Thursday, September 29, 2011

Screw you, lady.


Yes, you heard me right!

Screw YOU.

I'm in a highly indignant, devil-may-care, potty-mouth kinda mood. And forgive me for my passive aggression because I know you don't even read this blog. (Ergo: if you are reading this, please be assured it is not aimed at you!)

The thing is, I got tired of waiting. Tired of the unanswered emails. Jeez, I even join facebook so I could ask you the same set of questions in your preferred format!

Granted, my family's gastro pandemic was not your fault. So the fact that I was unable to buttonhole you in person during session four of our five day course cannot be blamed on anyone. But I did email you to find out what I'd missed. And I did offer to take you out for coffee and cake, so I could thank you for your time in filling me in, and in anticipation of feedback.

I signed up for the course that you run deliberately so I could get some feedback on the unfinished manuscript I have been sitting on for well over a year. I was given to understand that this was appropriate and encouraged and, as far as I could tell, everyone in the class was doing the same.

Apart from a short classroom review of my first two pages, this didn't happen. Having emailed the Word document to you three times and given you a hard copy once in person, I really was beginning to despair.

Because all I wanted to know was: does it work? Would it be worth submitting it to a publisher? [Subtext: would you be willing to send it through to the publisher you work for and have had several books published by? Acknowledging that it would be a pretty big ask and certainly beyond the call of duty as far as the course was concerned.]

I guess I should be embarrassed. It has taken me until September 29 to finally say SCREW YOU. It has taken me this long to stop and really question why I was prolonging the inevitable. Because the truth is, I know the answer to both of those questions. And they are both resoundingly YES.

So, dammit, I finished that manuscript. And I submitted it to Penguin today. Yes, that's right! P-P-P-P-Penguin! They accept unsolicited manuscripts in the Children and Young Adults category. And if there's one thing I have picked up in your course, it's that there is actually a dearth of books for pre-teenage boys (that girls will read too) with a distinctly Australian flavour. And mystery and suspense are pretty hot right now. Think Diary of a Wimpy Kid without the Americanisms and without the cartoons but with a sinister supernatural edge. My stuff ticks all the boxes.

And you what I love about this?

I mean, apart from the fact that I finally stopped making excuses and finally stopped seeking validation from someone else when I had the resources all along?

Penguin has their own SCREW YOU clause. That is to say, if I don't hear back from them by 29 January (at the absolute latest) I can rest safe in the knowledge that they think my manuscript stinks and they never want to hear from me again.

And, if that's what ends up happening? Well, I'll just pick myself up by the bootstraps and send it somewhere else. After all, we've all heard the story about how Penguin rejected Harry Potter on the grounds that the language was too "old fashioned" and they didn't think anyone would be interested in wizards.

But I realised something on September 29. And that is: even if this manuscript gets rejected a thousand times, I'll still be better off than where I was on September 28. Because up 'til today I was still waiting for something resembling divine intervention to get you to talk to me and to make me feel good enough about myself to finish this thing. Imagine if I'd been hit by a bus on September 28, never having realised what I already knew?

Anything seems better than not knowing: even rejection.

Of course, having spent the best part of the day working on whipping the manuscript into shape, writing the synopsis, and crafting a pitch letter and brief bio, some telling behaviour emerged. A sink-load of washing-up, two loads of laundry, a sparkling kitchen floor, and a thousand apologies to my husband for being such a dunderhead I didn't have a clue what was for dinner... well, let's just say that my guilt and worthiness issues will keep my therapist in beach holidays for many years to come.

But that's a post for another time.

For now, just let me say, once again. Screw. You.

Oh, and just quietly: thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #27 Leave yourself to heal


My daughter has a nasty cyst on her eye. It sort of looks like a sty gone feral on her bottom eyelid: red, angry, swollen. I took her to the Doctor a week ago, to make sure it wasn't anything more sinister (she has had eye infections before). His advice: leave it alone.

While it does look nasty, it doesn't seem to be giving her any trouble. She's not rubbing it or complaining of any pain. It's not weeping or causing any further swelling around her eye. Last time I was given antibiotic ointment to rub on her eye, any benefits were outweighed by her rubbing her eye in annoyance and frustration. Past attempts to bathe her eye in saline solution ended in tears (and not just hers).

I am being asked to trust that her body will heal itself, in its own time.

