Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #23 Go with stroppy


It's been pretty obvious and I can't even attempt to hide it. I've been in a pretty foul mood this last couple of days.

On a better day, I might choose to see this as a sign of how far I've come. I'm rather "present" in this uncomfortable space. I'm not in denial to myself or others. I'm not trying to numb myself and am increasingly aware how inadequate a measure that is (especially where excess consumption of red wine and chocolate or impulse shopping is involved). I can't even say that I'm being hard on myself for feeling this way.

I've seen that there's a better way. I've experienced what it is to have a clear head and a light heart, and to feel centred and strong within myself. I have loved my life, with all its imperfection. I have loved my self, with all my flaws. I am working hard towards this way of being. I know there will come a time when I feel like that most of the time.

But right now, I am seriously crapped off about the reality of getting there. It is going to be damn hard and scarily unpretty.

My therapist called me on something on Monday night. We'd been chatting about a range of stuff, the usual stuff really, and I added something into the mix that I'd remembered that I thought might be relevant. Turns out, it was a big thing. And we were just about out of time. And she seemed surprised or exasperated or disappointed or maybe none of these things but I got really defensive. And she challenged me. And then it was time for me to leave.

In between crying -- and, for the first time ever, wanting to throw the towel in -- I reminded myself that one of the reasons I really love this therapist is that she's not averse to showing me some tough love every now and again. It's always appropriate, never confrontational (although often confronting), and usually something I can handle. But I also couldn't deny that I felt chastened and exposed, and daunted by the work that lies ahead.

There's nothing else for it, I suspect, than to ride it out then show up next Monday. Then keep showing up.

But forgive me if I am not especially good value between now and then. Right now, I'm a bit sick of working on myself, and resentful that I'm built this way. I'm not suggesting this is the most mature or constructive approach, or that it's fair on my nearest and dearest. But it's the only way I can claim where I am right now.

This week, I invite you to claim where you are. If it's not an especially nice place, I would like to stand next to you, hold your hand and encourage you to stay with it for a moment. Let's decide not to pretend and just be our most resentful, immature, bored, exasperated selves. Maybe we could listen to those tiny voices that reassure us that these feelings will pass and that everything really will be OK. Or maybe we could rebel and ignore them for a bit.

Maybe our inner good girl -- the one who always strives to improve herself, the one who works so hard to remember to be grateful, the one who tries to find a glimmer of hope or learning in every difficult experience -- deserves to chuck a stroppy tantrum for a change.

You are worthy of this sort of space. The least prettiest aspects to your personality -- the ones you are least proud of -- are worthy of airing.

And you know what? In among all the ungrateful immature stroppiness I can tell you this much: you are deserving of love anyway.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Moments when I felt like me



Marinating in an excellent book.

Standing in the queue for a Melbourne Writers Festival session.

Sharing a smile with the Festival Director as we waited for our takeaway coffees.

On a typography tour of Melbourne CBD.

Breathlessly calling my father-in-law to share my discovery that the signage from one of his factories is going to appear in a book of Melbourne typography!

Doing the Target word puzzle from Sunday’s Age newspaper with my husband.

Poring over the pages of “Mummy’s special book” – the journal I am making for Soul Restoration 2 – with my little ‘un and witnessing her delight and fascination... and promising to make a similar book with her and for her, when she is a "big girl".

Reading about my home town while my little 'un splashed away in the big bath.

Heading out for a gourmet burger with my husband while my Mum babysat.

Intimating to my husband my plans to apply for a Government funding opportunity linked to travel and writing.

Drooling over Korean stationery.

Treating myself to a French women don’t get fat breakfast of coffee and croissant.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Do you ever


... feel like the jelly you're wading in is growing from ankle-depth to knee-height?... fear you're going to cry about just about everything? ... wonder where all that "feeling good" you were in the middle of a week or so ago has gone? ... worry that "feeling good" mightn't come back for a long time?... avoid doing something that would be really good for you, because you fear it may be your undoing? ... hide from saying what you really feel, because you can't quite put your finger on what it is, exactly, that you really feel? ... resent PMS for amplifying everything? ... bury yourself in art projects that allow you to hide behind optimism? ... note the urge to sign up for everything? ... feel overwhelmed with fatigue at the tiniest task? ... feel ashamed for feeling angry about your upbringing, as it was actually really loving? ... wrestle with strong feelings? ... try hard not to berate yourself for suppressing feelings for the sake of harmony, as it's a survival instinct after all? ... but not really succeed? get totally muddled about which week you're in? ... err on the side of over-generosity? ... secretly pursue your dream plans? ... feel unwitnessed and more lonely than ever? ... convince yourself that this fear is based on gross exaggeration, which might be true but doesn't actually help? ... envy people who lead what appear to be superficial, unworried lives? ... fear and resist and yearn for deep systemic change, all in the same breath? ... suspect you're going mad? ... wonder how things are going to pan out? ... know that, whatever happens, everything will be OK?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #22Trust your gut


