The arrival of my book and an illustrated rant on not being heard

So… I just wanted to quickly show my face on this blog – so you guys know I’m still here and haven’t been swallowed up by a sink-hole.

As many of you already know… my book is now printed (wooo-hoooooo!!!)… and all of my time has been spent on preparing backer’s packs and slowly (but surely) getting copies of the book out to every person who funded my crowdfunding, book-printing campaign.

Preparing the backer's packs...

Preparing the backer’s packs…

If you want to be kept in the loop about how to buy a book (regardless of whether you’re in South Africa or anywhere else in the world)… just drop an e-mail to tracy@themadhat.co.za (she’s my Admin-Queen… she’s good with money… she remembers to post things… she remembers to return phone-calls and e-mails!!).

I’ll do a *proper* book launch thingy (both physically and online)… ONLY after I’ve sent all the bits ‘n pieces to my backer-peeps.

I’m also working like a fiend on getting the new website up… because – it’s kinda silly (and typically shortsighted) of me to be sending out books – which advertise a website – that actually doesn’t EXIST yet!

Once the website is done… I’m going to transfer this blog to that site (it doesn’t really affect you guys – because even if you type in the old “live against the flow” URL – it will automatically plonk you on my new site).

So… *THAT* stuff… (plus renovating our house – again – and preparing it for Air B’nB)… and kids, and life, and birthday parties… is why I’ve been a bit scarce.

Anyhoo… here’s a little cartoon that I scribbled-up a while ago.

I drew it after a conversation with a woman I met in Durban who “heard” something entirely different to what I was actually trying to say.   Perhaps – there’s some of you can relate with this?

SnapseedSnapseed (1)Snapseed (2)Snapseed (3)Snapseed (4)

Anyhoo… there’s a whole LOAD of stuff that the Ranty part of my personality would like to say on the matter…  but… I’m not really in the mood for an argument with anybody – so I’ll just leave you with this last little scribble-thought of mine:

Snapseed (5)

Laters…

And remember – if you want to e-mail me for whatever reason… or ask about the book… or what-not – my e-mail is:  heather@themadhat.co.za

H x

Everyone’s questions answered (plus… I am *almost* cracking open the champagne!)

Hi, lovely peeps!

I’m writing from our rented apartment – here in Noordhoek, Cape Town.  I’ve been a bit scarce of late (on Facebook, blogs, whatever…) because I have been hunkering down and focusing on the book (and long-term followers of this blog will know that “FOCUS” is definitely not one of my natural strengths!)…

Firstly – here’s my amazing news:  My book is finished!

Well… *almost*… finished (see the FAQ responses below for a more detailed explanation).

(**I can visualise my sister rolling her eyes while reading this**)…

Of course – I’m not *quite* ready for the big champagne-on-the-beach celebration… but that is just a few days away.  In the meantime – I am celebrating this *HUGE* personal milestone of *FINALLY!!!!* finishing something that I have been dreaming about for many… (many!!!)… many…. years.

I have been getting a few questions in the mail and on social media… so here – in FAQ format – are my responses… so – hopefully we’re all on the same page… and (hopefully) I’m not confusing anyone…


SO – IS THE BOOK FINISHED YET?

Ummm.  Almost? 

Yes – yes… I’ve been saying “almost” for months.  But I kept adding pages… and extra bits of stories… and more illustrations… but now I’m finished adding things.   The core of the book – the story itself – actually *is* finished.  And that – let me tell you – was a HUGE personal milestone for me. When I finished it… I actually uttered these words in disbelief:  “Omigosh.  I’ve just finished it.  I can’t believe I’ve actually finished it!”…

I still need to complete the “About Hat” page… and the “Coming Soon” page… and there’s just a few other bits and pieces I want to fiddle with.  But the CORE… the poem… the story itself… is (miraculously) finished!


I’M NOT SURE THAT ANSWERS MY QUESTION.

Okay.  It will be finished-finished next week.  When I write “finished-finished”… I mean that all the extra stuff has been done too.  All the “about” pages are finished, the cover is finished, the barcodes added, the scans completed, the images placed, the PDF-print-ready file uploaded to the printer server – and the printing company paid in full.

When *THAT* moment happens…

…the finished-finished moment…

…there will be a big fat celebration… champagne on the beach… and (I suspect) – tears of relief and joy.  I will blog about the finished-finished moment when it happens.  Depending on the scanning process and some other technical issues… it will take between 10 days and 2 weeks to be “finished-finished”.


DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE IN 2 WEEKS?

No.  It means that the book will be completely out of my hands in 2 weeks.

It means that *my* creation process is finished-finished… but the book itself wont’ be finished-finished.


UH… COME AGAIN?

It will be in the hands of Paarl Printers.  They will take about 3 weeks to manufacture the books.


WHY HAS IT TAKEN YOU SO LONG TO FINISH THIS BOOK?

I could write a long, long post about the journey that this book has taken me on.  In every way – it has been a journey.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, creatively… I don’t think I’ve ever done anything so (personally) challenging.

