Thursday, March 29, 2012
because it may be the only half hour today in which you do something that makes you feel like you.
because you would really love to meet that deadline and take advantage of that opportunity.
because there is a kitchenful of dishes in the sink.
because you haven't started getting ready for tomorrow.
because your little 'un is napping: an increasingly rare eventuality.
because you have a stinking head cold and feel like shid.
because you need a distraction from the reality that an unpleasant and unhappy colleague is doing her best to besmirch your goodname.
because it's a beautiful day and you really should be outside.
because you love catching glimpses of the paint underneath your fingernails during the week and thinking to yourself, "These are the hands of an artist".
because you just ate too much chocolate and if you don't have something constructive to do, you may just eat a lot more.
because you're playing Féfé really loud.
because it makes no sense.
because you need to.
because of all these reasons or perhaps despite of them, but who cares.
For the love of all things sacred: just paint.
For more sacred acts, be sure to visit Our Creative Spaces!
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
It was a pretty trying weekend in our house. My husband was worn out from a very stressful work week. I was lumbering along with a sinusy head cold. Our little ‘un was more or less back on track after three weeks of one-ailment-after-another.
The onset of illness usually brings out some frenetic domestic activity in me. But after a bit of coaxing towards self-care (and a couple of stern words from my husband) I ran myself a lovely hot bath, read a book from cover to cover, went to bed early.
Thank goodness I did. My little ‘un woke crying with an ear ache at about 10pm. Some paracetamol, a lot of Shaun the Sheep and a dozen stories later, we managed to settle her back to sleep. As I went back to bed, I found myself meditating on the very real possibility that it was going to be “one of those nights” and that I probably wouldn’t get much sleep.
I was right. We were up every two hours, for two hours. I agreed to stay with my little ‘un in her “big girl bed”, partly to give her comfort and partly to ensure that we wouldn’t disturb my husband (so at least one of us would be functioning, come sunrise). We got up, we took paracetamol, we watched a lot more Shaun the Sheep, we gently sipped water. We climbed into bed, we read books, we cuddled and fell into feverish exhausted sleep. Then did it all again two hours later.
Somewhere in the dim recesses of 3am a sentence formed loud and luminous in my mind.
There are many words for joy: use the ones you need.
In the morning, after catching up on some sleep and sustenance, I stopped to ponder. What were the words I needed, to find the joy in the past 24 hours?
I recalled: the sound of my little girl’s deep sleep breathing; her kisses when she woke and saw me lying next to her; the victory in each little sip of water; the heavenly smell and perfect weight of my lavender eye pillow; raisin toast and earl grey tea; pyjamas all day; mindful capturing of delicious moments (thanks to Sunday Snippets). There was joy in relief, in comfort.
I also remembered: my husband and me gently checking-in with each other; the great big leave pass to stop and heal and enjoy whatever was possible to enjoy; the probability that the worse case scenarios were unlikely; knowing that it would pass. There was joy in faith.
But there was also: struggling with my helplessness to “fix” everything; feeling misunderstood in my fears; frustration at having to suppress my own unwellness. The joy here was less obvious, and it was a different sort of joy, but it was there nonetheless. There was joy in being open to all my feelings, in allowing space for my imperfections.
This week, there may be moments when you struggle. These moments could be big, like staring into the abyss of self-loathing and despair. Or they could be smaller and more everyday, like worrying how you're ever going to get it all done, or just wishing you could have some time out.
This week, in these moments, I offer you a firm hand to hold. And a lavender eye pillow and some small sips of water and the sound of a little person’s deep sleep breathing. And I say to you: there are many words for joy. And they might not be the obvious ones. But they are your words nonetheless.
I'm not saying that we should doggedly look for the positive in any given situation. Sure, we could choose to focus on the comfort and relief. In my experience, this is never really enough to change anything. And let's face it: some stuff just sucks. But there is a lot of grace to be found in those sucky moments, if we just let them happen.
And sometimes, clinging onto that grace is all that we have.
This week, as you travel through your story, use the words you need. You may be surprised at the joy nestled among them.
Be sure to check back next week for a little celebration of one year of worthiness, and a super-sweet giveaway!
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Funnily enough, feeling under the weather has made me look even more keenly back over the week to remember all the things that lit up my world, including...
1. Turning the heating on, putting the winter doonas on our beds, sipping hot chocolate, burrowing in for the onset of Autumn.
2. A dear colleague lending me the first book in the Phryne Fisher series. I've been so enjoying the TV series on Friday nights, despite the often mawkish script and occasionally awkward acting. What's not to love about Essie Davis in a cloche hat? Or Melbourne in the 1920s?
