Monday, August 30, 2010

Magic moments on the journey


* Our little 'un sitting on my lap and munching on a chocolate froggie, impervious to the plane taking off.

* My husband taking the aforementioned little 'un on a walk up and down the aisles of the plane for half an hour, allowing me to catch the first wee bit of the Sex and the City 2 film.

* Recognising Charlotte's pantry meltdown in the aforementioned film, in a heartbeat.

* Knowing that the meltdown on the tarmac at LAX would surely pass, particularly once Daddy surrendered his iPhone to the cause.

* Catching a glimpse of an elderly African American gentleman sitting on his front verandah, smoking a cigar and reading the paper as our taxi wove through the houses surrounding JFK airport and having it sink in that we'd really arrived.

* The husband of a friend of a friend obligingly finding, then bringing down to our waiting taxi, their port-a-cot, despite being in the middle of feeding their toddler and also despite being none the wiser about the arrangement I'd made with his wife via email about three weeks prior.

* Pointing out a playground to my little 'un out of the taxi window "Look, fwings!" and having her reply "OKAY!" as if it was the best suggestion I'd made all day. Giggling at the idea the twenty-something gents that were loitering around, all braids and basketball shirts, might be happy to share their fwing territory with my littlie.

* The owners of the apartment we're sub-letting sitting on the stoop and enjoying the balmy evening, waiting for us to arrive, hollering, "You're here! We're the welcome wagon!".

* Laughing at ourselves and each other as we muddled through unpacking and shopping for groceries, our bodies walking in jelly and our brains back in Melbourne.

* Our little 'un going to sleep in the port-a-cot without a murmur at 10pm (even if she woke at 2am and none of us got back to sleep until 6am).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The question


On my last day of work before going on leave, I took a dear friend out for lunch. I'd be away for his 30th birthday and it would also be a while until we' see each other again, as he had planned some travels on his own. Before I return from New York, he will be on his way to grand travels on the trans-Siberian, then spending time with family in the UK.

I asked, "When you go away on a big journey, do you ask a question before you leave? Anticipating that your travels will show you the answer?"

He pondered this for a moment, then shook his head. "No, not really,"He replied, "But I have noticed that I am the happiest version of myself when I am travelling on my own. In fact, I've sometimes wondered if my family and friends would recognise me if they saw me overseas... I am a totally different person, far away from all the things that worry or irritate me at home."

While I could relate to what he had said, I knew without hesitation that I had one question of this trip to New York, even if I wouldn't be on my own and even if I wouldn't necessarily be the happiest, most carefree version of myself.

And that question was: How should I live?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Whispers that I'm not alone


Christine Mason Miller's exquisite musings found me today. I have long admired this Swirly Girl's art and respected her writing, but today the way she mapped the differing expectations and experiences of mothers and daughters made me feel more part of something universal... and less out on my own, on the (l)edge.

And then there was this poignant quote from Elizabeth Debold:

"Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to- be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future."

It occurs to me that I might only just be starting to surface, that I still have a long way to go. Maybe this particular journey will never end, my own bitter-sweet Ithaka. But I will be stronger for having voyaged through the underworld, more fully inhabiting my skin, more present in my bones.

The stars assure me:

More than 2,000 people have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest, and 12 men have walked on the moon. But only two humans have ever ventured to the lowest spot on our planet. In 1960, Jacques Piccard and Donald Walsh rode in a bathyscaphe all the way down to the Mariana Trench, which is almost seven miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Your assignment in the coming weeks, Gemini, is to move in their direction, metaphorically speaking. In my astrological opinion, ascending and soaring shouldn't be on your agenda. It's time to dive into the mysterious depths.

A memory reaches me from my dim, dark undergraduate days. Orpheus. The katabasis. Temptation to look behind...

... when ahead lies promise of a rainbow.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Splashes of cheer


Splashes of yellow wattle announcing that Spring is on its way.

Ticking boxes.

Packing Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies to take with me and read while we’re away.

