Advance notice: This post will take about 14mins to read.
I’m in a hotel in Birmingham having just attended day 1 of a writing workshop aimed at mind, body and spirit writers. The workshop was the brain child of Hay House, which the amazing late motivational author, Louise Hay, founded.
The energy in the room is beautiful. Hay House attracts people who want to do good and to help people and you can really feel the sincerity of that.
I’m here because I took a last minute chance on myself and submitted my application to be part of a mentoring programme for writers of colour. I fumbled through an idea for a book I wanted to write on the day of the deadline.
I didn’t get selected for the mentoring initiative, instead they offered me the chance to attend the event for free in recognition of my efforts and expressed desire!
My effort was minimal, I almost didn’t submit due to the looming deadline so I wrote what I could and soon forgot about it. They were right about my desire though. It has always been there!
As I have harped on before and I’ll be sure to harp on again, I love writing. I have always loved writing and writing will always be in my life in one shape or other. Even when I am not focussed on writing, an opportunity or door opens – and writing once again presents itself. It is my path of least resistance and a constant in my world.
Prior to having this blog, I had another one for a few years. It was called ‘Emma Writes‘ and I did just that. Wrote about my life, personal development and books. I can’t recall when I first launched the blog or the reason that I gave it up.
Earlier this week at work, I had an email from IT to say that my personal drive was using up a lot of storage and could I delete some old files. I went on a decluttering mission and I came across some of my old blog posts. I didn’t even remember saving them!
The last person on stage today was the wonderful and truly inspiring, Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist’s Way. I wrote a blog about her book – Could you go a week without reading and media? Here’s why I’m taking the challenge!) so was truly pleased when I found out that she was one of the speakers.
Julia gave away so many gold nuggets, my pen barely left my page. Before departing the stage she gave us some homework, “well it is a workshop” – her words! This evening we have been asked to write two letters to our current selves. One from our 8 year old self and the other from our 80 year old self. That got me thinking again about my old blog post, reading it earlier this week was like reading a letter from my 32 year old self.
The following excerpt was written in May 2014. I cried when I read it. It was my first bout of writing wholeheartedly and is brimming full of vulnerability – before I even decided to embark on ‘my year of vulnerability’. It also made me laugh because without realising it, I had ventured back onto the path of writing and personal development. Unfinished business or a place I’m meant to be?
So many times people have asked me ‘Why are you so happy?’ and I get comments even more now that I have decided to improve my life. Distant friends on Facebook read a status and assume that they actually know about me, my life, my feelings……I’ve actually had some people being rude and taking the piss out of my positivity. A special note for those people – if you’re going to take the piss out of me – have the facts first – and here they are…….!
I am an optimist but a realist, some people get confused with this and when I say something realistic, their face crumples and they slowly say ‘but I thought you were a positive person’ – like they’re trying to catch me out. My realism is taking a risk assessment of life and then focusing on the positives but being ready when the storm comes in! Every life has to face the storm, torrential clouds of sadness, floods of tears, strikes of heartache – it’s how we choose to deal with it that designs our reality. I decided to choose the positive way from a young age and as long as I live, no matter how many obstacles stand in my path and how much negativity I face from others – I will choose to wear that smile on my face.
I really don’t like living in the past but I do believe that looking into it on occasions is healthy and can help create your future; stop you from making the same mistakes and show you how far you have come in life. The story I am going to tell you now is not to make you feel sorry for me, I feel I have had a great life – it is therapy for me (opening up and being honest) and will also help you to get to know me more. It’s not like I lie about my life, I just haven’t been forthcoming with the details – unless someone asks me the question – then I don’t divulge the information, and because I’m so good at asking other people questions and getting to know about them, I manage to go under the radar. I can actually see me writing filler to keep away from the actual topic so I’m going to dive right in – no more diversions, here it is.
I was 6 months old, ears pierced, wrapped in a sheet and plonked onto a smoking woman’s lap from behind – thinking I was laundry the woman shouted at her daughter to stop bringing her dirty washing back home – until she peered inside and saw my little chubby face peering back. My visits to the house became more frequent and I’m not exactly sure how the deal came about but after a few months, that house became my home and the jolly smoking older woman, became my new mum. I really can’t remember my first memory but I was a happy child, who barely cried and who’s first word was apparently cocoa – which I find so funny now as I don’t like chocolate any more. I am proof that children are innocent, as I don’t recall my situation living with a white family, with parents that were in their 50’s strange. I didn’t think seeing my biological mum on occasions, up until I was 7yrs old strange. I didn’t recall having nieces and nephews who I called cousins strange. That was my life and I was happy with it. Oh through the years I faced racism and from that developed a thick skin acting as a barrier to the insults and abuse shouted at me from people who didn’t have a clue who I was. One moment I remember was being at the seaside and being followed by a group of kids making monkey chants, saying get back on your banana boat – I didn’t know what a banana boat was but I knew it wasn’t meant in a nice way due to the malice in their voices. Protected by my white family of foster brothers, sisters, cousins – I knew right there that I would be fine and that love can come in many ways! I could have gone off the rails – blamed everyone for my different upbringing, but instead I chose to enjoy life!
Side note: when I was in Reno in 2012, I met a little girl who was adopted by this lovely couple who was going through a ‘why didn’t my real mum want me stage’. I took that little girl in my arms and told her that we were the luckiest people of all. Most parents don’t get to decide who they choose as their child – we were so lucky as we are actually picked – someone chose to love us! She seemed happy with that and I was the proof, loud and silly Emma! Her new mums thanked me and I really do hope that the girl still believes that she is blessed.