Over the past few weeks, letters have been arriving in the mail, requesting that I confirm my intentions with respect to kindergarten next year. My little 'un will turn three early in the new year and she has taken so well to her weekly creative play sessions that I think she will be in a good place to enjoy what three-year-old kinder has to offer.

I'm extremely lucky to live in a suburb where there are a number of established and well-respected programs to choose from. That said, there is an oversupply of somewhat affluent, highly educated parents, many of whom -- like me -- have the privilege of nurturing their children's emotional and creative development, and are highly committed to ensuring the most appropriate and stimulating educational opportunities. [Read: we are all pretty sure our child is a genius. And although we would deny this black and blue, we are pretty dang competitive about it.]

If you are reading this and live in North America, I suspect that if you visited the suburb in which I live, then you might be reminded of Portland, Oregon or Brooklyn, New York.

But I digress.

I have been pretty flummoxed by the whole process. I have put my daughter's name down for four different places. I also have the option of keeping in her in the creative play program in lieu of three-year-old kinder. A key driving factor seems to be the guarantee of a place in four-year-old kinder the following year. But making a choice has not been so clear-cut.

If I am going to be completely honest, there is one place that stands out to me. It is a short walk away and I have heard good things about its educational philosophy. It offers a two year program. My little 'un and I visited the centre one rainy day to collect the application form and were greeted warmly. We also noticed many happy-looking children scurrying into the classroom. It felt good.

But there is a centre that is closer. In fact, it is just around the corner from our house. I put my little 'un's name down when she was only three weeks old, at the urging of a neighbour, whose children had a good experience there. The program operates out of a small church hall right next door to where my little 'un has attended dance classes. It's a familiar space. I gather it's a small and basic program and educationally sound that runs the same way every year. The days of the week slot in perfectly to our other commitments.

My daughter was recently offered a place in this program, for a January commencement. I accepted the place but a part of me was still not committed. When I sat with this hesitation for a moment, a voice said, "Just trust the process. There's nothing you can do right now. But the right information will come at the right time". This made sense. After all, it's not like my little 'un had been offered confirmed places in other programs and a decision was a required. And I could always accept the place then release it later, and all I'd lose would be the deposit.

Yesterday, the woman who runs this program called to ask whether I wanted a place in three-year-old kinder for my little 'un next year. I answered in the affirmative, though somewhat uncertainly, as I had already returned the form and deposit and wasn't sure why she was asking.

"Pfft!" She groaned, to no-one in particular, "Another one! The form is due this Thursday!"

"Yes, I know," I countered, "I returned it, in person, three weeks ago."

"Well, I don't have it."

"Well, I can assure you, I brought it in."

The well-I-don't-have-it-well-I-definitely-returned-it tennis continued for another minute or so when I mentioned that I had handed it to a woman who appeared to be her assistant. The woman had told me that she didn't usually help out, she was just there for the day, so I offered to check the date that I had returned the form so she could investigate what had happened.

"No, I don't have time for all that." She grunted. "Anyway, everyone is very honest around here."

[In the interests of full disclosure - and I'm not proud of this -- I did suggest that the woman to whom I handed the envelope and $50 deposit had pocketed it.]

And then, as if by magic, the woman exclaimed, "OH! LOOK! Here you are! I DID receive your deposit. I just put a cross next to it instead of a tick. Ha! Sorry about that. I hope I didn't stress you out."

No, lady, you did not stress me out. But you did help to confirm something: that my gut was right. Information will come when the time is right. I may have accepted a place in your program but I have the feeling that an offer that I am more comfortable with is on its way. So I will be able to release that place to a child whose mother is more prepared to accept your patronising and defensive approach.

This week, my friends, I invite you to join me in creating a little space for your self. In this space, witness what happens when you get quiet and really listen to that niggling little feeling you have about a certain decision or set of options. Imagine what you might learn if you shut out the voices that told you you were being too sensitive or too emotional or too impulsive or too illogical or too Stuff White People Like. What would this little niggle reveal to you about what you really need in your daly life -- and what you really don't?

