Category Archives: On Where I’ve Come From & Where I’m Going

On Where I’ve Come From & Where I’m Going

What To Do When It’s Impossible To Park

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I’ve not felt like I’ve been very inspirational or motivational here lately, mostly because I’ve been struggling with finding inspiration and motivation for myself. Since being stirred up by compassion posts for #1000Speak, I’ve mostly floundered finding something meaningful to say. And my latest manuscript has been moulding.

But today I woke up feeling different to the new normal (partly due to the cold – winter is coming (and, on a tangent, DRAGONS – bring it on GoT! (Gosh it’s been a long time since I parenthesised in parentheses))… but partly something else). Still with me? Good.

I’ve been waiting for it – a turn, a switch, a flip. I knew it was coming. Week by week since The Return, I have felt better. There have been smiles & laughs amidst the crash landings; I’ve found my feet amongst old and new friends; I’ve taken up old and new tasks. There have been challenges around the setbacks – but overall, an upward curve that’s becoming a grin. Heartbreak’s a bitch, but what kind of writer could I be without being eviscerated once in a while? And if you’re never brought low, how will you know how good it is to fly high?

I have a million things to do, so I’ve been writing and re-writing lists rather than achieving much of any of them. I’ve fire-fought – dealing with the urgent tasks and letting the important-but-not-immediate ones slide into the next day’s list – Future-Sara’s issue. I have been kinder to myself when it comes to time and goals. And I have thanked my lucky stars for my friends and for my resilient sense of humour, which between them have softened several assaults on my recovering sunny nature with their sense of the ridiculous.

One wee issue I’ve been wrestling is my faithless steed, Imp Lannister. Many of you will know by now that, much like my love for people, my love for inanimate objects can know no bounds. Take Bella (“I neglected to realise that while living in her would be a dream, getting anywhere would be a nightmare”), Enid (“Life always throws a herd of cows in your way when you want to get somewhere”) & Nicki (“A teddy bear can be so much more than a possession”), for example.

I adore The Imp, and it breaks my heart that he’s on his way out. But I still have him on the road at the moment. And the roads are busy. It’s often a nightmare finding somewhere to park – sometimes plain impossible.

Life can be like finding a parking space. A massive pain. You can sometimes be over-ambitious or under-discerning, attempting to fit into a gap where you just won’t fit, whether due to the lack of space, your lack of spatial awareness, or your pure inability to parallel park. This can lead, at best, to jokes, jeers and jibes, at worst, to bumps, bruises and insurance claims.

You can find yourself circling the same spot, the same taken spaces, close to your destination, hoping for an opening, feeling frustrated. You can curse those who take the places you were aiming for, nipping in before you.

Or… you can go a bit farther afield and make peace with a longer walk to where you want to be. You can practise patience. You can understand that if you don’t give up, you’ll find somewhere eventually.

At the beginning of the year, I was turning in frustrated circles, cursing people stealing my parking spaces but obstinately refusing to change tack and make life easier for myself. I was wasting time. Now, I’ve realised I needed to keep driving. I’ve woken up more willing to walk a little to make it work. Even uphill.

Anyhow, in a week, I’m moving into town from the ranch, where I will retire my wheels and learn to use my legs again (Yes. I am moving. Again.). Life is a lot like walking – but that’s a story for another day…

Who hates parking? Who has felt that turn – that twist that’s like coming back to Spring?

Homecoming

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Time’s rushing by like a river. There was a hard frost on the ground this morning. I’ve been busy with work and busy with play and busy chasing hopes and dreams in between, so I hadn’t noticed winter creeping up around the edges. I was hanging suspended for a while, swaying, not sure which way to go, but you’ll be happy to know I’ve thrown up some threads and started to weave a web again. I feel steadier, less raw, less exposed – a little frost won’t hurt me now. I’ve been distracted, but there can be delight in distraction – it shows you paths you might not have seen when you were single-minded. You can come back to yourself and find a little purpose. And in the meantime, I po’ed an em.

