Letting go of letting-go!

A few years ago, I had a series of heart attacks.  From out of nowhere they stopped me in my tracks and made me reconsider everything about my life.  You could say they were a major crossroads; I’ve spent a great deal of time since focussed on “letting go” of the feelings I was left with, that I’d been deprived of the future I’d been planning, a brief example of what lay ahead enjoyed, the perfect business collaborations and friendships formed, all to be knocked back, all to be no longer available in my new life.  I think it was only yesterday that it hit me, I’d been so busy trying to let go, I had forgotten to look forward, to plan a new way, to explore what I have now that will shape a new path.

When life changes mean we have to make new choices, we have to allow ourselves a period of time to learn to adjust; that time required for acceptance to replace anger and frustration, time that heals initial pain and confusion and stops us asking “why did this happen to me” and replaces it with “what can I do no that this has happened?” and finally “I’m ready to see a future, how ever different it looks to the one I imagined.” When I was 26, I had a car accident that left me in a wheelchair for almost 12 years and one of my key learnings from this experience was that we have to mourn things we loose, not just people. I lost the use of my legs at 26, I had to mourn all the things I had lost from my independence to my joy of mountain climbing to making love with my husband.  I had suffered a loss, a bereavement, the death of my life the way it had always been.

The last few years have been my time to adjust, to come to terms with my latest loss, the belief that my heart was strong and would work, without me thinking about it, for many years to come.  Once you’ve lived through the heart attacks, the surgery, the physical recovery, the news of heart-failure, the difficulty breathing and total inability to do much of anything without help from others, you start to accept.  Acceptance that you are a different person, physically, and that means mentally too.  Acceptance that life is not going to look how you imagined, or planned. Acceptance that every day is rather special, precious, too important to waste on worries and concerns.

Now, I’ve reached the point of planning for a future; that feels amazing.  Seriously, when you’ve spent a few years not knowing if you’re going to make it, you see every single day as a bonus (even the ones where you feel negative and scared and less than great) because it’s been such an enormous effort, on the part of so many, to make it here.  Planning can take on a whole new meaning now, not just something I’m told to prepare for my business to thrive, but instead, a plan for my life, to live every day as though it might be the last chance I get to enjoy feeling this good.  I’m reminded of a song by Tim McGraw called “My next thirty years” and the lines speak to me of making every moment count.

My focus now is changing, from letting-go to letting-in; I’ve pondered enough times to last me a long, long life, what might have been if I hadn’t had the heart-attacks.  It is time to let in the new, embrace the opportunities starting to come my way with my new focus, my new goals in place.  It can so often be the case that we’re not open to new opportunities because we’re so focussed on the past, the ones we think we missed or messed up.  Not for me, that time in my life is through; I know I have limits, that my heart is depending on me to look after it and make sure I stick to those limits and behave.  And it’s also telling me in a loud, strong, clear voice “I trust you. Go get ’em girl. It’s time!”

And it is time. Time to move forward.  Time to let go of the letting-go and time to get on with the next chapter of this remarkable life.

Dinah x

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

 

Are you celebrating your successes?

In the current financial climate, there is so much negative talk and focus that it is easy to lose sight of our achievements. The successes we have on a daily basis that should be noted and celebrated. Yet these get lost in the noise and overlooked; taking with them our energy and drive, our determination and self-belief, our entrepreneurialism. We are so “busy” looking at the targets and goals we miss the ones we have already achieved.

There is no question it is tough being in business right now. We are reminded of this fact constantly, by the media, our peers, our families and our creditors. Everywhere we turn, the news is grim – and getting worse by the hour. The spiral of depressing financial and business news is bound to impact us. How we let it impact us is still our choice. We can chose to buy-in to the doom and gloom, tighten our budgets, limit our spending and feel anxious. We can also make a choice to celebrate the successes during such tough times.

Success doesn’t have to be a gold medal or a £million deal. Success is often about the first, tentative steps. Steps taken despite the fear of failure or rejection. Steps taken when everyone is telling you to stand still and bide your time. Success is about still being here, every day, with the right attitude and belief to keep driving forward on your path. Success can be in the smallest things, the actions we take towards positive change, the conversations that start a relationship, the long-resisted phone call to build a bridge. Unless we take the time to celebrate these steps, we drift onto the path being set by others and lose our way.