3. Penning a generous and heartfelt testimonial for a program I truly enjoyed and appreciated.
4. My winning haiku is currently featured on the uncommongoods homepage!
5. Giving myself permission to skip a swimming session, despite missing the exercise and the catch-up with my sister. Knowing that the exertion would wipe me out completely.
6. The comfiest boots seriously ever (purchased on sale from Sydney airport, as it happens).
7. Making a commitment to myself to meet a painting deadline and opportunity.
8. My husband's lentil soup, warming my soul.
9. Soaking in a deep hot bath, reading a beautiful book. Savouring the sweet silence... until my little 'un decided she wanted to join me.
10. Finally, on a whim, joining twitter. And absolutely loving it! Feeling like I have stepped into a giant humming conversation with likeminded souls. And feeling inspired to track down an appropriate handheld device and 3G plan to take my participation one step further...
For more lentil soup for the soul, be sure to stop by Maxabella's 52 weeks of grateful!
Friday, March 23, 2012
Some days, you need to take your time getting out of your pyjamas.
Some days, it’s possible to shrug your shoulders and smile at yourself for signing up for that thing you said would never possibly interest you.
Some days, a cuddle really will make things alright.
Some days, email really isn’t all that important at all.
Some days, that magpie feather sitting on your doormat really is a sign from the universe just for you.
Some days, a walk in the sunshine is the best thing ever, even if the pram you’re pushing feels like it weighs a tonne.
Some days, sitting for twenty minutes with a bag of dark chocolate-covered fruit and nuts and a new magazine is the best thing ever.
Some days, signing up at the local library feels like opening up a whole new world.
Some days, staring into the sky is even more mesmerising than people-watching.
Some days, it is better to hold back and give a little person some space, even if you’re afraid they’ll fall.
Some days, leftovers make a perfectly fine dinner.
Some days, fresh towels feel like extreme decadence and clean floors deserve some kind of international superhero award.
Some days, stopping to watch a little person do a crazy made-up tap-dance just to “feel you better” will actually make you feel better.
Some days, matching pink fluffy bath robes are the only thing that will keep you warm.
Some days, your body is perfectly capable of healing itself, provided you let it.
Some days, going to bed at 8pm is the only answer.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
This business of putting words to feelings is a curious one. I know I'm not the first person to notice how much easier it is to do this when it's pen on paper or fingertips on a keyboard (or a dexterous thumb on mobile phone keys!).
There are some times when I struggle to get the words out. Like, literally, I cannot make my mouth form the consonants. They are trapped in my gut and cannot find their way through the murky filter of feelings that constricts my throat. Even when all that is required is a single syllable: yes.
But here's the thing.
Pushing that tiny syllable out can force a violent spill of emotions. They are ancient, they are dark, they are frightening and the process of expelling them can feel cripplingly lonely.
And then, what's left is... space.
Exquisite clean space.
Space like the ocean has just crashed through your soul and violently cleansed it of every bit of debris you have buried since the day you were born. Absolutely no chance of holding on, holding back.
But now this space is yours. It is you.
This stepping in to the self you truly are: it's exhausting, for sure. And confronting. And it can only really be done in baby steps at first. And it can get a bit disheartening when you learn that you really do need to practice it every single day.
It also takes some smarts: finding the right person to hear the right thing at the right time. The process of discovering that can be as painful as the words you're trying so hard not to say. And can provide exactly the discouragement you keep you exactly where you are: silent, alone.
But it does get easier.
And so very freeing and beautiful.
I say all this because this is journey I am on right now. I think it may just be the defining journey of adult life. In some ways, I am kicking myself that I have left it until I was 37. In other ways, I have a lot of compassion for the fears that prevented this... and so much hope and optimism for the years I have left.
I also say this because I recently read a dear friend's blog post: a jagged torrent of vulnerable and angry words, charting her anxieties and frustrations over the past two years. "I don’t want to come here and just sit on the couch and talk," She says, "Because it doesn’t change anything."
I don't know anything about this conversation: where, why and with whom it happened. But there is something I would like to say to this sweet suffering soul.
You're right: I doesn't change anything.
But it will change you.
And in changing you, it will change everything.
And you are worthy of all the beauty and pain and learning and life that this will bring.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Saturday, March 17, 2012
This week, I have been grateful for...
1. Lots of lovely rain, making the garden look lush and inspiring me to stay snug indoors.
2. A brave email conversation with beautiful Bron (aka marvellous Maxabella) on the murkiness of money in marriage.
3. Stealing snippets of time to paint, and realising that's exactly how I do it, no matter how much I envy people who make plans and schedules and stick to them.
