Let me tell you, Spanish villas in Murcia are freezing cold! The heat flies right out of the windows and walls and seeps through the cold tiles and that lovely cool house of summer is an ice box in March.
You may think I was lucky, to spend five weeks in Spain while I was recuperating from my hip operation, but was I? We had lots of sunny days but I discovered that missing the cold February and March weather in the UK had a price.
That price was a lovely, cosy, warm house with unlimited writing time!
I can’t write outdoors in the sunshine. Laptop says ‘no’ with a black screen and I get distracted. Yes, I’ve tried a contraption that shields the screen from the sun but it flaps about in a breeze and I forgot to pack it this trip. I can ‘ dream up’ characters and stories while I’m lying back on a sun lounger though, so all is not lost!
If I’d been at home and hiding indoors from the Beast from the East, my thermostat would be keeping me at a steady warm temperature and I would be cosy whilst looking at fat snowflakes falling outside.
In Casa Margarita, on a sunny day, I watched my husband reading in the sun as I was wearing socks jumper and blanket to try to type a few hundred words. Cold is not conducive to writing. I was so glad to finish and get out into some warmth!
Will I go again? Oh yes. We had a wood burning stove to huddle around at night. We had to sit over it, mind you, or the walls stole the heat and a trip to the kitchen or bathroom was chilly. It meant we cuddled up together too.
Next time, I’ll be prepared. Instead of buying new bikinis, I’ll be buying one of those silly but warm ‘onesies’, packing my old Ugg boots and taking a hot water bottle for when I’m writing. You can’t keep a determined writer down!
So you’re not a super juggler? Relax, I’ve found out that you can still have it all- just not at the same time so don’t beat yourself up about dropping something every now and then. Better still, relax with your drink of choice -tea or a chilled wine for me – and escape into a book or take time out to dream up the life you’re after.
Just what does your ideal life story look like? Do you ever let yourself dream about it? I pictured being at the top of a successful career, in a happy marriage, with a child, money to travel, time to exercise, time with family and friends and time to write a novel or two. I’d be so content with some of that life.
I couldn’t do it all at once and I didn’t try. There just aren’t enough hours in the day and I find that, if ever I take on too much, I enjoy none of it. My head can’t be several places at once and my juggling becomes clumsy. I’ve experienced that a few times and I’m sure you have too so let’s be kinder to ourselves and remember it’s a LIFE story. Some parts of it will take time.
That’s not to say we should forget our long-held dreams. That almost happened to me until I got a very loud wake up call.
In my late twenties and thirties, I juggled my career with being a single parent and all ideas of finding my ideal man or travelling and writing had to be put on hold. My energy was used up with the school run, a challenging job, after school activities and then more work so even exercise was put on the back burner for a while. Luckily, I loved my job and loved my daughter so I was tired but happy and fulfilled. The childhood years are precious and we can’t grab them back even though we sometimes think the summer holidays are neverending!
The man that I loved enough to marry came along by surprise a few years later and, after years of being a singleton, having a partner was a wonderful change. My days were full and life sped along at an alarming rate. Holidays already? Another birthday? It can’t be Christmas! You’ll know the feeling. I visited some amazing places with my husband, my daughter was independent and I still had time to catch up with exercise and writing in the years to come.
A challenge from my sister meant that I took up running. I wasn’t good at it or anywhere near as speedy as I’d like to be but I enjoyed it and managed 5 K, then 10k and then a half marathon. While I was running, I’d sort out life’s niggles or make up stories. I still didn’t get round to writing them down. The Great North Run gave me such a buzz. I felt like life had treated me well and I almost had it all. I promised myself I’d even start writing that book one day soon. In the pic below I’m running with my sister for Bliss, premature babies charity.
If you’re waiting , thinking something must come along to take the wind right out of my sails, you’re right. It was a bloody great storm in my G cup. I felt healthy and happy but, although I was surprised when I found out I had an aggressive breast cancer, I didn’t ever think ‘why me?’ Why not when it happens to 1 in 8 of us women? I felt numb as I prepared for the treatments and prepared for the worst scenario. Would my time be far shorter than I’d ever imagined?
As I went through a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and baldness, then daily sessions of radiotherapy, I began feeling much older than my years. I set about writing a bucket list. I’m good at writing lists but not so great at carrying them out. This was the most important list I’d written.
I thought about writing and the pleasure it gave me so that went on the list. I thought I would quite like to do a lot of things but nothing compared to writing. My real regret was not ever getting down to writing those novels in my head so my bucket list was short. Write a bloody novel!
As soon as my ‘chemo fog’ lifted, I got to work on an idea I had been playing around with for far too long. Had I been afraid I wasn’t up to the task? I could write better than I could run and I’d managed a half marathon so what was there to fear? I didn’t care if my novel was published or not as long as I finished it. That was my promise to myself.
It took almost three years, I was still juggling family, holidays and treatments remember, but at last I typedTHE END and that was a wonderful day. Soon afterwards, I went off to France with my husband and our dog for a month and felt on top of the world.
