"Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry... have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere -- be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honourable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."
Twenty ways to celebrate your newly found singledom:
1. Treat yourself to a decadent hamper from David Jones and invite two of your favourite gals over to your apartment for a carpet picnic. BYO French Champagne.
2. Go for a long meandering walk in the Fitzroy Gardens and collect flowers, leaves, shiny misshapen stones and twigs that catch your eye. Add them to your Mondo Beyondo altar, or make a new altar of your own.
3. Bat your eyelids at a sexy stranger on the tram.
4. Find the cheesiest, girliest DVDs you've been secretly dying to watch and have a movie marathon with popcorn, apple cider and your favourite blankie.
5. Fart exuberantly in bed.
6. Listen to Lisa Mitchell's Wonder album.
7. Keep visiting your library for sustenance. Be sure to include a healthy dose of fiction, using the Readings Summer Reading Guide as your compass.
8. Go back and buy that handbag!
9. Have a private disco in your pyjamas, using your hairbrush as a microphone and miming (or hollering at the top of your voice) to Madonna and whoever else rocked your boat in the 80s.
10. Cuddle a cute little person.
11. Dig out a favourite family recipe, or something you've always wanted to try, and cook up a storm. Leave the dishes until the next day.
12. Ignore your emails, the news, unimaginative colleagues, the election results, anything that makes you feel less you.
13. Teach yourself to crochet (it's addictive).
14. Plan your next solo adventure in Melbourne, in Australia, overseas. Where will it be? Camberwell market? Broome? Tokyo?
15. Wear glitter eyeshadow to work, to the supermarket, while doing your laundry.
16. Take yourself out on a artist's date. Go to the National Gallery of Victoria wearing a beret and trench coat, and look fabulous and mysterious while losing yourself in extraordinary art. Buy one postcard from the gift shop and write it while sipping a cafe au lait in Federation Square. Post it to yourself.
17. Grab a pile of magazines and cut out all the images that appeal to you. Glue them into a page in your journal then put it away for a week. When you reopen it, be amazed at what it shows you.
18. Eat an entire tub of Ben & Jerry's Half Baked in the bath. If you don't have a bath, eat it in bed while reading the A2. Lamenting that the Steven Colbert's Americone Dream flavour is not available in Australia is perfectly legitimate.
19. Make lots of lists, the kind that make you smile, the kind that make you look forward to stuff.
20. For one day, document your daily life using a point-and-shoot camera (or an SLR if you want to be fancy). Notice the way the light falls on your coffee cup, the way your folded laundry makes coloured patterns, the flowers blooming in your vase. Consider posting this day to your blog, or maybe just get the photos printed and make a little montage that celebrates your ordinary extraordinary moments.
Do any of you sassy gals out there have any other fun tips for celebrating your self? Please do add them into the comments and let's make this into a feisty femme festival!
What if we focused a little less on what we "should" do and counted a little more on what we have done? In short, what if we practiced a gentle attitude toward our spirit for having tried so hard and in so many ways to be honorable? Self-appreciation is a discipline, and it is grounded in a sense of self-worth. We must believe that we are worthy of our own approval, and then we must give it to ourselves consciously and concretely.
The Sound of Paper
Last year when pulling everything together to submit my tax return, I had to compile a list of all our medical expenses. There’s some sort of rebate that can be claimed when medical expenses surpass a specified threshold, and the obstetrician’s bills and other costs associated with our little ‘un’s arrival (plus some subsequent medical enquiry) put us over that amount.
In gathering all the receipts and writing up a summary, this is what I saw:
My husband, the main breadwinner, had gladly and generously covered all of our major bills. I put all of these large and humbling outlays into one column.
I had ensured that the smaller day-to-day expenses were covered, including doctors visits, medications, x-rays and so on. I put this longer list of smaller prices in another column.
When I tallied both columns, I saw that they came to much the same amount.
