Sunday Suggestions 20th November 2016

Sunday Suggestions: a round up of things to read, watch, listen to and do
Sunday Suggestions 20th November 2016 ||

In the three weeks that I’ve started putting these ‘Sunday Suggestions’ columns together, I’ve noticed that themes will naturally emerge.  Sometimes I’ll just happen to spot several items about one specific subject; others will feed into a topic that’s on my mind anyway.  Examples of both feature in this week’s list of things to read, watch, join and do.

First up are two harrowing accounts of rape.  I’ve wondered long and hard about whether to post these but despite the difficult subject matter, this is not something we can shy away from.  Rape and sexual assault are real and prevalent issues for all of us, and perhaps never more so than in the wake of comments made by the US President Elect.  I applaud and admire these two women for speaking out about their experiences:

Anna Lovind: Break the silence sisters, your story matters

The uncomfortable truth about my rape & why I’m coming forward now

On a similar but not quite the same note, I came late to seeing this article by Monica Lewinsky about being a Hallowe’en costume.  If you haven’t heard or read anything by Ms Lewinsky in recent years then I’d definitely encourage you to check out these links.  I’ve found it humbling to learn about how she dealt with the shame and vitriol directed towards her.  Twenty years on from the scandal that made her (in)famous, I also find it significant to remember that she was a 23 year old intern while Clinton was a far older and far more powerful figure.  As with the two links above, power dynamics have a considerable role to play in sexual relations whether seemingly consensual or not.

Monica Lewinsky: What it’s like to become a Hallowe’en costume

Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk: The price of shame

Speaking of power, I’ve also stumbled across two examples this week of attempts to challenge the gender status quo.  One of these is on an individual level, the other trying to initiate awareness through the medium of fashion and social media – the latter you can join in with on 25th November (next Friday) by wearing orange and sharing on your networks.

Refinery 29: Nine women on why they shaved their heads

UN Orange Label Project: Fashion says no to violence against women

And finally, for something completely different, I wanted to mention podcasts.  I am *really* late to the game with this!  It’s only in recent months that I’ve started to listen to all the amazing recorded material that is out but like so many others now I’m hooked.

I’m currently working my way through the back catalogue of Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  For some reason I can’t bring myself to just listen to the most recent – I want to hear them all – so Rubin’s tips and advice on how to live a happier life accompany me whilst I get ready every morning.

On holiday at the end of September, I binged another great series: Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert.  These gems are all interviews about creativity, inspired by Gilbert’s brilliant Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  If you are even vaguely interested in the subject then listen to these!  I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Each one is so inspiring.

And if you are interested in creativity, its magic and how you can get more of it, then you might want to sign up to my newsletter.  Following requests from my readers, this monthly mailing will from this month onward contain a creativity tip for you to try out.  Because I’m so excited about this new feature, and have been researching lots of ideas, November’s issue will have a bumper round up of suggestions for you to try!  Sign up over here if you’d like to receive it.




Vision Boards: Six Steps to Making One and Three Reasons Why You Should

The start of a new year (well, ish, now we’re seven days in!) felt like a good time to create a new vision board and with a couple of hours free, that’s just what I did!  Here’s the how and why you should create one too…

First the how…

Get some magazines or similar – anything that
you like that has images in it.  You don’t
need lots and lots of sources; too much can make it a bit overwhelming!  The board I’ve just made was sourced from two
monthly magazines and the promotional booklet that happened to be inside one of
them – and I still ended up not using everything I thought I would.

Find glue, scissors and a large sheet of paper
(or join several smaller sheets together; mine is eight A4 arranged two by four).  You may also want to have pens, stickers,
washi tape etc. but these aren’t essential.
Depending on your tolerance of mess, having a recycling bin for paper to
hand might be useful too!  

Go through your sources looking for anything
that appeals, words as well as pictures, and tear it out.  You don’t have to cut neatly at this stage;
your goal is simply to gather together items for your board.  Don’t rush but don’t deliberate about it too
much either; if I find myself debating whether to use something or not then I
tend not to cut it out.  Try to let your
instinct guide you to images and text that stand out, for whatever reason.  And remember that you can keep your board as
private as you like, so there’s no need to censor yourself with concerns about
what others might say or think.  As you
go along, you may see themes beginning to emerge.

Once you have as much material as you’d like, start
playing with arranging it on the paper.
I find it helpful to sort through images first, then add words on like a
second layer.  If you’ve already noticed patterns
in your selection then these may shape how you position things.  It may be that links jump out once you look
at the images and words a second time.
Then again, perhaps there aren’t any connections – and that is
absolutely fine too.  There is no right
and wrong!  As with picking the material,
let this be a heart-led process, not a mind-dominated one.  Be as open with the structure and look of
your board as you were with the content.
The results are for you, not an art exam.

When you are satisfied with the arrangement of
material, then trim and paste the items into position.  You can add extra adornments if you

Stand back and take in what you have made.  There’s your vision board!

