Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gorgeousness from the past few days...


* Last night's sunset (view from our front verandah captured above) and brilliant rainbow (which I was unable to capture from our back garden).

* A colleague emailing everyone in our unit a potted history of all the significant trees on campus.

* Poring over the MIFF and MWF programs and picking out one or two choice items to attend.

* Resuming my Pilates practice, even though I am mightily sore the day after.

* My favourite weather today: sunny and slightly cool.

* Being able to provide some moral and practical support for my bff, whose mother is seriously ill in hospital, and my own Mum's strength in providing guidance and information on certain medical/logistical aspects for her.

* A long walk to a local French patisserie for treats.

* My husband agreeing to see a very special film with me next weekend. There were posters for this film all over Paris when we were there! We also loved the last film by this director and had a gorgeous day when we went to see it, five years ago.

* Picking fresh springs of daphne and putting them in little Moroccan tea glasses in the living room and study/studio.

* Starting the Soul Restoration 2 curriculum in earnest, taking my time and having it really speak to where I am right now.

* Loving messing around with paper, paint and glue and my sewing machine and typewriter!

* Deciding not to buy in to someone else's competitiveness. I'm over feeling diminished.

* Noticing some of my responses to particular things and not judging. Just stopping to wonder what the things I notice tell me about myself. Makes a refreshing change from beating myself up about them, or resisting then numbing when I fail.

* My little 'un kissing my hand at 4.30am after I got up to give her a cuddle and bring her the requisite Vegemite toast/sippy cup/paracetamol (yet another cold!), and saying with a quiet seriousness, "I'm glad of you".

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #18 Accepting numbness


I am beginning to understand what happened to me in Copenhagen.

I shut down.

Part of it, perhaps, was recovery from a gruelling few weeks prior to departure. All three of were recovering from some form of physical illness. Us grown-ups were especially depleted by all the travel preparations. We were also battling rather powerful inner demons, while doing our best to keep ourselves sunny side up. Then the journey was long and tiring (though mercifully, seamless and hassle-free).

I guess it all had to come out some time.

Then there was the fact that my husband was in Denmark for work, on a project that would have considerable consequences for a major initiative in his company. I knew it was important that the little 'un and I were as supportive as possible, allowing him to rest when he could and giving him space to do what he needed.

I also feel compelled to mention that the bathroom was tiny and had scarily bright lighting and a huge mirror right next to the shower. If I arrived in Copenhagen in denial about how overweight I truly am, then, believe me, I hold no such illusions now.

Shut right down.

Over the past six months of therapy, I have learned to witness these sorts of episodes with compassionate curiosity. I knew that I was blocking out feelings and I also knew that the feelings themselves mightn't have been as bad as I was afraid they might be. From experience, I knew if I sat with the feeling and allowed myself to truly experience it, it would pass and I would be the better for it.

While I was in Copenhagen, I stumbled across this, and these words in particular:

You may feel numb because what you are dealing with now or have dealt with in the past was overwhelming and this was the way your mind decided to manage that stress. There’s nothing wrong with that and you shouldn’t be hard on yourself for it.

I cried and cried and realised that the feelings I was numbing were the attacks on myself.

Despite all this, I had managed to have a rather good time. Even through my fog, I could see that I was in a pretty amazing part of the world. I could appreciate the beautiful architecture and elegant aesthetic. I enjoyed wandering for many hours with my little 'un, and was so grateful to be able to stay in such a centrally located apartment. I could also sense the delight that the free outdoor concerts was bringing to the crowds of locals and tourists during the annual jazz festival. The sun sometimes shone, the food was excellent. I had no obligations and enough funds on which to exist pretty comfortably.

I see now that, strangely enough, all this may have been the biggest part of the problem. Prior to leaving, and after considerable discussion with my psychologist, I resolved to relieve myself of any expectations of what would happen on this trip. I knew that travelling with a toddler would come with its own challenges, and that supporting my husband while he worked would add a little more pressure. I also knew that I had a tendency to get romantic ideas about holidays -- particularly about WOW! destinations like Paris -- and that this would grate against others' experience and expectations. So I decided that I would take things as they came and enjoy what I could.

