The torso of a model wearing a handknit sweater designed by Anna. The sweater is gold and black stripes like a bumble bee, and the model is leaning on a table covered with a floral tablecloth

The Big Fail

Fifteen years ago, or so, I started a blog with the simple intention to write about whatever interested me.

Soon that came to include knitting. I took nice photos of my knitwear and wrote about my projects. I came across independent designers, and the idea sparked that perhaps I could design, too.

As it turned out, my rudimentary maths knowledge, good taste in knitwear, and sense of style for photography, were more than adequate to start designing, publishing pattern instructions for the knitting crowd, and growing my readership.

The blog went from strength to strength and I was able to reduce the hours I worked at a marketing agency.

I was offered a book deal! With an advance! A well-regarded publisher and a hero-of-the-industry editor! There was even a little bidding war!

Within a few weeks of signing contracts, I discovered I was pregnant with our son! I was on top of the world!

My intention was to complete the book before the baby arrived. But it didn’t happen, and the baby was early.

I thought I could finish the book while the baby napped. The baby never napped. He had reflux and colic and an aversion to sleep. While pregnant, wiser women had tried to explain how caring for a newborn will fuck a person up completely. But, until I experienced it myself, it was impossible to imagine the deep truth of that statement.

The book was never completed. I returned the advance.

What a come down. I’ve only recently been able to recognise the beauty in the tender intensity of those feelings of disappointment. Of failure. Of shame.

It’s exquisite. It wraps around my heart and chest and holds me so tight. My stomach rumbles gently. There’s electricity sparking through my crown, head, neck, shoulders and down my arms.

It’s magical to witness the depth of my feeling. And now that I do, it starts to heal.

Because now it is passing through. I still have brilliance. It’s time to heal.


Close up on a cream coloured under bust corset

Constriction

Today, I will give you my absolutely winning but also unorthodox method for dealing with anxiety around money.

The day before yesterday I was in an absolute pickle. Being tossed to and fro by worry, annoyance, even rage; unable to seize the reins and regain some balance. I gave myself an alchemical bath so full of salts, minerals, crystals, oils, it had the consistency more of a creamy soup than water. It helped.

Because as I floated I realised: all this turmoil was because I needed to make a large payment.

My financial situation is familiar to many freelancers and other consultants, with my bank balance veering between “make it rain” and “definitely going bankrupt”. At the top end I deeply enjoy making purchases, even (as a committed socialist) settling tax bills.

But when the number of digits grows lower, I develop a peculiarly hoarding attitude. I resent spending a single penny. I can’t bear to see the balance going down. I become possessive. Grasping.

It’s a feeling of constriction…

“Constriction, you say Anna?” Yes, a feeling of trapped-ness, a breathless quality, I can’t move properly. “Hm, breathless? Would you say it feels like being squeezed?” Yes, it’s tight and frightening. I can’t relax. “I wonder… would it be similar to the sensation of being encased in some kind of unyielding contraption? Maybe, for example, a corset?”

Do you remember what we spoke about on Monday (the picture of me looking cross in a pink robe)? About loving every part even the unlovable, and finding the pleasure in the least loved emotions?

Well it transpires that lacing oneself into a corset before making large payments adds an entirely new slant on the situation. There’s money magic.

But, by all means, light a green candle if you prefer…


A Meditation for Anxiety

I’ve recorded a guided meditation for you because this practice is not widely known and helps me tremendously on days when I struggle under the weight of anxiety.

Thankfully, those days are relatively few and far between; but it was not long ago that the ‘ok’ days were rare as hens’ teeth.

The meditation is based on the Buddhist tradition of Tonglen, wherein we reverse our ego’s sweet but ultimately absurd insistence on going to any lengths to resist and resent suffering. Instead in Tonglen we open ourselves to pain and experience its transmutation.

The purpose is to more deeply awaken our compassion but also to recognise the very important point that ‘our’ pain is not, in fact, ours. It is ‘the’ pain, and widely or even universally experienced.

With much practice, I find I can now perform a few Tonglen breaths while walking through town, or preparing a meal, and feel an expansion of love and compassion that serves me, and by extension all of humanity, greatly.

It is my sincere wish that you find this recording helpful and might try it soon or bookmark it as part of your toolkit for when things seem impossible.

Let me know how you find it.