Monday, July 21, 2014

#reverb13 revisited

I'm a thousand types of happy that the truly terrific Tracy has written some mid-year check-in prompts for the #reverb13 crew. What a perfect way to see how all those dreams and intentions we set all the way back in December are incubating!

Without further ado -- and never mind *how* many weeks late -- here they are:

1. Choices: If you chose one, how are you honoring your word for 2014… or do you want to change it (feel free to pick a new word now!)?

The word that chose me for 2014 is trust. To be honest, it feels like trust and I have wrestled with one another all year. Motherhood -- particularly of a newborn -- has been a stark reminder of all the ways in which I do not instinctively trust my self my judgement (or, occasionally, my sanity).

If I were to be more honest -- or cynical -- the word that would more accurately describe my year would be should. Because that has been the word that has undone me, time and time again.

I should be coping better. This should feel easier. I should be able to manage just like so-and-so seems to. I should be over my stuff by now. I should be able to do it all, without sleep, without sugar, without time to myself, without help. I should be the perfect parent, the committed writer, the one who never misses the bigger message.

I'm reminded of my dear friend Max Daniels and how I told her I felt I needed to trust a certain knowledge more and she challenged me, with her delicious trademark grin, "Don't trust it: investigate it! See if it works for you. And if it doesn't, toss it!"

As I write this, I wonder if permission would be a more honouring word, one that leaves room for greater investigation and flexibility and compassion. And, funnily enough, that feels like something I could trust.

2. Habits: How are you managing your habits? Are you still battling addictions, eliminating the negativity and turning-off auto-pilot? Have you added any new good habits?

One of the biggest habits I have been tackling this year has been my sugar consumption. But it's fair to say that, with a lot of help, the auto-pilot has been switched off. I know why I numb myself with chocolatey substances and I see myself do it. And I can also see the tiny moments that afford opportunities for interruption. Sometimes I take these opportunities, sometimes I don't.

I used to wonder why I chose to tackle this particular habit whilst sleep-deprived, hormonal and breastfeeding. But I see how the old and deeply ingrained feelings that drive most of my knee-jerk behaviour (particularly the shoulds) are exactly the same ones I want to numb out. They just become magnified by a million in that vulnerable time that is life with a newborn.

It's a work in progress and, in many ways, one I'm grateful for.

3. Priorities: Describe a single moment where you practiced self-compassion over the last six months. What did you do and why?

Today is a good example. Today I am easing up on myself. Today I said no, with apology, that I would not be able to manage a certain errand that would see me staggering around yet another harshly lit, noisily sterile, disorienting shopping mall. Today I admitted I was tired and on the brink of struggling. Today I decided to live with a bit of mess around me. Today I decided to do what I can. Today I claimed unambitiousness as an act of freedom.

There haven't been many days like today. But I am learning that this is one of the most powerful ways of avoiding the perfect storm that engulfs me with panic and kick-starts the shoulds. Once those shoulds start reverberating, I see anxiety pile up in layers upon layers on top of my psyche. My chest fills with a black hole, my eyes can't focus, my ears become blocked, my arms go limp and I struggle to breathe.

Today I see the layers descending and I stand as still as I can, knowing that only with love will they will evaporate into thin air.

4. Living: Show us your best memory to date. How can you make more of them just like that this year?

There are so many incredible memories swirling before my mind's eye as I write this. But, just this morning, as I gave my daughter a kiss and cuddle before she joined her class at assembly, I watched as she leaned into her baby brother's pram, gave him a kiss and said, "Never forget, big sister is here!".

I am so grateful for this question because it reminds me that my job is not always to make memories: it's to notice them.

5. Dreaming: If we could grant you one wish that would ultimately make 2014 your best year ever, what would it be?

It feels like a selfish one but it would make my millennium to have my novel published. As I've mentioned before, I submitted it during a particular window of opportunity and, as I hadn't heard anything, assumed that window had been firmly closed. But I recently discovered that it has been left ajar (if I can flog this metaphor just one more time) and that gives me hope that there's even the tiniest possibility left that I am in the running for publication.

