Friday, 2 October 2015


© Maggie Sawkins 2014 All rights reserved 
Let me count the ways I’ve ‘tried harder’: it would be a very long list. 

These days, I am aim to let go and do life, without the permanent ‘never enough’ message whirling around. Don’t misunderstand me, its still there at every moment; I just need to listen to other, better voices, rather than register angry self-criticism at the beginning, middle or end of every step. 

I sometimes remember not to trust my first waking thought but instead sit on the balcony and listen to the birds. Some of the time these days, I get that I am a person doing her best. And despite my mind telling me to the contrary, I do a LOT.

At one point in my 30s, one of those life-defining moments happened. My flatmate’s boyfriend ('FMB') took it upon himself to tell me, with a sort of surprised tone, ‘Maggie, I’ve never seen you work really hard for anything!'

Ouch, that went in. It was not the first of his 'witty' put-downs but it was the most potent. Then one afternoon last year, as I was knee-deep in preparation for a big day, I had a sudden realisation. The stark, clear truth landed in my gut: ‘Oh my goodness, FMB was wrong… shit, HE WAS WRONG!’ And then the more important truth hit: I was wrong to believe him.

I had taken this, as I recall it, unsolicited, negative opinion and let it shape me for decades. How long, bless me, has it taken to wake to the discovery that I have worked hard at EVERYTHING. Worked too hard in fact, often without knowing truly what I was working toward, or why. 

As a culture we are gradually getting to know that we are not machines who must produce ALL the time. Looking over my colleague's shoulder, I see Sweden is experimenting with a six-hour workday: waddyaknow, 'staff wellbeing is high'!

After a hitting another wall re my unhappy relationship with my then work at the end of 2010, I finally stopped doing work that was making me miserable and/or ill. I’ve found help from so many of you out there… fellow creatives, ex-students popping out of the woodwork affirming my role, friends of Bill who are there through thick and thin, fellow workaholics seeking different way to do things, to break out of the urgent, ‘more-is-still-never-enough’ way of thinking. 

learnt to take more time. That less IS more. To live on very little and get creative: there is lots of free stuff out there I found to enhance my life. Making do and mending - living in the day became a necessity and an education. As Carl HonorĂ© outlines in his writing, ‘we are marinated in the culture of speed’. I didn't need truly to get anywhere. I needed to stop trying so damn hard.

I met an amazing performer and we agreed to meet monthly: to share and get witnessed, all that we’ve ever done. A wonderful chance to get a handle on, (curate?) our unique and complex work histories. Then there are my fellow entrepreneurs and mentors on a creative startups programmehelping me to harness what I offer and create a business. 

Where would I be without encouragement from those who 'see' me, and hold faith in me. I wouldn't be without any of it, even the dark days. Who was it who said, 'rock bottom is the foundation on which I built my life?' Ah yes, JK Rowling. She started from the bottom and look what resulted.  

Then there are those who are searching for simplicity, as I am. The ability to have enough, not need more stuff, to edit down the years of clothes, photos or freelance work materials. I'm gaining inspiration from The Minimalists and fellow Londoners on a similar path. 

What if all we needed to do was focus on the moment and make the utter most of it. Grateful for what I have - no need to chase 'must do more, better, faster' beliefs but to enjoy this moment, knowing that I am enough, I have enough, I do enough. Bless me, I was wrong. x