Meeting someone whose arrogant self-obsession leaves mine for dead (THAT cheered me up no end! Go figure.)

Taking photos of random things that caught my eye on the way to Pilates class.

My little ‘un imitating me singing the Wiggles song Central Park, New York by going “La la la la PARK! La la la la WALKING!” then imitating a squirrel munching on a nut.

Having a total purge of my study/studio so that it is ready for some serious creative adventures when I return.

My husband listening.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How it starts


It's the food. This is how it starts.

There's no nutritional value in that. She's so skinny! Milk is important for growing bones. Just a little bit each day. She prefers the things I bring. What you don't seem to understand is that certain foods are higher in fibre, which prevents constipation. Does she eat breakfast cereal? She loves the apples I have stewed. I've never seen a child strain like that. I'm not sure she gets much variety. How often does she have red meat? That steak, she could hardly chew it. You were exactly the same, I had to give you stewed pears. She ate so much of my risotto I had to eat her chicken and it wasn't very nice. You mean to say you buy the cooked chicken? You do not want to know what they put in that.

So that's why it's the kitchen. The place where it all unravels. Desperately hoping this toasted sandwich ticks some of the boxes. Despising myself for lack of imagination, initiative. Ashamed that my ineptitude is so obvious to others.

Feeling the bench keel towards me forty-five degrees. Holding on until my knuckles turn white, sobs scoring against the lining of my gut. Tears blurring my vision of the perfectly cut slices of cheese, smears of tinned tuna oil.

I see her cheeks moving as she munches. Relief that she is eating. Transfixed by a DVD. Shame for exposing my child to the opiate of television/using the moments she is entertained to "get things done"/not "getting things done" because we are playing. Not sure how much to panic when she refuses a bottle of milk. Sinking to the tiles. Vision not so blurred that I don't notice the dust, the crumbs, the hair.

I hardly cook, I never clean, I'm rarely cheerful. What does he see in me?

No. I am doing my bit. I am. The dishwasher on. A sinkful of hand-washed dishes, drying on the rack. Three loads of washing. Tiny items hung on clothes horses. There's a lot of evidence that putting clothes in a dryer doesn't get rid of the bacteria. No amount of product can get the food stains off. That anti-bacterial rinse is a bad idea, as it undermines children's immunity to certain things. Back sore from lifting, bending. Why don't you put up foldable clothes lines like our neighbour has? You can hardly see them when they're down.

Walking in the park. You can tell she isn't allowed to play outside much, I was watching the way she played with the grass at her cousin's house. The wind tears through my coat. Why didn't I wear a jumper? I'm not sure her blanket is keeping her warm. She slept for four hours today, she must feel safe with me. Chocolate frog in my pocket to soothe the tears and, hopefully, diffuse the into-the-pram wrestle when it's time to head home.

She seems to fall over a lot when she wears those slippers. You can do what you like, but just so you know, she is not going to wear them when I am around. I can't get those new boots on her feet, they are too difficult for my hands to manage. Get her some new shoes, I can give you the money if you like. She seems to fall over a lot in those new shoes.

In a moment of clarity, I see now that it started a lot earlier than the food. It started earlier than the baby, the house, the wedding, the engagement. It has always been there.

And I know it comes from love. It comes from wanting to help, wanting to fix, wanting to protect, wanting to improve.

But where is it going to end?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trusting, playing, living


As our departure date approaches, I also find myself wondering what I will learn from being away from home and the gifts that will find their way to me. Occasionally, I've watched myself worry that my expectations are too high or misplaced, and that things will be the same wherever I go. After all, I can escape my environment and routine, but I can't escape my self, right? Like Homer Simpson says, perhaps there won't be a moral to the story, it'll just be "a bunch of stuff that happened".