 

Homecoming

Nothing to reproach

Sunlight sparkling on a crystal lake

Mountains folding you in a rocky embrace

And clouds floating by their greeting

You were gone too long

Don’t go away again

Everyone leaves

That’s what they say

But if you come back

The streets will welcome you

New faces will become old friends

Just show yours

Take the roads you used to ride

Gently pluck the threads

See, they resonate like musical strings

The past becomes a story

A song

The future an open book

A symphony

 

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Survival Of The Christmas

Christmas Lobster

Giant Lobster, Kingston SE, SA

I’m on another festive road-trip, this year OZ rather than NZ. Christmas is such a great time to take a holiday – and while I’d love to be tucked at home with family and friends in the UK, amidst cosy jumpers and twinkling trees, I also love the utter freedom of constant movement and the excitement of seeing brand new things every day. Especially the sunshine. And my year wouldn’t have been complete without Sunday’s giant lobster on the roadside.

Christmas, nestled as it is before the end of one year and the start of another, often seems a time to compare. Compare life now to this time last year; compare location, occupation, partners, possessions; compare life’s pros and cons, what’s been gained and what’s been lost.

Our first night camping, what was lost was mainly sleep. Having been sweltering over in South Australia, we took a selection of sheets but decided sleeping bags would be surplus. Wrong. The tent, positioned as it was in the centre of a vortex, winds tearing around out of nowhere, was freezing. And I hadn’t even brought layers of clothing that could ease the situation.

Last night, we recovered in a motel. Whenever I stay in a motel I feel like I’m in an episode of the X-files. But there are no aliens here. Maybe just ghosts. I’m followed around by the ghost of last year’s Christmas road-trip, which I was lucky enough to enjoy with ex-partner-in-crime. I miss him like crazy. And last week, I went to see my friend Kade’s family on the Gold Coast. Not so much earlier than this time last year, partner-in-crime and I were over there for his funeral, and I’d not been back since.

Bad stuff has happened this year – stuff I’d rather hadn’t. But it’s not ever, nowhere near, the same as really losing someone. When someone dies, it doesn’t end. It’s never over. They’re gone forever. And every Christmas, every birthday, every holiday – they bring a peak in the ever-present pain for those who were closest. Seeing everyone left behind there, wishing my friend was still around, wishing it was possible to save each person from their grief… Those are Christmas wishes that could never be granted.

But such things are utterly out of our control. They can only be suffered and survived. And where there is unending grief, friends can only be supportive. Be present. Be there.

Not so with everything. Yesterday we acquired sleeping bags so we wouldn’t have another disastrous night of cold cramps. There are certainly things in our lives that go wrong that we can learn from and correct. Some things lost can be found again. I can think of several situations a tad more dire than lack of camping equipment that, with a little motivation, I can sort out next year.

Have a ridiculous holiday. Frolic until you’re famished and feast until you’re full. But spare a thought for those without. Those without the ones who would have made their Christmas complete. My heart goes out to you if you’re one of them. And if there’s anything distressing in your life that you know is fixable, that would make life merrier in 2015 if fixed, then make the resolution to address it. We owe it to ourselves – we who are lucky enough to have a full and fantastic life to live.

In A Parallel World…

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf Bay

David Tennant with Billie Piper, Dr Who, Season 2, Episode 13

Doctor Who, Season 2, Episode 13. I woke up this morning, put on the TV while I pottered around the flat tidying up, and that’s what came on.

For non-hardcore fans, or people who aren’t fans at all (baffled face), this is the episode where Dr Who (David Tennant) is separated from his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). They are torn apart into parallel worlds through a series of events where – look, just watch the episode. But first watch all the preceding episodes so the pain of this parting isn’t lost on you.

Why has this sparked a post? Well, along with making me cry, seeing this episode again made me think.

There’s a theory that for every decision every person makes, the universe is splintered into an infinite number of parallel worlds living the realities where a different decision was made and/or a different outcome experienced.

It can be as small as thinking that, in a parallel world, this particular episode wasn’t on when I turned on the TV, which probably meant I didn’t write this particular post. It can be as large as thinking, in a parallel world, the Nazis won the war. For an infinite number of moments, an infinite number of possibilities.

