Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Other people's hands


Still, growing up and growing into some kind of prefabricated biography template were two different things, and observing the latter is one of the saddest things in the world. No matter how powerless and dependent on the mercy and decency of others they might be, children belong to the world of 'who is to say', of 'stranger things have happened', of 'wait and see'. They are the heralds of the great indeterminacy of life.

But what a struggle it is to retain a sense of your future and not being foreclosed by your proletarian suburb, the school you went to, the idiocy of losing your virginity to an arsehole, your father and mother splitting up at the worse possible moment or dragging themselves through the fog of a shared existence in your name.

The script does not really matter. So what if you are the golden child of a wholesome, well-adjusted family in which everyone is still married to everyone else, and your apartment always smells like apple pie and sounds like a philharmonic hall. You still have to fight for your life not to become the sum total of your circumstances, not to follow the path laid out, stone by stone, by other people's hands.

Maria Tumarkin
Otherland: A journey with my daughter

Monday, June 28, 2010

Things that helped


Crying and cuddling helped. Reading this helped. Not logging on at all for two days (and therefore not comparing myself unfavourably to other people's stories/talents/creativity) helped. Not going to fitness class and staying home in my pyjamas helped. The hammy acting, witty repartee and lavish costumes in this helped. Finally realising that my body can no longer sustain breastfeeding, and the possibilities this now opens up for dealing with some of my health issues helped.

My delightful new coffee mug helped.

Asking for, and receiving help, helped. Having my speculation about my daughter's developmental stage affirmed and following up on a contact to enrol her in creative dance classes helped. Eating ice-cream and drinking red wine helped.

After weeks of trying (and failing) to feel/do/be better, finally giving up the struggle and deciding just to go with feeling rotten helped immeasurably. Discovering empathic comments and emails on my blog and in my in-box helped too.

Happy to report I'm back on track!

Thank you, Universe. Thank you, beautiful family. Thank you, YOU. Thank you, me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dear Universe


Dear Universe,

The truth is: I’m struggling.

I wish I wasn’t becoming the poster girl for blogging vulnerability, and I’d love to be sharing deliciously tangy stories of tea cups and cloche hats and paint chips and jumping in puddles but the truth is that’s not where I’m at.

This morning, when giving me a kiss and a cuddle goodbye, my husband whispered in my ear, “It’s OK just to sit and take it easy for a while”. My Dream Lab message from the Universe today was “Please take your time and go slow”. Even my horoscope today said, “I suggest you relax your hyper-vigilance and slip into a slower, smoother, more reflective groove”.

Thank you, sweet Universe.

All this sitting still and resting and allowing. I’ve been writing about it for a while now and thinking about it for even longer. And I get it. I really do.

I just suck at it.

I’m in a hurry. I have things I want to do. For some reason, I don’t feel like there’s much time to waste. I want to do things NOW. And I get antsy and frustrated when I can’t. I feel like I should have done things YESTERDAY. Which makes me resent the people and commitments in my life that prevents this. Which, in turn, means that I don’t give them my full attention and undivided love, even though they are truly deserving of both.

I don’t blame all the people and commitments that take up my time, though. I blame myself. I should be able to juggle things with more grace. I should be able to prioritise. I should try to be less controlling. I should be more grateful for all that I have. I shouldn’t want more, materially or metaphorically.

I’m tempted to write out all my shoulds and have a bonfire in my back yard.

I’m really not ungrateful, dear Universe. I see all these sweet signs you’re planting. They are not lost on me and I am truly appreciative. I can see how trawling into the depths of my past has been a revelation in letting go and, sometimes, having a tender chuckle at my own expense. It has also reminded me just how much love I have been privileged to bear, and how graced I have been with guides and mentors, whose legacy I carry every day.

I also see how blessed I am to have a beautiful family and dear friends, all of whom enjoy good health and prosperity. I am able to eat well, sleep well, and exercise and I manage to do all of these things much of the time. I have arrived at many of my dreams, and am able to do things I love every day. I really like my day job. I laugh often, and am privileged to be surrounded with art, creativity , culture and intellectual richness on a daily basis.

Which brings me to the point of my struggle.

Why do I feel so rotten?

I have to tell you, my Universe, that this is something I am deeply ashamed of. It somehow feels so facile and unsatisfactory to put it down to middle class ennui. I know I am lucky and I constantly work to ensure I don’t take it for granted. I also try my best to give thanks, to support, and to share, despite being a very private and somewhat introverted person. I tithe.

It’s not like I’m not trying. I’ve investigated my physical health, my emotional health, my spiritual health and it’s not like there’s something missing. Sure, I’m terrified of non-existence, but most of the time there’s plenty of good things to distract myself with. I wish I believed in God and heaven and an afterlife stuff but I just don’t and can’t pretend that I do.

There are times when I feel deeply unattractive, physically and emotionally, but there are plenty of times when this is not the case. There are also times when I feel daunted by the responsibility of motherhood and ill-equipped to nurture my daughter’s staggering intelligence, delicate emotional development, and extraordinary spirit, but there are other times when I recognise that I’m doing my best and that sharing my imperfections as earnestly and authentically as I can will equip her for the world. In both cases, I know that I am deeply loved and that my struggles are seen and my efforts appreciated.

I know that these feelings will pass and that a time will come soon when I will feel less like a fraud dressed as a zombie masquerading as a frump. A time will come when I am energised and inspired and will dive in and eagerly/effortlessly swim towards all good things that are mine for the taking.

But for now, the wait is excruciating. And while I can appreciate, my sweet well-meaning Universe, that you have a very important lesson for me to learn, I’d like to pass on the grace and the patience for now. I promise to stop the relentless navel gazing and self-inquiry and trying to understand why, why, infernal why. I’ll try to see the future as vast and infinite and remind myself that there’s plenty of time, that my dreams will wait for me, and that maybe now isn’t the time… if you’ll forgive me for doing it shittily and begrudgingly and as unzenlike as humanly possible.

Your humble and faithful friend,
Kat xx

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Signs that things are as they're supposed to be


My soul sister's question, reverberating in my head: "Why are you so hard on yourself?" Thinking through the answer.

This exquisite post from Karen Maezen Miller. Remembering that the dictum Know Thyself was inscribed above the entrance to the oracle at Delphi, reminding pilgrims of the inextricable relationship between self-inquiry and faith.

Writing in my journal.

Returning from Pilates class to switch on the computer and discover that we have a new Prime Minister: one fine flame-haired woman from Melbourne's underprivileged South West.

Sunshine in the middle of Winter (although I suppose this is not really how things are supposed to be!).

Forgiving myself for ploughing through a tub of Ben & Jerry's yesterday. Back on the sugar-free track today. Gently coaxing myself back towards the idea of training for the 5km run that is fast approaching.

Having a great big belly laugh at this wonderful and beautifully written tale.

The smell of freshly ground coffee.

My sister's resignation from a job that makes her extremely unhappy and unwell. My Mum's support, finally acknowledging that she and Dad stuck in unrewarding jobs for years (while others took calculated risks and got ahead) and that it wasn't worth it. Agreeing to disagree with Dad, who had valid reservations, and watching how he gently negotiated our conversation so that it ended with us talking harmoniously about something else.

Freshly laundered linen and towels.

Feeling open to my weeks taking a different shape now that my little 'un is walking and needs new challenges and greater socialisation. Noticing that my mind is working hard to unravel knots of complication that invariably arise when I try to carve out time for myself... deciding to sit quietly and see how things unfold.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Won't die wondering


My husband and I went out on a date on Saturday night to see one of our favourite bands. Arriving at the venue at 9.30pm, we totally felt our age when we noticed that the band wouldn't be coming on until 11.30pm! I'm usually in my jammies by 8.30pm and was well and truly ready for a kip. "Oh well," I thought, "If it really gets too much, we can just come home."

The first support act was not really our cup of tea, so we sat and had a couple of drinks. The second support, on the other hand, had us on our feet and paying full attention. This group of nine young people were not only talented musicians pushing the boundaries of their genre and demanding to be taken seriously, their passion for performance was palpable. They were just so endearing and earnest and enjoying themselves. "Hey! East Brunswick Club!" The lead singer remarked in delight when the audience clapped at the end of each song, "That was good response!".

At the back, on the small raised platform where we were standing, we noticed a small group of older folk who were watching intently. They were wearing earplugs, nursing their beers, and passing around breath mints. My husband and I mused that this was not the first time that we'd found ourselves hanging with the Mums and Dads: at a British India gig a few years ago, I swapped places with one very proud mama so she could have a better view of her son the drummer. I recalled her anxious face as she looked at me and said, "What do you think of the band?" I suddenly felt a huge responsibility and also felt like a bit of a fraud given I am by no means the expert on Melbourne's live music scene. But I assured her that her son and his mates were wonderful, that I'd heard a number of their songs on the radio, and they had a great future ahead of them (all of which being true).

Suddenly, I found myself wondering if that could be me in sixteen years time. Watching my little 'un blossom into a woman, rocking it out, and doing what she loved. The urge to spread the love overwhelmed me. The performance ended and I tapped one of the older gents on the shoulder. "Excuse me," I hollered into his ear over the applause, "Are they your kids?" He and the woman next to him dissolved into hysterics. "Er, no," He said, not unkindly, "But I guess they could be."

"Oh! Sorry, no offence meant!" I bumbled, "I just wanted to tell you, if they were, that I thought they were fantastic." I backed away as they laughed to one another about how they felt their age.

My husband and I had a good giggle over that one, and that's when he looked at me and chuckled fondly, "Where others would be happy to stand back... my girlo won't be the one to die wondering!".

(When I re-told this story to a colleague, she laughed and told me that it was right up there with asking someone when their baby's due, when they're not pregnant. That stopped me in my tracks because it happens to me all the time! But we also had to laugh about how my husband and I seem to gravitate to the old folks' zone at live music gigs!)

On a side note, I feel compelled to say that the fact that for $18 Australian dollars you can see at least two very fine musical acts and enjoy three hours of high quality original music in a civilised smoke-free environment makes me very proud to live in Melbourne.

PS We managed to stay awake until the end!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The 3 Cs


I have written and re-written this post over ten times so far today and I'm still not happy with it. Somehow, I think this is fitting. I suspect I won't be happy with anything today.

Today is all about resisting. And sluggishness. I know it's most likely PMS and I know it will pass. But for now, I'm resentfully uninspired.

These questions arrived in my inbox yesterday: What are you motivated to do? Why not find a way to do more of that?

