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Writing for Small Spaces (ABC Open Blog)

Writing for small spaces

I knew my writing was good when my friend told me he read it in the toilet.

This post is by guest blogger Mary-Lou Stephens.  Moo (as she’s affectionately known around the studios) is a radio broadcaster with ABC Sunshine Coast.  Her memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation was released this month. 

I didn’t mean to become a writer.

Not of books anyway.

I always dreamed of becoming a famous songwriter. I played in bands, put out CDs and did the endless gigs that being an independent musician requires.

It was a fun journey but eventually led nowhere. The doors remained closed.

Writing prose came later and quite by accident. I returned home from a trip overseas with only twelve photos taken on a disposable camera.

A friend pointed out that photography was clearly not my thing and suggested I write about my trip instead.

I did, imaginatively calling it “My Holiday”. My friend enjoyed it so much he kept it in the toilet and read it on his regular visits there.

He told me this was high praise indeed. Higher praise came when he recommended my work to a journalist who was looking for a new columnist for the local paper.

A door began to open. But first there was an ordeal of fire. The journalist asked me for some sample columns.

“Don’t be surprised if I tell you can’t write,” he growled. “Most people can’t.”

I sent him three sample columns and waited nervously.

He rang back that very afternoon. “You can actually write,” he said. The surprise in his voice was obvious.

I wrote a column every week for four and a half years.

Much encouraged and with a lot of words under my belt, I moved on to short stories, a novel and a memoir.

For years now I’ve been writing never knowing if anyone, besides my writing group, would ever read the result.

A publishing deal is the prize is it not?

 Maybe, maybe not.

My memoir has just been published and I am grateful, thrilled that the reviews have been favourable and amazed that people I’ve never met are reading it.

But caught up in the heady spin of publicity I find myself growing anxious.

Am I enough?

Am I doing enough?

There is so much involved with getting a book out into the world, what else can I do to make it happen? A publishing deal is not a full stop, it is an ongoing commitment to do my best for those who have invested in my words.

It is not until I pause, find the space to clear away the clutter of my endless To Do list, and immerse myself in the writing that I find peace and a true excitement. It is a joy that comes from my soul.

This is where the doors swing wide open and angels sing.

I am connected at last, not lost but found, in the words and in the journey.

This is a gift, the true prize. Writing in itself is enough.

And if the toilet is the only place it’s read, that’s enough too.

Mary-Lou Stephens’ memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation was released this month through Pan Macmillan.

IMAGE CREDITS: Author: ABC Open Sunshine Coast

Madison Magazine gets Meditating

This was originally posted on the Madison Magazine website  05.04.2013 www.madisonmag.com.au/life/sex-drugs-and-meditation

One women tells how meditation changed her life, saved her job and found her a husband

I sit still, close my eyes and breathe. That’s it. Nothing more. Who’d have thought such a simple thing could change my life? A simple thing yes, but not an easy thing. Madisonpic

It wasn’t happiness that drove me to a ten day silent meditation retreat. My dream job had turned into a nightmare thanks to a new boss who was determined to make my working life a misery. I knew he wouldn’t change. If I was to keep the job I loved there was only one thing I could change. Myself. My colleagues were sceptical. I talk for a living. How was I going to last ten days without uttering a word? I did it because I was desperate.

I had done my research. I knew the physical pain, resulting from sitting cross-legged for eleven hours a day, was going to be tough. What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional pain. In those silent hours my past came rushing at me with all its attendant demons; my childhood as a neglected kid in a crazy religious household, my past addictions to drugs, alcohol, food and stealing. Waves of rage, fear and self-loathing threatened to overwhelm me but I continued to meditate as I was instructed; observe the breath, observe the sensations, remain aware, remain equanimous.

The theory is that when we’re confronted by painful situations, if we don’t react, then we liberate ourselves from past hurts as well as the present ones. They come to the surface, manifest as a sensation, then pass away. The basic tenet of the meditation technique is – everything changes. Why get attached to something that’s going to change? Why fear it, avoid it, crave it or hate it? It’s not going to last. Just observe it and let it go. When the demons were flying at me with jagged teeth and tearing nails, when the pain was so great it felt as though my bones would rip through my flesh, I found it hard to believe that theory. But when I was able to keep breathing, to observe the sensations and not react to them, miracles happened. The physical pain dissolved into a thousand effervescent points of energy. It’s one thing to know in your mind that everything changes but to get it on a physical level, in every cell of your body, is another.

