Goodness - talk about feeling fizzly...! I am walking a new pathway now, and life is continuing to expand in the most delicious and exciting ways. It's now coming up to four years since my life collapsed around me. The dust and rubble has now cleared, and in it's place I am truly living a life full of joy and happy expectations. The surprises are still there, for sure - but whereas I had been used to scary or dangerous surprises, it seems I am now surrounded by good ones. Some of them so good that I am literally pinching myself to make sure it's not a dream! More of that when I can give details...
In the meantime, I am beginning to learn about the power of PR. I have met some extraordinary people who are continuing to help me to get my message out there - it's a whole new science, and I am loving being a student. I now have an active Twitter account and Facebook page (thank you to Rachel and her lovely team at Au Fait Marketing) as well as LinkedIn, this blog and personal pages that I've had for a long time. I am receiving messages from people all over the world - making new connections, sharing ideas, and pooling resources. It's really quite amazing!
And you know what I'm also coming to realise...? Is that it was my own inner PR work (the skills and techniques that I used for myself, and that I train to others) that brought me to this place. I kept on telling myself the story as I chose it to be - rather than the nightmare that had appeared in front of me. I would share my dreams with others. I would share my ups and downs along the way - much of it through this very blog, as well as in conversations with friends. And you know what? It jolly well worked. It worked for me back then, and it's working again for me now. This time, though, the PR is not to myself to get myself through trauma. No, this time the PR is to help get the messages out to others, with the dream that my story will help others to come through their own challenges.
As a result of today's PR work - (together with the constantly strengthening relationships with existing friends - I never knew life could continue to grow so much!) I am continually inspired, prodded, lifted and generally 'steered' in the right direction by people who share similar dreams and passions. It's deliciously exciting...
All this is happening NOW, and the paperback version of my book isn't even out yet...!
Just today I have had an interview published in Female First, and there are plenty more on the way. The book though, as I have said for a long time, is just the start. It's the platform. And very soon my dear friends, I will have so much more to share with you all.
It seems I am indeed learning the previously elusive quality of patience - because while part of me is bursting to spill the beans, I know that there is more crafting to be done. So I'm happily biding my time, knowing (finally, surely, and for certain) that all things happen at the right time, and for my highest possible good. I am indeed guided, and I am indeed blessed - it may have taken me more than four decades to learn this, but crikey it has been worth it..!!
BRING IT ON...!!!! :-)
Meantime, here is the interview as it appears on Female First
14 March 2013
What can you tell us about your new book I'm Still Standing?
It is often said that true life can often be stranger than fiction… I’ve been told that this is certainly the case for me! Since I was a child, my life has been peppered with a series of life-changing events, starting with the sudden death of my father when I was four years old, catapulting me in to a different world. My mother died equally suddenly when I was 16 and my sister 11 – my world changed again, and once again I had to learn to adapt to a whole new set of rules in order to survive. But that was just the beginning!
You might think that the death of both parents would be enough for anyone to deal with, but for some reason the ‘hits’ kept coming – and I kept adapting as a result.
The most recent (and arguably most traumatic) shock came in 2009 when I discovered that the husband I called my soul mate had betrayed me in the most terrible ways. This last trauma just about destroyed me, and it was then that I fell back on all the life-skills I’d fine-tuned since early childhood – together with all the career and personal development training I’d learned (and taught) over the years.
The book is my story of how I have succeeded in overcoming adversity time and time again; my message is that if I can come through – not just surviving, but thriving – then so can others.
You are the founder of a successful leadership development company; tell us a little bit about it.
Sure. Professionally I work as a leadership and change development coach, helping business leaders and their teams to achieve their best potential. My company is called The Top Banana Bunch (www.thetopbananabunch.com) and I absolutely love what I do because I am driven to help others succeed, particularly through tough times and change. No surprise, really, bearing in mind my personal experiences!
All of us ‘Top Bananas’ are equally passionate about what we do and continue to gain enormous satisfaction each time we make a difference. Running by the ethos of ‘rigid flexibility’ we are all totally committed to getting the best results for our clients which, I am sure, is why we are so successful.
Your blog was the inspiration behind the book, so tell us about the blog in its early stages.
Yes you’re right – it all started with the blog! It was just a few weeks since the evening I’d discovered the truth about my husband, and although I was putting on a brave face at the time, I was in emotional turmoil trying to make sense of the living nightmare that my life had suddenly become. I happened to meet a very wise lady (who has since become one of my closest friends) who had previously worked as a counselor, and who had also been married to a sociopath – both facts unknown to me at the start. She advised me to ‘just write it all out Mel. Don’t edit and don’t judge. Just write it out and eventually it will make sense’ – and so I did.
Rather than using paper and pen, I decided to keep an online diary. It was private. It was for me. And it was where I slowly learned to pour out the pain in my heart and soul. After a while I invited a few friends to read it – mainly just to help explain where I was at, rather than continually repeating the craziness of my situation.
So eventually I took the plunge and made the blog public, quickly attracting readers from around the world, and a continuing stream of encouraging messages as well!Their feedback came as a total surprise to me! Various people explained how, in different ways, my blog posts were helping them to make sense of stuff in their own life – and they encouraged me to share my writing with more people.