In a parallel world, the alien horde didn’t pass us by last week and instead decided we were worth invading. You get the idea.

I might easily not have turned the TV on at all this morning. I don’t normally. I haven’t lived somewhere with a TV since I left London (when, funnily enough, David Tennant was still the Doctor). I wouldn’t be here in Adelaide if I hadn’t been broken up with in Queenstown. What if that hadn’t happened? I spend a lot of time wanting to go back to how it was or how it might have been, wanting it to be different. But it’s not – not in this particular world.

But, overall, I like this particular world. I’ve had the chance to travel all over it; I make a living doing a job I enjoy; I have wonderful friends; I can go wherever I want. I’m free. If I hadn’t quit my job working as an accounting professional for Ernst & Young three and a half years ago, where would I be now? Who would I be? I might never have met previous partner-in-crime at all, and we had three amazing years together with a forever of friendship to come. I might never have started my business, Right Ink On The Wall, which I love and which grows as I grow. I might never have published my book, The Night Butterflies, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

So, instead of mourning what could have been and decisions that might have been different, I’m going to focus on what could happen now, what could happen next, now this new world of infinite possibilities has opened up in this of all possible worlds. Who knows what could happen tomorrow? Or the next day? It could be beyond amazing. Given the choice in five or ten years’ time, I might decide I would never have wanted to miss it. So it’s a good job I’m here.

What parallel life could you be living?  Would you go back and change something big, if you could?

On a completely related note, I adore David Tennant. If I could have changed anything about the moment I met him, when he was filming for Einstein & Eddington at my college in Cambridge, it would be not turning into the epic failure of a fan girl who couldn’t utter an intelligent word in his presence (can you tell from my smile?!). Oh, and I would have done my hair that day.

David Tennant and Sara Litchfield

David Tennant with Sara Litchfield, St John’s College, Cambridge, May 2007

30 Observations On Turning 30

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Last week, it was my birthday. And I wasn’t where I’d planned to be, because I was no longer with whom I’d planned to be with (hence hopping over the water for a while). But the best of it was made for me, with a handmade surprise mad hatter’s birthday breakfast tea party (just amazing – pics below!) and then a trip to a beautiful winery for a delicious, long lunch with much wine. My friend here has taken cheering me to heart and single-handedly saved what otherwise could have been a day of sorrowing. I also received several touching presents and cards that lifted my heart.

I’ve never been down around my birthday. I love to celebrate, and a number’s just a number after all! When I think of some of the things that have happened by the time I’ve turned this one: releasing myself from an occupation of reluctant accounting, starting my own business, travelling the world, publishing my own book, meeting the people I’ve met and seeing the sights that I’ve seen – I can say I’m happy with how I’ve got here.

So, to celebrate having turned thirty, here’s a list of thirty observations I’ve had upon doing so, in the order that they came to me.

1. Who doesn’t love a list?

2. Don’t heed the snake within (& that’s a sneak peek quote from my current NaNoWriMo work in progress, fantasy novel Luminosa).

3. If it is at all possible, find something in any given situation to laugh at.

4. It’s always tea time.

5. ‘Tis better to catch on late than never.

6. Smile at everyone and see what happens.

7. Patience is a virtue, but the really, really hard-to-find kind.

8. No matter how low you feel, someone’s suffering more in Game of Thrones.

9. Persevere.

10. See beauty everywhere you look.

11. I love books. But I can appreciate the Kindle.

12. Friends are treasures; guard them.

13. If something’s not okay, try and try and try to make it better.

14. It is better to love.

15. Never take a good shower for granted.

16. Be bold.

17. You can move all over the place, but it’s where you’re at inside that matters.

18. Say what you think; sometimes you’ll be surprised at the support from unexpected corners.

19. If you can’t help but lose something, remember it fondly.

20. People are kind.

21. Sending & receiving postal love changes the value of a stamp into something priceless.

22. Thirty years is a long time (I never said they’d all be meaningful).

23. Keep having adventures.

24. You can’t control what you can’t control. But you can control your occupation, your location and your outlook on life.

25. Regret as little as possible.

26. If something ain’t sitting right, alter it.

27. It’s possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days, whatever else is going on.

28. You might not know what’s next, but there’s probably something good involved.

29. Anything is possible.

30. Be you.

How do you feel about birthdays? Raise a glass with me and be merry, if you haven’t already. There’s nothing wrong with getting older and wiser. 

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Off with their heads!

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Mad hat

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Drink me

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Eat me

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Down the rabbit hole

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Cheshire Cat

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Curiouser and curiouser

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Open me

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Welcome to Wonderland

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Six impossible things before breakfast

Queenstown, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Plane

Fly away from Queenstown and you leave this view behind you…

Friends and neighbours, sorry for my silence. I’ve been up and down, round and round… And now I’m in South Australia. Adelaide to be precise. It’s transpired that I’m going to be here for the rest of the year. I came via two other states. In Victoria I stopped in Melbourne, where I gained two hours, then I headed to Western Australia and spent a few halcyon days in Perth, where I gained three more (though my good friend’s 30th birthday celebrations may have stolen a few years of my life). I then hopped down to Adelaide via Melbourne, where I lost three hours but then managed to claw back a measly half. In summary, I’m quite confused. I’m not entirely sure what the real time or date is. But I do know where and who I am.

I also know what I am. I am no longer even a part-time reluctant accountant. I am fully freelance. I am a published author and managing director of my own book editing business. I am a wandering writer and renegade rover of this oyster of a world we live in. I didn’t choose to be cut adrift. But we can only make choices when it comes to what we can control. When it comes to ourselves. Our location, our occupation, our outlook on life and love, lost and otherwise. We can choose not to be beaten, not to be broken, whatever happens. We can choose to bounce back.

Of course, when we’re coming back from being knocked down, it helps to have friends, all around the globe, offering their support and inviting you into their homes. When you’ve lost your own, someone else’s home can be a sanctuary. And that’s how I come to be here, in the beautiful eleventh floor pad of an apartment block in the centre of Adelaide, with a balcony looking east out onto the hills and showcasing the sunrise, fitness facilities shared with the Crowne Plaza next door, and incomparable company.

I know what I’m doing here. I’m writing my second novel (here we go again, National Novel Writing Month!). I’m convalescing. I’m seeing old friends and new places. I’m firing up to gain more business. And I’m becoming even more who I want to be – just in time to turn thirty come Sunday (twitch, twitch).

So I said so long to Queenstown, but it won’t go anywhere, and I’ll be back. It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the world, where I’ve had the time of my life with some of the best people I’ve ever met. I went on a wee pilgrimage before I left to take shots of some of its highlights away with me. I’ve included just a few of these below.

Have you ever left somewhere with a heavy heart? Did you ever go back? Carrying a heavy heart is like flying with excess baggage – expensive and frustrating. I’m terrible at packing, but I’m aiming to reorganise things and travel lightly into the future.

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Rum Curries

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Lake Wakatipu

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Basket of Dreams, Queenstown Hill

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Lake Hayes

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Queenstown Hill Summit

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Bob’s Cove

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Glenorchy Road

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Macetown

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Arrowtown to Macetown Track

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12 Mile Delta

***

Have you read The Night Butterflies? Grab your copy here! Would you recommend it? Support your friendly indie authors – leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads 🙂

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Don’t Get Too Comfortable

BUNNY

(c) 2014 NKW-Illustration. All rights reserved.

Life happens and, unfortunately, it’s not all springtime and rainbows. There are storms. The wind can be taken out of your sails, the bunny slippers stolen from your feet. Just when you think you couldn’t be happier, just when you think you’re safe.

But not being in a perpetual state of comfort is not a bad thing. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that life has rough edges and sharp corners, and it can’t always be controlled. This should engender a healthy respect for life; it should foster a feeling that nothing and no one should be taken for granted.

While I obviously never wish anyone to come to harm, I’m glad I don’t live a charmed life. I wouldn’t have anything to write about. On which note, I need to let you know that the countdown is almost over! Scarf-gate has been resolved. The battle is won and my first book, The Night Butterflies, is forthcoming!