Focussing on success can be surprisingly difficult. In a society where we seem to relish the negative, being positive can prove hard work and takes dedication and planning. I am not suggesting you write a “positivity plan”, I am suggesting that you plan a strategy to allow you to remain positive if you wish to succeed. I see negativity as a habit – a pattern of behaviour we now do on auto-pilot; we are oblivious to the language we adopt, the behaviour we repeat and the company we keep that encourages and nurtures that negativity. So, like any habit, it can be broken – with the right planning.

Becoming aware of the negativity is key to changing the habit. Making a simple choice about how we start our day can set the tone for your attitude and success. Watching breakfast television may bring you gently out of your stupor, but if hearing the news reminds you of everything negative, then breakfast radio might prove more positive.   Being in the gym might be great for your abs but if it reinforces your negative personal-image, then find an alternative with fewer mirrors and perfect bodies around you. Spending time with friends is a great way to unwind, unless you have an energy-draining relationship. You can chose to continue or chose to change.

A few years ago I realised one of the most negative aspects of my daily routine was my “To do” list. Writing the list was negative – it reinforced that I was juggling too many things and felt overwhelmed ; completing items on the list was negative – I crossed out things I had done (when I was at school, if something was crossed out it meant it was wrong); at the end of each day I looked at all the things I had not crossed out and felt I had not done enough. I changed this habit – and now write my “look what I did today list” at the end of each day. This reinforces the positive contributions and steps I have achieved and gives me a clear picture of what I need to do the next day. It allows me time to celebrate my successes and acknowledge them.

We all know that success is very attractive. You will soon find that celebrating and acknowledging successes in your business attracts the type of clients and associates you want to work with. Be a success champion and celebrate the success of others around you too. Enjoy your success – and invite everyone to the party.

Dinah

•I originally wrote this Blog for Virgin.com as one of their VIBs (Very Important Bloggers) 

 

Kicking Pain in the “As” – Anger

Anger is almost always portrayed as a negative emotion; something to be worked on, to be avoided with calming techniques and herbal teas.  And often this is the approach required.

However, I have found when dealing with pain that many people bury their anger, seeing it as something to be ashamed of, to apologise for.  They internalise the anger and turn it on themselves, often expressing a feeling of hatred towards themselves and a sense of worthlessness. When we use anger in a different way, as the fourth step of Kicking Pain in the “As” our anger can become a great asset.

I get angry.  Angry that my constant pain prevents me from doing things I love.  Things like hugging, walking the dog, playing my violin, going shopping in town…..That anger could become so destructive, if I let it.  So, instead, I take that anger and I use it as a positive energy to allow me to do more.

Here’s an example: I have played the violin since the age of four.  I got to be pretty good.   I was going to make it my career.  However, by the age of 16 my right shoulder had dislocated so many times that it had to be bolted in place and my choice of career had to be re-thought.  I headed for a professional kitchen to train as a chef, my second greatest love.  Who knew that hours on my feet would cause my ankles to swell to this size of footballs and my hips to start 12 months of constant dislocation?

This was getting monotonous, but I could still continue these two precious activities as hobbies; making music and food for pleasure could certainly bring joy to my world.

Now, thanks to my latest challenge – CRPS – I can no longer play my fiddle or spend more than 20 minutes preparing food.  Am I angry?  You had better believe it! What am I doing with that Anger?  I’m focussing it on the condition, not on myself.  I have conversations with my CRPS (as I have done with my EDS for most of my life) in which I let it know I’m angry.  I tell it how it makes me feel and that it’s not welcome in my world.  I do this out loud and often wonder what people would think if they could hear me (it makes me giggle)!

I also notice my Anger.  When we are conscious of our emotions we take responsibility for them more easily.  By owning my Anger, saying “look at me, being angry today” I can make a decision about what to do with that.  Too often I hear people say “I said something awful to my partner in anger” as if they can pass off the responsibility – “I was in Anger mode so it’s not my fault.”

When I feel Anger, I consciously ask myself “So, what’s that all about?  Why am I angry?  What am I going to do with this energy?” I give myself a choice to use it positively and nine times out of ten, I’ll take it.