If it were my eye, I would have poke and prodded it and coaxed it into revealing its secrets by now. I would be in a hurry to clear it up, make it go away. I would have doused it in saline, tried to fix it myself, only gone to the Doctor if things got disturbingly worse.

Quite sensibly, my little 'un will not let me anywhere near her eye. It hurts to touch and she heard what the Doctor said about leaving it alone.

So all I can do is see this red angry swollen thing and wait for it to heal. Obviously, if it gets a whole lot worse I will take her back to the Doctor for further advice. But right now, there is nothing else to do.

A bit like the Anne Lamott quote I posted earlier this week. I kinda need to leave her eye "lay where Jesus flang it". For a do-er and a fix-er like me, that's a pretty big ask.

And it makes me wonder: where else in my life do I interfere unnecessarily, untrusting that my body, my soul, my psyche can repair itself in its own good time?

This week, I invite you to join me in taking a step back and gently surveying the open wounds in our lives. These could be on our bodies, in our memories, through our relationships, hampering our dreams. Could it be that they will repair with nothing more than a little breathing space and time? Perhaps a little sunshine and a cup of tea? Could it be that Jesus or the Universe flang it there for a reason, to teach us something about trusting and letting go?

Whatever the wound, whatever the lesson, you are worthy of great health. And you are sure worthy of that sunshine and cup of tea. Be sure to step out of doing/fixing mode and savour this week.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

i am


* relieved my little 'un's first haircut was a success (I'd put it off for so long, she was starting to resemble the wild toddler of Borneo!).

* wishing the flustering, disorienting, icy wind would die down.

* devouring fiction.

* not currently enrolled in any e-courses.

* intrigued by this novel approach to thinking through what I really want to do.

* bemoaning the cost of my love for amateur photography: my first roll of lomo film didn't work (I hadn't spooled the film properly) save for one photo. That one photo cost me $15, to cover processing costs. If none of the exposures had worked, it wouldn't have cost me anything. Sigh! Don't get me started on the cost of new polaroid film ($38 for eight pictures), or the three unused pictures that mysteriously disappeared while the camera was on loan, or the fact that the battery has died in the film that remains, wasting the last three pictures.

* addicted to Beirut's East Harlem.

* spending too much time and money online.

* unable to let a day go past without wearing purple, especially in combination with yellow. Yum.

* delighting in my little 'un's rockstar prowess with the new red ukelele she chose herself.

* wishing it was me jetting off to New York today.

* savouring time spent in my newly tidied study/studio, taking my time with the Soul Restoration 2 curriculum.

* in awe of Ebony Bizys aka Hello Sandwich.

* about to receive a guitar that a long lost family friend made a point of giving me as a child.

* feeling a little discouraged about my haiku practice.

* wondering what life as a graphic designer or architect would be like.

* mesmerised by Kal Barteski's extraordinary gift to the world.

* loving sending postcards.

* feeling quite proud, honoured and inspired to be starting work on my first art commission!

* eating too much sugar.

* despite all this -- or perhaps because of all this -- as always, worthy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three (of many) reasons I love Anne Lamott


One

My Al-Anon friend told me about the frazzled, defeated wife of an alcoholic man who kept passing out on the front lawn in the middle of the night. The wife kept dragging him in before dawn so that the neighbours wouldn't see him, until finally an old black woman from the South came up to her one day after a meeting and said, "Honey? Leave him lay where Jesus flang him." And I am slowly, slowly in my work -- and even more slowly in real life -- learning to do this.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


Three

Carolyn Myss, the medical intuitive who writes and lectures about why people don’t heal, flew to Russia a few years ago to give some lectures. Everything that could go wrong did -- flights were cancelled or overbooked, connections missed, her reserved room at the hotel given to someone else. She kept trying to be a good sport, but finally, two mornings later, on the train to her conference on healing, she began to whine at the man sitting beside her about how infuriating her journey had been thus far.
It turned out that this man worked for the Dalai Lama. And he said, gently, that they believe when a lot of things are going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born -- and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.
Travelling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Healing


The stormclouds were receding. Far off in the distance thunder rumbled and overhead the sun pushed through cloud, the light a purple green. Blanche felt as though she were sitting inside a giant bruise: painful, tender, healing.

Fiona McGregor
Indelible Ink

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Surrender


Remember last week when I spoke of choosing a battle? I didn't mention that the flip-side to this exercise is to choose a battle to surrender.