Sure, I’ve thrown myself into the deep-end with big, challenging projects in the past.  Projects like Tapestry of Dreams… and VENT!… but those projects were not *personal* projects.  They were about other people… other organisations… other causes…

This is the first time I’ve been very deliberately chasing a very personal dream of mine.  I’ve had this dream since I was a child… a young “Hat”:  the dream to write and illustrate a book.  A part of me is finding it hard to believe that I’ve actually achieved this goal.  I think there was a big part of me that just said:  “Yeah, yeah… whatever!  You and your stupid big-dreams.  You never finish them, anyway.  It’s all talk and no action.  Get real!  This will never get done”...

So… there’s the emotional roller-coster (and the epic inner-fights with self-doubt) that have slowed me down…

But… mostly… the perfectionism.

You know how my crowdfunding campaign said that it was a 64-page illustrated book?  Well – it’s now 80 pages!  It grew!!  (I couldn’t help myself!)…

There’s loads more I could write about this process… this journey… (but I’ll leave all of that for another time)…


YOU DIDN’T MEET THE FUNDRAISING GOALS ON YOUR CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN – AND NOW, YOU’RE BOOK HAS GAINED AN EXTRA 11 PAGES WHICH WILL CREATE EXTRA COSTS.  DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH MONEY FOR ALL THIS?

Yes.  The crowdfunding campaign raised *just* enough money for us to be able to print the 64-page version of the book… and – (with divinely perfect timing)… I was recently paid for a whole bunch of illustrations that I did for a large corporation in November / December last year.

I wrote a whinge-post about that job here.

As it turns out – everything has worked out beautifully… (and now – I’m so grateful I worked on those illustrations – in spite of how much I hated it at the time).

I have the money to pay for the printing, the backer’s packs… and the postage costs (of sending the backpacks all over the world).

Which is… of course… a *HUGE* relief!


SO – WHAT HAPPENS ONCE YOU GET THE BOOKS BACK FROM THE PRINTER?

Our TOP priority – and very first order of business… is to get the books (and all the promised extras) to the crowdfunding backers.

We have already purchased all the padded envelopes.  Tracy has already prepared postage lables.

Once our supporters and pre-order folk all have THEIR copies…

*THEN* we will officially launch the book and sell copies to the general public.


IS IT TOO LATE TO PRE-ORDER A COPY?

No.  $25 USD will get you a signed, first-edition copy… posted to your door (wherever you are in the world).  You can put the money in my Paypal account (Paypal email is:  heather@beautifullifeproject.com) – and then drop me an e-mail at the same address and give me your postal details.  And you’ll be added to the special backers & pre-orders list.

There’s a deadline for this, though.  Pre-orders close on the 11th September.


REMIND ME AGAIN ABOUT THE CHILDREN’S VERSION OF THE BOOK…?

To remind everyone… this first book… “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”… was not originally intended as a children’s book.

There are some difficult themes that I cover in my book (low self-esteem, eating disorders, self-abuse, etc)… and some of that may not be appropriate for smaller children.

That being said… I think teens will enjoy it – and – of course – all the grown-up creative creatures should be able to resonate with all sorts of stuff in there too.

My kids (aged 7 and 9) love it.  But then again – they are *my* kids – and they LOVE listening to “Mommy’s Story”.

I WILL create a *lite*, children’s version of this book (without all the very dark stuff)… but I wanted to tell this full, real, raw version of the story FIRST.  Partly – because it’s something that *I* need to do (in a personal sense)… but also… because I think it lays a solid foundation from which to build all kinds of other projects and ideas (including the kid’s version).


WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO BE KEPT UPDATED WITH THE PROGRESS OF THIS PROJECT?

Here’s a link for that:  http://eepurl.com/bftIfn


So – I hope that answers everyone’s questions.

If you have any other questions – please feel free to pop me a mail… or comment on this post – or whatever.

Have a lovely day, peeps!  X

Stuff I learned about myself (and you) while crowdfunding

So – the grand ol’ crowdfunding campaign to help me raise money to print my book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” is now (thankfully)… over.

Those of you who are bone-tired of hearing me harp on about the crowdfunding can now heave a sign of relief.  No more e-mail bombarding and pleading Facebook posts… it’s over.  It’s done.

My crowdfunding goal was to raise $5000… and we managed to raise $3981… just-just short of $4000 and 80% of our goal.

81 people contributed… with backers from South Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, Poland… and even Estonia, Norway and Peru.

$3981 is enough… yes… to PRINT the book! (woo-hoooo!!!)  And come hell or high water… I’ll make sure we find the outstanding amount so that every backer (wherever they are in the world) will receive their books (and gratitude-goodies) posted to them as soon as the copies come off the press.

So – in a nutshell – the crowdfunding campaign was necessary… and I’m glad we did it!

But… it was NOT easy for me.

And I am glad-glad-glad-GLAD that it’s over!

In fact – I feel an enormous sense of relief… now that it’s done!

Me & Tracy.  Tracy - by the way - is the "Andrew" I was searching for a while back.  She has been an invaluable support... in ways too numerous to mention.

Here’s a nice photo of Tracy & I (taken by my friend, Tracey Kelsey). Tracy – by the way – is the “Andrew” I was searching for a while back. She has been an invaluable support… in ways too numerous to mention.

Here’s what I learned about myself during the last 40 days of crowd-funding:

1.  I REALLY DON’T LIKE CROWDFUNDING (or ANY kind of fundraising for that matter). 

Well.  Okay.  I knew that from the get-go – but now I really-REALLY know.  I hate asking for anything… and especially help… and especially-especially money.  It goes against every inch of Patterson-Pride that lurks in my DNA (I think my dad – for example – would rather gnaw off his own digits – than… ever *ASK* – perish the thought! – somebody for help or money).