This surprised me and gave me cause to ponder. I’d just assumed that my contribution was lesser. It was much less grand, and much more prone to be lost in amongst our everyday life. But it was there, nonetheless, and it was considerable. Some might say more considerable, given how much smaller my salary is (and when my maternity leave ran out, I was on leave without pay).
Now I felt completely comfortable with both of our contributions and I’m not trying to say that I was denied thanks or recognition for any of what I did. I feel we’re in a good groove in terms of our relative financial contributions, which have evolved appropriately since I’ve returned to work part time.
But it did make me think: how much of what I do gets lost in the day-to-day because it’s not the grand gesture or the obvious contribution? I’d be the first to say that my husband [mostly] sees what I do and is grateful and supportive.
That list of expenses was a good reminder of the magnitude of things that I do that I don’t see or appreciate or acknowledge myself. I suspect this is something of a universal for women, whether they are mothers and/or wives or not.
Perhaps it's time that we developed a new way of accounting for ourselves: one that lays all of our daily micro-achievements on the table and celebrates us for the generous and loving souls we are doing our best to be.
To be honest, I’ve been feeling sad for a while. A long while, if I’m going to be honest. This is something that really jumps out at me as I read my old journals (something I’ve been prone to do of late) and when I allow myself to be seen by dear friends who share that they see a certain melancholy.
Looking back, there was always a reason for feeling down. There was the stress of unpleasant working environments, overwork and too much travel (usually manifest in chest infections, back problems). There was always the heartbreak that would follow a broken relationship or even a disastrous date (no matter how funny in the retelling). There was the pressure that came with organising a wedding, buying a house, planning for a baby’s arrival (though of course these also came with considerable joy and much celebration). There was my thesis, a seven year commitment requiring considerable courage and focus (albeit in inspired bursts).
I could lose myself in, and hide behind, all of these things. I successfully ignored the recurring signs and avoided dealing with the underlying themes, only stopping to pay attention if complete exhaustion overwhelmed me. Then I tried all sorts of things to try and “fix” how I was feeling, some good (exercise, Traditional Chinese Medicine, reading, blogging) and some not-so-good (alcohol, impulse spending, pushing people away).
It’s only really now that I have stepped away from those old ways of defining myself (my career, my studies, my social life, my appearance) that I can see the underlying sadness that has been there all along. The space to really explore this was largely precipitated by becoming a mother, which required stepping away from my work identity (and all the politics that dominated it) and tying up all other projects. This “pared back” existence was something I was really looking forward to, even though I knew it would be no less demanding. The new space created also enabled me to explore writing, blogging and art-making in earnest.
All of these much-beloved and greatly enjoyed things enriched my life immeasurably and brought me closer to myself. But in the process, they also made me feel more vulnerable. And helped me see more clearly how the role I’ve been playing in key relationships has helped perpetuate the unhappiness I’ve been deflecting so long.
I don’t have the energy to hide any more.
It’s time for a new way to define myself, to tell my story.
Like many of my friends, I’m usually a bit wary of anything that has “goddess” in the title, as it suggests an ethereal quality that I can’t quite tap into (and, truth be told, am probably slightly wary of). But the Jean Shinoda Bolen book, recommended by my pal Monica, really spoke to me about the rowdy and uneven “conference” that happens in my head each time I face an obstacle. Although I was a little confused about the apparent passivity recommended in some passages of the book, I see now that Dr Shinoda Bolen is more likely suggesting a measured approach, waiting out the initial reaction and creating space for deeper wisdom to blossom. I see that “doing the work” is my main task now and I know it will feel harder before it gets easier. I have so much support in this from my husband and my dear friends (especially those of you who commune with me in this space).
I see a growing desire to reclaim my own story, rather than having it written for me by my day job, by my studies, by my family, by ways I have traditionally done things.
Most heroic journeys involve going through a dark place -- through mountain caverns, the underworld, or labyrinthine passages to emerge, finally, into the light. Or they may involve travelling through a desolate wasteland or desert to a green land. This journey is analogous to passing through a depression. In the myths as in life, the traveller needs to keep on moving, to keep on functioning, to do what has to be done, to stay in touch with her companions or manage alone, to not stop and give up (even when she feels lost), to maintain hope in the darkness.
The darkness may represent those dark, repressed feelings (of anger, despair, resentment, blame, vengeance, betrayal, fear and guilt) through which people must pass if that are to get out of a depression. It is a dark night of the soul, when in the absence of light or love life seems meaningless, a cosmic joke. Grieving and forgiving is usually the way out. Thereafter, vitality and light may return.
It helps to realise that death and rebirth, in myth and dreams, are metaphors for loss, depression, and recovery. In retrospect, many such dark periods turn out to be rites of passage, a time of suffering through which a woman has learned something of value, and has grown. Or she may have been, for a while [...] a temporary captive who later becomes a guide for others.
When the heroine-choicemaker finds herself in an unclear situation, where every route or choice seems potentially disastrous, or at best a dead-end, the first trial she faces is to stay herself. In every crisis, a woman is tempted to become the victim instead of staying the heroine. If she stays true to the heroine in herself, she knows that she is in a hard place and may be defeated, but she holds on to the possibility that something may change.
Where in myth or in life, when a heroine is in a dilemma, all she can do is be herself, true to her principles and loyalties, until something unexpectedly comes to her aid. To stay with the situation, with the expectation that the answer will come, sets the inner stage for what Jung called "the transcendent function".
These something-will-come-to-the-rescue plots are archetypal situations. The theme of rescue speaks to a human truth, which a woman as heroine needs to heed. When she is in an inner crisis and doesn't know what to do, she must not give up or act out of fear. To hold the dilemma in consciousness, wait for a new insight or changed circumstance, and meditate or pray for clarity all invite a solution from the unconscious that can transcend the impasse.
* a bad dream I had last night about an old family friend, not seen for twenty years, who happens to share my husband's family name but is no relation. She was trying to break into my parents' house and steal all sorts of precious things... or had already stolen them and I was trying to trick her into getting them back... it wasn't quite clear.
* the sickly sadness of overeating.
* the reality that evaporative cooling cannot be installed in our roof and that a hot Summer is approaching.
* the unanticipated emotion that arose as I wrote my little 'un's full name on the bottom of her new lunchbox with a sharpie. Somehow it made the reality that she's a complete little person --more independent of me, with all sorts of adventures (like kindergarten) not too far away on the horizon -- more palpable.
* my first session with the psychologist last week, how I might share what was discussed with people who care, what it all means, what I want to explore further.
31. Sneak into your study/studio for a few moments in the afternoon. Hear your husband reply to your little 'un's call of "Mummy?" with "She's working!".
32. Pull out all those stamps and ink pads you've been compulsively collecting over the past few years.
33. Merrily stamp all sorts of [dare I say it?] "cute" images of birds, postage stamps, butterflies in mellow colours onto the vibrant craft paper you've also been compulsively collecting over the past few years.
34. Punch out shapes around the stamped images with the fancy paper cutters you have been compulsively collecting over the past few years.
35. Punch out more shapes from any kind of paper you like, feeling strangely content about your compulsive collecting for once.
36. Glue the shapes into a somewhat random yet pleasingly coherent pattern on your various canvases.
37. Blog about your progress while your glue dries. Then get out of your study/studio and succumb to life.
38. Return 24 hours later and add a gentle lemony wash, then some coppery dabs with a sea sponge. Wipe them off then reapply. Wipe them off then reapply. Wipe them off then reapply.
39. Wonder if you're overdoing it.
40. Stop and realise that you're nearly done as far as the background goes. Then compulsively dab a little more lemon on (after the picture below was taken!).
Wonder what you'll write on these specially prepared pages...?
Boredom makes me want to eat a lot of junk food. And feeling nervous
makes me want to buy lots of random stuff online. Bored and nervy, I
can’t resist calling to say how bored and nervy I am. How lucky
am I that you are so nice? And make me feel less silly and alone.
[It's not until I wrote this that I realised just how nervous I was about going to see the psychologist later in the evening. When I passed the sign on the way to the tram I recognised what I had been secretly afraid of, despite my relief and happy anticipation of finally getting help...]
21. Fear that the autumnal hues you slathered onto your canvas last night more accurately resemble the landscape of your little 'un's nappy after a big day on the prunes.
22. Declare that you couldn't care less, as you know you're nowhere near finished.
23. Start to slap more bit of random paper on and smear them with glue (but tell yourself you're "sealing them with gel medium" because that sounds posher and more artistly).
24. Get interrupted by your little 'un waking from her midday nap. You can't begrudge her: she slept through forty-five minutes of drilling and other forms of interruption engendered by the installation of outdoor blinds.
25. When all the cows are sleeping and the sun has gone to bed... or has flaked out in front of the idiot box... and food has been prepared for the morrow and all dishes washed... put off the ironing of your work clothes and sneak back into the studio for some more gratuitous slapping of paint on canvas.
26. This time, pick out colours you adore, smear liberally, wipe off a lot less and worry even less than that.
27. Ponder what the message that will burst out from each canvas might be. You suspect the four will form a series but also stand alone. A quote? Haiku?
28. Get distracted by the new knowledge -- imparted by a family friend -- that the Welsh word for owl is gwdihw (with a diacritic on the second w and pronounced "goodihoo"). Unbelievably cool but ultimately irrelevant... or is it?
29. Get even more distracted by the monopoly on owls in art and craft, and the monopoly of a lot of things in art (techniques, styles, materials, you name it). Decide that's one for another post.
30. Time for bed. Day job tomorrow. Can't wait to get stuck into the next layer -- kinda like a reverse archaeologist -- on the weekend!!
11. Have a great coffee date with an artist pal and manage to talk about life and art and overthinking stuff, despite your little 'un whining and writhing and, occasionally, screaming up a storm.
12. Come home and put your little 'un straight to bed.
13. Light a candle.
14. Get lured into answering emails. Stop.
15. Ignore the nagging hungry feeling in your tummy.
16. Ignore the preciousness that arises from looking at your canvases, which have dried. The bubbles that appeared when covering the papers with gel medium have disappeared! The canvases look clean and a bit pretty and there's a pleasing symmetry. It would be a shame to cover them in paint... no?
17. No. Cover them in paint. Use a roller, a sea sponge, a paintbrush, bubble wrap, your fingers, whatever. Do it. Get those canvases messy.
18. Wipe some paint off before it dries, if you want to, if you want bits of your papers to show through. Or maybe you want to be the only one who knows they're there. Like secret layers, messages you want to transmit subliminally into the world.
19. Ignore the panic that you have put too much paint on, in all the wrong colours, and your canvases now look as fugly as all get-out.
20. Remind yourself that the fugliness, your unease: that's the whole point. If your art doesn't have a hideous stage, then you probably haven't pushed yourself far enough, really let yourself go, abandoned yourself to the process.
It's all about pushing through. That's the point of being an artist, being alive.
1. Put your little 'un (or big 'un or furry 'un or study 'un or anyone/anything that usually takes up most of your time and attention) to bed for a midday nap.
2. Ignore the dishes, the laundry, the dirty floor, etc etc etc.
3. Light a candle.
4. Download this for free and play Futureman as loud as you can without waking the sleeping 'un.
5. Cut out lots of bits of paper and glue them to randomly to some cheap and cheerful canvases.
6. Ignore the inner voices that panic that you don't know what the art will turn out like, that you don't have a vision or intention, that there's not much point in making them (because you don't have anywhere to put them and it's not as if you're going to sell them).
7. Have fun getting messy.
8. Permit yourself a secret boogie while you prop up your canvases dry.
9. Don't think about what the next step will be.
10. Trust the process. This is fun. This is life. This is art.
Moodiness may have you feeling uneasy today as your emotions fluctuate, most likely in regards to family matters. Since family connections cut to the heart of who we are, it is understandable that under certain circumstances our reactions may be unpredictable. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling, while also allowing yourself the space to feel without having to express it to others. This doesn’t mean to hide your feelings but to release the need to justify your emotions. Feelings come from a different place within us, tapping into subconscious connections that can be illogical. When we can accept that today, we allow ourselves to be fully human.
Once you’ve allowed the tide of emotion to flow freely, you can anchor yourself in the calmness of your center and watch the feelings pass without judgment. From this vantage point, you can examine them using your intuitive wisdom as well as your mental knowledge. It may be that the emotional release is all you needed, but you may also want to reach out to share your thoughts with trusted, supportive family members or friends. If you find you still feel uneasy, you can always turn to a professional whose insight may be able to guide you through the uncharted territory you find yourself unable to navigate alone. As you are a being of body, mind, and spirit, you can allow yourself to fully experience each day while using their combined wisdom to guide you through any challenges that life may bring today.
Tuesday 2 November
Feelings of devotion may wash over you today as you think about your family—both the one you were born into and the one you've chosen. Thinking about all you've shared and the ways they have been there to support you may reinforce your feelings of dedication to them. You may want to express your feelings of loyalty to them, which can only strengthen the bond you feel with them. Such bonds are created from countless acts of giving and receiving like these, acting like a million tiny threads that form a rope that becomes stronger with each interaction. Today your emotional ties could inspire you to acts of loyalty, making each bond stronger.
Feelings of devotion are usually earned by those who show us consistent attention and affection. When we return that attention, we earn their dedication as well. But sometimes our loyalty comes from choices we've made. Perhaps we want to be the type of person who puts family first. So even if a family member has not been very caring toward us, we may choose to give them the gift of our loyalty. This will never be wasted, because we are giving our faithfulness to the universe, and the universe will respond in kind. We may not even recognize the unlikely angels that appear and help us for no apparent reason, but we can be sure that we have earned their support. Today you can let your feelings of devotion strengthen bonds and send out positive energy, which will always come back to you.
Still feeling a little fragile and bruised but tremendous tenderness from loving friends is helping to coax me outside my self to a place where I can breathe a little more freely. I'm so grateful for the kind and encouraging comments I've received, and also for a dear friend's bravery in clarifying something that concerned her.
I'm also witnessing the glimmer of tenderness towards myself.
Something compelled me, over the course of the long weekend, to dive in to the First 1,000 Days journal project. I had been putting it off for so many months, as for some reason I felt daunted by the task. I hadn't really kept much way way of "records" of my daughter's early life, and I wasn't blogging back then, so I would be piecing together information from my journals, my calendar, photos, her Child Health Record, and my memory.
I wondered if attempting a task like this from my punitive To Do list was sheer lunacy. Surely I wouldn't complete it, and it would add up to another way to make myself feel lousy.
But strangely enough, it was the PERFECT thing to do at that time.
Because what I found, when I looked at those photos and our social calendar and especially my journals is that I really didn't miss a thing. It's true that I did want more. I wanted things to be "perfect". I wanted our house to be perfect. I wanted to be the perfect Mum. I wanted us to be perfect parents and the perfect family. I wanted our friendships to evolve organically. I wanted to meet any any challenge that arose, and I wanted it all to bring out the best in me.
Of course, I fell far short of the mark. I was hyper-sensitive, short-tempered, and controlling. I refused help, resented when help wasn't forthcoming, and beat myself up for my shortcomings. A lot of my life, and my problems, seemed to happen in my head.
But what I couldn't deny, as I looked back on all the evidence of the past two years, was the LOVE that was there for my baby and my new family and, yes, even for myself. I mightn't have luxuriated in this love, expressed it openly or shared it abundantly. And, sure, it might have manifested in day-to-day pedestrian concerns like whining about my inadequate milk supply or guilt over scoffing too many bombolone or wondering why I was procrastinating getting new bookshelves for my study/studio or wishing my thesis would finish itself or dreading going back to work. But it was also in the descriptions of my little 'un's sweet milky breath and my amazement that her face would light up and she would smile whenever she saw me. It was in my painstaking efforts not to sing out "Good girl!" as she did something pleasing and, even harder, not to feel like she was a bad girl any time she did something I found frustrating. It was in my fears that I would lose my newfound sense of self once I returned to work. It was in allowing myself to be seen, receiving an SMS from my husband that read, "I know you try so hard to be the perfect Mummy but maybe you could 'settle' for extremely good instead."
I see now that I didn't miss a thing. That I didn't short-change my baby or my husband. Or myself.
And the evidence was right in front of my eyes: a beautiful, healthy, highly intelligent, happy and cheeky little girl who loves with her whole heart and fears very little. Except maybe having her hair washed...
And there's the rub. It's been a month since we returned home from our holiday in New York and I am afraid that I am slipping back to where I was before we left. This time, the catalyst, the person, is different but somehow the fallout feels the same: cruel words aimed [unintentionally?] at my most tender wounds, the spiral of anger and self-loathing and fear.
All sounds so melodramatic, I know. And when I chewed through the detail with my husband -- actually said out loud how I was feeling and what I was afraid of -- it almost sounded silly. Except that I couldn't deny how important it all was. I had been a physical and emotional wreck for four days.
The thing is, with all the reading and other work I've been doing, I can see clearly what the triggers are. And I know why they make me feel the way they do, and where those feelings come from. I've shared many of them here, and know I am not the only one to feel them.
The thing is, that's not enough.
This recent email from Dream Lab asked me to consider:
There’s a way we feel like tribe is something we need to create or work at or cultivate -– and granted those things help. But what if finding a tribe is more like giving in to what we always wanted and didn’t know we could have? What if tribe is looking around at the people in your life already and realizing it’s okay to let yourself love a little more? If you’re reading this with longing today, I’m here to say it’s okay to let yourself want it. And that more often than not, that’s all it takes for your tribe to find you.
I am so grateful for the resources I've had to deal with my fears 'til now. My husband's ability to hear me and see me and just be with me has shown me my capacity to love and be loved. My incredible friend Jen's capacity to give and receive gives me strength. Kindred spirits, such as the sweet mama who was there for me on Friday, have been my lifelines.
But admitting that I need help, admitting that I don't have what I need and working up the courage to love myself enough to ask for it, well, that's been harder than I could ever have thought.
To be honest, I've been stuck on the first step. The step where a friend's recent disapproval -- the stony look on her face, punishing me for letting let her down -- flashes past my eyes. The step where I resist calling my Mum for help because I fear she will say that my Mother-in-law is right, that I am ungrateful and mean and insensitive, and so it must be true. The step where statements about my little 'un having "three mothers" swirl around and around in my head. The step where I see other people living their dreams, cultivating lives of exquisite beauty and breathtaking creativity in places like Brooklyn, dreams that do not materialise for dowdy boring frumps like me. The step where I witness young mothers bring their newborns home and remain fully present for every joyful, tender and frustrating moment... unlike me who obsessed about domestic order and getting "things done" and angsting about my lack of progress on various creative fronts.
Sigh! It has been getting pretty crowded on that step. Which is where the too-many-glasses-of-wine have come into the picture, to try and drown out the noise.
[It hasn't worked.]
So this is it. It's incoherent, it's not pretty, it's unlikely of interest to many (if any) others. But this is the bit where I say to the Universe that I get it. I'm stuck. I'm not as resilient as I'd like to be, and the people in my life who love me and want the best for me have come as far as they can on this journey.
I am going to do my bit, look up that resource, make a couple of phone calls, follow up with appointments. I am going to talk and I am going to listen.