The World Cup has just kicked off. I heard the first goal go in over the sound of Maroon5 whilst I was sat at the kitchen table.
At the moment, I am spending a lot of time at the kitchen table. That is where I write, where I type up my writing projects; that is where all the magic happens. That is where I feel the safest, most productive and on task.
Hearing that goal go in-I thought of my work sweepstake-I was typing up the first of this years writing projects. It is all handwritten, now needs to be digitised so that it can be crafted further. I’ve spent eleven months writing it on the back of Retreating To Peace, and its one of two projects that I was aiming to get done by the end of the year. I am sort of on track. I don’t have any external deadlines, this project is firmly on my own terms. That doesn’t stop me from philosophising and wondering what the point is. Distracted, I’ve set it aside for a minute.
I’ve had that question, what’s the point, on my mind for a long time.
What is the point of what I am writing, why do I put myself through it, what do I get out of it exactly?
Every time I write, start a new writing project, I effectively pick a part of my soul to make public. In doing so, I am -through closed eyes and gritted teeth-handing over a piece of me, for public scrutiny.
The world being what it is, it can be kind or cruel. You never know, unless of course you ask for feedback, look at the reviews. That can either bolster you, make you smile or send you off in a spiral of self-criticism.
I can safely say, I’ve done both.
Over the last week, I’ve had to have some supportive words with myself.
Punam, grow a thicker skin. Roll with it. You can’t please everyone, please yourself. Be mindful, that people are going to have an opinion.
You might not like it, you might not agree.
What you do with it, is up to you.
You could give up, do something else.
(Oh, I nearly did, but I really like my ink pens.)
Or you can carry on. You do what makes you happy, what makes your soul sing, and helps you find your place in this world.
You’ll never guess how much of that is the result of four years of counselling training. That all came to a close this week, so introspection is currently a big part of my frame of reference. I am that bit closer to finding my personal power and being able to use it.
I am a little bit closer to finding out about me, the way I see the world and how I fit into it.
Writing, has been a big part of that journey over the last four years.
This blog has been a big part of it. This is where it all started with chilli plants and tomatoes. Potatoes too, and that should have been an omen. Carl Rogers had a lot to say about potatoes, especially those in his basement. Potatoes that grew toward the light, towards actualising their potential.
I started my counselling journey in 2013 with Level 2 in listening skills. It was two years later, when I had done level three that I wrote Playing with plant pots. A book that built on this blog, and was the start I guess of a process of self actualisation. I was tending the allotment, tending to myself at the same time; the book and blog were a testament to that. A testament to what was about to happen. I don’t remember much-apart from the theory-about level 2. In terms of real life, there was a fair bit going on with my job, that had left me that emotionally in a bad place. The allotment and writing were both acting to help me realise the internal incongruence that I was feeling. Those who say that gardens help you heal; that’s perfectly true. I was using both as therapy. It was also at that time, that I stumbled across Michael Perry, the illustrious Mr.Plantgeek. I remember writing a few guest blogs, and the thought of putting them in a book took shape. It is the lovely Mr.Perry that I credit, for adopting the hashtag Bollywood gardener.
Level three happened, and the second gardening book came along. We’d from the seeds of an idea-with both the plot and books-to trying to blossom. The plot was full of produce, full of flowers; it was well tended and very, very productive. Writing Sow, Grow and Eat was, alongside all the jams, jellies and Chutneys a time of abundance. I had something to show for most things. All of those seeds, had grown to blossom, bud and fruit. Doing level three was hard, and my counselling journey was feeling fruitful too. I liked it; I liked the subject, my classmates, tutors and process of growth. It was different, having taught Psychology and been so entrenched within the medical model. What I was doing, was taking a big swing to being more human. The Person-Centred approach as an aspect of Humanistic Psychology felt as though it was a big part of me.
There was a gap between level three and level four, it now feels very blurry. I was lost without having a college routine-I’ve studied at night school for one day a week whilst teaching-so I volunteered for a couple of organisations to maintain my listening skills. Having levels two and three, that was what I had. I was a proficient trained listener. Not yet a counsellor.
Then came level four. This was not something that I entered into lightly. I wanted to do it, I needed to. What I didn’t know, didn’t appreciate, was how much this journey would impact upon me. The journey has been rather tumultuous.
I can only describe it in this way. My apologies to Lego!
It’s been a long, challenging and somewhat solitary journey. No one else quite understands what the flip you are doing and why. Imagine you are a Lego house. You’ve built yourself; your family, friends have added bits. The rest of the world has given you a leaky extension with room for a pony. The universe tells you to do level 2, to lift that Lego house high. The thing slips, falls and then smashes across granite flooring. You then spend the rest of levels 2, 3 and 4 putting that house together brick by brick. You look at each one, throw a few away, question that bloody leaky extension and build a bigger, better Lego house. You find a tribe and you realise that you weren’t that alone. You realise that you are doing something really very useful.