I'm under no illusions about the traditional publishing route. It's hard work and it's an even tougher marketplace. But it still feels like the right path for me and I remain optimistic that my gorgeous, brave protagonist will see light of day... one day.

Thank you so much, Tracy!

I'd love to know how all my Reverb kindreds are travelling! If you feel inclined, please do link to your responses in the comments below.

And if you enjoyed this... why not sign up for August Moon?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The truth behind the tweet

Recently, I have been pondering how it is that one of the worst things I can say to myself on a Friday night is, "Wow! We don't have any plans for the weekend! That means I can take it easy." Because what tends to happen is I go into manic mode and fill every moment of the next two days with domestic and organisational activity, refusing to sit down and rest, dammit.

After discussing this with my therapist, I decided to stay open and curious going into the weekend, to see what the tipping points might be. Specifically, I wondered why certain tasks might take on a false sense of urgency... and what I might be avoiding.

I also wanted to try my best to view whatever arose through a compassionate lens. I've noticed that I tend to feel sadness, then shame, then a whole lotta nasty and critical stuff about my apparent inability to just sit and enjoy my family on the weekend.

Saturday was the usual flurry of laundry and watering house plants and running errands. It's OK, I reasoned, there's always Sunday.

So, my littlies and I were up early on Sunday morning and, in amongst getting breakfast made, I responded to this tweet from my sweet friend Noël Rozny in Chicago:

Typo aside, you will note that my reportage of Sunday's happenings included banana, bacon and buttermilk pancakes in front of the open fire. Which sounded idyllic, if I say so myself.

What actually happened that day was this:

I got the ingredients out to make the aforementioned pancakes to discover we had run out of eggs. I googled an egg-free recipe and proceeded to cook them up, feeling a bit like a champion. Until my daughter announced that she didn't like them.  And she also observed that the bacon was "not quite the way Papou cooks it". And much later, I realised I'd fried up the ham I'd bought for her sandwiches instead of the bacon I'd bought specifically to accompany the buttermilk pancakes avec banana.

Once I'd tidied up from breakfast, I took one look at the butter chicken recipe I'd planned to make in the slow cooker for dinner and burst into tears. The sheer number of ingredients was enough to have me agree [however reluctantly... though more than somewhat relieved] to my husband's kind offer to cook it for me.

And in between all of that, the baby woke, fed, played and required settling to sleep. Three times. The fire didn't get lit until 4pm. It is Tuesday and I still have not read the weekend newspapers (an activity I consider the benchmark of a weekend's restfulness).

In the odd quiet moment on Sunday afternoon, I picked up my iPad and dipped in and out of my twitter and instagram feeds, and blog reader. When I stumbled on this brave piece by Liz Lamoreux, I knew I had to tell my truth.

I didn't mean to lie to Noël, or anyone else. If anything, I suspect I wrote what I did because that's what I wanted my weekend to look like.

Which, I reckon is how I came to feel so sad and self-critical by the end of it all.

As I tweeted today, apropos of nothing: When I want things to be slightly better than I think they are, they end up feeling a million times worse than they actually are. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Sunday savoured

This week, I have been grateful for...

1. My new Kuan Yin oracle cards. Oh. My. Goddess. Mother of Heaven, to be precise. If you're in need of some self-compassion infused with the divine feminine, I cannot recommend these highly enough. They are seriously incredible and I just about reckon those of you with an aversion to "woo woo" would just about fall in love with these.

2. Deciding to continue with therapy, despite "apparently" being over the initial bumpy patch which precipitated calling for help. (Ha, the need for quotation marks in the previous sentence kinda says it all, right?) Feeling good about this decision and knowing that Satya is the right person to be walking the path with me.

3. Our parcel delivery dude, Ray. Despite Australia Post going down the gurgler -- and a number of my letters and deliveries going astray -- it's always nice to open the door to his smiling face, even if his exuberant knocking on the window wakes me up. And even if the parcel is just a gift to myself!

4. The fact that we're all in good health right now. The usual colds and viruses are doing the rounds of Melbourne and my daughter has brought home her fair share of sniffles from school. But -- touch wood -- all of my family are in pretty good shape.

5. Discovering that my dear friend's aunt has a gorgeous design business and that she has her own range of absolutely beautiful Melbourne souvenirs! Honestly, the number of times I have searched for something to send a friend overseas that reflects something of my own experience of my home town, and doesn't resort to inferior imitations of Indigenous art or daggy koalas. I've just stocked up big time. And I love how the iconic tram tote is making its way around the world! Yum.

6. Turquoise and aquamarine. Strengthening and opening that throat chakra. Yes.

7. This brilliant post on shopping by the inimitable Max Daniels. Combine it with this red hot one from the sizzling Danielle LaPorte and a glass of red and start making that shopping list, baby!

8. The clarity that comes from writing my "back story". I'm in the midst of working on a pitch for an amazing new magazine (in increments while bambino naps!) and I found that I had to map the whole article out stream-of-consiousness style in order to distil it to its essence. Obviously, the rant will need some pretty serious editing but as the words flowed out, I was able to see my story from a whole new macro perspective... which was of tremendous comfort as I inhabit the micro right now.

9. My friend Jen's daughter arrived safely! And she is seriously gorgeous. Welcome to the world, Scarlett Louise! You are in every way as beautiful as your mama.

10. Speaking of bambini, my sweet little fella continues to bring us all the most intense and unadulterated moments of joy. He is all smiles and chubs and chat. And is hilarious as we experiment with introducing him to solids. Love.

10. + 1. My husband literally walked in the door just now as I was typing and handed me the rose captured below. He'd just pruned it from our front garden and ohhh, how I wish you could smell it. Bliss!

What have you been grateful for, this week?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Small world, big life

It is a small world that I've been inhabiting.

Sure, it kinda comes with the territory during the school holidays. And when you're the mama of a four month old.

And don't get me wrong: there is a lot of joy in this tiny world. Smiles and cuddles and the most delicious chub. Walks in the bracing wind, swaddled in woolly layers, towards the promise of good coffee. Rainy days with jammies and craft projects and an open fire and baking and sometimes even sunshine.

But psychically, it's been very cramped indeed.

I could fill this space with the minutiae of my mind's current obsessions. The vagaries of my milk supply. The impact of a new multivitamin. A helluva lot of blood work. Detailed catalogues of the foodstuffs I shovel into my gob and when and why. The noted correlation between a growing baby and an aching back. Shame lists of impulse internet purchases. The number of times my sleep is interrupted each night.

It's pretty much all I think about. It's pretty much all I talk about. (At this stage, you'd be justified in feeling sorry for my husband.)

To be honest, I'm wary of boring you. Because I know there are days where I bore myself senseless.

But that seems to me to be quite an important clue.

It's true: this is just the way things are for now. It's a wonderful time but there are aspects of it that feel hard, even though I feel totally blessed to be here. I really do I wish I could get out more. And more time to myself would be very gratefully received.

But that's sorta the point, yes?

I'm here in the thick of it pretty much every day.

No evenings lost in music or days wandering the gallery or ploughing through a day at the office or meandering blissfully through bookstores. Fewer social outings and conversations with kindred spirits that connect me to my self. No days spent lounging or sipping wine and nibbling canapes or reading a book from cover to cover.

No distractions from my stuff.

No choice but to stick with it.

But something tells me that, when I emerge from this cocoon, I'll be glad that I did.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


I am so inspired by friends who work up the courage to share their work! So when longtime reader Graham emailed me to let me know he was releasing a new single, I couldn't help but seize the opportunity to ask him to share a little of his process here.

By way of introduction, Graham lives in the UK and goes by the moniker Raving Wild. His new single, Winterheart, is intense and soulful and -- if I may offer an amateur opinion -- feels like a song that a young Mumford & Sons might have written, inspired by a sojourn at a wintry beach.

It's the heart of Winter here in Melbourne so the music feels like the perfect soundtrack for a stroll down a cobblestone laneway, wrapped in woolly layers and lost in thought. On my first listen, I was transported by these lyrics:

If there's thunder rolling, darkness in your face,
I would not give in nor run away with rage.
There were times I know I used to keep you warm,
But you couldn't keep your calm within the storm.

While we waited for our summer days to start,
You couldn't give with winter in your heart,
No you couldn't give with winter in your heart.

I was also delighted to see that Graham was donating 30 per cent of sales from Winterheart to the UK-based not-for-profit Depression Alliance.

I asked and Graham answered...

Tell us about the inspiration for Winterheart.

I was inspired to write the song when I moved away to Cornwall in the UK. I desired to take something of a more simplistic approach to songwriting and build gently throughout the composition as I had reached something of a cornerstone in my life and simply wanted some stability.

The title of your album is In Solitude and Silence and, despite the busyness of your sound, you manage to convey this perfectly. As I listen to Winterheart, I have a visual image of Thoreau's Walden. What do solitude and silence mean to you?

That's a very generous comparison indeed and you're too kind to say! The title came to me whilst I was on a beach a few miles away from the nearest town and the only light to reach me was from the stars above in the heart of the dark. As for what both solitude and silence mean to me is a form of stasis. We generally rarely have a moment of absolute stillness and whilst at some times this is a curse it's conversely a blessing also. It's when we're on our own with no other distractions that we truly learn our own minds I feel.

Tell us what or who else inspires you as a musician. What are the littlest things that you witness in your daily life that find their way into your music?

Inspiration is a huge question with many small answers. By this I mean I've found that minuscule details often create a landslide of ponderous thoughts. Whether it's the vibrance of the horizon in an August sky at dusk, the tiny swells of sea water lapping over your shoes as the tide comes in or the sound of sand as it's blown from a dune by a soft zephyr, these tiny brushstrokes often paint a larger picture.

What would you say to anyone who has a deep passion for singing, songwriting or playing an instrument but has yet to share their work or talents with anyone?

My advice to those trying to get their work heard or their talents appreciated would be this - your song won't hear itself. You can be the most talented musician the world has ever seen but if you have no method of delivery or drive to get it heard it'll only end up fading into obscurity. Don't be afraid to take chances, to reach out, ask for help if necessary. That's exactly how this interview came to be after all. The music is only one aspect of being a musician, it's thinking outside of the box that'll honestly take you places.

Thank you, Graham, for sharing your courage with us. May your heart bloom this Summer and may your gifts continue to shine a light for those who are afraid to reach out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The feelings. All of them.

It's easy to talk about feelings we have had, but not so easy to be vulnerable enough to be in our feelings, sharing them as we are having them. Talking about our feelings is reporting on life, but being in our feelings is living life. 

In order to feel our feelings, we have to stop spinning on our endless merry-go-round of activities, including the gabbing about feelings that can be a substitute for feeling them. We have to pause and wait, and take the time to let the feeling emerge, whether it is from our chest, our throat, our belly or some other part of ourselves. 

We have to stop performing and just be.

Because we keep on moving, we're not used to feeling our feelings completely. The first reaction to letting ourselves feel can be to contact profound sadness, fear, anger or deep loneliness and vulnerability. Most of us are afraid of feeling how vulnerable we really are. 

We need to know that if we own our buried feelings of anger, fear, grief or shame, these feelings give way to deeper peace and a sense of well being. 

We're meant to experience our feelings so we can let them go. We're meant to experience them so that we learn that there is nothing inside of us that we have to fear. We're also meant to experience them so that we can share them genuinely with others instead of hiding from the people we care for.

Ingrid Bacci
The Art of Effortless Living

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Homework from the Universe

Case Study 1

I order some clothing from one of my favourite American retailers, to test out the online shopping experience. The order includes a lightweight embellished jacket. The order takes a few weeks to arrive and, when it does, the wrong jacket has been sent to me. I contact the company, confirm that the correct item is still in stock, then return the jacket that was sent in error as per the returns policy. I ensure I have insurance and a shipping number and the company agrees to reimburse me for shipping. The correct item ships from the US and, after a few weeks, the online tracking system indicates that it has been delivered.

