Hello all, Happy January! How are you? Happy? Hungover? Optimistic? Knackered? Sick? I’m a bit of all of those things, but, to quote that great spiritual leader, Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’M BACK.
And it feels good.
Just to recap, it is exactly a year since I started this blog. By now I was supposed to have gone through 12 self-help books – one a month, as planned. There would have been highs and lows, tears and revelations, romance and rejection, all coming together to form some sort of profoundly moving (but neat and tidy) epiphany on December 31st 2014.
Right now, I should be writing up my award winning best-selling book and feel a bit shinier and more enlightened than I used to. Oh and skinnier and richer, obviously. Ideally with a cashmere jumper wearing hottie in the wings. I mean, let’s face it – that’s what self-improvement usually comes down to – money, men and the weighing scales…
As we all know that’s not the way it’s happened.
Instead, the end of last year saw me falling off a metaphorical cliff. By December I really felt on the verge of losing the plot. And that’s not an exaggeration. The voice in my head wouldn’t shut up and all it was telling me was how s*it I am. I was not sleeping well (crazy dreams) or thinking logically. I felt like I was losing my grip on normal life. I went to visit a friend in Ireland and I found myself almost unable to say anything. I was a crashing computer.
The truth is I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this project.
I just thought the year would see me going out of my comfort zone a bit, trying new things, and feeling a bit more efficient, a bit happier… a bit better. I didn’t realise that it would get as deep and messy as it has. I had no comprehension that what I’d be doing is un-peeling layers of myself and that, sometimes, that would feel like falling apart.
I don’t know if that sounds overly dramatic, but it’s how it’s felt.
Taking the month off was one of my smarter decisions. I spent three weeks sleeping, eating and zoning out in Ireland. Then I came home and hung out with my sisters for Christmas. It was nice. No dramas. And my friend got me a book that told the Nativity as illustrated by guinea pigs dressed up as three wise men and baby Jesus. It might be the best present I’ve ever received.
So now… the big question:
HAS A YEAR OF SELF-HELP HELPED?
Right now, I’m inclined to say no, at least not in the ways I hoped it would. Here’s why:
I’m no happier
I am no happier than I was a year ago, in fact I’m probably less happy and I would say that since September I’ve been pretty low (I’ll write a post about this shortly). The truth is that thinking about yourself 24-7 is not a good thing. It really isn’t. I’m also realising just how strong my inclination is to get down, no matter how many vision boards I make or strangers I chat up.
I’ve put on weight
I’m also more than one stone heavier than I was a year ago – I have eaten and drunk my way through this year in quite a major way. One friend asked me if that was part of human nature – that if you’re trying to fix one area of your life (in this case my mind) then do you instinctively sabotage other areas (your body). Maybe. I just think I needed cakes to get through the day.
I am still broke. I can’t even face totting up the figures now but they’re bad again and it’s a source of constant low-grade anxiety. Hey ho. Twas ever thus. BUT I do genuinely have an understanding of the way I am with money that I never had before and this is progress. I am opening all bills and still looking at my hideous bank statements. Again, progress.
I am still single
Turns out that writing a soul-searching blog is more of a turn off than ugly shoes. I had a few romantic encounters last year which ended with me talking about the blog and them going away saying they’d go away and read it. Then total silence. Never heard from them again. I have visions of them reading the contents of my mind and thinking – No way, No How, This is too much information, Get me out of here. And actually I don’t blame them at all. I’d probably feel the same way if it was the other way around.
My friends are in two camps about this: some say that I shouldn’t tell guys about the blog and others that I should because it’s the real me and if they don’t like it they can lump it. I’m inclined to think the latter … it sorts the wheat from the chaff… But actually the last thing I can think of right now is getting involved with someone, I have too much going on in my head to add someone else to the mix. That might well be a cop out but it’s how I feel.
I am still a ball of worry
Maybe it’s because I never really got the hang of affirmations (‘Money comes to me easily and effortlessly!’, ‘I am confident and calm in everything I do!’) but I still worry and put myself myself down all the time – I wake most mornings with a feeling of anxiety and jitters…I have been waking up in the middle of the night with panics.