So it was VERY hard for me to ask for people to… y’know… *give* me…. y’know… actual… y’knowMONEY to support this campaign.  I felt like a beggar for 40 days.  It wasn’t fun.

…but, to my credit:

2.  WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE – I’M A DOER… NOT A SIT-ON-MY-BUM-AND-HOPE’R…

When I launched this crowdfunding campaign… I made a decision that – regardless how hard and difficult it was to ask… I would force myself to do it anyway.  I would actively campaign… I would *DO* what needed to be done… and I would not just sit passively – waiting for funds to magically materialise in my bank account… waiting for Oprah to call… waiting for a giant hand to descend from the Heavenlies bearing a huge wad of cash – garnished with a velvet bow.

I would not *wait*… I would *do*.

So… DO is what we did.  Tracy and I had regular meetings and updates.  There was endless Face-booking, e-mailing and newsletter’ing… we even pulled together a last minute Songs & Stories evening in a last-ditch attempt to raise the remainder of the funds…

At the end of it all (even though we didn’t meet the goal)… I told Tracy that I still felt a certain sense of accomplishment… because I had done-my-part.  I hadn’t been passive.  I had been very pro-active… and that felt like a nice, healthy little self-esteem boost.  Noddy-badge for me.

3. CROWDFUNDING IRRITATES AND AMPLIFIES MY *ISSUES*…

Those who have stuck around on this blog for a while… will already know that I have… uh… *issues*...

We ALL have issues (obviously)… but the effect that crowdfunding had on me – was like putting an allergy-prone person in a small, musty room… surrounded by bales of cat-hair and buckets of pollen.  I itched… I scratched… my eyes watered… I broke out in a What-Will-People-Think-or-Say-about-Me rash… every day!

I ruminated obsessively too.

I lay awake at night and pondered my fate:

  • “Nobody’s gonna fund this book…”
  • “I’m just pissing people off with all this nagging and begging”…
  • “Nobody cares about my crazy dream“…
  • “I’m not a REAL artist”…
  • “By the end of these 40 days, my blog followers will ALL have left… because they’ll be bone-tired of my neediness and begging!”

Blah-blah…. (I’ve already chatted a lot about these ruminations and inner ramblings quite a bit – so I won’t go into TOO much detail here)…

I wish I was one of those confident people who have the ability to market themselves without cringing, squirming and awkward-moment’ing with clockwork-regular melt-downs of insecure rantings (whilst finding solace in jars of Nutella and late-night-oily-popcorn)…  but – yes, well… sadly, not.

Hence… I am GLAD it’s over – and hopefully I can now return to some semblance of rational-human-behaviour.

(Pity my poor long-suffering husband).

And now … (*drum-roll*)… here’s what crowdfunding taught me about YOU (as in:  The-People-Out-There on the other side of this computer screen):

1. THERE ARE LOADS OF FLIPPIN’ AWESOME, GENEROUS PEOPLE OUT THERE!!!

Apart from the 81 kind souls who contributed financially… I have found myself wonderfully overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and the words of support and encouragement… from SO MANY people.  Lots of kind folk shared my campaign on social media (even if they weren’t able to financially contribute).  Others sent e-mails of support and encouragement.

Seriously… (and I know I tend to be a bleeding-heart idealist)… but I absolutely DO believe that the majority of people out there in the world are GOOD people.  GENEROUS people.  KIND people.

NOT mean-hearted, mean-spirited selfish people.

And the knowledge of this fills me with hope and happiness.

2.  EVERY TIME I MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PEOPLE – I TURN OUT TO BE WRONG.

There were certain people whom I expected to fund my campaign (I’ve written about the miseries of expectations on this blog before)… and – as Shakespeare rightly said:  “Expectations are the root of all heartache”.

I found myself feeling a bit… disappointed… that certain people – whom I had *expected* would support the campaign… remained ominously silent (thus significantly amplifying my already out-of-control inner thoughts and insecurities).

And – interestingly – many people whom I DIDN’T expect would support me… (either because I thought it would be too expensive for them… or because I thought they just wouldn’t be interested)… DID support me.  A friend from primary school – whom I haven’t seen for years – whom I assumed wasn’t particularly keen on Hatty things… deposited $100!  Another friend – whom I assumed to be broke – deposited $120!   A very conservative, religious friend of my mother was another one who donated very generously (and I wasn’t expecting that at all).

So it just shows.  My assumptions about people are usually always WRONG.

(Now I can just remind my Ruminating Self of that fact… my insomnia should improve somewhat).

AND FINALLY…

I feel grateful, happy… and loved.

I am over-the-moon-delighted that there’s a little tribe of people who *get* the Hat-Thing… and who have been sooo supportive and encouraging.  My cup runneth over! 😉

Now… if you’ll excuse me… I am going to disappear into my studio.   For the next 2 solid weeks, you’ll find me here… surrounded by blobs of paint, scraps of paper, glitter, photos, scribbles of rhyming words (and lots and lots of empty coffee cups).  During the next two weeks… (while I wait for the campaign money to arrive in my bank account)… I shall be finishing off the last pages and pieces of the book – and then uploading the whole lot onto the printer servers…

Stuff is happening, folk!  This big-crazy-dream of mine… is actually happening!  🙂

To every person reading this:  THANK-YOU for journeying with me!! 

