New Blog

January 2, 2011

Friends, I am slowly moving this blog across to my new domain, please update your bookmarks to www.leilasummers.co.za/blog

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Happy New Year

December 31, 2010

I can hardly believe that time has gone so quickly. It’s been a strange year for me, with decisions and dreams, and learning to let go. I have not done nearly as much work on my book as I intended, but that is going to change. Now that I have got into the rhythm of my new writing job, I am going to put aside time to finish my book and get it out there. I know it’s been a long wait for everyone. In a way, finishing this book is an important part of my moving forward, and so I need to make it a priority.

Speaking of priorities, I only have one new year resolution. In the words of Cheryl Richardson… EXTREME self care. When I told my father-in-law this, he laughed and asked me why couldn’t I ever do anything in normal measures, why so extreme? 2011 is a year for learning to be kinder to myself, to remember to eat healthy and sleep more. And one more thing. I will publish my book this year, if it’s the last thing I do!

Happy New Year everyone, and may it bring to you everything you need it to.

With gratitude and love

xoxo Leila

Big Dreams

November 2, 2010

It’s a drizzling November night and I sit on my bed with my laptop and write. After a long break from my book, it feels good to get back into it. Five months ago, I was certain about my future. Tonight I am open to all possibilities. I give up any preconceived ideas and release my dreams like tiny stars out into the expansive sky.  I have explained to the girls that although we are not moving to the country right now, we are not giving up our dreams entirely. We are simply releasing them and this opens up endless possibilities. Perhaps my dreams were even too small. The exciting thing, I have told them, is that now anything can happen. And it could even be bigger and better than we could have ever imagined. Maybe I was trying too hard, to make things happen in my time and in my way. Now, there are no limits. They seem to understand this, even at eight and ten years old. My inner voice, which has returned on occasion, keeps saying only one thing – finish your book. So let me get back to it.

Limitations

October 16, 2010

Yesterday, while sitting quietly on my bed, thoughts began to come to me and I grabbed my journal and began to write. The stream of thoughts included a pertinent question. If there were no money worries at all, for example, if your book was a great success or you had a million dollars in the bank, HOW would that change your current state or even your future dreams? I sat quietly with this incredible thought for a while. It would change everything! I would be free to do exactly as I wanted to do, to follow my heart completely. Then a voice came to me, well that’s what you should be doing anyway.

So now I sit with a different perspective. If there were no financial limitations, what would I be doing? I need some time to think about this. I’ll definitely need my journal, my collage and some quiet time. Then into my inbox tonight came a message with a quote – “The only limits in our life are those we impose on ourselves.” — Bob Proctor

Flip A Coin

September 24, 2010

Have you ever flipped a coin to make an important life decision?

Since my retreat, I’ve been going around and around in circles in my head. Every few weeks, I was sick with the flu. When I consulted my Louise Hay book, she put this down to mental confusion. No surprise! I struggled with decisions. Do I go ahead and sell my house, move to the country and make my dream happen or do I stay in the city? To make matters even more confusing, after only being home for a month, I landed my dream journalism job based in the city I was planning on leaving. Just before this, the last of my money had ran out and I was left with nothing for the first time. This made it all the more clear that my only option seemed to be to sell my house. But when I got the job, I wondered if that wasn’t a sign to stay. One night I wept in exhaustion and utter confusion. Knowing deep down that I need to stay in the city for now, but not wanting to give up on my dreams or disappoint the girls. I felt deserted and empty. In the turmoil, I begged my intuition to return, I meditated, wrote lists and listened to countless talks on Hay House Radio.

Then the other night I listened to a show by Alan Cohen. He was talking about making decisions based on joy, not fear. Alan suggested flipping a coin. At first I laughed at the idea, but went along with it anyway. I got out a coin and followed his instructions. He said to assign two choices you were struggling with, to heads or tails and then flip the coin. I assigned staying with heads and going with tails. I flipped the coin and it was heads. The next thing, he said to do was to notice your feelings around the answer that came. Was it fear and terror, or peace and joy? Mine was relief. He said that if it is a positive feeling, you know you must go that way, but if it is a negative feeling, you probably need to go the other way. You must listen to your heart and not your head for these answers. This is just a guide to work with, but it definitely helped me. I immediately knew that I needed to stay in the city for now. I felt peaceful for the first time in months and this feeling has stayed with me.

