Friday, October 24, 2014

None of my GD business


I have the feeling that anyone who knows me who read my last post might have been given pause for thought. I'm a notorious second-guesser and my imagination is on overdrive, conjuring everything from bewilderment to indignation.

I feel I should clarify. When I talked of giving, I was thinking about the amount of space in my head I willingly submit to other people and their stuff. In particular, I notice my instinct to take on other people's discontent. Or default to "the bad guy" so that the other party does not have to feel like they have done anything wrong.

So, really, it's not much to do with how much time I spent with someone or how often I see them. It's not about the number of gifts I buy them or the regularity with which I write, email or SMS.

It's about the way I think about them and, specifically, what I imagine they think about me and the response that tends to trigger (which is usually: be small, take cover, you're the one in the wrong).

This is a habit I learnt very young and I believe most of my longterm adult relationships are predicated on this to some extent. At the moment, I'm keenly aware of my sensitivity to defensiveness, jealousy and resentment in certain quarters… real or imagined. I see myself pushing back, angry that my received pain goes unappreciated.

And then, I stop short and wonder: why would I want someone to be pleased they've dumped their stuff onto me or forced me to play a particular role and now I feel bad?

I don't think this is a unique story as far as the history of human relations goes.

As I evolve, I'm noticing a need to redefine my psychical boundaries. I'm not the same gal I was ten years ago. I'm not even the same gal I was one year ago.

To change feels clunky, raw.

As I said to my therapist, I feel like I have picked a giant scab. And, in giving myself permission to feel all the nastiness, there's a terrible lot of gunky stuff oozing out. [Forgive me for the grossness, I'll let you know if I find a more elegant way to describe it.] There's going to be a whole lot more ickiness and hurtiness before healing can happen.

But I don't think I have any other choice than to get some fresh air and daylight onto this wound.

So that's where I am.

Yes, it's all about me, for a change. But no one else need change. I'm the one who needs to do the work, discover what I want and learn how to set boundaries around what no longer serves me.

As Ru Paul famously said, "What other people think about me is none of my GD business."

Right on, sistah.

And if I become halfway as marvellous as you, then living without my story about other people's stories is a very appealing prospect indeed.

This post is my response to Day Thirteen 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, October 22, 2014

Please don't thank me

Today, the idea of being thanked grates against my heart. Being thanked seems to me inseparable from giving. And, right now, I am struggling with the way I give.

I suspect it's because I am feeling depleted physically, combined with feeling supremely disorganised. The latter is a new and unwelcome development.

Thankfully there are people in my life who will give me space without question and will postpone or reorganise commitments without a moment's thought. (These friends tend to have children of their own and can empathise completely.)

I find myself wanting to take a huge step back. It feels important to make space to consider: how can I fill my own cup first? 

There are some things that don't feel in any way in competition with this. The love and attention I give my family. The time and energy I devote to my craft.

Then there's the range of things that take my time that I consider "transactional" i.e. my domestic commitments, keeping on top of emails, monitoring school requirements and all the things I do to keep my family humming along smoothly. I don't always love this stuff but I feel it needs to be done and feel so much better once it is done. And I know it won't last forever: things will change as my children grow older and more independent.

But once this is all said and done, it doesn't leave a lot of room for much else. We're not doing so well on the night-waking front, so I tend to flake out by 9.30pm. I've managed to schedule two timeslots where I exercise each week. My husband and I have a "date morning" when he works from home and our bambino naps and good coffee is a priority. I'm slowly building a routine where my mum and mother-in-law spend time with bambino so I can write.

[Siphoning a day job into all of this would be a whole new thing. Thankfully I don't have to think about that right now. How people work full time, I'll never know... even though I did it for the majority of my working life. It feels like a lifetime ago and something I just can't relate to.]

So as I enter into a new phase of my life, I'm not sure I can be the one who gives once all the stuff I've outlined above is accounted for.

And, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I don't really want to be that person any more. She just doesn't feel like me.

It might look like I'm withholding -- or passive aggressive -- but the truth is, it's felt so crowded in here, there's barely been room for me.

Time to stretch my wings a little.

This post is my response to Day Twelve 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, October 21, 2014

Uncharacteristically shy and sharing the love

If you're visiting here for the first time via today's Big Hearted Business Members Round-up, welcome! It's such a treat to see you here though it also makes me feel strangely bashful.

If you're a friend who has been reading for a while, let me explain. You'll notice that I have one very spiffy button on my sidebar announcing that I am a member of the Big Hearted Business community.

I joined up without hesitation after the Big Hearted Business conference earlier this year. I haven't yet had the opportunity to dive in and make the most of the podcasts and other assorted goodness that resides therein (because bambino). But I always enjoy receiving missives from Clare and her beautiful crew. And I know the inspiration and connection are gifts that will go on giving... and ones that I will always be grateful I gave myself.

I don't know if I've mentioned but I live quite close to Clare Bowditch and her bambini attend the same school as my daughter. So we sometimes see each other in the mornings and exchange a friendly smile or bit of chit chat. It won't come as any surprise to anyone to learn that she is every bit as open and gracious and down to earth as her public persona (not to mention stunning, which is hardly fair before 9am!).

Anyway, I recently made a point of stopping to share with her an amazing experience I'd had as a result of being part of the Big Hearted Business Directory. I was planning to put it into an email so that her team could also receive the feedback but I'll admit this task was in danger of disappearing into the craziness of the day. But Clare's response was so genuinely joyful that I promised to put it in an email to her assistant, Lisa.

This is what I said:

I just wanted to share that I was at a writing workshop a couple of weekends ago and was chatting to various people. At least three times, I handed over my business card and the recipient looked at my picture and my name and said, "Hmmm... where do I know you from?"

I don't have a huge profile, so I wasn't surprised when the mention of the writing challenges I run via my blog drew blanks. So then I asked, "Maybe I saw you at the Big Hearted Business conference this year?" and then the penny dropped. "That's it!" they said each time, "I saw you on the BHB Directory!"

How cool is that?!

So thank you for doing what you do and for doing it so ace-ly. It really does work!

Kat x

Imagine my delight when I was quoted in today's love letter to members!

Two things really stuck me about this exchange.

One is that BHB membership really is a very special thing and I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking to take their connection with kindred creatives to the next level.

The second is how vital it is to share the love! Those of us who weave our spells in front of computer screens may never see how our magic works in person. It's so easy to assume that people are fully confident in everything they produce but how often do we take the time to give feedback that's not critical?

Friends, I dare you to write a love letter today. Let someone know that what they do absolutely rocks your world. You'll feel amazing, even if you never receive a reply.

[Bonus points if you deliver it in person!]

Here's one I prepared earlier. (Or how this space is me.)

Today is my first time working in my new writing studio and it somehow seems fitting that I should be thinking about physical space.

So far, I’ve lugged two boxes, an armchair and a bookshelf up two flights of stairs. I’ve unpacked, all the while feeling self-conscious because my partitions aren’t up yet and the fellow sharing the space with me (an artist, who seems like a very decent and considerate chap) can see what I’m doing... not that he's looking.

I’ve also left my cell phone at home, which contains all the details of how to set up the WiFi. So I’m writing this up on Word with a view to publishing when I get home

I have to admit I’m more than a little nervous: my Mum is spending some time with bambino so that I can do this. And while I am more than grateful, I can't help but wonder if he’s howling his sweet little head off and whether he’s agreed to consume any solids. I’m sure they’ll be OK and I agreed to be home 45 minutes from now but seeing as I left my cell phone at home, I won’t really know if they need me any sooner.

And, of course, I left the house an absolute tip. Beds unmade, piles of laundry everywhere, an ever mounting stack of dishes. And goodness knows how many unanswered emails and phone calls.

But I have this time and, however short and messy, I feel like it's important that I start the way I mean to continue.

Even though I am sleep deprived, worried about something else, wondering how I am going to do it all, conscious that my low grade anxiety is not helping me catch a break on this glorious sunny day.

The August Moon prompt I am addressing today is all about my perfect space and, in a way, I feel like this is what I am writing about. Specifically, the fact that I am writing this despite all of the things I have listed above seems to me to be evidence of a few things.

The first is that I feel safe here. It’s secure, it’s private and the atmosphere is one of mutual respect. I hear the faint hum of music, the occasional conversation, tapping on a computer, a printer whirring but other than that it’s incredibly quiet.

Then there's the white walls, the pale floorboards and my huge desk, which is nestled under a high sash window looking out onto rooftops in my neighbourhood and a vast expanse of blue blue sky. My space feels light, clean, open.

And lastly (for now), I am starting to inhabit this space with more of my story. My little bookshelf is full already. Maybe I’ll never pull the books off and read them but it feels good to know that they are here: May Sarton, Summer Pierre, Satya Robyn, Julia Cameron. I have at least half a dozen notebooks (probably more than I’ll ever use), tarot and oracle cards. As I type this, I stop occasionally to jot notes in my diary, items I need to remember: 3M hooks so I can hang up some cheery bunting; a tray for my coffee plunger and tea caddy; photos of my family; a battery for my Frida Kahlo clock.

This space is not finished, it’s not perfect.

I’m watching the clock and aware that my time is dwindling but for the first time today – the first time in a few days – I feel free. And focused. And so very grateful.

It feels rare. And maybe more than a little joyful.

This space is a work in progress. Just like me.

This post is my response to Day Eleven 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, October 15, 2014


For me, boundaries between inner space and outer space can blur quite easily. There's a certain yearning that seems to be the catalyst, one where the place that I find myself is never the place I want to be.

Last week, when we were in throes of teething and sleeplessness, I felt the pull of elsewhere more keenly than I had in a long time.

I had hired myself a desk. A desk in an office above a restaurant that is walking distance from my home. My very own writing studio, nestled in amongst three thriving creative enterprises.

I knew when I signed the lease that I would not be able to use it much in the short term. There are partitions to be organised, as well as furniture and supplies to be moved in. But I needed to nab it due to the level of interest: it was just too perfect in terms of setup and location to pass up.

I also made myself a deal that I'd work towards reducing bambino's dependence on me for feeds in order to make more use of the studio in the new year. In particular, I'd focus on building a mealtime routine and expanding the range of foods he'd eat, gradually reducing the number of breastfeeds.

Our start wasn't exactly auspicious. Our routine was ad hoc and half-hearted. There were a few false starts and some very grouchy days (for both of us). But, gradually, gradually, we seemed to be getting there... and then two teeth appeared. The rest you know.

On top of the frustration and concern, there felt like another layer of failure: this setback was pulling me even further from my dreams.

I feel like am playing my hand here but the writing studio is about me taking a calculated risk. It is about me investing in my craft. It is a dedicated (dare I say sacred) space where I intend to make opportunities, follow leads, build a profile and basically, well, WRITE.

Now that we're gently course-correcting as far as the feeding routine goes, I am curious about the impact having a room of one's own will have on me. To get to this point, I have had to dig deep and develop firm answers to niggling questions about my entitlement to such a space. I've had to stay focused as traditional, more secure options have tugged at my sleeve. I've also had to justify the cost, to myself and others, over and over and over. I've also had to open up to support and encouragement from unexpected quarters.

It's been huge, life-shifting stuff.

Signing the lease felt like upping the ante on myself. I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance... and I sure as hell was not going to let it slip between my fingers. I am still not 100 per cent certain how things are going to pan out on certain fronts.

But, regardless, the next twelve months are set to look very different for me, both in terms of where I spend my time and how I spend it.

And I'm also thinking that this will be a unique opportunity to test something else. Namely, the hypothesis that filling oneself up is an effective way of fortifying those porous boundaries.

I'll be sure to report back.

This post is my response to Day Ten 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, October 13, 2014

Just one thing

I had a poetic post all mapped out. One where I waxed lyrical on how a girl born under the sign of Gemini would never be just one thing. How the daughter of migrants could never be just one thing. How that same daughter who was also a mother, a sister, a wife might never be just one thing.

This post was all about life and work and the multiple identities we inhabit in the modern world.

But it turns out, another post wanted to be written: a post that kinda feels like it's about the total opposite.

We're coming through a horrid couple of weeks here at chez nous. Our bambino cut his first teeth and was not his usual sweet, smiling self. He refused all solids; had short, unpredictable and unsatisfying naps; woke at all hours (including a couple of nights when he woke On. The. Hour); and was generally impossible to please.

And I wandered around, sleep-deprived and fragile, quick tempered and full of self-doubt. The simplest decisions eluded me. A couple of mean-spirited comments that I'd usually deflect or ignore flattened me completely. It felt significant that lying in my dentist's chair while he scraped my teeth felt like the most relaxing point of my day.

I worries that my baby was regressing in terms of basic milestones and that I was not managing the situation appropriately. I cursed myself because he was breastfeeding so often, not as established on solids as other babies at he same age, still unable to sit up by himself. I also wondered if I'd created a rod for my own back by maintaining the feeding and settling regimen that had worked so well for my daughter. What if my bambino never settled himself to sleep again?

The day after the lunar eclipse, one of my dearest friends responded to an SMS in which I bellyached about my evident crapulence as a parent:

I am more convinced than ever before than little people pop out as the humans they are and that really wonderful parenting doesn't necessarily do much more than making them feel loved. You haven't done anything crap and neither have I but babies sleeping through the night isn't about that.

As I read this, I felt something gargantuan shift inside me. I also became aware of a certainty -- that I understood to be much more than wishful thinking -- that my bambino and I were over the worst... for now, anyway.

My dear friend's words helped me see the truth, that my job was really to ensure that my bambino (like my daughter) knew without question that he was loved. The rest we could figure out together, in our own way, in our own time.

From that point onwards, bambino and I meandered our way back to our old routine. He started sleeping for longer and longer stretches, often without need for settling. Today, he ate some puréed food for the first time in a week. We can all see his sweet, smiling self re-emerge. He's also started to show greater confidence and ability in sitting up on his own.

And I am feeling more rested and reassured. But also, thanks to my friend's wisdom, I have more clarity than ever before about the just one thing that I want my children to be. It's the just one thing that I think we all ever want to be. And it's the just one thing that enables us to be the multitude of other things that we are.

And that is beloved.

This post is my response to Day Nine 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, October 6, 2014

Manifesting something like hope

Manifesting. Specifically whom. If the universe was prepared to send someone to help, who would you ask for?

I've been letting the question marinate over the weekend. And I do have some ready answers i.e. some people with specific skills who live locally who would be able to help me on a couple of particular projects. That'd be nice, for sure.

I'm sure I'll find them (or vice versa) when the time is right.

In the meantime, I've been wondering two things.

The first is: what would it be like to manifest my self?

That is to say, what would it be like not to seek or require validation from others? What if I didn't need to be seen by anyone else or do my best at everything or feel like I'm special? What if I were good enough, what if I meant something, just as I am?

And what would be required to have faith in my resilience? How could I make my boundaries less porous? How freeing would it be to just allow other people to have their views and make their suggestions and not feel them like wounds and get all defensive?

The difficulty with this line of questioning is that it makes me feel like something is dreadfully wrong with me. It's like I need to fix myself and that is going to take a lot of will power, which I appear not to have. And it's something to feel pretty ashamed of, because I am forty and everyone else seems to have figured it out.

So I've been stewing on this for a couple of days and then, almost by miracle*, the second question arrives: what if validation is just a deeply human thing to want?

What if seeking validation is just an in-built survival mechanism from ancient tribal days? Could it be that everyone but a small enlightened/privileged (or maybe even damaged/unbalanced) few seek approval from others in some way and that it's not always a bad thing?

Can it not be said that the proliferation of Western consumer culture -- particularly the cult of celebrity-- is predicated on the notion that we are fundamentally insecure creatures?

What made me think that I was any different or that the burden was mine, and mine alone, to transcend?

Something in this line of enquiry feels more alive, more constructive and infinitely compassionate. And it makes me wonder: maybe I don't want to manifest anything. Maybe I just want to hold occasionally onto that tender, elusive thought that my sadnesses and stumblings have been shared by humanity across the ages. Paradoxically, there may even be some comfort in understanding that they can't be fixed and will likely never go away.

And maybe it's thoughts like these that open the door onto something altogether different.

Something like hope.

* Anyone notice a theme developing?

This post is my response to Day Eight 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?