Late night Friday gratitude list

painted skyReflecting on the past 7 days, I have so much to be grateful for this week…

Sunshine and flowers as evidence of the fast-approaching Spring.

The package waiting on the doorstep on Wednesday containing paintings from the Visual Medicine workshop I attended the previous week. Also, for the overwhelming urge to paint early on Sunday morning that led to me covering the kitchen worktops in cling film (to keep them paint-free), mixing up paint in old jam jars and going for it! See above for results.

An afternoon visit to the theatre with my Mum to see this. It was brilliantly acted, provoked much laughter and holding of breath in all the right places. Our seats on the fourth row were just perfect.

Dinner with Mum last night at the pub I used to work in as a teen.

The joy of listening to my eldest doing his steel pan practice. That sound is so beautiful! Instant transportation from North London to the Caribbean… (in my mind at least).

An incredible shiatsu massage at my son’s school’s pamper evening. Thank you Sophie… you relieved all of the tension that had been building up in my shoulders and causing me to creak.

An evening with one of my very dearest friends.

The opportunity to go see my amazing and colourful friend Sue Kreitzman’s window at Selfridges, Oxford Street as part of their celebration Bright Old Things. See below for evidence.

Sue Kreitzman Selfridges WindowWhat were you grateful for this week?

Three unexpected gifts

detour planThis week, I had a plan. There were things I had to do, things I wanted to do and things I might do if I had the time and the inclination. I had an idea of what would fit in when, but that didn’t quite happen.

Having worked over the weekend, I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery on Monday between school runs for their Portrait of the Day talk. I had been keen to attend one of these lunchtime talks for a while and this one was advertised on the website as starting at midday (I checked before leaving), but when I arrived, it had been cancelled. What? I had gone all that way for nothing? Hmm… time for a re-frame.
The gift…? An afternoon in the city to do as I wished. I took myself for a nice hearty soup (I would likely have skipped lunch otherwise) and then returned to the NPG to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition before hopping back home on the train.

On Wednesday, I was due to work at the art magazine I mentioned in my post last week, but on arrival, found friend and colleague Tasha standing on the doorstep looking puzzled. Key in hand, she was unable to get in. The door had been bolted from the inside and our Editor was away at an art fair in New York. We made a few phone calls, asked the neighbours if they had a key for the other door, but no luck!
The gift…? An unexpected morning off work. I went home and finished off a BIG piece of art before heading off up to school to run Art Club.

On Thursday, big boy woke with a headache. Another person in the house was not what I had expected. This meant I was unable to go out (without poorly boy in tow) and did not want to be face to screen all day as he would likely want to do the same.
The gift…? One to one time with my son. Small boy and I regularly walk hand in hand between big boy’s school and his… it happens almost daily, but solo time with big son is rare. I did fit in a little bit of work whilst big boy sat with me, which was a gift in itself as when he asked me what I do all day (don’t you just love that question Mums) I was able to explain to him and show him some of what I do and how I do it. We ate a lovely hot lunch together at the table and chatted about lots of things, then retired to the sofa for a while before it was time to go get the little one. A gift of a slow day together.

What unexpected events have thrown you off course this week and caused you to re-think your plans, but could be seen as a gift instead of an inconvenience?

Gratitude Daily begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide you through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into your busy life and helps you focus on the good stuff every day.
The gift…? The next three people to sign up for the course will receive a surprise gratitude gift in the mail.

Friday gratitude list

grateful forFollowing my post early this week on success, shame and allowing support, I have been thinking a lot about my definition of success. Sharing the truth of our vulnerable, imperfect selves, is a sure way to connect and I was moved by some of the responses I received to this post, both in the comments and when I shared it on Facebook.

If I am to go with this idea that a successful day is one in which I have things to be grateful for, then this has been a wonderful week. I regularly share my gratitude lists on my Facebook pages, but rarely on my blog. So, I decided it was about time I shared with you some of the things I am grateful for and I would love it if you felt like leaving your own gratitude list in the comments below. Hearing other people’s good news always brings a smile to my face.