The final and key step for me in using my Anger in a positive way is to be real about it.  It’s okay to be angry about the thing that is causing you pain (be that emotional or physical).  Don’t berate yourself for feeling Anger.  You are not a super-human and behaving as one is often simply a cover, a disguise.  I allow myself to say “I’m Angry!” (and trust me, there are some choice, un-repeatable words to go with that)  I allow myself to acknowledge I have good reason to be miffed!  Acknowledge that Anger and give it some breathing space in a safe place.

The top of a mountain is the place I pretend to be when I’m letting it out (just do check the neighbours are out if you’re doing it at home!) and I let rip for a good 10 minutes at least once a week. It’s cleansing.  It’s healing. So today, take that Anger and address it head-on.  Welcome it to your world and acknowledge its’ existence is your responsibility.  Nurture it and allow it to be what it is and use it, as it uses you, to create energy and choices, ones that allow you to be positive and prepared to keep kicking pain in the “As”.

Here’s to a pain free day Dinah x

Kicking Pain in the “As” -Attitude

“You have a serious attitude problem young lady”….

One of the most common sentences I heard at School as a child.  I did have “attitude” even from a very young age, though whether I would call it a problem is debatable.

You see, it’s my Attitude that forms the foundations for the way I cope with pain in my life.  It’s my Attitude that’s allowed me to make choices, take back control and make progress beyond expectations (mostly those of others) all my life.  In this series of blogs, I’m going to share my approach –  “Kicking Pain the As” – and Attitude is the platform on which that process is built.

I choose my Attitude; we all do.  Sometimes it is a challenge to choose a positive one, but it is still a choice we can make.  If I’m making that sound simple, it’s because I believe it is.  I know it’s not always easy, but that’s not the same thing.  It is simple, we just make it complicated.

Here’s how I think about Attitude:

If I choose to take responsibility for my mood, my attitude, my thoughts, then I can have a real impact on the outcome.  I can choose to be grumpy or feel sorry for myself; the outcome will be that I feel down, depressed, my pain becomes my focus and I lose my sense of hope.

I can, conversely, choose to be positive and celebrate each good, pain free moment in my day; the outcome will be that I look for the moments of joy, the points in my day that remind me of the wonderful people in my world, the talents I still have (don’t ever underestimate the importance of being able to make good coffee) and the things I’ve achieved.

That’s why I see it as simple – I’d take option two any day.  Simple choice.

So how about when it’s really difficult?  When I don’t believe there is anything positive?  When the pain takes over and all I want to do is say “I’ve had enough” or “This is just not fair”. What then?  Then, I choose to allow myself to wobble.  I allow myself moments, even whole days to wobble, to say those things and accept it really is not fair.  The important thing, is that I set a time limit.  It’s my choice to have that wobble, to allow myself time to say “I’m human and I have days where I feel like I can’t take any more” and it’s also my choice to say “wobble over”.

Is it easy?  Rarely.  More often than not, it requires effort and determination, courage and a few tears, encouragement from others and commitment to my promise to myself, that I would choose my Attitude, take ownership of it and commit to choosing one that is good for my heart, my soul, my family and my journey.

I’m heading for Positive – what Attitude will you choose today?

Dinah x

Let’s talk about…our bodies

 

Really?  Talk about our bodies?  In a public space where other people might be listening?

It’s one of those topics that so many women find difficult.  My earliest memories of talking about my body feel embarrassing and uncomfortable.  Hushed tones, fast spoken questions like “is it meant to hurt when I touch my boobs?” and “can you use a tampon if you’re still a virgin?” usually accompanied by giggles and exaggerated suggestions of expertise from equally bewildered friends.  We certainly never spoke to a grown-up about the changes we were experiencing in our bodies and the way we perceived them.

I remember the one attempt I made to ask my grandmother about periods; the result was a trip to a book shop where she purchased “what’s happening to me?” and handed it to me, under the table, in a brown paper bag. I kid you not!  The very idea of speaking to my mother was, in my mind, ridiculous.  It took me four months to tell her I’d started my periods (aged just nine) and almost as long to agree with her that I had to start wearing a bra to my junior school.

Yet as we age, as we learn how often the questions and fears we had about our bodies growing up, are shared by other women, do we actively do something to change this for future generations?  I’m confident I had more conversations with my daughter than I experienced;  I’m also sure there were plenty of things I didn’t tell her that  could have helped her to leave those concerns to one side.