I came to earth with a bump when we got home and a letter lay in wait asking me to go to the breast cancer clinic. This time, I have to admit I did think why me a second time? I was angry that my breasts had let me down again, especially as I was taking tablets meant to keep stray cancer cells at bay that gave me chronic joint pain. I thought long and hard about treatments and opted for a double mastectomy. I wanted to try my best to live and do all I could to prevent hearing that news a third time.
As I was recovering from my mastectomy and reconstruction, I took solace in the fact that I’d finished one novel and started another. I was now a writer so I decided to put myself out there and get my first novel published. Would it be any good? My daughter and sisters thought so, my husband believed in me, but they weren’t the big wide world.
I sent my manuscript to the Romantic Novelists’ Association because I’d become a member and they critique new writer’s novels. My professional reader liked it and read most of it in one sitting. That was enough to encourage me to send it out to several agents. Agents do get a lot of manuscripts and they are notoriously slow in getting back to writers but it was so hard waiting and then being told that the novel was well written but not quite right for their lists.
What should a woman who wants it all do? After two months, I decided to find a publisher myself. I didn’t have the time to wait around and see whether my first novel would fit an agent’s list. I believe that we help to make our own dreams come true. My book, A JARFUL of MOONDREAMS is out there now and proof of that. Yes, I found a publisher and that’s why I can say that I think you CAN have it all.
Knowing what I’ve gone through before having the courage to finish and publish a novel, you’ll understand my pleasure when I received the Elizabeth Goudge writing award for 2016 at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ conference. What a surprise and boost to my writing confidence. I look at the silver trophy and think, I’m a writer.
I couldn’t have it all at the same time but, if I have any tip to pass on, it is this –
Don’t try to juggle everything at once but don’t procrastinate and take TOO long either. Remember, I was almost too late!
Going after your dreams is about pacing yourself and enjoying each of life’s events enough to keep you going when the bad times happen. I’m in great health, for now, and I don’t ever take that for granted. I’ve changed the day job to writing. It doesn’t bring in a load of money but it’s fun and I’m writing my second novel.
My debut novel, ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ follows three characters- a mother as she approaches her fiftieth birthday, her career obsessed daughter who is in her thirties and her younger teenage daughter. The story takes the Moon family through a turbulent summer when they are all chasing their dreams and colliding into love. The sisters don’t get along at all and we find out why when they are thrown together for the summer. Their mother decides to go travelling and holds onto the hope that they will bond while she is away. Family secrets spill out that change all of their lives and make it a summer to remember. If, like me, you love a good plot that involves modern women and their relationships and has an element of romance, this could be just the novel for you.
Writing ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ has been my escape from troubling times so, although it tells the story of an eventful summer, it has to have an upbeat ending. Reading is all about escaping for a little while isn’t it? If you want to read about another family’s dreams and find out how they captured them and you think this might interest you, here is the link.
It’s now three months since I had my op and I’m really happy with the decision. The night before the operation was when I had second,third and fourth thoughts about what I’d decided to do but, by morning, I was sure that my decision was the right one for me. Since then,I haven’t looked back.
I have been unable to be as active as normal but that is a small price to pay for peace of mind. My reconstruction is excellent and I don’t miss the G cup undies one bit.
I’ve got one less thing to worry about in 2016 and I just know that it is going to be a great year!
This is one of several bras that I’ve just packed up to be sent on sent on to Africa.
Storm in a g cup
They have to be ‘gently used’ and, for once, I have a lot of quite new undies that I don’t need. A pack of new briefs to go with them is appreciated too. If you’d like to help, smallsforall.org is the charity. You might ask, why do I have so many G cups to give away? Well, I don’t need them any more and I’m glad they’ll be put to good use. You see, I had a bilateral mastectomy this summer and, for me, the G cups are redundant.
I thought I’d weathered the storm after going through a lumpectomy, chemo and radiotherapy three years ago. I’d lost my hair and worn the wigs but I’d kept my breasts. My relationship with them was up and down before finding cancer; like Dolly Parton, I found that many people didn’t look for the heart under the g cup or the brain under the blonde locks. After treatment, I was suspicious that one of them might let me down again. I took tablets to stop this and, after two clear mammograms, my suspicions faded and I wasn’t unduly worried about this year’s screening.
A recall for a further look at a tiny bit of calcification seemed reasonable but I did start to feel the niggling clouds of suspicion hovering over me. A flurry of further tests, including a couple of biopsies, preceded the storm. It was my left breast cells that weren’t behaving this time and I would need some surgery on that side, probably minor.
My reaction was immediate and emphatic; I thought enough is enough! I have supported my breasts at great expense with hard to find bras, even harder to find clothes to cover a chest that is two sizes larger than the rest of me,and pilates, reflexology and back massages to ease the strain they’ve given me. In return, they’ve fed one child ( very well to be fair) and then slumped back to their languid ‘look after me’ state.
When I thought about it, I’d been looked in the chest as often as I’d been looked in the eye and now I was going to be forever watchful of their ability to kill me. I opted for the safest route, a bilateral mastectomy. I would say farewell to my capricious breasts and go for a reconstruction. While I was at it, I would go much smaller and experience the wonderful liberation that small breasted women take for granted – inexpensive bras, running without strain and best of all no leering! Decision made, no second thoughts until the evening before my op. I’ll cover that in my next post.