On Sunday night, I sat with my little ‘un as she played and chatted. I watched myself stewing in the shame of impatience, thinking of all the domestic tasks I needed to do that evening. I saw myself wish that my husband was sitting watching the little ‘un instead. I witnessed deepening shame for my ingratitude: my husband was, in fact, cooking dinner and making the most extraordinary carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

And I also found myself wondering just what it was that was so important that required my urgent attention, the pressing task that had to be done that instant and could not wait until the little 'un had gone to bed. I came up blank. But I could feel that physical and emotional itch to be anywhere other than where I was. And where I was was somewhere delightful.

Yesterday the limbo continued. Time is precious in my day job and I wasted it abundantly. I simmered in habits that drew comfort, soaking jealously in the talent of one, wondering about the success of another, envying the journey of another still.

What are you motivated to do? Why not find a way to do more of that?

In absence of motivation, I saw myself covet other people's lives. This usually translates into wanting things: the fleeting gratification that comes from an impulse purchase. The promise that acquiring something that I associate with someone else will turn me into that someone else.

But thus time I was more inclined to distil these things into essences. Inspired by a wise writer whom I admire, I tried to understand more acutely what it is that I covet... with a view to understanding what it is that I am meant for.

Every piece of art that spoke to me, words that rang true, beauty that touched my soul: they all led me back to a certain sense of freedom. Courage in levity. Commitment to play. Conviction that a life of beauty and creativity is mine to cultivate.

Everything I need, I realised, is already mine. I have the time, I have the space, I have the facilities, I have the capacity. What I lack is... harder to define. But I suspect it is to be found in those three Cs that have started beeping on my radar.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where am I?


Where is this blog?

Is what I write in my mind? In my fingers? On my screen?

Where does my writing go when I press the "publish" button? I can see it on my computer, but I know that's just a portal.

Where do my words live?

How do they make contact with your gaze? Do they live inside your memory, even for a short while? How do they bear on what you do, say, feel?

Where are you?

Where do your words live?

Why do I rush to my computer to read them? What is it about this portal that draws me in, compels me to witness your photos, your art, your words, your heart?

Why is there the relentless need to know, continually know, what you have said? What you think about what I have said? What I could say about what you think about what I have said? How you might respond to what I could say about what you think about what I have said? And so on?

Where does this relentless need for connection (described so beautifully by Andrea Scher here) come from?

What does the ether look, smell, taste, sound, feel like?

Is it like white noise? Is it like crazy code, all neon green against a void of black, as popular culture would suggest? Does it sound like those tiny metal chimes that you can run your finger along to make a sound reminiscent of the wind or sunshine or the dawn or a fairy's wings flapping?

Is it like being dead?

Is that why the fear of disconnection -- literal and metaphorical -- is so frightening?

And on a slightly tangential note: am I the only one who finds science programs about the vastness of our solar system but its minuscule status in the universe terrifyingly overwhelming?

Yes!


Dear Kat,

Thank you for the loan of Dorothy P. Really inspiring reading, provoking many thoughtful, reflective questions to a failing jaded brain!

Perhaps on one of your free days (if working mothers have such a thing), a walk and coffee with your beautiful little 'un?

After the 25th I'll be free of storeman/packer duties, as my friends head up North.

Thank you again.

Regards,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Feeling fly


This morning, I was flat and washed out this morning from two days with a tummy bug, and unoptimistic that the day’s offerings would contain much joy.

Then I…

remembered how my little ‘un [uncharacteristically] woke up crying at 1.30am and, as I was giving her a cuddle and a quick feed, stopped to go “OOH!” and giggle every time she heard my tummy rumble.

put on my funky lime green shoes and new citrus cardie.

bumped into a dear friend who was needing to hear something that I happened to say.

noticed the family story behind this lovely little snack.

heard an old colleague say to me that she had watched me and my sister grow up and we would always have a special place in her heart.

saw the above [pictured] message from the universe.

forwarded pictures of my little ‘un’s recent adventures with chocolate cake to another old colleague, whose husband (I today discovered) is quite unwell and is probably in need of some cheer.

was asked to write another interesting, challenging and useful proposal.

learnt that a lovely and deserving colleague has been rewarded with a wonderful opportunity elsewhere. Sad for us but fantastic for her.

tracked down the email address of an old friend whom I haven't seen for years and miss dearly.

started to look forward to this tomorrow night (provided I can stay awake!).

came home and sat down on the floor with my husband and little 'un to draw with crayons on paper.

savoured a weekly treat of special Australian bubbly.

Where did you witness tiny moments of succulence in your day today?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Paris revisited


My little 'un's choice of pram reading the other day (a Michelin book of Paris maps!) reminded me of something. I'd been thinking about my trips to Paris thus far and some of the insecurities that wove a common thread between the two. But there was something else, a key consideration that I'd somehow overlooked on my haste to take the blame for the inadequacies that came to bear when visiting the City of Light (or, recently, just reading about it!).

My first trip was booked on a whim using frequent flyer points. I booked a year ahead, declaring that I wanted to spend my thirtieth birthday in Paris. Closer to the time, my sister decided she wanted to join me. This was a very welcome development and my sister and I are close, she's terrific company and she'd also been to Paris several times and is a fluent French-speaker (and has a great sense of direction, unlike me).