Alan also explained that decisions aren’t permanent. They can change at any time. So for now, I choose to stay here and enjoy my house and my dream job and live each day as it comes. My dream of the country may or may not happen in the way I think it will, but for now, I will simply follow all the little signs, instead of trying to make one huge decision. Alan says that all the little decisions you make, lead you towards the big ones.

Winter Retreat

July 6, 2010

My five week retreat in the Western Cape has come to an end. I have not known true winter for a long time. In Durban, winters are mild and tropical and the changing of seasons goes by almost unnoticed. I went with plans and ideas of editing my manuscript that flew out the window like frozen pages into the icy air. An unexpected and noise intolerant housemate resulted in me having to either keep the girls quiet or leave the house.

I have never felt quite so miserable as on the rainy days, trapped in bed, without the possibility of walking anywhere. The leafless branches outside my window mimicking the empty pages of my journal, stark and bare. And there I began to tread lightly into the winter garden of my soul, tip toeing around the uncomfortable silence, searching for a hint of intuition which seemed to have left me along with the warmer Durban weather back home. It was there that I reluctantly spent much time, pruning away fears and shedding layers of ideas and expectations, between hushed whispers.

And when the winter sun came out again, I closed my empty journal and began to walk. I walked around the village many times over, like a labyrinth of lanes lined with bare trees and walled by mountains. Searching for insight or creativity. Over time, I abandoned my hope of writing and began to notice the opportunities the barrenness offered. It was then I discovered the comforts of winter, scarves and woollen hats, gluhwein, chai tea, and the smell of wood fires. I settled into country life, baking bread, making jam, and eating eggs collected from the hens. I found pleasure in the ritual of watching birds in the garden each morning before walking. And as I walked I learned the ins and outs of the village, exploring all avenues and meeting new friends which seemed a good enough reason to be out of the house.

Winter is not over, although it is far milder now that I am back home in Durban. I am pleased to be in my own space, and look forward to writing again, or at least nurturing the seeds below the earth, getting ready for a new season.

Slowing Down

June 5, 2010

“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.” A quote from John De Paola.

The lights in the whole village have gone off tonight. I sit in darkness on the veranda with only the echo of frogs through the chilly air and the distant chime of church bells sounding eleven. I am on a five week writing retreat in a tiny village in the Western Cape, a village I am considering moving to if I sell my house in Durban. This afternoon I sat on the veranda peeling potatoes and carrots while watching the sun set over the mountains. One of the first things I’ve had to learn here is how to slow down to village pace. A tempo that I now hope will allow me to simply finish writing my story in the best way I can.

Interesting and Interested – How to Choose an Estate Agent

May 4, 2010

An estate agent can take up to 7.5% commission on the gross purchase price of my house. That is a lot of money. So how did I choose which estate agent to use?

Last year, a very pleasant estate agent came to my house to give me a free valuation for my late husband Stuart’s estate. I was surprised to find out that she was the owner of the company, yet still came personally, even though it was not a paying job. I liked her right away and made a mental note to use her, should I ever decide to sell my house.

Two weeks ago, I picked up the phone to call her. At the exact same time, my cell phone rang. I took the incoming call. It was a friend who recommended a specialist estate agent. My house, being a 120 year old wood and iron Victorian heritage building, falls into the category of specialist. So I took this as a sign and decided to go with my friend’s recommendation. I called her estate agent right away and found her to be very short on the phone and uninterested in anything I had to say about my house. She cut me off explaining that she was going away for a week and promised to diarise to call me on the 28th April when she returned. She never called.

