Real Women, Real Lives
Who inspires you? Who do you use as your motivator to get things done or to make valuable changes to your life?
There are thousands of women who stimulate our need for greatness. They appear on our television and movie screens, we listen to them on the radio, or we read their encouraging stories in articles or books. It’s easy to put a celebrity on a pedestal and desire their lifestyle, skillset and strength of character, but we don’t need to turn to the glossy magazines, or the big screen, to find inspirational women who can motivate us to succeed. They live next door, work alongside us, and talk to us at the supermarket.
The Real Women, Real Lives feature highlights the incredible individuals who have succeeded on their chosen path, or turned misfortune into positivity. Ladies who have conquered illness or gone above and beyond to help others, and made a difference. Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone and launched a business, or ventures that have an impact on their environment, or community.
These remarkable women are your friend, co-worker and neighbour and I’m delighted to be able to share their stories with you.
Today, I am thrilled to invite Ritu Bhathal to share her story.
Hi Shelley! Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog, in the company of some pretty inspirational women! I don’t feel worthy!
Tell us a little about you and your story.
What is my story? Well, I consider myself to be a pretty run of the mill woman. (Actually, I hesitated before writing woman, as I still think of myself as a girl, then I look in the mirror, and remember I’m over forty!) I’m a daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, aunty – followed by a teacher, a blogger, a writer – an all-round crazy woman – rather like many other women out there.
I was born and brought up in Birmingham, UK, to Kenyan-born Indian parents. They crafted a life here for my brother and I and have always served to be the most inspirational people in my life. My brother married a Finnish girl and they now live in Helsinki, proud parents to two gorgeous Finndian boys, my nephews!
I trained as a teacher, after wanting to become one since the age of seven. One of my hopes was to be able to be an inspirational teacher to the younger children, so they are provided with a solid foundation to their academic career – I want them to know that learning is fun, despite all the pressures the government put upon the youth of today, with may unrealistic expectations – but don’t get me started on that, I’d waffle on for decades!
And I left university with not only a degree, but a fiancé too! I started to write a book before getting married, as I knew there was at least one story in me but it wasn’t to be.
Marriage meant I moved to the Garden of England, Kent, to be with my Hubby Dearest and his family. The responsibilities were great, and my own interests took a back step as I settled into life as a Punjabi daughter-in-law and wife. Don’t get me wrong. I am very lucky as my mother-in-law is lovely, but there are always certain expectations…We now have our own family, two children, a cat and two parrotlets!
I slipped into blogging around four years ago, and the passion for writing came back with a vengeance. In the time I’ve been blogging, I have won the Best Overall Blogger award at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, published a poetry collection and accumulated quite a number of followers on my blog! They gave me the courage to finally finish my novel draft, only eighteen years after starting it! Who knows… maybe 2019 will be the year for it to finally see the light of day as a published book!
Pretty good going for someone who didn’t even know what a blog was when she started it!
What’s your biggest dream in life?
Aside from being a wife, mother and teacher, which I have achieved, I dearly want to finish this process of publishing my novel.
To hold a book with my name on it, possibly to see it in the hands of others who have purchased it, maybe, just maybe, to see it converted to the silver screen… a girl can dream, can’t she?
If you chose a power word for this year what would it be and why?
My word for this year would be FOCUS. I am so good at doing many things, juggling all sorts, but there are times in life you have to put down a baton or two, in order to complete something dear to your heart. I need to do some thinking about what I can step back from, in order to fulfil my dream. I am partway through rereading and rewriting my book, and for that I need time, not a snatched ten minutes here and there, though I’ll take those too!
Who inspires you and why?
This is an easy question for me to answer – my parents. They have been the most inspirational people in my life.