I spent some time yesterday working through my One Little Word prompt for September, and wanted to share the words that tumbled out of me.

A battle I'm choosing to surrender

i am fighting for the body and the health and the energy and the daily life that i want
BUT i make it clear, here and now that i am letting of of the battle for thinness
i do not need to be thin to be worthy
i do not need to be healthy to be worthy
i do not need to exercise to be worthy
i do not need to be diligent, committed, honest, clever, inspiring to be worthy
i do not need to be a good Mum to be worthy
or a good partner, daughter or friend
i do not have to be generous or vulnerable or brave or inspiring
YES
it's true
i choose to strive towards all of these things
and i fight for some of them too
but i am worthy already
worthy right now
with my fat flabby tummy
and my horrid skin
and my laziness and my boredom
and my lack of domesticity
and my cluelessness with money
and my shocking typing and dubious artistic talent
i am worthy
i am worthy
i am worthy
it's true

Could it be that words such as these might tumble out of you too? Hopefully the words that tumble out are somewhat more affirming than mine but, if not, see how you can turn them around. What battle would you choose to surrender today?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #26 Choosing delight


When I was a kid, I wanted to be a spy when I grew up. My Dad bought me a couple of gorgeous books about spy craft and detective work, and I was hooked. The special code rings! The invisible ink! The trench coats and trilbies! The secrecy!

Having worked for five years in international relations, I can safely say that the politics and intrigue of diplomatic work hold little appeal for me now. But those books still hold me in a certain thrall. (It recently occurred to me that they're not so dissimilar in appearance from the graphic novels I enjoy as an adult.)

So when I was shopping recently for a couple of choice books to keep my little 'un amused during a forthcoming plane journey, my eye fell on the updated Spy's Guidebook and I did not hesitate to snap it up. I made some lame joke to the cashier about buying it for my daughter as an excuse, and we reminisced a little about how much we enjoyed this series of Usborne books as kids.

But the truth was, I couldn't wait to get it home and dive in. The pages even smelt the same as the book I'd had.

I've heard it said that spending time tapping in to the type of play that you most enjoyed as a child can provide signposts towards the type of work that speaks to your soul as an adult. I'm not really sure what The Spy's Guidebook as to tell me about my tastes and preferences, but I have to say that I am not feeling compelled to push myself to find out.

I am just really enjoying the book, and feeling the same frisson of delight and curiosity that I had as a little 'un.

This week, I invite you to give yourself permission to do something that gave you the most exquisite pleasure as a younger person. This could mean hunting down your most beloved picture book in your local library. Or baking the bikkies that your Nan used to make for afternoon tea. Or riding your bike along a well-worn trail. Or finding a favourite old cartoon on youtube. Or running your fingers through a big biscuit tin filled with buttons.

This little moment of pleasure needn't cost you anything. And I invite you to revel in your senses, savour the moment and the memories, and give your well-meaning meaning-maker/reason-seeker the afternoon off.

This week, I invite you to take a deep breath and let your shoulders down, and rest in this sweet truth: you are worthy of delight.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The mystery of promise


Today was hot and windy. I am not usually fond of windy days. They tend to disorient and frustrate me. Today maybe should have been like that: all three of us were home, convalescing from our respective stomach viruses. Walks were out of the question, everyone else was quarantined.

But today, the wind brought something else. The chance to open the windows and let in a fragrant warm breeze. The chance to wash our doona, linen, towels, and dry everything in the sub. The chance to bring some fresh clean goodness into our home.

Today brought gentle tasks and respectful space and lots of water and tender play.

It also seemed to signal something else. Today, I thought, I feel like something is ending. Exactly what, though, I couldn't seem to pinpoint. All I could think about were the things that were promising to begin. Again, nothing specific.

Just promise.

The promise that good times, easier times, stronger times are within reach. The promise that the light of self-knowledge has been kindled. The promise that purer, more joyful energy is possible to sustain. The promise that generosity of spirit may be nourishing. The promise that strong steps towards worthiness are being witnessed.

I don't think I can justify why a sunny windy day suddenly had me feeling so optimistic. Somehow that doesn't seem to matter.

Perhaps there were dreams riding on the back of that northerly. The traditional custodians of this land were much more practiced and articulate when it came to unravelling the meaning in these sorts of things.

For my part, just now, I am happy to live in the mystery.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A slip-state of being


This is the trick with creative work: it requires a slip-state of being, not unlike love. A state in which you are both most yourself and most alive yet least sure of your own boundaries, and therefore open to everything and everyone outside of you.

