Tuesday, September 11, 2018

When Self-Love Gets Tested


So, I've started my next self-love book. It's about deepening your self-love, especially when it gets tested.

My self-love has been tested this week, specifically in the area of body acceptance. Phew, this one is hard for me to work on. Most of my life, growing up, I was skinny. I was blessed with a super-efficient metabolism. I could eat whatever I liked and not put on an ounce of weight. Then I had three kids. I still managed to lose most of my baby weight after breastfeeding them each for a year, and running after active toddlers, but when I hit my late thirties, I developed thyroid problems. I was no longer what society would deem attractive i.e. thin. My metabolism hit a big snag. I managed to go on thyroid hormones, which thankfully made me feel a lot healthier, but it didn't make the weight drop off.

Society had told me my whole life that if I wanted to be attractive to my husband, I had to be thin. And if I wanted to just plain-old be attractive and considered worthy of respect from society, I had to have a certain figure. So, when I heard about the low-carb paleo diet, I was hooked. I got brainwashed into thinking this was the magic pill. Yes, I did lose weight. I looked "acceptable" again, but it came at a great cost. My thyroid levels dipped to an all-time low and I developed several other health problems. After two and a half years of trying to make this "magic pill" diet work, and after I stumbled upon some material against low-carb dieting, I broke the diet. I felt so much better, almost immediately. It took a while for the deeper problems to heal. One of them never healed - I developed allergies while on the diet. I still struggle with them today.

After I broke the diet and started eating enough again to feel healthy and energetic, I put back all my weight and a lot more - the perils of compromising your metabolism on an unhealthy diet. My husband at the time started criticising me for how I looked. I allowed his words to get to me. (I wasn't aware of self-love at the time.) I developed deep insecurities about myself as a person, but...at the same time I read a lot of material by Summer Innanen and other advocates for health at every size. I researched on health and the stigma that's attached to weight, and how it's more a social problem than anything else. That there is very little proof that being overweight is necessarily the cause of illnesses. Yes, it's often caused by illnesses, but inherently, in itself, is not always harmful. (It's more harmful to hate yourself and compromise your health.) I began to learn the importance of accepting myself as I am. How hating on my body was not going to help me be happy, healthy, and peaceful as a person. I read up on how dieting actually makes us fat. Every time we diet, we may lose weight temporarily, but then we can't maintain it long-term, so we put the weight back on. And many times, more. Any time we restrict calories, we compromise many systems in our bodies. I'd rather not live like that. I can't afford to because of my particular health dynamic.

So, I'm not skinny anymore. I'm actually overweight. It's hard to put your photo on a dating profile. It's hard to feel good about yourself sometimes.

Yesterday, I went to dance class and one of the ladies there was videoing us practising a dance. I asked her to send me a copy so I could show my kids that I am actually dancing every Monday night and not going on a mysterious date. I watched the video and my heart sank. I was so huge compared to the other slim ladies in the class. I felt like an elephant. It was so hard to comprehend.

I realised that I'm having a self-love test here. If I can't appreciate and love the body vessel that I've got for my time on this earth, then I'm in serious trouble. I'm so grateful for my body and all it can do. It gives me the strength to do those dance steps, which are such fun. Sure, I don't look amazing doing them, but I'm growing as a person, by learning these difficult steps. I also know that women have hormones, and at a particular time of month, the hormones go really low and during that time, they really don't like the way they look. Any self-dislike gets magnified tenfold. So, I'm not letting this experience, that my hormones gives me, plunge me into a depression and another diet cycle. I mean, today, I even considered going on a diet again. I thought, "How will I find a man looking like this? People must find me disgusting." But those thoughts are from the ego mind - the lower mind, which comes from the messages we've been given all our lives, that our worth as women is attached to how thin we are.

So, instead of hating on myself, I'm going to slay this dragon and love on myself even more. I'm going to be kind to my body and nourish it and give it the rest it needs. I'm going to love the wiggly bits because they're what makes up me. I'm going to choose to believe that I am beautiful, and wait for the hormonal dip to pass before I take any of my thoughts seriously. Self-depreciation be gone.

So, how do we love ourselves when we don't fit into society's norms?