Pops suffered a heart attack and retired from his career in dentistry, then ended up becoming a yoga teacher! He is seventy-two now, and despite having pretty serious emergency surgery last year, he’s still going strong, and always maintains his positivity throughout. He actually took up yoga to help his own health, and then ended up qualifying as an instructor, teaching 4-5 classes a week, all for free, as he feels he wants to give back to the community now he has retired. And he has been so good, a British Sikh channel approached him, and as a result, he has a daily slot on their schedule, showing people how to improve their health by practicing yoga!
He’s also the most serene person I know. Anything that happens, he can give advice to show me the silver lining that I was missing. His words have comforted me at many key moments of my life, like when I suffered my miscarriages, and when we suffered the loss of loved ones. And his hugs are lust the best in the world!
Mum is just the calmest person, and she has taken the huge amount of rubbish that life has thrown at her over the years, used it as fertilizer, so to speak, and become one of the best people to know and love. She came from a very well to do family, she was well educated and even came to the UK for her university education, studying in Bath, at university with Mary Berry no less! My father’s family were no less well off, but not as educated, so she had quite a battle being accepted by her sister in laws (of which there were a lot – big family and all that) Still, she did all she could to fit in, she put a stop to a career in the civil service when I was due to be born, and over the years has been a surrogate mum to many of my cousins who came over from Kenya to complete their education here, and lived with us.
She advised me, when I was getting married, was to never lose the real me. She felt she had lost herself after marriage, drowning in being the daughter-in-law they all expected, even with Pop’s support, and only now, as she is in her late sixties, does she finally feel that she has found herself. She is one of my biggest supporters when it comes to my creative pursuits, as she knows that my writing defines me.
What, in your experience, motivates you best? Can you give an example?
I need to picture my end goal to really go for it.
There are a couple of examples here.
When I decided I wanted to finish writing my story, many other bloggers and author friends mentioned NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which is held in November every year. A great idea, but not for me as a teacher, when the longest term of the year is dragging by, and my energy is zapped. So I decided last year to create my own challenge, RiNoWri Mo, Ritu’s Novel Writing Month, in August, when I was off school. I created a huge storyboard, mapped out exactly where I wanted this story to go, and propped it up in front of me every day of August, and though I didn’t finish the story, I had added 60,000 words to it by the end!
Simlarly, when, a few years ago we had a family photoshoot, I was really pleased with the results, but hated my own photo as I looked so…big. My mum gave me a nudge too, saying it would be much harder to shift weight as I got older too – she knew all about that. So, I decided that I had to do something. I used that photo of me to encourage me to lose the weight, and another photo I had found of me at what I considered my ideal weight, to show myself I could do it, as I had done it before. I signed up to Slimming World and lost 2 stone over six months.
What actions/events/environments would adversely affect your motivation? Can you give an example and how you coped?
As a rule, I stay extremely positive in my life. There is always a flip side to every situation, and I do try to find the brighter side, rather than dwell on the dark.
Having said that, I did go through a rather dark phase in my life at the beginning of last year. There were issues at home, and issues at work. I hate to not be able to give my best to all I do, and I knew I was floundering everywhere. And I didn’t cope well at first. I became extremely introverted, which is totally unlike me. I wasn’t talking to many people, meeting up with friends, and I think my posts on my blog may have been quite reflective of my mindset then too. I was told by close colleagues that I had lost my spark. Then I realised that I was not alone. I found someone at home who I could talk to, a friend who I could be open with, and I shared my concerns with my Head at work.
Realising I had outlets, and that if I accessed them, they were there to support me, made all the difference and I was a different person within a few months.
How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?
I smile, quite simply. I always find that if I smile, everything looks better, and I feel I can face the world and anything it throws at me.
At university, I was known as ‘that smiley, curly haired girl from Birmingham’ and even at work they know they can always count on a smile from me.
I make sure each morning, I take time for myself, before the rest of the household wakes too, to centre my thoughts, and focus. I thank whoever you should thank for another day I have woken up healthy and get ready for whatever life plans to throw at me.
And I’m smiling throughout.
To find out more about Ritu you can connect with her here: