"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.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

POET'S CORNER; Sea Spirit

Related image
http://www.victoriafrances.es/en/

Sea Spirit

The Boatman calls to me; I have no coin to pay his fee
The lighthouse shines so brightly; its beacon comes too late for me
I'm lost at sea; forever lost, I wait for thee

The sea gulls call; their gleaming eyes see right through me
They sing my song; their haunting cries sing out for me
I'm lost at sea; forever lost, I wait for thee

The Boat has gone; the ships have all returned to shore
They search no more; I'm lost, yet they look for me no more
I'm all at sea; forever lost, I wait for thee

The waves took me; now they bear my flesh to shore
I swim no more, against the current rough and raw
But it's not me; no, it's no longer me

For I am the spirit of the sea; I am the mist, the spray, the foam
I am the ghostly sea; I am the haunting sea
Bound for all eternity to be a spirit of the sea

I'm lost at sea; forever lost I wait for thee
When will you come to me...to join the spirits lost at sea?

by Marie Bruce

Sea Spirit first published in my book The Witch's Almanac 2011

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Facing the Void

Sometimes a day in bed is just what you need


The daylight is already fading as I settle in to write this post. Autumn is upon us and another winter looms up ahead.  It is time to get cosy; to be warm and quiet, curled up with a book and a cup of chai tea latte to keep out the chill.

I am in a reflective mood tonight. I really miss Pyewackett and as the nights draw in I feel his absence terribly.  It has been just over six months since his death and I have been keeping busy and occupied, but as the dark season begins, it reminds me of how much I miss the day to day aspects of living with my cat.  It has made me realise that I am grieving the loss of him. 

Facing the void is never easy, yet the void inevitably follows on from a loss. This is true of any loss, whether it be the loss of a job, a divorce or break-up, or a bereavement.  The void triggers our fears for the future, our anxieties and insecurities.  It makes us question our identity, for who are we if we don't have that job, that marriage, that family member?   The void is like a dark mirror, reflecting our own mortality back at us and forcing us to find an answer to the question What now?

Life is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Therefore, if your life has been touched by a death or a loss of some kind, it is only a matter of time before the rebirth takes place, although waiting for Life to labour a new beginning is a painful and frustrating process.  It might seem as if a new start is way out of reach, but something has to come along to fill the void which the loss has left behind.

I frequently tell my clients to go easy on themselves, and in the past couple of days I have come to the conclusion that I need to take my own advice.   There is no point pushing myself; reinvention simply doesn't happen overnight. Logically, I know this, but emotionally, I have been using my drive to move deeper into a viable counselling career as a way of avoiding my grief.  Add to that my thyroid illness and traumatic stress, and it isn't really any wonder that I'm feeling tired and drained.

Part of it is the post creative come-down, which I have mentioned before in previous posts, and which occurs after a long stint of writing and the completion of a big project.   Four years of studying has taken a lot out of me and not because the course was hard, but because we had a tutor who loved to treat us like puppets, constantly moved the goal posts at a moments notice and made things as stressful for us as he could get away with.  

Trying to study under this kind of duress was almost impossible.  I did as much work from home as I could manage and started to see the classes as just something to attend and get through - I didn't learn much from them because I don't respond to the brow-beating approach.  I did what I could to distance myself from it as much as possible, even putting a filter on the constant barrage of tutor emails, but it still had a negative effect.  

So part of my current fatigue is due to being in recovery from the onslaught I experienced in college.   It isn't an experience I am eager to repeat, hence why I am taking a year off before I plan to do the MA. Even though the MA is held in a different university and by a different tutor, on a different topic - I still feel that I need this year long break.  And the deep fatigue I am currently feeling confirms that theory.

Part of facing the void lies in letting go.  You have to let go of what you have lost before you can move on, though this is easier said than done.  But there is also another kind of letting go - that of surrender and I think that is where I am at right now.  I feel ready to let go and surrender, just to wait and see what life has in store for me next.  I have always been blessed with the right kind of opportunities when I needed them, and I have no doubt that this will continue. The right opportunity for psychotherapy work will come to me - probably when I least expect it.  I trust that this will be the case, as it always has been before. 

In the meantime my body is telling me that I need to rest; my mind is telling me that I need to rest and refill the creative well with new sights, sounds and experiences. I need Artists Dates and days off from writing, so that I can nurture new ideas instead.  I need to relax and read and dream once more, without guilt or anxiety pushing in and spoiling things.  

My Highland holiday later on in autumn will be just what I need - a complete escape and a much needed change of scene. The sea and mountain air of the Highlands always rejuvenates me and inspires me; the sound of the bagpipes makes my heart lift and I am so much looking forward to being back in Scotland once more.  It is the place where I feel most free; where I am most understood. And who wouldn't enjoy time spent in a land of stolen kisses from handsome kilted men? 

Until then I plan to read, rest and recuperate; to let go of control a bit and stop pushing for my future; to wait for my future to just turn up with a new opportunity, when the time is right and I am strong enough to accept it and do a damn good job of it.  So mote it be. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Entrepreneur


Someone once referred to me as a "Jack of all trades...and master of none!" when in fact I have always been an entrepreneur.  On the surface they probably thought they were making an accurate assessment of my life, but the truth is that I have never been content to be a hamster on the wheel of life - I frequently jump off and go and do something else instead. 

I suppose it comes down to having an entrepreneurial mentality.  I think in terms of possibility and I am not afraid to follow my dreams, even if this means taking a step backwards and starting again.  I am not scared to be a beginner. I thrive on it because it means that I am learning something new and that makes me happy. I am not too proud to do a part time job to pay the bills, while getting a new venture off the ground, because I know what my ultimate goals are and where I am heading. I am not too proud to work for free in order to learn a new role and create a new network of business associates. 

Running a small business isn't an easy option, in any line of work,  but as a writer it is difficult because there are trends, variables and lead times to take into account. That's why it's important to have as many outlets as possible - although some editors will only work with writers who don't also write for their competitors, which makes this even more challenging. 

But why would you settle for doing one thing when you can do several?  Why settle for one single source of income when you can generate several sources of income and have them flowing into your business?  This is why entrepreneurship is so appealing to creative people.  They can work from home, or in their spare time, so the business overheads are minimal; they can take their time to grow their business at a steady rate, though sometimes you will have more work coming in than you reckoned on.  They can set cash aside for the lean times.  It just makes sense to think of yourself as an entrepreneur and while some people might not understand it, if you hold that view of yourself you will be more likely to see new opportunities when they come along, because you will have developed the right frame of mind for success.

Finding ways to make money while you sleep is a key factor in being an entrepreneur.  For writers and musicians etc, this means royalties.  Royalties accumulate for work we did years ago; it is the easiest form of income for creative entrepreneurs, though you have to have published a body of work to get to that stage.  For others, it might mean selling via an online shop, or offering online study courses - anything where people from different time zones can do business with you as you sleep.  

Waking up to a royalty check is one of the best parts of being a writer.  It means that your work is still selling; that readers are still enjoying it; that the publishers are still happy they offered you a contract! In lean times, it can be a vital means of survival, while in prosperous times it could mean a little treat, such as a writers holiday or new research books.  Royalties can pay for college courses allowing you to further your knowledge or expand your business in a new direction, which in turn will generate more income. 

The trick is to forget about what other people might say about you - just do what makes you happy and what gets you closer to your long term goal.  If that means flipping burgers for 5 years while you finish a degree you're passionate about, then so be it.  If it means reducing your hours at work so that you can actually write your screen play rather than just talk about writing it, then that is what you need to do.  

Creative entrepreneurs rarely have only one job title!  We diversify and acquire new skills as we go.  I started out as a content provider for correspondence schools. Now I'm a content provider, author, journalist, recording artist, blogger and counsellor. Lots of different hats that require slightly different skills, but all of which fit together like a jigsaw, into the framework of my business.

Is it easy, juggling all these balls?  No, not always.  It can be tough and stressful at times, especially when something isn't working as quickly as I would like it to.  But it means that when one area is slowing down in terms of generating income, I have other areas I can concentrate on instead.  As an entrepreneur you give your time to that which is generating the best income, or to the area that needs nurturing into a new source of income.  

So for me, that means continuing to write, while also building on my new role as a counsellor, which itself can be broken into two branches - counselling practice and writing psychotherapy pieces.  At the moment counselling practice isn't generating income and I work for free at my placement in order to gain valuable work experience and create a network of associates. This won't always be the case and at some stage I will be getting paid for the counselling sessions I offer. 

Writing about psychotherapy topics however, has already generated income and is the direction in which I am taking my writing business for the time being.  This is where I focus my time and attention, because it brings in money and it moves me closer to my goal of being a psychotherapy writer, in much the same way that I have been a Mind, Body, Spirit writer for all these years.  

That is the beauty of entrepreneurship - it changes and evolves with you.  It doesn't limit you in any way.  It isn't a rigid job description that defines you, like say for instance Nurse or Administrator.  You can craft your entrepreneurship into whatever you want it to be and wear as many different hats as take your fancy - there are no limits! It doesn't define you - you define it.

This freedom was something I kept in mind when I had to think of a name for my business so I could register as self-employed years ago.  I knew I wanted a business name that didn't define a single aspect of my work, but one that could be applied to all aspects of my work, in the present and in the future. I would recommend this practice to anyone who thinks that they might expand into future developments or who has several creative interests they want to make into a viable business.  Choose a business name that is generic.  There is little point calling yourself Lucy's Candles if further down the line you want to sell cupcakes instead!

I suppose what I am trying to say is that if you begin to see yourself as a creative entrepreneur it doesn't matter if you work part time in a fish and chip shop.  That's just paying the bills, freeing your mind to focus on your creative enterprise, whatever it might be.  As an entrepreneur you can be and do anything you like - take that night class, write that blog, start that You Tube channel, paint your masterpiece, open up a boutique selling sun hats for Chihuahuas...the possibilities are endless.  The only limits are the ones you place upon yourself. So why wouldn't you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Yes it can be tough and financially precarious, but it's a life of endless possibility and that can only be a good thing. 
Bon Chance!




Monday, 4 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Home Study - PTSD Counselling


The new academic year begins this week, but not for me, since I have now finished my four year diploma - thank goodness!  For the first time in five years I am not going back to college in September. I can't say that I will miss it.  On the contrary, it is nice to finally be free of 4 1/2  hour long lectures, bombastic rhetoric and autocratic leadership from belligerent faculty members.  I'm glad I did the diploma, but I am not sorry that it's over.

Although I won't be returning to classes, I don't want to lose the habit of learning.  I really enjoy studying, but I am a very autonomous person and I work best when working alone, in a quiet environment.  This wasn't always possible during the diploma - much of it involves group work and sometimes the groups would get so loud I'd have to leave class and nip to the ladies for a few moments peace, just to clear my head.  Every Tuesday night I would leave college with a raging headache...just another aspect of night school that I don't miss. 

The good thing about being a member of the BACP is that they frequently advertise further courses in their journal Therapy Today. This is to encourage counsellors to pursue CPD or Continued Professional Development.  These courses are aimed at clinical practitioners working as counsellors, either in private practice, or with an organisation such as Cruse Bereavement Care, and some of these courses are delivered online.

This type of online learning really suits me because I can study at home in my own time, as and when I want to.  I am not held to a strict timetable of classes that I must attend, no matter what.  I can just go into my cosy little study, light a couple of scented candles, fire up the laptop and log on to the course module I am currently working on.  At the end of the course, if I have passed, I get my certificate in the post.  And as so much of my college diploma was put onto Google Classroom anyway, some weeks it hardly seemed worth going into class at all!