4. My bff's forgiveness and understanding. She is one special gal.
5. My little un's superlative baking efforts viz one extremely delicious Chelsea Bun.
6. Using up the rest of a Christmas gift voucher to buy some huge canvases. Excited at the prospect of diving in, getting messy and seeing what happens.
7. Hatching a plan with my sweet sister to see the lovely, talented chap who composed the soundtrack to Amelie perform live at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
8. Blue cheese on nashi pears.
9. One very stylish handmade cuff arriving in the mail, a decadent treat to myself.
10. Getting in to the swing of using my Smash Journal for tiny gems of words, colours, textures, images that catch my eye... and the odd book wishlist!
For more sweet moments to savour, be sure to stop by Maxabella's heavenly haven for all things grateful.
Friday, March 16, 2012
What does it mean for a painter to paint in the manner of So-and-So or to actually imitate someone else? What's wrong with that? On the contrary, it's a good idea... And it's at the very moment you make a botch of it that you're yourself.
For more beautiful botches, be sure to visit Our Creative Spaces.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I've been having a bit of tooth trouble of late. This is quite unusual for me. Today marked my third visit to the dentist in as many weeks: I'm usually a once-a-year check-up kinda gal.
As much as it's been discomforting (and expensive), there have been ironies in the situation that have not been lost on me.
My first visit revealed an old filling that had been decaying underneath.
My second visit required the removal and replacement of the filling, and a thorough clean-out of the decomposed tooth. Yes, it was uncomfortable and expensive, though neither as bad as I thought.
This visit also included the warning that fixing this particular problem might not completely eradicate the sensitivity I'd been experiencing.The adjoining tooth, which also contained an old filling, might be similarly troubled.
The third visit was to investigate this adjoining tooth. At the end of the appointment, my dentist wrote me out a detailed list of options and apologised for his initial assumption that the problem would be a "simple one to fix". In fact, the nerve underneath the disintegrating filling had been damaged beyond repair. Root canal work was in order.
This particular filling was over 20 years old and had probably done its job quite well. I found myself confessing that I'd only recently realised that I had been eating exclusively on the other side of my mouth, but that I wasn't sure how long I'd been doing it.
Aside from providing some mundane and forgettable (and possibly slightly icky) details for my weekly blog post, these events did get me thinking.
How many painful things do we patch up and smooth over in our lives, so that they can function?
How many of these things continue to fester under the surface until we are forced to deal with them... by which time, they cost us a lot more (emotionally, psychologically) than if we'd dealt with them straight away?
Then again, how many times do we face fears and find that they are nowhere near as monstrous nor insurmountable as we'd led ourselves to believe?
How many things do we fix in the hope that we are fixed, and that we never suffer again?
How long does it take us to notice the new habits we have formed -- instinctively -- to avoid discomfort?
Strangely enough, if I were to answer these questions strictly in relation to my dental situation, the answers would be less straightforward than you might think. There's a whole lot of murky stuff in there, and I am not just referring to tooth decay or nerve atrophy. I'm thinking more about the trust we place in medical professionals who are themselves limited by the technology they have at their disposal (think silver fillings 20 years ago). I'm thinking of the deeply idiosyncratic way in which we prioritise our health amongst other needs and wants in daily life.
The issue of money is also very much at the forefront of my mind: this root canal business is going to be excruciatingly expensive and marks the first time - aside from the birth of our child -- where I have had to ask my husband for assistance with my personal medical costs. The cost of the prior two appointments was part of the reason I had left them so long.
I never thought that my teeth would be the issue that taught me so much humility.
The thing I am wanting to register in all of this is that humility is one thing, humiliation is another. My teeth and I, we've survived up until now. And we've done pretty well, all things considered.
So this week, I invite you to be open to the possibility that quick fixes, smoothing things over, avoiding discomfort might not be sustainable -- or even preferable -- in the long term. But, in saying this, I want to extend my hand to you in comfort and kinship, and whisper in your ear that whatever you have done up until now, however it has served you, is totally OK.
You are certainly worthy of the journey, if you decide to excavate deeper. But if keeping going is all you can manage until the universe makes you consider otherwise, well, I'm totally with you there.
Monday, March 12, 2012
I saw the way you handled that tricky situation. I saw that it brought up a lot of stuff for you. I saw how you did your best, in the only way you knew how. I saw love.
Yes, you really do have a guardian angel. More than one, in fact.
I am amazed at everything you manage to squeeze in to, and out of, a day.
Yes, there is actually such a thing as an ATM that dispenses cupcakes.
Please don’t be hard on yourself. Sometimes, irrational and anxious and inconsolable and unreasonable is the only way forward.