Love, Hat X

I’m DONE with diminishing (and I hope you are too!)

There’s a famous quote by Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela) that goes like this (bare with me if you’ve read it before):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others

This quote… as seemingly simple as it is… has been something that has caused a LOT of soul-searching (mostly of the painful type).

You see… I was taught to diminish.

And I learned that lesson well.  Very, very well.

The lessons began when I was much, much younger (back in the days when I still loved acting, performing on stage and amateur theatre).

Here is a photo of the *me* from back then (performing and singing on stage as Boy George):

Mini Pops

And here’s another one… at my tramp-themed birthday party:

tomboy6

But, I was told:

  • “Stop showing off!”
  • “Calm down!”
  • “Keep quiet”
  • “Your jokes aren’t funny.  You just look silly”
  • “Your cousin (the one in the straw hat on the left of the photo above) is the drama student, not you”.

I got it.  I got the message.  I stopped acting.  I stopped performing.  I removed myself from the stage.

And Hat started thinking:  "Perhaps they are right.  Perhaps I DO need to change.  Perhaps I AM ridiculous".

And Hat started thinking: “Perhaps they are right. Perhaps I DO need to change. Perhaps I AM ridiculous”.

At the age of 16, I joined a church.  A couple of years later, I joined the church worship team… but… there was this shadow of worry that lingered like a toxic fume.  Was I *performing* again?  Was I showing-off again?  Was it sinful and wrong for me to be *seen* on the stage?  Did I think more highly of myself than I ought?  Was I sinning by seeking *approval* and *applause* from PEOPLE – instead of from God alone?

So, I told myself again and again that I would NOT perform… or be *seen*.  Instead – my job was to diminish into the background and make sure that God was always first.  I used to repeat again and again:  “More of you, Lord… less of me… less of me… less of me…”

When you keep telling yourself to diminish… eventually, you DO.

IMG_3776

This kind of thing… passed around in Christian circles… reminding each-other NOT to be splendid… NOT to shine… NOT to be extraordinary. But rather… to shrink, to be less, to be small… a quiet little unseen mouse in the corner. But at least (we told ourselves)… we were “right”… we were “humble”… and God-was-pleased.

My mother used to talk of me “hiding behind a pot-plant”.  Because that’s exactly what I’d do.  If our particular event called for the worship team to be up on a stage… I would try to find myself a shadowy little corner at the back of the stage (preferably next to – or behind – a pot plant)… where I could hide behind my keyboard, keep my head down and put-the-Lord-FIRST.

And I believed that God was pleased by my shrinking.  I believed that’s what God wanted.  I believed that it was very Good-Christian of me.  And that it was the *right* thing to do.

At the time – I wrote a poem (I get a bit of vomit in my mouth when I recall this short excerpt):

I have no need of compliments, nor people’s vain applaud.  This is no proud performance, MY song is for the Lord.

I scorned compliments and applause.  And I believed that any kind of performance was proud, sinful and wrong.  In my mind, being a Good-Christian meant “becoming invisible”… and “serving from the shadows”.

Church – of course – wasn’t the only source of the Diminishment Doctrine.  School… society… the media… they all played a role in teaching me how to hide.   As a woman – I quickly learned that my worth would always be determined by my external appearance.  So… when I started getting fat… I tarred myself in shame and black baggies… and hid… and disappeared… and lurked in the shadows… and hoped not to be noticed.

The Diminishment Doctrine was authored by a whole concoction of pastors, prefects, parents and ad-execs.  Problem is – I lapped it all up – like the good, obedient, eager-to-please little doggie that I was.

Yet another photo of the years when I wore only black clothes and tried my best to disappear...

Yet another photo of the years when I wore only black clothes and tried my best to disappear…

By the time 2007 arrived, I had mastered The Art of Diminishment.  Mastered it.  I had managed to make myself almost completely invisible (except for a tiny tribe of very close people – who *saw* me)…

And… then…

…somewhere… somehow… I read that blasted Marianne Williamson quote for the first time.

And her words:

“We ask ourselves:  “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Which was – like – the story of my life.  In fact – I didn’t even ASK myself any more.  *Obviously* I would never aspire to be “brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous”… because those things were wrong… and selfish… and bad… and vain!

And then her next words:

“Actually, who are you NOT to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking…..”

Okay.  Slap. Through. The. Face.

What?

What was that?

“Who are you NOT to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented fabulous?”

*gasp of horror!*

“Your playing small does not serve the world”.

I remember initially feeling offended by those words.  Smallness… “humility”… serving-from-the-shadows… diminishing… emptying ourselves… being LESS… these were all *GOOD* things…!

… (weren’t they)…?

And I was forced to ask myself this inevitable (very, very, very, VERY uncomfortable) question:

“If I truly believe that being small and diminishing has – in some way – served the world… or been a good thing… or helped others… or benefited humankind (or God) in some way… HOW might this have happened?  Can I think of a single example of how my hiding and diminishing has been helpful or *good* for ANYONE?…. Anyone at all….?”

Of course…

I had to face the ugly truth.