Home studying has always appealed to me.  In my early twenties I took correspondence courses in creative writing and freelance journalism. At the time, my ex-fiance thought they were a complete waste of money - he thought I'd been conned and we had a huge row about it, even though it was all my own money that I used to pay for them! But then, I soon made my living as a freelance writer, author and journalist, so I guess the courses worked!

Some of the first full length writing I ever had published were home-study courses for BSY and The Regent Academy - both leading correspondence schools here in the UK. I wrote their courses on Wicca and Angels which are still selling well, all these years later.  It was a way for me to give a little bit back - correspondence courses had helped to get me published, so it was a natural step for me to take, to write magical correspondence courses that in turn would help others.   

So even though I am not returning to college this month I am already deeply involved in more course work.  I am undertaking more training in different kinds of counselling, namely in counselling clients with PTSD.  I have really enjoyed this course and I have learned such a lot from it.  I am looking forward to getting my certificate for it, as it will add to my portfolio. For now its enough to know I've done the course.  Between that, my formal education diploma in Therapeutic Counselling and the certificates I have in Grief Counselling and Business Etiquette, my CPD is looking good so far. 

Studying something that interests you, in the comfort of your own home, is a lovely way to spend an evening as the nights begin to draw in and autumn is upon us.  I have my Placement Report to start writing soon, plus I will be taking another online course in the winter months.  I also have tasks to complete with regards to moving my writing career from MBS, over into mainstream self-help and psychotherapy projects...but that's another blog post!

Remember that you are your own educator and nowadays learning is so accessible there really is no excuse for boredom or ignorance. So grab a cup of hot chocolate, light an autumnal candle and join with me in embarking upon a dark season of home study, because... 

"Knowledge is power"

Saturday, 2 September 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Just Say YES!!!



I am a woman who can't say Yes.  There are plenty of women who can't say No - they find themselves taking on too much, being overstretched in their commitments and a victim of their own generosity.  They pride themselves on 'multitasking' while looking harried and strained and never actually finishing or achieving very much at all. That's just not me.

I'm the opposite.  I can't seem to say Yes to save my life! I have this knee-jerk reaction to say No - even when it's something I want to do; even when I know it's exactly what I need; even when I am fully aware that the opportunity might never come around again...and in a way, I'm almost glad of that because it gets me off the hook! 

I read about this in a book recently; I think it was one of the Good Psychopath books, where this inability to say Yes is referred to as resistance bias. So apparently, it's an actual thing and not just one of my quirky little ways.  Other people do it too. Who knew?  It stems from a lack of trust in others and is a lingering aspect of traumatic stress, which makes perfect sense, because saying No all the time will certainly keep you safe.

This resistance bias means that I don't allow myself time to assess the situation and weigh up the pros and cons before I respond - I just say No, often before I'm even fully aware of what I am rejecting.  Of course, there have been times when resistance bias has done it's job and has kept me safe. Like the time I said no to a weekend away with someone I barely knew - I mean why would I say Yes to that?! Why would an honourable man even expect me to say Yes to that? - he wouldn't, and so his true colours shone through and muddied the water completely.  He lost my trust before he'd even won it! Though truth be told, I was probably too harsh on him in my refusal at the time. But I'm just not that fast. I'm more of a 'slow and steady wins the race' kinda girl. If you can't be bothered to take the time to get to know me properly and honourably, then you're just not the man for me and I'm certainly not the woman for you. Simple as that. 

However, there have been other times when I have said No and then kicked myself - hard -  afterwards.  Times when I have basically slapped Opportunity in the face and couldn't see the gift that it was at the time, because my over-triggered survival instinct had immediately logged it as a Big Threat, and was protecting me accordingly.  It is only later, once the trigger has deactivated, that I realise what I have passed up and missed out on.  Sometimes we can be so busy trying to hide away from perceived threats that we fail to see all the good stuff too, walking past it blindly and then sobbing into our wine glass that "Nothing good ever happens to me!"  

So it would seem that resistance bias and my inability to say Yes is a form of self-sabotage; a way of shooting myself in the foot so that I don't have to dance with the handsome stranger, because then I might fall in love with him and he might turn out to be a rat and then I might get my heart broken and never be happy again...like ever. Oh the perceived catastrophe of it all!   But that's exactly what it is - a perceived catastrophe - because none of it has actually happened yet and my imagination has just made it all up...to keep me safe from something that wasn't even a real danger...to keep me in my comfort zone. 

The mind is a powerful thing.  It can play tricks on you if you let it.  The moment you try to step outside of your comfort zone the brain gets scared and prepares itself to do battle.  It throws up impostor syndrome and resistance bias to make you hot-foot it back into your comfort zone. It amplifies your negative self-talk of how you don't deserve the job, the man, the house etc, so that after a while, you might start to believe it to be true.  But it isn't true.  You deserve to be the best that you can be in all things, in all aspects of your life. 

They say that you teach best that which you most need to learn.  For the past six months I have been teaching my clients to see the possibility of life again, following bereavement; to believe that there is a world of adventure out there just waiting for them to participate.   And it hasn't escaped my notice in the therapy room that I am also teaching myself these things too.  Helen Keller said
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
Now if a woman who was blind, deaf and dumb could believe in the great possibility in life, surely there's hope for all of us! Even those of us who keep rejecting it out of habit. 

I have decided that it is long past time to get a grip on my No-ing ways.  It is time to actively seek to expand the parameters of my life; to make it bigger, bolder, brighter than ever.  It is time to try and break the knee-jerk habit of saying no and to start saying Yes again. Yes to new work options; yes to new experiences; yes to new places and people and pleasures; yes to new adventures. 

