Thursday, March 31, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #1 What does worthy look like?


The February task for Ali Edwards' One Little Word class was to capture with a camera all the things that represented our word, either literally or metaphorically. My word being worthy, most things tended to fall into the latter category (it's not so often you see the word "worthy" spelt out in front of you!). I found myself capturing: projects in progress; sweet treats that signalled a new relationship with food; album covers of music that had lifted me out of myself; little signs from the universe by way of shadows and street art.

Looking back, the exercise was a clever way to heighten my awareness of what worthiness means. I found myself on the look-out for signals and milestones, evidence of the way in which I am working on cultivating this quality in myself.

This week, I invite you to develop a sense of curiosity and wonder in relationship to worthiness. What does it look like for you, literally or metaphorically? How do you protect your sacred space in amongst the busyness of the everyday? How do you retain your sense of self? How do you celebrate your unique needs and preferences?

Whatever medium you choose to capture this, you are warmly invited to share it using the linky below.

You are worthy of celebration.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Introducing: Worthiness Wednesday


So, I had an idea to launch a weekly creative prompt from my blog. Actually, I had this idea quite a few weeks ago... then didn't do anything about it. The excuses came so readily: really have to tick off one more more chore; better make that phone call; nearly finished this blog post; too tired to do anything but read; just one, two, three more crochet squares; need to reply to that email; oh dear, now the little 'un's awake, there goes my time-for-me for the day!

Today, I see that I have no choice but to confess that all the reasons I am using not to do this thing are actually the reasons why I should just do it. It's not as if the idea or its execution are ever going to be perfect. And I'll never be in a place where I am 100% confident it is a good idea, or even a great one. So here I am. I'm going to do it anyway.

By doing this, I say: my idea is enough.

By doing this, I say: my writing, my art, my photos, all the work I've done and all that I'm about to do, is enough.

By doing this, I say: I do not claim to be the first person to think of this sort of thing and honour all those who have gone before. Like Tracey Clarke, who provides a sacred space for women to celebrate their enoughness. Like Liz Lamoreux, who reminds me to make my own corner beautiful, rather than waste energy envying someone else's. Like Jennifer McGuiggan, who bravely suggests that the things I covet are the things I am meant for. Like Chris Guillebeau, who challenges me to rethink the way I downplay my achievements. Like Summer Pierre, who shows how an attitude of "Screw it!" can help overcome any fear. And like Leonie Allan, who continues to shine the light for new mums like me who are trying to find themselves in the malestrom.

By doing this, I say: my own perspective and experience are worth sharing.

By doing this, I say: by sharing I have made an important step for me, and external measures of success (like fielding positive comments or attracting solid numbers of participants), while nice, do not have any bearing on my own assessment of its success.

By doing this, I say: thank you to you, dear reader, for communing with me in this space. I know I am not alone in struggling with feelings of unworthiness. And if reading this helps make just one person feel less alone, that in itself is tremendously satisfying for me.

Why worthiness?

Worthy is my word for 2011. This word emerged in late 2010, as I emerged from a fog of despair. I was hyper-aware that I had so much to be grateful for: a beautiful baby, a devoted husband, a loving family, fantastic friends, a great part time job, my dream house, and a supportive community of kindred spirits that had grown around my burgeoning blog/art/ writing. But despite all this, I felt suffocated by feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt, as well as my inability to rise above them, to the point that I hadn't even noticed that my sense of self had completely evaporated.

I have since embarked, with professional help, on the journey of recognising all the long-held beliefs and deeply-entrenched behaviours that contributed to this situation. And I now see a raw and fertile space emerging where there is room for my sense of self to flourish once more.



So what is Worthiness Wednesday?

Through the process of working with a Cognitive Behavioural Psychologist, as well as reading fiction, non-fiction and haiku, talking to likeminded souls, and enrolling in excellent e-courses like One Little Word and Soul Restoration, I have begun to assemble a powerful little toolbox of resources, delights, reminders, and shared experience. I really like the idea of taking my explorations of what it is to feel worthy to the next level and sharing them with kindred spirits.