And everything was going really quite well. And I was wallowing in the depths of numbness. And all I could think was, "What the hell is WRONG with me?!"

I see now that I was defending myself from the truth that I couldn't control everything and I couldn't do everything perfectly. My husband was very understanding and accommodating (and never critical or unappreciative) but I see now that I wasn't quite so gracious towards myself. Because I also see that the numbness was shielding me from the onslaught of self-criticism that I had actually wanted and expected to be in control and do everything perfectly (and not feel or look fat).

All this hard work and I still had expectations! And, not only that, I was giving myself an excruciatingly hard time for them.

Vicious, vicious, vicious. No wonder the numbness kicked in.

So this week, I invite you to take a tender and tentative peek at one of your defence mechanisms, perhaps even the one you like least about yourself. Could it be, through the lens of compassionate curiosity, that it is actually perfectly reasonable for your mind to try and protect you in this way? Sure, vulnerability might be a more healthy and productive approach... but is it possible you could learn to honour this fiercely protective part of yourself? By accepting this, and not adding to the vicious spiral of self-criticism, do you suppose that your actual fears might be easier to understand and tackle?

You are worthy of feelings but you are also worthy of protection. It mightn't be the "best" way forward, but it might be the best you can manage right now. And for that, you deserve love and respect and compassion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Extreme sport


I want to live in
Paris, where poetry is
seen as extreme sport.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Watching, reflecting, noticing


Along with love and work, this is the third great salvation. For whenever someone is seriously watching, a form of innocence is restored. It will not last, but during those minutes, his self-consciousness is relieved.

Robert Phelps (biographer of Colette)
quoted in Molly Peacock
The Paper Garden: Mrs Delany [begins her life's work] at 72

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Not sure


I am still not sure
why I cried every day while
I was in Denmark.

But I suspect this
bewilderment was a big
part of the problem.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Filling in the gaps


Looking forward to
sharing some reflections here
on the past three weeks...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #17 Don't cry: it's only poo-poo


Halfway through the journey from Paris to Doha, a distinctly stinky odour began to emanate from my little 'un's direction. Sure enough, she had soiled her nappy. We negotiated our way over Daddy's legs into the aisle and ambled our way towards the toilets.

While we waited for the cubicle that had the change table to become available, my little 'un pranced and swirled, threatening to push buttons or pull levers on the emergency escape door, ensuring she was merrily in the way of every oncoming trolley and member of cabin crew.

When the appropriate toilet was finally available, the change table was the size of an A3 sheet of paper. I lifted my stinky overexcited little 'un onto the change table, wedged her in diagonally, and set about cleaning her up. Just as my pleading to keep still turned to hissing (as she tried to free her head, which was jammed up against the mirror), the turbulence started.

At that point, I lost it. With crap all over my hands, a lurching stomach, and the distinct knowledge that either we were all going to perish or I was the worst mother in the history of the universe (but uncertainty as to which one was worse), I started to cry.

My little 'un looked up at me with great tenderness and said, "Don't worry, Mummy. It's only poo-poo."

And, sure enough, she was right. I laughed. She laughed. She continued to squirm. I managed to clean us both up anyway. The turbulence stopped. The flight continued. We made it to Doha, then home to Melbourne.

I haven't had the opportunity or inclination to post for a little while, and it's not even Wednesday. But, in the spirit of keeping things in perspective -- and maybe having a little giggle at my own expense in the process -- I figured there was nothing lost in posting this anyway.

This week, I invite you to do the same. Where are the places in your life where the cataclysm you were expecting might be nothing more than a little poo-poo in a big tin can? Could it be that it's OK to let yourself off the hook for your inflated fears? That you're just human and worried and doing your best? And that's actually quite sweet and a bit funny?

You are worthy of sweet relief.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #16 The peace beyond the WOW!