The emotional pain also changed. I was shocked when an old wound demanded my complete attention. A relationship so wracked with obsession and betrayal it had destroyed my ability to trust. I thought I’d worked through it. Turns out I had only suppressed it. On day seven of the retreat there it was, slapping me around the face. I didn’t react. I kept breathing, kept observing. The result was a life-changing realisation and a sense of freedom I had never experienced before.

Having such insights in the closeted surrounds of a meditation centre is one thing but what about back in the real world? Those ten days have had a profound and lasting effect on my life. I used to be extremely reactive. My response to anyone in authority was one of resentment and defiance. No wonder I never got on with my bosses. I stopped fighting, started listening and kept meditating. My work life improved. Eventually my boss moved on but even while he was still there I was much happier. I didn’t have to suffer anymore. But the biggest change has been in my personal life. I was terrified of relationships. Although I desperately wanted to, I could never commit, the fear was too great. Everything changes. Within ten days of leaving the meditation retreat I met the man I would marry.

Words by Mary-Lou Stephens author of Sex, Drugs and Meditation

Digital Heaven

And now, along with the cassettes from years gone by, my extensive collection of CDs, the collection I valued so highly I had it listed separately in my contents insurance, has been 2012-12-27 09.12.55dispersed. Lugged to the charity shop in boxes and bags to be picked over by bargain hunting music lovers. And what joys they will find there. A collection of memories, adventures, passion and heartbreak.

Was a time when CDs were essential to my world. The CD player at home was always in a whirl. The stacker in my car was always stuffed. When The Hubby told me he was thinking of buying me an iPod for my birthday a few years ago, I told him not to. I would never use it. He bought it for me anyway. I never used it.

But everything changes. He vowed he would always read real books, that he loved the heft, the smell, the reality of them. Now our bookshelves are denuded and he reads from a device. I still read books made from paper and glue but for how long I wonder?

We bought ourselves a new stereo. A tiny thing, with a dock for my iPod. It is also capable of playing digital and online radio stations. I spent hours loading my CD collection into my computer ready for transfer to the iPod I said I would never use. And when all my CDs were loaded and all my musical memories were nothing more than bits and bytes in my computer, I gave them away. All except a few old friends; Sigur Ros, Harry Manx, Frank Sinatra. I hang on to them just in case the world of binary code comes crashing down. We have a universe inside my iPod now, so much music in such a tiny space. A Tardis of sound. But do I use it?

When tuning in to online radio stations I found one that both The Hubby and I like. And now, when we press the button on the remote control, that’s what starts playing and that’s where we stay. My iPod sits in its dock and waits, all the music I have ever owned inside its silver shell. The internet radio station plays on. My iPod gathers dust. I am, if nothing else, a woman of my word.

The Australian Good Weekend Magazine

Lost in prayer

Wilderness years … the author, aged eight, with her mother.

Wilderness years … the author, aged eight, with her mother. Photo: courtesy of Mary-Lou Stephens

When seeking her mother’s attention, Mary-Lou Stephens had to compete with five siblings – as well as a higher power.

My mother was an early riser, out of necessity more than desire. With six demanding children, it was the only quiet time she could wrest from her noisy days. No wonder she turned to religion. Sometimes, as a child, I would shuffle sleepily down the hallway, in what seemed the dead of night, and watch her huddled by the heater, a cup of tea by her side and a book of Bible readings in her hand. Her early-morning study. Bathed in the glow of the heater and the shallow light of the standard lamp, it was as if she floated on an island of peace. I would creep back to bed, not wanting to shatter that illusion.

My mother wanted eight children, my father only four. Six was a compromise, I suppose – three boys, three girls – but my mother never liked to compromise. A miscarriage before I was born and another after meant she did conceive eight souls. Perhaps in her early-morning prayers she whispered to the unborn two, her other babies.

The older and more uncontrollable her brood grew, the more radical my mother’s religion became. Not content with the local parish church, Bible study and good works, she became involved with the Charismatic movement. Speaking in tongues, healing, being slain in the spirit – this became the new vocabulary of her religious life.

When I was a child, I told her how I’d dreamt I was on a beach with a group of people. The sea sucked back on itself, exposing miles of ocean floor. Everyone around me began praising the Lord, much like my mother did at any given opportunity. It was the end of the world and they knew it. They embraced it. They were the chosen ones. A huge rumble vibrated through the sand and, on the horizon, a massive wall of water headed towards us. The Lord-praisers danced and sang in happiness.