Because in saying No all the time I'm just letting the PTSD get the better of me.  In saying No I am depriving myself of all that life has to offer. So from now on I am going to challenge myself to say Yes to things. I'm going to turn it into a game, to see how many things I can say Yes to each day, from the little things like a cup of coffee, to the big things like a new job or a new romance. 
It's not going to be easy - breaking a bad habit never is - but now that I know it is just a bad habit and where it stems from, I'm hoping that will help me to go against my current grain and find a new way to live life; to find my sense of joyfulness and shine it out into the world once more.  And all I have to do is...
xxx


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Flying Goals


Image result for flying tiger moth plane images


I have wanted to fly since I was a teenage girl - not as a passenger, but as a pilot.  I toyed with the idea of joining the RAF when I was 17 but their lack of equal opportunities and being told I could only 'fly the coffee in' because I was a girl, put me off.  That wasn't what I wanted to do. So I told them to stick it and left in a huff.  I still wonder what my life would be like now if I'd joined up anyway.

What if I could have been a combat pilot like I wanted?  What if I could have played my part in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the soldiers, maybe even my soldier, on the ground? I would have been honoured to fly his morning coffee in - or anything else to make his job there more comfortable and safe. I might even have met him all the sooner.  Of course I'll never know the answers to these questions, but every now and then I do still wonder...what if? 

It is this wondering that first made me think about the possibility of learning to fly anyway - without the RAF's help - I don't need their sexism holding me back!  And while I am fully aware that I will never be a combat pilot, is there a chance that I could still be a pilot anyway - just for fun?  Just to learn something new and to expand my awareness of what is possible for me? 

I have never been content to just dream. I always follow through on this kind of questioning and try to find a way to make the dream my reality.  So I was delighted to find that it is indeed still possible for me to fly and that there is a flying school just down the motorway, not far from where I live!  Further investigation revealed that it is expensive, as you would imagine it to be, but you are paying for the experience as much as for the tuition.  It takes a lot of hours tuition to gain a pilot's license, plus written work and a practical test, all adding up to around the same amount of money as my counsellor training has just cost me.  But the point is - it is possible.

There is nothing I hate more than feeling that something I want is totally out of my reach. I'm not used to it - I always get what I want, and that what if feeling has been gnawing away at me for decades. So it's nice to know that I can start to make plans to bring this girlish goal into the reality of my adult life.  The flying school offer lessons by the hour, plus there is a starter package to get you on track for your pilot's license, where you get your log book, text books etc.  They also have a taster session, just so you can see if it's right for you before you start to shell out lots of money.

The planes they teach in look quite dainty and they remind me of the one Taylor Swift is in for the Wildest Dreams video.  They don't look too big and intimidating and so I don't think I would feel too small to handle one.  The sunshine yellow colour reminds me of Tweetie-Pie and I'd quite like to fly in a Tweetie-Pie plane!
  
So I have decided that I am going to start saving money for flying lessons!  Making it a goal and a plan brings it that much closer to me and setting money aside will reaffirm my decision.  It isn't going to happen overnight, but it is now on my list of goals for next year  2018 - and I always achieve my goals. 

I need to know if it is something I could have done, had I been given the opportunity, because not knowing that is worse than trying it and finding I don't like it after all.  I can live with the fact that it's not for me - I am scared of heights after all, and I have no sense of direction - but I'd rather know from personal experience, one way or the other.  

I might even arrange to take the flying lesson taster course this autumn, after my holiday to Oban in the Highlands in a few weeks time.  If the weather holds out I could at least do that this year and start proper lessons next year, funds allowing.   It will be something to look forward to after my return to the Highlands, which I can't wait for! I've not been to Scotland since 2014 because of my counselling course, so it will be great to be back there soon - and a flying lesson to arrange on my return home...now that sounds like a nice autumnal plan! One day soon I could be flying a plane just like Taylor Swift's...
Who needs the RAF anyway? 

Monday, 28 August 2017

BOOK NOOK; The Magic Cottage by James Herbert

Image result for the magic cottage film

My mum has been an avid fan of James Herbert's books for years, but his horror has never really appealed to me, until she said I had to read this novel.  The title intrigued me and so I borrowed it and I haven't been disappointed at all.

The Magic Cottage is part fairy tale, part ghost story, part Escape to the Country...at times it is twee and enchanting, at other times it is Gothic and spooky.  It tells the story of Midge, a children's book illustrator and her musician boyfriend Mike, who are tired of living in London and buy an idyllic cottage in the New Forest.  From the very beginning the cottage is special - it has an aura of peace and purity that the couple both pick up on and enjoy.  Their creativity thrives, their neighbours are friendly, the wildlife are sociable and trusting, the cottage feels protective and safe, almost alive...it's all very Disney...until it's not.  

As the title suggests this novel is full of magic. It has everything; a creepy old witch, dark sects, a cheeky red squirrel, a plague of bats, hints at vampirism,  healing potions, wands, meditations, mediumship - the lot.  Magic, like anything else, has its trends and published in 1986 The Magic Cottage includes the magical trends of the 1980's, such as dark cults and pyramid power. It is all included in the plot. Thank goodness pyramid power was just a passing trend! But the sect reminded me of the alchemists and the transcendentalists of the past - it has that kind of old fashioned magical Order feel to it. 

I liked this book because it describes the fairy tale cottage, deep in the country, surrounded by wildlife, that I have wanted to live in ever since I was a little girl, which is probably why my mother told me I needed to read it.  I like the descriptions of power raising and of all the different kinds of magic the author has managed to cram into one story! And I adore Rumbo the red squirrel - he is my favourite character and I have met a couple of little chaps just like him in Strathpeffer in the Highlands.   