This is my third visit to Paris and the first time that I haven't been overwhelmed by the "WOW!" factor. Perhaps it's because it's my third visit. Perhaps it's because the planning for this trip was incredibly last minute, and I didn't have the usual lead time to work myself into a frenzy of excited anticipation. Perhaps it's because I'm not travelling with my sister, who loves Paris as much as I do and gets just as excited by the prospect of visiting. Perhaps it's because we spent some time in Copenhagen first, so the contrast in architecture, climate, culture etc. was not as pronounced as when I have arrived directly from Melbourne. Perhaps, in preparing to travel with a toddler, I didn't set my expectations of a romantic or profoundly life-changing trip so high.

Whatever the reason, I have not been bowled over by that "Oh my god, I am in Paris! I LOVE Paris!" feeling.

But that has created some space for some newer feelings to emerge. They are quieter and less dramatic, to the extent that I found myself scanning for the numbness that overwhelmed me soon after I arrived in Copenhagen. But no, I'm not numbed out. These feelings may be softer, more subtle, but they are no less profound.

In this space, I feel present and centered (dare I say at home?). I feel that Paris is a place I can inhabit, without the pressure to look or act in particular way or make every moment meaningful. It's also meant that my inner critic has had to take a well-earned vacation, as her relentless unfavourable comparisons to Parisian chic just aren't piercing my armour the way they used to.

I'm here, and things are going well. Travel has been surprisingly smooth and stress-free. We're staying in a lovely apartment, slightly off the beaten track in a gorgeous area. There's no real pressure to do much by way of touristy stuff, and I'm only buying the odd little trinket that catches my eye if I'm sure that I can't get it at home.

It may sound bland and uninspiring but it's actually quite freeing. I'm here. I'm awake. I am quietly enjoying myself. And that's enough.

This week, I invite you to peak into the tiny pockets of your day-to-day world that you might have overlooked because they lack a certain "WOW!" factor. Maybe it's a chore or errand (or even a treat) that you've been putting off because it doesn't excite the pants off you. Maybe it's a person hovering on the periphery of your world who doesn't "tick all the boxes". Maybe it's just that blah feeling that infuses every waking moment as soon as the alarm goes off and you start getting ready for your day job.

Whatever it is, I invite you to look bravely and listen intently in the space that has been created by the lack of "WOW!". Could it be that there is a gentle grace in this place? A power you'd underestimated? Greater possibility that you can just be you, wherever you are?

I'd love to know what you find in this sacred space, and what it has to teach you. You are warmly invited to share your thoughts and experiences here.

You don't need to tick all the boxes, you don't need to be anything you're not, you don't need to have the "WOW!" factor to make your experiences worthwhile. You are worthy, just as you are, wherever you are.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I am Enough


I am beyond honoured to be featured on Tracey Clarke's self-kindness collaborative I am Enough today.

Thank you, Tracey, for the wonderful opportunity... and for providing such a special space for women to celebrate their enoughness. You are a treasure.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #15 Finding your way home



Far from home, this has become my beacon of hope. As I wander the city, cajoling a heavy stroller with a restless toddler over cobblestoned streets, lost in thought, the sight of St Nicholas' gleaming green spire tells me that home is never far away. Right now, it is the centre, the focus, the hearth of my world.

We are staying on Nikolajgade (pronounced nikolai-gerder), which is St Nicholas' Sreet. The church that honours him does not seem to function as a place of worship but the function it does serve is not immediately obvious. Its surounding cobblestoned walkways are home to an outdoor cafe/bar and our favourite playground. Several nearby cafes and shops are named in his honour, such as St Nick next door.

St Nicholas was the patron saint of the sea, of fishermen, of harbours. There was a special place in his heart, it seems, for those whose vocations took them far from home. He was apparently also known as "Nikolaos the Wonderworker", as he had a penchant for delightful mischief such as secret gift giving. It's no surprise that his legend eventually evolved into that of Santa Claus.

I really love the idea that this particular patron saint has presented himself as my companion and protector on this strange little journey. It has helped me feel at home in a place that has been catapaulted out of its regular rhythm by the frenetic tourist season and an unprecedented extreme rain storm, but also in my mind which is overwhelmed by the idea of calamities equally as frenetic and extreme.

This week, I invite you to think of the things that signal to you that you are home. This could be the things that signal that you are safe to settle in when you actually are at home. For me this would be: the sight of our street after a long walk or on the bus home from work; a temperate home; taking off my make-up; putting on my jammies, headband, slippers; fresh linen; dishes washed; my little 'un sleeping soundly; snuggling into my husband's back.

But this could also be the things that comfort and fortify you when you are far away from your physical home... or your comfort zone. Could it be that the universe has sent you these things to remind you that you are seen, that you are precious and irreplaceable, and that you are loved? Could it be that you really are safe and it really is OK to settle in and relax?

I would love to know what your version of St Nicholas is right now.

You are worthy of comfort and protection. You are safe and everything is going to be OK. You are indeed precious and so very loved.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The perfect recipe for losing your way


Ingredients:

A liberal dose of jetlag
One half pint of rambunctious toddler
A pinch of PMS
One dash of disorientation
A pinch of panic
Two freshly picked handfuls of sleep deprivation
A sprinkling of tears
Add a severe rainstorm, if you happen to be in the right place at the right time

Method:

Simmer until overwhelmed.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Noticing



* That I am much less likely to notice anything when I am disoriented and panicked * How nice it is to "live light" even though I overpacked for so many eventualities * Just how overweight and unattractive I feel, even though the locals and tourists here come in all shapes and sizes, and the full spectrum of fashion preferences * How little I know about Northern Europe and Scandinavia * Just how much difference cuddles make * How much I miss travelling, even though there are so many trials and inconveniences * How less likely it is that someone will meet your eyes and smile here * How I tend to perceive everyone else as posessing a certain freedom that somehow seems elusive to me * That I have very little desire to pick up a book and have been avoiding my journal * That I have very romantic ideas of what it means "to belong" * That the sense of orderliness that comes from washing dishes is very comforting (and I am aware of how irretrievably boring that sounds) * How extraordinary Danish design is, and how a comfortable elegant chair can be a thing of real beauty * What a relief it is when service providers are not offended by requests to communicate in English * How isolated we really are in Australia and how mobile "Europeans" can be * How rotten my sense of direction really is * That small everyday achievements (like convincing a bath-loving toddler to take a shower; like convincing a very old front door to accept a new key first go; like finding my way out and about and home without a map) do need to be acknowledged and celebrated * Just how much I expect from my little 'un but also how much of her behaviour I blame on myself that may just be things that toddlers generally do * That things usually turn out OK *

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The view from my kitchen window



Suitcases unpacked,
clothes hung, pantry stocked, calls made:
we are settling in.

But it may take more
for that unsettled feeling
to fully recede.

Perhaps it was the
short lead time, stressful planning,
finishing projects,

or just bad timing.
The idea of having fun
seems a lot of work.

I guess it's just me.
I'm taking this stuff with me
wherever I go.

But even though it's
not easy or glamorous,
noticing this helps.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Minor miracles during a long journey


1. Our little 'un sleeping soundly for seven of the thirteen hours on the first flight, then three of the six hours on the second.

2. Mostly considerate customer service from Qatar Airways.

3. Our little 'un's obsession with the "Easter egg" show in the inflight entertainment, which kept her entertained for hours.

4. My husband reaching over to hold my hand every time there was turbulence: I am a frequent flyer but a nervous one. (Actually, this wasn't miraculous, he is usually considerate like this: I just feel the need to include it here because I am so grateful for it).

5. Safe landing in Doha, despite the sandstorm.

6. Our little 'un kissing her Daddy during the long long bus ride to the plane, and saying "Don't worry Daddy, there's nothing to be scared of, it was just a bump!" as we swerved around the tarmac.

7. A relatively seamless arrival at our apartment, which was as lovely as anticipated, even though there were a couple of disappointments.

8. Our little 'un running around while we tried [in jetlagged-zombie-slow-motion] to unpack and get set up, dressing up in my husband's baseball cap and leather belt and jumping out from behind curtains declaring, "I am a circus player!"

9. The luxury of a sweet balmy breeze after Melbourne Winter.

10. Our little 'un cooperating and sleeping in a "big girl bed" (mattress on the floor), thereby obviating the need to try and hunt down a port-a-cot late on a Friday afternoon in the midst of peak tourist season.

11. We're here.