How do we start to have these difficult conversations?  We can choose to be the ones to tackle them with our daughters and our friends.  I recently suggested to a life-long friend that we go and treat ourselves to some gorgeous new undies.  I was met with a less than enthusiastic “Okay.”  When I asked if I’d made a bad suggestion, she admitted that she’d always hated buying underwear.  “What, even the gorgeous girlie variety that lifts them to where they used to be?” I asked.  That’s when she told me that she felt awful buying bras because her left breast was larger than her right one and she felt like “some kind of freak” (her words).  When I told her that it was my right one that was larger she replied “Seriously?  You’ve got one bigger than the other too?  But you’ve got fabulous boobs!”

It’s extremely common.  Most women have one breast larger than the other; I’m told it’s often on the side of your writing arm.  Makes sense.  My friend said it made sense too.  She also told me she’d felt like this since we were 17.  That’s almost 30 years.  30 years of feeling negative about her body because nobody had told her it was normal.

Seems to me, it’s time to start those difficult conversations and talk about our bodies.  How will you start yours?

Dinah x

 

At any given moment – you can make the choice

you can choose your story

 

I’ve always loved this quote.  “At any given moment, you have the power to say ‘this is not how the story is going to end'”.  It’s tough to see it sometimes, when you’re so deep into your own issues, your own problems and head-talk.  It can be easier to say “there’s nothing I can do about it.”  And it can seem there is no choice because of illness or circumstances.  I do believe we always have some element of choice; whether it’s our attitude, the way we deal with a crisis or the challenges we take on to find a new way.

I’m facing my own story head-on and saying “I can re-write the next part.  I can choose a new ending and design it my way.”  I face daily challenges with my health and could easily embrace the ending that was written for me by “experts”.  It might save lots of energy and disappointment just to take their version and go along with the script.  Indeed, to many looking-on it would seem inevitable; why would you challenge your story? your destiny?

Well, with absolutely no due-respect, I say “I’m choosing to write my own ending.  Watch this space!”

How will you choose to write your story?

Dinah x

Give the gift of saying “Thank You”

accepting a compliment with a simple Thank You can feel difficult,  Accept that it's not about you.

“Really? What this old thing?”
“You’re joking, this makes my bum look enormous!”
“That’s sweet of you to say; when did you last get your eyes tested?”……

Sound familiar?  What is it that makes it so hard to accept a compliment at face-value and respond with “Thank you”?  What is the force that prevents so many women enjoying something that was intended to lift their day, to acknowledge something about them that prompted another person to say “Wow!”?

For many years I was convinced that accepting a compliment with a “thank you” was somehow saying “I know.  Yes, I am fabulous, thanks for noticing”;  of course, in my head this was done in a highly dramatic arrogant tone that was, frankly, repulsive.  I visualised people walking away and whispering to each other “I only said it to make her feel better!”  And of course, I gained little from these encounters except an opportunity to emotionally beat myself up, to remind myself I felt less than pretty, less than perfect.

Then I learned an interesting lesson from a friend;  accepting a compliment is not about ME.  When I allow someone to tell me I look great and greet this with a smile and a “Thank you”,  I give them a gift.  When people pay us a compliment, they do so with the intention of lifting our mood, making us feel great, making us glow.  When we treat that compliment, that gift, with contempt, we are showing them we don’t trust them, don’t value them.

When we accept the praise and the compliment, we allow them to enjoy that moment when someone unwraps a gift and you know you found exactly the right thing; they smile, the smile travels to their eyes which start to shine, they want to hold the gift up and show the world and you know that they understand why you chose it, that you’ve been paying attention, that they matter to you.

Focus on the person paying you the compliment today and thank them for taking the trouble to choose the perfect gift by giving them one in return – you’ll be surprised the impact “Thank you” can have on you both.

Dinah x

You are allowed to be you

I loved Toyah as a teenager; I still do.  Her hair (of course) and make-up, but also her power, her self-confidence, her rebel-quality.  I looked up to her and emulated her style with more and more outrageous hair-cuts and colours that resulted in the inevitable suspensions from my posh school for young-ladies.  Result!

Toyah showed me I was allowed to be myself at a time when I was struggling against conformism and struggling to find my identity.  To find myself; a time experienced by so many of us as teenagers or young adults.  It’s also something we experience as “grown-ups”; that sense of wanting to fit-in, or stand out, for the right reasons.  I think one of my greatest fears in my early forties was hearing “mutton dressed as lamb” when someone described me.  Hannah, my daughter, became my “mutton meter” always guaranteed to tell me the truth about my outfits.  Indeed, she helped me see that my fears were holding me back from expressing my personality as I always used to, in my bright colours and outrageous hair cuts.