1. Eat, sleep, have fun.

2. Be the biggest advocate for your inner child. Yes, your inner child was told that if you became fat, or if you were already fat, it was serious and you would be ugly and useless. That's a lie. Being fat does not mean being unfit, incapable, stupid, or unhealthy. There are many thin people who struggle with feelings of lack of self-worth. I struggled with it all those years when I was thin. Being thin did not help me feel better about myself. I was so afraid of getting fat. It petrified me. Give your inner child a good hug and tell her that she is lovable just the way she is and that if someone insults her, they WILL pay the consequences. (You can certainly stand up for yourself in your mind. Not a soul can stop you from doing that.)

3. Buy yourself that outfit you'd love (if your bank balance allows) even if it's not slimming, just because you damn-well love the colours, or the cut, or the stripes.

4. Accept compliments. When people say your Facebook profile pic looks good, believe them. When they say, "You look lovely today," believe them. And thank them without starting the long description of your faults.

5. Accept that sometimes you won't like what you see in the mirror. We all have those days. But choose to not let that make you come down hard on yourself. Keep up your self-care, and show compassion to yourself. Trust that those feelings will pass.

6. Look into the mirror and say something like, "You're amazing, you're beautiful, and you're so unique."

7. Think of all the things your body can do and thank it.

8. Think of all the wonderful things in your life that you do and are. Realise that how you look is such a small part of your life experiences. There is so much fun to be had, no matter what size you are.

Any other suggestions? I'd love to hear them.








Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Confession Time and Talking to Trees

So, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I wrote erotic romance under a pseudonym. Well, for some strange reason, the blog I set up on Blogger for my alter-ego, disappeared. I couldn't access the Blogger for it and all my blog posts, no matter how much I tried. Very frustrating!

Anyway, I feel I owe it to the publisher of my erotic romance books (Decadent Publishing) to keep promoting my books, and seeing I don't have time to promote two different personas and man two different blogs, I'm taking the plunge and letting my readers know about my other books here. For sweet romance readers, you don't have to read further.

Anyway, I've been thinking quite a bit about one of the books I wrote under Vicki Ballante. It holds a very special place in my heart and to this day, is still one of my favourite books that I've ever written. In fact, I still get chills when I think about the story. And I also think it's one of my better works.

A few months ago, I read a really enchanting book called Secrets from the Lives of Trees https://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Lives-Trees-Jeffrey-Goelitz/dp/1879052040. I found this book secondhand at a market and I couldn't resist buying it; although for a secondhand book, it wasn't all that cheap. Anyway, I eventually bought it and I was not at all disappointed.

The book is written by a man who developed a relationship with trees where he spoke to them telepathically. Just a few weeks before that, I'd felt a connection to the trees in my small garden. I cannot explain it, but I felt something with them. Now, don't think I'm strange. I'm quite a spiritual / telepathic person and I do pick up things very keenly.

Anyway, it reminded me of my story called The Century Sage. I hope you will read my beautiful story about a woman who can talk to trees. Trees are the peacemakers of our planet. In the Secrets from the Lives of Trees, the author stresses how they are vital for our well-being and to help us overcome stress.

Blurb:

Lina is a tree sage, a gifted person who heals trees, but her duty binds her to one place for her whole life until she marries. Tree sages must marry and birth a daughter by twenty-eight, even if true love is out of the picture. When hot rally winner Brad meets her, he is drawn to her mystical powers. Lina can’t resist the man who represents something she shouldn’t go for, but neither can she turn away his sexy touch. Brad offers to marry her and take her on a worldwide rally tour. She can fulfill her dream of traveling, and he provides a way to meet the demands of her breed, but will that be enough? What about love?

When Lina settles in Paris, loneliness and unfulfilled expectations threaten to pull the shaky relationship apart. Could the barriers between them be caused by an evil greater than they imagined? Soon, they will have to fight for Paris, but will they survive?

Buy Links:

Amazon US
Bookstrand





Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Why I Regret Publishing More Than 15 Books in Three Years


After I obtained my very first publishing contract with Clean Reads (then called Astraea Press), the wind flowed beneath my wings! I took off. The writing just flowed; ideas came to me constantly; the contracts didn't stop. I would write a new book every three or four months, send them off to Astraea Press, and obtain a contract a few months later. They'd be out within 6 months from that. Then I took part in the Ubuntu line (African-style romances) of Decadent Publishing and wrote more books set in my own country. I ended up writing and publishing 4 books for the Ubuntu Line.

It was such fun.

