I’m 7 years old, on holiday in Newquay, Cornwall. We’re leaning on a wall looking out over one of the lovely sandy beaches as the warm, golden sun sets over the Atlantic. Tummy full of sausage, egg, and chips, I’m a happy girl.
Something catches my eye, bobbing about on the water below. It’s a bottle… and it looks like it has a rolled-up piece of paper in it! My twin sister and I scramble down the steps as fast as our little legs will carry us, closely followed by my Mum and Dad.
We soon establish that it’s a map – of this very beach – with footprints and an ‘X’ to mark the spot in a cave just a short distance from where we are. We go exploring and find a couple of old broken spades and a stick to dig with.
Oh my goodness… what’s that?! We continue digging and scooping in a frenzy of flying sand and there it is: a treasure chest. And it’s heavy.
We prise it open to find it’s full to the brim with coins and colourful jewellery, which to a 7-year-old looks like the crown jewels! Scooping around in the silvery coins, I realise that this could belong to someone. My Mum and Dad always taught me that it’s honest to hand money in to a police station if you find it, so we proceed up to the town to make a call.
Standing at a public call box in the flashing lights and sounds of an amusement arcade, I can hardly breathe, I’m so excited. Very soon, my Dad establishes that it was an old pirate who had hidden it, and since died, so it’s ours to keep. My sister and I jump up and down with joy, and we are ecstatic to have this unexpected delight to treasure forever!
Of course, the map was put there by my Dad, and the call was pretend so they could keep the magic alive for us. And what magic it was, to believe this exotic story of pirates and loot! I imagine there was a mix of horror and pride when I suggested contacting the police 🙂
I have since watched this unfold once again when my Dad did it for my son David when he was little, and I saw the awe and wonder in his eyes as he discovered and dug up the pirate treasure. My Dad even used the same treasure chest, pictured in this post.
Needless to say, there was a note this time saying that anyone who found it, after a certain period of time had passed, could keep it!
Sitting here typing, I have a big lump in my throat and a happy grin on my face connecting with this happy story again, feeling really present with the excitement and gratitude of a very special gesture. And I am going to thank my Dad again when I speak to him this weekend 🙂
What are your special memories which you will treasure forever? What do these mean to you?
This is me at 23 years old, arriving at Linlithgow Palace to get married. I didn’t know what the future held, other than the fact that Alan was just getting to grips with a diagnosis of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) 3 days earlier. And as his wife-to-be, I had a lot to adjust to as well.
I’ve written and spoken about these experiences many times, and it feels even more significant now, as we are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. I am finding that it’s a mix of emotions… huge gratitude, happiness, and celebrations for the life we have lived, and some sadness because of how Alan’s health has declined, and how that has affected our lives over time.
I look at this photo of me as a young woman, and I feel proud… having always been a sensitive soul I had no idea what strength I would find within myself. Much of this has come from the love and support of family and friends, and from new friendships formed, especially in recent years as I have followed a fulfilling, enlightening, and unexpected path into deep personal and professional development. I have often found courage and a willingness to be vulnerable and true to myself, and it has been so worth it.
Having been through some of the experiences I have, for as long as I have, when a path unfolds that feels right, I take the next step however daunting it may seem. With a lot of learning, and twists and turns along the way, I now have a whole-hearted approach to life and to the people around me. This means embracing the highs and lows and being present with each experience that comes along, as best I can. This helps me to hold space for my clients too, as I believe there’s a quality of listening that comes from having lived experience and to come through the other side all the stronger for it.
What would I tell my 23-year-old self, based on the life lessons of the past 25 years?
You’re stronger than you think. Being willing to ‘feel the feelings’ and deal with emotions as they come up will help you to live a life of truth and purpose, learning a lot along the way.
You don’t need to have all the answers. Trust that you will handle whatever comes along, even if it’s not clear or easy at first. You will always find a way through.
Trust your instincts and intuition. What you will learn in the years to come will take you on a spiritual path of discovery, and you will become attuned to energy, within and around you, and become much more aware of embodied signals and instincts that will help to guide you in all aspects of life.
You will have the most wonderful, heart-bursting, fun and joyful adventures beyond anything you can imagine, and you will delight in celebrating the everyday moments as well as the big things.
You will love and be loved beyond measure.
You will find your voice to speak from the heart in a way that helps other people to deepen their awareness of what’s important in their lives, by writing (including a book… yes, really!!), giving talks, and sharing the truth of your experiences in-the-moment.
You will have a career beyond anything you expected or wanted for yourself, and you will light the way for others too, by helping them to connect with all they’re capable of.
You will have two amazing kids who are now grown up and tower over you. And they will be the greatest joy of your life.
Here’s to living life to the full, whatever it brings. I’d like to leave you with a quote from Maya Angelou…
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
When I saw this photo, I felt drawn to write something about it. It captures an experience that left my heart bursting with joy, and my face sore from smiling.
Last weekend, my husband’s band played live together for the first time in almost two years. It was a big event with bands, bikes, and a custom show in the North of England. We weren’t even sure it would go ahead because of COVID.
But it did go ahead, and what a weekend we had. The band brought in a horn section with a tenor sax, trombone, and trumpet player to add to their existing 6-piece. What an amazing sound, and it was an incredible, energetic atmosphere as they opened the first night. And, for one song, I was up there with them singing harmonies.
I almost chickened out. We’d talked about me doing it the night before and I hoped a couple of the other girls would get up and sing too. They decided not to, and a wee voice inside me said “it’s too scary, there will be hundreds of people in there”. And then I felt a strong sensation in my gut that said “but you know you want to!”.