Now the why…

It’s a simple, fun creative activity.  If you’re in any doubt as to the value of
that in itself, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big

Whilst I can’t *guarantee* that you’ll get some
insight from the process, I’m pretty confident that you will.  It’s this insight that gives vision boards
their power.  I don’t believe that
sticking some pictures to paper somehow manifests your heart’s desire, but I do
believe that creating a board allows you to see more clearly what your heart’s
desire actually is.  Sometimes we can
feel uncertain about what lies ahead or like we’re trying to reconcile
competing demands – creating a vision board is like deciphering a cryptic
message from ourselves about which direction to move in.

It sparks positivity.  Thinking about the future can feel daunting
terrifying. A vision board provides a gentle reminder of the good things that
we hanker after.  Our brains are clever
machines that upon seeing our creation will start to whir away, dreaming and
scheming about how to make these images real for us.  And if we are very lucky, we see that we
already have whatever it is that we envision for ourselves 🙂 

I’d love to see your vision board if you feel motivated now to make one!  You can share your thoughts or an image of the board on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  There
is also email (  

Week 11: As with tea, with life

When I came up with the idea for The Fourth Quarter seasonal journey through autumn and winter, a
list of weekly symbols quickly emerged, as did what felt like the right running
order for them.  I didn’t plan them out
in detail, but I had clear thoughts about the themes behind each one; last
week’s reflection
on bathing
, for instance, I wanted to represent quietness and moments of
solitude.  What has surprised me as the months
have passed by, though, is the extent to which the meanings and metaphors have
evolved.  I *thought* I knew what each
week would be about, but the journey has taken on a life of its own (apt given
the title of my site and coaching practice!).
This perhaps isn’t surprising, but what is notable is that each symbol
has remained completely apt.  If anything,
the symbols have become even more pertinent.
In an Elizabeth Gilbert Big
Magic kind of way
, it is as if I have been the vessel through which the
concept and symbols found form but my real world brain has taken a while to
catch up with what they all actually mean.

This week’s focus, tea, has proved a particularly strong
example of this, what I can only inelegantly describe as ‘not what I thought
it’d be but totally right’.  In my
original human thinking, it was going to be all about a relaxed form of
hosting, offering people tea as a gesture of hospitality and forging
connection.  That would have been totally
fine, I’m sure; maybe even good.  Yet the
mysteries of creativity have another agenda that is forcing its way on to the
page.  Let’s see where it takes us…

This time two years ago, I developed a dairy
intolerance.  Seemingly out of the blue,
I literally could no longer stomach milk or cheese.  Adjustments to my diet followed, and I swapped
cow’s milk for first soya and then almond milk.
This generally worked well, only I didn’t like the taste of other kinds
of milk in tea.  As a result, English
breakfast tea, a former staple of my day (and one of the few attributes of the
British nation that I was happy to share), vanished from my life, replaced by
herbal varieties or coffee without milk.

Strangely, despite years of heavy consumption, I didn’t miss
it – so much so that even as my tolerance for dairy products has improved, I
haven’t returned to drinking it.  Then
the other Sunday, I was out with a friend and we were having old fashioned
cake.  Coffee just seemed like a weird
accompaniment, so English breakfast tea it was, served in a proper cup and
saucer too.  And just like that, proper
tea was back in my life, like a lost love or the prodigal child, reunited at

What does this symbolise?
Of course it may mean nothing at all; it may simply be that I went off
tea and now I like it again.  This is
undoubtedly partly the case, but I think there is something figurative going on
inside those cups of char as well.  The
lesson I’ve drawn from it is that things change, and not just once and for
all.  Life is a constant ebb and flow.  Sometimes we’ll like tea, at other points we
won’t, there may be occasions where we can’t have it – and then it could all
shift again.  As with tea, with life:
people come and they go, relationships blossom and wither, jobs are started
then finished.  And the same is true of
identities.  Certain labels may serve us
well at one time but down the line they may no longer suit.  The danger comes when we cling on, refusing
to let go or allow the cycle of change to continue.  I was a tea drinker, then I wasn’t.  I couldn’t drink tea, then I simply didn’t
drink tea.  Now I get to choose: maybe I
will, maybe I won’t.  I don’t need a
definite position on the issue.  

I hope these thoughts resonate with you over the weeks
ahead.  December is a month packed with
annually occurring events and traditions that can make us feel like each year
is – or somehow should be – the same as the one before or one when we were kids
or one that occurred way back in some mythical past before that.  Except it isn’t like that.  This December does not have to be the same as
the last one.  Things change, you change,
the world changes.  Today you may have
coffee; tomorrow you might have tea.  As
with tea, with life.

I’m off to put the kettle on.

Tell me what it is that you are drinking right now,
literally and metaphorically!  You can
get in touch via the A
Life Of One’s Own Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on
Instagram and/or Twitter.

Forget Bah Pumpkin! Hallowe’en is just a handy excuse for life’s good stuff

And this amazing witch confections aren’t even one of those three reasons!