But after a while, it became harder to write. The words didn't flow as easily. I think deep inside I knew they were no longer as much from the heart, that they were forced. But writing was my dream, I loved doing it, and I wanted to make a name for myself as an author. Bringing books out regularly was the way to do it, or so I thought. I tried to self-publish, hoping my sales would pick up then. It wasn't my most successful venture, even though I tried to promote my books and sent them to review sites. 

I even wrote some erotic romance books under a pseudonym. I thought erotic romance sold, but I really struggled to write it. I felt naughty writing it - as though I was rebelling against the very strict religious days of my youth, but that wasn't a good reason to write a genre. I also wrote it to please my ex - an even worse reason! Now, in hindsight, I know that sweet romance is the genre that works for me, that flows naturally for me. The erotic books never sold as well as my clean romances. What's worse is that I feel so dreadful as I have been unable to maintain two personas and my erotic-romance persona social media account and marketing is totally non-existent. I know I've messed my publisher around terribly in that regard.

Then the divorce happened and my romance writing almost totally died. I thought it may be the end of it. I still wonder as I've struggled so much. I have to say I'm sorry to both publishers - Clean Reads and Decadent Publishing for letting them down once my divorce happened as my marketing efforts blew up in smoke.

I have managed to write Cat Therapy the last year. It's been great fun. And I'm quite pleased now that I only have one book to focus on for marketing. I realise, in hindsight, that publishing so many books in such a short space of time wasn't the best idea. For these reasons:

1. You have less time to do revisions, go back to your book and edit it when you've stepped away from it after several months. There's nothing worse than being too close to your book - a phenomena we all face just after writing it.

2. You have less money for marketing. And time!! Yes, time. Marketing is a big thing and takes a lot of strategy, time, and dedication. (I'm also pleased that now I don't have to beg my ex for money for marketing, which he always hated giving me. Now I am king of my own finances and can choose to spend on marketing when I wish without grovelling. I always hated the grovelling!)

3. You tend to become numb to the feeling of satisfaction at a job well done. When the books are just flowing out, one after the other, you don't have time to stop and smell the beautiful scent of that masterpiece you've brought out into the world.

4. You get too bogged down with all the admin and marketing that comes with your writing, that you have less time for hobbies and other interests.


But in the end, I take my hat off to those authors who can pull off regular releases and make a success of them. They are true entrepreneurs who have made an art and a business out of their craft! Well done to you. I just don't think that's my thing anymore, and that's all right.






Sunday, July 22, 2018

Exciting News!!

I'm so thrilled to share - I'm about to sign a contract for Cat Therapy with Black Opal Books!

My animal soul mate - Ginger

Cat Therapy has had quite a journey so far. Besides the multiple revisions, it's also been a story of hope for me. I didn't know if I'd ever get to publish a romance novel again in my life. It's been so hard to write romance since my divorce. I poured my heart into the book. And my love of cats! I feel like it's a new beginning for me, that I can still write romance. I even have another book idea brewing!!

Here's the tentative blurb to give you an idea of my story:

Two-times divorcee Cherry Smith is quite happy with single life. Well, a little lonely at times, until her elderly friends give her four cats. She already has two cats and a dog. Six cats? Can she handle it? When the kitten needs her shots, she visits the new bachelor vet in town. Dr. Jeff Clark turns out to be even more handsome than what she's heard in the small town where she lives. But Cherry can't let him distract her. She's been burned too many times by attractive men. He makes her feel uncomfortable, especially when she tells him she has six cats, and he seems to disapprove. To pacify him, she says that she's running a cat therapy hotel. As she ponders the lie on her way home, she realises what a fantastic idea it is. With the help of her friend Delia, they set up their bed and breakfast facility.

People start coming to avail of the love of her cats, including a gentle widower named Seb, who needs help with his grieving son. Cherry should really go for someone like him, but when the impossible Jeff Clark keeps wanting to check on her operation, she can't help finding a friend in the man who takes her breath away. Friendship with him wouldn't be a good idea because she likes him too much and it's way too soon after his divorce. So when Seb asks her on a date, she agrees. Maybe if she settled with the safer option, her heart wouldn't be at risk anymore. But when crazy things start to happen around her, Cherry needs a man she can turn to who understands. A man like Jeff.

Cat Therapy is a tender and funny women's fiction about healing, love, and cats!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Find the Beauty in YOU



I'm going to be sharing more and more things on self-love - the message I believe I'm meant to share to the world. Here's an excerpt from my book on self-love: Falling in Love with Me - 30 Days of Self-Love, that hopefully will be published in the near future.

Excerpt:



The keys to keeping a long-term relationship alive and healthy is choosing to focus on the good things in your partner. It takes a decision sometimes. The relationship we have with ourselves is the only one that’s going to last a lifetime. Grow that relationship. Focus on the good things.
The beauty of it, is that you’re more able to face your shadows when you’re appreciative of your good stuff. In fact, those very shadows are beautiful gifts of growth for us.
Maybe make a list of things you like about yourself.
Write down a thank you to yourself for all the things you’ve done this week to help you grow in your self-love journey.
Find one thing about your body that you like. Everyone has something. Maybe it’s your toenails. Or your belly button. Or your thumbs. Or do you really love your hair?
Perfect.
You came to this earth in this body. I believe that we chose to live this life. We chose this body to exist in. We wanted it. Maybe it’s caused some pain and suffering at times, but it’s beautiful and magical. It’s so complex. It can do so much.
Don’t judge your externals by the world’s standards. This body of yours is a vessel—a magical one that you chose to live through.
Look at yourself as a bouquet of flowers. Some of the flowers in the bunch are more colorful than others. But the duller, more muted ones complement the brighter ones. It all makes up a beautiful harmonious whole. You’re this mishmash of goodness and icky bits, gladness and sadness. Your good parts are the glue that gives the contrast to the whole bunch. When you’re feeling blue, it’s good to think of the good things.
Our culture has taught us to find beauty in only certain things: long legs, flat tummy, sleek hair, small nose, high cheekbones, clear skin, CISgender, etc. The key is to find beauty in a new way—to take a different perspective. Beauty makes life, well, beautiful. Try to find beauty in all people. When you do that, you open your eyes to real beauty. You open your eyes to endless possibilities to experience beauty in your life. You’ll then open your eyes to your own beauty.
Find beauty in the small things: that flower blowing in the breeze, the smell of rain after a hot day, the aroma of freshly baked pizza. Let it feed your soul.



Here is a bonus extra that's not in the book:

Meditation for Finding Your Own Beauty

Find a quiet spot away from technology and people. Take a hand mirror with you. Sit or lie down - make sure you feel comfortable. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath or a part of your body for a few minutes. Imagine a cloak of love falling down from the sky and resting upon your shoulders. Feel the warmth of that love infuse your whole being. Breathe in that love. See it get absorbed from your shoulders into your chest and heart area, then your stomach area, then your legs and your arms, and your head. Feel that warm liquid of love pulse throughout your whole body. See it grow until it surrounds you in a beautiful golden glow. Bask in that glow.

Now see the picture of a lover in front of you. It doesn't have to be anyone you know - just imagine someone very loving and kind. They are deeply in love with you. See them looking at you with such love and admiration in their eyes, as though they have found the greatest treasure of their lives. Feel that love and acceptance beaming from them toward you. Hear them say, "You are so beautiful." Now open your eyes slowly and hold the mirror in front of you. You are now that lover. See yourself through the eyes of that person who loved you and admired you so much. Look at all the features in you that this person or being was infatuated with. Appreciate those things. Acknowledge as many as you can. See yourself through beauty-viewing eyes. If you keep finding fault in yourself, don't berate yourself - just don't dwell on the thought and shift your thoughts towards the beauty-viewing. Smile at yourself. Put the mirror down.

Now close your eyes again. Feel that feeling of admiration, of appreciation from the depths of your being. Pick it up off your body like it's a ball of light or energy. Hold that ball in your palm. Put your hand over your heart and place that ball / feeling into your heart. Pat it to keep it there. Imagine it's found it's home in your heart now. Take a few more gentle and relaxing breaths. Wriggle your fingers and toes. Open your eyes again and focus on the room.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Alien Captured

Today, I want to welcome fellow ROSA writer, Marie Dry, to my blog, with her 5th book in her alien romance series.

Blurb:

In a bleak future, where government systems are breaking down and poverty and violence reign, on an abandoned farm in Montana, Susannah had a simple plan. She’d capture an alien, sell him to the resistance, and use the money to save her son.

