Breaking the rules

All my life, I have taken pride in the fact that I am good. I do what I think is expected of me. I fear taking risks in case they fail and I leave myself open to judgement and criticism.

As I have grown, I guess these actions have served me well but it’s also stopped me growing as a person. I’m finding now that as I delve further into my creativity, it is becoming an enemy rather than a friend. What helped me get through life in a way I found acceptable is now hindering my work. I find that I am torn between continuing the way I have always done, of doing what is expected of me and wanting to walk towards my dream life – by stepping over that line and being a rebel.

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The more I accept the daredevil inside me, the more the fear builds and ultimately, the louder that voice gets. You know the one; the one that is quick to criticise, to tell you what is going to go wrong, to let you know just how you will let others down – how others will judge you.

So the other morning I sat and thought. In a rare moment without my girls and husband around, I turned off the TV. I refrained from listening to music, made a cup of tea and sat outside. Listening to the birds, I just sat and closed my eyes. As seconds passed and I thought about where I was and where I want to be, I suddenly started distinguishing between what my heart was screaming and what my head was telling me. For the first time, I realised that my head was always a fraction behind my heart. Everything my heart was saying made me feel good to my core. Whenever my head spoke, I felt fear.
listen in the silence and hear the voice of your heart
That moment defined my future. It has helped me to make the first steps towards the life I want and the life I need. I want to rediscover the joy in life and teach my kids that money is not what counts; its how happy you are that matters. I don’t know what will happen in the long term after I make this change and that scares the life out of me, but I already feel as though a weight has been lifted. If I listen closely, there’s another voice inside that’s whispering that it’s ok; that I need to have faith, that I should trust that everything thing will be good and when those bumps in the road come along, as they inevitably do, I will cope. Everything I’ve done and learned has led to this and it’s time to move forward….one step at a time.

Until next time,

Toni x

Learning to learn…and relax 

I don’t know about you but I’ve never been very good at learning. I don’t mean I find it difficult to take on new knowledge and information but I find it difficult to put myself in the position of ‘learner’ and all that comes with it. 

You see the thing is, when I sit down to do something, I expect perfection. I expect to get it right first time and as a result I put a great deal of pressure on myself. I do wonder why we do this to ourselves? Surely life would be so much better if I learned to accept the joy of practicing, of making mistakes and letting go. 

So here’s what I decided to do… 

1. Spend time in my craft space just doing something. Not working on a new item for Dollies Daydream,  not with an end product in mind but just attempting something and see where it takes me. 

   
       My ‘just doing’ activity for this week. Using my Folk It Starter kit I made a sign for our bathroom.  I loved it – so simple and effective this was the perfect project to start my resolution as I really couldn’t go wrong!  

2. I will talk to myself supportively as a friend instead of being my worst critic. I will aim to congratulate myself for something at least once a day. 

3.  I will plan out my projects. I’m sure it is my subconscious trying to sabotage me but I tend to leave things to the last minute and then I end up stressing and inevitably make more mistakes.

4. I will quit while I’m ahead – three things are plenty to work with. After all I need to chill out a bit and rediscover the fun in living a creative life! 

Until next time, 
Toni x 

Lessons of life 

In my other life, I teach Psychology to college students on a part time basis. At this time of year, I mark another set of mock exams and hope beyond hope that the students will achieve their potential I know they are capable of. I keep my fingers crossed that that will prepare for their exam and break through those self imposed barriers that they put in place because they don’t believe they are good enough.

