“The best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times – although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile … For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,
For the last five weeks, I have been stretching my body and mind to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. I have written, rewritten, revised and self-published a book called How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. It went live on Amazon Kindle yesterday – Valentine’s Day – and will be available in paperback by March 1st.
It is a massive achievement. I am incredibly proud of myself. In fact, when I open up my book on my Kindle, I can’t quite believe I’m an author with a book in print – and I haven’t even seen a paperback yet.
As some of my regular readers will know, I’ve been writing another book for more than four years – a book that began as a journalistic exploration of the phenomenon of hitting 40 as a high-achieving woman without a partner and without children and that later morphed into a memoir, tracing my story from 40 to 45 as I came to terms with not being a mum and fell in love.
That book is still there, stored in a computer file, but I haven’t finished it yet. In fact, I stole quite a few ideas, anecdotes and scenes from that book to put in How to Fall in Love, which makes me feel sad in some ways but it felt the right thing to do.
My old book was heading the way of my new book anyway. It had become less about my baby angst and motherhood dilemmas and more about the experience of working through all my relationship difficulties and self-sabotaging behaviours to be able to fall in love and to fulfill my dream of living by the sea.
That’s because my baby angst had subsided as I had got older – as motherhood had seemed less likely, as I’d committed to a partner who didn’t want kids and as I’d realised I’d always been ambivalent about being a mum and was even more so in my early to mid-forties.
So the book I have produced is the book that’s right for now. I self-published it because I couldn’t wait (although I didn’t have an agent or publisher either – I didn’t try).
I couldn’t hear one more story about a woman who had fallen for a married man or for a bloke with a girlfriend without feeling that I needed to share what I had learned over the years as I have worked through and let go of my own attraction to unavailable men.
I couldn’t meet another 40-something female who was grieving because she’d missed out on the chance of biological motherhood because she couldn’t find a guy to love in time without writing about the journey I’d been on – learning to soften, change my patterns, reassess my type, face my fears of commitment and fall in love.
I couldn’t wait.
If you’ve been following my blog, some of the topics I discuss in the book will be familiar to you. I talk about the need to let go of the fantasy of the perfect partner or the myth of Mr Right. I discuss how we need to stop working so hard and do more of the things that make our heart sing so that we’re in a better place for love.
I also write about the idea of the Ideal, the Ordeal and the Real Deal in relationships. That’s the theory of relationship expert and author Harville Hendrix who says we need to mature enough emotionally in order to push through the difficult, messy stage of a relationship – the time when you have to negotiate boundaries, manage difference and accept our partner is never going to be perfect – in order to find our way to the Real Deal. If we can’t do this, we’ll just keep chasing the Ideal – and we’ll be single for a long time. I thank my therapist and my friends for helping me to get through the Ordeal so I could have the Real Deal.
In the book, I share plenty of my own dating dilemmas and mishaps – all the times I decided a man wasn’t good enough for me because I was too scared of emotional intimacy and all the times I looked for love in the wrong places, in food, in external validation or in the arms of a guy who was attached to someone else.
So if you’ve enjoyed my blogs over the years, you’ll love my book. And I’d love you to read it. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle app and read the book on any device, your phone, tablet etc (see my book page for details of how to do that). And if you’d like the paperback (I wouldn’t blame you because the cover is gorgeous – designed by Briony of Goldustdesign, who I share a co-working space with at The Old School House in Bournemouth), keep your eye on this blog, on my Twitter feed or my website and I’ll let you know when it’s out. You could also take a look at this Facebook live video from yesterday evening, in which I excitedly share the publication of my book and some of its contents.
Also, if you’d like to work through the steps in this book with me and a small group of like-minded women, check out my next ‘How to Fall in Love‘ course that starts March 27.
But back to the quote I began this blog with.
I have most definitely stretched myself to finish this book. There were times when I worried I was back in my workaholic mode, abandoning my self-care and harming myself. Perhaps I did, a little bit. I worked too many hours. I forgot to eat (a bizarre sensation for someone who used to binge every time she had a deadline) and I forgot to go to the loo. I abandoned housework, food shopping (I thank my wonderful partner for stepping in and keeping me well nourished) and I neglected my other storytelling and PR work. I almost ran out of petrol and I completely ran out of lipstick (that’s the biggest disaster!).
But it was for a very short period. I only worked really intensely for a couple of weeks. And I made sure I spent the first few minutes of everyday grounding myself, meditating, saying a prayer and reading one of my daily readings (or pretty much every day, I let a few days slip right at the end when I got up at ridiculous o’clock to do the final edits).
My perfectionism reared its ugly head but I accepted that my perfectionism is part of me and it helps me to achieve amazing results. And I accomplished what was a hugely ambitious goal of publishing my book on Valentine’s Day.
V for Valentine’s. V for Victory.
Because in the end, I think I have written a really important book that will help a lot of people. It’s not perfect, of course. But it’s there. It exists. I walked through my fears and I put it out there into the world. Instead of filing away pages and pages of research and draft versions of books in boxes (as I have done with my other book over the years), I uploaded this one to Kindle. I released it.
I put into practice all the suggestions from all those inspirational self-help books I’ve been reading for years. I took the advice of Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic and of Brené Brown in all her wonderful books – to get over myself, to just do it, to get into the arena.
A M A Z I N G
So, dear readers, if you have a dream, go for it. Absolutely go for it. Prioritise it. Clear the decks of other stuff. Focus your mind. Invest your energy in something truly worthwhile. Because once you’ve done it, once you’ve walked through your fears, they don’t feel so scary anymore (I’m already thinking about my next book!).
I’ve spent years working incredibly hard but not necessarily for me – for someone else. I’ve exerted myself for a multinational or for a boss. This time, it was for me and I’m so so proud.
So share the love, buy a copy of my book or share the link with friends and colleagues.
And bear in mind How to Fall in Love is not just for single people and it’s not just about dating and relationships. It’s for anyone who wants to go on a journey of transformation – to learn to love themselves, prioritise their dreams, work through their blocks and create a life they truly love.
It’s about flourishing and thriving. It’s about doing what I am learning to do. Enjoy x