Instead, Susannah had an arrogant alien trapped in a pit who acted as if she was the prisoner. He wanted to kill her dog and insisted she should care for the wound he sustained when he fell into the pit she dug to trap him. On top of that, she had no way to know if the resistance got her message. Every day that passed, she doubted her decision to hand Azagor over to the resistance.

But her son, her baby, was being held by people who considered him unclean because he was conceived out of wedlock—and time was running out.



Excerpt:

She thought she had everything under control until her little dog fell into the pit that held the alien captive.

Susannah jumped up, and Killer, who had sat next to her, yipped and jumped away. Everything slowed around her, and while she stood, horror freezing her veins, Killer fell into the hole. His small paws scrabbled at the rusted iron of the trapdoor and then he fell. She saw his mouth move, knew he was barking and yipping, but she couldn’t hear him.

Susanna stood petrified, her heartbeat slowing, seeing the world around her > through a tunnel. The only other time she’d felt this strange sensation was when she realized they’d taken Noah, and she’d never see him again. At the end of the strange twisting tunnel, she saw the alien’s green savage face staring up at her.

He held her tiny dog in his hand, and he and Killer stared at each other, Killer frozen and obviously not knowing what to do. At least the fall didn’t seem to have injured him. His bones were very fragile, and Caine had warned her they broke very easily. Azagor lifted his hand until he held Killer in front of his face and pulled his lips back from his teeth.

Abruptly life rushed back into her frozen limbs. “Don’t you dare eat him,” she screamed while praying Killer didn’t pee on the alien’s hand.

The alien looked at the dog and then at her, and his hand closed ever so slightly. Five claws pointed at Killer’s fragile head. He held her dog up to her like an offering, while his vicious claws slowly lengthened.

Reviews:

Night Owl Reviews:

Marie Dry has really knocked the ball out of the park with this Science Fiction alien romance. The fifth book in the Zyrgin Warriors series, "Alien Captured" is a nonstop adventure ride that will not only keep the reader engaged and turning pages but will pull at the heart strings.

Savannah thinks to save her son by capturing one of the aliens who have invaded Earth. Azagor believes he will capture the heart of Savannah, the woman he's chosen to be his. The problem, Savannah believes him to be an evil demon sent to punish her. Having grown up in a strict religious cult that has shunned technology and where women are slaves, she doesn't know anything about the modern world. Azagor considers himself a modern warrior and is floored at how little Savannah knows and how hard her life has truly been. Slowly Azagor shows Savannah that his intentions are honorable and he's not a demon but more importantly that he will help her find her son.

This was a touching and passionate story with some laughs, heartache, and celebration. I recommend this book and the series by Marie Dry.


Whisky with My Book Review:

I can’t review this book without giving some consideration to the heroine, Susannah. Some might look on Susannah as a weak character. Indeed, in modern contemporary society, she would be considered not only weak, but also backward. But the author provides a thorough background on Susannah, who is very much a product of her upbringing. In this case, I think nature and nurture had it in for her and the other females in her cult. Susannah is a member of a cult that is ruled a man (Brother Josephatus) who fancies himself to be the right hand of God. The women do all the work and have no rights. The women were raised this way and accept the status quo even if they do not like it.

But the cult has abandoned Susannah because they (Brother Joseph) believe she is no good. First, she had a child out of wedlock. In addition to that, she claims to have seen a demon.

Well, that demon was actually the Zyrgin warrior, Azagor. I’m sure anyone could make that mistake. They are green-skinned, red-eyed and have a forehead ridge that could be a horn.

Left on her own, and desperate to get her son Noah back, Susannah’s strengths spring to life. First she conceived the Alien Captured plan. Now that is a title I would not have expected to see in the Zyrgin Warrior series – Alien Captured? The highly trained, arrogant ‘I-am-a-Zyrgin-Warrior‘ type should never have allowed himself to be captured.

And yet, it happened. It would be spoilerish to say much more about the warrior’s capture. But if you think Azagor will stay captive for very long….well, he is a Zyrgin Warrior!

The captive situation puts Azagor just where he wants to be, in the company of Susannah. As you can see, the warrior has some preconceived ideas of what should be happening:

Instead of harboring fantasies of contacting the resistance, she should want to tend to his wound. Sponge down his body and be so impressed with his superior warrior’s physique that she would want to be his breeder.