Today, I am grateful for…

A day at my son’s school.
As regulars here will know, I run the after school art club at my big boy’s school and last week the children made some gorgeous, colourful hands for a display. Today, I volunteered to hang the hands on the wall along with all of the photographs of school staff. I had no idea how long it would take (about 4 hours – it’s a BIG school), but I was in my element. Working away on my little ladder in the hallway, I was right at the heart of the comings and goings of the school day. Our children go to school in the morning, come back in the evening and if yours are anything like mine, you are told little of what goes on in between. It felt good to be in their environment for a short while and get a little inside peek.

My longstanding relationship with Raw Vision magazine.
Fresh out of Uni, I went to work at the magazine on a voluntary basis, having stumbled upon the publication in the library. Flicking through the pages for the very first time, some 20+ years ago, my view of art radically changed. Here, I was faced with art by people who hadn’t been to art school, yet the work they were creating was some of the most amazing art I had ever seen. My career grew with the publication and led me to speak at international conferences and curate exhibitions. I took a break for a while and now I am back in the fold for just a few hours each week, but the feeling’s good. If you haven’t yet discovered the magical world of Outsider Art, it’s time to start exploring.

The funny things my children say.
Yesterday evening, at the dining table, having discussed roast beef dinners and vegetarian sandwiches, big boy asked small boy if he would like to be a veggie. “Yes,” replied small one. “I would like to be a carrot.” I am also grateful to Tara for having illustrated another of small boy’s sayings on her blog where she uses her creative skills to illustrate some of the peculiar things people say.

Time to make art.
Having completed a proposal form for Pallant House Gallery, finished off an article for the Screw Work Academy newsletter and sent in my tax return, I gave myself permission to spend all day yesterday painting, cutting and pasting, all whilst listening to podcasts. The image at the top is part of the result.

Sweet potatoes.
This week, I have baked them, roasted them and put them in soups and casseroles. Simple, healthy food. Yum!

A glimpse of the past.
Costa coffee will soon be moving into a building at the bottom of my road. As workers took off the old Post Office sign, a shop sign from last century (possibly some 80+ years old) was revealed. The following day it had been covered over again, hopefully to be revealed once more at some later date.

Friends you can be 100% real with.
I don’t mean 99%, I mean 100%; no hiding, no pretending, no nonsense. This is me, take me or leave, me, but I know I can show you all of me, even the bits I don’t like about myself friends. One of mine came over on Monday evening. We sipped herbal tea and talked about how we can count such people on one hand. Truly grateful for such deep friendships.

The weekend…
It’s almost here again and I’m grateful for whatever fun it holds in store for me.
Enjoy! x

Gratitude Daily begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide you through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into your busy life and helps you focus on the good stuff every day.

 

On success, shame and allowing support

successA friend posed a question the other day, “What does success mean to you?”
The answer that came up surprised me and led to some soul-searching. My response was, “To be earning enough money to feel independent and not have to rely on anyone.”

The question had been posted in a Facebook group for entrepreneurs and so the answer related to my business, but it revealed a whole lot more about the layers and the limits I have been creating for myself.

A conversation in the group ensued and as it unfolded, I became aware of how my answer was showing me how I have been holding back and not allowing myself to be supported in certain areas of my life, both financially and in other ways as well. Financial support has been a real block that I have been pushing against constantly, yet unconsciously. This discussion brought it to my awareness.

As a single Mum, I am entitled to certain benefits. I am employed and self-employed. I work for myself and for others, so I claim Working Tax Credit and Child Benefit from the Government. As a recently divorced mother, I am entitled to child maintenance from my ex-husband to help care for our boys. He gives it willingly. Why then, do I feel so much shame when it comes to accepting what I am entitled to?
Do I not feel worthy of financial support?

I believe the answer may be tied to my work ethic and the way I grew up. I was given an allowance from my teenage years, by my parents. A small sum of money either weekly or monthly, to cover my expenses and help me get a handle on budgeting. This meant that I had to allocate and save money for clothing, shoes and toiletries, though I did not have to worry about food and other basics. I chose to supplement this with part time work and earned money (which I saved more often than spending) in a bid to gain financial freedom. Working through my student years, in evenings, weekends and holidays, I was the only one of my friends (as far as I am aware) who made it through Uni free from debt.

For emerging debt-free, I am truly grateful. But what did this work, work, work, be independent mindset (that I created for myself) teach me? I learned always to be looking for an opportunity to make money. It taught me to keep busy and to be self-sufficient. As a 40-something mother I am not sure this belief still serves me. Big boy has been noting of late, how I seem to be working long hours. An all work and not enough sleep ethic is not something I want to pass down. Sure, we have fun, but my children also observe how my working hours often begin again after they go to bed and spill over into very late nights. So what is it about wanting to feel independent? Some misplaced guilt about wanting to do it all myself? I don’t have to. Nobody should.

A few days after the question on success, something came up that really struck a chord. It was a quote in Outrageous Openness by Tosha Silver (my current Kindle crush) and it read,
“When you refuse help, you sometimes refuse people the pleasure of helping.”
– Anonymous

It reminded me that all the help and support I need is already on offer (not only financially, but otherwise as well if I can only bring myself to ask) and being given freely and willingly. I was also reminded of the joke about the man in the flood who was sent a helicopter. The help is already there, I just have to learn to accept it gracefully.

I also need to redefine my idea of success in relation to my life and my business…

Success is a day in which I can find things to be grateful for. That is every day, is it not? If I look beyond the shame to the reality of my daily life – doing work I love to my own schedule that allows me quality time with my children – I am already living my version of success. That’s not to say that there’s no room for improvement, but what I have is enough. Anything else is a bonus.

What does success mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


Gratitude Daily
begins again on March 2. Join me as I guide another group of people through a 21 day course to create a sustainable gratitude practice that fits into and enhances their lives.

 

Awareness of the passing of time

timeMy small son, who is five, asked for a cuckoo clock for Christmas. At first, I was reluctant. I have never felt comfortable with the loud tick-tock of a clock and I was also uncertain about the sound of a small bird chirping four times every hour. Having researched various cuckoo clocks, finding that some sounded better than others and certain ones even had the facility to turn off the noise between certain hours, I decided it might not be a bad idea. It was not, after all, another piece of plastic tat made in China to be discarded on the bedroom floor or broken before Christmas Day ended. When the little box arrived, I opened it to find a beautiful carved wooden clock… the stuff memories are made of.

Now hanging up, on the living room wall, I find the gentle ticking soothing as the pendulum swings to and fro. The gentle cheep every quarter, night and day, is so sweet and subtle that even hearing it as I drift off to sleep brings a smile. It is also a reminder of the passing of time.

Several things have brought to my awareness how fast the days pass in the week just gone. On Sunday, I was invited to celebrate the 70th Birthday of John Maizels, Editor of Raw Vision, a magazine I have worked for on and off for 20 years now. John… 70? How could it be? I am now nearing the age John was when he first employed me. From the station, I picked up a friend, Wilfrid, who used to work beside me when the office was in what is now John’s living room. I have fond memories of a lively night dancing at a Bollywood club in North London with Wilfrid. How we laughed. He is working full time as a sculptor, with a studio of his own and an exhibition of his art in London and as we stood in the room that was our office, lifting a glass to John, we talked of the passing of time.

The shocking shootings in Paris were a reminder as well… none of us knows how long we have on this earth. I can still vividly recall walking in the graveyard after my father’s funeral, some 18 years back, sun streaming through trees, thinking make each day count.

The 30 Day Challenge, a course I have taken part in and worked on in recent years, brings together 200+ people from all round the world who are working on something that is meaningful to them. One of the keys to success that we recommend when working on such a project is micro blocking – breaking down tasks into small chunks of 15-20 minutes. I have found that the cuckoo clock reminds me, each time it sings, that another 15 minutes has just flown by and each time makes me think: what did I do that was meaningful or made me or someone else feel happy in that last 15 minutes?

Gratitude is a way of acknowledging the good in every day. It is my way of reflecting back on what made me smile or made me feel blessed. It is a simple way of turning sorrow into joy and fear into faith. It does not mean that I dismiss all that is bad, far from it. It means that each day (often just before I sleep), I choose to take notice of all that is good.

I feel that now, perhaps more than ever, we need to look to the good and acknowledge life’s simple pleasures. We must celebrate the love and joy that exists and the opportunities before us to be grateful and to connect. How we experience each day is often down to our approach to it and sometimes the most rewarding option is not the easiest.

This morning I decided that I would set a date to run my Gratitude Daily course again. There are plenty of opportunities to explore your creativity. It will start again in 8 weeks and anyone who signs up this weekend will save £10. Something to look forward to. I would like to create a really positive vibe that leaks out onto the streets, over the internet and beyond. I often chalk my gratitude onto pavements and walls and post my gratitude list on Facebook page (and we also have a secret Facebook community for the duration of the course), so if we are not already Facebook friends, please seek me out and share your gratitude list.

I wish you a safe and happy weekend. I hope you are staying cosy and spending time with those you love. x

No goals, just simple statements and a gratitude list

Happy New YearI’ll be honest… I have been wrestling with a blog post for this period between Christmas and New Year for almost a week. I have written at length and I have tried to keep it brief, but neither felt right, so I’m starting again with three statements for 2014 and another three for 2015. There is no ticking off lists and measuring achievements, no setting big, bold goals for the year ahead, just simple sentences which I will finish myself and then leave you with to answer as you wish.

In 2014…

The most important thing I learned was investing in myself.
I surprised myself by embracing my fear and learning to sail in spite of not really being able to swim.
I was most in flow when working with others in a collaborative situation, encouraging and enabling creativity.

In 2015…

I would like to collaborate with as many other artists as possible.
I would like to learn how to swim with confidence.
I would like support with my website.

And one last thing… if you really want to reflect on the joys of the year, I suggest you write out a gratitude list. I will be writing my own this evening and I invite you to join me. Make it as long as you like… let it all flow, just start here…
Today, I am grateful for…

Feel free to share your statements and lists in the comments below.

You are right up there on my gratitude list.

Happy New Year to you!

 

Investing in myself and embracing authenticity

living authentically
Last year, I was asked by my coach at the time what I did to invest in myself.

Her coaching was in lieu of help I had been giving on a project and I was hard pressed to remember a time when I had really invested in myself. I went to the hairdresser only when my mane became particularly unruly, had never had my nails done professionally and had not received a massage or other such treatment in at least 5 years. Paying for coaching or spending money on mentoring or personal development that involved anything more than spending a few quid on Amazon was totally off the radar.

How then, she enquired, did I expect other people to invest in me and my offerings?

This conversation came around the time that I was working on content for my online courses. It took a few months before her words of wisdom finally sunk in, but eventually they did. Still, investing in myself when I had little money to my name felt like an enormous leap. Nevertheless, I was keen to make substantial changes in my life and on the last day of last year, I signed up with my mentor, committing to one year of working together. I have not regretted it for one moment. I had faith that if I invested in myself, other people would also invest in me. One month and a day later, I ran my first online course, with more participants than I had imagined possible for a first outing.

My major learning in the past few months, guided by my mentor, has been around authenticity. How can I build a business in a way that’s authentically me? The answer reflects back to the conversation with my coach around leading by example and living the life that I want to be living and sharing that authentic me… more joy, more gratitude, more creativity. So, here I am, six months in, blogging about my personal journey so far this year.

It may sound obvious, but I have noticed how, particularly as mothers, we too often neglect our own needs. We make sure our kids wear their coats on cold days, eat healthy, well balanced meals, go to bed early enough that they are well rested, attend clubs, see friends, but do you ever ask yourself what about me? I have lost count of the times I have left the house under-dressed or under-fed, stayed up way too late and neglected to spend time with my friends. Surely this too is behaviour we should be modelling… to care for (and speak to) ourselves as we would someone we love.