“That’s all I remember,” I said to my mum.

She stopped getting breakfast ready and, for the first time in a long time, I had her full attention.

“Praise the Lord,” she said. “You’re a prophet.”

It was a vision from God and He had chosen her child. She took me to her strange meetings and told her friends I was a prophet, but when no other dreams emerged and no further prophecies eventuated, she withdrew the bright light of her attention. I was left in the dark again.

One counsellor told me that growing up with a mother like mine was the same as growing up with an alcoholic parent. Never knowing what to expect, too ashamed to bring friends home, knowing that my mother was different but not knowing why.

And then there was my older brother, who spouted Adolf Hitler’s speeches off by heart and had a Nazi flag in his bedroom. He was 10 years older than me, a terrifying stranger. My next oldest brother once tried to hit my mother with a frying pan, and my oldest sister would often take to my mother with flailing hands and scratching nails. I tried to get my mother’s attention but to no avail.

My closest sister in age to me was a chronic asthmatic, and between disease and disarray, there was no time or space for me. But there was time for other people’s babies. My mother took them in and looked after them, even though she showed no interest in looking after me. Why did she stop loving me? Why did she lose all interest in me? I was only eight, I couldn’t work it out. And because I couldn’t work it out, I thought it must have been my fault. I must have been bad.

My mother was obsessed with strangers’ babies once she could have no more of her own, and I was too old to be treated like one. My siblings were totally uninterested in my welfare and battling to survive themselves in a madhouse. I survived the only way I could. Feral and filthy. Stealing and lying. My sister told me my scalp was yellow because my hair was never washed. My teeth were furry from lack of brushing. Food was my only comfort, my only company. I became obese and my parents either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

All the while my mother praised the Lord, babbling in languages no one understood, and reached her arms to the heavens, ignoring what was going on at her feet.

For his part, my father appeared to be the epitome of patience. In reality, however, he would avoid the awkward or confrontational in the hope it would pass by and resolve itself without him having to participate.

Eventually, he realised my mother’s religious zeal was not a temporary situation to be disregarded until it passed, so he went to a Billy Graham Crusade at the North Hobart Football Oval and got himself saved. He was never as enthusiastic about praising the Lord or breaking into tongues at unexpected moments as my mother, but he went with her to the meetings and rallies.

In our teenage years, my asthmatic sister, always Dad’s favourite, joined in, too. She discovered, as did I, that the best chance of any attention from our parents was to play on the same team. Our older brothers and sisters had fled the nest by this stage. That left the four of us, clapping our hands and singing in tongues. My mother would be swept away in religious ecstasy and my sister, father and I went along for the ride.

Naturally, I never told anyone at school that I sang in tongues with thousands of others at pep rallies. I never mentioned the bellowing preacher who put his hands on my head to slay me in the spirit. I fell down because I thought I should, and then lay on the floor, breathing in the dust and the smell of cheap carpet, feeling cheated. Why was everyone else around me feeling the rapture when all I felt was cranky?

I tried my best to fit in but I felt like a hypocrite. I was told to pray harder. If you’re miserable, pray harder. If you’re in pain, pray harder. If you’re sick, pray harder. If you’re unhappy, it’s your own fault – you’re not praying hard enough. There was no room for confusion or doubt. No room for the fat teenager I had become. Everyone was perfect. Everybody was deliriously happy. Praise the Lord.

When I tried to leave the Charismatic church in my late teens, my mother refused to acknowledge it. “You’re a Christian, darling, and you’ll always be a Christian.” She smiled her tight little smile. My mother owned my spirituality, or so she thought. And at the time I thought so, too. It was all I had ever known.


Edited extract from 
Sex, Drugs and Meditation, published by Pan Macmillan.

Almost home

With a heavy thud the Express Post bag hit the bottom of the mail box. An Express Post bag I had just hugged and even given a little kiss. My baby.

My baby is finally all grown up. She has gone through many stages and phases over the last edityears and has had many changes of clothes. She’s still a little under dressed, without a definitive title as yet and her cover still to come, but the things that really matter are complete; her heart, her soul, her spelling and punctuation. Her bravery and truth are undeniable and, even if I do say so myself, she is a bloody good read.

My baby is on her way. And as soon as she is christened and has her glad rags on, she will take on the world.

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a series of blog posts where authors talk about their work using the IMG_0783same ten questions. At the end of the blog we tag other authors who will do the same thing a week later. So not only do you get to find out more about my book but you also will discover some other interesting writers. The wonderful Ian Irvine tagged me and here are my answers:

1. What is the working title of your next book?

My title is sex, drugs & meditation. Due to my publisher’s concerns this may change. Remember to Breathe is an option.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I used to read self-help and personal growth books. They were full of jargon and exercises I was supposed to do – which I never did.  The bits I really liked were the case studies, the stories. When my life was transformed by meditation, and by one ten-day, silent mediation retreat in particular, I decided to write a case study, the story of what happened.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Non-fiction. It’s my meditation memoir.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This book would be hard, but not impossible, to turn into a movie. It’s based within the frame of a ten-day silent meditation retreat – tough to write a screenplay for that! However there are a lot of flashbacks involving sex, drugs and my life playing in bands and working in radio. Charlize Theron would be great to play me especially as she doesn’t mind not looking too pretty if the role demands it. Ben Kingsley could reprise his Gandhi role and play the teacher.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Mary-Lou does not have it all. Never has. And now the one thing she does have is under threat. (Okay it’s three sentences but they’re very short.)

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My publisher is Pan Macmillan. Selwa Anthony is my agent. The book is due to be released in April 2013

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Oh Lordy, that’s a tough question. I had so many false starts. I had written 50,000 words most of which didn’t work. I started again after I was given some great advice by a literary agent. “If you’re going to write this book you need to be totally honest.” I freaked out, put the project aside and wrote ten drafts of a novel instead (unpublished). When I was ready to be totally honest I started writing again. This process took about six years.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Teach Us to Sit Still – Tim Parks

Oh and yes, that book, Eat, Pray, Love. I stated writing my memoir way before Elizabeth Gilbert’s book was released, I promise.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It is an amazing story and it’s all true. When I read my final draft (before the publishing deal) I said to The Hubby, “This is such a great story. I can’t believe everything in it happened to me. I can’t fathom how I went through so much change and transformation and I’m still completely fucked up.”

He was kind enough to agree that it was an amazing story and not agree with the last bit.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

If you’ve ever been in a situation that you’ve found unbearable – with your work, relationship, health, weight, friends, etc – this book is for you.

If you’ve ever been in a state that you wanted to change but didn’t know how – this is the book for you.

If you’ve ever wanted to clear emotional baggage and be free – this book is perfect.

If you’ve ever wondered what being a radio presenter is really like – you’ll love this book.

If you’re wondering how someone who gets paid to talk could stay silent for ten days – this book will interest you.

If you have any curiosity about, or interest in, meditation – this book is a must.

 

So that’s it for me. If you want to discover some other great writers check these out:

Nikki Stern – her memoir Not Your Ordinary Housewife was released this week.

Paul Fogarty – not only a writer of prose but a writer of songs

Taylor Fulks – her book My Prison Without Bars was released this week.

Sean Tretheway  – two novels released so far and many more to come.

 

 

What’s in a Name?

I’m supposed to be doing NaNoWriMo. I was already falling behind when my copy edits came through. It was a simple decision and one that had to be made thanks to the full-time job. New writing, that may or may not be published, or old writing that has already scored itself a deal? As I said – a simple decision.

Once more into the depths of the as-yet-still-to-be-named meditation memoir. Yes, two rounds of edits and still no title. This is starting to remind me of being in bands. Writing the songs, playing the instruments, booking the gigs are the easy part. Well, straight forward at least. But naming a band? That’s tough. The name has to be just right. First impressions and all that. I like my title, sex, drugs & meditation but I understand if it needs to change. After all, it started out as Ten Days to Enlightenment & A Really Sore Bottom and then turned into The Vipassana Diaries. Anything is possible.

I’ve never had to name a child but I’ve heard how fraught it can be. Mind you I did change my name by deed poll when I was about twenty years old proving you don’t have to be stuck with the name your parents have agonised over.* Can a book change its name once it’s been christened? Books do have different titles in different markets. I guess that comes down to the publisher’s choice. When the overseas deals start coming in, will I go through this process all over again? And how does the digital world of ebooks deal with different titles in different markets? This is all ahead of me.