  
One of the most frustrating things as a teacher is to listen to the negative opinions some students have about themselves and their abilities and the constant challenge to get them to see that they are good enough.  Unfortunately, it seems easier to put ourselves down than it is to acknowledge our strengths. I was no different at their age and still have my moments! There are so many things that I wish I had know, believed or been taught when I was that age, that would have saved me from a lot of worry and fear.  It got me thinking, what would I say to myself at that age?  Here is my answer…

Dear Toni,

I know life feels like a struggle at times, like there’s a lot of people who don’t take the time to listen or that you find hard to understand. Some day in the future, the things that scare you now will become second nature to you but don’t forget the experiences or feelings that you have now because they will be invaluable in the future.  Here’s a few things you will learn along the way…

1. Teachers are not perfect and their opinions are not the be all and end all. Teachers are, at the end of the day, human. They come with their own baggage, prejudices and personality. When these experiences are used positively, this experience can be what makes a great teacher but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Those teachers that seem to take an instant dislike to you, those teachers that make you feel like you can do nothing right, that teacher that acts surprised when you exceed their low expectations of you – their opinions of you do not define you and don’t give them the power to make them true.

2. You are capable of anything you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something – even if they are coming from a place of love. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you are scared to fail. You may try something and fail but you did it, you experienced it and you will learn from it.

3. You have choices. This is an important one! You can make decisions and choices for yourself and when you do, you will say goodbye to those feelings of dread. That twisty knot in your stomach and feeling of sadness that you feel when you agree to something or do something you don’t want to do will magically disappear. NB. It doesn’t happen overnight! Making your own choices comes with it’s own challenges it takes time to practice, you have to own up to your mistakes, you have to accept responsibility but it’s totally worth it – especially when you no longer have to take everyone’s opinions, thoughts, and behaviour on board and let it control how you feel. There will always be people who put you down but you have a choice whether to believe it or not.

4. Creativity comes in many forms. Yes, there is value in learning from the art of the past but creativity and art can be spontaneous. They beauty of creative pursuits is there doesn’t have to be any rules. If you have an idea, if you want to create something – a drawing, a ceramic pot or painting… DO IT! Not everyone will like it. YOU  might not like it but…you may love it. Regardless, you will learn so much from it. You will improve because of it.

5. You will never be perfect. Stop tying yourself in knots trying to be. Everyone makes mistakes, its how we learn. Take comfort in the fact that you will become wiser, stronger and happier because of the fact that you aren’t perfect.

6. No matter what life throws at you, make time for fun. Do not forget what makes you smile. There will be days when tears seem never-ending and those days when it all seems too hard – in those times, do something that will bring a smile to your face, however small. You will get through whatever life throws at you. Things may happen that will change your perspective, that will scar you but do not forget how to smile and see the good things life has to offer.

I won’t tell you want to expect or avoid because, well, where’s the fun in that?!

T x

….So there you have it. I may have written it but in all honesty, I can’t say I would have read it. Actually, that’s a lie. I would have read it just because I’m so nosy but I doubt I would have took anything on board. I would have ripped it up probably with scorn on my face and thought ‘What the hell do you know?’ It pains me to see the same stubborn, determined streak in my girls and I dread to think what I’m in for as they get older!

Maybe if I had listened maybe I would have become a completely different person, I would have learned different lessons and who knows who I would have become? There are times when I wonder what role I will play in the lives of my students – the teacher they disliked, the teacher they were sooo bored by, maybe the teacher they forget. There are students who won’t listen to a word I have to say but I have a choice. I can sit back and become a teacher who doesn’t care about anything but their paycheque or I can encourage my students. Even if no one listens to my words of encouragement, I will be able to sleep at night knowing I’ve done my best, I have treated my students how I wish I had been treated and how I hope my daughters will be treated. When all’s said and done, there is more to education that passing an exam.

  
Until next time,

Toni x

My networking journey

Last week I wrote a piece about my leap into the world of networking. I discussed the joys of finding a community, of shaking off that feeling of isolation and discovering lots of lovely new creations. This week I have found more lovely crafters and I admit that yes, I am finding lovely birthday and (dare I say it) Christmas presents for friends and family as I travel around these pages and follow my feeds.

Despite these ongoing rewards, I’m now into week 2 of networking and to be quite honest, the glow of networking has faded slightly. During these last few days, I have to say I have been in the company of my inner critic and naysayer. Now I don’t know about you but throughout my life I have been plagued with that little voice inside that is quick to point out my flaws, what I have done wrong and that slowly chips away at my confidence if I let it.

