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How Isolation Has Brought Me Closer to the Friendship Circle I’ve Always Imagined

Why I decided to find time away from running my publishing house and mentoring business in order to fix my heart to my sleeve

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These are the strangest of times. Normality has shifted, and what ‘routine’ means to each of us has been thrown into a constant posing of questions. Not even the names of the days mean anything anymore; after all, what does or could Monday even possibly mean now, when it used to mean dropping the children off at school, beginning the commonplace ‘working week’, doing everything that has to be done outside of the relaxing space of the weekend?

People have been coping in their different ways, and while some have been struggling to find the benefits to be pulled out of such an unprecedented situation, others have been seeing the opportunities to be found in this strange 2020, in new schedules, in new, ever-changing, varying definitions of ‘normality’.

I am one such person.

Everything in Balance?!

My life—my adult life, that is—has been passing me by. It has been whizzing past me in a haze of long working hours; in one-day-merging-into-another madness. It has been a whirlwind of editing, typesetting, cover design, publication, pre-order windows and official book birthdays. It has been a never-ending stream of client calls, blueprinting books, teaching the principles of book-writing, subtle lead-generation, attracting ideal clients, turning paying leads into paying high-ticket clients, in filming courses and running workshops. And although the journey has witnessed the most incredible achievements and ticks off my professional bucket list, it has meant something unrecoverable: it has meant my time always being directed to the next book, the next client, and away from the here and now.

Eighteen-hour working days from 2008 through to 2019 have meant I have sacrificed in areas people on the outside have never before realised. They have watched someone build up businesses and be presented with all of the tools and resources they have needed to enjoy the life that should come with success, but they haven’t seen the 18 hours spent behind a desk—nearly every single day. They haven’t seen the missing out on children, the missing out on memories, the missing out on relationships and friendships. Nobody has seen any of that, instead focusing on how ‘lucky’ I am (when, of course, it isn’t luck that’s brought me to where I am, but rather those 18-hour days and the missed dinner invites and the skipped parties, with friendships fading into the background).

But the funny thing is, although I’ve occasionally felt sad at never having been to a hen party, for example, or never having been to a wedding, or on missing out on being in those photographs that people pose for and take and post to social media, I always reasoned that I couldn’t have it all: I couldn’t have a successful publishing house, mentoring business, and friendships. Right? I couldn’t have it all. Nobody gets that ‘lucky’. And nobody has the time.

But then Covid hit. And although that didn’t mean many changes to my routine, it still hit hard. It brought with it a new lens, a new perspective, the new-found knowledge that times spent on this and money spent on that don’t actually bring anyone closer to what’s important: to other someones.

Who are the Someones You Miss?

It’s a question we should all ask ourselves: Who do you miss?

I asked myself this very question approximately 7 weeks into lockdown. I was approaching a difficult anniversary—one that haunts me every year—and so I was taking stock of my life and all it offers, with memories rushing in at me from every angle. Normally, whenever I find the dreaded anniversary upon me, I escape out for a meal or to a bookstore or for a mocha frappuccino with hazelnut syrup—anything to direct my attention away from the pain of past times—but this year has been different. This year I couldn’t do any of that.

Miller & Carter: Closed. Waterstones: Closed. Starbucks: Closed.

And so, instead of travelling out and treating myself to whatever temporary fix I could find in a steak, a book or a coffee, I found myself journeying inward.

I started to think of my happiest times—my fondest memories going back as long as I could remember—and, suddenly, people’s faces started to appear in my mind.

Laura, my sister and soulmate. We’d become somewhat distant the past year or so; miscommunications and incorrectly filling in the blanks responsible for an ever-gaping void.

Another Laura, a friend of mine from infant and primary school, and her sister Michelle. Two of the loveliest souls you could ever hope to meet, and whom I constantly found myself wishing were a part of my circle.

Dawn, one of my best friends from being 6 years old. Someone I found myself thinking about often, even from afar, and constantly marvelling at how similar we seemed to be, despite not having seen each other in 26 years.

And Sebrina, a friend from high school who I’ve watched become the most incredible and inspiring mother to her son Harry.

Something clicked in me at that moment, as those faces rushed into my mind. And, with the ever-present themes of Illness, Death, Fear and Negativity circulating social media, I realised: I could join the swarms of negativity or use the time to create something really special.

That was my In-Lockdown A-Ha Moment. That was the moment I truly found an answer to the real question of ‘Who are the someones I miss?’

And then I had the Answer…

And so, armed with my truth and my vulnerability set to Max., I logged onto Facebook, fixed my heart to my sleeve, and started to write:

And that post changed so much. My heart-on-sleeve musings resulted in a friendship being pulled out of the 90s and into the present, with Dawn and I in regular contact, talking all things weddings (she’s getting married in 2021 and I couldn’t be happier for her), children (her two and my three), the men in our lives (her fiancé and my incredible partner), and everything in between.

It brought about the promise of lunch with Laura and Michelle when lockdown is in the past.

It encouraged me to reach out and build that much-needed bridge with my sister, who I love more than words can describe, and now we are once again walking across our bridge together.

And not only that, but my post also inspired one of my followers, a fellow entrepreneur and business owner, to reach out to me and finally take the step to publish her book—which, coincidentally, is all about reconnecting with your partner/significant other during times of difficulty and disconnect.

And so, really, Isolation has brought far more into my life than could ever have been taken away. Yes, of course, it has had its trials, and I have no doubt at all that, whenever 2020 is mentioned in future conversation (which, of course, it will be, as it has carved itself into our history), we’ll respond with, ‘Well, that was interesting!’ But nonetheless, it has also changed so many things for the better and brought so much back to life from mere embers.

Of course, this isn’t to say people haven’t experienced huge and significant losses during this time, but it is to say that, with darkness comes light and everything is always in balance, and this time has given us all the opportunity to reflect a little and really identify what truly brings us joy and what might be missing that is ours for the taking.

Create Joy at Your Core—Every Day

Before Isolation, I already knew what joy burned at my core. I find joy in books—in helping others to write them, in taking them through the publication process, in sending them out into the world, ready to shape readers and change the course of their lives—, but I didn’t realise quite how much I also really love some memories I have and the people behind those memories—and that includes those memories that are yet to be made.

And so my huge Lockdown Lesson is this: Ask yourself the same question I asked myself: Who are the someones you miss? Could reaching out change things? And is life right now the life you wished for yourself as a child? Be true to yourself and, when you’ve taken a deep breath, fix your heart to your sleeve.

Already, mid-Lockdown, my life is looking so different. Now, in amongst the professional wins, the new clients, and the incredible books myself and my team are bringing to life, there are also friendships blossoming and bright flames being fanned. And all of this because of words.

Words Can Change Everything

You have no idea how much… A few words—written or spoken—can change your world. Of course, I’ve always known this deep down; after all, I see it every single day in my work. But now it’s also becoming so powerful in my personal life.

Words are the greatest tools, and they tell our truth, our story, our soul. My business has been built on this very thing, and my life is all the richer for it.

So ask yourself: What words do you need to speak? What story do you need to tell? And who needs to hear what you have to say or what you want to write?

Someone somewhere will be blown away by what you want to share, and if you touch just one person, that can mean everything.

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