Unfortunately, at the time, she was going through a major upheaval in her life, one that tore the fabric of my tiny family into a zillion pieces. I wish I could say we were more supportive of her and each other but, sadly, all four of us could have done a lot better. Grief, hurt and confusion don't always bring out the best in us... especially when we are at odds on how to communicate our way through it.

So although we did have a splendid time, and I had a fantastic 30th birthday (and fell in love with Paris), a massive elephant followed us around from room to room... occasionally making its presence felt by way of dramatic SMSes from home, covert emailing and, once, an acute argument that saw us storming off to separate parts of the city. (Peace was made in a tiny shoppe selling pens and quills and ink and sweet little stationery.)

My second trip was with my husband, then boyfriend of seven months. He was attending a trade show in Paris and I decided to meet up with him afterwards. I was so looking forward to this little jaunt, returning to my favourite city with the love of my life, who also happened to be a fluent French speaker and a regular visitor to France (he also has a great sense of direction and does a great job of reading maps and trawling through guidebooks where I lack the patience).

We had travelled a considerable amount together around Australia and New Zealand, mainly during my work trips. What I hadn't realised, was that although my sweetheart was a seasoned traveller, he was not a relaxed one. For the first time, with the structure of my work commitments framing our time, decisions needed to be made about where we would go, how we would get there, and what we would do. There were also delicate money discussions to be had.

My poor sweetheart had also had his bag stolen on the train to Paris, just before I had arrived (he had been visiting a friend in Holland). So the few days before and after my arrival were spent filing police reports, calling the travel insurance company, visiting the Australian Embassy to get a new passport, replenishing lost toiletries, mourning the loss of his new camera, iPod, glasses etc.

It was not the most auspicious start to our supposedly romantic holiday. And I was reminded of this on an hourly basis by my mother, who kept sending me SMSes to not-very-subtly enquire as to whether we had become engaged. Upon receiving news of the stolen bag, prior to my departure, I had gone into "damage control" mode, gathering as much information and making myself as useful as possible from home. This was not greatly appreciated and turned into the learning curve that I'd rather hoped not to have. It was about miscommunication, it was about confused resentment about the roles we each assumed the other would play, it was about not packing warm enough clothes, it was about succumbing to hideous colds on the way home. It was about being prescribed sleeping tablets, supposedly to help my body clock overcome jetlag, that had a frightening adverse effect (I later learnt that it could have been much worse!).

On the morning I was due back to work, I had a panic attack. I was tired, unwell, unslept and afraid... and particularly dreading the effusions of well-meaning colleagues stealing glances at my wedding ring finger. The trip had revealed to me just how much work I'd need to do to function in this relationship, on myself but also on the way I communicated my needs, seeing as we were in for the long haul. I felt tired, daunted and alone.

Gradually, I became grateful for the learning curve. It taught me to be decisive rather than accommodating. It taught me to rephrase direct questions so they sounded more like invitations to wonder. It taught me that I could utilise my travelling companions' fluency in French to ask for assistance, badly but earnestly (given their reluctance to speak), and when worse came to worst just put myself at the mercy of Parlez Vous Anglais? It taught me to "Tell the truth, faster" as SARK would say, rather than simmer until implosion.

It taught me to leave behind my romantic ideas of what a holiday was supposed to be, and enjoy the tiny moments of joy that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

And, looking back, I see that it taught me that Paris will one day mine to explore, lost in translation, without other people's baggage.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I know for certain


Last night, I retired early so that I could take a quiet moment to sit in bed with a cup of chai, my new fountain pen and journal. As I was getting into my pyjamas, the question had popped into my mind: What do you know for certain?

I started writing... and filled four pages! This is some of what I wrote, in no particular order:

* my daughter is a highly intelligent and sweetly sensitive human being, with a delightful sense of humour.

* we won't have a nanna blankie by the end of Winter 2010 if I don't get back into my crocheting project.

* if I won the lottery I wouldn't do anything differently with my life, except perhaps hire a cleaner (although the reason we don't have a cleaner is not financial... hmmm...).

* my writing projects have hardly progressed since I finished Handmade Writer -- I have loads of excuses (illness, limited babysitting availability, more day job work, blah, blah) but really I am sad and a bit disappointed that I haven't prioritised them.

* even if I filled my every day with social activities, I'd never get around to seeing anybody regularly.

* it would be a lot of hard work for me to get down to a size 12 and I doubt I could stay this size for very long. Size 14 would probably be more realistic and even then I would have to be careful about choosing flattering clothes. Even at my thinnest I had a pot belly!

* my husband loves me.

* I spend too much time reading other people's stuff on the internet and too much money buying other people's stuff via Etsy. A media detox would do me good!

* Life's better with my parents around.

* I really am making an effort to pull my weight (no pun intended) in the kitchen and domestically in general.

* I love having a sister although don't always feel like I am a good one.

* I use my time pretty effectively but rarely feel like I am doing ENOUGH.

* I sometimes fear that my blog writing is self-indulgent and a bit pathetic and that if anyone who knew me in my "real" life read this they would laugh at me in a mean way. But then again the most self-indulgent and pathetic things I have written have inspired empathy, compassion, courage and connection with others who see themselves in what I write... so that has to be worth something.

* watching children dance and/or sing always makes me cry.

* sometimes I fear I will run out of ideas but it hasn't happened yet. I do have down/uninspired times but my muse never seems to be far away... provided I pay attention.