Susannah treats him as a dangerous enemy to be used. He treats her as a captor to convince to become is breeder. Breeder is the Zrygin word for mate. Azagor (and most of his fellow warriors) don’t have any clue that human women are not all all keen on that word. Misunderstanding ensues, followed by humor.

The lack of understanding about each other and their cultures makes for a lot of misunderstanding. Some is not very funny, but some is quite humorous. What is really funny is what Azagor thinks he knows because of what other human women have told him and the human movies he has watched. I think the cultural differences that create such wonderful interactions are my favorite parts of the Zrygin warrior stories.

But this one also has one more thing that always to appeals to me. A dog. Killer is a Teacup Yorkie – the last of it’s kind. He is a tiny little dog with a huge heart. He takes on the mean green alien without backing down. I can’t help but love this little Killer, even if Azagor thinks it looks like a rat and doesn’t like him:

She was about to grab Killer and run when Azagor stopped as abruptly as he’d started. “He is small and weak. You should kill him. I will get you a better pet.” He absently scratched at his wound, and she swallowed. Didn’t he feel any pain? “The Aurelians have pets.” He said it as if having a pet was the strangest thing to do. “They are called battle leopards. It will protect you.” His lips pulled into what she supposed was his attempt at a smile. If he ever wanted to scare anyone to death, all he had to do was smile. “We’ll make the rat the first snack for your new pet.”

There is more to that rat story, but I won’t say more.

There is also a child, but in this case, he is too young to talk, and therefore does not have that ‘cute kid’ appeal. Susannah’s baby, Noah, was taken from her as soon as he was born. He doesn’t appear until late in the story, but his appearance makes for a heart-wrenching scene. And while the baby does not qualify for cute kid status, the Zrygin warriors reactions to Noah are quite endearing.

There are some interesting, quieter side stories. One about the project of building something in space. Also there is talk of a previous time travel project. I am not sure if I would know more if I had read the first three books in the series? But I would like to know more. Perhaps there will be additional details in book 6.

I really enjoy the alien/human relations in this series. In Alien Captured, the cultural clashes and misunderstandings make for the best rocky start to what will turn into a very cool romance between the determined heroine and the even more determined hero. If you have enjoyed other books in the series, you will like this one. If you are new to the series, go easy on Azagor, until he wises up. You’ll like him!

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.


Buy the book here: Amazon



About Marie:

Ever since she can remember Marie Dry wanted to travel. She had had the privilege of living in Zambia, Morocco, and Spain and sees herself as a bit of a gypsy. Every few years she gets restless and has to be some place new.

She read romances since she was nine and was fairly young when she decided she would write the perfect story that had all the elements she looked for in a romance. In 1997 she decided to go all out with her writing and to get published. Being published by Black Opal Books is a dream come true for her.

There are several wonderful moments in her life that she would never trade for anything. One of them is meeting President Nelson Mandela and the second being published.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Lesson from the Velveteen Rabbit

I don't know if you've ever read the children's classic, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I discovered there were some beautiful life lessons in the little story, for me. And maybe for anyone else who has had their heart broken. And for humans else out there. 💟

Spoilers below, if you plan to read the book yourself or to one of your children / grandchildren:

The velveteen rabbit is a plushie given to a boy for Christmas. At first, the boy doesn't connect with the soft toy, but soon he finds it's his favourite toy and he takes the plushie with him everywhere. It gets rough and worn, but according to the velveteen rabbit's friend the Skin Horse, he's becoming real. The more he's worn, the more real he becomes. One day, he meets flesh-and-bone rabbits, and a little seed is planted inside of him to be able to move like they do, but then his time with his boy grows, and he's so happy, he forgets about them.

Firstly, I love this message. As life wears us down, and things come our way to make us not so shiny and perfect on the outside, we become more real on the inside. And that begins to show out in the world. It's called vulnerability. And vulnerability is beautiful. In fact, vulnerability researcher, Brene Brown, states that those who believe that their vulnerability makes them beautiful are the most resilient human beings in the planet. As soon as we take off the mask that we always have to be okay and good and strong and positive, and break down the lie that when we're not tough all the time, we're weak and inferior, we can be human and oh so strong. Because when we hide our true emotions - the good ones and the bad, when we choose to gloss over those painful parts of ourselves, we put a band-aid over a bleeding sore. We ignore our emotions by numbing them with food, alcohol, social media, working constantly, fitness fanaticism, dieting, parties, etc. Numbing them makes us less able to experience the happy emotions - the genuine ones. If we can't face our grief, our sorrow, our rejection, our anger, then we will never fully feel our happiness, relief, peace, satisfaction, etc. And that's why we are a messed-up society. We idolise strength and stoicness. Vulnerability is seen as weakness.