Your gut is worth trusting. And you deserve to make decisions for the sheer reason that they feel good to you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rhythms


Ask any nuclear physicist and she will tell you that the whole universe is in constant motion and you are probably not the exception to the rule.

Gabrielle Roth
Sweat Your Prayers: The Five Rhythms of the Soul

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My work

Thinking about life
two and a half years ago
keeps me up at night.

Thinking of this time
makes me feel sad and lonely.
This is a good thing.

I’d been feeling strong
so dredging this stuff up felt
like self-sabotage.

Then my therapist
pointed out that perhaps the
opposite was true:

that maybe I was
finally ready to face
something I had been

avoiding for fear
of facing truths that would bring
me pain and sadness.

So I stopped. And talked.
And listened. And then I saw
the truths I’d suppressed.

Through the tears I could
see that time for what it was:
old and deep-grained fears.

And I saw my work:
to really feel these fears. And
then to let them go.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things I could tell you


We stayed in our pyjamas all day yesterday, baked a chocolate cake and watched Azur et Asmar, My Neighbour Totoro and A Cat in Paris on DVD.

She had a terrible cold and I was feeling sad and exhausted. We had one or two really quite unsatisfactory moments during the course of the day.

A walk would have done us both the world of good. The climate just didn’t feel conducive, externally or internally.

While my little ‘un was napping, I wrote a little, read a little, then watched a very sweet and moving DVD. I also washed dishes and swept the floor, activities that help me feel “good” and a bit more on top of things.

The DVD ended with the song The Rose sung in Japanese, with subtitles in English. The lyrics made me cry.

A very special dress that I ordered arrived in the mail. It really is very beautiful and I’ll get a lot of wear out of it, come Summer. I suspect I won’t look anywhere as fabulous as this, though.

I flaked out by 9pm. I’d flaked out by 8pm the night before. I still woke up tired.

This curriculum is really helping me to see the role that food plays in my life and the synergies it has with the other work I am doing has been pretty mindblowing. Thank you, sweet Jen, for inviting me to experience this with you.

I’m enrolled in a bazillion (well, two) fantastic and highly recommended e-courses and have contributed nothing to either community. This makes me feel a little guilty. I’m savouring the beautiful emails that arrive in my in-box and marinating in the questions for a few moments... then filing them away for a rainy (or more sunny) day.

I have been resisting making art. I have also been writing only reluctantly. I am grateful that these gifts are patient. And forgiving.

The stunning white magnolia against a grey Winter sky (pictured above) forced me to truly open my eyes this morning, while waiting for the bus.


I know this is going to sound a bit strange, but the detail on this spoon brought me a warm inner glow as I made my coffee in the kitchen next to my office. (So much so that I had to bring it home and photograph it, as my point-and-shoot wouldn’t cooperate. I was also a little apprehensive about being caught in the act of photographing a spoon by my colleagues. I promise I will return it on Monday.)

When in doubt, I am deciding to dress fabulously. And fabulous, in my definition, includes pyjamas.

I really needed a caffeine and sugar hit this afternoon. I fully knew all the reasons why this was the case. So I decided to let myself have it, without fear or loathing.

I did also enjoy a somewhat more nourishing treat of Mariage Freres green tea with jasmine. And I haven’t yet consumed my bodyweight in chocolate... which is becoming my barometer for how much pain I am feeling.

I am so grateful for this community, and all the generous and wise comments I receive. To be honest, I was a bit embarrassed by this week’s Worthiness Wednesday post. I feared it was TOO MUCH. You know: Too Whingy; Too Uninspiring; Too Similar to other Posts; Too Embarrassing.

And, perhaps at the moment I was berating myself for these things, dear souls emerged to comment and email and share that they could relate to what I had written. I hope you know just how much this makes my soul sing, and how much it feeds what I am coming to see as my role in this crazy cosmos.

These things I could tell you... all of which would be true.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stories


The universe is made up of stories, not of atoms.
Muriel Rukeyser
The Speed of Darkness

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #21 Sitting with the shitty


I'm not having a particularly good day.

I've decided to go with it.

I'm working hard to stay present, to notice what pushes my buttons, with as much compassion as I can muster.

I'm not doing that especially well either, but here's what I've noticed anyway: PMS; waking up at 5am to my little 'un's hacking cough; mindless eating; some boundary-pushing two-year-old behaviour; sitting with some strong feelings that have arisen from deep psychological work; an inclination towards cruel sarcasm paired with deep loathing for lashing out in this way; desperately wanting to numb out "bad" feelings with a glass of wine (or two); irritation at loud noises; doubting my decisions and actions; disconnection from things that usually bring me great pleasure; small anxieties relating to my day job; flaking out before 8pm.