These past few weeks, I have been living more authentically. I am addressing my own needs and if I want to do something because it excites me and pushes me a little (such as horse riding), I will do it, knowing it will benefit me. I have invested in support to move through difficult issues. I have invested in a couple of items of clothing that my (self-designated) budget would not previously have stretched to. I dress up to stand out, not to fit in. I had my hair done before it got to the desperate stage; have taken time to clarify my feelings on certain subjects, allowed myself to really feel them and spoken my mind. I am finding my voice in more ways than one.

In finding my voice and being true to myself, I find that I have more to share and new ways of connecting. I feel more me. All of this comes from the more conscious, authentic living that I am working on. The knock on effect is that more people see what I am doing, are encouraged to consider making their own changes and subscriptions are increasing steadily. This keeps me going on my creative path and the more I commit to my path, the more I feel I want to share. I can feel it all growing… the business, the authenticity, the energy.

Other surprising things are happening; more opportunities are opening up day by day. So it is when you commit to your path and allow yourself to be open to change. The more I do of the things that excite me and bring joy to my life, the clearer I get about the path I want to follow and the closer I get to it day by day. What you focus on grows and in being grateful for all of the joys in my life already, there is more to be grateful for every day.

If you could do anything, how would you invest in yourself?
What single, small change can you make today from which you will benefit?
If there is any part of yourself that you are hiding, or if you feel that you have lost your way, think back to when you felt most you and most happy.
What can you do today to live more authentically?
Leave a comment below and tell me.

With my love,
Julia x

Stepping back is one of the most productive things you can do

Spring is in the air, I can see it, smell it, feel it. I am coming back to my artistic creative self and it feels so good.

Yesterday was a day of wandering, pondering, seeing and being. It was one of those days, essential to the creative process, when you step away from the computer, hang out with people who support and inspire you, nourish yourself and gain perspective. It is the kind of day that I have denied myself for too long. No more!

The past few months have seen a little wandering from the Creative Daily path… not far, just a little detour. In February, I bravely branched out into Gratitude Daily and ran my first online course. For 28 days, Gratitude Daily emails landed in the in-boxes of 24 women, all seeking to create or expand on a gratitude practice that complemented their busy lives. And as always, through teaching, I learned a lot. I discovered how much fun it is to create something, share it and make money. I always knew it would be, but had never quite got round to doing it in this way… until now. I experienced, once again, the power of community and how it is possible for a group of people all over the world to connect with and support each other in powerful ways without ever having met face to face. I also found that doing such work takes a lot of energy and discovered how vital it is to take time out.

So, this first week of March has been a week of self-care. I have allowed myself to take time out. I have treated and pampered myself like never before… I have bought myself flowers, dinner, been to exhibitions, sat on the beach and simply slowed down. Both my appetite and my attitude have changed. I am no longer seeking quick-fix sugar hits. With a more balanced schedule, a more healthy approach to both eating and working has emerged as a seemingly natural consequence. I am learning that stepping back can be the most productive thing you can do. It allows space for ideas to surface and evolve. And in stepping back, I have bounced back, with renewed creative energy and a vision for my next online venture. This one will involve a lot of ART! At the moment it is brewing, percolating, evolving. It excites me greatly…

Watch this space!

How a week of gratitude has shifted my perspective

 

How are you feeling today?
What are you grateful for?

It has been just one week since I started my month of daily gratitude practice, surrounding myself with a wonderful group of brilliant, creative, supportive women, each keen to join me in making gratitude a part of the daily routine. Our little community centres around a secret Facebook group. It is a safe haven, a place to share good news… a group to be thankful for.