What I plan to do is post a question, prompt, or musing each Wednesday that relates to worthiness. I'll then invite you to share your responses. This will likely be a form of celebrating your self. Your response might take the form of a scribble in your journal, a witnessed moment of synchronicity, a photo, an affirmation, a poem, a treat, a piece of art or craft, a quiet moment, a quote, a plan, a fledgling idea, a challenge, whatever takes you outside your self so that you can see the extra in your ordinary. You will have the opportunity to link your blog (or website or flickr page or similar) to the post, or if you don't have any such thing, you are most welcome leave a comment sharing your experience. I'll leave the link open until Saturday of the same week, so that there's time to explore, contribute, and explore some more.

My dream is to grow a community of kindred spirits who are working on recognising their worthiness, protecting their sacred spaces, and celebrating the unique selves. I hope, in the coming weeks, to be able to offer a button that can be placed on your blog or website to recognise your contribution building this community.

Will you join me?

In the spirit of worthiness despite splendid imperfect -- and just, well, doing it anyway! -- I will launch Worthiness Wednesday tomorrow. Which, you will notice, is a Thursday.

I can't wait to see you here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A million dollars


In the same way, there is much [...] in all of us but we do not know it. No one ever calls it out of us, unless we are lucky enough to know very intelligent, imaginative, sympathetic people who love us and have the magnanimity to encourage us, to believe in us, by listening, by praise, by appreciation, by laughing. (Everyone knows how people who laugh easily create us by their laughter -- making us think of funnier and funnier things.)

If you are going to write you must become aware of this richness in you and come to believe in it and know it is there so that you can write opulently and with self-trust. If you become aware of it, have faith in it, you will be all right. But it is like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and don't know it, it doesn't do you any good.

Brenda Ueland
If You Want to Write:
A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Friday, March 25, 2011

Unlikely rewards


Babysitting lacuna. Anticipating phone calls call. Rehearsing calm. Assistance granted. Sailing through the waiting game. Walking to buy some treats. Stopping to marvel at a snail's graceful progress. Irises appear. Bold new street art. Reward for good manners. Gingerbread squirrel. Unusually warm smiles from strangers. Blanket of drizzle. Prioritising an errand, just for me. Arriving at work late. Deciding to ignore the panic. Working methodically. Choosing generosity. Receiving unexpected gifts. Accepting complexity. Looking for nuance. Noticing kindness. Allowing myself to be seen. Allowing the struggle. Allowing the flow. Sleeping soundly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flooded by love


Feels silly to say
that suddenly I'm engulfed
by my love for her:

I've always loved her.
But somehow this was not so
visible to me.

All I could see was
my inadequacy and
failings as her Mum.

Now, through the crack made
by hurt and fear and doubt, a
light is flooding in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And then it broke


I had tied this little cord around my wrist with a prayer. The lotus flower had been imbued with a wish: revitalise my body, soothe my mind, nourish my soul. In Buddhist tradition, when the cord falls off, your wish has been granted.

My daughter and I like to blow on dandelions that have gone to seed. The delicate white wispy seeds usually land on her clothes. "There's a wish on it!" She marvels, pointing to her lap.

Yesterday afternoon I was washing the dishes and listening to music, loud. My daughter had been dropped off at my parents' house for her third ever sleepover. My husband and I would have the house to ourselves for the evening and possibly even go out for dinner, if we could stay awake long enough. I had been tidying and cleaning non-stop since I returned home, partly motivated by the guilt of having time to myself, partly taking advantage of being able to turn the vacuum cleaner on without terrifying a little person.

I was wrestling distractedly with a pink rubber washing-up glove, more intent on losing myself in the compulsive rhythm of the guitar, the drumbeat, the words. And then I felt the tiny snap and heard the tinkle of the silver disc spindling on the tiles.

And my thoughts were exactly this: this is it; this is a light heart and a clear head; this is space for me; this is love for my daughter; this is music; this is losing myself in something I love.

And suddenly, the way forward seemed very clear. And even clearer was the realisation that I am already on that path.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Something else I wrote


... in the same writing class. This time, the exercise was called "tight construing".

I was running early. I often run early but this time I left work at the same time as usual even though it wasn't going to take me as long to get there.

I wanted to wander. I wanted to look in the shops. It was dapply sweet sunny, just before five. Maybe if I had time, I'd have a glass of champagne outside. Although I don't know how kosher it is to turn up to your psychologist squiffy.

I saw so many pretty things and did such a good job of not buying them. But then I saw it. The owl ring. I know everyone's obsessed with owls at the moment. But I really love owls.

They whisper to me with their eyes. Ancient ancient silent wisdom. A place and a time. I have people. This is a part of me. I used to pretend it wasn't. Now I just sometimes forget.

And, of course, my little 'un loves owls. So, I always say I can give it to her some day. She will grow into a houseful of owls. A parliament, apparently.

It cost too much really. But it was so exquisitely made. Made with love, I'd say. With love and with research. Sometimes the same thing. Not a local, the girl who made it. Nothing wrong with Queensland. She's not Greek. Or Welsh, for that matter.

I ummm-ed and ahhh-ed because it was a little on the tighter side but the girls in the shop humoured me because they knew it was a token fight and I had already bought it in my mind. Apart from my wedding ring, it's the only thing I wear to bed. Apart from my pyjamas. Oh, and the tiny cord I tied to my wrist with a prayer for a clear head and a light heart under the broad heading of "good health". It's supposed to fall off when your wish comes true. No luck yet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Something I wrote

... in my writing class today, during an exercise called "loose construing".

owl silver round smooth
wisdom Athena olive Odysseus
hoot hoot hoo hoo who are you who loves you
isabella pretty bella
kookoovaya
bedroom wall stripes shadows ceiling rose
golden afternoon textures
spent too much
but it was worth it
it was for me
slightly too tight
but i don't care sleep with it on
carry it with me
weight of my ancestors
love of a girl black boots with hearts
milk teeth and knitted beanie
gwdihw
what did they do
mine for coal knit perhaps
pick daffodils
no coincidence we lost her
i carry this too

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Greater pleasures


There are no greater
pleasures than seeing a play
on your own; or the

first sip of coffee
on a cold, dark morning; or
autumn leaves starting

to appear outside;
or finishing a project;
or buying more wool

to start a new one
(with an unusually
cooperative

toddler in tow); or
resting your weary soul in
a scented bath with

excellent fiction
for company; and maybe
a little chocolate!

For more decadent pleasures, be sure to check out kootooyoo.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How exactly


An early start, pitch black outside. Kissing Daddy goodbye. Sleeping bag. Coffee. Toast. Getting lighter outside. Getting dressed without much fuss. Cuddles. A little more crochet. Watching the same episode of Humf at least eight times. Walking to the park, the sun starting to emerge. Gentle adventures in the playground. Noticing a pattern, not beating myself up, relieved to have noticed. A quick trip to the supermarket. Fresh flowers. A cup of tea and homemade gooseberry jam on freshly baked bread. Calling Daddy to see how his day is going. Playing with owl puppets and reading books, including a graphic novel about Ulysses that used to be mine. Handwritten books arriving in the mail. Watching the same episode of Humf at least eight times (again!). Asiago, ham, tomatoes and spinach for lunch. A timely nap (so we may even make dance class this afternoon).

This prompt arrived in my in-box a few weeks ago: If March 2011 was your last month to live, how would you live it?

And now I know how to answer: exactly like this.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Works in progress:


book of truths; textured canvas; blog; reading about writing; guilty pleasures; soul.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ten reasons why


... you should buy Alain Johannes' album Spark.

1. The music is explosive, exotic and searingly earnest.

2. The entire album is a tightly wound, eight song homage to his late wife.

3. Johannes recorded and produced the album himself and provided every single sound on the album including cigfiddle, voice, fretless e-bow guitar, harmonium, contrabass guitar, cello, twelve string acoustic guitar, percussion, and drums.

4. This refrain from Endless Eyes:

It's killing me that I must go on living
just to fill this cup of promise
with meaning
It's tearing me apart we're so connected
It's the you in me
each day I'm resurrected

5. He has provided samples from each song plus a free bonus track for download on his website.

6. You deserve the simple, intense pleasure of listening to quality musicianship, exemplary production values, and a voice that comes straight from the heart.

7. Perhaps if there is a groundswell of support, he might be tempted to tour the Southern Hemisphere and we'd get the chance to share his grief and celebrate his joys in person (well, in concert).

8. This entreaty from Return to You:

Given love
the impossible becomes what you do
becomes what you do
Given love
you can see yourself inside someone else
and see who you are
Given love
all the emptiness is filled 'til it bursts
releasing the curse
for better or worse

9. It is the perfect accompaniment to artmaking, crafting, baking, walking -- anything that takes you out of yourself

10. As you listen, it may occur to you that feeling this way about just one other person -- and having them feel this way about you -- is the single greatest privilege of a lifetime.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Almost



caught bus, drank coffee,
read emails, caught up on news,
felt almost normal...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One journey's end


The moon and the sun travel night and day. These years trail on without interruption. Whether steering a ship at sea or leading a horse on land, each person's life is a journey and the journey itself is home.

Matsuo Basho (tr. Sam Hamill)
The Narrow Road to the Deep Interior
quoted in Richard R. Powell
Wabi Sabi for Writers

But, oh, how I love a destination! I can't begin to describe how happy I feel to have completed something.

Pictured is the last page of the "book of truths" I put together as part of the Soul Restoration curriculum. Actually, there are four double-page spreads still to be completed within the book (in my own time and at my own discretion) but the last exercise stressed that artwork representing our "choice to walk in the light" had to appear on the final page.

The six course actually finished over three weeks ago, but I dropped the ball after the first month's blaze of activity, for various reasons. As I tentatively clamber back into the space where art incubates healing, I can see a tiny tendril of pride in my almost-completed project beginning to flourish.

And that, as Basho would acknowledge, is surely the beginning of a new creative journey.

For more delicious creative journeys, be sure to take a look at kootooyoo.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happiness


Making art is making me happy. Other things making me happy: cooking and eating popcorn with my little 'un; discovering sustainable creativity; parcels of books arriving in the mail; journalling; generous and thoughtful gifts for my little 'un's second birthday; fresh flowers; being acknowledged for my contribution in my day job; lighting my extravagant L'Occitane candle every day; kind and caring emails from friends; my husband's work day going better than expected.

Other things making me less happy: feeling hemmed in by other people's agendas; getting dumped on in my day job; eating too much 'bad' food; comparing myself negatively to other artists and bloggers; getting bored/annoyed with myself for feeling so yuk so often; struggling to juggle everything that needs to happen in a day for my little 'un, especially when she is not always cooperative.

So it's a bit of a rollercoaster ride these days. And unfortunately, I am beginning to realise that -- despite what pop psychology would have me believe -- smaller moments of everyday delight are not enough to compensate for, or override, the bigger struggles. BUT I am glad they are there and am working hard to feel proud for noticing them.

And thank you, sweet friends, for championing my little grannie blankie's splendid imperfection. You are right. I will dig it back out and I will finish it. I may even decide to unravel the bits that were deemed technically imperfect, and redo them (my psychologist has invited me to not see this as a "giving in" or admission of failure).

Either way, I am kind of glad the whole incident happened, because it gave me tremendous insight into where certain behavioural patterns have comes from, and a valuable lesson in what happens when particular people inject strong opinions into my psyche.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The hundredth monkey


There is a theory about this called the "Hundredth Monkey Effect", based on studies of monkeys conducted in the nineteen fifties by Japanese scientists on Koshima Island.

The monkeys were observed eating sweet potatoes dug from the ground, with dirt still clinging to them, until one day one monkey washed his potato in the ocean; other monkeys saw and followed suit until about a hundred monkeys were doing it. At that point, spontaneously, to everyone's surprise, the scientists found that other colonies of monkeys on other islands farther away began washing their potatoes, too.

This provoked the idea of there being a powerful level of awareness that could be tapped into to change ways of thinking. It is not prayer particularly, but rather a vast field of consciousness.

Patricia Donegan
Haiku Mind

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Origins


So she said I want to talk to you about your blanket and I said OK and she said Something seems to be wrong here and I didn't say anything but I laid it out on the floor so we could have a proper look and she said Here, here it is and she held it up so I could see one of the places I had joined the crochet squares and she said Every time you crocheted around the join you added an extra set of trebles and when I just shrugged she said That's why you have a kind of frill at the edge and the whole thing us lopsided and even though I said I don't really mind, I kind of like the frill effect she said Well, if it were me I would unpick it and start again and because I didn't say much to that she said Because every time I looked at it I would know it's not perfect and even though I protested that I would only be using it as a knee rug and even though I claimed that it wasn't that all important because no-one but me would really see it and even though I pointed out that it would probably look a lot better when pressed I waited until she'd left then folded it up, stuffed it into a bag then promptly filed it under C for can't-be-fucked-anymore and wondered if it would take me another two years to finish it and also found the whole exchange and my response in particular rather interesting.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Proserpina




My sister and I saw Martha Wainwright perform the songs of Edith Piaf last night at the Melbourne Recital Centre. As we sat in the tree trunk tomb-like auditorium and soaked in Martha's soulful performance, we were carried along with the story that evolved from evocative flavours of one great chanteuse to heartwrenching celebration of another.

Floating on the lilting ocean of the last recorded song of Kate McGarrigle (Wainright's beloved mother who passed away in late 2009), Proserpina, I began to see the knots that bind mother and daughter more clearly... and I began to wonder whether it was possible to unravel them.

I'd been marinating all day in a passage I'd found in Robin Barker's excellent The Mighty Toddler. Truth be told, I'd been hunting for tips and tricks to persuade one stubborn little girl to wear her lovely new shoes instead of the butterfly gumboots that may just need to be surgically removed. (On reflection, I shouldn't have been surprised that there was no answer to this conundrum. There are some battles that I am just going to have to lose, and accept that the only thing I can control is the extent to which I lose it with grace... and god only knows what I am going to do when she grows out of those bloody boots.) Anyway. What I came across instead was this:

Time spent with babies and toddlers is much more about "being" than "doing". The aim is to live with them -- not in spite of them. Try not to see your toddler as an obstacle preventing you from participating in the main event of life. Being with babies and toddlers is an end in itself and often a time when the "doing" has to go on hold. It is honestly not for long.

It's true, it's not for long.

And on a good day, the being is easy. On a good day, no amount of doing seems more important or worthwhile than simply being with my little girl. On a good day, I know that this time is precious and that I gain so much from seeing her, perhaps as much as she gains from being seen. On a good day, I can see how much this enriches my life, and am grateful for all that it teaches me. On a good day, I feel like I am open and learning.

But there are other days when this seems impossible and improbable. Sometimes this is because something puts us off kilter, and we stubbornly spend the day dancing to completely different rhythms. Sometimes this makes me think ugly things and say things I regret and do things that cause me shame.

Sometimes the "doing" is the only safety net for the confusion and hurt.

Sometimes I am gripped with panic that the main event is passing me by while I wallow in what might have been and what may never transpire. Sometimes this is fuelled by what I see others achieving, and the consequent fear that there is no longer room for me, or that I will never measure up. I know that this is not my daughter's fault and I try very hard not to take it out on her, with varying levels of success.

Often this is related to my my creative life, the sacred little space I try to carve out for myself (mainly during nap times). The ship of dreams that has been drifting aimlessly, the wind having gone out of my sails since the "Oregon decision". I'm valiantly trying to continue, consoling myself with a more subdued pace, experimenting with different (albeit less compelling) forms of inspiration, exploring the connections between all of these things with my psychologist (who, to my relief, totally gets all this).

Watching Martha Wainwright honour her craft, the lifeblood of her family, and the legacy of her mother last night left me in awe. I was reminded of other dear women who have forged a path for themselves and all that is sacred to them, despite their fears of abandoning their daughters. I wondered if I would ever reconcile the struggle, ever consider my own craft to be worthy, or even equal in importance to my gifts as a mother. I wondered why it was so hard to allow myself to see the latter, swamped by the preponderance of less-than-graceful days where "being" hardly featured on the agenda.

I heard the lament of Demeter, for her daughter Persephone (here Proserpina), and wondered if it was less a question of letting go, than learning to live with these competing loves.

And living with the costs and consequences of this dual existence.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Suffer


I just read a review of Joyce Carol Oates' latest book, A Widow's Story. I very much doubt I'll read it -- it's not for the fainthearted, let alone those who are petrified of their own mortality -- even though it sounds complex and beautiful and enlightening and rewarding.

From what I can gather, the book charts Oates' grief and incomprehension when her husband Raymond dies suddenly and unexpectedly. Her friends offer support and solace.

"Suffer, Joyce. Ray was worth it."

Ouch.

And doesn't that just sum things up?