Start At Love – Again

I’ve had the kind of week where nothing seems to go right. Events I expected to enjoy, I didn’t; things I thought would go well, didn’t work; old habits I thought I had cracked, came back to taunt me. I didn’t find as much time as I wanted to write, the allotment erupted in weeds after the heat – then the rain – and the dog rolled in something orangey-brown, smelling of regurgitated turds and extremely sticky. At least to dog fur.

You know what I love about life? You can start again. Every day, regardless of what happened yesterday, the sun comes up and invites you – as they say in the US – to ‘start over’.

I absolutely love that phrase. There is something all-encompassing about it. It acknowledges that something is amiss, something didn’t work out as it might have done, but it doesn’t in the slightest keep you stuck there. No moaning, no bewailing, blaming or self-pitying. Just a brief summation of events, an acceptance of one’s part in that, then off we go again. Let’s see what happens this time.

This is a strategy I have learned from watching the best tennis players. (Yes, I’m still enthusing – well, did you see our Davis Cup performance?!) They can play the most appalling set of tennis, their mind not on it, their timing ‘out’, their attitude all wrong. They lose, say, 6-1. Then the next set opens and they’re like a new player. They just make up their minds to do it differently, forget what just happened and do what they know they can. They seem to have the ability to leave behind any discouragement, humiliation or failure. As if it doesn’t matter.

And then, of course, it doesn’t. Precisely because they have left it behind, the abortive set has no influence whatsoever on the new one. It is, I think this ability to let go of what just happened, that distinguishes the most successful players from those lower down the rankings, rather than simply any innate tennis ability. What a wonderful skill to possess. What a brilliant attitude to life, if one can cultivate it.

I mentioned last week I might write a blog about a company I’ve come across whose motto is: Start At Love. They are a supreme example of starting over, and their philosophy of sheer joy about what they produce and then sharing that around, is one to aspire to for all companies. They are called Darn Good Yarn.

You need to understand – have I mentioned it before? – that in another part of my life, I’m a weaver, spinner, knitter, dyer. I love all things ‘woolly’ – sheep’s fleece, alpaca, cashmere… – and all those other things that come close – like cotton, linen, rose fibre (yes, there really is such a thing)… And , of course, the one fibre that might be considered to surpass all these completely – silk. (Once you’ve worked with silk, you might never be able to go back.)

So I’m a dead sucker for websites with pretty pictures of luscious yarns, and the Darn Good Yarn company certainly falls into that category. Tick number one.

What makes this company so special – aside from the inspiring story of how the owner set it up – is how they make their own yarn by utilising sari silk waste which would otherwise find its way into landfill. Tick number two.

Not only that but they employ three hundred women in Nepal and India – who have possibly no other opportunity to earn – to spin this waste up into exciting yarns, paying them a fairtrade rate to do so and enabling them to work in their homes so they can take care of their children as they work. Tick number three.

The founder, Nicole Snow, tells you on her website (www.darngoodyarn.com) how she has always loved yarn and always loved helping others (she’s a US Air Force Veteran). Her business, then, is a perfect fit. It is the ultimate story of building a success by starting at love – love of yarns, love of not wasting resources, love of people, love of new chances in life. An absolute ‘start over’ business.

As Nicole says, “when you start at love, amazing things can happen”. I want to add, that’s just as true when you ‘start over’ at love, too. You’ll have to excuse me now as I can feel  a new chapter coming on …

 

Start At Love

So I’m coming back down to earth after my Wimbledon ‘holiday’ – best fortnight of the year. I’ve spent two glorious weeks trying to watch sometimes as many as  three matches at a time, interspersed with long sessions of following an individual – especially magnificent – meeting of racquets, complete with my knitting, strawberries from the allotment and a box of Thorntons Continental chocolates. It has been wonderful!

What a privilege to share in the stories that have unfolded – the dreams, the aspirations and the resounding failures. To witness possibly one of the greatest quality women’s tennis matches in history – between Radwanska and Cibulkova; potentially the greatest ever women’s tennis-player – Serena Williams – equalling Steffi Graf’s record, after reading that stunning poem by Maya Angelou; the brilliance that is now Andy Murray; and the lowest-ever-ranked player in the history of Wimbledon – Marcus Willis – fulfilling a life-long dream.

I want to tell you Marcus’ story in case you don’t  know it, because in the midst of all the exuberance, enjoyment and disbelief, I suddenly found my way – found the strength, finally, to make a life-changing decision which has been trailing behind me for the past year or so – and it’s very much down to him.

Marcus is –  or was at the start of Wimbledon – ranked 772 in the world. A very talented teenager, he lost his way, made some poor decisions and had his funding withdrawn. As 2016 began, now in his mid-twenties, he’d decided to let go of his aspirations and move to America to work as a tennis coach. Then he met a girl. A very lovely girl, who chose to believe in him, and who persuaded him to have another go at making the big time. He entered Wimbledon to see what happened.

Now, entry into Wimbledon is by no means automatic. You have to either be ranked high enough (772 isn’t going to cut it!), receive a wild card (never having played on the ATP tour was going to rule that out!) or qualify (which means winning three matches back-to-back). What I hadn’t realised was that entry into Qualifying is not automatic, either. There’s a rarely-spoken-of level before that called Pre-Qualifying. It was here that Marcus’ Wimbledon story began.

Three matches in Pre-Qualifying and three matches in Qualifying – all back-to-back – meant that by the time Marcus made it to Round One, he’d already played almost the equivalent of a Grand Slam – in terms of number of matches. His reward: he got to play someone ranked roughly seven hundred and twenty places above him!

I’d spotted this story in the run-up to the tournament. Watching the coverage at Eastbourne the previous week, the draw for all the British players was flagged up and I had a strange feeling about him. Sure enough, by the end of Round One, only Marcus and two others had survived, and one of those was Andy.

I watched Marcus’ first round match and it was exhilarating. Rather than succumb to the immense odds against him, Marcus simply went out there and enjoyed himself, egged on and supported by his own version of a Barmy Army. He had no obvious expectations of winning, so merely concentrated on doing what he loved – playing great tennis. Consequently, he produced the game of his life and won in straight sets!

This time his reward was even more ridiculous – a second round match against, perhaps, the greatest tennis player ever – Roger Federer – on Centre Court! A life-long dream for him. And what a joy for all of us British fans. Determined not to be completely overwhelmed by either the setting or the player on the other side of the net, Marcus kept offering up his best. It took him until the second set to even win a  game but he never gave up. He played his little heart out from beginning to end, regardless of the score-line, and gave us – and him – a Wimbledon memory we’ll never forget.

The experience has turned his life around. With his comparatively astronomical winnings, he plans to start over with his career as a professional player, his vision of what it could be like, providing the inspiration.

And his realisation and embodiment of a dream has been my inspiration, too. I have finally welcomed the decision to relinquish my current work and become a full-time writer. To do what I love.

I recently came across a fabulous company in America (more on that in another blog, I think) whose adopted motto is: Start At Love. Given the scoring system, how thoroughly appropriate for an aspiring tennis player – and, of course, a writer.