How A Tray Almost Ruined My Holiday

Now, I’m not one to take life advice from a tray (although can we take a moment to appreciate how pretty I made it look with a baguette and flowers and shit).

In fact, these sorts of cutesy quotes on household objects usually shit me so it was with a snarl in my stare that I first noticed this tray in the kitchen of the house in France my family and I holidayed in last week.

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It was the first thing that caught my attention as my sisters and I explored the old house we would call home for a week. As all good women should (sarcasm) we gravitated to the kitchen and as one of my sisters exclaimed at the utilities (I just can’t get that excited about the presence of a dishwasher) and the other at the décor (to be fair, great floor tiles) my eyes were immediately drawn to ‘motivation’ tray, propped up and proudly displayed on the 1970’s work surface which cared little for the century old building in which it stood in all its vinyl glory – the house had undergone an unsympathetic refurbishment which strangely carried its own charm.

But the tray didn’t offend me because it looked like it belonged in a Cath Kidston catalogue instead of the confused kitchen that time forgot, then remembered, and then forgot again. No, it offended me because it triggered a fear deep inside.

Am I enough. Am I doing enough?

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The moment I saw that tray, I took it’s words as any egocentric, scrappy, messed up, sassy overachiever would – the tray was quite clearly reminding me that every other coach, blogger, keynote speaker and possibly just about every other human on the planet, were busy changing the world while I was busy losing the pool inflatable race, coming in a limp last with the blow up Toucan while my five year old niece, too young to swim unaided sailed past me on a doughnut ring, noting out loud that

Aunty Emily’s not very good at this” before deciding she couldn’t bear the humiliation of coming last but one and disqualifying herself from the race because she was wearing armbands. Interesting move, Kid!

Yep, I fucking hated that tray at first sight and for the first 48 hours, I let it follow me around France. I could hear it whispering smugly ~

Today isn’t just another day. Today I’ll create something wonderful
— The Fucking Tray esq.

It’s words mocking me with a judgment I knew came from within. It set off the voices of self-doubt and self-loathing in my head which sounded a little like “you’re not doing enough” and “you don’t deserve success” and “what are you doing today, loser?” and my personal favourite, “the entire world judges you and your hair looks shit.”

 

In my fear based brain, EVERY other person was spending the week creating something wonderful like a blog series on how to live your best life (weekly blogs in your inbox? Yes please! Grab your valuable series here), and making videos for their epic YouTube channel (do I have a hilarious channel full of short, highly valuable videos to help you in business and love? Am I shamelessly going to ask you to subscribe to it? Hell yes! Click here!), and writing New York Times bestselling books (it’s coming) and making millions of dollars (also coming) and being booked on Oprah (when the fuck is that coming?) and meeting the Queen (meh) while I was dragging small children around chateaux’s and justifying how much bread I was consuming (Goddamn the French can bake a baguette).

Aunty Emily jump in the pool with me

I didn’t want to jump in the fucking pool. I wanted to take that tray and smash it apart with the meat tenderiser my brother-in-law deemed “handy to have” before correctly predicting “but we’ll never use it”.

 

Now, believe it or not, I am a great life coach. And one of the reasons my clients get such great, sustainable results is because I am “Unashamedly Human” (join my FREE Facebook Group here for FREE courses).

I get it. I understand how hard being human is sometimes and I am open and honest about my own fears and hardships. I don’t claim to be perfect or have all my shit together (because news flash, no one does) and so I can relate. Any problem my clients have are problems I have also worked through and on the back of a conversation with my sisters (which went something along the lines of “shut the fuck up Em, it’s a frigging tray, you utter mentalist. Relax and enjoy your holiday and do that weird mindset magic you do for your clients, on yourself.”) I decided to do just that – work through what Fear was causing me to feel ridiculed by a sodding tray (maybe my sister was right, maybe I am mental!).

 

So I went through a process that I teach my clients and this is where I ended up (perfectly summed up simply by my soon-to-be mate Oprah).

You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing
— Oprah

I had spent 48 hours worrying about what I wasn’t doing instead of being present with what I was doing.

The truth is, there is always going to be someone ahead of you in the race. Someone will always have a better inflatable, or have a stronger swimming stroke.

At times in this life it will feel like others are sailing past you on the wings of a smug blow up swan while you’re paddling just to keep your fucking head above water with a deranged punctured Toucan cramping your style.

But in reality, the only race we’re really in is with ourselves. If we get too wound up in the progress of others, we get distracted, disheartened and at worst we find excuses to disqualify ourselves, just like my niece did (I will always need armbands of some metaphorical description to keep me afloat and in my own race. I make peace with that).

Mmm, this way of looking at things felt better.

Comparison is the thief of joy
— Theodore Roosevelt

Sometime after my revelation, I found myself again in the kitchen “you get the ice creams Aunty Em because you let us have the good ones” and again, my eye was pulled to the tray.

But now it meant something else. Same words. Different meaning.

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Today isn’t just another day. It’s all we have.

Today I’ll create something wonderful. And that doesn’t need to be a program or a book or a number of followers.

Fuck it, I was creating the most precious of things – Stories. And family in-jokes. And memories. What is more wonderful than that?

Right now, I can close my eyes and instantly recall the sound of my nieces and nephew’s laughter, obliterating the perfect silence of a French summer evening in one piercing, shrill note.

In my mind I can still see the shells my niece painted and sold to me for a quid (not bad seeing as she opened the bid at £128).

I can smell the marshmallows melting over the bonfire and when I run my tongue over the roof of my mouth I can still feel the blister the bloody boiling things left behind.

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This will always be the holiday of the much anticipated and heavily trained for inflatable race.

As time passes we’ll find the humour in the fact that the nearest town seemed to be closed up for the summer even though, at the time, tired, hungry and hot it was anything but funny.

It will always be the time my five-year-old niece decided to commandeer the bar (she called it Bea’s Bar) and learnt to make a Gin & Tonic for the first time.

One day my nieces and nephews will be grown themselves and they’ll have hazy memories of the bonfire by the river, family yoga sessions, canoeing on the Loir river and an endless summer of bread and cheese.

 

These wonderful, crazy, silly, real memories can’t be quantified in the way we so often measure success.

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The most beautiful things are not associated with money; they are memories and moments. If you don’t celebrate those, they can pass you by
— Alek Wek

And as I sit here writing this at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, my heart is so much fuller than it was a week ago. So I know that I did just as the tray said I should, I created something truly wonderful.

I trust this blog inspires you to do the same. Please feel free to share it with a fellow memory maker and thank you very much for reading.

Big love, Em x