This week I’d like to offer you three reasons to love

There are lots of reasons to not like it, I know.  Commercialisation, for one.  The shops have been full of Hallowe’en
merchandise and special offers for weeks, making the day seem like some kind of
weird kind of mini-Christmas based upon its worst aspect (in the same way that
Britain seems to be adopting the Black Friday tradition without the joys of
Thanksgiving).  There are also concerns
around crime and safety when you have lots of people disguised in masks
approaching others’ homes.  In the UK, some
also object to Hallowe’en on the grounds that it is a regarded as a US cultural
import that seems to usurping some home-grown, more traditionally British
seasonal occasions.

Okay, so there are three reasons to not like Hallowe’en and
I’m not going to deny or try to counteract any of them directly.  I used to share this kind of Hallowe’en
equivalent of ‘Bah Humbug’; let’s call it a ‘Bah Pumpkin’ attitude.  But no more!
I’m now the kind of person who not only owns some special Hallowe’en
earrings but is *really* excited at the prospect of wearing them and wondering
how soon is too soon to get them out.
Why the change?  Well here are the
three inter-related reasons why I’ve had a change of heart:


As the popularity of Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest best-seller,
Big Magic, demonstrates, creativity
is inherent to the human condition.  It
is not something exclusive to writers or designers or other arty types.  We all have the capacity to be creative and
when we give licence to that, it can be a hugely joyful and life-affirming

From fancy dress costumes to decorating our homes,
Hallowe’en gives us the perfect excuse to indulge a playful approach to making
and creating.  It is an opportunity for
entering into the creative process without the pressure of a big occasion or
the need to produce award winning results.
Childish and silly and a bit wonky are par for the course.  And unlike say Christmas, where there is a
lot of other stuff going on too, at Hallowe’en the costumes and decoration are
a focal point; you don’t need to cook an amazing meal or deliver perfectly
wrapped gifts too.  You are free to play.


We are about to enter the holiday season, with a whole host
of other occasions soon lining up in November and December.  So why on earth do we add another event to
the mix?  Surely we’d all be better
staying in this Saturday, saving our money and our energy for the crazy
festivities ahead?

Bah pumpkin to that!
Besides, who do you spend Hallowe’en with compared to the other
occasions?  Times like Thanksgiving and
Christmas are often about seeing family, which is grand, but there are often
other important people in our lives as well.
Hallowe’en is not only a chance to see them but also to celebrate with
them in a way that everyday life doesn’t provide much scope for.  Who hosts a party for no reason?  No-one.
We might throw the odd birthday bash or a housewarming or new year
shindig, but probably not regularly.
Hallowe’en presents another opportunity, again one with less pressure
than the big red letter days, to have fun and celebrate with others.  One could choose to have a party on 15th
October or 10th November instead, one without skeletons and spiders
and spookiness.  But generally we
don’t.  Hallowe’en gives us a prompt, a
purpose, even if that is just a convenient excuse for something that would be
pretty awesome to do anyway: get together with people we love and have fun.

Community feel

Most of our holidays and celebrations are private affairs,
taking pace with a select group of family and friends.  As our societies have become more diverse and
more fragmented, many communal traditions, such as gathering in public spaces
for carol singing, have died off.  But we
haven’t lost the basic human need for community.  Hallowe’en again offers a great opportunity
in this respect.  As a secular event,
divorced from its religious origins, it lacks the boundaries of exclusion.  It also encourages engagement with other
people.  As well as the parties, the
other obvious example of this is trick-or-treating: when else do children get
to interact with neighbours in their community?
(Anything that supports connection across generations is good in my
book).  Even adding a bit of Hallowe’en
decoration goes some way towards the same effect; walking down my road earlier
this week, I noticed pumpkins on a few doorsteps and in doing so I felt
immediately more connected with those households – as if by placing these items
outside their entrances they were signalling their desire to participate in a
chance for community too.  Sometimes this
goes large scale.  A friend always takes
her children trick-or-treating down a nearby street because, in her words,
‘they all really go to town’ with Hallowe’en stuff.  In doing so, the residents are forging a
special moment for themselves, a break from ordinary time and ordinary life,
creating a community spirit that others want to be part, fulfilling our oft
thwarted human desire to connect with others around us.  

This year, I’ll be going with my friend: funny costume, her
and the children’s company, seeing this street where ‘they all really go to
town’ – what more could I want?  Why
would I refuse an excuse for creativity, friendship and community?

What do you think?
What aspect of Hallowe’en would you like to seize upon and
encourage?  Could you use some more
creativity, friendship and community?  

Is there anything else I could add to that list?  I’ve been wondering whether to include ‘fun’
as a separate item but figured it featured in the other three.  No doubt there are other things too, both
good and not so great.

Don’t forget to share your reflections on this week’s theme,
including any pictures or thoughts about your Hallowe’en, either via the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Instagram and/or