* people who talk negatively about others (a lot) make me uneasy. I see myself wanting to please when the reality is that these types of people will also be saying negative things about me to others, regardless of what I say or do. Personally, I find that saying mean things about other people never makes me feel any better. So I guess I should just feel compassion for people who feel compelled to say mean things, because they are probably feeling extra crap about themselves and it has very little to do with me.

* I still sometimes sing (well, mime) and dance around the room to a rollicking good song, provided I have the house to myself and the curtains drawn. I've always done this and it's daggy as all hell but I love it!

* toilet humour never fails to crack me up. Pathetic but true.

* I'm not all that interested in politics or the economy (although I do watch the news and I know what I think). I do have a social conscience and try to be environmentally aware but otherwise live in a bit of a cocoon. I think this makes me lucky but also a bit ignorant but that's OK by me.

* most things I've read about mindful and moderate eating recommend taking "good" and "bad" labels away from certain foods. Stuff that: sugar's bad for my energy levels, my weight, my skin, and my moods. When I eat a lot of it, I feel bad, physically and emotionally.

* politeness is always the best way.

* I don't really understand how and when and why willpower works. I don't feel I have mastery of it, and sometimes there seems to be a huge disconnect between my brain and my body. Other times, everything works beautifully in harmony. I can't work out what it is that makes the difference.

* I've always wanted to be a writer and now I am. So, if I am going to be honest, I would have to say that now I want to be a published author although I suspect that living this dream would not be that different from being who I am now. Well, I kinda hope not.

* gee, I actually just wrote that. That means I really kinda like my life. Even the shitty bits.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What I saw this evening


Outside the supermarket, two young men rugged up against the dusk, playing Take Five on acoustic guitars. Shaking their heads in time to the music, one had his eyes closed. The other smiled at me as I stopped with my little 'un to watch.

A tiny old lady, bent right over her Zimmer frame shuffled up exclaiming, "Hello kids!" She winked at me as she pulled a tiny red shiny purse with white polka dots out of her pocket. With a birdlike flourish, she tugged open the zip and tipped the entire contents of the purse into their open guitar case.

Then she met my little 'un's eye. "MYOO-sic! MYOO-sic!" She exclaimed, gingerly bouncing from foot to foot as she passed us by.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One for the dreamers



My best friend bought me the Dear Hamlyn CD (signed!) for my birthday last year and it quickly became one of my favourites. I gather this song appeared in an episode of Grey's Anatomy recently. I don't know: I don't watch it. But I'd be thrilled if it brought Luluc's exquisite talents to a broader audience.

Listening to the lyrics on my iPod while washing the dishes just now, I found myself thinking that it was the perfect ballad for anyone who has embarked on a journey towards their dreams. In particular, it captures perfectly that sense of displacement when you realise that you have glimpsed what is meant for you and you can no longer stay where you are. It's time to move, it's frightening but you have no choice.

It's that deep sweet knowledge... one day soon, you will be mine... that will resonate, when you are on the path that it is yours alone.

New beginnings


Three weeks sugar free
has come to an end, so how
should I celebrate?

Understanding how
moderation works. This is
very new for me.

Just read Diet Girl,
so much I could relate to.
Path forward is clear.

Shopping yesterday.
A knit, a shirt, a pair of
jeans. Sized for comfort.

My sweet sister says,
"You look lovely! A great choice!"
She is such a gem.

But she's honest too.
Helped me steer away from things
that don't flatter me.

Lost weight in three weeks,
skin is clear. Makes me fear how
vile I looked before.

Wearing my new skirt.
Husband says, "Nice stout fabric!
Warm for Winter." Ha!

He's sweet, makes me laugh.
Feeling loved and supported.
Not in this alone.

Growing into a
new life where freedom is mine.
Freedom to choose love.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seeing nothing but love today


On the bus on the way to work today, the following thought flashed through my mind: See as much love today as you possibly can.

Today, this is what I saw:

My mother-in-law arriving with a little 2010 diary she had filled with stickers and pictures cut out from wrapping paper of all my little ‘un’s favourite things.

My little ‘un’s tentative walking. So sweet!

My new colourful stripey wool dress, green suede beret and red hand warmers. My Big Strong Girl ring.

The bus pulling in the second I reached the bus stop. Sunshine making the city glow in the distance.

The heavenly sounds of Lisa Mitchell on my iPod.

The above view from my window at work.

Exchanging emails with thoughtful caring clever friends.

Excitement to see my parents on Monday after six weeks overseas.

My darling sister volunteering to make a lasagne to take when we visit Mum and Dad on Monday, a tremendous relief because even though I have made lasagne twice in my life and the recipe was very simple, it stressed me out no end. I will make spanakopita instead.

Delightful and beautifully chosen belated birthday gifts from the aforementioned darling sister: an owl brooch and fountain pen with violet ink refills.

Lunch and a genuine and heartfelt chat with a lovely colleague.

Buying Keri Smith’s How To Be An Explorer of the World book as a “just because” present for my mother-in-law, knowing she will be delighted and intrigued.

Fabulous inspiration for a fun project from my creative mentor.

Buying a chocolate chip and banana muffin for the softly-spoken and highly articulate homeless man who frequents the campus where I work.

Really energised and productive meetings, and an important/useful/challenging paper to write.

