Updated: Mar 29
Coronavirus Can't Stop The Hustle
This is what working from home looks like this week. Music has to be blaring, I need many devices around, water with lemon and a nice scented candle.
I didn’t ever in my wildest dreams think that my first blog post would be when the whole world is under siege by a deadly virus, Covid19, and millions are at home in isolation. Sounds like the first line of a movie script, yet here we are in a new reality and I felt now, was as good as time as any to write.
Let me start by sending you my love, good vibrations, and positive energy. I know we all probably feel a little shell shocked, trying to take it in as Coronavirus causes changes as at alarming rate and we attempt to keep up whilst keeping a level of normality in our lives. All I can say, is I hope this blog, finds you in a good mental space and that sharing my experience gives you some kind of connection.
Me, self-isolating at home with my soldiers to protect me
As I sit down to write this in my slightly chilly pad in London, (I’m keeping the door open in an attempt to get some fresh air in isolation), the UK, went on a Coronavirus lockdown on Monday 23rd March 2020, closing most of the shops and instructing us only to go out for exercise, food or essential work. We are on day 5 of ‘lockdown”. I’m on day 10 of self-isolation. I have not been out of the house, not even for food and I haven’t seen anyone. Yet this is, and has been, the reality of my life for some time now.
Moments of Adversity Can Bring Out Your Greatness
I collapsed 10 years ago, whilst producing a movie script in Dubai, and after much investigation and a year in hospital, I found out I had a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos III. The label means nothing to me, but the symptoms are very real. I’ve gone through a stroke, a heart condition, a stomach collapse… honestly every time I thought I was ‘over it’ I’d hit another huge and frightening health condition. One day, I’ll write a post about what it was like dealing with these awful experiences, but the point of this blog is how I found something new through adversity and I hope, it will give you some inspiration to find your own inner talents.
This image was taken October 2019. 10 Years after I collapsed in Dubai, I returned able to stand tall once more with my own Chocolate Company, Cocoa To Thrill www.cocoatothrill.com
When you think about getting ill, you may think about the physical pain, you may imagine being in bed and not feeling quite yourself. What’s a little more difficult to imagine is losing control of your life. Although now we are in a Coronavirus Pandemic, I’m sure it’s a bit easier to relate to. Literally not being able to plan anything, not being able to socialise, not being able to travel, your short term and long-term goals in a tailspin, I experienced this and more in a kind of sickness-Induced- social -isolation. I was too sick to go out for a very long time, a walk to the kitchen felt like a trip to the mall. In short, right now, I think I know how you feel. It’s that feeling of being a little lost and asking yourself ‘what’s next’. Feeling uncertain, not quite able to take in what’s happening and sometimes… feeling a little scared.
Netflix and Pills
So, what did I do? Well, I was faced with all these emotional feelings, coupled with physical incapability. At once point I was too weak to lift a remote control, thank you Netflix for rolling on in a binge blur. It was a challenge, it wasn’t easy. You now have a new-found time alone, that you would otherwise be filling with some kind of busy-ness. It’s a kind of silent time which stretches long, sometimes a little longer than you would like. It’s time to get to know yourself. Now, if you’re anything like me, that prospect is pretty daunting. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be around myself. I wasn’t even sure if I knew who myself was without the constant feeding frenzy of social interaction. But sometimes we are forced to come face to face with ourselves and look at it all. Don’t fear finding something ugly, I promise, you will be amazed at just how awesome your awesomeness is.
Let’s focus on that for a minute. At this point in your life, you probably feel you know what you’re good at right? Actually no. Why? Because there’s a whole plethora of things you haven’t had time to try yet and there’s a whole host of things you’ve tried before but someone, somewhere told you that you were rubbish at it and you just stopped. Take me for instance. At school, they wouldn’t let me take art. I wasn’t good enough to draw apparently and yes, I was one of those kids who used to colour outside the lines and got told off for it. Because of this, I just always assumed I couldn’t draw or paint or anything, even though it looked like something that was fun to me and I’ve always been fascinated by it.