But I still have not received it.

Response A

Why does this always happen to me? Why is nothing straight forward? Why did I buy a bloody jacket in the first place? Australia post are total dunderheads. They said they'd look into it but nothing will happen. They said there was "authority to leave the parcel if no one was home" so they don't have to take responsibility. But I was home on the day and time it was supposedly delivered. They reckon someone nicked it from my mail box. Maybe one of the school kids that pass by my house every day. I feel like writing a really angry, shaming note and sticking it to my front gate. What a crappy thing to do to someone, to steal from their mailbox. And now I am out of pocket -- that jacket was not cheap -- and there's nothing I can do about it. It's not like the company is going to take responsibility either. I hate feeling helpless and victimised and I just about hate everyone in the world right now. I'm also going through list upon list of triggers that compel me towards impulse purchases and it's fair to say I hate myself most of all.

Response B

In all likelihood, it got delivered to the wrong house. Our usual parcel dude was on holiday and his subcontractors are not all that familiar with the area. If it was delivered to the wrong house, in all likelihood, someone will drop it off to my house or return it to the post office. People are pretty nice in my area. It was nice of our parcel dude to look into it, he's not really meant to but he is a helpful, caring sort (and I get a lot of parcels delivered!). I email the company on another matter and mention how sad I am the jacket has not arrived. They immediately offer to replace it. Even though a different person responds to my emails each time, I write to thank them for reinstating my faith in the universe.

Early the following Saturday morning (we do not have letter or parcel delivery on weekends), the original parcel is placed on my doorstep.

Case Study 2

My husband and I book tickets to see one of our favourite musos perform. We calculate that, by the time the show rolls around, our baby will be three-and-a-half months old and likely sleeping reasonable stretches of the night. My mum agrees to babysit. Our daughter is ecstatic. The night arrives and they blow up the inflatable double bed in our living room and plan to watch a DVD and enjoy a "midnight snack" at 7.30pm after we leave.

The inflatable bed starts to sag, it seems to have sprung a leak. Our baby, who has been sleeping from 7pm and waking only once or twice (and always after midnight), starts to chatter to himself just as we are walking out of the door. Mum reassures us that everything will be OK and encourages us to go. Outside, it is blowing a gale.

Response A

I send an SMS to my mum to ask how things are going: it's 9.30pm and the baby is still awake. I know that he is not going to settle without me to feed, swaddle and sing to him. Our daughter is going to be disappointed that her Yiayia's attention is exclusively focused on her baby brother, and then she will be woken up by his crying. Poor Mum is going to be so uncomfortable on that wretched bed... or the couch, if the bed proves impossible. She is so particular about conditions required for sleep and she will be so tired from settling restless little people, she will be exhausted tomorrow, the poor thing. All three of them will be so cold as the heating is set to cut out at 9.30pm. The wind is blowing freezing draughts through the house, and that will make it even more difficult for everyone to settle. Our daughter seems to be coming down with a wretched cold and this will just make it worse.

I shouldn't have booked those tickets, it was too soon for us to be making plans to go out of an evening. It was selfish and unfair on everyone involved.

Response B

Bambino was all cheeky grins when we left and had a ball sitting with his Yiayia and big sister on the big inflatable bed, watching the tennis. Mum held him until he was tired and cuddled him while he catnapped. She waved the white flag when he started to cry at about 10.30pm and by then we were only five minutes from home. After we got home and I got bambino to sleep, Mum slept like a charm, saying that settling the baby had tired her out and the bed was so warm she wasn't at all fussed by the sound of the wind outside. She also described the experience of sleeping on a slightly deflated bed as being dreamy, like a "li-lo in the pool". Our daughter happily put herself to bed at 8.30pm and got up to have breakfast with her Yiayia when she woke at 7.30am so my husband and I got a sleep-in until 8.30am. There was no sign of the cold and she was keen to go to her swimming lesson as usual.

We really enjoyed the concert and it reminded me of the importance of getting out of the house and out of my head every once in a while.