Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #14 Letting yourself off the hook

The delightful team at #reverb dropped this bitter-sweet little missive in my in-box this month:

What can you let yourself off the hook for?

And I have been wondering about it ever since.

June has been all about noticing. Noticing what makes me panic. Noticing how this robs me of balance and rationality. Noticing how physically unwell impacts on my psyche. Noticing how fear can conflate and inflate thousands of tiny worries. Noticing what this suggests about my life growing up. Noticing what kind of parent and partner this makes me. Noticing when my numbing mechanism kicks in. Noticing the growing distance between the world in my head and the world around me. Noticing how I beat myself up for all of it.

More recently, I have started to noticed what happens when I just notice. The real issues seem to become clearer, more obvious. I am afraid. And I am sad. But here I have been surprised. The sadness passes quickly. And there isn’t so much to be afraid of. And what is left is space. Space for me to be who I really am. Space for those I love to be who they really are. Space for love.

I feel I have been given a glimpse of what is possible. It has been such hard work to get here, and I know there is a long way to go. But I see that a new view of my world is possible through my eyes.

I do not have any qualifications in social work, psychology or behavioural sciences. I suspect that letting ourselves off the hook is a choice open to all of us. Personally, I do not think I could have got to this point without the help of a capable and compassionate professional. I could really relate to SARK's observation in her June eLetter that, “ [...] everything I'd tried by myself for years hadn't worked, and I'm amazed at how swiftly both of these meetings produced significant changes! And now I look forward gladly to more. By myself, my mind can often be an unreliable guide.

So, this week I invite you to join me as I let my poor old monkey mind off the hook.

Letting myself off the hook has meant stepping back from the things that my loyal but unreliable guide has been working so hard to make me fear. And this has brought me to a place where letting myself off the hook is about getting curious about what happens my world. Not resisting. Not analysing. Not judging. Not attempting to fix. Just sitting and noticing.

And although the panic and the worry and the unwellness and the self-criticism haven’t gone away, I feel a tiny bit more distant from them. And this is nothing like being numb or outside myself: quite the opposite. I am fully present. And less tyrannised.

What can you sit and notice this week? What happens when that is all you do? Could it be OK just to sit and feel sad for a while? Is there really that much to be afraid of? Could it be that just sitting and noticing will show you the way... or perhaps, that it is the way?

I would love you to share your thoughts on, and experiences with, compassionate curiosity.

Because you are worthy of spaciousness. Let yourself off the hook.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Some things I wonder about dreams

Will they really wait for me?

What happens to the ones I have outgrown?

How do I know if they are really mine?

Could they just be stepping stones to new dreams?

How can I really stop and be present for the ones I am actually living?

Are there some that really will happen without me doing anything?

What has been the benefit of articulating those really far out pie-in-the-sky ones?

And the ones I would have to choose to work hard on, every single day for the rest of my life: are they really dreams?

Some days, I don’t feel like I have any dreams at all. I wonder if this is just because I feel disconnected to past dreams, because so much has changed. Or could it be time for some new ones?

Does anyone else wonder these things?

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's all happening

Last minute planning for imminent international travel, a gum abscess, busy busy day job, a nasty cough for little ‘un, resentful truths firing like cannonballs, finding magic sand, disastrous pancakes, fear of uncertainty, gorgeous kite-flying moments, tenderness and connection, hyper-organisation, uber-indulgence, the joys of skype, too much chocolate, aha moments, no books at all, meeting a brave deadline, signing up for magic hour, energy returning, no idea what to pack, outgrowing dreams, a thousand loads of washing, sweet words in sadness, the perfect leopard skin ballet flats, acupuncture, driving in the dark, learning from past travel, working hard to notice, dusk walk to a cosy pub, not letting go of perfectionism, an auspicious red door, no more feathers, Picasso in Sydney, a mermaid awaits.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #13 Worthy of art

I'm sitting with some difficult truths at the moment. It is not unbearable. And I know that it is inevitable. I also have faith that it will pass and my life will be the better for it.