When I turned 45 last year, I was rooting through my CDs and came across this track.

I was reminded how empowered I’d felt by the words and the by the woman.  I re-connected with that permission to express myself, to be myself.  I was allowed to be me.

I recently had a dramatic change thanks to my hairdresser; I went from rich red to platinum blonde – it took four hours and a serious sense of humour, but it was worth it.  I was born a blonde although many people in my networks are seeing me this way for the first time and I’m loving their reactions.  They’ve all commented on how confident I am.  My husband can’t stop paying me compliments.  I’ve allowed myself to be me and I’m loving it.

How will you allow yourself to be you today?  I’d love to hear from you

Dinah 🙂

It’s not always easy to choose

when you're caught between a rock and a hard place it can be hard to see you have a choice

This morning on Twitter, I was reminded by someone that it’s not always easy to choose your mood; that for some, every day is a challenge and “managing a smile” is about their limit.  I can empathise with this position, with this choice.  I remember times when I’ve felt that everything was simply too much effort, too much like an up-hill struggle.  And I made a choice; a choice to embrace positive thinking, to allow that to influence my mood and my outcomes.

I am not suggesting that it is easy.  I am suggesting it is a choice and like many choices we make in our lives, there are times when it is more difficult than others.  Deciding that it is a choice and one that we can make, gives us back ownership of it, gives us responsibility for ourselves.  Many people will find this overwhelming and are, therefore, reluctant to accept that it is a choice they can make.

When circumstances present themselves that impact our lives, we can often feel we have no choice.  We are not in control of what is happening to us and therefore we believe choice is not part of the picture.  What we can choose is how we react to this situation; how we choose to deal with or embrace the challenge is very much our choice.

It is also important to keep it real.  Just because you’ve made a choice to be positive does not mean you’ll never have another day where you feel down, that it’s all too much.  As a family, after my accident, we created a “why me?” day every month.  Every member of the family got the chance to say “it’s not fair.  Why me?”  to openly talk about the things we were finding a challenge, the things that brought us down or made daily positivity a struggle.  By acknowledging what we were all experiencing we gave each other permission to keep it real.

Start with a small step; think about one thing you react to that always brings you down, zaps your energy and leaves you feeling deflated.  You can choose to change the way you react.  Create a new scenario – write it out if that helps – and detail how you will be reacting from now on.  If your current response is to get cross, choose to get sassy or feisty instead.  If you would normally get upset, choose to get determined or confident.  There is a person on Twitter who used to “get under my skin” and when I saw how that made me react, I decided to choose that, from then on, I would react by being grateful.  Grateful for the amazing people I connect with who make me feel positive and energised.

Give some thought today to how you’ve chosen to react to what’s going on in your life, right now.  Are you ready to choose to do that differently?

Dinah 🙂

Choose positive thinking

positive thinking. you can choose to think positive, to focus on a good outcome
Choose a positive you today

 

Choosing to think positively is not going to make all your problems disappear overnight; however, it is going to make a huge, positive difference to how you deal with, challenge, accept or fight these challenges and, as a result and with persistence, a more positive outcome.  Positive thinking is a choice and it can become a healthy habit.

Sound like mumbo-jumbo?  All that “the Universe will deliver” language you’ve heard before.  Well, I make no apologies for that.  I choose positive thinking every day and it has had a profound impact on my life.  Real, measurable impact.  I choose to walk, having been told I would never walk again.  I choose to have a daughter (now 22 and utterly amazing) after I was told I could not and would not have children.  I choose to work and fill my life with activities and challenges after being told I would not even live to see my 40’s.

So has choosing positive thinking been an easy, snap decision that resolved all these challenges in the blink of an eye? Of course not; it has been a choice I make every day, a habit I have chosen to create and embrace.  Has choosing this positive attitude had an impact on my results – unquestionably.  I choose my own outcomes because I look at what is possible, not what is impossible; I focus on what I can do not what I cannot; I celebrate my achievements rather than focussing on my wobbles.  I choose positive thought and I get results.

What can you choose to be positive about in your thinking from today?  I’d love to hear what you choose.

Dinah