It took me 3 weeks of sheer determination and lots of broken pencils to draw the Cocoa To Thrill Logo, and here you see it here, on a media wall, in Dubai at Fashion Week not bad for someone who can't draw.
Well, when I had time on my hands, I couldn’t do much and I was stuck in the house, so I just tried drawing and painting. The key bit here is I was just doing it. I wasn’t intending on showing anyone, I wasn’t making it some big deal or practise – “you must do this every Saturday Morning” type vibe. No. I just kind of scribbled and played with the colours and listened to music for no real reason or purpose. There is the magic. Having a bit of solace, a bit of silent time, allows you to just be. It gives you the space to find yourself. I literally never knew what that meant before and the term still kind of irks me, but you’ll see what I mean if you try it. Whatever is inside will pour out. You don’t need to tell anyone about it. You doesn’t need to be good or bad. You don’t need to judge it. You just need to do it.
Create Baby, It's What You Were Born To Do
This was one of my first ever paintings, it hangs in my kitchen and I don't care if any one likes it, because I loved the process.
I went on to draw and paint a number of pieces. Actually a few of them came out well enough for me to give them as gifts to people now and again. I don’t know if they were good, but they were from my heart and that’s all that mattered. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush for 5 years. I’m not sad about it though because that little step during the time that I couldn’t, for instance, write this blog, lead me on the path to my sweet little chocolate company, Cocoa To Thrill.
CEO, Chocolate Executive Officer
Entrepreneurship often comes out of a moment of adversity. Why is that? Because when something bad happens, it shifts us out of comfort zone. It takes us out of the rat-race, and forces us to look at things a little differently. Change can be so uncomfortable. Adversity can be so painful, and we often wonder why we have to endure it. Why do we have to stay in the house, right now and watch in horror as the Coronavirus sweeps our world. It’s bad, it really is, but when there’s chaos on the outside it often forces us to look within. Am I happy? Do I love my job? Do I want to continue to live my life like this once this is over? This is where ideas, desires and goals begin to spark. It’s at this moment that we tell our brains we want to do something fulfilling and it answers our call. For some reason, we need a push and sometimes something really bad has to happen for us to do something really good.
Don't Cheat on a Cupcake
My push was in the form of a strange and uncertain illness that almost took everything away from me. Awful, painful, hurt, but it got me to this point. By 2018, I had almost recovered from what felt like a 4 year walk through the valley off death, after a series of strokes and had started to at least be able to do basic things on my own. With assistance, I could travel, go shopping in a wheelchair and had finally been able to walk up a flight of stairs. A goal which took me nearly 18 months to achieve. I felt almost human again, but I was no way near living a normal life. However, with a new-found dose of a little energy (one of my symptoms is, I get painfully exhausted daily) I decided to bake.
Woah, where did that come from. I’ve never been one to bake anything. I’m all about cheating a cupcake, buying it from a shop, because who needs to do all that work? It all looked so hard with all the flour and measuring. Didn’t think it was my thing. But, I love to eat cakes and I’m addicted to weird flavours like peanut butter and vanilla and you can’t usually buy that from a shop, so I thought I’d give it a swirl.
Now given, I needed a lot of help with this. I had to use a box and ask my full time carer to help me with it, luckily she was a baker. But I did it, I made a cake and guess what, I loved it. And that’s the thing, when you’ve got a bit of time and you try something new, you might actually surprise yourself. That people is what they call ‘finding yourself”
Before I knew it, I was making all kinds of cakes. I’ve got to say, I preferred the decorating more than anything else. There’s something about spreading buttercream into art that I just dig. I didn’t ‘train” how to make cakes or put pressure on myself to do classes, although if that’s your sweet jam, you can find these online and do them from home.
I don’t have a lot of energy, so my cake process was limited to furious scrolling on Pinterest, a few cake books and having some baker friends. With this rudimentary knowledge, I actually started to get quite good at it, although it’s important to remember this is never the goal. The goal in all this, is just to enjoy yourself and have fun. I did have fun. People even started paying me for these fun creations. Then people started saying, “Samona, you should make a business of this”. Hmm. It wasn’t for me because that cake business is sweetly savage, but I did make a cake with a chocolate shoe.