Having a spruiker sing at me in a mock-opera voice “Would you like to know more about the rainforests?” and me singing back in a mock-opera voice “Thank you but noooooo!”. He cracked up, thanked me, and said I’d made his day.

Looking forward to a cosy night in with my sweet snuggly husband.

The very clever Chris Guillebeau writing this, which appeared in my in-box first thing:

When saying goodbye to a person or place, some think it’s best to leave things unsaid, or walk away without reflection. I’ve learned that this is usually a mistake, at least for me.
I say:
hold on to the moment as long as you can. Fight for it if you have to. Get up early and stay up late. Be brave. Choose the raw emotion, even the awkwardness if necessary. If we must go on to something else, let’s at least think about what was and what could have been.
The more intense the feeling, the better. If synchronicity and the feeling of being part of something meaningful comes with sadness, loneliness, or disappointment, so be it. I just know that I don’t want the alternative – mediocrity, routine, the safe and the comfortable.

Composing haiku while waiting for the bus home from work.

A free bus ride home: the driver-in-charge wouldn't let us validate our tickets, partly due to its delay, partly due to the trainee driver. The smile on the trainee's face as I thanked her as I alighted.

Listening to Neko Case, Luluc, Joan as Police Woman as I walked home.

Discovering that my husband has gone ahead and booked the flights for our holiday to New York City later this year.

Watching my little 'un's [surprisingly effective] efforts to feed herself with a "poon".

Remembering that love is my word for the year.

Grateful that it found me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Creating and grace


My creative space is in a state of disarray. Crochet project on hold. Collaging projects not started. Novel project not progressing.

Gifts treasured but unacknowledged. Prints to be framed. Receipts to be filed. Journals to be populated.

Piles and piles of books. Books not read. Books read but not recorded in my book diary of over ten years. My intention to list all the words my little 'un knows, and the letter I meant to write her on her first birthday, still refusing to travel from my brain to my neck to my right arm to my fingers, still subject to the tyranny of distance between my imagination and a piece of paper.

Andrea Scher asks: "How can you create what you most need to find?"

The Creative Beast asks: "How do you embody grace?"

I suspect the answer to these things is not dissimilar. I need a clearing, I need a focus. I need to create a space that nurtures my creative energy, that invites and celebrates its fragmentation (rather than remaining overwhelmed and deterred by it). I need some play.

A tangent, not unrelated:

I spent my little 'un's nap times yesterday clearing out my wardrobe, pulling out my Winter clothes, packing away my Summer gear, bagging up things that I haven't worn for a long time or just don't fit anymore. For once, I approached with task of what to hang in my wardrobe with the premise: What do I actually wear? Not what do I wish I could wear, or what do I think a girl like me should be wearing? But, among all these piles and piles of stuff, where are the small number of pieces I wear on high rotation, the overwhelming majority of the time?

I ended up with a small number of quite casual coordinates, purchased for their roominess but recently quite snug, all in dark muted colours. Colour, I thought, I need more colour.

So. Colour and play. Freedom to create and grow. Fun. What's missing is the fun.

For more fun creative spaces, visit Kootooyoo.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Today


Five seven five makes
my heart come alive. I am
a haiku addict.

Made a yummy cake
for dear friends who visited.
Not one bite for me!

Cleaned out my closet,
filled big bags with clothes too small,
sewed missing buttons.

Chinese medicine,
talk and pins and cups and herbs,
energy returns.

Hello, how are you?
Spare some change? No? Then how 'bout
a five dollar note?

Walking in the rain,
Little 'un wrapped nice and warm.
Winter's truly here.

Making a clearing.
Tiring work but in the end
there's more room for joy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taming the NO


"One only understands what one tames. People no longer have the time to understand anything. They buy everything ready-made from the shops. But there is no shop where friends can be bought, so people no longer have friends. If you want a friend, tame me!"

So said the fox to the eponymous little prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic.

I have a friend I have known for a long time. Let’s call her Jinny. Jinny and I went to high school together and that’s about all we have in common. Jinny and I catch up once or twice a year, partly because she works shifts and I work days and we’re both part time and we both have little 'uns and few of our free days coincide. And partly because all we have in common is that we grew up in the same dull suburb and went to high school together.

In high school we were best friends, for reasons that are still unbeknownst to me. One weekend she invited herself over, armed with a packet of crinkle-cut salt and vinegar crisps. At first I thought it was because it was a hot day and my family had a swimming pool. But she kept coming over. Even in Winter. Even after my Dad gave us sweetcorn as an afternoon snack and it all got stuck in her brand new braces (and that must have hurt). We would write each other notes in class, hang out during breaks, call each other when we got home and spoke for hours. What was left to say, I really can’t remember.

She was super smart at sciences, me at arts and humanities. She was super sporty, I was a dancer and hammy school play actress. She worked a part time job and was otherwise a horsey girl, where I spent what spare time I had after ballet classes and play rehearsals reading and dreaming and pining for university and wishing I lead a more bohemian and independent life.

We always seemed to be in competition, something never occurred to me until after the fact, when I was subtly informed that I had lost. Jinny often reminds me of these times, of things I said and things I did: mostly things I can't remember and can't see the value of dwelling on.

But the thing that really makes me not want to see Jinny that often is that, more often than not, she will preface a reply to anything I say with “No” or "Not really" or "Yeah, but". To be honest, I feel so stupid and deflated and misunderstood after some of our catch-ups, that my impulse is to avoid them.

