Friday 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Today is my last day in front of a computer screen for a while - the Boy and I are off to the come counties to spend some time with our families over the Christmas period. As it's my birthday on Christmas Day as well, it's bound to be an enjoyable time packed with lots of love and celebrations.

I feel relieved Christmas is almost upon us, as I am more than ready to draw the curtains on this year. What a year it has been. It seems to have been particularly long and cruel, and I am hopefuly that 2012 will bring some happier times. But this Christmas I will be counting my blessings as well as reflecting on what has been, and I am thankful the Boy and I can spend this special time together and surrounded by loved ones. We have so much light and love in our lives.

I wish everyone who reads this blog all the best for the festive season and the coming year - may 2012 be kind to us all. Elly Beans xx

Monday 19 December 2011

Good times with good people

I have just had one of the best weekends of the year - one of those beautiful weekends filled with love, friends and happiness, that you look back on fondly and can remember for many months to come.

It began quietly enough on Thursday catching up with some old work friends, and then I was off on Friday and spent the whole day in my tracksuit just writing, relaxing and reading. A whole day of Elly Beans time, and it was so good for the soul. I must factor in more of this in the new year - with a little time and space I feel so re-energised and positive, it makes a huge difference. I'm really pleased with the progress that I'm making with the book and I don't think it's unreasonable to anticipate that I will have finished it by the beginning of February. I look forward to preparing more applications and submissions to editors. Hopefully someone will like what they read!

On Friday night I couldn't wipe the smile from my face when I headed out for the evening, feeling very smart in a new red dress and with my hair (almost) fresh from the hairdressers. I was so excited to be going out to spend the evening with the Boy, his friends from home and their partners, and some other good pals we had also invited. I was reminded how many wonderful friends the Boy and I have been blessed with, and I was brimming with anticipation as I took the tube up to Euston to a lovely little pub to see them all, clutching a Santa outfit (for the Boy!) and our efforts in the Secret Santa. And the evening didn't disappoint. From the roaring log fire, to the chilled prosecco, to the funny and thoughtful gifts and to everyone's good humour - the evening was just perfect. There were a few occasions when I took a moment to sit back in my chair and just look around. Sometimes this year I have forgotten how much I have, and Friday was definitely a reminder of how rich my friendships are and how numerous my blessings are. And when the journey has been bumpy, these friends have eased it for me. I was struck how, for me, it's more important who I walk with in my life, rather than where I go. With this group around me, whichever track I take will be a good one.

Saturday brought another special evening - the Boy and I went out for some wine and tapas in a lovely little French restaurant under Southwark Cathedral. It was very nice to be just us two, away from the hustle and bustle for once, and to enjoy a romantic evening together, with candlelight, soft cushions and relaxing music. Perhaps a little cliche, but it was just right. And the weekend was rounded off with an enjoyable lunch with some of the Boy's family who were over from Switzerland for a flying visit, then watching my football team win, and then a lovely home-cooked spaghetti bolognaise courtesy of the Boy. Full marks.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

A chance encounter

Another day, another horoscope. This week's one tells me that 'a chance encounter with a stranger will lead to excitement.' And - a chance encounter with a stranger has done just that! Meeting some good friends in a lovely gastro pub near Great Portland Street last week, the Boy and I got chatting to some other people in the pub. It materialised they were from the sales team at the publisher Hodder and Stoughton, and I laughed that was quite a coincidence, as last week I found the strength to take a chance and submitted my manuscript to a well-known literary agents.

One of the group then took a real interest and asked me about my book - what genre it was, how it was written and who it would appeal to. I mentioned it had some similarities with One Day, in that it is told from alternating perspectives and is set over a period of time. It then materialised the man I was speaking to worked very closely with the person who had edited this book at their publishing company. What a twist of fate! He gave me his email address and told me to send in a few sample chapters, which he could pass to his colleague - of course, with no guarantee that his colleague would think anything of my writing, but he could at least ensure my text was read.

And so I took a deep breath, fine-chiselled my opening chapters, and I have submitted them. I'm almost sure that nothing will come of it, and I'll be in good company of authors who were rejected early in their careers and then went on to become incredibly successful as they honed their art - but it was an opportunity, and in this limited life those fleeting and precious chances cannot be ignored. For there is a chance, or hope if you like - tiny as it may be - that my book may touch the right person, in the right way, at the right time. And how can that not be exciting?

Tuesday 13 December 2011

A year on

A year ago today, we heard the terribly sad news that my work colleague had died suddenly at home. He was a larger than life character who had been with my company for many years - one of those people who becomes 'part of the furniture' and a stalwart you can't imagine your organisation without. He was a rough diamond who got on as well with the cleaners and the porters as he did with the heads of department and senior staff.

I remember when the Boy and I were saving hard for the wedding and I couldn't afford an office lunch - we tend to go out as a department when someone has a birthday - and as it was his birthday I emailed my apologies. Later in the day an envelope appeared on my desk with enough cash to cover the lunch and a scribbled note that this was our secret and I was not to mention it again. I was so touched I almost forgave him for being a Manchester United fan! But that small incident shows the kind of person that he was - he had a huge job here and organised our biggest events and conferences, he was often overworked, harried and stressed and we would all know about that! - but he never lost sight of the detail and of the human side. It's a great loss for everyone who knew him.