I do wonder about the power of names. We called our second-hand six-year-old dog Maddie, and that is what she has proved to be. Her RSPCA name was Magic. We thought it was a bit naff. We couldn’t see ourselves calling out “Magic, Magic” on the beach. Which is possibly why we can no longer take her there. We called “Maddie, Maddie” and instead of coming to us, she bit a dog. Mad indeed.

But Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” What’s in a name indeed? I wonder if he had trouble naming all those plays. That’s just given me some ideas for the title of my meditation memoir. How about Much Ado about Sitting Still and Doing Nothing. Or Taming of the Mary-Lou? Or As You Don’t Like It? Ah the possibilities are endless.

It is just like naming a band. But in the end you need something to put on the CD cover. I wonder what it will be. Has anyone done the self-titled album thing with books? The eponymous approach? Mary-Lou Stephens by Mary-Lou Stephens. You know what, I like it. Now all I need to do is to convince the publisher, the sales team and the book buyers. Wish me luck.

*I changed it back again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Adventure of Writing

It was explained to me, by a more experienced writer than myself, that saying, “I felt sick,” when asked how I felt when I landed a publishing deal, was best avoided, even if it was the truth. She said most people, who haven’t been published, expect you to say, “It was fabulous, I was so excited, over the moon,” and if that wasn’t the case then I should practise saying it until it sounded natural.

Trouble is I did feel sick, and she understood why. She’d been through it herself and talked to many other first time authors who felt the same. It’s about letting go. Letting go can be tough, especially when you’ve nurtured your manuscript for six years. The realisation that my brutally and beautifully honest meditation memoir was going out into the world to have a life of its own was a tough jump to make, even though I’d wanted it to happen for years. Dreams and reality are two very different beasts.

I took a deep breath, jumped, and signed the much desired contract. Reality rushed to meet me head on with a touch of dreaminess to soften the blow.

My publisher told me it was one of the most complete manuscripts she’d ever read. There wouldn’t need to be many changes, she said. I met my editor and my publisher – and how good does it feel to say that when you’re a first-time published author – and we talked about time-frames and covers. Bliss. They told me they were both going to read the manuscript again and send me their suggestions, but that there wouldn’t be much to do in that regard.

When the manuscript was emailed back to me with comments and suggestions my reaction was extraordinary. And I say reaction in every sense of the word. It was chemical, physical,emotional and totally illogical. I was angry, defensive, hurt and full of fear. I started scrolling through the suggestions and my chest clamped up. How dare they? How dare they challenge my work, my bravery, my art? How dare they want me to change any bit of it? I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I was not capable of doing it. I swung between fear and fury. I decided, within half an hour of receiving the email, that I wasn’t going to go through with the deal. I was going to email them and tell it was all off. I’d had enough. It was too hard.

Crazy woman. I watched myself go through this agony. I watched my insane, terrified mind writhe and twist. Two things became apparent. I’ve always hated being told what to do. I’ve resented every boss I’ve ever had. My publisher was just another boss at that point, telling me what to do. The other realisation was that I was just plain scared because I’d never done this before. I’d never had to revise a manuscript for a publisher. I’ve done plenty of writing courses and been given feedback. I’ve been in a writing group for years and accepted suggestions from my fellow members. But this was on a whole new level. I’m a professional now, a soon-to-be published author by a major publishing house. This was totally different. I was out of my comfort zone and in outer space somewhere, spinning and lost.

So I did what I always do. I emailed my editor and my publisher and said, “Sure, that’s fine. And yes I can make the changes by the dead line.” And then I didn’t do a thing. I would slide through the manuscript and drift over their notes from time to time, like a tongue seeking out the aching tooth, but that was it. As the deadline grew closer I read the notes more carefully. They weren’t as bad as I’d first thought, in fact some of them were complimentary. My confidence returned just enough to read some more. The suggestions made sense, ah yes why hadn’t I noticed that, and oh, that would make it easier for the reader to follow. By the time the last weekend before my deadline arrived I was feeling as if I could possibly, maybe do this and not stuff it up too badly.

I allotted myself four days. The Hubby was away for two and a half of those. I’d have the place to myself, except for the dog. The first day and a half I did everything else but work on my manuscript. There were too many distractions. Everything was more important than my book. Finally, when The Hubby was gone, the dog was walked and everybody else was taken care of, I got down to work. I didn’t leave the house, except to walk the dog, I survived on what ever food was in the fridge. Slowly the pages, changes and suggestions started melting away. In the midst of it I had major realisations about the core message of my memoir. I made subtle changes that made the story sing and sob. I felt a whole new energy vibrating through the words. I cried and laughed, and howled with the dog. By the afternoon of day three I knew I was home. Right in the middle of my own life. Doing what I was destined to do. Doing what I loved. And it was working.