 ….

I stopped writing there last night. Usually, I write a post all in one go and hit publish. But there was something I wanted to say, and I couldn’t quite say it. Then I read this post this morning by Gunmetal Geisha, You Probably Think This Post Is About You. Needless to say, I did. The messages in it are exactly what I wanted to share.

Don’t get too comfortable – because all your comfort can come to an end in a heartbeat. But enjoy the discomfort of uncertainty. Embrace every minute, every hour. Enjoy. Laugh. Love. I’d rather live an uncomfortable life – one of highs and lows, triumphs and defeats – than one lived in a single, steady trough, no dips, no peaks.

The Geisha says, ‘I’d like to think people are subject to the same amount of rejecting and rejection. But there are those who proclaim they’ve never been rejected. Good for them, I say, until it turns out they are the same people who say they don’t know what it feels like to be in love. Here’s what it feels like:  Opening your chest like a coat and letting in sunlight.  Naturally, you’re then open for the cold elements and letdown too. So it makes sense for a person all bundled in a safe, zipped-up chest not to feel either rejection or being in love. For myself, I choose to walk coatless.’

And so do I. As I ended up commenting: When someone is the sunshine, when it’s they who makes your day, every day, and suddenly the thing they want to change about their life is seeing You every day – that hurts. It makes a hole. It feels horrible and bitter and, while you’re still utterly in love, utterly immersed in someone else, their rejection of you makes you feel less and less in love with yourself, makes you feel less, full-stop. If the person you placed at the centre of your universe can’t love you, how will you find love?

But I’d rather walk through this world with coat cast off and feel like this right now than never know love in the first place. I’d rather be uncomfortable and cold sometimes – then know what it feels like to be warm again.

Do you walk through this world coatless? If you don’t, try unbuttoning it. There is nothing like the feeling of warmth on your skin, of love in your heart. 

Sara Wars: The Night Butterflies Vs BL-1 Dark Blue White X-Large 1-Piece Pattern Prayer Muslim Hijab Head Cover Scarf

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 7.39.11 PMYou may remember I shouted out a short while ago that my first novel, The Night Butterflies, was coming out – I wasn’t messing with you, it’s on its way. In fact, it should be out already, causing all kinds of havoc.

This post is about patience. Patience is a close cousin to frustration. There have been all sorts of roadblocks to this book. I’ve been navigating the seas of self-publishing as a greenhorn, one unused to the trials of the ocean, and one, moreover, beset by seasickness.

I’m planning a pamphlet on my story – something like, ‘A walk in the jungle: My path to publication’ – it really is an Amazon rainforest out there. You need a guide. Something to repel the creepy crawlies. And, preferably, someone to carry your luggage.

Despite the delays – the tigers, the sharks, the snakes, the storms – I reached the point where my title was to be sent to a printer for a short run and uploaded to Amazon Createspace for Kindle / print-on-demand simultaneously. It’s also going to Smashwords, so it’ll be available on any/all e-readers. Everything is ready – I’m ready. This is supposed to be the delicious distraction away from all things breakup. This and Instagram (damn, I love Instagram).

But, upon upload, I received a notification that my paperback ISBN (the unique global book reference assigned to your title by the national library of your country of residence) clashes with another title at Amazon. I followed up, because, well, it’s in the nature of an ISBN that it shouldn’t clash with anything. But it turns out that it clashes with a head scarf.

As this shouldn’t happen (it’s pretty much like winning the anti-lottery – they say at Amazon this hasn’t come up before), I figured it would be fixed in a day. But I’ve been liaising with CreateSpace, Amazon Customer Service, Amazon Author Services and Amazon Selling Support for coming up a week. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I’ve spoken to has been lovely. But I would *really* like to release my book now.

Your ISBN goes on your back cover and on the copyright page in the front of your book. It is used to make the barcode for the back of the book. It is used to register your book in databases around the world. It is how you track your sales. Having had my covers created, my barcodes bought, my interior formatted and my registrations made – at cost – I’m not keen to push my timescales even further, pay to perform all of this again, and have to request another ISBN when the one I have is valid.