I feel very sad when I think back to what happened and how we heard the news. He didn't come into work one morning, which rang alarm bells. In his long - and colourful! - history here he'd never missed a day in the office without an explanation. He was an old school professional, and we all found it unusual. Our department secretary spent time during the day trying to raise him - his personal numbers went unanswered and his records with personnel were woefully out of date (this was very typical of him!) so we had no other numbers for him. Eventually, through contacts, we found the number for one of his two young sons. He then had the horror of going to his father's house to look for him, to find that he had sadly died very unexpectedly of a heart attack.

We were all deeply shocked, and through the year I have often thought of the boys and how they are coping without their Dad. He was one of the hugest personalities I have ever encountered in my life, and the office is certainly a quieter, different and less entertaining place without his powerful presence.

Friday 9 December 2011

The power of music

I really love how much music can touch you, and reach you in a way that no other medium can. I got some odd looks on the tube this morning shedding a little tear to this song, but I feel is absolutely sums up how 2011 has been. So - tonight I'm going to bury my horse in the ground. If I had a horse. Or some ground. But you get the picture!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Nervous twitch

For the last few weeks I have been seeing a counsellor through the well-being scheme that we have at work. I get six sessions so it's short-term solution focused work, as opposed to the long-term open ended counselling format that I am used to. In these sessions we are working on my anxiety, and I'm starting to feel like it's doing me some good.

I think I've always been an anxious person. As a child, even though I was intelligent and independent, I was a worrier, and I have wrestled with my anxiety on and off ever since. Some times I'm able to keep a lid on it - but at other times when it leads to panic attacks and loss of confidence it can be quite debilitating and difficult to cope with. The traumas that the Boy and I have faced this year have hit me hard in this way and I have found my anxiety levels rising. I thought that this was just par for the course and something that I had to endure, accept and try and and take in my stride - but in recent weeks I've realised there are techniques I can use to help me take back some control and not be overcome.

The counsellor has helped me understand the way that my mind works, and how my thoughts, feelings and emotions are all inextricable linked. But he's also helped teach me ways to interrupt unhelpful thoughts before they subsume me, to take time out before feelings and emotions escalate and lead my anxiety to become quite paralysing, and how to programme myself a little differently.

It feels like a real lightbulb moment, and that I'm not struggling in the darkness any more. It sounds so simple - but for a while there I had lost control of myself and I didn't know how to get out of the hole of anxiety I had fallen into. It's like someone has given me a torch so I can see the way out and a ladder so I can begin the climb upwards, and I already feel a lot less weighed down and much more optimistic. This is a real work in progress, but hopefully with time and effort I can tame my nervous twitch.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

'Tis the season

It's taken a while - maybe due to the unseasonably mild weather we've had lately, even as I write this the sun is streaming in through the blinds on the window - but I'm finally starting to feel festive.

The Boy and I decorated the flat some weeks ago now, our cards have long been written and posted, and I finished my Christmas shopping back in November. I've never been this organised before and if truth be told I think we're both trying to rush this year away and move into 2012 as soon as we can. I feel like the little boy in the much-celebrated John Lewis Christmas advert who is willing the days away as quickly as he can!

Christmas is a particularly important time of year for us, as my birthday falls on Christmas Day. I arrived at 12.40pm lunchtime just in time for my turkey dinner, and this year I will turn 34. It hardly seems possible that the years have run past so quickly. I certainly don't feel any older than I did when I was 21 - and sometimes I act quite a lot younger than that! I don't know where the time has gone.

Talking to the Boy on Tuesday night I was reminded how much I have achieved, and how many blessings I have. I wish I'd known when I was struggling so much in my 20s that everything would turn out alright in the end. I remember such low times - trying to keep miserable relationships going just so I wouldn't be on my own, difficult and strained relationships with my family and my sister, working a combination of full-time and part-time jobs just to pay the mortgage on my first flat - once not having a day off in a month, and still always worried about how I would manage to pay the bills.

There were some really tough times and I remember feeling like giving up on many occasions. It would have been such a comfort to know that my Prince Charming was working his way to me, through battles and struggles of his own, and that all my hard work and efforts would pay off. I look around and sometimes it takes my breath away that I have nearly all the things I have longed for - a loving husband, strong bonds with my family, close friends who I can really count on (the trials of this year have shown that), a flat that is warm and secure and full of love, and a job that challenges and stimulates me yet rewards me well financially. It's safe to say the only thing that is missing from our lives is a child - and I'm optimistic that will come in time.

I bought a new diary last week and I feel such excitement at the thought of blank pages ahead - a new start, with new chances and opportunities. Even though I am tired and fatigued from this difficult year, I feel positive and energetic. I feel now, as the year draws to a close and the bright lights of 2011 dim and fade into the distance, that I am stronger than I have ever been. I've been tested this year, and I've proved myself.

I never believed I was tough - but now I know I am brave, determined, committed and resilient. I feel like life can throw what it wants at me, and however much it turns me inside out and upside down, it won't break me.

And my resolution as we move into the New Year is just to remember that and keep believing in myself. I can be my harshest critic and my worst enemy - it's time for me to learn how to be my own best friend.