Brexit: much more than politics

It’s taken until now for me to feel ready to write about the results of the UK Referendum on our membership of the European Union.  I made no secret of the fact I was voting to remain, and while I stand by my decision, I am more in despair of how we seem to be reacting to the result than I am by the result itself.  I keep waiting for us to respond how everyone says we will “we always stand together when the going gets tough” and “Us Brits are great in a crisis” must be the most common phrases I’ve heard since the vote.  As I write this, however, I have yet to see signs of either of these being true.

When I was growing up, my parents were among very few adults I encountered who didn’t believe you shouldn’t talk politics or religion; they positively encouraged it and on more than one occasion I sat enthralled listening to heated discussions over their dinner table that went on into the small hours.  I got my love of debate from listening to them talk about the Israel/Palestine crisis, Socialism and how it was being diluted and manipulated, who had which part of our Press in their pocket and how we could change any of these things.  It drove me to want to be part of the change.

Currently, the trend seems to be that talking politics is a dangerous thing, to be avoided or shouted down.  Indeed, many of my friends, whichever way they voted, have received angry abuse aimed at them on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  It’s shameful how quickly we are prepared to pounce on the views of others and say they are wrong because they do not agree with our own. This, for me, has been one of the most unpleasant aspects of the Referendum.  Watching the language of people I know and respect turn from measured and thought-through to angry and reactionary and often down-right offensive.  Aggressive defending of a political position and the desire to say “Told you so!” are not only unattractive behaviour, they also show a lack of control, a limited vocabulary and a side of someone that can make many review connections.  I personally stopped following over thirty people on Facebook during the build-up to the vote as I did not want their remarks on my timeline.

Had we been living in a country like Syria, indeed anywhere in the Middle East or many of the areas to the East of our planet, then perhaps I would understand the anger that boils over to hatred.  Lives have been touched by politics and religion in many parts of the world that we, in the West, can only read about or imagine.  Images on TV and in the media do not come close to experiencing these awful situations first-hand.  In the protected, wealthy (relatively speaking), safe haven of the West, we are living lives than most of the refugees we read so much about cannot even imagine.  And yet instead of seeing hope, community, the chance to make change happen and express our opinions, we choose to create hatred, spread lies and call each other names.

I’d love to see a change, to the way we “do” politics in this country.  I’d love to make it compulsory for every single adult in the UK to vote and for it to be a subject taught at school not simply as an A level of choice but as a subject of real pride; we are living in a country where our voices are heard and listened to and where they can make such vast change than our entire government has had to be changed to deal with it.  I’d love to see proportional representation where every single vote matters and the opinions of every member of our society is heard.  I’d love, more than anything, to see our Politicians held to account for their promises and actions, meaning they would leave behind their shouting and hatred-fuelled words, their words that incite violence and anger.

Do I believe that this vote will lead to these?  No.  Sadly, with what I’ve seen, I don’t believe Brexit will be the “holy-grail” that the Leave campaigners are now claiming they’ve handed us, if only it could be.  Sadly, however, I have seen only evidence that the people’s vote has not been seen for anything else than a mis-guided decision and almost without exception, the remain campaigners are responding by saying “well you got us into this mess, now deal with it”.  Hardly the in-it-together approach I was hoping for.  Even our new Prime Minister has appointed people to roles which seem to be saying “get in there and sort this mess out – if you can” rather than appointing talented politicians who might negotiate a deal for our nation that we can be proud of.

We voted to leave; and yes, I do include myself in that, because above being a “remain voter” I am a British citizen.  I want my country to succeed.  I watch the Olympics with pride and wave my Union Jack flag and wear my Team GB T-shirt because I am in love with my country and hope to always be.  I want the very, very best people in charge of our exit from the EU and  I want new, inventive and creative people in charge of our negotiations with our nearest neighbours to ensure they still want to work, visit and play with the UK.

The people of my nation have spoken and I have to accept and embrace what they have asked for in a way that sits with my values.  There have been times I have struggled with this, and I suppose that is part of the reason it has taken a while to write this post.  I came across so many angry, hateful posts filled with words that I cannot embrace; racism and patriotism should not be seen as the same thing.  I am British because the people who brought me up chose to live here, no other reason.  As an adopted daughter, whose birth mother came from Egypt and birth father from Denmark, who had adopted parents with families that had been refugees from Poland and Russia, fleeing from oppression because of their religion, I believe I am a typically British woman. I am proud to be British, to be a melting pot of humanity, a mix of cultures and faiths that have produced me.  I’d confuse most racists, who would never see me as anything but a white, middle class woman.  Racism is just a load of fear, tied up in ignorance and nasty language in my opinion.  I am one of the lucky ones; unless I tell you my history, I go under the radar of the haters. Only when we accept there is a huge problem with racism in the UK can we begin to beat the fear behind it.