WHAT had my decades of diminishment, invisibility and shrinking accomplished?

NOTHING.

No – wait – not only had it not accomplished anything… not only had it NOT served or helped anybody in any situation… but – instead it had wreaked an astonishing path of destruction.

My self-esteem?… my health?… my sense of worth?… in absolute tatters.  My talents and gifts (that I’d potentially be able to use to help or serve others?)… all packed away in the dark, dusty corners of my mind… lest I be guilty of “selfish ambition” or “proud performance” or “vanity” by unpacking those talents and exploring ways to share them with others.

Not to mention the utter hypocrisy… of parenting from the shadowy places of diminishment.

“You’re beautiful, valuable and acceptable – exactly as you are!” I’d tell my daughter (whilst believing myself to be ugly and worthless).

“Follow your dreams!” I’d encourage my kids (whilst simultaneously refusing to give myself permission to follow mine).

Well.  I’m done.

Done, done… DONE.

I’ve been done with the diminishment doctrine for a long time now (the journey began in 2007 – and continues still).

But today – I was reminded – once again – of how this toxic poison regularly tries to sneak back into my life…  and especially when I’m in vulnerable-mode (as mentioned in the previous post)… and even MORE especially when I’m asking people to back my Big Dream.

When stuff like this happens, I’m bombarded with Diminishment Doctrine thoughts like:

  • “Who do you think you are, Heather Costaras?”
  • “Do you think you’re so special?  Do you think you’re so talented?  Well – you’re NOT!  You should just leave the illustrations to the REAL Artists out there”.
  • “What right do you have to think you can publish a book?  You’re not a REAL writer!  You’re not a REAL singer!  You should just give up this crazy idea… and come back to the shadows.  It’s where you belong”.
  • “You are being VAIN, PROUD and SELFISH!”
  • “Why do you think that anybody gives a damn about your stupid book and your stupid story!?  You’re not some celebrity! You’re not important!  You’re just some bland mother-of-two from the suburbs of Johannesburg.  Nobody gives a shit about YOUR story, Heather.  Pack this crazy-stupid dream AWAY!  You’re just making a fool of yourself.”

But… you know what?

I’m DONE with diminishing, shrinking, playing-small, hiding and making myself invisible.

The time has come to (finally)… SHINE.

As we are ALL meant to do.  And that nasty little voice can shout, scream and tantrum all it wants.

But… nonetheless… I’m going to shine.  And I hope that you will too.  And – as we let our own light shine… we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.

—————————————————

To end off – here’s 3 recent – and very Hattish photos from our Mad-Hat tea-party (shot by my very dear friend, Tracey Kelsey):

We clearly don't take ourselves very seriously these days...!  ;-)

We clearly don’t take ourselves very seriously these days…! 😉

Much giggling...

Much giggling…

Cupcake boobs - tee-hee!!

Cupcake boobs – tee-hee!!

————————————————————

If you’re based in Joburg and you’d like to hear me TELL… and SING… this story (about shining)…with added artwork, photos, slides and what-not…  come along to Fisherman’s Village at 6pm on Saturday the 27th June.  There will be comfy couches and a roaring fire.  Bring some cash if you want to buy coffee, cakes or hot, freshly prepared jaffles.  🙂

And – if you’d like to pre-order your signed, first-edition copy of “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” – click here.  I only have 5 more days to raise about $2000… in order to get the book printed & distributed.  This is scary & terrifying… and a huge part of me yearns to hide myself… and my dream… from all of you.  But another (much more stubborn) part of me says:  “No!  I will *DO* this thing.  I will not chicken out!” So please bare with me.  I’m gonna promote the shit out of this crowdfunding campaign until it closes on Monday the 29th.  After that, I’ll return to *normal* blog-posts.  x

Still trapped in the cycle of body-hatred and shame? There’s hope.

For those of you who feel trapped (and yes, I’m aware that not everyone feels trapped)… but for those of you who DO feel trapped.

This post is for you.

I want to instil a bit of hope. (Hopefully).

There is HOPE for those who feel trapped in a place of self-loathing, low self-esteem and body-hatred.

A couple of years ago… this is what life was like:  I hated myself.  There is no other *nice* way to put it.  My self-hatred was so extreme, I would self-abuse.  I  believed that I needed to be punished.  I believed that I needed to hurt… because I deserved that hurt… I deserved that punishment because I was bad, bad, bad… BAD. Here’s how I punished and self-abused:

  • I binged.  And binged.  And binged some more.  Slabs of chocolates, bags of chips, 3-cheese-pizzas, tins of coke, anything and everything I could stuff down my throat in an attempt to numb or anaesthetise myself against the disappointment I felt about myself – and about the state of my life.
  • Bingeing (naturally) only brought on extra large doses of shame about how “weak” and how “pathetic” I supposedly was.  So I would cut myself (mostly my forearms or my stomach)… or I would pull out the hair on top of my head (one by one)… or I would take a wooden baton and beat bruises into my own legs whilst repeating “I hate you!  I hate you!  I hate you!”.
  • I so desperately hated my body and my appearance – that I lost all interest in taking care of myself.   I wore baggy, faded tracksuit pants and old T-shirts.  I never bothered with hair or make-up… I always used to think:  “What’s the use?”.  I couldn’t even raise my eyes to look at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror when I brushed my teeth in the morning.