I Found A Chocolate Covered Dream
Woah, where did that idea come from? There’s something about lying in bed for days on end for so long that the days begin to merge into each other and the walls begin to cave in. By the way, don’t do this Coronavirus isolation, if you’re not sick, get up and move. But yes, for me, lying there staring at my many shoes, (most of them I couldn’t wear because they were super high and I couldn’t walk), eating chocolate, I hit upon an idea. When I thought about a chocolate shoe, I had no idea if it was even possible. I had never worked with chocolate before. I’d seen them sculpted into eggs and bunnies and for no real apparent reason apart from the fact my head is like a Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Alice In Wonderland mash up, I figured I could probably make one.
Image by my dear friend Anthony David King who took a series of images of me when I first found out I was "disabled" and freed me from being bed bound.
After doing a bit of research, I spent one an afternoon covered in chocolate, it was everywhere, and in the midst of the chocolate explosion, I made a chocolate shoe. She was perfect. Actually, she wasn’t, but back to my point, it doesn’t need to be good, you just need to enjoy it and I really enjoyed it. I listened to music on full blast, on repeat, as is my process. I stuck things on it, I smoothed it out, I felt like I was in the pottery scene in Ghost. There were paint brushes everywhere, sparkles, glitter, sugar pearls and I tasted so many chocolate flavours. I was barefoot, hair wild, like a chocolate warrior princess in low light with the soul music blasting. If you have seen Little Fires Everywhere, think Kerry Washington’s character without the smokes. I was insanely happy in that chocolate moment and that was the point.
Art you can eat. Wow, this was better than any painting I had ever created. It’s a double whammy. What made this process even more enjoyable was the reactions. “Ooo”, “Aaaah”, a chocolate shoe. “It tastes delicious”. By the way, I would never make anything that doesn’t taste like a piece of heaven because although my baking started late, I am obsessed with desserts. I look at it first on a menu.
Feeling Lost. Lose Yourself!
Something I love, love love, is seeing a smile on people’s faces. I love giving them things and seeing their reactions. I love making and creating things for people. When I was going through this chaotic adversity. I had no money. Nada. I lost my flourishing career and the Louis V was empty and had to be sold. I know many of you are pondering what is going to happen with finances during this Coronavirus Pandemic and this honestly is one of the biggest struggles. I think there’s an old Chinese Proverb about this, wish I could remember it exactly but roughly interpreted I’ve learnt that things can be there, or they can go, it doesn’t make a difference, the world keeps turning. Basically, don’t hold on to material things, hold on to yourself. You can’t lose yourself baby.
So, I couldn’t afford to buy people expensive gifts anymore, but I could make them chocolate shoes and that’s what I did. I enjoyed everything about it, from mixing and tempering the chocolate, to experimenting with the flavours and more than anything getting to know myself through the chocolate. The chocolate didn’t always work out, neither do I.
And so, from extreme adversity, finding myself, wanting to make people smile and enjoying myself Cocoa To Thrill was eventually born. After making my first chocolate shoe like a barefoot chocolate warrior princess, I find myself being featured on major TV programmes, The Wonderful World of Chocolate, flying to Arab Fashion Week, setting up production units and making chocolate shoes for royalty, connecting with people all over the world and this is just the beginning. Yes, we are in a pandemic, many of us in isolation and it’s all pretty insane but I hope this story helps you to find your crazy creative moments through the insanity and I look forward to seeing your new found talents bursting through into our emerging future.
Let me finish by saying I’ve been meaning to write a blog to share my experiences but it’s always been super hard and guess what, I haven’t had the time! As I write this, I’m battling extreme fatigue which kind of feels like a migraine. I’m forcing myself to stay up and get on with the day since it’s only midday, but it is tough. I didn’t write a blog because it takes so much out of me and I wasn’t sure it anyone would read it. But now I’ve actually done it, I enjoyed the process with music on repeat and that is the point. Enjoy the process. If you did happen to enjoy this blog too please do share it with people who you think it would edify and let me know you liked it with a heart, thumbs up or whatever. I love love love the smiles.
Love and Light