“Perhaps some day I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
Welcome all to my second blog post. I have so much I want to share with you; but am working hard on structuring (not a natural skill of mine) and exploring the whole new magical world of WORDPRESS. It’s amazing, but be warned, enormously time consuming (again IT not a natural skill – but I’m working on it)
Today I want to talk about yoga and story telling, as for me linking the two is what got me through the very darkest of days. Sherry too has helped ease the path; so I must pay homage to my most dear and constant companion. And NO – sherry is not just for elderly relatives – it’s having a massive revival here in my beloved London. Much more on this later.
First yoga. For some 10 years yoga has become as fundamental to my survival as the air I breathe. There is no other option for me. It gets me up in the morning, stops me creaking, and means that I can enjoy a multitude of other sports like skiing, tennis, running and dancing with less risk of life limiting injuries. I recall waking up at 40, after years of Jane Fonda style exercises, and found myself occupying the body of a 110 year old. No more! – yoga releases everything and allows you to glide back into your younger body with flexibility, energy and more than a little spring in your step.
Sadly I know way too much about bodies when they go wrong and the huge limitations of medical science and the way that treatments and drugs are developed. Yoga should be listed, alongside penicillin, as one of the few blockbuster breakthroughs of the modern world.
But way more important than all that, it provides me with hope, safety and a calm place for my mind. I would be total “nut job” without yoga – that is a definite!
I am a professional story teller – or what is more commonly known as a journalist. I now train people to unleash the power of the story to persuade, influence and to get their message across in the most effective way. I advise my clients to find their best story tellers and get them out front. There is so much research on why people listen out for stories – for more on this check out one of my top ten books “The Science of Storytelling” by Will Storr
I realised after the darkest of days, when my daughter was so ill, that I’d completely lost the narrative of my life. Driven by the fiercest Mother’s love, I had easily flicked over so many previous obstacles, including single parenthood and a period with no money and a car that would never start. But this was useless in the face of an aggressive adolescent cancer.
And when it all ended, I was left without a story (amongst many other things). I was a Mother who’d broken the ultimate promise – to keep her child safe. I’d failed spectacularly. All the things I’d committed my life to, and loved so much – work, career, success – were entirely meaningless. The story of my life had been wrong from the start.
But I knew the power of story telling and I knew if I wanted to survive – this was never an option as I had other children – I would have to create a new story and that needed to start with an internal story. A reason to believe, to not give up and to keep on moving. Yoga, and training to be a teacher , was key to that slow path back to some kind of life.
I kept at it, I’m always diligent if nothing else. And then one day there was a tiny glimpse of life and possibly the start of a whole new story. The lesson came from a very quiet lady who never missed my class. To be honest I kind of wished she wouldn’t come. She would often not join in and just lie there looking pretty grumpy about the whole affair. She never uttered a word for a whole years and was completely un-charmed by my little jokes and beaming smile. I was readied for the complaint that I wasn’t really up to the task – that my teaching was crap and – well you know the rest.
“I want to speak to you,” First thought – oh God here comes the complaint. “I don’t know what I’d do without this class. It’s been a lifeline. You see I’ve been having treatment for breast cancer and sometimes I’ve been too tired to join in. But you’re always so kind and welcoming and you smile at me. I live alone and I’m off work so I don’t see many people. I know I can come here and be with others without having to join in.”
And bang I glimpsed a tiny shoot of possible meaning again. Up until that moment I’d been thinking of giving up on teaching yoga. My business was taking off, my family growing and needing more time, and I had so many other things to do. But that comment, from that person, changed my path. Just by showing up, doing my best, and trying hard to connect – I’d helped someone. And to be quite honest nothing in the World comes close to that feeling of making a difference to somebody else’s world – maybe this is a selfish thing because it makes me feel important, but does that really matter? Isn’t that just a win win?
So here’s my new narrative…and I take time to keep on crafting it. I have a clear mission – to be of use to others, to not sweat the small stuff and to have fun living the best life that I possibly can. Out with the old need to feel comfortable and safe. In with a need to live life at my edge, to keep moving, trying new things and to fail fast.
I want to be unstoppable and in doing so show that midlife can be the best act yet – despite, or maybe because, I’ve seen the very worst that life has to offer. There is no time for meekness, regret or excuses. I’m going to follow a bit of Helen Mirren’s advice of telling more people to “F**K off”, but mostly show up for the like minded people I know and the new ones I am certain to meet.
By being bold, honest and open I think I’m taking that first adventurous step with this blog… Will it work? Who knows? But I’m going to have fun trying …
Oh and sherry. My favourite at the moment is Oloroso’s . It’s a richer sherry, with a nutty kind of taste and is less sweet than the better known varieties. There’s generous helpings of walnut, fig and raison and it’s fabulous served with a light tapas. Enjoy xx