But I also have to step up and acknowledge a number of things. The first is that she is actually a kind-hearted and genuine person, who has supported me without question over many many years. She has been generous with her time and her knowledge, resources, as well as hand-me-downs from her little 'un (who is a year older than mine) and thoughtful gifts since I have become a mother. She would be an excellent person to turn to in a crisis, as she is level-headed, rational and trustworthy.

The thing is, I would have trouble turning to her or even admitting to her that I needed help, because of my pride.

This is partly because I don't want to open myself up to shame and ridicule or misunderstanding. After being told in no uncertain terms, time after time after time, that my conversational empathy is misguided, my confidence in the reciprocity of our friendship has been eroded.

But there's something else. I see myself writing this in such a way that highlights my victimhood whereas, in fact, I am the one to blame. I have known this girl for the best part of twenty years and do you think I have ever shared my concerns with her? Occasionally, I have tried to practice compassion towards her attitude, imagining it to be a manifestation of deep insecurity and a punishing need to be in control and to be right all the time. I have also questioned my own motivations, wondering why I am sensitive to disagreement and the possibility that I might just be wrong about something every now and again.

If I am committed to growing as a person, as a creative soul, as a mother, why do I avoid people who are going to challenge my world view? Is it possible to invest in these relationships in such a way that encourages growth and mutual understanding?

*

I wrote the above this morning then went for a walk with my little 'un, to an appointment. All the way along the journey, I pondered what I'd written, wondering how I'd wrap it up. I thought of Jinny, described in detail, and all the other people who have been in my life over the past few years (friends, partners, family, colleagues) who have tended to interact with me in a similar way.

I found myself thinking, "I am glad this is not where I spend the majority of my time anymore". Over the years, I have filtered these people and situations out of my life and I am highly sensitive to the signs in new friendships and professional relationships.

My thoughts then went to my husband, my immediate family, my closest friends, my favourite colleagues and I saw with sudden clarity why I continue to choose their company over all others. They love me the way I need to be loved. They treasure me for who I am and they know that I am coming from a good place, even if I don't always get it right. They are not threatened by who I am and heartily celebrate my achievements with me. They share their own stumblings and fears, and find ways of letting me know if they need more from me.

Together we are not perfect or happy or always in seamless communication. But we are real, we are ourselves, and we are in it for the long haul, without question or requirement.

I think it was Brene Brown who once said, "You can't shame someone into changing". Personally, I am not keen to try and change anyone, although I can see that there is room for greater honesty and authenticity in sharing my needs and preferences with those dearest to me. But I see now that it is possible for me to grow into my best self through spending time with people who really get me, to the extent that if they need to share something a bit difficult, they'll do it in such a way that doesn't make me feel small or ashamed.

So maybe, Mr Fox, by choosing the friendships that help me flourish, I will develop greater understanding of how to tame feelings of unworthiness?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Making me smile today




* The incredible house, featured in Grand Designs Revisited. I watched it a week ago and I am still thinking about it!

* Delicious pizza for lunch with a sweet friend, and the even more delightful news that he has started dating again (after devastating heartbreak).

* Realising that I was afraid of responses to my last post. Actual responses (in the comments and via email and SMS) were overwhelmingly tender, which I took as further evidence that my imagined drought of empathy and reciprocity was just that: imagined. I also want to say that as soon as I realised that I was crawling into a familiar cave of blame and victimhood, and coaxed myself into seeing how unhelpful it was, I started to feel better... emotionally, mentally, physically.

* Allowing myself to catch the bus to work today and listening to a crazy mix of up-beat music very very loud during the journey.

* My little 'un wanting to kiss my owl pendant. How she loves owls!

* Bumping into a lovely lady who lives in the "old folks' home" (her words) around the corner. We met on the day I moved in. It was stinking hot, I was heavily pregnant (and extremely scruffily dressed), and was chatting to the removalists as they had a smoko break. She was walking past my house, very elegantly dressed, and welcomed me in the most spritely and jovial way. On the small number of occasions our paths have crossed since, she has shown great delight in my little 'un's progress, congratulated me on my panache (!), and told me little tales of her travels (including living on the island of Lesbos for a year). Tonight she told me about the designer friend she was helping move from his house that was originally five apartments (!). A stroke had prevented him from packing his possessions, so she and another friend had been packing three days a week for the last three months... and had managed to pack up two rooms! He was adamant that he'd still be able to put on dinner parties for thirty (he still managed to cook magnificently) in a one bedroom apartment. She also told me about the books she is reading, on women explorers at the turn of the last century. We said our goodbyes and she started walking away when I suddenly worked up the courage to ask her if she wanted to borrow my copy of Dorothy Porter's On Passion, which I happened to have in my bag. She agreed and I wrote my name and phone number on the inside cover. When she calls me, I am going to invite her over for a cup of tea.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Where the creativity is today...


Specifically, it is in my lungs. Or thereabouts. It's the place where I get this murky, leaden feeling -- a sad, defeated greyness -- that tells me I'm running on empty. That I have nothing left to give.

Time for creativity, I have (albeit in precious limitation). Space, I have (in abundance). Inspiration? Surely. Lots of fun projects on the go, with new ones germinating in my mind's greenhouse.

Energy? No.