The racists will always be here, and their fears will not be tackled by any vote or distancing of our nation.  They should not be the voice we focus on.  Spreading their message just gives it air-time it does not deserve.  It was a shame for the people I know who voted to leave the EU, that racists hijacked their arguments and that our media was so fast to tar them all with the same brush.  Time to move on.

I choose to focus my positivity and belief in the future we can choose to create if we continue to be involved, empowered and engaged, if we continue to take part in our political futures and if we turn up in the kind of numbers we did this time round, for the rest of our lives.  I see it as a duty to encourage the future generations to vote whenever they get the chance and to ensure they do their research before they do.  Don’t depend of the words of the media for that insight that will help you make your political choices; listen to conversations over dinner tables, go to debates, visit museums and read books.  Above all, express your voice and right to make change in a country we will all be responsible for shaping, only if and when we admit we all “do” politics. It’s in everything we do and every decision we make for our country.

 

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

 

The secret is….

…There is NO secret.  Honestly.  There is no answer that will be revealed when you’ve learned enough, or suffered enough.  There is no Secret to happiness, success or lasting contentment.  AND THATS GREAT NEWS!

Great news for all of us; there is no secret to any of the things we all strive for – happiness, success in love work business relationships parenthood…The list goes on.  There are plenty of opportunities, new things to learn, choices to be made and some of them may be painful.  These things will all be in your control and you are capable of deciding which ones you want to put effort into, which ones will lead you where you want to go.

The idea that you can read a book, take part in a programme or work with a Coach and suddenly you’re going to have all the answers is a myth.  I’m not sure where it started, and I know the idea of a secret was around long before people started to talk about “the universe delivering” or even “What goes around comes around.”  I have to say that, in my opinion, these are two of the other great myths of our time.

The one truth that does apply to all the really happy, successful people I know is a simple one:  they’ve all worked really, really hard to get where they are.  Did they all believe they were going to succeed?  No, not always.  Did each of them have amazing support behind them? Again, no; neither financial or moral support were particularly relevant to their success.  Each of them has a very different journey, a unique story of their life.  And not one of them believes there is a Secret to their success.

I had a client a few years ago, who spent the best part of 20 years going from training programme to retreat, to mentor, to coach and most recently, back to University (in her 50s).  While I’m all for personal growth and learning, there is a time when you have to actually put what you’ve learned into practice.  So what’s keeping her so engaged in learning?  She’s searching for that promised Secret, and she’s not quitting until she finds it!

Let’s learn from her experience and from the truly successful people around us (however we choose to measure that) and spend less time looking for “the answer” and instead, start creating our own results, which we can take credit for.  It’s no secret that’s got to feel good!

Have an excellent day

Dinah

 

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) 

 

Alan Rickman – an agent of change

 

Alan Rickman was one of those actors who I always believed; no matter whom he was creating or representing in his portrayals, I always felt he nailed it and brought the character to life.

“Actors are agents of change,” he said. “A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

I love this quote and it has certainly been true for me; many actors have influenced me politically, emotionally, even spiritually and had a lasting impact on my choices in life.

Hearing  he had passed away from Cancer today, a sense of sadness hits me that had barely healed a scab since the news that Bowie had died. “Not another one!” I shout at the Guardian online news report; “What the f••• is going on!”

I know partly that what’s going on is I’m getting older (does a little dance of celebration, as being ‘in my late 40s’ has never been on the plan due to my health) and therefore my ‘heroes’ are starting to reach the age where it is inevitable we will hear they have died.

I wonder if it’s also that since my own diagnosis, knowing I’m living with a ‘terminal’ condition, I feel the deaths with a different perspective.  I am not afraid of death, of my own dying. I am, however, fearful for those I leave behind; I worry about how they’ll cope in certain situations without me, who will comfort them in times of crisis or need and whether they’ll remember the recipe for my chocolate brownies. Hearing about the passing of Lemmy, Bowie and Alan, my first thoughts were for their families.

I’m so pleased to have been born during a time where we can continue to enjoy the legacy each of these amazing men leave behind (and of course many more); being able to play their music, listen to their words or watch their work, is a real blessing.  It makes me grateful for things like this blog, where my family will be able to look back and remember what mattered to me, and for places like Facebook where I’ve shared moments that made us giggle or cringe.

Thinking of Alan’s words, believing we can all be ‘agents of change’ I wonder what I’d most like to have had an impact on in my lifetime, what I’d like to look back on and say ‘I helped to change that’?  Will it be something ‘big’, like being involved in a campaign, or something ‘small’, like giving someone confidence to make a change for the better in their lives?

As an Agent For Change, what would you love to leave for others to remember you for?

Croeso i Myddfai

imageimage can it really be three months since we arrived In Myddfai, in our little piece of Welsh heaven? The time here seems to work on a different schedule at a slower less stressful pace. There are days when it’s suddenly ten o’clock and all I’ve done is feed the birds. It’s wonderful.

it is also hard work; no, no, stop the derisory laughter, it really is! We’ve made the move to a ‘slower pace of life’ only to find that, in truth, it’s an attitude change and not a change of pace that we’ve chosen. Many days since we’ve been here John and I have worked harder than we have in years; I’ve certainly seen a significant improvement in my stamina.

We’re up with the birds at first light, partly because we don’t want to miss a minute and partly because the sound of birdsong makes it impossible to sleep-in. We’ve got so many birds visiting our tables that we’re producing our own, home-made ‘bird cupcakes’ made from suet, seeds and mealworms. This morning we had two woodpeckers at the same time and we think they’re looking for nesting space.

once the birds are fed and the coffee is made, it’s time to light the Rayburn, which I’m very proud to say John has restored to it’s original purpose as a wood-burning stove. I Love cooking on it and we’ve called it “Freeda” as it’s our free source of cooking, hot water and two hot radiators!

Much of John’s day is taken up with establishing our new vegetable garden, dealing with our coppice of Hazel and Birch trees, collecting and chopping wood for the fire and Rayburn and doing the 101 jobs that come with a nineteenth century Welsh longhouse that’s been somwehat unloved for the last 25 years. I should point out at this point that the vegetable plots had been turned into overgrown flowerbeds and lawns so he’s had to create them from scratch during the Welsh winter. The coppice sounds glorious, almost perfect until you see that also has been left to it’s own devices and the result is an over populated acre of scraggly trees that need plenty of tlc.

My time is being divided between my writing projects, the work I do for my daughter, Hannah’s company – AmethystPA, baking, planting seeds for all our vegetables, making things for the house which had not been decorated since the 1970s and working in our garden.  There was so much nicotine on the walls, we had to leave all the windows open for our first month due to the smell. We’ve found problems with the hearing, electrics, roof, gutters, floors and even carpet….

It’s amazing. We love it here. We haven’t been this tired and happy at the same time since becoming parents.

‘what made you pick Myddfai?’ The locals we meet usually ask us. ‘it was the Feeling of the balance of our private space within a real community, the views that took our breathe away round every corner and the people” I reply, “everyone made us feel so welcome”.

According to whom?

wow woman facial pic

I watch with my head in my hands when the adverts come on the television.  The cause of this despair is quite simple really, it’s the idea that women are failing if they don’t “match up” to the perfection that is personified in stick-thin, teen-age models with “perfect” lifestyles and the skin, hair and figure to match.  Apparently, it’s what we all want.

I’d like to know, According to whom?

I saw an ad for skin cream that claimed “80% of women said they’d consider delaying surgery after using it”

Delaying? As if, surgery was inevitable once we took a good look in the mirror and realised how wrinkled we were.

Another shows a husband, claiming “we’ve been through three pregnancies…. and she still looks like Kate”

Let’s get this straight – the model still looks 30 because she is 30 and has probably never borne a child, let alone three.  Your wife still looks like your wife because you love her and we see only what we want to in people we love. And by the way, despite the grey hair you seem to despair of, she finds that sexy and exciting.  Don’t knock it!

My point is, who is it that sets these expectations, these apparent standards we must strive to achieve with diets, creams, procedures and prodding?  And what is it that makes us buy into them?  Is it a crowd thing, that sense that “everyone else does it so if I don’t then I’ll stand out for the wrong reasons?”  Is it that we’ve been so convinced the message is true, we’ve started to believe it ourselves?

I looked at my husband this morning; really looked at him.  His lines around his eyes, from working out-doors and no doubt added to by stress over the years. His grey hairs, now a good 30% of his head is covered in greys and whites.  I love them, I think they show his experience and maturity and yes, if I’m totally honest, they just look incredible with his tan!  I looked at his hands, with scars that show a life-time of crafting, creating, working hard for a living. Oh yes, I looked at other bits too – but that’s between us 😉

I asked myself “Do I see these changes in him as imperfections?  Do they stand out and become the things I notice?”  The answer for me was no.  I see these as the signs that we are growing old – together.  That makes me emotional.  We did not anticipate this.  It’s exciting and new.    I love the lines that tell his story, the rugged look that highlights his features, the grey hair that makes his blue eyes even more intense.

And I wonder, does he notice my lines, my creases and wrinkles?  Does he see the grey mixing in with the blonde or notice the lines on my hips and arms which tell of my history?  Does he love me because of them or despite them?  I believe I know.  I believe he’s with me on this one.

According to him I’m beautiful.  According to him I can stop fixating over the ageing process and continue to celebrate my years and my lines.  According to him, I’m perfect just as I am.

Dinah x

Choose to let yourself shine

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Isn’t it a wonderful picture?  Yes – it’s me.  I have never felt this way about a picture of myself before.  It was quite unexpected; I’m choosing to let myself shine and enjoying it!

The photograph was taken by the very talented @aminart – someone I met through Twitter, who brightened my timeline with his wonderful pictures and gracious, open conversation.  He inspired me to be bold, to be brave – to choose to conquer a long-term fear about pictures of myself and trust someone to capture me without making me feel uncomfortable or threatened.

We met for cup cakes (at the fabulous Sweetie Pies in Twickenham of course) and a chat, and as we got more involved in conversation I forgot my fears, my doubts, my desire to run away!  I took a choice to allow myself to shine.  To see if this man, who I could tell I could trust, would capture the Dinah my husband sees, the woman my friends see, the woman I was ready to share with them?

I asked John (my husband of 25 years) what he thought of this picture; “it’s you.” he said.  But it was the way he said it – and the rather fabulous kiss that followed, that showed me I really had chosen to let myself shine.

Our “real” photo session is next week and I’m buzzing with excitement.  Thank you Amin – you’re amazing!

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

Choose a new string for your bow

choose a new string for your bow

Over the weekend, I went to a local club and tried my first attempt with a bow and arrow.  I’ve always loved the idea of archery, a sport strongly connected with the earth and our heritage.  It’s always struck me as romantic in some way.  I’ve also always held the belief that I would never cut it as an archer; that my physical limitations would make it impossible for me to manage the bow.  Visions of dislocated shoulders and elbows came to mind and stopped me in my tracks.

So, I was delighted when, after watching my husband, John, have his session with a tutor, one of the other volunteers at the club suggested I give it a try.  “I’m concerned about my shoulder.  I’m rather prone to dislocations” I told him, apologetically.  “Well, let’s give it a try with this very light bow and see how it feels.  You might surprise yourself.” he said.

In truth, that was the moment I made the choice that I could do it.  “You might surprise yourself” he’d said.  Such a simple phrase;  and one that I realised applied to most things I do, on a daily basis.  I’ve surprised myself with so many things that I now take for granted that I can do.  Things I was told I would not, could not, should not do.  Surely this was just one more string to my bow?  (thanks to Liz Bisson for this fabulous pun and inspiring the title for this blog)

So, I took up the bow, which was much lighter than expected.  I pulled back the string and found it required far less effort than I had anticipated.  And when I took my first shot, managing to control my normal shaking with deep breaths, I almost jumped for joy as the arrow sailed through the wind and found the target (well, the very outer edge of the target to be exact).

With careful and patient coaching, I fired 18 arrows and I loved every moment.  I felt something I have not experienced since my days of competitive swimming; a real sense of exhilaration and adrenalin.  And a huge sense of achievement too.  I’d chosen to change my belief about my ability again and I’d found I was capable of something new.  I’d surprised myself.

I’m joining the archery club.  I’m so excited about the prospect of learning and developing this new string to my bow.

Which bow will you choose?

Dinah 🙂