It’s only your day job. Not everyone you work with feels that way. Bully for them.
Disco nailpolish is never not a good idea.
I know how continual trip-ups, even on the smallest of things, can wear you down after a while. I am so proud of you for keeping going.
You are kind. You are clever. You are creative. You are intuitive.
Calmer times are coming.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
This weekend, I have been grateful for...
1. Resolving some mightily thorny issues at work.
2. Going to the pool and doing those thirty laps on my own, despite desperately not feeling like it.
3. Resolving some spikily unpleasant issues at work.
4. Retrieving my car from the car park at work and discovering that the ticket machine was faulty. The men who were fixing it instructed me to buzz the intercom upon exiting, granting me a full day of parking (usually $14) for free!
5. Smooth travel, including patience in excruciating traffic, planes leaving on time, navigating long term carparks, edible plane food (wow!).
6. A very kind stranger offering to share a cab into town. Then graciously releasing me to catch the train when the cab queue looked like it might never move!
7. A day of wandering and wondering. Capturing bursts of colour and texture and shadow on camera.
8. Real mint tea, just like my Mum used to make (and my Mum's Mum, and probably her Mum before that).
10. Returning home to cuddles and calming chores.
For more sweetness to savour, be sure to stop by and say hello to Maxabella and friends!
Friday, March 9, 2012
I've had some funny luck with my haiku. I mean, considering they are not "real" haiku at all.
Last year, one of my haiku won a competition. The haiku was written onto a paper plane and, of all the paper planes, mine flew the farthest. Crazy, right?!
More recently, I noticed that a rather lovely online boutique was running a haiku competition. The challenge was to write a little poem for four selected products, for the chance to win the product and get the haiku published in their newsletter.
So I wrote three little haiku, including this little number inspired by a beautiful bespoke ring:
I give you this ring:
I may be stumped for words but
the heart says it all
On Monday evening (Tuesday morning here in Australia) I received an email to let me know that I had won! The personalised handmade ring is being made for me as I write, and my haiku will appear in the next newsletter. Hard to know which excites me more!
A gorgeous gift from the universe in an otherwise rather punishing week.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Ali Edwards wrote yesterday about being knee deep in the stuff of life. I could certainly relate to her words. Today, I find myself wading to shore. For the past week, I have been on the brink of drowning.
I'm tempted to skim over it all and diminish how I've been feeling. After all, there are billions of others who suffer more on a daily basis than me. I am so blessed and don't want to appear ungrateful.
And, of course, I am a bit over my stuff at the moment. It's all just small stuff: stuff I shouldn't be sweating, right? Stuff, certainly, that no-one else would find interesting.
As my anxieties ease a little, and I feel a bit more myself, I can see that this is actually a story worth telling. It's one I know a lot of people (women especially) can relate to.
It's one that I want my daughter to read.
It's the story where I am up from 2am to 4am soothing a vomiting child. It's the one where, halfway through the episode, I have to wake my husband because I realise that I can't deal with it on my own. It's my gratitude for his willingness to help. It's my ambivalence towards my own efforts: torn between comforting our little 'un through her unwellness, and ensuring that everything is clean and tidy so that we can all return to sleep. It's about going to work the next day and calling home every half an hour for fear that she won't wake up. It's about her eventually surfacing but me adding very little value at work.
It's about my heart breaking for a little girl who is not quite herself but is making a real effort. It is about a trip to our local for lunch, sitting outside then having to duck for cover from a swarm of wasps. It is about frantic housecleaning. It is about toothache and tears over offers to help pay for expensive dental work. It is about the washed-out birthday celebrations and her disinterest in her birthday presents. It is about an overnight diarrhoea episode that literally burns her skin under her nappy. It is about her fear and anxiety, and her refusal to let anyone look at (let alone clean) the area. It is about being encouraged to go to work anyway. It is about emails bouncing back. It is about calling home every half an hour, then going home early.
It is about a cancelled therapy appointment. It is about coaxing that petrified little girl off the towel on the couch, where she has not moved a muscle all day. It is about a victorious four spoonfuls of cereal and a tiny nibble of toast. It is about my mother and mother-in-law coming down with the same virus. It is about a highly stressful bathtime, and then a bathroom light that won't switch off. It is about my husband trying to fix it and receiving an electric shock. It is about a panic attack and a call to the doctor. It is about reassurances and calls to the electrician. It is about staying home from kinder and having a major attack of the grumps.
It is about having the electricity turned off for five hours while a man crawls in the roof and shouts down to another man while they try to work out where the fault is. This also means no favourite DVDs, which is usually the most effective way of soothing an unsettled little person. It is about toilet training regression. It is about no daytime naps. It is about hating myself for not knowing how to "entertain" my daughter without the back-up of the television. It is about hating myself even more for wishing I could escape the house, the illness, the relentless insecurity.