But here's what I'm also seeing: a moment when my brain clocks that this is happening. In this moment, a tiny space opens up. In this moment, there is room for the realisation that I have choice.

All of the things I am witnessing are choices. They have become somewhat habitual, having grown out of the need to protect myself from the perfect storm that is PMS, feeling lonely, feeling out of control and beating myself up for my inadequacy.

This isn't ideal, but it's OK. I can see it all and I feel some strange sort of peace with it.

It's been a shitty 24 hours. I'm open to some less shitty stuff happening, but in the meantime I am just going to own my shittyness.

It'll pass.

In the meantime, I think I will try and limit activities that push my buttons on the best of days i.e. driving, cooking, housework, challenging art techniques I've never tried before (and will leave me feeling like crap if I get them less-than-perfect first time round), messy play with my little 'un, preparing my tax return, challenging conversations with family members, and so on. I might also put my earphones in so I can drown out the noise of a tree being chainsawed a few doors down the street.

I was going to write a different Worthiness Wednesday post today, but somehow this felt more honest. Will you join me in this place? Today, I invite you to stand with me, wherever you are and gently witness whatever's going on: the good, the bad and the shitty.

What does all of this information tell you about yourself right now? Could it be that it's perfectly OK just to see it for what it is, then ride it out? What sorts of things could you let yourself off the hook for while you're in this space?

You are worthy of compassion. And the things you are allowing yourself to learn are valuable and important. But in the meantime, if it feels shitty, then it really is OK to go with that too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Honoured, again


Thank you, dear Beth, for the generous feature on your wonderful site Do What You Love.

You are an inspiration for all of us who aspire to live our richest, fullest, most present selves.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #20 Walk it out


I've been pondering, over the past few days, what to write for this week's Worthiness Wednesday post. To be honest, I woke up this morning and thought, "I got nada."

But I knew that I'd be walking my little 'un to and from her creative play session around the corner and that something would come to me. That usually happens on a walk. Remember that wonderful illustration that Summer Pierre did about walking with a question and letting the answer come? I am totally with her on that one.

Then I saw this sign. The Presbyterian Church on the corner always has fantastic, and often funny, signs. (My favourite was the one that said, "Don't let Christians put you off Jesus.") The signs are changed regularly and it was the first time I saw this one.

It spoke to me.

I agree: we never walk alone. We have our questions. We have our doubts. We have our fears. We have our joy. We have butterflies in our tummies and hope in our hearts. We have our curiosity.

Today as I walked home, I saw the sign. I kept walking. I noticed my hurried pace, eager to get home and start writing, anxious not to "waste" any of the precious short time I have to myself. I slowed down a little. I noticed the damp cool air. I noticed some tiny yellow flowers "pop" against a pale lilac fence. I noticed a certain disc in my lower back niggling for my attention. I noticed an elderly couple walking slowly but purposefully (past the sign pictured above, in fact) holding hands. I noticed errant ferns sprouting out of rooftops.

I noticed that the walk was the question. But it was also the answer.

When we were in Paris, walking was a big part of our experience and I think it was one of the main contributors to the ease that we felt. We were out and about in the fresh air (often in the rain!) practically all day. We kept moving, albeit at a leisurely pace, usually with a destination in mind but not always with a fixed route.

I think all this movement helped certain knots -- physical and emotional - to unravel. As Andrea Scher put it so beautifully recently, "I've been up in my head for too long and bringing things back into my body has been the greatest gift I've given myself in a long time."

This week, I invite you to walk as often as you can but most especially when you feel stuck. Perhaps try some of the prompts on Summer Pierre's Walking Life illustration, if you feel you need some inspiration or parameters. See what happens when you loosen your muscles, breathe the air deeply, and open your eyes to the (extra)ordinary beauty that is embedded in tiny hiding spots on well-worn paths, patiently waiting to be noticed.

It's Winter here in Melbourne, so the natural inclination is to burrow in and stay home where it's cosy. I know that in the midst of a relentless hot Summer I am also less inclined to venture out into the glare. Whatever season you find yourself in, I invite you to announce your walk as something a little more special by wearing an accessory that will help shield you from the elements but also be your superhero talisman on your journey. Perhaps it's a purple felt hat that somehow seems too dressy for everyday. Or a widebrimmed straw number that is too Hollywood for the supermarket. Or tying your hair back in pigtails so that it's out of your eyes, even though you fear that it's not something someone your age/weight/maturity/appearance/whatever should be doing. Or a handmade scarf. Or outrageous sunglasses.