Anna Funder
All That I Am

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Equilibrium, disrupted


Refuge on the couch
Crochet blankie, good novel
Toast and minty tea

Tummy bug abates
I ponder the nature of
equilibrium

I see surrender
choosing mayhem with courage
Saying yes to help

When I could recede
a space was created for
others to step in

When I could concede
strength, others found their power
Here I see real love

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #25 Choosing to go the distance


What if this is as good as it gets?

This question has been reverberating in my head every day for the past week. I think it originated from a difficult conversation I had with my therapist. She was honouring my courage in raising something difficult with her, and for continuing to show up. After all, she pointed out, I could legitimately stop showing up. All things considered, my life is going pretty well.

I'm just keen to understand what makes me tick, and be the most present and resilient version of myself that I can be (and by extension, model the best behaviour possible for my daughter).

This has led me to reflect: what if I stopped working on myself at this point in time? Acknowledging that nothing is ever static -- and that taking a break from my psychological work wouldn't mean that the questioning and the learning wouldn't stop -- then how bad would things really be?

And I have to say that the answer has been coming back pretty loud and clear: not all that bad at all.

I'm a lucky girl and I am grateful for all that I have. I'm starting to see the patterns that have been holding me back and understand the choices that are open to me in learning to overcome them... or maybe just to live with them as best I can. There are certainly things in my life that I am worried about, sad for, afraid of. But on most days I can see that they do not dominate the landscape.

But if this is as good as it gets, perhaps the most crucial question is: is that good enough for me?

And I have to admit that the answer is also resoundingly clear: no.

I have come so far, and I would like to honour that. But there is still a ways to go. I'd like to delve further into my biggest fears. I want to see clearly where I am more worried than I need to be. I think there is more space for sadness in moving towards the light. I am really keen to understand more about where my relationship with food fits in to the puzzle.

Things are going well. But I know they can be better.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, I have been really feeling my age of late. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic: I'm only 37. But my physical heaviness is getting me down. I'm over the tentativeness required by the niggly disc in my back. I hate the fact that I get tired early and can't fit as many things in a day as I used to. I'm disappointed by the way I continue to numb out with food. I'm tired of feeling hyper-sensitive and over-analytical and soggy-headed. The only word I can think of to describe myself is lumbersome, and that's not even a real word.

This month, Ali Edwards is asking us to focus on a battle that we are prepared to fight in relation to our word for the year. Today, here is where I stand. I could stay where I am, I really could. But, here at the edge of something better, I am choosing to stand and fight a little more. I am choosing to go the distance.

This week, I invite you join me at the edge of where you are. Is this is as good as it gets, what could you honour in this space? But if you decided to go further, to fight one more battle, what would you choose?

You are worthy of loving exactly where you are. And you are also worthy of the battle that will take your self-knowledge and self-love to the next level. Life is beautiful, but an even more beautiful one awaits.

Leap. You can do it. I believe in you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apologies, delayed


Sincere apologies to the small but quality community of kindred spirits who commune with me in this space: Worthiness Wednesday will be posted tomorrow.

I've literally just stepped in the door following a day of hurried and harried preparation; a day of work; a day of running between a facial, a Pilates class and a somewhat underwhelming physical theatre performance; an early flight interstate; two days of making the most of the sunshine up North (with no internet connection); a certain little un's sudden gastric upset; a full day of getting home... and now, it's fair to say, I'm wiped!

It's been a lovely week but a week of trying to do it all and a week of trying to do it all perfectly. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever learn...!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Worthiness Wednesday #24 Welcoming a new season


Wherever you are in the world, it's the start of a new season. Here in Melbourne, Spring crept up to delight us early and has been tantalising us with blossoms and sunshine ever since, despite a retaliatory cold snap.

I love Spring. Like Autumn, I think of it of a time of transition: a bit of breathing space to recover from the extreme of one season then gently move towards the extreme of the next. For this reason, it feels like a time of relief, of exhaling, of stopping to whisper, "I survived!". This is especially the case in Autumn, after the relentless dry heat of a Melbourne Summer (in a house with no airconditioning that bakes like an oven after a few warm days).