And I knew something else. I had conquered my fear, I had done something I’d never done before and my book was so much better for it. Clever publisher, clever editor, clever me.

Connection

I was in need of some time out. The stress levels were on the rise and my ability to cope diminishing. Ten day silent meditation retreats may not be everyone’s idea of a holiday but that’s what I chose. I’d done a few before and knew they worked for me. I also knew what I was in for; eleven hours of meditation a day, no talking to, or even looking at, any of the other meditators, and some physical pain.

The retreat was held at an old holiday camp on top of a cliff. The ocean crashed against the rocks below making a mockery of the so-called silence. The waves were a loud and constant soundtrack during those ten days. In the hours of meditation sometimes my mind would wander to the sea and as I practised observing my breath and observing the sensations I felt my body dissolve and become one with the ocean. During one of those hours a character formed in my imagination. An energy being who came to Earth to make amends for a mistake she made in the long distant past. The only place where she can take her true form is in the ocean, like golden particles suspended in the water. In the place where she comes from connection is the most important thing but because of her transgression she has been dealt a cruel punishment, the worst possible for those who depend on being connected. Separation. Exile.

After the retreat The Hubby came to collect me. He took me to the beach and as we dived through the waves I told him about this character and how I would write a book about her. I opened my eyes under the water and saw her suspended there, golden motes dancing in the water.

True to my word I took six months leave without pay and wrote my first novel. I called her Maggie and she was my constant companion day and night for those six months. Maggie can do things with space and energy that quantum physicists can only dream of. But it is the Little Blue Planet she loves, and the oceans that give it its name. After being cast out by her own she searches for connection wherever she goes and finds it here on Earth.

They say all first novels are autobiographical. Perhaps it is my love of the ocean that shines through in this book, my fascination with energy and how it works that determines Maggie’s form. And if it is true, is it my desire for connection that colours her actions, her motivation? Or was it simply that Maggie was imagined into being at a meditation retreat where I was not allowed to connect with anyone but myself. And there’s the key. Connect to self and all else will follow, including imagination, creativity and companionship.

Success with Each Step

I used to have a very fixed opinion about success. I knew what it looked like, how it would arrive and, once I obtained it, I knew my life would be perfect. My plan was to become famous. I studied acting and performed on stage and screen. Unfortunately I wasn’t particularly good at it and I didn’t like hanging out with other actors. They were all completely self-absorbed. So instead I decided I would become a famous singer/songwriter. I played in bands, I toured, I wrote songs, I recorded. I was even offered a recording contract. But bands break up and recording contracts disappear. When all was done and dusted I didn’t have the energy or desire to keep going.

Then along came radio. It was the perfect combination of acting and music. After years of banging my head against closed doors, all the doors swung open. It was a miracle. It was meant to be. I landed my dream job. Success at last. And here’s the thing about having a fixed opinion of success; the goal posts shift, life is fluid, everything changes. In other words my dream job turned out to have warts. I did discover, after much resistance and then acceptance, that I could still love it, warts and all, but it no longer fulfilled my definition of success.

Perhaps a successful relationship would do the trick. I achieved the required standard by getting married. But, you guessed it, I found out there is no such thing as the promised happy-ever- after. My job might have had warts but my marriage had bunions. However once again, after much resistance and then acceptance, I learned to love it, bunions and all.

Years ago I started writing. A quiet pursuit, never in the spotlight, unlike my other attempts at fame. Most people wouldn’t think I was a success because I wasn’t published. But my definition of success had changed by the time I took up the pen. Finishing eight drafts of my novel and finally completing my meditation memoir after six years, these were successes to me. I sent them out into the world and they returned with kind suggestions and notes about revisions, most of which I took on board. Each small compliment was another success. I did the work and sent my manuscripts out again. A process of growth and refinement.

And now, success. My meditation memoir will be published by Pan Macmillan next year. A cause for celebration. But I know this is not the end. This is just another step on the journey. A journey where every step, no matter how many warts or bunions, is a cause for celebration, is a success.

***You can also find this post in the latest edition of Holisitic Bliss