Two weeks ago, former journalist and news editor, Melanie Britz, who lives in Somerset West and currently works as an estate agent approached us with the request to share her upcoming memoir with the public. After reading her book, we needed no further convincing. This was a story that needed to be shared and most importantly, it needed to be shared with other women.
This is Britz' story and we hope it inspires you as much as it inspired us.
First time author and former Vaalweekblad news editor Melanie Britz has managed to do what some of us only wish we could do – go back in time to our 20-year old self and offer her the wisdom gained from years spent in the trenches of life. In her self-published inspirational memoir and self-help book Dive In – Unlocking happiness and miracles, Britz has literally jumped into the deep end of her young adult life, picking away at the painful memories of a family torn apart by a divorce no one saw coming and the trauma of a mother’s near suicide attempt.
“It was really a powerful process to see my younger self so clearly and to realise, twenty years later, how far I had come and how much I had learnt and what exactly those lessons were,” explains Britz as she talks about her memoir, which consists of a number of letters penned to her younger self and was recently published as a Kindle eBook on Amazon.
“In this moment, you are in your second year of university in Johannesburg,” writes Britz.
“The year is 1996. I can just see you there, through the mists of time, swinging your book bag carelessly, humming a tune under your breath as you walk along, on your way to class. So innocent, and so unprepared for what is to come. My heart just wants to break with love and compassion and horror, because even though our life up to this point has been hard at times, it is about to change forever.”
“Everything is going to go to hell real soon, almost in the blink of an eye. You are about to experience a major heartbreak in terms of a loss of a relationship that you care about. At almost the same time a precious childhood friend (and anchor in our life) is going to be killed, suddenly and violently. This terrible tragedy is going to mark the moment we lose our faith in God (and life).”
The letters, she says, were not only about writing a book for herself, but about sharing her own experiences with others and how she overcame things that impacted on her while growing up.
“As a child, I was never really taught how to handle my emotions and for most of my adult life, this caused huge problems in my life, however, over time I learnt how to process difficult emotions and its one of the things I share in detail in the letters. Another part focuses on our programming, the things our subconcious mind learns in our first seven years on earth and which we do not realise make an impact later on. In those seven years we are taught about life by people who are teaching us based on their own programming, which is often not any better.”
“I had to dig deep and learn how to change my own programming and my way of thinking about myself and others. Thirdly, the book also focuses on love and acceptance of self and how one can move from a place of not being happy at all, to learning to accept and to forgive yourself for the mistakes that you have made in the past as well as those around you, whom you love and care about, but who have made mistakes too.”
Other topics that Britz touches on include her struggle with her weight and beliefs around money and how it is linked to our programming.
“Our programming about food got screwed up at a very early age. Some of these you’ll remember, like if I tell you to think about a childhood chocolate memory, or that day with the horrible curry offal.”
“The programming that began to run, reinforced with punishment and disapproval, was that in order for our parents and other authority figures to love us and approve of us and not punish us, we had to stuff down food that we didn’t actually want to eat or were punished for wanting,” writes Britz.
While Britz has a strong writing background and specialised in marketing, communications and public relations in the past – she worked as a journalist and later news editor of Mooivaal Media’s community newspaper, Vaalweekblad, then as communications officer for the SAPS in the Vaal Rand area – she laughs when asked about how these letters to herself initially came about.
“It’s a weird story and I would not recommend that anyone attempts to write a book in this way.”
The book chapters came to her while she was cooking a pot of soup, something she describes as a therapeutic practice which forces her to slow down and become absorbed in the process alone.
“One day, while cooking soup, I got this list of topics, which became most of the chapters in the book, and the urgent feeling that this was the book I had to write,” she explains.
This strong feeling, which she calls Knowing and most of us refer to as our intuition, Britz has managed to tune into successfully over the years. It’s this Knowing that alerted her to her mother’s imminent suicide attempt and helped her spring into action to prevent it.
“The only way I can make sense of this Knowing thing is if we are indeed all connected (in ways other than normal, like the internet or cell phone signals). I think maybe we all have an ability to tap into this energy, this collective consciousness and get snippets of information from it. Most people I know have experienced it in some way. You meet someone and something just doesn’t feel right. You think of someone you haven’t talked to in a while and the phone rings, and it’s them. Knowing who is calling without the caller ID. Once you start to notice it, it is actually a frequent thing,” explains Britz as she sips her coffee in a local deli in Stellenbosch, about 40 kilometres from Somerset West, which she now calls home and where she works as an estate agent.
Writing the book, she says, was really hard and required a lot of discipline.
“It was also an experience causing a lot of insecurity, because I started wondering, who was I to write about certain things I wanted to speak about in this book.”
After the research for each chapter had been concluded and fleshed out, Britz left her writing untouched for a few months because of this fear. However, a meeting with Shaldon Fitzgerald, a Cape Town hypnotherapist and coach, unlocked the block for her.
“I was totally frustrated with the writing process and as I sat there talking to him, I started crying. That’s when he told me: ‘Stop writing this book for everyone else, write it for yourself’.”
The message stuck with Britz and on her way home, it hit her – she needed to literally write the book for herself, but a younger self.
“And just like that I started enjoying the writing process again and everything started flowing.”
Britz has taken the publication of her book a step further. In sharing some of the chapters with friends and family, she realised that many women had a similar story to share or could relate to the pain of loneliness, feelings of unworthiness and feeling unloved.
She created a website called Showing Up Today and in the conclusion to her memoir, has invited others to share letters they would pen to their younger selves today online.
“Sitting down and really thinking about my life and all the things I wanted to tell my younger self was a moment of deep introspection, but also a moment of power for me. Digging deep within our experience and stringing those pearls together to make a necklace for our less experienced, less wrinkled versions to wear, is a cathartic thing to do and also ultimately - a gesture of hope. It means that we’ve learned something from our life and our experience and all our struggles and that is a wonderful thing.”
“By taking charge of the stories we tell ourselves about the s**t that happened to us, the bad things we did and the pain we experienced, we are able to transmute them into helpful, shining examples of bravery and kindness to ourselves. It’s a special kind of magic, I think.”
If you're interested in submitting your own Listeners can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to submit a letter to be published on www.showinguptoday.com.