After one week of gratitude, I am becoming aware of how the daily practice makes me feel, both in general, and in the moment. In general, I feel calmer within myself. There have been days (well, probably only one), when I have sat quietly for a while wondering what I am grateful for. In pondering, many things have come up… little thoughts and bigger ones… I have so many things to be grateful for. I have noticed that if I am feeling down, taking a moment, not to indulge in feeling sorry for myself, but to think about what I am grateful for, instantly shifts how I feel. A few moments spent reading comments on our Facebook page lifts my mood and even if I am feeling happy, just reading everyone’s good news and thankfulness raises that good feeling up a notch. It has been wonderful to see the support such a group can offer. I had no idea how things would unfold when the idea of setting up Gratitude Daily came to me in the shower as a way of connecting and inspiring people online whilst initiating, formulating and pursuing my own gratitude practice, but I can safely say that this has been one occasion when I am glad I acted on impulse and put an idea out there almost as soon as it came to me… what is unfolding in this little group is thrilling to me. I am so delighted to see people asking for help, offering words of encouragement and virtual hands on backs… and what comes across is this general feeling that “we are not alone“.

I have used creative ways of expressing gratitude to connect with my children, to share with my friends and the ideas keep on coming.

I would ask you today, to contemplate…
How would a week of gratitude practice affected your mood, your day, your week?

Today, I want to share with you an incredible video which I first watched a year ago. It moved me then and it inspires me now. I firmly believe that an attitude of gratitude can change, not only your mood, your day or your week, but your life. Nick Vujicic is a living example. In Nick’s words, “You keep on concentrating on the things that you wish you had or the things that you wish you didn’t have, and you sort of forget what you do have… what I have seen in life are just a couple of key principles and the first thing that I’ve seen is to be thankful…” If you do one thing today, watch the video… and if it inspires you, please share it on.

Please share with me below what you think of Nick’s little film and consider how a week of gratitude could make you feel. For those of you who already practicing gratitude on a regular basis, it would be great to get a conversation going here below in the comments and compare notes on how the process is working for you.

I am grateful to you for being a part of this exciting journey… for taking the time to read my musings on life, creativity and everything. If you think you might benefit from taking part in a gratitude group, do get in touch. And for those of you who are currently walking this path with me, let’s see how the coming week unfolds…

With love,
Julia x

p.s. I have mentioned it before, and I will mention it again… this idea came to me as a result of reading Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are. This is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend.

p.p.s. If you enjoyed this post, please share it on. Thank you! x

Gratitude Daily

LOVE - Gratitude board

Since my last post here, I have noticed how my gratitude practice has lifted my spirits and made me more aware. I notice (or take the time to truly appreciate) things in a different way. Last night, for example, I lay in bed listening to Classic FM, watching the dust dancing so gracefully in the spotlight of the bedside lamp. The choreography was so naturally perfect and never-ending. I had to grab my notebook so I would not forget.

Today, I am grateful for the beauty that is everywhere, but so often goes unnoticed.

I feel eager to share the good feeling these things bring and I have started a group to share Gratitude Daily throughout the month of February. Seventeen women have already started connecting online and I hope each of them will join me in using gratitude over the coming month to Share JOY through ART. I am already finding little ways to express my gratitude, be it on my Gratitude board or in little works of art.

Last week, I went to a performance at the Purcell Room on London’s South Bank. It was the delightful Letter’s End by Wolfe Boart which he was performing as part of the London Mime Festival. I love mime as an art form and this performance reminded me just how much it is possible to say without words… how much can be conveyed in a look or a sound… or a work of art.

Being as the performance was close to my favourite London spot, I took the opportunity to walk over the Hungerford Bridge, took time to appreciate the city in all its glory and to photograph the lights on the river.

London Lights on the South Bank from Hungerford Bridge

In appreciating the beauty of this city in which I live, I felt compelled to express my love of the place and the gratitude I feel for being able to enjoy all of the benefits of city life, whilst living on the edge of it. So, I went back to my little series of portraits of London today.

London portraits

This city in all its glory is a subject I return to again and again. This time postcard size, next time, I think I may go a little bit bigger, so watch this space…

What have you felt grateful for this week and how can you best express it?
I would love to know your thoughts…