A big part of this is physical. I'm most likely battling the most recent virus transmitted from my little 'un, without having had the chance to properly exorcise the previous one. Abstinence from sugar is revealing just how much I rely on sweet little [big] hits to get me through the day.

An even bigger part of this is emotional. I survived my harrowing work day on Tuesday largely on adrenaline. I didn't quite realise it until that evening, when I had difficulty sleeping, despite sheer exhaustion. The urge to fight and fly was still coursing through my veins, even though my brain had conceded defeat many hours prior.

So here I am: depleted.

As I try to slow down and settle in to a new pace -- one that allows me to learn what this exhaustion is trying to teach me -- I see anxiety emerge. I feel defenceless, my control of my time and ability seeping away. Of course, I know that control is an illusion, but it's a fiction I can happily play along with most of the time.

Then along comes resentment. That defence mechanism that convinces me that I have been wrong to give my time, my ideas, my resources so freely. It blinds me to all the treasures, the kindness I have received in return and the greatest truth that manifesting generosity makes me spiritually abundant. Gently, I remind myself that while it's right to slow down and close off until I feel more balanced, that I don't need to give all the time, that it's OK to receive every now and again, and that a certain ease will return when I feel whole enough to give again.

Some gentle reminders from the universe:

* listening to Brene Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me read-along on my iPod while running, randomly selecting the chapter on discernment in establishing reciprocal relationships (and learning to receive as well as give)

* encountering the last the section of The Happiness Project, which acknowledges that people who work hard on manifesting kindness and generosity can be undermined by those who do not commit to this practice (but compulsively coast on its energy nonetheless)

* re-disovering Jen Lemen's magnificent ritual for thanking your fears and letting them go

* my Know necklace, made by the talented Liz Lamoreux, selected to remind me that I have all I need to create a safe place where energy is nurtured

For more energised Creative Spaces visit
here!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sugar free for three weeks


Ten days in.

No chocolate. No cakes. No biscuits. No sweets. No ice-cream. No dried fruit. No alcohol.

No treats. No rewarding glass of red (or two) at the end of a long, trying day.

No bloating. No nausea. No headaches.

No I-was-already-full-I-really-shouldn’t-have-eaten-that (or, as my Mum would say, “That was superfluous!”).

No anaesthetised palate. No opiate-dulled brain.

No guilt. Far less self-loathing.

Ten days to go.

Then it will be time to choose.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fortune cookie


Sometimes it seems like each day contains a sweet little lesson. Something pithy, profound and perfectly-timed, like you'd find in a fortune cookie.

Take yesterday, for instance. I woke up dreading a particularly pukesome task, namely, attacking a seething mass of ants in the laundry. For friends not residing in Melbourne, you may be interested to know that my home town is precariously balanced on an ant colony of gargantuan proportions. And every now and again, the empire gets ambitious and threatens to colonise my home. The most recent frontier was my laundry windowsill, forcing me to take the offensive and mark out battle lines with sweet-smelling globs of poison. The instructions on the bottle warned of an increase in activity as the poison attracted the ants, seducing them into transmitting the active ingredient back in their nest.

But of course I forgot this when my peek at the laundry window revealed a heaving black mass. It was hideous, it was growing and it would need dealing with. All night I tossed and turned, dreaming of rubber gloves and streaks of stubborn black.

So yesterday morning, I held my breath, screwed up my nose and tentatively peered around the door. What I saw was a clean white windowsill, save for a few remaining globs of poison dotted by a couple of hapless ants for whom the narcissistic lure had been too great. The poison had actually done what it said it would do.

Surprise. I thought to myself. Allow yourself to be surprised.

Today was never going to be the best day ever. I woke feeling run-down and deflated. I’d made the mistake of reading at home a rather unhelpful and uncollegiate email from a work colleague. It had me seething most of the afternoon, formulating the most scathing and hurtful response in my mind, resenting this preoccupation on an otherwise lovely day. I knew I would have to meet this colleague and come to some agreement, in order to meet an important deadline.

But it also dawned on my that I would need to work out how I could defend my professional integrity.

And then there was the dental appointment scheduled for lunchtime.

Cycling to work, I was sluggish and demoralised. I was also still smarting from the observations my mother-in-law had made when she arrived to look after the little ‘un, determined to interpret them as criticisms.

Exhausted and uncertain, I made a coffee and started trawling through the emails that had amassed during my absence while the little ‘un was unwell.

This arrived in my in-box.

Then my Manager popped in for a debrief and empathy. She completely "got" my hurt and bewilderment, and went on to meet with my colleague in private and discuss the impropriety of his behaviour.

My meeting with my colleague was tense and difficult, but I persisted towards understanding, refusing to compromise my work but co-opting him into developing a solution. His unease was palpable and although I knew part of this had to do with territory, I also sensed that he regretted his actions. He later complimented me on the quality of my solutions.

And the dentist? Just a routine check-up: no x-rays, no fillings, no pain (for my mouth or my wallet).

When my mother-in-law called later in the evening, I apologised to her for my vague unhelpfulness this morning, explaining why I had been so preoccupied. She listened empathically and assured me that I had nothing to apologise for, then ventured that her constant questions were probably strange and/or annoying. She just wanted to make sure she she honoured the little 'un's routine.

It’s never quite as bad as you think it’s going to be.

Although there’s times where I wouldn’t say no to the fortune cookie.