Extreme?  Yes it was.

It’s hard for me to dwell on the memories of that time.  They’re not pretty memories.

Here is a photo of me during a really shitty season of my life (at the time – I was cutting):

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And here’s a photo taken a couple of years later.  I wasn’t cutting any more… but I was still bingeing and filled with feelings of shame and self-loathing:

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But there’s hope!!!!  Change is possible.

Today…  I can honestly say… that I no longer hate myself.  I like the person I see in the mirror (and I’m not just talking physically… I’m saying that I like the “me” that I greet in the morning)… and I’m slowly starting to learn to even LOVE the person I see in the mirror (baby steps).

  • I haven’t binged in 3 and a half years.
  • I haven’t cut, beat, plucked-myself-bald… since early 1999.
  • I greet myself with a genuine, self-loving mirror-smile in the morning.  I’m not ashamed to look myself in the eye.
  • I no longer shame my body.
  • I’m not afraid of wearing bright, colourful clothes… of celebrating my me-ness (I even cut my hair short and dyed it pink a while back)
  • I no longer desperately need or seek the approval of others.  If I want to swim in the sea with my kids… then I swim in the sea with my kids.  I no longer fret about irrelevant things like fatness / cellulite / big bum and not wanting to appear in public in a swimsuit.  Those days are OVER.  I don’t give a damn about whether other people *approve* of me – or my body – (or not).

Here is an illustration that I have created for my book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.

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The single most important decision that I made with regards to my journey towards inner-healing… was when I decided to love and respect myself – exactly as I was!!

This was a HUGE departure from my shoot-myself-in-the-foot mentality of the previous 25 years… which was:

  • “I will only like myself when I’m thin”
  • “I will only nurture myself and treat myself with respect when I’m thin – because right now, I’m too fat and revolting to *deserve* love and respect”.
  • “I will only buy myself nice clothes when I’m thin.  But right now, I’m shameful and I need to hide… so I will cover my body with black, baggy clothes and hope that nobody will notice me”
  • “I will only pamper myself with treats like trips to the spa, pedicures and new hair-do’s when I’m thin.  Because – at this size – what’s the point?  You can’t disguise an ugly thing”

Yes… well.

You can probably imagine how *well* that worked out for me… (*insert sarcastic snort here*)

To cut a (long) story short… when I decided that I was going to choose self-love and self-care over body-hatred, fat-shaming and self-abuse… it was the beginning of my journey towards healing.

You can not hate and shame yourself into change.  It doesn’t work.  It never works.

Change only came when I slowly started adjusting my toxic attitude.  Change only came when I slowly learned to stop hating and shaming myself – and my body.  Change only came when I began to believe (a slow journey – by the way)… that perhaps my weight didn’t determine my worth… and perhaps I was worthy of love and respect exactly as I was (flaws, fat and all)…!  Love and respect by others – sure… but it had to begin with love and respect by ME.

Here’s a recent photo / artwork of me (also going in the book)…

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I’m not “perfect” (in fact, I have completely disentangled myself from the very idea of “perfection”).  The journey towards healing and self-love continues.  I still have feel-crappy days… and shroud-myself-in-black-baggies days… and food remains my Kryptonite.  But, in spite of those things, I’m happy-to-be-Hat.  I wear bright colours.  I pink up my hair.  I don’t skulk along in the shadows any more.  I don’t hide any more.  I’m not ashamed any more.   I have learned to embrace my uniqueness… my HAT’ness… my quirks… and yes – even my flaws!

So much wonderful change has taken place… but I haven’t “arrived”.  Nobody has.  The journey continues – and I’m more than willing to walk alongside anyone who is still struggling with the issues (mentioned above) that I struggled with for such a long time.  Feel free to e-mail me and send me your story…. heather@themadhat.co.za

Perhaps we can learn from one another as we journey together?

And finally:  maybe low self-esteem, eating disorders and body-shaming is not your *thing*… So – here’s another area where you may feel trapped… where (I can assure you)… there is HOPE:

There is HOPE for those who feel trapped in shitty, life-sucking jobs that they hate!  There is HOPE for those who feel trapped by debt.

(But I’ll discuss that in my next post!)  🙂

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UPDATE on the progress of my Crowdfunding Campaign.  I’m raising funds to print my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.   As I write this post… I need to raise the remaining $2500 by the time the campaign closes on the 29th June (Eeeeeek!!) If I do not manage to raise the full amount – Indiegogo takes a commission of 9% (instead of 4%) on the funds already raised.

I can’t print and produce this book without YOUR help…. and I would be so very grateful if you could CLICK HERE… visit the campaign website… browse the photos… have a read of my splurb’ing – and (if you resonate in any way) – you can pre-order your copy of the book – thereby simultaneously backing the campaign and my project.  A gazillion thanks to you (and – of course – to every person who has already contributed!!)… X

Misconceptions about “creativity” and illustrated books

Today – I’m going to respond to a question that I’ve been asked by a couple of people.  The question is this:

“I thought this was supposed to be a children’s book.  Why have you created an illustrated poem for adults?”

Well… the short answer is:  why not?

But I actually have a number of thoughts on this topic.

Why do we only have storybooks, illustrated books and poetry… for children?  Why are these things not created for adults too?  Why do most of us assume that illustrations… and illustrated books are “for kids”…?

I actually think it’s a big part of the problem.  This idea that we (“grown-up’s”) have about the arts as a whole.  Most of us have been raised in societies and schools that devalue the arts… poetry… storytelling.  We’re told from a young age to “grow-up”.  We’re instructed to be sensible, obedient, practical, dutiful and responsible.  And, in many ways, we’re told and taught (and especially as we get older)… that we need to pack away the whimsy, the beauty, the playtimes, the stories, the dreams, imagination, adventure, wonder and art… and we need to store it all in a little box called “Childish Things”.

That little box gets padlocked… and filed away in the deep, dark recesses of our minds where it gathers dust and lies dormant – like an undiscovered treasure.  And many of us NEVER open it up again.

We replace the beautiful, whimsical things with practical things.  Sensible things.

We replace the play with work.  Because that’s what we grown-up’s do.  We work.  Play is for children.

We replace the fables and the stories with “truth”.  When somebody tells us a story, we – as grown-up’s – immediately respond:  “Yes, that’s very nice.  But is it true?

We replace our big, beautiful dreams with “realism”.  We say things like:  “I’m just being realistic“.  We tell ourselves that our dreams are “pipe dreams”… or “fantasies”.  We scold ourselves for dreaming.  We tell ourselves that it’s time-wasting, childish nonsense.  That we need to grow-up and “get real”.

We replace imagination and ideas with systems, structures and 3-step-plans.  We’ve been so programmed to think this way… to Answer-the-Questions (instead of QUESTION the answers)… to Obey-The-Rules… and Pass-The-Tests… and Do-What-We’re-Told… and to be compliant and obedient… and, as a result, many of us have lost the ability to think for ourselves… to initiative NEW ideas… NEW concepts… NEW solutions.

Many adults believe that they need other people to govern their lives and tell them what to do – and without those people;  the parent… the teacher… the pastor… the husband… the boss… the “expert”… the government official… they feel unsafe and adrift.

And… as for the WONDER.  Whatever happened to that?

Most adults can’t even get their brains around the idea of “wonder”.  We believe we *must* have The Answers.  We must know The Truth.  There seems to be little room for questioning… pondering… or even a willingness to embrace uncertainty.  Few of us (grown-up’s) are content to embrace the wonder of the unknown… the divine mysteries of life… to be perfectly comfortable admitting:  “You know what?  I don’t know.  And I’m okay with not knowing.  But… ah… isn’t it wonderful simply to ponder on all the possibilities??”

And as for art… and colour… the creative expression of our longings, thoughts and imaginings…

For many adults, “ART” is the domain of The Arty-Farty’sThose people.  Those other people.

“I’m not creative”, people say (I’ve heard this so many times… I’ve lost count).

And yet – as children – we ALL created art.  We ALL were involved in painting, drawing, dancing, drama and poetry.  As kids, we were ALL encouraged to express ourselves in a creative way.  Nobody pigeon-holed us then.  Nobody said:  “You five kids over there!  You are the arty-farty’s.  You are ALLOWED to create art.  The rest of you?  You’ve got NO creativity or talent.  Go and kick a ball or do some sums”.

As children – we were ALL encouraged to express ourselves through art.

What happened?

What changed?  Why were the paints, the poetry, the crafts and the music all packed away?

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One of the reasons why I’ve created my book as an illustrated poem… is because I believe that ADULTS… could do with a nice, healthy dose of ART, stories, poetry, colourful imaginings… and whimsy… injected back into their lives!

By telling my story (which is, at times, dark and difficult)… using ART and POETRY… it’s my small attempt to debunk this crazy myth that illustrated-books-are-just-for-children.

THIS illustrated book is… for grown-up’s.  Yes – I’ll create another one for children (a *lite* version).  But – this FIRST version… this FIRST edition… is for all the adults.

And ESPECIALLY for the adults who have told themselves the bullshit lie that they are “not creative”… or “not particularly talented at anything”… or “not enough”.

ESPECIALLY those adults.

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I have 19 more days to raise the full $5000 that I need to print and distribute my book.  If you would like a signed, first-edition copy of my illustrated-poem-for-grown’up’s… (along with other goodies and perks that I’ll be posting to backers) – I’d be HUGELY grateful if you click on THIS LINK.  Thank-you!  Thank-you!

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PS:  Now… go and paint a picture, take a photo, climb a tree, do a cartwheel, scrape Nutella out of a jar with your fingers, have a bubble bath (preferably with bath-toys), compose a limerick, sing a song, daydream, pick some wild flowers and stick them in your hair, mould something out of polymer clay, wear something outrageously bright and sparkly, play dress-up… (well – you get the picture)…. X

PPS:  Quick disclaimer (added after reading a few comments and suddenly feeling horrified that I might not be making myself crystal-clear with this post).  To all the mathematicians, scientists, engineers (and people generally brilliant at all the stuff I suck at).  Please… please… don’t see this post as a *diss* on your particular craft or skill.  I truly believe that we are ALL creative… that creativity shows itself in ways as diverse as the stars in the sky.  Although I DO believe that the arts (like painting, poetry, drama, dance, music, etc) have been marginalized and generally devalued by society and school and viewed as hobbies and not as *important* as maths or science…  I am *NOT* saying that *I* think that maths or science (or anything – really) – is a “lesser” pursuit.  I see ALL our talents and gifts as equal… and ALL of these things can be expressed through creative means.  There is creativity in business… there is creativity in maths… there is creativity in engineering.  I’m sorry if anyone has misunderstood my stance on this!  Pleeeeeease know that I hold these 4 values close to my heart:

  1. I believe that we are ALL creative.
  2. I believe there is no such thing as a “lesser” or “less worthy” gift / calling / talent / career.
  3. My deep desire – for everyone – is that they learn to truly embrace their beautiful uniqueness and be the best version of THEM-selves.
  4. I have never-ever-ever wanted other people to be more like “me”.  God forbid.  I want YOU to just be… more like… YOU! – and not to let anyone tell you how to live or who to be.  Just be YOU.  Be… YOU!!

*phew!* (Hope that’s cleared up?)…

Dreams DO come true (although, sometimes, it takes a while)…

I’m a sentimental person.

I keep stuff.

No – seriously… you don’t understand… I keep stuff.

When it comes to de-cluttering the house and donating stuff to charity… I can happily and unblinkingly jettison clothes, shoes, bags, pots, pans, pillows, appliances… whatever.

BUT… when it comes to “My Sentimentals”… forget it.  Nothing leaves.

The history of my life is contained in big, plastic crates of “sentimentals”.  I have my old school books, letters, cards people have sent me…  I have diaries, drawings, photographs, my granddad’s medals and compass… my great-grandmother’s family Bible… my great-great-grandmother’s beaded shawl… my mother’s letters that she sent to her family from boarding school… I even have an entire pony-tail‘s worth of my childhood hair!

Um.  Yes… so you get the picture.

I keep sentimental things.  Lots of sentimental things.

And – every so often… I sort through the boxes of sentimental things.  And – as it happens – last week… I went through the box that contained the dog-eared, typed pages of the (many) stories I wrote when I was a child… along with a stack of my earliest illustrations.

And then, I read through a couple of “about me” pages I had written in my school books.  Here’s one:

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I wrote this when I was about 9 or 10…

Of course – the things I loved (always did… still do)… were:  reading, art work, piano playing, stories & poems, chocolate and English (referring to my love of words)…

And yes, I still enjoy some crispy bacon…  and a good film… and swimming… (although I’d say my dancing skills leave much to be desired)…

In another “about me” page, I typed this (I haven’t corrected the spelling & grammar):

Hello, my name is Heather Patterson.  I am twelve years old and my birthday is on the eighth of November.  I was born in Mowbray nursing home.  My mother says when I was born I looked like an Eskimo baby.  I had lots of black hair and Chinese eyes.  When I was a little girl, I used to call everyone “Daddy”.  One day in the supermarket I saw a native boy and said “hello Daddy”.  The Native thought I was crazy.  My dad is very firm, he oftern tickles us.  He is always neat.  My mom is lovely.  She cares a lot about us all.  My little sister can be nice when she wants to and nasty when she wants to.  She has long hair and I have short hair.

Our house is on three levels, it is very big.  We have a garage with three doors.  At the back of our garage we have a tiny house we can rent to people.  We live on a plot.  We have a very big garden with hundreds of fruit trees.  We have 20 acres of land.  We have two rottweillers, Helga and Bronson.  Bronson is Helgas puppy.  We also have a collie, Cindy, she is ten years old.  We used to have two cats, but one died, so we only have one.  Midge.  Mom doesn’t like Midge because he thinks our house is his toilet.  We had a bird called Benji.  Benji could say “Pretty Boy” and he could whistle a tune.  But one day Benji flew away.

I have my own room, it’s a “pink room”.  Pink is my worst colour.  If I could change it, I would make it a “blue room”.  I like the kitchen because when Im hungry theres lots of food in the coboard.  I also like the lounge and the downstairsroom.  I like the lounge because its got our t.v., video, t.v. games, tape recorder, radio and record player in it.  I like the downstairsroom because it has our piano in it.

My only friend is Sonja Fahn.  I like the way she draws.  I don’t like the way she boasts.  We do sometimes fight over silly things.  In my free time I like:  reading, drawing, playing piano, watching videos, jumping on our tramperline, swimming and playing Donkey Kong.  When I grow up I want to be an Author.  I also want to illustrate my own stories.

That was written in January 1985.

It took me a long time… to finally DO that thing that I always said I wanted to do.

I have been wanting to write and illustrate a book for as long as I can remember.  But for decades – I put that (personal) dream on hold.  Instead, I invested my time and energy into other people’s projects.  Other people’s books… other people’s businesses… other people’s productions… other people’s films… other people’s albums… other people’s dreams….

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not as if I regret supporting or investing in the dreams of other people.  There were – in fact – many projects that I felt privileged to be a part of (and many others that I loathed from the get-go)…

But… if there is a tinge of regret… it’s that I packed my art, my stories and my dreams away for such a long, long time… (for reasons – of course – that are explored in my book).

So… my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”… is just a few illustrations away from being finished.  64 full-colour pages of a childhood dream that finally… 30 years later… is coming true.

If you’d like to back my project – and be the first to receive a signed, first-edition copy of my book… just click here or on the link below.

Now… (literally)… back to the drawing board….!  🙂

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/how-heather-got-her-hat-ness-back–2/embedded/10839044