the Frostbyte.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Hello September Studies...

Nearly time to hit the books again

It's just after midnight on a chilly, wet evening as I snuggle into bed and settle down to write this blog post on my laptop. I'm burning a Yankee tart in Rain Washed Berries and sipping on a chai tea latte. 

September has just begun and with it the season of autumn. Next week lots of children will be going back to school, packing their school bags with new pens and pencil cases. It's an exciting and very nostalgic time of year.

I'm feeling a little emotional tonight because this evening I got the much anticipated news that I have been granted a place on the next level of my course.  At the same time I found out that two of my fellow students from the previous level haven't been offered a place.  It has left a hole in our group and I am really going to miss our old crowd.  Also, it's hard to celebrate when you know others have been disappointed.

After the disruption of the last level, some students just dropped out of the course altogether - those of us who stuck with it have formed a nice bond and I am sad to think they won't be there in my next class.  They are smart women though, and I know that they will do well, whatever path they choose to take now.

I had my own interview exactly a week ago, so it has been a week of hanging on tenterhooks waiting for the news - then when it came it was bitter sweet.  But I am delighted that I have a place and I need to take a deep breath and focus on my own path.  This is what I have been working towards.

I start the final level of my training in a couple of weeks time, with a new semester and a new tutor.  It's the final two years and I'm exactly at the half-way point.  It feels similar to when I'm writing a book - at the half way point I'm convinced everything I've written so far is rubbish, but it's too close to deadline and I've come too far to start again, so I just have to get my head down and press on with it, having faith that it will turn out well.  I sort of feel like that tonight. I have another two years of studying ahead of me - so still a long way to go - and I'm hoping it will all be worth it in the end.

At least it is still only one night class a week, so I can keep up with my main job of writing, which is after all, how I make my living. The courses have never taken precedence over my writing work, it's more that the reports, essays etc, are just another deadline to meet.
And because I'm studying psychotherapy, then it is good fodder for my column and my work as a self-help author.  It is all very interconnected and relevant to my writing.

It seems hard to believe that just two years ago I was preparing to go back to college, albeit night school, and starting at level 1.  Now I have levels 1, 2 and 3 passed and under my belt and I'm preparing to move on to level 4 in a couple of weeks, at the end of which I should hopefully be a qualified counsellor, which will add a new string to my bow of self-employment and writing expertise. I could even set up my own private practice! So far, it has proved to be a good back-up plan!

Sometimes when you set yourself a goal you don't really know what path you will take to achieve it - in spring 2013 I set myself the goal of taking an academic night class that autumn, wanting to do something that would enrich my writing and make me a more insightful columnist.  
I had no idea then, when I enrolled on a level 1 counselling course, that I was embarking on what has turned out to be a four year Diploma!  I've already given it two years and now I'm going to give it two more.  

It looks like my plan to help soldiers really will come to fruition at some point, so my new camouflage stationary will not be going to waste!  It will be a good reminder of why I'm attending night classes in the first place.  In two weeks time, I'll be packing my college bag with new green camouflage stationary, pens and books...ready to learn and press ahead with my long term plans. It's a long road, but Scotland waits for me at the end of it ...and in the meantime I have my new theme song to keep me motivated, courtesy of Little Mix...wish me luck!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

ONCE UPON A DREAM; A Charmed Life

I have three lucky horseshoes in my home

I was recently told, and in quite a spiteful tone, that I have a charmed life.  It made me think about perceptions. It made me question why we are so quick to see only the good aspects of someone else's life, while frequently focusing on the most negative aspects of our own.

I can see why someone might think that I lead a charmed life, but the reality is, no-one's life is perfect, however put together and blessed things appear to be.  Everyone is dealing with something. That's the danger of making judgments about people when you're on the outside, looking in. You don't really know their situation. 

It's easy to make a snap judgment on the fly - she wears Chanel perfume, she must be rich; she wears high-end make-up, she must be vain; she rides horses, she must be a snob; she ice-skates, she must be brave/stupid; she's published, she must have been very lucky; she's recorded an album, she must know people; she writes for magazines, she must be famous; she forgets things, she must be crazy...and so on and so forth. If I paid much attention to all this sniping, then it probably would drive me crazy!

But it makes me wonder, what are these people hiding from in their own life that they must escape by scrutinizing mine?  I have always believed that if you are busy leading a full and interesting life, then you won't have much time left over for gossip.  It certainly seems to be those individuals with far too much unproductive time on their hands who get a reputation for being busybodies and gossips. They live vicariously through the lives of other people, when they should be building a satisfying and productive life of their own.

Having said all of that I do believe in luck to a certain extent. I must do, because I have plenty of lucky charms in my house, from horseshoes, to clovers, to keys, to charm bracelets. So on some level I have long been drawing luck into my life that way.  But for the most part I believe that good fortune favours the brave and you have to make your own luck.  

By that I mean you have to show up for your life!  You have to be quite vocal about what your capabilities are, your talents, your successes and achievements. You have to take time to train, learn, grow and develop your abilities. Because if you don't dare to blow your own trumpet every now and then, how will the world know you've arrived?  And more importantly, how will opportunity know where to find you?

Anyone who has worked in an industry for 20 years develops a network of associates within that industry.  This is true for any job, not just publishing.  And the longer you have worked diligently for a company, the better your references will be. Again, this is true for any career, not just publishing.  Knowing I have good references for my work as a writer certainly gives me confidence when approaching a new editor.  Knowing I have a reputation with editors for being reliable, efficient and pleasant to work with, because I've never pulled a writers strop or missed a deadline, means that I'm happy for my editors to talk to one another about me if they need to.  This has certainly opened up doors for me in the past and probably will again in the future. 

Serendipity always plays a part in any success. The fact remains however, that I was efficient and I did meet all those deadlines, so I put the effort in long before I got to the door that swung open for me!

But it's the assumption that I haven't worked for it that gets my goat.  The assumption that it's all just been handed to me on a plate - when the truth is I've spent many nights wide awake and working on one project or another, when most people are fast asleep and dreaming, when most people would have fallen at the first fence of rejection.  There used to be the belief among some of my acquaintances of the past that I had 'the Midas Touch'; that 'it's all just come to her!'; that I've just been 'very,very lucky'. Utter bullshit.  As anyone who has ever tried to get published, or tried to sustain a published writing career, you have to work at it, and you can't take your eye off the ball for a second. It certainly doesn't 'just come' to anyone, as you will know if you have experienced rejection. 

Still, it's nice that people see my work and lifestyle as something worth talking about, so I plan to take the buzz of it as a compliment and leave the sting behind.  Because as my Nan used to say;

"Ne'er mind lass, while they're talking about you, they're leaving somebody else alone!"

Well, I'm Charmed.