After being told time and time again that I should write a book about my experiences, I decided to take the plunge, and I’m Still Standing was born.
How difficult was it to relive your experiences through the blog and the book?
The blog was remarkably easy because it was talking about what was happening in the here and now. Each time I wrote, it was truly cathartic, because I was able to spill out exactly how I was feeling – and through writing it out and then re-reading later on, make more sense of what was happening. Exactly as my dear friend had originally promised!
Writing the book though, was a very different story. I knew that I would need to provide a solid explanation as to how I had come to start writing the blog. So that meant trawling back over childhood memories that I thought had been dealt with and accepted. Boy was I in for a surprise! The process of actually writing it out, and seeing the truth there in black and white stirred a maelstrom of deep and unexpected emotions. I can tell you, there were many times I would be typing furiously as the tears rolled freely down my cheeks.
Through it all, seeing it all there in front of me has provided a further healing process. It has helped me appreciate on an even deeper level how much my sister and I endured as we grew up – I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt hurt, and I felt grief. Over all though, I ended up feeling more love, compassion and appreciation for just how far my journey has taken me since those times.
Tell us about the feedback you have had from the blog.
It has been astonishing, which is why I eventually decided to write the book. These days I am receiving the most amazing feedback from people who have downloaded and read the book – rather than from the blog. Feedback that regularly brings me to tears!
Right from the beginning I set my intention that if my story could help just one other human being make sense of whatever troubles they were facing, then all my own traumas would have been worthwhile. It’s only been a short time since the eBook came out, and the paperback isn’t out until 1st April – yet I have already been overwhelmed by the personal emails as well as the reviews on Amazon. Just yesterday, for example, I received this message in my inbox:
I am reading your book at the moment and am so moved by it. You are an amazing lady to survive such a nightmare. Your story is giving me the courage and hope to get through my own personal issues. I thank you for writing your story.
Each time I receive words like this, I am warmed to my very soul. I feel deeply privileged to be able to help, and it’s true, it does make everything worthwhile.
What was your biggest high and low during the writing process?
Wow – there have been a few… of both! The biggest low? It was more of an on-going ache when going through the legalities of the publishing process – another story in itself. There were so many delays that at times I felt I was banging my head against a brick wall. But we got there in the end.
I think the biggest high of all has to be the moment when I actually held a copy of my book in my hands. It felt absolutely amazing! Seeing it and feeling it in print, flicking through the pages and smelling the ink was a completely difference experience from reading it on the screen. Suddenly it meant that everything was real, and I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears.
Why was it important to you to share your experiences?
Good question. There are two reasons. The original driver was because I simply had to find a way to make sense of the insane nightmare that had suddenly become my life – which was why I started the blog. As I began to share my soul-searching with others, I slowly came to realise that by explaining my own struggles I was somehow helping others. Eventually that became the overriding reason for writing my story out in a book – the idea that others would be able to identify with different parts of my experiences, and find ways to deal with their own troubles. In the process, of course, it helps me as well because it brings me huge joy to know that I’m making a difference.
What would you say if someone told you that we can only be better people if we have suffered pain?
I would say that’s a sad way of looking at things. First of all, whoever says we need to be ‘better’ in the first place? That, surely, is all part of the judgments we make on each other and ourselves, which only serves to diminish who we are as people. Why not learn to accept and be happy with who we are right here right now?
And no, I don’t believe that pain is a necessary gateway to happiness – there are plenty of people who are happy and contented without having suffered to get there! Having said that, I do also believe that any kind of difficulty can offer a new perspective on life – it’s up to us to choose what that perspective is going to be.
Me? I first chose strength, and then ultimately peace and love. My job now is to accept more of the wonderful stuff in to my life – what a fabulous challenge!
What is a normal day like for you?
To be honest, there’s no such thing as ‘a normal day’ for me at the moment as I seem to be entering in to a whole new world and I’m loving every moment of it! There are times; it’s true, when it feels a little scary, as I often don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. Then again, feeling scared is physically almost identical to feeling excited – it’s just the label we give to those movements inside that dictate whether we call it positive or negative. So I’m consciously excited about what is happening and thoroughly enjoying the process of moving through the unknown.
What is next for you?
I’m currently working on a follow-up book to I’m Still Standing as there is so much more that has happened since I finished the manuscript!
I’m also working on a business book based on my years of working with leaders in the corporate world. I am increasingly concerned that people are losing their voices in the workplace, and I’d like to continue my work sharing techniques to help others stand up and reclaim their power. I’ve seen too many cases where even senior managers feel helpless to take action when they know something is wrong. The reasons for this vary of course, but it seems to me that many of our businesses today are suffocating their people who are, after all, the lifeblood of any successful company!
What else is in store?
Well the fact is I simply don’t know, and that feels amazing! I’ve come to understand that life can shift in the blink of an eye, so I have stopped holding tightly on to plans or next steps. What I know for absolute certain, though, is that whatever happens next will certainly involve helping others, while continuing to learn and grow myself in the process.
I can happily say that I am loving my life right now, and I have a wonderful feeling that the adventure has only just begun…
Thank you for interviewing me!