It's your walk, they are your questions, there may even be fun to be had.

You are worthy of answers and walking will bring you closer to the truth that you seek. You are never alone: you take your deepest wisdom with you. Get out of your head and into the world and you will see that you have all the answers you need.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gorgeousness from the past few days...


* the above sign from the universe, spotted during a lunchtime walk.

* choosing exquisite decadence for sustenance: succulent dried cranberries, seductive smoked almonds, a dreamy banana/cinnamon/honey smoothie entitled Harvest Moon.

* cuddles with a lovely friend’s newborn.

* Yael Naïm’s beautiful new album.

* signing up for this as a team with my dear friend Jen.

* a delightful movie date with my husband.

* an extraordinary Melbourne fashion house’s Summer collection, inspired by Friday Kahlo. Swoon!

* an earnest and brave conversation with an old friend about the realities of longterm relationships.

* soaking in this incredible tome (I so want to make and publish a book like this, though not recipes… maybe haiku?)

* marvelling at the Graphic program, hosted by the Sydney Opera House in week or so.

* discovering that the hue of my new woollen dress and matching suede shoes is cobalt blue. Fittingly dramatic!

* checking out Couch to 5K on a friend's recommendation -- a fantastic idea and it's free -- and contemplating downloading the doof-doof and dusting off my running shoes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What my photos are teaching me (Part IV: Self)


I open my eyes
I see myself, this moment.
I'm my own witness.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What my photos are teaching me (Part III: Doors)


Symbols of endings
but also of beginnings.
Harbingers of hope.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What my photos are teaching me (Part II: Feet)


Standing whole and firm,
striding with a clear purpose,
makes me come alive.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What my photos are teaching me (Part I: Hands)


Holding tenderly,
reaching and letting go:
all my heart yearns for.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #19 Questioning validation


I've been thinking a lot about validation. Part of the work I am doing is to notice when the need for validation arises and the information that it reveals to me about myself and others.

The equations seem to go something like this:

You don't seem interested in me = I am inherently uninteresting
You don't get me = I am not worth getting
You don't think my writing/art are worthwhile = The things I love doing are petty and indulgent and I don't understand why I want to do them

Yes, I know. It's not especially nice. Remember the debacle early this year when I wanted to attend the Be Present retreat in Oregon? Case in point. I am pleased to witness how the practice of compassionate curiosity towards these things has seen some deep quiet shifts occur. My worthiness muscle seems to be strengthening. I'd like to think the next time a retreat hoves into view, I'll deal with the information that comes to light quite differently.

One of the places I have been a little stuck has been the value of this blog. To be honest, there was a time when I wasn't sure why I was continuing with it. Its tenor and purpose had evolved since I started and I was a bit puzzled as to what kept me going.

Take this Worthiness Wednesday thing, for example. Using any external measures of success (e.g. size of readership, number of responses, opportunities arising) it isn't exactly rocking the world, right?

But is this why I am doing it?

A quiet but firm voice reminded me: a small but extraordinary group of people read what you have to say and it touches them in some way. Think of all the blogs you read that inspire you to question and wander and wonder, even if you don't always feel compelled to leave a comment. Also worthiness work is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, and there are a lot of clever, pretty and inspiring alternatives as far as blog reading goes. And is it really a competition?

Then the quietest and firmest voice of all said: I believe in it. It's ME.

Gwen Bell recently published an excellent e-book called Digital Warriorship, in which she posed a series of difficult but important questions about the ways in which we put our stuff out there in the digital world and what we expect to receive in return. One of the clearest messages I took away from this extraordinary manifesto was that if you can:

* sit with what you are doing
* see clearly that is coming from your heart
* continue to put it out into the world with authenticity and intent

then there is nothing that needs validating.

I believe in it. It's ME.

This week, I invite you to stand with me in this space where there is no need to question what it is that you do. Even if it doesn't make complete sense to you. Even if it doesn't make any sense to anyone else. Even if it doesn't "measure up" against conventional metrics of success. Even if certain people in your life insist on not getting it. Even if the gremlins in your head are trying to persuade you that there are other, more appropriate, ways to spend your time. Even if you're not sure why you're doing it or where it will take you. Especially for all these reasons.

You believe in it. It's YOU. And that is most definitely worth something.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A prayer for today

Let me stay centred,
whole and calm, as I lean in
to the discomfort.