I’ve been living in a fantasy world.
A world in which this blog or my half-written book gets discovered, I get offered a big-bucks publishing deal and someone else writes the book for me or holds my hand every step of the way. A world in which I don’t actually have to sit down and do the work. I don’t have to finish what I start. I don’t have to choose between the words I keep and the ones I throw away or decide whether to swap chapter one for chapter three.
A world in which I don’t grow old or get aches and pains, and when I do get injured or pick up muscle strains, they get better on their own, in a very short space of time. I don’t have to do the stretching or the strengthening or follow the advice of doctors or physios.
A world in which I can sit for hours at a computer without getting back ache and in which I don’t need to do regular Pilates exercises to improve my posture, ease my back pain and prevent my body from seizing up. A world in which I can type for hours too, without my wrists hurting or without me having to do the exercises my physio has given me.
A world in which money, work and clients come to me in abundance, without me having to search for them or knock on their doors; where people come to my workshop without me having to advertise or promote it (this Saturday 25th in London N4 at 2 pm – see the flyer to the right). Where companies, organisations and networks find out about the self-awareness, strengths and team-building workshops I’m doing without me telling them and schools hear about my self-esteem talks without me ringing up. A world in which they find me. They discover me. They ask me in. (The irony is I can work my socks off for someone else, but when it comes to working for myself, promoting myself, it’s a different kettle of fish).
A world in which banks allow me to draw down several hundred thousand pounds against the market value of my one-bedroom London flat, despite the fact my mortgage is more than seven times my net income, following a rather drastic drop in earnings since I began working for myself, and despite the fact I’ve only been repaying the interest, not the capital, on my home for the last seven years.
A world in which I draw down those funds, get a second mortgage too, despite my present circumstances, and buy a beautiful home by the beach.
A world in which I don’t have to pay off my mortgage or have a pension because my flat is worth plenty of money, so I can just spend the money I earn.
A world in which I can have all the things I want – a home by the sea, a beach hut, a campervan, lovely clothes and holidays – without earning the money first.
A world in which I can live at the coast and have access to my London flat, without needing to rent it out to subsidise my move; without needing to choose, to risk or let something go.
A world in which all aspects of work are enjoyable and I don’t have to do the dull admin that goes with being self-employed or the money-earning work that isn’t exactly my heart’s desire.
A world in which relationships are like permanent sunny holidays, without any rough patches, compromises or hard work; without the need to negotiate boundaries, speak difficult truths or make tough choices. Where I get absolutely everything I want in one beautiful, rugged package.
A world in which it’s common for women to have children naturally at the age of 43, 44, 45 or 46, without the need for syringes, hormones or a younger woman’s eggs. A world in which pregnancy is blissful, labour is pain-free, motherhood is a dream without any nightmares and any children I miraculously manage to have in my mid-40s are cherubs who never have tantrums or tell me they hate me. (As I write this, in the quiet room in the cafe in my local park, two mums I know stroll past the window pushing prams and watching their toddlers toddle along in the sunshine … and I feel a pang. I’m writing. I’m working. They’re mothering. What is it I want? Do I not know yet?)
A world in which things take much less time than I expect and there are far more than 24 hours in the day; where journeys that take 45 mins only take 30 mins and in which nothing unforeseen ever happens en route to make me late. A world in which contingency planning isn’t necessary, because everything goes to plan.
So I wrote at the beginning that I’ve been living in a fantasy world. Past tense. I’m emerging from it and I have been for years. It’s been a gradual and painful process of growing up and understanding how the real world works, intermingled with a few sharp growth spurts, some head-out-of-the-sand moments that have catapulted me into reality and brought me back to earth with a bump.
It’s been a process of understanding I can’t have everything I want, that reality doesn’t work like that. Of learning I sometimes have to make difficult, painful choices and compromises that involve letting go of the thing I didn’t choose. Of understanding miracles don’t always happen, that I will feel physical and emotional pain, that my body will only heal if I do my bit to help and that hard work and commitment are vital if I want to complete anything.
A process of coming to know that I have to take responsibility for my finances, advertise my workshops and write to prospective clients and that my book will only get written if I sit down every day to write it. Of grasping the fact that mortgages need to be paid off and unexpected stuff happens so it’s best to do some contingency planning.
A process of becoming aware that natural conception and childbirth are uncommon in your 40s, that motherhood is maddening and tiresome at times, that all toddlers have tantrums and meltdowns and most teenagers go through a period of disliking their parents intensely. A process of understanding that relationships aren’t long sunny holidays – they require commitment, compromise and conversations that will frighten me to death.
I’m sad I lived in fantasy for so long but I don’t blame myself and nor does it surprise me. I missed out on some vital life lessons along the way and I know it has something to do with developing addictive, compulsive behaviours from a very young age. I didn’t mature in the way I was supposed to, so I’m having to mature now.
Maybe I created a fantasy land as a way of escaping a reality I didn’t like and of running away from painful feelings I didn’t know how to cope with. Perhaps I was conditioned to think in this way, to think something or somebody would come along to fix me, save me, rescue me or discover me; to think someone or something would mend my financial affairs, write my book for me, take me away from “all this”, transport me to a different, happier land.
Yes, that’s the crux of it. I grew up believing that happiness was over there – over there where you are, in that big house by the sea with its nice cars and speed boats, in that family with the mum and dad and two kids, in that job you do or that publishing deal you’ve got. I grew up believing in a fantasy – an unattainable fantasy of a perfect man, job, home and family life. I saw them everywhere and sometimes I still do – those “perfect” lives, husbands, kids, careers, bodies and so forth.
But today I understand the problem with this fantasy thinking is I don’t appreciate what I have, I don’t appreciate the happiness I’ve got.
So for today, I acknowledge that happiness isn’t over there. It’s in here, inside me. And I commit to giving thanks for that and for all the good stuff that’s going on.
At the same time, I let go of the idea of some magical big fix and I commit to doing the work (I’ve just dowloaded Steven Pressfield’s book Do the Work – but I’ll read it quickly and make sure I actually do the work!). I commit to taking responsibility, to choosing, deciding and finishing what I start (it appears losing interest in projects and moving on to the next big idea is typical of creative people). I commit to saving money, paying the mortgage, getting places on time and living in reality.
I do this in the knowledge that while it’s important to be grounded in reality, I can aspire to some really great things and that miracles of sorts do happen. Perhaps not in the way I expect them to, but they do happen. I, for one, have changed in miraculous ways.
I also commit to working wholeheartedly when I’m at work, resting wholeheartedly when it’s time to rest, and playing wholeheartedly when it’s time for fun.
And I commit to promoting my upcoming free workshop. So at the risk of repeating myself, do take a look at the flyer and do come along – Saturday April 25th, 2-4:30, St Mark’s Church, N4 3LD. It would be lovely to see you there.