Vulnerability is what makes us strong. We have to learn to love ourselves whether we are strong, capable and with it, or whether we feel like crap, or the breakfast the dog brought up on the carpet.

Breathe into those bad emotions. Let them sit in you for a while, and then find a way to grow out of them. They don't have to stay. But they need to wear out that velveteen inside your bunny ears, and rub the pink sheen off your plastic nose, and thin out the plush fur on your rump. They make you real. And we all really, truly, in the depths of our being, love a real person, because they teach us to connect with that deep part of ourselves - that part that longs for love, and that part that is compassionate and empathetic. Being real means loving the whole YOU.

But bad things happen to velveteen rabbit. His beautiful boy becomes sick. Rabbit lies by his side through the terrifying illness until the boy becomes better. Rabbit is there for him, whispering to him that he can make it. And he does make it. Problem is, the doctor decides that the boy needs to go to the coast for a while to heal some more. And all his dirty old toys need to be tossed out and burned to get rid of the scarlet fever germs. Rabbit gets thrown in a box and taken to the bottom of the yard to get burned.

Rabbit feels all alone. He thinks back to all those beautiful days when he was thoroughly loved by the boy, how his love made him real. He's tormented by the happy memories, especially as he knows it's over. He cries real, water-and-salt tears, and those tears sink into the ground. A flower springs up with a fairy inside. The fairy is beautiful and she plays her magic on the velveteen rabbit. She makes him truly real - rabbit made of fur, and bones, and cells. He discovers he can bounce around like the wild rabbits he'd seen before - the ones he'd secretly longed to be. And he joins their tribe.

This story hit me in the heart, in the gut. Because I fell in love with my husband. He showed me love like I'd never known before in my life. It was beautiful; the memories of happiness are there. He helped me with my low self-esteem. Then one day, the boy got sick and he grew up, and he didn't need me anymore. I got thrown out in a box to be burned at the bottom of the yard.

But I didn't die there. My tears made some magic with the earth. Earth and water alchemy. And I was made real, and I'm still being made real. I'm learning to love ME. I'm learning that I don't need the love of a boy to know true love, that true love lives in me, that loving myself for ME is true love.

It's hard to be vulnerable and real. When people are judgemental, it makes it extra hard. The other day, I was having a bit of a tough time. My kids wanted desperately to send their dad a birthday and Father's Day present. But they couldn't decide what. Eventually they did - at the last minute. And they wanted me to get a photo printed of them standing next to the woman my ex left me for. They wanted to put it in a frame and get it posted to him. It was a punch to my gut. I nearly didn't go through with it. But I chose to make them happy. They don't understand the true extent of the pain my ex has caused me, both through the divorce and subsequently through certain actions. They may never. (And I don't want them to if it means they must suffer the same pain.) But I love them and want to make them happy. So, I went to the photo shop to organize the photo and to organize a Father's Day present for him. I knew inside that he would never appreciate all that I went through to arrange this for him - it took out a whole day from my busy schedule. But I did it for them. So, I told the lady at the photo shop about my dilemma. At first, she looked a bit wary of me sprouting off my personal pain to a stranger. Before I would've berated myself inwardly for telling a stranger my woes, and I would've been angry with her for not offering a sympathetic ear. But then, I decided that she's young, and newly married (with a gorgeous shiny ring) and isn't used to vulnerability - many of us aren't. She's human and she's a product of our stoic society. I didn't hate her for it. And that made me friendly toward her. I ended up leaving the shop with a good feeling between the woman and I. She made me laugh and we shared some jokes and a pleasant report. I felt better about the whole thing after that.

Vulnerability isn't easy, but being real is beautiful. We each secretly long to bounce around with the true tribe of bunnies out there in the wild. Wild women and men we are - deep inside. Let fairy magic sparkle.

(Thanks to morguefile.com for the photos.)

You can buy The Velveteen Rabbit here: https://www.amazon.com/Velveteen-Rabbit-Illustrated-Optimized-Kindle-ebook/dp/B002UNN7SW

You can listen to Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o