But right now, it's hard. I feel weary and deflated, and unmotivated to pursue any of the things that usually bring me joy.

I found myself at the Vienna: Art & Design exhibition yesterday, a bit by accident. I had planned to meet my Mother-in-Law at the Gallery so that I could activate the membership she had given me for my birthday. My little 'un was having such a good time playing in the newly refurbished Kids Space that my Mother-in-Law offered to stay with her while I saw the exhibition. I had no real knowledge of, or special interest in, Vienna at the turn of the last Century, but figured that a bit of time to myself surrounded by beautiful things couldn't hurt.

It was a lovely little exhibition, beautifully curated and very informative. And a couple of specific pieces took my breath away. In particular, I found myself gazing up at Klimt's Beethoven Frieze for a long time. Somehow it really resonated with me: the contrast of the succulent ripe woman's form, contrasted with the withered drawn figure representing suffering.

The texture, the glints of gold, the movement and expression. There is pain, it seemed to say, but there is violently breathtaking beauty too. This is how things have always been, and how they will always be. In that moment, I saw that my feelings and experiences were part of a universal eternal human whole. I didn't exactly feel uplifted, but I certainly felt less alone.

On reflection, the experience reminded me of something that I have always known but often forget. Namely, that art can heal.

This week, I invite you to revisit your favourite work of art, or the story of an artist whose work really speaks to you. You may be lucky enough to have a wonderful museum or gallery nearby. Or it might be a case of pulling a book off your shelf. Or visiting your local library or nearest bookstore. Or perhaps spending some time googling images.

What is it about this art that speaks to you? What themes tap into to the most powerful and poignant pages of your own story? What aspects of the artist's life or technique really move you?

If no one piece of art or single artist springs to mind, then a meander through your nearest gallery or library or bookstore with an open mind and an open heart might be in order. (Or pressing Google's I'm Feeling Lucky button!)

You are warmly invited to share your thoughts and experiences in this space.

Because you are worthy of breathtaking art and its power to heal.

Monday, June 20, 2011


To apologies,
to cancellations, to change,
to daunting work tasks,

to wind and sunshine,
to coffee and chocolate:
today, well, maybe.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

To fear, to drama,
to doing and being all,
to comparisons,

to worry, to blame,
to stagnating bitterness:
today I say no

Saturday, June 18, 2011


To love, to healing,
to courage, to adventure:
today I say yes

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #12 Worth complaining

Last week, I went to the dentist for my annual check-up and clean. It’s fair to say I was dreading it, partly because my regular dentist would be away and I’d be seeing someone new, but mostly because I feared the dental hygienist was an absolute brute! The past two visits to the latter had seen me quaffing pain killers for at least a week after treatment, complaining of aching gums, even having trouble sleeping because my jaws would no longer align into a perfect bite.

Despite my husband’s perplexed entreaties to find a new hygienist and friends’ counsel that I “shouldn’t have been in that much pain”, I sucked it up and went in for my appointment. I figured the pain was my own fault: I do brush my teeth twice a day most days (but not not every day), I floss every second or third day (but not every day), I eat a lot of sugary things (every day). I stopped using the expensive mouthwash she recommended after about six months. I also cancelled out of a couple of appointments that I felt were extraneous and excessive, particularly given I always seemed to need anaesthetic injections during her treatments.

So, last week, I caught the tram into the city on my lunch break with some trepidation. The lass who greeted me was warm and friendly and it took me a while to realise that she was actually the hygenist who would be cleaning my teeth! I hadn't realised that my appointment was with someone new. She was gentle and actually apologised when I flinched at a tender spot being touched. She was quick, she was thorough, she was cheerful and she had the touch of angel. Then the guest dentist appeared. She was softly-spoken and down-to-earth, explaining to me a couple of concerns and talking me through areas they’d be keeping an eye on over the next few years.

As the hygienist left, I made a point of thanking her, then said to the dentist how wonderful the cleaning had been compared to past experiences. She smiled and agreed. It turned out, the proprietor (my usual dentist) had had no idea about the other hygienist’s heavy-handed style until a couple of longterm clients complained ... and then he was mortified. I’m not sure if that hygienist is still there, but I gather he dealt with the situation.

But somehow, I wasn’t surprised that I was not among the ones to complain. I hardly ever complain. In part, I think it comes from having worked in a number customer service jobs and having some empathy for the person who is behind the counter or on the end of the phone. But, actually, the reluctance to defend myself comes from a much more deep-seated and insidious cause.

As I said, I am prone to think that if something goes wrong, if I don’t like something, if something causes me pain, then it is my fault.

The reasons for this are long and complicated and it’s fair to say that I am working on them and with them in therapy. And now I am starting to see that small opportunities to complain may be a welcome thing. I’m not keen on confrontation or an adversarial approach. But a friendly comment that shares my concern... how confronting could that be?

After all, if the service provider disagreed, that wouldn’t mean that I was wrong, would it? We could agree to disagree, if it came to that... but what if it didn't come to that? I mean, it's not like I'd be aggressive or rude or personal. Could it be possible that someone would actually be grateful for my feedback, and see it as an opportunity to improve (or, at the very least, keep a customer)?

This week, I invite you to join me in registering the very small things in your every day world that are not entirely satisfactory, that cause you a little discomfort, that aren’t to your specifications or liking. Could it be possible that a friendly discussion would actually be beneficial for all parties? Could it be possible that conflict does not mean confrontation or antagonism? Could it be that a disagreement does not signal that anyone is wrong, just that the world is a complex place and people disagree?

Could it be that it is not your fault? Could it be that it is not your responsibility to fix it? Could it be that you deserve to have your everyday world made more comfortable and more to your liking, even in a small way?

I would love to know your thoughts on, and experiences with, this and warmly invite you to share in this space.

You are worthy of comfort and assistance in creating it, and you are strong enough to withstand the complexity.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gorgeousness this weekend...

* The above little gem, forwarded by my sister.

* Finally making an appointment to see my Traditional Chinese Medicine dude next week. The sore throat is finally easing but my energy levels are still pretty low.

* Taking my little 'un to see Yo Gabba Gabba live at the Palais Theatre this morning (including a live performance by the fabulous Little Red, who flew down from Sydney specially for the occasion) and having an absolute ball.

* The scrummy soft jammies my sister gave me for my birthday.

* Easing in to the gorgeous and inspiring Soul Restoration 2 curriculum.

* My sweet husband talking me through the process of making short crust pastry when I discovered I had didn't have enough puff pastry for my spanakopita. (Don't laugh, I know now that it's as easy as butter, water, salt and flour... but I'm not exactly intuitive in the kitchen!) He also kept our little 'un occupied with lego while I made it.

* Monday will be a quiet family day at home, due to a public holiday.

* Last, but definitely not least, my dear friend Monica (aka The Creative Beast) has launched an artist interview series, and today she shone her very sweet spotlight on me! I'd be delighted if you ventured over to Monica's delightful space to check it out, definitely with a cup of your favourite brew in hand (and maybe a square of dark chocolate or two!). Thank you, Monica, for the wonderful opportunity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ten reasons why

... I am in love with Joan Wasser.

1. No-one else in this world can rock a purple leather zip-up jumpsuit. No-one.

2. These words from the song Human Condition from her most recent album, The Deep Field:

I smile at strangers knowing it's all alright
When they smile right back at me
I know we agree
That good living requires
Smiling at strangers

3. She has faced the most devastating tragedies yet chooses joy, every day.

4. She lives in my adopted home town of Brooklyn, New York.

5. This breathtaking sentiment in Real Life, from her album of the same name:

I watch the numbers register on the postal scale
I think of your hands and calculate
How a man, desired, feels the weight of a letter

It's true what they say about me
That I’m out of my mind but I think that you like it
So take the chance
Be reckless with me

'Cause I’m real life

6. She is an accomplished violinist, nuanced singer, incandescent guitarist, exquisite pianist, phenomenal songwriter. Yet the most humble performer you will ever witness.

7. Towards the end of each show, she makes a point of thanking everyone who has worked behind the scenes and front of house, individually, by name. She also came out to the foyer after the show to sign t-shirts and CDs.

8. She recently spent some time on holiday in Ethiopia (something I wish I knew more about).

9. The way she breathes through my favourite song, Anyone:

Anyone can see through me
But you're not anyone

10. She gave the most incredible, intimate, incendiary performance at The Athenaeum on Wednesday might... to the extent that, if you live in Melbourne and missed it, I am fully prepared to weep for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #11 Love and legacy

My friend Cathy wrote a lovely little post on her blog last week about the journals she had kept for many years. She wondered: “Who will read this story of my life? And what will they make of it?”

I have been thinking about this since reading her post and, not for the first time, find myself wondering about the legacy we leave when we do our heart’s work. I too have a box full of journals that sketch through the depths of various pockets in my life since 1997. I also have several boxes full of letters and cards. In some ways, the question of legacy is a little simpler now that I have a daughter: perhaps one day she will find them and read them, or her children will.

But even before my daughter arrived, I sometimes felt myself writing for an unknown future audience. I got the sense that someone might stumble across my words and not only find illumination as to the person I was and the world that I inhabited, but perhaps also a sense of synergy with the person that they are and the world that they inhabit. I have certainly felt this when reading diaries and letters of women such as Anne Morrow Lindbergh and May Sarton, for example, even though our lives are years and worlds apart. Reading their words give me hope that there is something fundamental and timeless in our experience and this, in turn, helps me feel connected to something greater than myself.

However, I am beginning to realise that it is not the joys and triumphs that I find myself responding to in other women’s stories: it is in their struggles doubts and and imperfections. I don’t think this is because I am overly negative or pessimistic, or that I want to glamorise depression. (OK, maybe wallowing in martyrdom does have its comforts!) But I honestly feel that seeing the truth in other people’s stories, the grit behind the glitter, the boredom behind the genius, the restlessness behind the discovery, the loneliness behind the joy, makes me feel less alone. This, in turn, allows me to hope that great and small achievements are also possible for me, despite – or perhaps even because of – feeling these things.

This week, I invite you to think about the legacy you would like to leave just by being you and by doing what you do. For whom might you be doing these things? And how might you want them to feel upon discovering what you have bequeathed?

I suspect I won’t be leaving a collection of greatness for my children and their children. There will be a thesis, a blog, some pieces of art and haiku, a lot of scrappy journals and boxes of letters, and hopefully a published book or two! There will also be books and DVDs and photos and pictures and objets d’art and jewellery and clothing of sentimental value.

But in forming a picture of me and my inner world, I hope that the things that they value most are my words. In particular, I want to give them the gift of words that show how I am human and flawed and brilliant and vulnerable and resilient and struggling and genuine and open and connected to all that has come before and all that will come after. And I hope that by soaking in these words, they will see and love themselves that little bit more and that they, in turn, will be inspired to fully inhabit their lives, flaws and all.

I would love to know your thoughts on, and experiences with, this and warmly invite you to share in this space.

Your heritage is worth celebrating, your legacy is worth leaving, and your soul’s descendants worthy of love.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prayer for a Monday morning