It is about making an effort to contribute to the household by cooking dinner. It is about fretting whether I have undercooked, then overcooked, the meat... and realising that this is a weekly occurrence. It is about making the mistake of checking my work emails at home and finding myself on the receiving end of some very patronising and unhelpful attitudes. It is about calls to be bold in pushing our painting, and encouragement to commit to colours and images on our canvases. It is about putting my paints away, trying to clear some space. It is about frightening dreams. It is about another day of electricians crawling in the roof and disrupted power supplies and abandoned plans to get out of the house. It is about a stranger taking a piece of fine bone china off the drying rack and helping themselves to a drink. It is about histrionics over a dropped muesli bar.
It is about noticing that I have overtly negative and pessimistic about everything that has happened over the past week. It is about seeing one little person's distress and confusion. It is about realising that this is how a little girl grows up thinking that she is responsible for everything that is going wrong around her.
This story isn't easy to read. It isn't glamorous. It isn't entertaining. It isn't even all that interesting.
But over the past week, it has been my story. And it hasn't left much room for anything else.
As I write all this I see there is still quite a lot of work to be done. When things don't go smoothly, I still give myself a really hard time. I really struggle to show my vulnerability and panic about losing control. I don't give myself any space.
I want my little girl to read this. I want her to know that the bad days were not all her fault. That people are human and vulnerable and have all sorts of stuff going on that makes it hard for them to respond in a constructive way.
And I want to know this too.
Somehow, writing this feels like the first step.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
It will get easier.
You are doing good work, all the time.
Watching someone you love suffer is heartbreaking business. And it's even worse when the grumps make them harder to love. Everyone has their limits.
That's why it's called comfort food. Give yourself a break.
You'll get it done.
People do sometimes take a long time to reply. Doesn't mean they're not thinking about it.
It will heal.
You can recapture the magic, any time.
Their life is so not perfect, whatever the photos may look like.
It's natural to look for quick-fixes, simple solutions, happiness in the mailbox.
You don't have to do it all.
You're allowed to do it crappily.
Messy. Ikky. Murky. Restless. Some days just are. They'll pass.
Your instincts are right: someone else's sense of urgency is not your responsibility.
You can never have too many pairs of boots.
You have permission: rest.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
1. A really fun grown-up chai-and-macaron date with my little 'un, including a successful trip to the bathroom.
2. The weather outside matching how I feel on the inside: soft and dewy after a massive, unsettling storm.
3. Catching up with two friends individually over a glass of wine (or three). Brave conversations. Taking our friendships to a whole new level.
4. Helping out a colleague who is acting in her role and occasionally unsure of what is being asked of her. Enjoying watching her blossom.
5. Making a list that surprised me in just how closely it resembles a plan for my creative life over the next couple of years. Exciting! And achievable. I'm on my way...
6. Autumn arriving with the flick of a switch. Digging out accessories for cooler weather: hats, scarves, gloves, boots. My favourite was of celebrating my self in the outside world.
7. Krystyn Pixton's dreamy music.
8. Watching my little 'un's earnest attempts at conversation with her cousins and her friends at kindergarten. Loving her bravery and sincerity, and her earnestness in listening.
9. Courage with a blank canvas opening up a whole new world.
10. Treading water, in the midst of a strange unsettled time for my little 'un. A night of gastro, two days of fluctuating energy, surly moods, disinterest in food, underwhelmed responses to her birthday presents. The full range of emotion this evokes, magnified by sleep deprivation. But... witnessing strong teamwork emerging...
10 +1. Paris vs New York: my favourite dilemma!
For more sweet savouring, be sure to stop by Maxabella's gorgeous homage to gratitude.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
A strange thing happened this evening. I put aside the canvases I had been working on, ones that had me a little stuck and feeling distinctly un-brave.
I pulled out a blank canvas, I unwrapped my pallet, I picked up my brushes and other implements. And I started to paint!
I listened to music, I made lots of different marks, I sprayed water onto the paint to achieve various effects, I got my hands and fingernails extremely messy.
I worked with what was working (with thanks to Flora).
I was completely absorbed. I wasn't especially precious about my paints or my canvas, and I didn't mind pushing my self to work over patches of colour or texture or shapes that I liked.
I had no inner noise.
I knew that nothing would be ruined. I knew that everything would likely change. I had no idea of the outcome. I finished up with a starting point.
And I loved it.
I was a painter.
To see more gorgeous artists finding their groove, be sure to visit Our Creative Spaces.