Has nose-dived. I was never exactly a model of ‘can do’ efficiency but fear used to drive me – fear of failure, fear of letting people down, fear of poverty. The good news is that fear seems to have largely gone, the bad news is that it means I get very little done. I look back at last year like I spent it in some strange bubble. I did not function normally. I really didn’t. I have been beating myself up about this a lot but actually, I just think that churning through the whole ‘What’s life about’ stuff takes up more bandwidth than I’d realised. And then there were the hangovers…
Yup, I’ll make no bones about it: I drank my way through last year. Cut me and I bleed red wine. And Co-op Prosecco. I’m back on the wagon now for sober January, let’s see how long I last.
BUT BUT BUT BUT
For all its ups and painful downs, last year was like no other and so many amazing things happened, including:
You guys – Getting lovely, funny, encouraging emails from total strangers is mind-blowingly wonderful and I can’t thank you all enough for all the support last year. I don’t think I’d have stuck it without you, so really thank you.
Conversations – I had some of the best conversations with friends, family and colleagues. People I’d have thought would see this blog as self-indulgent nonsense, have told me they can relate to everything in it. We’ve had conversations about their fears, hopes, family and money stuff. It’s been an eye-opener. It shows we really are all the same underneath it all – it doesn’t matter what kind of act we put on.
This blog – I had an idea and I did it. I really did. It got written about in magazines and newspapers, picked up in France and China, I went on the radio and telly. The stupid voice in my head still tells me I’m messing this up but any kind of rational view would be that this has been a success. Whatever that means.
The stand up comedy – I will go to my grave being someone who had the guts to do stand up comedy. This makes me so, so, so proud.
I have changed – It’s hard to explain how but I do feel that I’ve changed quite profoundly. It feels like something inside of me has shifted. I certainly understand myself better than I ever have before and I see the world – and other people – entirely differently to how I did a year ago. Which brings me back to the deep stuff:
I may now be a semi-spiritual person. Don’t tell anyone, please.
I used to hate people who described themselves as spiritual (what does that even mean? I still don’t know) but I’m getting a sense I might be turning into one. At the root of most self-help books is a sense that there is some sort of universal power at work and that if we trust and tap into this power, amazing things can happen.
Growing up I was taught that that was God, but as soon as I left (convent) school, I rejected that notion. I still don’t believe in God, per se, but I do believe that there’s more stuff happening in the world that what we can see, feel and hear. I now, tentatively, believe in miracles and magic.
Which brings me to the biggest lesson I’ve taken from this year, which is one that Susan Jeffers wrote about in ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’:
‘It’s all happening perfectly.’
As well as telling us to do something that scares us every day, Susan Jeffers believed in some kind of universal power that guides us all. She argued that even if everything is going tits up – your husband’s walked out, you’ve lost your job, you’re broke etc – if you ‘say yes to the universe’ and accept what’s happening you will learn great lessons that will lead to the kinds of wonderful things you can’t even dream of now.
Throughout the year there have been times when this phrase has taunted me – usually when I was knee deep in self-loathing and bank statements, or when I was getting sick and behind schedule. I have felt like NOTHING was happening perfectly.
BUT after a month’s rest and a bit of perspective I now believe that, for all its messiness, my life (and this project), is playing out exactly as it should. I think that I’ve probably done more than I can see right now and that even my failures and detours held a lot of good lessons.
The truth is that none of us has the kind of control over our lives that we think we have. And things rarely work out how we think they should. But, actually, that’s OK. Better than OK, even.
So as we enter 2015 I have no idea how this year is going to go. Tomorrow I’ll put up a post outlining my vague plans to get through the remaining four books – just to give God/the Universe/Whatever’s up there a laugh. We can then chart just how dramatically off course I go a and have a good laugh too.
But whatever happens, this is my one resolution: I’ll do my best to let go, stop beating myself up and trust in the fact that it’s all happening perfectly. Even when it seems like a giant mess.
Onwards and Happy New Year. xx