Just like that Lego house.
I’m still bloody standing.
Somewhere between level three and level four, there was a family bereavement when my Grandad passed away. Nana had taken an interest in the allotment, and had even visited the plot once. It is with his memory, that the yellow gardening book starts. Six months after he died, I started to write Fragments. I remember being at work, picking up a pen and writing the first chapter. In green biro of all things. It was released March 2017. I’d spend all of 2016, from January, writing it. However, at the end of the first term in Autumn 2016, there was the passing of Aunty Indra. I didn’t write for ages after, it all felt too painful.
When I did write it, I remember looking at it; wondering where it all came from.
I knew though, that it came from my experiences of loss and not just through loved ones dying. There was a lot of defeat, loss and a lack of autonomy that was happening in other areas of my universe that flowed through my ink and into the book. There are bits of Fragments, that I remember writing whilst in tears. There are bits that really painful to read.
It’s not a skinny book, it is huge. Writing it, was a mission; there were fugue like states where words just had to be put down. Else there were no for them, for feelings and thoughts to go. Paper, has a lot of benefits.
I still look at the book, and wonder what happened. How on earth, did I get all that done?
I do think it has its uses. For me, and for those reading it. It’s not perfect, I know that. But I am glad that it exists. For now, it is also probably the hardest thing that I have written.
As Level Four kicked off proper in the spring of 2017, I finished Fragments. I also had personal therapy, a course requirement but boy was it useful. I guess writing fragments had put some things away, made clear others, but the journey of realisation wasn’t done yet.
Being a trainee counsellor, you have therapy to help modify and manage your own figurative lego house. As a client, you understand what it means to be the counsellor. You, can only go as far as your client allows you; how far do you go as client?
Going to therapy, being a trainee counsellor has heightened my own courage to make sure people talk about mental health, that people have access. That there is less stigma, that we have these conversations.
There was a three month gap between finishing fragments and undertaking a new writing project. I still had something in the tank; I needed, wanted, to write. It was through sheer fluke that I found The Peace Novella Series. Something so far out of my comfort zone, so far removed from Chilli plants, there was no clear link between the two.
A couple of things to keep in mind. I read. I like to read both ebooks and proper books. I’m a bookworm, have been since I picked the pirate books when I was seven. I’m not a big romance reader, but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at them. People like them, lots of them are available. I have written romance, space romance as part of Fan-Fiction, so I’m not a complete dolt. I’d just never focused on it as big, writing project.
Not many, have characters of Indian ascent. Okay, you might read Meera Syal, but how may folks go find her? I think she is lovely, very under-rated, and more people should read her. So, maybe I should write one? Write the sort of book that I might like, but don’t see in the harlequin/Mills and Boon shelf in the library.
Enter Devan Coultrie. Bereavement was still on my radar, a left over from Fragments. But this was romance, and this was….going to be a challenge.
I live in a world, where I am regularly asked by Aunties why I am not married? What is so wrong with me, that I don’t have a husband and babies.
Of course, this is all my fault; I should know better, I am not getting any younger, and I really need someone to look after me. All my peers are married, having babies; am I too fussy, too stubborn that I am putting suitors off? Perhaps you really should dye your hair, make yourself look a bit more presentable?
I’m really not doing myself any favours, now am I?
In terms of person-centred theory: I have found an internal locus of evaluation-I’ll get attached, have babies when I want to. The introjects from the aunties et al that are based upon social, cultural and historical norms are contrary to my own feelings, thoughts and autonomy. What they say I ought to do, is not what I want to do.
So, why should I?
Being different, to them means being difficult.
(Therapy and self realisation, tells me different)
Okay, so I will have to put up with it. I will have to take it on the chin. I still haven’t grown enough to challenge this. I would get dagger stares, huffs and puffs. Also, that person-centred theory really doesn’t translate well to Aunties et al. This, is all they have to say to me: this is small talk, that has a huge impact. Their perception and intent are not to undermine me, or make me think less of myself.
That, that I swallow down to remember that I have self-worth.
As far as they are concerned, they are expressing their wishes for me to do what every one else is doing.
But this romance. Retreating to Peace. Not your average bollywood drama, I tell you. This is a book that makes me smile. One would hope, that those reading it would smile too.
I guess, this is a book borne out of having a bruised heart. Of struggling with cultural expectations, that I find hard to challenge. It’s bad enough that I plant flowers, fruit and veg! Not the past-time of your average young woman of Indian-ascent.
I realise that this has all gone off-piste. I started to write this, to refocus. My mind was drifting from typing, I didn’t fancy watching football.
Guess this all needed to come out.
I’m glad that I have written those four books. At the last count, I had nine projects to complete between now and Christmas 2020. That does sound a lot; you never know what the universe might throw at me between then and now.
What I’m going to do, is get some crisps. Find my book-I’m reading something about a PI-put the tv on and watch football.