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Before my venture out in to the big wide world of social media and networking, I lived in my little bubble with my blinkers on to some extent. Yes, I wasn’t interacting with others, forging relationships with other crafters or my customers but at the same time I wasn’t open to all those other pages. I have found that while roaming, it is easy to put others above you. It is tempting to look at the work of others and compare it to my own. Obviously, in these scenarios mine rarely stands up under the scrutiny. It is also too easy to read my feed and see other people’s posts as wittier, prettier and downright amazing.

Needless to say, I’ve been putting myself through the ringer a little bit these last few days which is much easier when you are feeling a bit low anyway. Life is throwing me more of those sneaky curveballs and change is coming in so many different ways that it has been difficult to tell that inner critic where to go.

So what am I going to do about it? In all honesty I want to give up. I want to pack it all in and go back to hiding but that would get me no where would it? I want a magic answer – that solution that will fix all things but that’s not an option either. In the absence of magic and miracles, I am going to put my head down and keep moving forward. To those pages I admire, I will take note of what I admire about them and see if I can improve my work/photos/page/posts in any way to close the gap between us. I will continue to interact with my customers and other crafters to help and support them where I can and gather hints, tips and information from them too (just the other day, a customer gave me a wonderful tip that has helped me no end).

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I will STOP comparing myself to others and be proud of my work. As I saw somewhere the other day, I have designed my work, I have put it together and I have got me to this point – thats something I am grateful for and proud of. To that little voice inside, I will aim to ignore it. In those times when all this seems impossible, I will do my best and not beat myself up about it. I will try to remember that I am not perfect and neither is anyone else.

So networking and I have had our honeymoon period but now the rose tinted specs are off. I am learning that its not all hearts and roses. Regardless of all this, I am in it for the long haul and I’m sure we can get over this rough patch and I can become a better person for it. Fingers crossed 😉

Until next time,

Toni x

Be careful what you wish for…

We’ve all heard these words haven’t we. These are the words I heard again the other day.

A couple of days ago, I spent another morning at the doctors. It seems I have caught more lurgy which in turn has triggered my labyrinthitis yet again. I feel cheated. Convinced it was getting better, I began thinking about what it would be like to live my day to day life again – jumping in the car, popping to the shops, taking my children out for the day.

In the last couple of days that has fallen by the wayside again and I feel I’ve been catapulted back to the very start again.  I was feeling pretty low when my mum said those familiar words ‘we need to be careful what we wish for’. Yes I certainly got my wish of having some ‘down time’, of having a break from work but it wasn’t exactly what I’d wished for.

I took this image just before things took a turn for the worst.  The Red Admiral always seems to find me at times when I need to remember to smile and think of happy times.

I took this image just before things took a turn for the worst. The Peacock butterfly always seems to find me at times when I need to remember to smile and think of happy times.

This set back got me thinking. Yes, it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for but it’s what I’ve been given. Maybe I need to look closer at the positives it has given me instead of all the things I can’t or haven’t been able to do.

So here is my list so far:
1. It has given me time to think, contemplate and mull things over. I’ve made a few decisions which while them haven’t come to fruition yet, they have hopefully set a ball rolling.

2. It has given me more time to enjoy some down time with the girls. It’s true I can’t take them out or do many things with them but I can cuddle them on the sofa, read them stories, listen about the biggest’s day at school. Sure, I did all these things before but I tell you, I appreciate and savour them so much more when it’s all I can do!

3. I have started to appreciate my other half a lot more. I have always appreciated him on some level but like in any relationship there are times when you do take them for granted. He has been an absolute star – taking time off work when I’ve had to take a trip to hospital, looking after the girls to let me rest and just supporting me in general.

4. I have started being more honest with my Mum. This has been a tough one. In the times when Simon has been at work she’s been the one who has done the school runs, the one who has looked after my youngest, brought me food and listened to me vent my frustration and discuss my fears. I’ve been forced to speak up and ask for help – something that’s never come easily to me. So….