Today, these three exact messages from wise souls made their way onto my radar:

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
Goethe, by way of the Awe-manac

Make sure to leave room in your packing for surprises, lessons learned and being silly. Getting away from our regular life does wonders for our perspective doesn't it? There's nothing like it.
My friend Jen

Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Harold Thurman, by way of Liz Lamoreux's email footer

Somehow I think that the lessons will be many. They'll come at just the right time. And they won't be lost.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thinking about New York


Yes, there's the logistics. Digging out clothes for warmer weather. Packing. Finalising accommodation arrangements. Replenishing the first aid kit. Working out how to manage currency and banking issues. Briefing house-sitters. Buying presents for friends. Finishing up projects at my day job. Thinking about snacks, books, toys, DVDs, anything that will keep the little 'un amused on the flight.

Then there's the ridiculous questions. What will the weather be like? Will our apartment have an apple corer? How will we manage the stroller up and down the subway stairs? Do we need to take umbrellas? Is it worth taking art-making supplies? Where will we do our laundry? What sorts of fees/charges will we get whacked with for using ATMs or our Australian cell phones? Where will we find decent coffee? Is it worth booking a car to collect us at the airport?

Of course, there's some trepidation. Will our little 'un cope with 15 hours on a plane? Will we? Will my back hold up? How many other passengers will we collectively disturb/annoy? Will we squeeze through the tiny window of opportunity at LAX to clear customs and passport control, collect our baggage, and check in for our domestic flight?

And I can't deny there's some insecurity. I don't look like any of the girls from Sex and the City. My clothes aren't hip enough for Brooklyn. I am not good with jetlag. I have no idea how I am going to be calm and present for my little 'un through the various disruptions she is about to experience. We are going to be home by 6.30pm each evening, hardly going bananas in New York City. And as much as I'd like to think I look like an enthusiastic amateur with my digital SLR around my neck, I suspect I will just look like a dorky tourist.

But then.... there is the wonder. The last vestiges of Summer warmth. Pretending we're locals, with our very own apartment(s). Spending many hours in MoMA. Walking, walking, walking everywhere. The hint of autumn leaves. Working up the courage to ask out an artist I've admired for some time for a coffee. Queuing up for brunch in some obscure spot with a dear friend. Grocery shopping in Zabar's. Central Park. Staring at fire escapes, fire hydrants, manhole covers, graffiti. Making my husband wait on the "boyfriend couch" while I try on a hundred things at Anthropologie. Watching water swirl down the sink in the other direction. Overindulging in fast food at Chipotle. Getting away from the Melbourne routine, from commitments, from cold wind, from drama, from boredom, from bland results of a mediocre federal election...

The truth is: I can't wait.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cat Empire said it so beautifully


The Crowd

Lord unchain my hands
Let me sing inside the crowded trams
Let me dance among the traffic jams
We're going to sleep
on the St Kilda sands

Lord unbind my feet
Let me mingle with the good people
we meet
Water rising up into the street
Unbind my feet

"The apparition of these faces in
the crowd;
petals on a wet black bough"
Ezra Pound found the formula
Our houses are rectangular
but life is curved not angular
so when things start to strangular
remember
rain still falls on the halls of power
new babies being born every hour
and the eagle keeps watch on the old clock tower
over me...

On the train I refrain from sitting with head and shoulders bowed
They told me time is of the essence
no wandering allowed
but then I saw a pretty girl
whose features stood out in the crowd
went ten minutes past my stop waiting for her to look around
I'm just another clown kicking around in Melbourne town
cooling out, relaxing watching the
world go round
So if you ever have the time
and you want to go drink some wine
I'd rather greet you with a smile
than greet you with a frown...

Lord unchain my hands
Let me sing inside the crowded trams
Let me dance among the traffic jams
We're going to sleep
on the St Kilda sands

Lord unbind my feet
Let me mingle with the good people
we meet
Water rising up into the street
Unbind my feet

[For more magic, watch a live performance of this gem here.]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happier times


I'm coming to the end of Wayne Muller's excellent A Life of being, having, and doing enough but there's something that I'm a little stuck on. In discussing what constitutes happiness -- and contentment with sufficiency in particular -- Muller proposes that being open to receiving blessings takes mindfulness and practice. It's not about external circumstances, he argues, so much as internal orientation.