I said I might have done it if we’d had the chance to practise, and left it there. Not for long though, as seconds later one of the guys started playing the opening chords of the song on his guitar. So, we were practising – there and then! I knew in that moment it was going to happen.
I realised I’d been letting stories run in my head. If I’d believed them, I would have missed out big time.
Next thing it’s the following night and I hear the opening chords again. I show my backstage pass, run to the steps of the stage, take a deep breath, and go for it. I am greeted by the guys in the band, supportive and encouraging, grinning with thumbs-up. I feel very aware of the bright, colourful spotlights and the crowd filling the huge marquee. Catching my eye in the front row are my sister and daughter and several of our friends, smiling and cheering me on.
It’s a great feeling to be joining in with these talented musicians, picking up on their happy vibe, loving playing together, and it gives me the courage to sing up and enjoy every second. I’m only singing a few lines after all, and I let self-consciousness slip away and give way to connection and flow. I notice everything with heightened senses, hearing each voice and instrument through the monitors, especially the horn section who sound fantastic, seeing the lit-up faces of hundreds of people who have probably not seen and heard live music for a couple of years. What a privilege to be part of it.
At the end, I feel a rush of joy and gratitude for having the opportunity to do this, and I’m greeted by big squeezy hugs and more encouragement from our pals at the bottom of the stage steps.
Life has taught me – and continues to teach me – to do the things I want to do, be in-the-moment, and make things happen, even when the little voices of doubt creep in. I think the trick is to listen, sit with it, and then decide for yourself. Instead of letting the stories run in my head, I wrote my own story that night.
And the spirit of adventure, joy, and laughter carried through the whole weekend. I felt a deep sense of connection and had such uplifting conversations with friends who keep showing up for us again and again. Love and support flowed for both me and my husband as we heard many offers to push his wheelchair, get anything he needed, and help with whatever would help him continue to go to events like this, even though he thought this might be his last.
I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last – that’s just a story that can be rewritten 😉.
If you are curious about the stories we tell ourselves and the impact this can have, you might like to read my book, ‘Roots for Growth’, where I explore the topic extensively.
This Sunday my husband Alan and I will have been married for 24 years. It feels special to be almost a quarter of a century, and even more significant that three days before our wedding, Alan was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
We never questioned it for a moment that we’d still get married as planned, with no delays and certainly no cancellation. As I said to Alan’s Mum, if I had to wheel him down the aisle in a hospital bed, I would have done it. The neurologist told us not to go on honeymoon in case the heat went for Alan as he could wake up blind or unable to walk. The prognosis was unknown, including whether we’d ever have children or to what extent it could shorten his life.
In the days between the diagnosis and the wedding I cancelled the honeymoon (my choice, it felt like something I wanted to do to help me face it), my dress was taken in another few inches because of weight loss due to stress (a silver lining, sort of!), we spoke a lot with our families as we were very concerned for them too… and we all pulled together like nothing I had experienced in my life so far.
I’ve chosen to share these photos because you wouldn’t know that we’d received devastating news just 3 days before. And we weren’t hiding anything… you can see these are genuine smiles, being completely in-the-moment, and deciding we would have a bloody great time no matter what else was going on.
And by the way, we had two nights of parties – a family wedding on the Friday and a big party with friends on the Saturday with Alan’s rock band playing… so we went for it, twice!
What followed wasn’t easy. Alan never returned to work and we had a lot of adjustments to make in our lives. But we showed up and said ‘yes’, whatever was going to come along, and it has helped us to go with the flow of life. We are blessed with two amazing grown-up children and we’ve always been open and honest with them. We have a happy, fulfilling life with a strong sense of perspective and we trust that we’ll handle whatever comes along.
These experiences have influenced me to take the leap into self-employment and to write a book, neither of which I had even contemplated back in 1997. Over time, I have found that inspiration and opportunities spontaneously appear, by holding life a little more lightly.
As one of the beliefs of NLP goes, ‘We have within us all the resources we will ever need’. And I truly believe we all do.
What’s an example of a time when you showed up and said ‘yes’ to a challenge or an opportunity? Or an experience you can relate to ‘having all the resources you need’?
This is my nephew Adam. It’s a privilege to introduce him to you, and today feels like a good day to do that, as at the time of writing this] it’s International Day of Happiness.
Adam has a heart full of sunshine and gratitude, and a smile that lights up the world. His favourite days of the year are when his family and friends get together for celebrations. He knows all of our birthdays off by heart, including our ages and what day of the week each birthday is going to be. He loves food, photos, films and his family.
He is a snappy dresser, loves a “restaurant shirt” (a smart shirt for going out) and is a self-proclaimed “ladies’ man”. I have adored him since I held him in my arms minutes after he was born.
Many people, especially in the Western world, invest decades in finding peace and fulfilment in their lives, or worse, may spend many years feeling unfulfilled.
I’ve begun to notice more and more how Adam naturally has an abundance of traits and talents which can change the world for the better and spread a lot of happiness:
A sense of community
These are topics I’ve been exploring through being a volunteer course leader for the Action for Happiness course on Exploring What Matters. I’d highly recommend it, and I’m so glad my friend Eimear asked me to be involved. We’ve got a fantastic group to work with.
Adam was asked at school recently what makes him happy, and you can see what he said in the photo. What an honour – it touched my heart. And it made me very happy too!
So today, I encourage you to notice the positive things in life. Take a leaf out of Adam’s book and celebrate the little things that make you smile.
And here’s an uplifting video from Carrongrange school, with Adam doing a mean Pete Townshend about 2 minutes in!