5. I’m learning to rely on others. I’ve been forced to realise, I can’t do it all on my own anymore. I realise it’s getting easier to ask for, and accept help from my husband, my mum, my Aunty. They, and others, have helped and offered support and I have been ok with that. Ok, let’s just say I’m more ok with that than I used to be!

6. I’ve had the time to plan out a few new creative ideas for Dollies Daydream. Downtime and thinking time has inspired me and while I am not physically capable of sewing thanks to this latest bout of labyrinthitis, I have new ideas and inspiration waiting for when the time is right.

My latest favourite... how apt for the moment!

My latest favourite… how apt for the moment!

7. I am learning to be patient and gentle with myself. I have recently been teaching personality types with my students. I am strongly aware that I am ‘blessed’ with many Type A personality traits…. Impatient, driven, competitive. I like to be organised and cannot understand people who are late to appointments. Impatience – well this has forced me to kick that into check. Driven? It’s difficult to push forward when you can’t do much. Organised? Nothing in my life feels organised at the moment and I am out of my comfort zone not knowing how I’m going to be feeling day by day. This is teaching me to slow down, count to 10 and take each day or hour as it comes (most of the time!).

8. I’ve caught up on trashy tv I’ve had taped for ages, reconnected with a classic film or two and read a few pages in some craft magazines – things I don’t have time for in my ‘usual’ life.

9. I have caught up on lots of sleep – maybe even slept away a wrinkle or two under my eyes (well a girl can dream anyway!)

10. I have been given the time and space to listen to myself and my body – to give it the rest and recuperation it needs (again, most of the time…it is a learning process after all)

That Henry Ford was wise as well as clever ;)

That Henry Ford was wise as well as clever 😉

So, maybe I should have been more specific when I asked for what I wanted or maybe this is what the Universe would have handed me anyway.  Maybe at this moment in time I don’t know what’s right for me, maybe I need more time to mull over my life and continue making changes.  All I know is that I’m not certain of anything.  Never knowing when it’s going to end – and now not knowing if it’s going to return – is difficult to deal with BUT focusing on the positive, looking at the blessings it’s giving me…however small…however unclear, is helping me (most of the time) to cope with it all. I only hope I remember all these positives and continue to change once I am healthy again.

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Maybe we don’t have to be careful for what we wish for after all. Maybe we just need to know that life will always hand us what we need. Sometimes we get lucky and it matches our wish. Sometimes the world smiles, blesses us and throws us those curveballs we all love….

Until next time,

Toni xx ,

Are numbers just numbers?

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It’s been a few days since my last post and I am so touched by the responses I have received from it.  You will never know how timely they were.  There are many days when I feel as though I am on the right track and that I am where I am meant to be and then there are the other days when that inner voice is questioning everything I do and I feel like I ought to just give it all up.

Starting off on a new venture is hard.  You want to pursue something you love doing, that you are passionate about and yet all of a sudden there is so much more to learn and consider. You have questions, you have doubts and lots of to do lists.  You have ideas buzzing round in your head, you sit and create something that you are really proud of yet to show that to the world seems like the scariest thing.

What if no one likes it?

What if no one buys it?

What if it’s all for nothing?

One thing that holds me back in life (not just my creative life!) is looking at others, comparing myself to them and thinking I should do what they do.  It is so easy to look at other businesses and see everything I am not doing, to see how great their work is.

This is where I was the other day when I wrote my last blog. I was wondering whether I’d made a mistake starting all this. I was obsessing over what the ‘magic ingredient’ was that I still needed be as popular as others. I was looking at other people and I could not compete.  Then some of you lovely lot got in touch and talked about how much the last blog meant or discussed your similar experiences and in a heartbeat the numbers didn’t seem to matter anymore.

I realised that I could have a business where I made things that I knew would sell. I could have a facebook page where I ticked all the right boxes.  I could have a blog where I sat and wrote all the things I think you want to hear, all the things that sound clever. I could dance that magic dance but I won’t.  If I did that I wouldn’t be happy. I wouldn’t be learning and I certainly would not want to continue with Dollies. Most of all I wouldn’t be finding so much out about myself. I wouldn’t be pushing my limits and stepping out of my comfort zone.