He recommends: "[...] allow your mind and heart to gently drift, settling on a moment when you recall being very happy."

There is a moment that readily springs to mind and easily fits this description for me. It was almost a year ago, in the Spring. A weekday, just before 9am. I had just put my little 'un (then six months old) down for her first catnap, and returned to bed with a coffee and a book. Sun was streaming through my bedroom windows and the occasional clammer of children walking to school hummed in the background. The book was a new purchase, recently arrived from Amazon, about using collage techniques to explore intentions, in art and in life.

I recall the sheer joy of that moment to myself. The delicious aroma and creaminess of the coffee. The sunshine. The comfort with the routine that my little 'un and I had established. The sheltered little moment before I had to think about returning to work, or my thesis being returned from examination. The inspiration of new art techniques, connecting me with ideas I wanted to explore. The exquisite satisfaction stemming from the knowledge that I was making art, enjoying craft, learning to cook new things every day.

I felt safe. I felt nurtured. I felt gently stretched.

There was a certain harmony.

But what, Muller asks me to think, where the qualities present in me at that time? After all, I will never again be able to recreate that time in my little 'un's life. And although the opportunity to luxuriate in bed with a book and a coffee may return one day (not so soon), the external circumstances will never be the same. And even if they were, I guess Muller's point is that there is no guarantee that I would feel the same glow of intense joy and fulfilment.

But maybe, just maybe, it is possible for me to recreate that inner landscape, regardless of the outer circumstances. I think he is onto something when he suggests:

"Perhaps you were fully paying attention, feeling what was happening in your body, willing to be surprised by something or someone you didn't expect, more curious than frightened, not in complete control of the situation. Something was freely given and received, you felt more safe than guarded, and you were open to feelings of love and gratitude."

I don't yet know and I'm having trouble distilling the memory of this moment into qualities such as the ones that he has nominated (although the latter sentence would certainly go a long way to fitting the bill!).

But something is telling me not to push it, that the answer is on its way.

If I listen deeply to what my body is trying to tell me. If I trust the whispers that suggest the way I have calibrated my life -- with the best of intentions -- is not serving my heart's deepest desire to be the mother, partner, artist I truly am. If I can work on forgiving myself for wanting to control, for distrusting, for succumbing to fears of not-enoughness... in the hope of releasing them into the ether.

I am counting down the days until our family sojourn in New York City. I have the feeling that this change of scene, of pace, of perspective will be a tremendous gift of the (extra)ordinary.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday Writers Group


So I went along to a local writers group. I'd found it on a Victorian Writers Centre directory, sent a tentative email to the chap listed as a contact and received a kind invitation to attend the weekly gathering at a bar near my house.

What I was fearing was a cocktail party, including people I knew but wasn't expecting to see, replete with conversations about how little we were progressing on our various projects.

What I found was a small group of serious people -- welcoming but not effusive and all new to me -- committed to developing their craft, sharing ideas and resources, and progressing important projects. A glass of mulled wine and a five minute warm-up were followed by a task: to write about one of the random objects placed on the table. We took it in turn to read out our pieces, all prefaced with "This is crap but here goes..." and all engendering warm and helpful responses.

We finished by reading and discussing pieces that a couple of members had been working on: one performance script converted to a prose piece intended for publication; one poem; one little snippet, the start of a character piece. All were cleverly conceived, lovingly crafted, earnestly submitted. Discussion was lively and questions were many.

In short: it was exactly what I was looking for. A regular opportunity to challenge and develop my craft. Serious souls who would give constructive but encouraging feedback. Likeminded folk who would not necessarily become close friends but who would be valuable and welcome companions on my writing journey.

And a very welcome chance to get out of my head and into my hands, in a safe space, for a couple of hours. I'll be back next week. With paper this time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How Rumi kicked my butt


Not knowing where to turn, I turned to my bookshelf. I knew I wanted the wisdom of Rumi, so I pulled out my Coleman Barks edition and turned to a random page.

This is what presented itself.

Solomon's Crooked Crown

Solomon was busy judging others,
when it was his personal thoughts
that were disrupting the community.