Today, I phoned my initial choice of estate agent and the same delightful owner answered the phone. I found her to be friendly and interested in my story. We talked for 30 minutes and made an appointment. Stuart always said that people should be interesting and interested. Having just one of those qualities wasn’t enough. This estate agent listened and agreed as I spoke of my beautiful house and how I hoped the right person would come along. We talked about my move to a little village in the Western Cape and I found out that her daughter owns a property near there. Her grandchildren are the same age as my children. I made my choice. She is my estate agent.

Was it a difficult choice? No. As Seth Godin (marketing author) suggests, authentic marketing is about sharing stories, building relationships and the privilege of a offering a service. As Stuart said, it’s about being interested and interesting. I think he was right.

Moving and Memories

April 1, 2010

The walls inside my wood and iron house, built in 1890, are tongue and groove wooden panels. When Stuart and I found this house, we fell in love with it right away. We moved in and spent all our spare time painting and fixing the old lady. In the evenings, we would eat garlic spaghetti with spinach and work on the house while listening to music and drinking cheap red wine. One of the first rooms we painted was the toilet and Stuart had the idea to paint stripes on the wooden panels, we chose green and terracotta. Today, twelve years later, I painted the first coat of crisp white paint over those green and terracotta stripes, I am painting the house with the intention to sell her.

I always felt that I’d grow old in this house, at first, with Stuart, then after he died, I thought I’d stay here, in this magical place, forever, where the girls could grow up surrounded by sweet memories of music and dad.

I have spent the three years since Stuart died, writing my story, our story. I am almost finished writing it. There was no plan for the end of my writing about this part of my life to coincide with a possible move. But there is movement. An inner motion that is shifting my ideas. A voice that tells me that it’s time to move on. And so, a few nights ago, I made the difficult decision to put my house on the market and see where that leads.

I have a dream to live in the country with the girls one day. I have made vision boards, filled with pictures of village life, horses, chickens, a vegetable garden and children riding bicycles in the street. I don’t know how the dream will happen, I am only taking the first steps.

I am writing again, after some time off, I want to finish the book in this house, whatever happens. An ending of a chapter, the beginning of something new. Selling my house certainly isn’t going to be easy for me. Leaving everything I know and love behind. Leaving my business and all the physical memories of Stuart. I know we will always have him in our hearts, but it’s still going to be difficult. In some moments during painting, I just stop as it feels like the breath leaves me and a sadness wells up from deep down and hits me in the middle of nowhere, it’s all a part of the grief and the letting go. Sometimes I am terrified that I am not ready to do this. But still, somehow, my heart whispers underneath it all and I know. It’s almost time.

February on the Veranda

February 23, 2010

My morning meditation is the warmth of the sun and the song of the birds on my veranda. I sit crossed legged on a couch with my coffee and notebook and watch the circles of sunlight teasing their way through the canopy of trees overhead. Some mornings I just sit, trying to rid my head of all conscious thoughts and just be. Others I scribble away in my notebook, all the ideas and thoughts that come to me. My veranda, which is a popular spot for coffee and chats, and has a constant stream of visitors, is one of my favourite places in the world. It is here, I feel most at home. In the summertime, monkeys, birds and butterflies frequent the garden. Recently, there have been more butterflies than usual, which delights me, not only for their beauty but also for their obvious reminder of cycles.

This week marks the third anniversary of Stuart’s, passing. He left this world on 24th February 2007. It seems incredible that so much time has passed, in some ways, it feels like yesterday, in others, it is lifetimes ago. In Durban, it rains in February, and as I sit on the veranda and listen to the sound of the rain hammering on the tin roof of my old wood and iron house, I notice Stuart’s absence in the empty wooden rocking chair. Talking to him as I so often do, I thank him for all the things he brought into my life, including the gift of grief which has moved me more in the last three years than anything else probably could.  My hope, as always, is for him to discover the beauty that I see all around me, in himself. And as the rain continues, I hear him say, Tell the girls, I love them more than the sun, the moon, the stars and the sea.