I realised that I am on a journey and if there are people that want to join me, to read my blog then that is fantastic – I would love to continue to share these experiences and all I am learning. I would love to know that some of my work has gone to a good home. For now, I am trying to remember that numbers are just numbers. They don’t guarantee success or happiness but if I receive only one piece of feedback like the feedback I received earlier this week it makes it all worthwhile and I know I am doing something right.

Go me! 😉

Until next time,

Toni xx

If I couldn’t fail….

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I saw this quote the other day and it got me thinking.  Fear is something we have all experienced. Fear is an emotion we experience when we feel we cannot cope with what life throws our way.

When I was younger, I feared many things but with time, I have learned I can cope with many things but the one thing I find difficult to overcome is the prospect of failure.  It’s no secret that I can be a bit of a control freak – if I feel I  am in control, I feel as though bad things are less likely to happen. Crazy I know. I’m working on it.  I am a work in progress.

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But… as well as being a control freak, I am a perfectionist – probably a by-product of trying to stay in control.  I am familiar with the critical voice inside our heads that questions whether we are good enough, whether our work is up to scratch and whether we can do better.

Anyway…I digress. The point I was trying to make was that when I saw the quote it struck a chord.  I felt full of hope. I suddenly began thinking of all the things I would do if the fear of failure wasn’t hanging over me.  For a while, I couldn’t think of a sungle thing. The fear of failure I have lived with for so long had pushed all hopes out of the window.  My daydreams had been limited…so I continued to think and here is my list (so far and in no particular order):

1) Audition for a West End musical. Once upon a time I danced – ballroom, latin, tap. I loved it all. I love music and the feeling of moving around a dancefloor is amazing. I loved watching musicals and when I watched a musical on stage, I imagined what it would be like to be a dancer. I didn’t covet the star role I just wanted to dance.  If I couldn’t fail, I would audition for that part.

2) Walk the Inca trails – to do this would be amazing.  If I knew I could do it without facing failure, this would definately be on my bucket list.

3) Become thinner 😉

4) Create something every day.  Sometimes that inner voice is so loud, it stops me in my tracks.  Even when I was doodling the quote in my sketchbook, I wanted to stop every time I drew something that I didn’t like and everytime I made a mistake.  I forced myself to use it on this blog entry to practice ignoring that voice, to become more comfortable with the imperfect parts of my creativity.

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Next is a big fear…I have already faced so many fears from day one of starting Dollies Daydream and for each one I have dealt with the fear of failure and done it anyway. Today, however, if I couldn’t fail I would:

5) Quit my job to concentrate on Dollies Daydream.  This is a big dream for me.  It is one path that I am desparate to walk but the fear of failure, the fear of giving up our financial security is a big sticking point for me. I know I am not alone. When I talk to others about my dreams, there are many who will highlight the possible negative consequences of this action. It seems that we do not just feel that fear for ourselves but we feel the fear for others – we warn others against actions we believe will end in failure.

Why is it so easy to concentrate on the negative? Is it back to that old saying “to be forewarned is forearmed”? When I think of my children growing up and facing a decision to follow their dreams, I like to think that I would encourage them to walk the path they wish, that I would support them no matter what. I would tell them that whatever the outcome, we learn something valuable whether it is through tears or smiles.

So if fear is the result of a belief that you cannot cope with the othercome, I guess I have to ask myself whether I can.  I have to weigh up whether we will survive whatever events my decision may bring.  If the answers are yes then I have to see whether I really am brave enough to take that leap.

One thing I will aim to do is teach my children there is no such thing as failure. I will try every day to nurture a kind and loving inner voice in the heads of my children so that they aren’t limited by it and are free to follow their hearts.

So – what would you attempt if you couldn’t fail? What risks have you taken that have paid off?

Until next time,

Toni xx