So, life went on, the obligatory visits from the social worker, in my opinion, was a waste of time – I ran in said I was happy and then ran back out again. I was one of the only black kids in my school but was doing well, I had friends that didn’t care about my colour and my family treated me like their own. What else could I have wanted? I didn’t find out until I was older how backwards time was in the 80’s, my new parents tried to adopt me and couldn’t due to the court ruling they were too old and white to become my official parents – crazy!!
The year of 1997, I was 15 years old and situations changed my outlook on life, I’ll let an excerpt of my diary explain:
“My mother died in February – it was so sudden – not a lot of people know about it – I can’t bring myself round to tell them. All the family are coping as best they can. My whole life was turned upside down. She was so healthy one day, the next she had died. We have to look to the future now – and since my mother’s death she has made me realise that I should have fun now – as I’m only young once. I don’t care what people think about me no more – it’s my life and I will live it the way I want to live”
This was written on 28th April 1997, a month later my cousin (aka – niece) Charlotte would die from an epileptic fit at the age of 14, she was my best friend and that cut like a knife. So, the promise that I wrote to myself after my mum died grew stronger – I would live a fun and happy life and not care what people thought. Even though I slip up constantly, I get myself up, dust myself off and keep on moving. Charlotte didn’t have the chance to do so – she wouldn’t want me to waste my life mourning – I believed that whilst I was still breathing that I should make the most out of life – I was looking on the bright side of life and not even realising it!
I am 32 years old and I have been to more funerals than I have weddings and the saddest part of this fact is that the majority of the people have been under 25 years old. A few years after Charlotte’s funeral 2 of my friend’s committed suicide, another got killed in a car crash, another was murdered and an old school friend died from an asthma attack. Death kept on creeping in and each time I would reassess where my life was and promise myself to continue to cherish the small things and enjoy every moment that I can.
That’s not to say that I bury my head in the sand when shit happens – I just look it in the face and deal with it – so when my father, fondly known to me as Poppa Bear, died when I was 23 – I had to take some time off work and I booked myself in with a Counsellor. I laugh now at how terrible the Counsellor was, but at the time I was livid that I knew more about him, his trumpet playing ways and his daughter and son than he did about me. Spending time with my auntie (aka – sister) helped me a hundred times over and grew our already strong bond – we laughed about all the good times we had with him, cried bucket loads of tears and gave thanks to having known such a humble man. It hurt to know that I would never have him walk me down the aisle and as I don’t know who my biological father is (he left my biological mum before I was born – after giving her an ultimatum), have a father to walk me down at all. If I ever have children they won’t have grandparents on my side to spoil them and I feel pain every time it’s mother and father’s day but I know that I am blessed to have being old enough to enjoy times with my mother and father before they died – some people can’t even share a story!
I think of everyone who is no longer with me every evening when I say a mini prayer, I can’t sleep without doing so ‘Good night, I love everyone, even the people who are not here’. Blimey – I am fully sharing here – maybe in the next instalment I’ll give you my bank details – for you to give me some money of course!
Splitting up with my boyfriend of 5 years absolutely knocked me for six, which was a shock as I thought after getting over death I would have breezed through a break-up, not so, I was at such a low point and didn’t have the friendships in place to help me through that dark time –I needed sleeping tablets at night time and would actually feel myself falling to sleep mid sob – those tablets were seriously strong! I felt the loneliest I had ever felt and then an angel came in the form of an old acquaintance, Laura – she introduced me to the Brahma Kumaris and we went on a positive thinking workshop and I became even more Pollyanna than before!
So, I tell my story not for the woe is me factor, so many people have suffered so much worse than I have and everyone of a certain age has experienced pain. This story was to highlight that when the shit hit the fan – I made the decision to be happy and to throw the fan away! To all those that have laughed about my happiness and my positivity at least you now know my story – I’m Emma Halliday, I’m an optimist, I realist and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
**Note: Since writing the 2014 post I have started to build a beautiful relationship with my biological mum and family and it truly is wonderful.
Reading the above as a message to me from the 32 year old me made me assess my current life. The past couple of years in London have been harder than I’d really like to admit. Feeling like a small fish, often really lonely and lost without direction or close connections of home. The dark days have been more frequent and I’ve, often consciously, soaked up other people’s woes and moans.
The old post also made me feel relieved – proof of my happy optimistic days and the reasons why I chose to look towards the light. The following photo collage was taken in 2014, which is the year I embarked on 100 Happy Days – a challenge to find something each day to be happy about. It was a magnificent year – one to learn from.
I am fortunate that I have a life that is full of privileges and that I have choices if I want to make a change. It was a sign for me to attend the Hay House Writing Course for free, to see Julia Cameron speak and to find my old blog posts. Now it’s up to me to take the next steps.
I choose fully welcoming Happy Halliday back. I want people to laugh at my positivity and optimism but secretly feel inspired (I know this happens – haha). I’m not blaming London or anyone else for how I have been feeling but I am ready now to get back to myself. Side note: I have already started this with a new challenge I am doing (more on that in a future post).
Who knows what my next steps will be, but I’m pretty sure that it will feature writing (obvs…) personal development, vulnerability and fun – so much fun!
I am going to sign off here as I have two letters to write for my homework. I just want to say thank you to everyone that takes the time to read my posts and has stuck with me. I appreciate it and you more than you could ever know.
Love Emma x