His crown slid crooked on his head.
He put it straight, but the crown went
awry again. Eight times this happened.

Finally, he began to talk to his headpiece.
“Why do you keep tilting over my eyes?”
“I have to. When your power loses compassion,
I have to show what such condition looks like.”

Immediately Solomon recognized the truth.
He knelt and asked for forgiveness.
The crown centered itself on his crown.

When something goes wrong, accuse yourself first.
Even the wisdom of Plato or Solomon
can wobble and go blind.

Listen when your crown reminds you
of what makes you cold toward others,
as you pamper the greedy energy inside.

Suff you already knew but I'm slow on the uptake


Or: Stuff my sore back is teaching me.

1) So much for the hospital fantasy, all that "getting off the ride" and being forced to rest business. Being in pain is unglamorous, tiring, and does not bring out the best in anyone. And it rarely happens at the "right" time.

2) I am embarrassed to be unwell. I am annoyed that there is no "legitimate" reason for my back to give way. I get frustrated that there is no "quick fix" and that the professionals I am consulting cannot make the pain go away, right away. I am ashamed that some of the solutions I have pursued have, in fact, made things worse... even though they were legitimate paths to follow. I hate the fact that other people can see all this happen.

3) Cancelling out of things is surprisingly easy. But panicking about stuff I "should" be doing (rather than being unwell and/or convalescing) will invariably happen, even if I couldn't say exactly what those things are.

4) There are many types of help -- the help I need, the help I'm offered, the help I'm not, the help I actually receive, the help I secretly feel I'm entitled to -- and none of them are particularly satisfying.

5) I'm more likely to say, "Yes, putting my back out is so annoying, it has really put a spanner in the works" than, " Actually, I am in a lot of discomfort and nothing seems to be helping. I feel alone and helpless, and quite worried about travelling on a long-haul plan flight to the US with a toddler in tow in less than two weeks."

Monday, August 16, 2010

The cost


And then just like that --
without so much as a knock --
pain invaded me.

Just when I allowed
myself to breathe, my shoulders
down... the place where I

had been carrying
it all finally let go.
In absence of the

tightly woven knot
of muscle protecting my
inner fortitude,

I have no choice but
to admit pain and fatigue,
and just ride it out.

Sitting, standing and
walking most of all bring me
severe discomfort.

Pain killers, stretches,
anti-inflammatories:
do not help at all.

Heat bag and sitting
still for a change seem to be
"all" that is required.

(How I am going
to ride out a week like this
is anyone's guess.)

I thought I could numb
my way through the growing pains,
invulnerable.

My body always
knows, won't let me hide behind
elaborate ruse.

Control may be an
illusion but the cost of
the pretence is high.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Almost


A light-hearted phone call. A bunch of daffodils.

Some errands run. Some decisions reached. Some delicious inspiration.

The beginnings of allowing. The relief of good service. The magic of theatre.

Many moments of forgiveness. Much-needed long, deep sleep.

Gentle acceptance. Quiet realisation that it will be OK. Tentative forays beyond the cocoon.

Breathing a little easier.

It's almost time to fly...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My gift


My beautiful little girl,

I learnt something today. It was perhaps the most painful thing I've ever had to learn, and I know that I didn't do it with much grace at all.

You know that I have not been quite right these past few days. It's been in your eyes when you look at me. The uncertainty. It has made you unsure of yourself -- you've wanted things and not wanted them at the same time, both with equal fervour -- and anxious about the confusion this has created around you.

Twice, over the course of the past six days I've lost my patience and shouted at you, for no obvious reason. I've seen your hurt and bewilderment and, today, when you sat quietly in your pram and tried to hide your tears, I realised something that broke my heart.

It's a long and convoluted story about a mother and a daughter. As usual, it starts with something small and petty. As usual, it turns into a miscommunication which then evolves into a passive-aggressive impasse. As usual, the fug of old hurts engulfs them both. In this instance, the daughter called her mother to clear the air. She hadn't wanted to apologise. She just wanted to hear and be heard. What the daughter heard was that she had acted badly and that she had evidently been upset about something bigger to behave in such a way. Despite herself, the daughter apologised, but being asked about that "something bigger" did not follow. After hanging up, she threw the phone across the room (you know that bit, because you saw it and she shouted at you soon thereafter).

During the walk that followed, this daughter realised a few things. That she's no longer a daughter in the way she once was. That she can't tell her mother many things, a number of which are really important to her. That the most important of these things are her need to be heard and her need to be seen. But if she can't tell her mother such things, then how can she expect her to deliver?

This daughter also realised that she will be a different mother. For when her own daughter reaches an age when she starts to wonder what sort of woman she is, what sort of daughter she can be, what sort of mother she might be... she will hear and she will see. And she will understand.

And she will show her this work. She will show her daughter her own struggles and her openness to being an inadequate mother, an unworthy daughter, an imperfect woman.

You see, my sweet angel, this is the one special thing I can give you and I suspect it's something only I can give you: the evidence that I am working on forgiving myself for all of these things, so that you can do the same when you need to.

And I also want to acknowledge that this is a very special gift that you have given me. I look at you and I think: If she comes to me as a young woman and shares that she is doing such work, I will be very proud indeed. And herein lies the gift: in order for me to say that to you, I understand that I need to be proud of my own efforts. However far they fall short. And despite my own mother's absence from this aspect of my own journey.

It will be my privilege to share all this with you.

My love always,
Mummy x

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Had it.


Maybe when we go
to America I will
stay and not come home.

Do you think I could
tell Homeland Security
that it's not about

the US being
land of opportunity --
Australia's fine --

it's because I get
the feeling that people here
would be better off

without me? I mean,
just for once, I would love it
if something I said

was taken at face
value and not questioned or
challenged or improved.

I would just love it
if someone said, "YES! OK."
and came along for

the ride. Because I
do sometimes know what I want
and what I need and

why. (And to hell with
research and consensus and
inclusivity.)

I have had enough
of being made to feel that
that is not enough.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Promise


There's something about
the smell of daphne that calls
me out to play with

canvas, paint and glue,
camera at the ready.
Somehow the idea

of Spring coaxes me
to emerge from my cocoon
and create beauty,

even if today
the rain and cold make me feel
like hibernating.

That zesty fragrance
of Spring seems to hold promise
of my renewal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Aspirated


Yesterday, when her
blocks would not line up, she said,
Fuck-a. A quiet

aspirated sigh.
Not knowing whether to laugh
or cry, I did both.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Crikey Moses



I came across this on my pal Gill's blog just now and I had to share it. Gill felt the poetry of this piece really speak to where she is and I have to say that I know exactly what she means, albeit under different circumstances.

This past week or so has been the longest spell I have spent on my own for a long time. I do not fear or resent this. I was single for a number of years before I met my husband, around four of which I lived on my own. Going to movies, the theatre, on holiday, seeing live music: all of these things I was happy to do on my own.... and still am.

Since the little 'un arrived, opportunities for this have been fewer and farther between, for reasons of my own choosing. And this year, there have been work and fitness commitments and family obligations that have kept my weeks churning along, with the odd social occasion thrown in. I no longer have a thesis to write, a house to hunt, long work hours to burn. But the busy-ness is there.

Various thoughts and events have converged today, and they seem to have culminated in the video that Gill found. Reading about enoughness. Marinating in the messages from Dream Lab. Forced distance from my husband. Listening to music with grace and depth. Watching a random selection of DVDs each evening (The Secret Life of Bees; Maria Full of Grace; The Class; and, an old favourite, The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo). Tensions in my family. Unwellness. Friends cancelling social engagements -- for good reason -- creating spaces in my calendar. A certain quietness in the blog world. All of these things have brought me back to that place of alone-ness that I used to inhabit as a matter of course. It's not unwelcome and, as I said, I don't fear or resent it.

But I'm reminded of a bitter-sweet truth, one that I had ignored/suppressed in my yearning/fascination for connection and understanding. The truth is that we are all alone. We may enrich our lives with the wisdom and company of others. We may also be lucky enough to meet our soulmates or to bring new life into the world. But we are ourselves.

Do we come from nothing? I can't say for certain. Looking at my daughter, I often wonder. She has certainly come into something... but where this little person descended from, deus ex machina, as fully formed little personality where before none existed... I doubt I could explain.

What I do know, in my heart of hearts, is that we return to nothing. And we do that alone.

Somehow this quirky little piece of poetry on film reminds me of the beauty in that truth.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Finding their way to me today


You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum.
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum.
Every heart
to live will come
but like a refugee.
Excerpt from Anthem
Leonard Cohen


More than one-third of adults under 35 confess that right after making love, they tweet or text-message or check their Facebook pages. In the coming week, I strongly advise you not to do that or anything remotely like that. You should give your best, brightest, most focused attention to every phase of every adventure you have. The foreplay and the aftermath are just as important to the total revelation as the height of the action. This is a time in your long-term cycle when you can't afford to scrimp on completion and closure and resolution.

Weekly forecast for Gemini

It’s easy to be hard on yourself for everything that isn’t finished, isn’t perfect, isn’t clear quite yet. But here you are, doing the very best you can. Today, just today, take one minute to gently acknowledge your effort, your heart and your deep desire to get things right. Imagine that none of it is overlooked; trust that nothing will be wasted. Someone somewhere is watching you today, and your intention is making a difference. You’re doing better than you think!

For the record: it's not all been about magnolias and mindfulness. It's also been about: running late for everything; feeling unsure and making mistakes; having my Mum hang up the phone on me; my little 'un crying and refusing to sleep; and other manifestations of all-round inadequacy.

I'm thinking the universe really wants me to learn this lesson GOOD.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The march of not-enoughness


The following questions arrived in my in-box today, from the inimitable Jennifer Lee:

When you tune into to listen, your body offers tremendous wisdom. It sometimes sends you blatant messages to slow down and pay attention (um, hello, like when you get sick?). Other times your body merely hints at what’s right beneath the surface -- a knot in your belly or a tightness in your throat. How often do you ignore those cues and plow through? How easy is it for you to numb yourself out to stress, pain, exhaustion, your full range of emotion, or literal and figurative hunger? What would happen if you stopped to notice what your body is trying so desperately to tell you?

This message was beautifully timed because for the past few days, I have been trying to understand why I feel discombobulated. I suspect it's a number of things: an annoying head-cold; opting out of my various fitness commitments for a few days; my husband being overseas for work; damp gloomy weather; PMS; switching to sugar-free again; the dawning realisation that we are departing for our big holiday in just over three weeks; and the accompanying anxiety that I won't get my day job work done before we go.

I have also been noticing the pressure of the rising cacophony of service providers in my world who have been in their own way admonishing me for succumbing to the ultimate cliche: the new Mum who has "let herself go". On a good day, I can laugh about these things and shrug off the myriad pressures that a consumerist society places on women to have all/do all/be all. On a bad day, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of "bad" food I eat; the extent to which I'll go to avoid exercise; the ignorance with which I hide behind unflattering clothes; the irregularity with which I floss; the negligence with which I allow body hair to colonise my body; the selfishness with which I ignore important projects like cataloguing my daughter's special milestones; the irresponsibility with which I shut out local politics and world issues... for starters.

It's then that I really feel the muddy mind, the shallow breath, the blocked sinuses, the heartbeat ricocheting between my ears. It's then that I see the wanting to fast forward, push through, not stop. It's then that I witness the hope of avoiding, deflecting, limiting pain. It's then that I'm terrorised by the urge to plan, control, neaten. It's then that I find myself closing off, saying NO, cancelling plans, defending my time, preferring to stay within the safety of my home.

Reflection has helped me see how these are defence mechanisms that have become entrenched over time because they have given me the adrenaline I have needed to push through, and have protected me from failure.