The novel keeps you guessing throughout.  Are Mike and Midge being drawn into a vampire cult?  Is Midge, whose nickname is Pixie, really a changeling and she has been called home to roost in an enchanted forest?  Who was the old witch and is she haunting them? Protecting them?  You'll need to read the book to find out.
It is a lovely, turning to spooky,  read - unless you have a phobia about bats, in which case it's probably not for you.  But I like bats, so I really enjoyed the book.  Who knows, I might even read more of James Herbert's novels now that I have discovered his talent.  You can buy or download the book here  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

BOOK NOOK; The Good Psychopath Books by Dr Kevin Dutton & Andy McNab




"If books on personal development may be fancifully construed as deft keys of transcendental truth gently turning in antiquated, psychological locks, then The Good Psychopath was the mental health equivalent of a nail bomb" 

Sorted! The Good Psychopath's Guide to Bossing Your Life

Forget 'Girl Boss' - these are the books for me!  Ever since I finished reading Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero  last month I have been hoping that he would turn his pen to writing some kick-ass self-help books.  So when I was browsing round Waterstones last week and I came across these two books I was beyond thrilled that my wish had been granted. 

The Good Psychopath's Guide to Success and Sorted! The Good Psychopath's Guide to Bossing Your Life are brilliantly funny self-help books that teach you how to get a handle on life and make it behave itself.  They aim to demonstrate that we can all learn something from those go-getting, no-nonsense psychopaths out there, who are killing life not people - because psychopathy isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's how it is used that counts.

These books introduce the highly positive aspects of psychopathy, which they call The 7 Deadly Wins, giving lots of examples of how and where it pays in life to be just a tad more psycho.  It's not about sharpening your blade and going in for the kill - it's about sharpening your mind and making a killer deal, getting that job, giving great attitude and being the Boss of your own life...because if you're not the boss of your life, who is?

I love the writing style of these books.  It's very down to earth and completely engaging. Co-authorship can be a tricky business; it can be difficult for the reader to know which author is speaking, but in these books the authorial voices are blended together into a conversational man-banter on the page.  It is like witnessing two good pals having a laugh together and putting the world to rights as they go.  It made me realise how much I miss working behind the bar in the local pub, listening to grown men rag each other like school boys.  The Good Psychopath books have that same sort of laddish tap-room vibe.  This makes the science bit much easier to digest.  You know that these two guys know what they're talking about - it's not just banter - there is a point to it and much to be learned from them.  All you have to do is absorb the information they present and start putting it into practice. 

They frequently take the piss out of each other and when the Dr gets too grandiose, the SAS soldier puts it in a nutshell, brings it back down to earth and makes it easy to understand what's going on.  Conversely when the soldier gets a little too crass, the good Dr elevates the tone and keeps it clean - ish.  All in all this makes for a unique writing style that I have never come across before.  It really made me smile. I learnt a lot - but it was so much fun! 

To add to this comic style are funny illustrations throughout the books - the kind that you might find in a newspaper.  The Rat Nav one really made me giggle!  There are quizzes too, so that you can see where you are on the various dials that make up psychopathy. This means that you learn where your strengths and weaknesses are and what you need to work on if you want to nail life and be more successful.  In this sense it is quite an interactive read - you can take part in the authors' research project if you want to, or simply use the quizzes to enhance your personal self-awareness. 

There are anecdotes from the authors' lives and experiences, but unlike McNab's SAS biographies, there are no harrowing details of conflict and capture given in these books, which was a relief to my sensitive side and this time the tears in my eyes were of laughter because these books are a pure joy to read, from start to finish.

Of course there are the inevitable sports analogies men like to use, which I just didn't get because I don't like sports. Or at least I don't like the sports they mentioned in the books such as football, golf and cricket.  I would have been more on board with a nice sparkly figure-skating or show-jumping reference, maybe even a balletic pirouette in the prose, but hey, you can't have everything.  I wish some nice female soldier would write some self-help books aimed at women - I'm sure that is a gap in the market that needs filling. 

On the whole though these books are a fantastic, informative and entertaining read. They will make you think about how you behave and how you can improve yourself and your overall performance in life.  I read them both in three days and I just couldn't put them down.  They make for great bedtime reading to set you up for the next day. And what smart, intelligent woman wouldn't want to take both a doctor and a soldier to bed with her, at the same time?😉

If you are interested in reading these books, visit the authors' website here and take a closer look at their work. 


Sunday, 20 August 2017

MUSICAL DOLL; Dancing With You In The Summer Rain

Oh my love it's you that I dream of...


Somewhere in my heart I'm always dancing with you in the summer rain...
xxx

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

FINISHING SCHOOL; The Business of Etiquette



They say that manners maketh the man - or woman - and while we can all be guilty of the odd slip up every now and then, particularly when we are stressed, it is always nice to be complimented on one's charm.   You might think that the days of etiquette and protocol are long gone, along with parasols and corsets, but you would be completely wrong.  In this era of tell-all social media, where even leading politicians are falling foul of social niceties and blurting out opinions they should probably keep to themselves, etiquette is more important than ever.

As someone who has been reading the classics from a young age, etiquette and finishing schools have always fascinated me.  The do's and don't's of social interactions may have changed considerably over time, but a knowledge of etiquette is a useful skill to have and you don't have to go to a finishing school in Switzerland to achieve it.  There are lots of books and workshops available to help you brush up your manners. There are even some lovely week-long tutorials in London where lessons in etiquette are given at Kensington Palace, The Ritz and the V&A - though these are quite pricey. 

When I completed my Level 4 Counselling Diploma recently I felt that I wanted to continue studying, but in a less formal way, so I decided to take a couple of short CPD courses online.  I have just completed a Level 3 Diploma in Business Etiquette and having passed the final exam, my certificate is now on it's way!  This was a really interesting course, run by an Academy based in Covent Garden in London and I enjoyed it very much.  

As a Business Etiquette course it is relevant to modern life and useful for anyone who needs to interact with members of the public or attend meetings, conferences etc as I do in my counselling placement.  It's not pretentious or affected; it's certainly not about pretending that you live at Downton Abbey! - it's more about gaining an edge in the workplace, because etiquette is now big business in the international business world. 