The scarf is not listed on Amazon as a book, though I have found it on bookfinder.com listed as a title, which it shouldn’t be – because it is not a book. I’m hoping that Amazon can find a way to change its referencing so that it no longer has an ISBN associated with it and no longer clashes with my Night Butterflies, which I’m sure the world is waiting to read!

In the meantime, I’m practising patience. Does anyone have any tips?!

The Wonder Of Wedding

1527140_10101012401072300_6781860170984257039_nLove is patient, love is kind…

Apologies for my absence, friends and neighbours. I’ve heard tell that the last month has flown by as though only a fortnight – it certainly has for me – and that must stand my excuse.

So much has happened in that time, including an other-worldly amount of transit, which I won’t go into, for fear of frightening you with the violence of my language.

Suffice to say, I’ve been around the world, it feels ten times over. I visited Singapore & went home to England, trekked up to Scotland, over to Wales, and even hopped across to Italy – all to bask in family, friendship and catchups – I’d not been back that way in two years.

But the highlight – that was a wedding. Today, back on kiwi soil, I’d like to tell you a love story.

You may remember, in the michaelmas of 2004, I went up to Cambridge to read theology. There I met a crowd of A-Staircase folk in my fresher’s term with whom I became fast friends. One wee group of us became referred to in and amongst ourselves as the bunnies.

Two of these bunnies, both studying history, both musically talented, both the most loyal and lovely of people, fell in love. There was laughter, joy, tea and cake (gatherings galore in Juliet’s room), and, of course, as life often holds, some tears (I once dropped Jonny’s birthday cake in the courtyard and cried). But, together, we flourished.

There was nothing quite like coming back together ten years on, convening where it all began and heading to the chapel to see these two bunnies take their vows.

Vows are a solemn affair, but life is full of lightness, and that was the overriding emphasis I took from the day. The world can be cruel, but it is worthwhile. Life can be spiteful, but it can be beautiful. It’s proven when two worthy people find their soul mate in each other and discover the happiness inherent in their togetherness.

I am not religious, but coming together to celebrate faith, hope and love for my friends and between my friends was certainly an experience to lift the spirit. I hope everyone experiences this kind of wonder.

Perhaps you may find this a strange post for me to write right now when I tell you my own love may be lost; when I tell you my days coming back are a little dark and lonely at the moment; that sometimes I feel as though everything’s a bit hopeless, especially when I see the news.

But I have been in the presence of energy, light and liveliness. I’ve held delight, loved it, appreciated it, not taken it for granted for one moment. Life one day will be wholly good again and I have no regrets.

I have seen love; I have known it. It is better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all, don’t you agree? At the same time, I’m happy to dance for those whose love everlasts. The important thing is that there is love in the world – it’s a wonder the way we can come together. In defiance of all the bad.

Jonny & Juliet – thank you for the inspiration your love and union brings. Thank you for making me dance with joy. May your dance last forever.

Five Things You Learn When You Could Have Died

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A cut in time

Of terror

Of rash worries

Mattering no more

Of crushing glass

Losing balance

Losing ground

Never coming to stillness

Smashing metal

A crash on crash

Pieces lost

Of broken cries

Of what went wrong

Hurtling to a halt

But coming to rest

In life

(c) 2014 Sara Litchfield

A couple of weeks ago, the above happened. It knocked me sideways, quite literally. But I’m okay. I’m grateful that, despite careering out of control on sheet ice for over a hundred metres: I didn’t hit the stone post; someone close came running to untrap me within ten minutes; I didn’t hit my head too hard while my toasted car rolled twice over; ACC covered my ambulance & hospital costs. And I learnt some stuff:

1. The top 5 things you stress about on your way to work are probably not important in the grand scheme of things.

2. All things are replaceable, except people.

3. Seat belts save lives.

4. Neighbours are kind.

5. Any day could be your last.

Are you stressed? Take a moment, look around – you’re alive. Be happy to be so – however much there is to do, at least you’re here to do it 🙂