But the limbo of this week has also shown me glimpses of something else. Like my little girl hesitating at the end of our long hallway, venturing, "Mummy?" for the umpteenth time in a couple of hours. And realising that I am oblivious to the number of times I charge off to the other end of the house on some small errand, neglecting to think about the little person who doesn't realise that I am no longer in the same room.

This busyness, these errands, this routine, these commitments, this neatness. The days that my diary feels the most crowded (and my wallet feels most empty) are the days when I feel least enough. And I am beginning to see how the march of not-enoughness infects the way I relate to those most vital to me.

There has to be another way.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Flotsam and jetsam from the great wash-bag of life



On the bus

Him: Where did you say you're from? Korea? Is that North Korea or South Korea?

Her: [Pause] South.

Him: Oh yeah, because isn't North Korea a bit Communist or something?

Her: [Pause] [Nod]

Him: HEY! If you're from Korea, do you know a man called King John Ill?

Her: [Blank]

Him: King John Ill? Isn't he, like, your Prime Minister or something?

Her: [Stares intently out the window]

On the change table

Little 'un: Head and shoul-der, knees and SHOES! Eyes and ears and mouth and SHIT!

Over coffee

Him: Where are you learning French?

Her: Ha ha! I was just going to say "The RACV"!! [Laughs]

Him: [Laughs] Oh yes! "Bonjour! I'd like to buy a Renault!"

Her: Actually, it's the U-three-A.

Him: Uh?


Him: Oh. Right.

On a Washing-Clothes Bag, purchased from a $2 shop

Under the protection of a washing bag,
the clothesis noteasy of wear and tear,
it's original shape will be kept and as a result,
of complete cleanness will be gotten.

Usage Method:
a best result will de gotten after the clothes is washed by
a washing machine when it is put at the position not exceeding
3/4 of a washing bag.

BEAUTIFY YOUR FAMILY FACILLITATE LIFE

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ker-choyyyyng!


That was the sound of things falling into place.

Let me explain. When I was in senior high school, a boy lent me his copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The boy was quite unusual, somewhat intriguing and slightly alarming... and so, funnily enough, was the book. To be honest, I can't remember much about it (or him) although I do recall really enjoying the story arc, despite science fiction not usually being "my thing".

While I was browsing a bookstore a couple of weeks ago, looking for a different book on writing, I chanced upon a book called Zen in the Art of Writing by the same author. I flicked through and something nagged me to purchase it, although I did begin to wonder what that "something" might be when I finally got around to reading it. There were gems to be sure, but also indulgent flights of fancy that lost me in the melee. About two-thirds in, and on the verge packing it in, I found myself skimming to the penultimate essay... and that's where he said it

The core truth of writing in three simple precepts [and forgive the capitals, but that's the way he wanted it]:

WORK

RELAXATION

DON'T THINK!

How can I do this justice?

Mr Bradbury subscribed to the accepted wisdom that writing was like any other work: it needed to be done regularly, with commitment and practice. Quality, he argued, would eventually come from quantity. With a qualifier: writing would only ever be worthwhile when someone connected with what we have written. So what we write has to be authentic, come from within, when "the guard goes down".

That's where the second, rather curious, factor kicked in. If we worked with such regularity that our writing was given the chance to develop its own rhythm, we'd stand a much greater chance of getting out of our own way and giving ourselves over to the task at hand. "What we are trying to do is find a way to release the truth that lies in all of us."

And then we could really go with it. Not for an end. But luxuriate in that relaxed state where the body is doing the writing and the mind can lose itself in the real questions. "There is only one type of story in the world. Your story."

He went on to concede that this might result in publication, popularity, pecuniary reward. But writing with these aims in mind rarely leads to the sort of writing that would move people to approach you in the street with tears in their eyes.

No doubt there are people who would debate this but, for me, the clincher was in his final few lines. Try this approach, he suggested, if you are looking for a new way to work with your writing. They've worked for me, and they might for you.

"If you do," He warns, "I think you might easily find a new definition for Work.

And the word is LOVE."