At the start of 2018, I set myself a word for the year ahead – that word was ‘balance’. After a year of poor health in 2017 I was determined to learn lessons about self-care, saying no to perfect and the balance between family life, ‘productivity’ and taking time to relax, recharge and rest. Making changes to some of my daily routines and rituals have helped keep a mindful focus on this intention. However, what I didn’t know was that the universe (or whatever else you’d like to call it), might send me another word all of its very own.
The word it seemed to send me was ‘opportunity’. This year has been marked by opportunities I didn’t seek out or chase down for myself. In a way, I suppose you might say I laid down the foundations for them. But to all intents they arrived unbidden and presented me with only choice.
The first of these was the opportunity to appear on BBC Radio Scotland. This happened after a researcher came across my blog and contacted me, asking if I’d like to appear. Not being very good at saying no I said yes – of course it was exciting. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous, anxious and ultimately also downright scared.
I was asked to appear again and this time join up from the local studio. What I didn’t realise was that this meant travelling from my remote location to an unmanned studio and getting the equipment on all by myself. This was a huge step out of my comfort zone – what if I couldn’t switch the thing on, get connected, or missed my slot and ruined it? In the end I took my parents along with me – if there a next time, I think I’ll be a little more able to be brave.
And then of course, there was the talking bit. What if I said something silly, offended someone, or just actually have a really dreadful voice? On both occasions I have thought my contributions have been awful. When I’ve listened to them back later (just the once, mind), it turns out they’ve not actually been quite as awful as I’d thought.
And next, there was the chance to attend a writing retreat. Again, this was an opportunity that presented itself quite unexpectedly on an ordinary afternoon. I popped onto Facebook and saw a post about a cancelled spot at the top of my news feed. Quite fortunate really as these days I don’t actually go onto Facebook very much.
Again, though, this prodded anxieties and long-held comfort zones. I wanted to go but felt fear over sharing a bedroom, reading unedited work aloud and generally, well, making myself exposed. Opportunities often have that annoying habit of making you feel vulnerable, don’t they? But sometimes, being vulnerable is what opens your eyes to the amazing things those opportunities can teach.
This year has also offered the opportunity to join a writer’s group. Again, that prompted familiar thoughts about sharing my work with others and opening up to feedback and critique. What I found there was support, encouragement and positivity. And the discovery that going to events alone isn’t quite as frightening as I might have thought.
So after all that fear and anxiety, what can opportunities teach us? Well, the thing about opportunities is that they can roll along gathering up ideas as they go. Watching women leading workshops at my writing retreat reminded me of my pre-children career in Training – the small thought that perhaps one day I could once again help people develop. Being in a recording studio made me think of my love for podcasts. Being in a writer’s group made me want to get that novel done. Being surrounded by women and writers has made me want to collaborate, encourage and inspire other people. Sometimes the tracks are being laid down in front of you. Sometimes you just have to decide whether to follow them or go another way.
Opportunities can be scary, but on balance, they are also endlessly rewarding.
Balance and opportunity. Two words, perhaps not as different as I thought.