Etiquette can also help you to improve your self-confidence.  One of the things I struggle with a lot is impostor syndrome; this is when a little voice in your head starts telling you that you don't belong, that you're not right for the job, that it's all been a big mistake and eventually you will be found out and get sent home as not being good enough etc.  Impostor syndrome can stop you applying for your dream job; it can make you say no to invitations and trigger social anxiety; it can derail you when things are going well and stop you in your tracks. 

Having a knowledge of etiquette, whether this be self-educated from books, or via an etiquette and protocol course, can help to keep impostor syndrome at bay, or silence it, should it turn up uninvited to rain on your parade!  Completing a training course in etiquette will give you that additional polish that employers are looking for, and having proof of that training in the form of a certificate will enhance your portfolio and CV.  It also gives you the benefit of knowing that you have been formally trained in self-conduct, meaning that you are less likely to commit a faux-par, or if you do, you can make a quick recovery!  We all put our foot in it from time to time, even royalty - hello Prince Philip! - and we all show the odd flash of temper now and again; but knowing how to recover and move on is the key to self-confidence. 

I certainly feel that I have given myself a better chance in my business life now that I have completed this type of instruction and while not everything in the course relates to my business as a writer and counsellor, at least I now have the knowledge to draw upon at any time in the future, should I ever need it.  While it is unlikely that I will ever meet with a Japanese businessman or a Chinese diplomat, at least if I do, I now know the correct way to accept his business card!  

So I am looking forward to receiving my certificate in Etiquette as it will make a nice addition to my portfolio of professional and educational qualifications, and while it's a long way from a Swiss finishing school, for me it's enough and will hopefully serve my purposes in keeping the dreaded impostor syndrome at bay! For ladies never lose composure...


Thursday, 10 August 2017

BOOK NOOK; Late Summer Reading

Image result for reading in a hammock images

I love long lazy days, stretched out in the sunshine, reading a book that takes me far, far away.   When you have a book in your hand, you can go on flights of fancy, no matter where you are. I especially enjoy those books that stay with you, even after you have finished reading them - the kind of novels that transport you somewhere completely different, say Tudor England or Jacobite Scotland.  Reading is the best way to time travel!

At this time of year my mind turns to thoughts of autumn and I like nothing better than a good old fashioned ghost story.  For me Barbara Erskine is the best modern author of spooky novels and I have just finished reading Sleeper's Castle, which is about a young Druidess who has visions of the Welsh rebellion against the English in the 1400's.   Erskine's books are always very atmospheric, and usually concern a modern protagonist haunted by spirits of the past, but in this novel she adds a twist - for the ghosts are looking back! This is so refreshing to her usual style and completely unexpected.  I enjoyed the Celtic setting of this novel and the Druid magic and weather witching was very authentic.

Another book that had me gripped was Paula Hawkins The Girl On The Train.  This is not the kind of book I am usually drawn to, but I was intrigued by the movie trailers and I wanted to read the novel before I saw the film.  It's a thriller that held me captive and I read the book in a day - I literally couldn't put it down and I got nothing else done at all that day, but it was time well spent as I had been thoroughly entertained.  It also means that I have discovered a new author and I shall be looking out for more of Hawkins books. 

Finding a new author is great, but nothing beats an old favourite and Philippa Gregory is one of mine. Her novel The Little House is a book I like to read during the summertime.  It is full of domestic details and descriptions of a beautiful country-side home and affluent life-style.  It illustrates the dichotomy of mother-hood, wherein a new mum is doing battle with her 'helpful' mother-in-law!  In this novel Gregory presents the war between a traditional mother, for whom nappies should be terry-cloth and baby-food hand-made in the kitchen; and the modern young mum, who believes nappies are disposable and baby-food comes in jars - because who has time for washing and blending when they have a job, a house, a husband and a baby to maintain?!  This is a great novel with psychological undertones and a fantastic twist at the end.  It was also made into a TV drama a couple of years ago, so you might be able to find it on catch-up.  Read the book anyway - it's brilliant, though it made me even more glad that I've never wanted children! 

So there you have it - the books that have been keeping me entertained during the summer.  It's so refreshing not to have to read counselling text books and to be back to my old book-worm self, with my nose stuck in a novel for hours on end.  I'm looking forward to doing more reading as the nights begin to draw in and the weather turns colder. Autumn is just around the corner and I can't wait to welcome it in.  For now though, I am going to light a spiced apple-pie candle, pour a glass of Merlot and watch The Girl On The Train on DVD - I hope it's as good as the book!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Friday, 4 August 2017

POET'S CORNER; The Charm of the Web Weaver

Image result for witch at spinning wheel images

The Charm of the Web Weaver

A faerie maid by a rival cheated
One night was by her hearth-side seated
And picking up her thread and spindle
She cast a spell, her foe to swindle
To take back what was hers by right
She weaves a web of silver bright
As the wheel spins and the spindle turns
Victory wins and her vengeance burns

There she casts her charm of woe
Spinning out her spiteful foe
In a fit of pique, casting down her rival
In a web weaving spell of sweet reprisal
Humming softly a charm of making
Her enemy crushed by triumph breaking
Before the moon doth wax and wane times three
Her vanquished foe cries "Woe is me!"

For as the Wheel turns, the Seasons are bound
In lessons learned and what goes round comes round!


By Marie Bruce

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Spirit-Work


"No aspect of your life is insignificant to the angels; nothing is too small for their compassion, care and celestial assistance. So whether you are up and coming or down and out, getting hitched or getting ditched, the angels know all about it and they are there to help you through it."
Angel Craft and Healing by Marie Bruce

When I wrote Angel Craft and Healing back in 2007, it was my ninth title and the culmination of a very happy partnership with my original publisher.  I knew it was the perfect title to end with, and although I was already contracted to my second publisher for The Wiccan Temptress, I knew then that I didn't want to write any more Wiccan books.  I'd written ten books in a few short years, plus the annual updates for The Witch's Almanac, so I felt that it was time to take a break from books and concentrate on the Moon Chants album I was composing and the magazine work, including my original column with Spirit&Destiny

How strange it is that now, ten years later, I have come full circle and I am once again working with the angels, but in a completely different way.  Because it seems to me that while Wicca and witchcraft are earth-work - by that I mean that they are attuned with nature and bound by the four elements of earth, air, fire and water - psychotherapy is more akin to spirit-work, or angel-work.

As a counsellor I am constantly dealing with intangibles; thoughts, feelings, confidence, responsibility, associations etc.  I am helping people to come to terms with all the fleeting moments of time and the ephemeral emotions that are the basis of being human; helping them to accept that nothing lasts forever and change is inevitable.  
This is spirit-work and it is especially the case in grief counselling.  It is spirit-work because it is intangible - it cannot be packaged and sold as a product or taken as medicine; rather it is something that evolves in the relationship between the client and the counsellor - both parties need to be fully present in the room if the practise is to be effective.  And due to the nature of this kind of work, it can frequently feel as if I have one foot on the ground and the other in the celestial realms of the angels!

In a way, it feels like a very natural progression of my magical path, but angel-work isn't something that I ever set out to do. I enjoyed writing about the topic, but I never planned to walk a spirit-path in such a hands on way - I was happy enough with the spell-craft.  So it has taken me somewhat by surprise but I can  feel that I am working in the Light when I am in consultation with clients.  It is rather strange and lovely, a bit like the first time I ever cast a spell that worked - there is that same feeling of awe and wonder about it all.  

It is also quite a relief.  When I first considered doing grief work I was concerned that I might find it too sad, too depressing or just too overwhelming.  It isn't though, because it isn't really about death - it is a death that brings people to grief counselling, but I try to make the sessions themselves very life-affirming - for me, it is about helping people to live again, beyond the loss of a loved one. Again, in a magical sense, that comes down to spirit-work, guiding people through their own personal darkness and bringing the light back into their lives once more.  

Spiritually I feel as if I have just been boosted up to the next level of a magical computer game!  It feels as if I have achieved all that I wanted to and needed to as a witch, passed on my witchy knowledge for the next generation via my books, and now I have been lifted to a completely different kind of task as a Light-Worker. I have the same kind of awe and resistance to it that Paige has in Charmed, when she is forced to embrace her White-Lighter side but all she really wants to do is cast spells and be a witch.  I feel a bit like that too, in that I chose to be a witch, but this is something else that I hadn't really bargained on and didn't ask for! 

So far, the spirit messages have been on hold, which I'm grateful for!  I have passed spirit messages onto people in the past, but it has never happened with a client.  Again, this is something of a relief, as it is a side of magic that I don't embrace - I don't want the floodgates to open! So I keep it under wraps as much as I can, but I am aware that it has happened in the past and it will probably happen again in the future at some point.  I am taking it as one of the angelic signs that I have been brought to this place in my life for a reason - to help others. 

I firmly believe that you wouldn't have a talent or a gift if you weren't meant to use it. It can take time to get comfortable with a magical gift, to learn how to tap into it and embrace its power in a safe way, but you wouldn't have been given it if it was more than you could handle.  You just need to allow yourself time to figure out how to use it well. Slow and steady always wins the race!

In a way it feels like a rebirth - I need to take baby-steps as I find my way around this new level of magical living, this new spiritual environment, this new type of responsibility.  It all supports the theory that I've had for some time; that I have been through a transitional period and my life was in the process of receiving a cosmic make-over.  Now I think that I am just beginning to emerge from the other side - the light at the end of the tunnel is angelic and I begin to feel a new sense of purpose. I have no idea where the Light leads, but I am at the stage now where I am willing to follow it, saying "Show me, teach me, tell me, lead me"  - I am trying to surrender to it, which is not something that comes easily or naturally to me, as I prefer to be in control.  

But I am more open to the idea of surrender than I have been before - I just want to see what could happen next because I have a deep trust that it will be something wonderful! A new beginning. A fresh start.  I feel a new sense of calm and inner peace. My stress levels  have decreased somewhat. I now feel that acceptance is the key to power - saying yes rather than no, being open rather than closed off, embracing adventure and opportunity rather than dismissing chance for fear of risk - these are the things I will try to surrender to from now on, just to see where they lead.  For if you don't take even the first small step, you will never get anywhere - and I am the kind of person who likes to feel that they are constantly moving forward in life. 

Finally, it all begins to make more sense to me. I know once more what path I am on, what my new role is and I am ready to embrace it.  I feel that my sense of trust in Spirit has been renewed and that I am safe to trust the journey and just go with it, knowing that it will all work out for the best...in faith, trust and angel dust!
Blessed Be.
Angel Craft and Healing



Saturday, 22 July 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; A Blessing of Unicorns


A group of unicorns is known as a 'blessing'. In folklore these creatures are said to bring good fortune and they can only be tamed and ridden by a virgin.  They are a symbol of purity and the magical alicorn upon their brow can purify water and detect poison. It also has healing powers. 

I have always loved unicorns. I have a unicorn key-ring and tea-cup; and as a pony-mad child I had pictures of them all around my bedroom.  I still have one of these pictures (the last survivor!) and a few unicorn statues in my study where I write.   So when I was walking through the city centre to my counselling placement last week and I saw Paperchase had a new range of unicorn stationery in the window, I popped in to take a peek. 

I have been on the hunt for a new organiser or agenda because my academic diary is now due to run out.  I wanted something pretty and small enough to carry in my bag, so A5 or smaller.  I was spoilt for choice with the new Flyaway range!  They have everything a feminine heart could desire, from water bottles and lunch boxes to coloured pencils and pencil cases - all designed with a pretty print of unicorns and winged deer, lama and rabbits!  It is such a beautiful range and it is the kind of enchanted world most magical writers want to live in.  It suits my personality, so I started to look for a new organiser.

I finished up getting a few bits from the range, as you do; I got a lovely academic diary to keep track of all my client appointments, supervision sessions etc.  Hopefully this should see me through to the completion of my clinical hours.  It is A5 and has pictures of unicorns and winged creatures on every single page, plus a page of stickers for things like holidays, doctor appointments, parties etc. It was just perfect for what I needed, so I got one.  I love this design so much that I also got a perpetual personal organiser, so once the new academic diary is finished next summer, I can just use yearly Filofax inserts in the organiser and still enjoy the Flyaway artwork for years to come. This is in pink, so it goes with everything I've bought this year. 

I like to use clipboards too. I always have a clipboard and pad by the side of my bed because it is usually in the half state between sleeping and wakefulness that I have some of my best writing ideas and I like to note them down asap. So I got an A4 Flyaway clipboard for this purpose and the old wooden one I was using, that used to give me splinters, can go in the bin!  Plus I bought a little folder of sticky post-it notes, page markers, to-do list and memo pad, which will come in very useful.  Finally, I got pink index cards to write down a new set of affirmations, because all my old affirmations have now come true; and some pretty pink and white love-heart paperclips. 

So now my office supplies have been replenished with a beautiful new unicorn makeover!  The good thing about being a self-employed writer is that shopping sprees like this are tax-deductible. Stationery is a legitimate business expense, but no-one says it has to be boring, so why would you not buy pretty? And when office supplies come as beautiful as these, its hard not to get carried away by the unicorn dream...


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

ONCE UPON A DREAM; Vendetta


Look what you made me do...

The downside of being a Type A serial achiever is that unfortunately, some people will dislike you for it.  This is not because you have done anything wrong in going after what you want; it's more that they are threatened by you in some way.  They could be suffering from low self-esteem, have zero sense of self-worth or be concerned about their ability to hold onto a relationship.  It could be that their own career has stalled, or never even got off the ground - and all they can do is stand on the sidelines and watch as you steam ahead in leaps and bounds. Whatever the reason for their dislike, it is important to remember that it is their issue - not yours. 

While being on the receiving end of  the odd flash of jealousy is unpleasant, it is nonetheless, forgivable, because we all experience envy every now and then.  However, when people hold onto their envy and make compulsive jealousy their own lifestyle choice, it is a completely different matter - especially if they use their jealousy as fuel to act against you, and encourage others to do likewise.

When this happens it is called a Vendetta and the clue is in the word, which comes from the Latin vindicta, meaning vengeance. When someone is orchestrating a vendetta against you it is because they are vindictive by nature and they are looking for vengeance. In short, they are out to get you - and again, this is not necessarily because you have wronged them; it could all be a part of their vindictive imagination; their own twisted obsession. 

Being the target of such a vendetta can be stressful, but again you need to keep in mind that it is about them, not you. Have pity for those who are so damaged beyond repair that their sole purpose is to orchestrate a vendetta, and their only joy in life is that of vengeance.  Pity too, those weak individuals who choose to join in the vendetta; who haven't the intelligence to realise when they are being manipulated and instead brainlessly follow the ring-leader, like lemmings leaping off a cliff-edge.  It really is a pathetic way to live, so try to have compassion for your enemies.

That said, you will need to do some damage limitation. If your career has been targeted, try to create a whole new network of colleagues/editors that your enemies know nothing about - and keep your new contacts secret!  Distance yourself from their chosen target as much as possible - this might mean switching companies or publishers, or moving to a new area or department - because if they have targeted your career once, they are likely to do so again. It makes sense that you should protect this area of your life from their vindictive spite as much as possible.  It might also make sense to detach from any mutual associates - at least for a time. True friendships can always be rekindled when the dust has settled. But for now, remove yourself from the situation as much as you can.

You also have the option of reporting their behaviour to their superiors.  If they are a member of a professional body, say the BACP or NUN for example, then their behaviour towards you brings that organisation and their profession into disrepute. In this case they should be reported for it, but only as a very last resort, if all attempts to reason with them have failed.  People who take a stab at your career need to be aware that they are thereby making their own career a target too!  

There will always be those diminished individuals who like to puff themselves up and go by false titles, and they may indeed have taken in a whole group of people with their lies - but rest assured, the truth will come out eventually - it always does, and then they will be seen for what they really are. If spitefulness, lies and false representation are all they have to recommend them, they are worthy only of your pity. They deserve no more from you than that.

Of course you can add some witchery into the mix too - binding, banishing and silencing gossip spells will all help. Invoke karma and let the universe deal with them on your behalf.  If your own slate is clean, rest assured that they will be dealt with in some way. And then simply rise above it. When you have done all that you can to protect yourself, your family, your career and your reputation; when you have alerted their superiors to their behaviour in order to protect others from their vindictiveness; when you have identified the lemmings who follow the vendetta and tackled them too; when you have utilised your magic; and when you have removed yourself from the situation, thereby refusing to participate in the drama - there is nothing else you can do, except rise above it and get on with your life.

Don't allow their vendetta to derail you or your career. Continue with your plans, achieve your goals, keep aiming high...and know that when you are nice good things will come to you, for living well really is the best revenge!   Have faith in the Threefold Law and remind yourself that those who created, or joined in, a vendetta against you will reap as they have sown; spite for spite, career blow for career blow, relationship breakdown for relationship sabotage ...it is all coming back to them threefold, until their life is in bits around them.  And they will have no-one to blame but themselves. That's just how karma works...so be sure to keep yours good and like Snow White says to her jealous step-mother in Mirror Mirror;
"It's important to know when you have been beaten"
Let Karma tackle your enemies