I want to turn my face to the crisp Winter morning and savour the chill on my cheeks. I want to sip a hot coffee in a steamy cafe, scribble in my journal and watch the world go by. I want the perfect poached egg. I want to dive into compelling fiction. I want to dream the morning away, reading sweet and slightly tangy blogs. I want to go for a long, brisk walk with music seducing my feet into matching the rhythm of my heart. I might even want to jog! I want to fill vases with roses from my front garden and posies of violets. I want to scribble love letters with scented ink. I want to kiss my daughter’s cheeks and hold her doughy hands and dance together to African music. I want to drink freshly squeezed juice and open the window to invite the fresh breeze. I want to spread out small pages and cover them in glue and colour and words of my own. I want brightly hued hand-wrapped bangles that make an almost inaudible clink. I want to nestle tiny daisies in my curls. I want to dream with clarity about the book, the photos, the lettering, the publisher, the process, the project to which everything is leading. I want to build a mountain of salad on crusty fresh bread. I want to fly a kite in the golden afternoon. I want gratitude for the inner glow that sustains me through the day. I want to soak in a warm fragrant bath with poetry and tiny squares of dark chocolate for company. I want to pack my dream suitcase. I want to draw maps of the worlds I inhabit. I want to crawl into fluffy new pyjamas and freshly laundered sheets and lose myself in pages bursting with love for life. I want to wrap my husband in my arms and breathe in his scented neck. I want deep deep sleep and intriguing violet dreams.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday’s reality

Sunny Winter sky
belies my dark grey fatigue
Bed cocoon beckons

Sleep reveals the truth:
I cannot do everything
The message is clear

But it’s hard to hear
Even though my body sends
loudest signals yet

My back needs to heal
My throat, nose, ear need to clear
I’m losing my hair

and coffee kept me going:
now it’s time to stop

My soul is nourished
but my body is so parched
Time to love this home

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thursday's bliss

Among Thursday's gifts:
my husband's return to me
and brilliant blue sky

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #10 Talismans revisited (Part II)

In thinking about talismans, I have invariably found myself thinking about people. I guess that's inevitable: I tend to associate the specific power of physical objects with their maker or giver.

However, I have also been thinking about the people in my life who are like talismans themselves, representing a particular quality that I am keen to call upon when I need support or a sounding board, or when I need my own strength and wisdom reflected back at me.

It seems to me that I have been given to underestimate the value of this of late, confused by the fog of unwellness, martyrdom, resentment and unworthiness. But there have been very compelling signs that certain aspects of particular relationships offer a blindingly powerful source of love that I often don't allow myself to tap.

Take, for example, my sister. I didn't think to call her when I was unwell recently. There were all sorts of "logical" reasons for this. My sister works full-time and is busy. She doesn't live all that close by and she doesn't have a car. She was also unwell herself. But something nagged at me to send her a friendly email, asking how she was, then tentatively mentioning something that had upset me and asking for her advice. This resulted in a protracted, earnest, emotional and compassionate exchange that left me with the most incredible sense of peace and connection.

I realised that I hadn't contacted her because she wouldn't have been able to offer practical support. But what she could have offered, and what she has always provided unconditionally, was empathy and acceptance. My sister gets me. She is always in my corner. And, as she pointed out, when we disagree on things, we usually know why.

In so many ways, this would have been so much more valuable than practical support. So why didn't I seek her out in the first instance? Why did I deny myself her wisdom and kindness and gorgeous humour and perspective? What compelled me to disregard one form of support, just because I wouldn't receiving other (perhaps more obvious) forms?

This week, I invite you to think of the various people in your life who represent important qualities that you value and admire and perhaps wish to cultivate (or recognise) in yourself. But I would also like to encourage you to refine the filter that you use to identify the people and qualities in question. Where would a more nuanced analysis be valuable? Could it be that people you would not ordinarily consider -- because they can't offer you the a, b, c that you require -- are being overlooked even though they could provide you with x, y, z? What are the reasons that would prevent you from accessing these important things?

Would these people really be reluctant or afraid or confused or upset if you expressed the needs that you know they would be able to meet? Could it be possible that they haven't made the first step because they haven't quite realised the depth of what you are experiencing and they also have a fair bit of their own stuff going on... but they would actually be proud and relieved and excited to be able to share this part of you? And that, by seeing your vulnerabilities and fears, they might also feel less confused and alone?

Recent experience has shown me that reaching out can reap extraordinary rewards. And it can also enable me to shine a tiny light on a deeply hidden part of myself that I did not feel worthy of sharing.

I'd love to know your thoughts and experiences on this.

You are worthy of the love you need, even if it's not the love you think you deserve.