In the beginning there was nothing, no book to speak of, except the one I had known was in me from as long ago my teenage years. Yes, that long ago.
I had written several pages of a semi-autobiographical comedy in the early 1990's, during the early months of my relationship with Steve. He took one look at my nascent offering before declaring: "No one really writes like that", and that was that. In six dismissive words Steve had taken a pin to my balloon of hope, and unknowingly burst my self-confidence for decades.
The responsibility for this is mine alone of course, because I allowed it. I allowed his words to influence me. I allowed his words to hollow me out, never daring to continue or start again. This makes me want to whack my younger self in the face with a copper-bottomed frying pan, to try and knock some sense into her. Why in God's name did I surrender my divine right to create, to someone who never read for pleasure? Steve wasn't a publisher, editor or writer, so who died and left him King Opinion?
The simple truth is, Steve's thoughtless words (which he later went on to deeply regret and apologise for profusely, when I eventually explained their impact) were convenient for me, on a strictly subconscious level. They gave me an excuse not to try, not to hatch out of my comfort zone, not to dare or risk failure and unfamiliarity. I chose instead to bury myself into helping create a business in Steve's name and vision, always in the background, and always the facilitator for someone else. Without any kind of spotlight shining on me, I was safe from scrutiny and criticism, and for a while that's what I needed more than anything.
My life up until this point in the early 1990's had been nothing less than a ferocious battle, by one definition or another. There were no days without drama, pain and/or palace intrigue. Meeting Steve, who is (or at least was) kind, gentle, thoughtful, sensitive and loving was exactly the healing influence I needed in my life at the time, to soothe my pugnacious soul and calm me down. He would later revel in teasing me, declaring himself the man who'd "tamed" me, like I'd been a wild beast beforehand. This was met with a deep and visceral sort of growl of disapproval [err...kinda validating his point?], and he continued to tease me regardless.
As I have lived in Franco Zeffirelli (biblical and epic) proportions, I have been repeatedly urged to write a book about my life. This only made me shriek back in horror at the thought of such a thing. I couldn't think of anything worse; except maybe Donald Trump in the White House, North Korea amassing nuclear weapons and V.I.Poo being an actual thing. So when all of those things came to pass after my life imploded most recently, my friend Hayley delivered the determining kick up the arse.
Picture it: somewhere in rural Northamptonshire in early December 2017. My kids are sound asleep in bed, as I sit chatting with Hayley on the phone, putting the world to rights. The subject comes round to Hayley being inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert, and specifically her new book Big Magic and subsequent podcasts. Hayley urges me to listen to the podcasts as quickly as I can because she found them hugely motivational and inspiring. She then urged me to start writing my book. "What book? What on earth would I write about?" I ask her. "Your life!" came her emphatic locked and loaded response. This instantly conjured up a mental picture of forty six War and Peace-esque weighty tomes in my mind, and the infinite time it would take me to complete such a task. I said I would think about it, but there was a suspicious pause Hayley's end.
Hayley must have intuited I wouldn't get around to buying Big Magic any time soon, because I am always running around like my hair's on fire, and have the memory capacity of a fruit fly during menopause. A couple of days after our chat, there was an intriguing thud on the doormat, which turned out to be my copy of Big Magic, gifted to me by my friend. What happened next I wouldn't have believed if it hadn't happened to me. The book grabbed me by the proverbials and wouldn't let go. If I had been holed up in a remote log cabin and free of all parental and work obligations, I would have easily finished the book in a day. I love Liz's warm and conversational style of writing, and her wisdom and insights are second to none. I was ensorcelled.
Unsurprisingly, Big Magic made a big impact on me. I finished reading on Christmas Eve 2017 and - because the children were otherwise engaged all day - I took my laptop out and started writing immediately. Within about an hour I'd written my first 1200 words, and the shape of the book was actively forming in my mind as I wrote. Thankfully, Hayley had also sent me a little notebook to write down my brain farts in real time, so as not to forget a single thought of value. I was typing and writing furiously. I was in my element and I felt alive and unstoppable. I could have written all day, but I would have exhausted myself and depleted my enthusiasm.
Although clueless about how my as-yet-untitled book would emerge, it began to take shape the minute I committed to action. The minute I started typing it became clear to me I had taken the "You should write a book about your life" encouragements way too literally. There was no need to write about the whole of my life, all forty-six years of it. There was no need for forty six War and Peace-esque weighty tomes. All I had to write about now was the past five years, which could easily serve as inspirational to others, if I wrote it well enough. Then, from out of nowhere, I experienced a vision before my mind's eye (which you can read about in the book), which went on to inform me of my book's title: Too Relieved To Grieve | The Alternative Heartbreak Handbook.
Boom! There it was, from out of nowhere. Where previously I'd had no earthly idea how or what I was going to write about, here was my mission. I was going to write about the disintegration of my marriage, the trials and travails that followed, and how I clawed back more than I lost. My story - I hoped - would serve others, by giving them the benefit of my god awful experiences. I want others to draw strength from what the children and I have been through, and to find inner steel of their own which will help them prevail too.
As a small business mentor and personal development life coach I frequently urge my clients to jump and watch the net appear, but here I was now experiencing this very phenomena for myself again. It works! Liz Gilbert had inspired me with her thoughts and theories about the nature of inspiration and who it works, and now I have seen it for myself. I urge you to do the same.
Too Relieved To Grieve was started on Sunday 24 December 2017 and completed (all bar the eternal editing process) today, Monday 18 June 2018. I had given myself the target deadline of completing in six months, and I came in under my time budget; which warrants a celebratory lunch out with the girls, obviously. Now to get published...