For me, Spring is all about emerging from my cocoon. It's about turning off the heater, opening the windows and being more courageous in embracing the elements. It's about wearing brighter colours and eating crisp fresh food. It's about leaving the blinds open later and inviting the outside world to witness my inner landscape (and vice versa). It's about longer days coaxing me out to play, and the city of Melbourne offering all sorts of tantalising escapes in the form of festivals, live music and cultural events. It's about the end of the academic year, one last burst of frenetic activity, then winding down for the festive season.

This Winter was a long one for me. It wasn't especially freezing and I didn't feel the cold in the same way as I have in the past. I'm sure getting away for a few weeks to the Northern Hemisphere in July helped. But it still felt like a dark, drab time. Everyone in our house had their fair share of unwellness. There was a period there when I lived on cold and flu tablets for three weeks (and not necessarily for reasons of physical unwellness) and then two courses of antibiotics. My back gave way. I lived on the fringe of anxiety attacks. I felt more alone than ever.

The one constant was the work. Sometimes it felt relentless. There were many glimmers of hope, of progress, of courage and delight. But often the grief -- suppressed for so long -- was overwhelming.

As a fresh new season approaches, I feel ready to look back with gratitude and more than a little pride. I survived!

And I feel ready to let go.

I want to say: Thank you, Winter, for keeping me safe in my cocoon but for nudging me to have faith in my metamorphosis. I can't say it was harmonious or even restful but I can say that I have learnt more than possibly any other time in my life.

And I also want to say: Welcome Spring! Thank you for the promise of a new rhythm and for coaxing me out of my house and out of my head. I can see that the fledgling, courageous steps that I have been taking will gradually develop into confident strides. I want to breathe, let go and trust this journey.


Wherever you are, and whatever transitions you are in, I would like you hear you whisper with relief and pride, "I survived!". I this whisper, I wonder if you can see the hope and trust you are inviting.

Wherever you are in the climactic cycle, I invite you to join me in honouring the sadness and fear that have protected us so well. Like the decaying pomegranate I saw during a walk earlier this morning, our journey through grief has provided fertile ground for a new way of living.

It is time for us to emerge, to breathe, to celebrate our fledgling steps. We are worthy of renewal and we are worthy of life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Today I am grateful for


My little 'un's experimentations with the point and shoot camera (such as the masterpiece above).

A crisp sunny morning, my favourite.

Memories of a very pleasant dinner date night last night (although I was so satiated I did fall asleep on the couch in front of the season finale of Castle!).

Beirut’s beautiful new album.

My sassy new lipstick.

Experimenting with the Lomo Diana+ camera I bought many months ago, after finally working out how to load the film! No idea how the shots I’ve taken will turn out -- or even if they’ve worked -- but the suspense is somehow refreshing in a life increasingly built on the expectation of instant gratification.

Having a chat with my favourite barista about his rugby match over the weekend.

Pledging to buy nothing new throughout the month of October

Pride in myself for starting my own savings account, and watching the little seedling that is my recently neglected financial independence grow (and challenging long-accepted notions of myself as a profligate spender).

Booking a ticket to see a curious performance by a well-known Melbourne graphic novellist

Counting down the days until we head up to Brisbane to accompany my husband on a business trip. It’ll be a wonderful opportunity to see the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art!

Spring cleaning and sprucing up my desk at work for a colleague who will be using it on the days that I'm not there.

Honouring my bravery in showing up for my psychologist's appointment today, and for talking through the clunky end to last week's session. We're good.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

She was free


"Then, before Phillipa could become enthusiastic about her final demise, help came in the most unexpected form: a bigger, more splendid version of herself as she used to be before her first heart's disappointment. This forgotten self flew Phillipa out of the waiting room to a location above the theatre of her own personal drama.

Phillipa looked down on her past from a place far removed, and for the first time saw a collection of human beings who had been looking for love, just like her, making mistakes, just like her, and hoping for something better, just like her.

As Phillipa floated above her lost loves, they suddenly looked harmless and strangely innocent. It occurred to Phillipa at that moment, that eventually all we are really left with is our own reflection. [...]

Suddenly her inner coping structure collapsed and she allowed a dam of tears to break free, and all the long denied feelings, good and bad, gushed out. [...]

At that moment, it occurred to Phillipa that she was free."

Emma Magenta
The gradual demise of Phillipa Finch:
a journey through the trials of love to happiness and freedom

[You can watch an animated version of this extraordinary story, where Emma Magenta's exquisite illustrations are brought to life and narrated by Toni Collette here. Highly recommended!]