Friday, September 19, 2014

Almost there



On this perfect work day, I wake at about 7am and feed my bambino. I help my daughter get dressed for school and get breakfast for all three of us. I sip coffee and potter about and kiss my husband goodbye as he leaves for work.

Bambino and I walk our beautiful big girl to school in the sunshine and give her a big kiss and hug then watch her run towards her friends at the playground. We walk home, stopping to take the occasional photo on the way, then bambino goes down for his morning nap and I make the beds and tidy the kitchen and prepare snacks and make a couple of shopping lists.

My mum arrives to babysit for a few hours. I head out to my light-filled writing studio. I plunge another coffee (decaf this time), lay out a tarot spread to affirm whatever is swimming around in my psyche. Then I sit and crank out the next 1,000 words of my second novel while I munch on berries, nuts, dried fruit and tiny slivers of the best dark chocolate ever. I drink a lot of water.

I make my way over the road to the swimming pool and clear my head with as many laps as I can manage in half an hour. On the way back to my desk, I check my Post Office box to collect an assortment of postcards, aerogrammes and book deliveries. I pick up some freshly made sushi and munch at my desk while listening to a podcast.

Then it's back to business for the afternoon. Final proofing of my novel before it goes to print. The next stage of edits on a magazine piece I've been working on. Cobbling together rough notes for the next reflective writing challenge. Writing a blog post. Corresponding with a designer regarding the progress of a big, slow burning project.

There's a satisfying mix of short term and long term goals, all of which are consistent with my Core Desired Feelings.* I finish with a tidy in-box and a clear To Do list for the next day.

I head home via the butcher's and fruit & veggie shop, chat with mum about her time with bambino. Then we head over to collect our beautiful big girl from school, maybe even stopping on the way home for a freshly baked pastry or artisanal gelato and a swing in the park.

In the evening, we putter around, unpacking from today and preparing for tomorrow. It's cool outside so we light the fire and put some music on and my daughter dances on the living room carpet while bambino plays with his toys. My husband comes home and cooks dinner and we sit around the table talking about our day and playing "the guessing game" and "the favourites game".

I put my beautiful babes in the bath and read a book while they splash about. Then it's bedtime for the littlies. Many stories and more kisses later, my husband and I unwind in front of the fire with a glass of red and an episode of The Colbert Report then flake out on a sofa each while we gasbag about our day.

We go to bed and fall into deep and effortless sleep, safe in the knowledge we will awake refreshed and ready for more of the same the next day.

And how does this make me feel? As I write this, incredible. And incredulous, knowing that this sort of day is almost within my reach.

If I can juuust stay the distance... I'm almost there.

* More on this soon!

This post is my response to Day Five of the August Moon reflective writing challenge. You are most welcome to share your own response to the prompt in the comments below. 

Otherwise, the next opportunity to connect is Reverb in December. Join us?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The vocabulary


They're a funny bunch, to be sure. They sit there and wait for me, patiently, each day.

The 1920s flapper with her peacock velvet kimono, silk seamed stockings, red patent Mary Janes. Perhaps a puff of shimmer in her perfume. A faux fur stole. Most certainly a flower in her hair. And trinkets a-plenty.

Then there's the slouchy urban dweller. All hoodies and jeans and sneakers and a messenger bag stuffed with a graphic novel, headphones and cute Japanese stationery. Coffee and iPhone in hand.

The elegant nautical-flavoured Coco Chanel-inspired dame sometimes makes an appearance (particularly if something vaguely resembling "corporate" is required). She can never resist blue and white or stripes, brightly coloured sandals and a scarf bien sûr. But don't dare call her preppy.

Most often, a dapper boho reigns supreme. Skirts whenever possible, dresses most of Summer. Boots and patterned stockings. Painted nails and a slick of eyeliner or maybe some glitter eyeshadow. A little bit of layering but always talismans. Harmonious colour and often something just that little bit daring.

And then, when it all gets too hard, there's the chunky soft hand knits. The cowls and beanies and handwarmers. Corduroy slippers. Pyjamas a-plenty.

Unsurprisingly, there are also boxes and boxes of costumes from ghosts of Kat past: the velvet flared jumpsuits, the embroidered woollen Greek coats, the waistcoats, the leather pants purchased from the proceeds of a dance performance. These wait patiently for a certain little girl to get older... and curious.

They feel like family, these gorgeous gals in my wardrobe. They're a celebration, a tiny rebellion, an expression of individuality, of freedom.

But they also act as a vocabulary, my daily choices reflecting my intuitive understanding of what the day will require. As I said yesterday, it's not really about the stuff. It's about navigating my way towards the connection... to my self... and others.

This post is my response to Day Four of the August Moon reflective writing challenge. You are most welcome to share your own response to the prompt in the comments below. 

Otherwise, the next opportunity to connect is Reverb in December. Join us?


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The way in


Although it's not fashionable to say it, from my perspective it's pretty easy to love stuff. Especially books. More specifically, books about writing books. Books about people who read books. Books about people in general. Books on how to show your love for people with food.

It's also pretty easy to love the stuff that people use to celebrate themselves. Particularly the stuff that can be used as a tiny celebration of individuality every day. Trinkets, talismans. Costumes, face paint, sparkles. Photographs.

And then there's the joy that comes from listening to (or watching) people do what they love. Particularly if it involves music. Or if art is the outcome.

Many years after I'm gone, the (un)lucky soul charged with the task of sorting through the debris of my life will be confronted with rather a lot of stuff. Letters. Jewellery. Many pairs of boots. Hats. Art prints. Owls. Journals. DVDs. Emails. Photos. Arts supplies. Magazines. CDs. Recipes. Candles.

I'd leave them instructions to create a favourite moment in my life. I'd say: start by lighting the open fire. Pull a handmade blankie over your knees and pour yourself a coffee and turn on the radio to PBS FM's Gospel Show. Thumb your way through the weekend newspapers or a New Yorker (or a Frankie) while your beloved family putters around you, stopping now and again for a chat or a hug. When you feel like getting up, cut yourself a piece of chocolate cake, light a candle and retreat to the bathtub for a soak and some fabulous fiction and a scribble in your journal (or one of mine). When you're ready, dry off and dress in your most fabulous kimono, put a flower in your hair and add cowgirl boots and some glitter eyeshadow. Spend the afternoon, sharing morsels of Reggiano parmesan and artisan dark chocolate with your family. Maybe even bake something. Go for a walk in the sunshine, browse in shop windows, pick flowers from neighbourhood gardens, have swing in the park, take photos of your shadows. Savour slow cooked tender morsels for dinner. Watch a Studio Ghibli DVD, followed by The Colbert Report once the bambini have gone to bed.

I'd say: take a moment to inhale. Savour the feeling of being one of the luckiest people on earth. Exhale and open your eyes and your arms to the world around you.

I'd say: know that the stuff is really just a way in.

I'd say: although it may look like you're living in a cocoon of your own making, the truth is, it's all about people. About what it is to live a good life, to be alive in this world.

This post is my response to Day Three of the August Moon reflective writing challenge. You are most welcome to share your own response to the prompt in the comments below. 

Otherwise, the next opportunity to connect is Reverb in December. Join us?


Monday, September 15, 2014

The time that is (not) my own



It feels like supreme irony that the second prompt in the August Moon series is about time. It's "only" been a week since my last post. But, as I keep on saying, it feels like an eternity.

My time does not feel like my own.

I started this post around midday when I had a sleeping bambino and a quiet house and a swag of chores that could be put on hold (i.e. nothing urgent). For the first time in a week, I had the time I'd been yearning for to write.

And then...

I answered emails. Scoffed junk food. Bought yet another set of oracle cards. Printed out recipes. Phoned my husband. SMSed friends and family regarding school holiday plans.

In short: anything but writing.

Sure, there's something to be said for easing in. I often putter a bit and get my "house in order" before I get down to the task. But as I sat and phfaffed and watched my precious alone time dwindle, I had to wonder if I was avoiding something.

So many kindred spirits tackling this task shared their hesitation: surely others would find the minutiae of their lives boring? The truth was, their descriptions were anything but.

I shared this worry, for sure. But there was something else. I was afraid I would come across as negative, pathetic and ungrateful.

So many of my waking hours are filled with repetitive tasks that can feel ungratifying.

Getting up with a wide awake bambino at 5am. Breakfast duty. Trying to maintain an orderly kitchen.  Breastfeeding. School drop-off and pick-up. Tidying up toys and artwork and books and still seeing piles of stuff everywhere. Lunchbox packing and unpacking. A lot of nagging in the name of getting places on time. Grocery shopping. Attempting (usually unsuccessfully) to keep on top of emails. Attempting to build some kind of routine with respect feeding bambino solids. Loads and loads of laundry. Finagling a little girl in and out of clothes. Numerous attempts to settled a bambino who's inexplicably reluctant to sleep.

And then, stuffed in every nook and cranny of time between tasks is the worry.

My daughter's soupy cough. My bambino's teeth and/or tummy. My appalling diet. The increasing irregularity of my blog posts. My bodgy back. Watching my New Yorker subscription pile up. Missing out on what's happening on twitter. Irritability at not being able to read a single sentence of the weekend paper without interruption. Never getting enough sleep. Crashing out at the end of each day feeling like I have done as much as I can and how it never feels like enough.

But, at the same time, I know that this is not the full story.

I am grateful.

And I am lucky. And I know that none of this will last forever.

My bambino's mega-watt smile. Sitting outside in the sunshine, letting the heat soak into my eyelids and cheeks as I look up from my book. Making "spoon bugs" out of airdrying clay and cotton buds with my beautiful girl. Receiving powerful and poignant reminders that I am not alone, over the phone, in my in-box and via social media. Going for a quick drive to savour Melbourne's best gelato. Maintaining a new tradition of "screen free Sundays" and upholding my end of the bargain not to do any chores on Sundays so we can rest and play together.

Feeling drawn to nourish myself better, not the least reason being so I can nourish others. And then I see myself get overwhelmed by options, conflicting views, the comparison trap. My all-at-once, all-or-nothing mechanisms start to mobilise... and threatening to defeat me before I start.

I stop and ask myself: what is the one thing I can do today?

I make micromovements towards the life I want to lead. I email a friend for her recipe for almond milk. I get my yoga mat out of the wardrobe. I choose a new slow cooker recipe to try over the weekend. I pull an unused Gratitude journal off the shelf.

In the gratitude, the micromovements I make space for the only thing that is missing: self-compassion.

And somehow that feels anything but boring. Or scary.

This post is my response to Day Two of the August Moon reflective writing challenge. You are most welcome to share your own response to the prompt in the comments below. 

Otherwise, the next opportunity to connect is Reverb in December. Join us?


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The trouble with intentions


I've been setting intentions at the beginning of each month, with the assistance of my superb Tranquility du Jour Daybook. If I'm to be honest, I am not using the book exactly as suggested by the layout: it's more of a To Do list keeper cum scrapbook. But the practice of setting intentions each month has been transformative, even if I haven't done a very good job of keeping them.

For the month of September, decompression was high on the agenda. Picking up the Desire Map thread was one goal. As was resuming a lapsed craft project. It seemed to me that some gentle introspection and a dose of crochet were just what the doctor ordered.

August was a pretty hardcore month. There was August Moon, of course. And a massive letter-writing parcel-sending postcard-penning project. There was the Melbourne Writers Festival. And the necessity of completing my tax return.

Then there was the stuff of life: play dates and birthday parties and the book week dress-up parade for my little 'un; helping out at her school; checking in on friends going through a hard time; helping my parents shift some furniture; working on my aching back; trips to Ikea; resuming swimming; amping up the breastfeeding effort after bambino decided to refuse solids for a couple of weeks; and so on.

Somehow I rode the crest of all this activity with clean, uncomplicated and seemingly endless energy. Most of the above felt surprisingly easy. And joyful.

And then, for some reason, it didn't. There was still the relentless pace and the ticking things off the To Do list. But my days took on a manic quality which started to unnerve me a little.

Looking back, the triggers are a little more obvious but at the time it felt like I was being sucked back into the vortex of anxiety and I was confused as all hell. I inhaled sugary treats from the minute I woke up until then minute I went to bed. I was short tempered and bad humoured and very very cynical. In short: a joy to be around.

There's much I could say about the vortex but the truth is, I am not yet on the other side of it. I can see the triggers a lot more clearly though. It's largely to do with the day job I am on maternity leave from: the organisation I work for is undergoing a massive restructure such that my job and the unit I was in no longer exist, and the opportunities for me are not yet clear.

Obviously, this is problematic for a vast number of people and the risks for me are insignificant by comparison. I am part time and not the main breadwinner in our house: if I were not re-employed then we'd manage.

So it should be relatively simple. But there's something else going on for me. And this something is requiring that I articulate what I want for my future and why. And it's been surprisingly difficult.

Getting certain words to travel from my heart to my brain then out of my mouth has been a scary and exhausting task. Even though the witnesses to these words, when they finally surface, are routinely unsurprised and perennially supportive.

So what is it that am I so afraid of?

Understanding that, right now, is my work.

This post is my response to Day One of the August Moon reflective writing challenge. You are most welcome to share your own response to the prompt in the comments below. 

Otherwise, the next opportunity to connect is Reverb in December. Join us?


Monday, September 8, 2014

Surfacing


Goodness, has it really been two weeks since the last day of August Moon (and my last post)? This time has passed in the blink of an eye... and yet... my tiredness would suggest that a lot has happened in this time... though what, exactly, I'd be hard pressed to say.

Then again, my bambino turned six months on Saturday and that feels like an important clue.

It seems to me that when you're in the midst of something huge (like tending to a newborn or cultivating your dream job or wrestling with your demons and maybe all of the above but, really, anything that consumes the majority of your energy), you don't have much choice but to keep showing up and doing your best. Even when it feels like you're fumbling through a fog and you have no idea what you're doing or you're afraid that what you are doing is not right or not enough or not graceful or not smart or all of these things.

And this is what happens, day after day, night after night. And you stumble in the same way each day but maybe, on occasion, catch the glimmer of possibility that you could do something slightly different. But it doesn't feel like anything substantial has changed.

And then months may pass and you take a moment to step out of the grind and realise that the sun is shining. And, actually, a new(ish) pattern is emerging. And maybe things do feel slightly easier.

Maybe it's because external circumstances have changed. Your bambino is older and has slightly less intensive needs. Job opportunities have come and gone and you have a clearer picture of the game you're playing. People are realising the part they play in your life and are making greater effort to be helpful and, occasionally, empathic.

But maybe things feel easier because some subtle shifts have been happening in your psyche. Life with a bambino is full-on most of the time but you've been tuning in and getting a stronger grasp of what you and your tiny one need. You're still hesitant to step up and own what you want for your working life but you're much more ready to articulate it and face your barriers, with help. You still get triggered by the stuff of everyday life but you're finally seeing some long-hidden tipping points which, in turn, helps loosen the straightjacket of anxiety.

So when I say "you" I actually mean "me".

But I also mean YOU.

Because it seems that most of the people I know are presently in situations where they do not feel they have full control over what is happening and it's overwhelming.

This is very much the case for me. I want things to change. And I also want to fastforward to the bit where I learn what happens. And I want it to look exactly like some image I have in my head of what I think my life "should" look like.

But the rub is, I don't have much choice other than to keep showing up, keep ticking as many boxes as I can, and try and hold on to some semblance of faith that I am fumbling in the right direction.

And then, today I surfaced for a breath of fresh air saw it all clear as day in the sweet Melbourne Springtime. I absolutely am heading in the right direction. Just because it doesn't feel safe or certain, doesn't mean it's not going to be glorious... or that I'm not going to be proud of myself and so very much stronger for staying the distance.

So in case you're not sure today, I feel like it's my job to remind you: it is absolutely going to be OK.

This is just how real change happens.

You're doing a great job and exactly what you need to be doing.

Keep on keeping on. x


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August Moon 14, the day after...


It's hard to believe August Moon has just finished for another year! I know I always say this but it has been a truly incredible journey.

There have been about half a dozen writers who have blogged every single day and shared their posts in the daily linky. Friends, I am totally in awe of your commitment and tenacity! And am so grateful for the way you forged such a beautiful community by commenting on each other's posts. The friendships that have come out of these dialogues have been a wonder to behold.

It's also been a privilege to journey with those of you who have been following along privately. I have also been lucky enough to receive occasional emails and SMSes from kindred spirits on the journey, which have made the effort worthwhile.

I've just sent out the last email to my August Moon community with some sustenance for the journey. If you are still working your way through the prompts, the linkies will stay open until the end of August. Also, I'll be sharing my responses over the next couple of weeks, so you'll be welcome to share your own if you feel so called.

If you didn't sign up this time around, then you may be interested to know that the following opportunities are coming up soon:

My pal Meredith Shadwill is offering a reflective writing prompt series called September Equinox from 23 to 30 September, with a focus on balance and transitioning. Sounds juicy!

And I'll be running Reverb again this coming December. For those of you who journeyed with me during August Moon, it'll be a great opportunity to check in and see how we've travelled with our newly found (or recently rejuvenated) intentions!

Thank you again for your company and for your courage. It has been a privilege to walk the path with you, in the light of that super super moon.