Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Snippets

{sunday snippets} is a collection of photos from the week (or, in this case, weekend).  No need for words: let the pictures tell the story.  Be sure to savour more snippets, or join in, at {tinniegirl}.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Savouring my Saturday

This week, I have been grateful for...

1. The goodfolk at Google contacting me to say that someone tried to log in to my email account using an application in Nanyang, Henan, China. I have no idea why someone would want to try and do this -- and I suspect it doesn't bear thinking about -- but I was grateful for their vigilance, and for protecting my account. Then I changed my passwords straight away.

2. My lovely new yoga and pilates class. Great timing, great location, great price. Lovely instructor(s). Relative anonymity in a room of five other women, all benign strangers. Investing in my first yoga mat (purple, yum). My little 'un has dubbed it my "ogre mat". Hmmm...

3. Discovering a new band, listening to the radio on the way to yoga. Alabama Shakes: I cannot stop listening to their album. Janis is alive and she is beautiful!

4. Managing to successfully book tickets for Jack White's Melbourne show. A bit proud of myself, because a week ago I didn't even know how presale worked. Got my jollies when I read that Alabama Shakes had supported Jack White's US tour. Sadly, they won't be coming to Australia with him, but I can't say I'm disappointed to be experiencing sassy-ass Lanie Lane instead!

5. My copy of Danielle La Porte's Fire Starter Sessions arrived yesterday. I'm two pages in and it's already blowing my mind. Seriously sensational stuff.

6. Making plans to wind down my therapy sessions over the next few months. Feeling good about that and good about where I am. I'm sure I'll be sharing more about this as I transition into this next phase of my journey.

7. A delicious rainy day "carpet picnic" lunch of doner kebab, dips, Turkish bread and salad, accompanied by The Wind in the Willows.

8. Picking up my bike from being serviced. Loving the staff at this bike shop: helpful, honest, not in any way patronising. Fantastic value all 'round. Then... loving  actually riding my bike. Even the "fat blaster" uphill bits! Loving walking to my daughter's kinder during magic hour to collect my bike from where I left it, Alambama Shakes blasting my ears and rocking my soul as the shy turns pink then orange then grey. (So much so, that I actually walked down the wrong street!)

9. A decadent Wednesday morning. A public holiday but my daughter's creative play session was running as usual. So my husband and I took the opportunity to go on a brunch date, and discovered a gorgeous new local cafe (in the site of a lovely old pub) in the process. Then nooded around in our cosy warm home while it poured with rain outside.

10. My beautiful friends' creative celebration of her bedroom, as she courageously walks into the next phase of her life as a newly-single woman. Just listen to the things she has incorporated, and take a quiz at the linen she has ordered, below. (Note: this is not actually her bedroom, it's just a photo of the bedding she has bought.) I have warned her that when I visit, I may refuse to stay in the guest room if this room is as heavenly as it sounds!

A new white modern bed against high gloss yellow wall. Chandelier. Black and white zig zag curtains. A cool vintage chair. I want to find some old sign letters to go over my bed and say something ridiculous like "Wow" (not shabby chic, more the industrial kind).

For more creative celebrations and affirmations, be sure to visit Maxabella today!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Always returning to face the fear

I am not less of an artist because I am afraid, or because I am uninspired, or because I paint ugly things sometimes. I am more of an artist because I keep coming back and facing the blockages, facing the fear. All artists face anxiety around their work. It is part of the process. 

Carmen Torbus
The Artist Unique: 
Inspiration and Techniques to Discover your Creative Signature

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Worthiness Wednesday #55 Filling that god-shaped hole

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the feeling of not belonging that was beginning to pervade my work days. I wasn't necessarily sad or afraid of this feeling, just curious about what it meant. It felt good to process it in this space, and I'm grateful to my pals Cathy and Phil for their wisdom and insight in response.

Then yesterday, the penny dropped: I have always felt like I haven't belonged, especially at work.

What's changing is that I no longer care.

For almost all of my adult life, I have worked in the same large and complex organisation, albeit in several roles. It has been where I have spent the majority of my waking hours.

For most of my adult life, my identity, my sense of self, has been inextricably linked to my work.

I know that this is by no means a unique story. But I also know that it hasn't been good for me.

Of course, there were many highlights: achievements I'm proud of, lovely people, memorable experiences, incredible learning curves, recognition and reward. But there were also many pitfalls: burnout and unwellness, toxic politics, competitive environments that brought out the worst in people, unfairness, frustration.

Looking back, I see a girl who was once described as having The Midas Touch. I see her fêted for her awesome organisational skills, her writing flair, her confidence in public speaking, her slightly off-beat dress sense, her crazy irreverent humour, her fierce work ethic. I also see her wound up and sent into battle, only too happy to speak her mind, score sore points, gain approval.

This was all pretty seductive, for a girl whose opinion of herself was always pretty dependent on others' opinion of her.

I see that girl trying to dress like her more glamorous colleagues. I see that girl trying to keep up with the drinking pace. I see that girl dumbing herself down, resenting her errant mind and quicksilver work habits. I see that girl crying with frustration at being sidelined and overlooked. I see that girl nursing wounded feelings, and realising too late that she may have hurt others. I see that girl shopping too much, eating too much, drinking too much, smoking an awful lot. I see that girl lost and lonely and bored. I see that girl assuming without question that all of this was her fault.

Because she was a bad person. Because she didn't fit in. Because she was a bad person.

Because when she looked in the mirror, that work persona was all there was to see.

I recently read a gorgeous tweet by one of my all-time favourite writers Anne Lamott, who clocked her own desperate behaviour at a garage sale: "Fanciest friends brought beautiful things, which I pawed thru, hoping as usual to fill the god-shaped hole".

Reading this, I realised that for many years I had been trying to use work to fill my "god-shaped hole". Unfortunately, all that my work environment really did was reflect back to me the worst bits of myself, like a gloating self-fulfilling prophecy. I was shallow, I was unhappy, I was lost and -- despite the fact that many of my colleagues were also these things -- I sure as hell didn't fit in.

It was like school all over again.

These days, as I plough through this worthiness work, my reflection looks quite different. I see a girl finally giving herself permission to do the things she loves. I see a girl venturing to step outside other people's definitions of her. I see a girl who is filling her "god-shaped hole" with things that signal god to her: exquisite words, kindred spirits, courageous art, soulful music, nourishing food, a healthy body, love despite imperfection, a slow reflective pace.

And in this reflection, suddenly there is very little room for who-is-saying-what and who-didn't-do-what-she-said-she'd-do and who-is-building-empires and who-dresses/looks/eats/sounds-funny.

Ironically, I am still the golden girl at work, for many of the same reasons as when I started. But outside my work life, I am finding that this gives me a little satisfaction... and that's it.

So, this week, I invite you to look in the mirror and think about what is reflected back to you. Is your reflection something of your own cultivation? Where are the blurry bits, where others have attempted to impose their own view? Could it be that you don't necessarily have to accept these bits as they are? Could it be that a little curiosity and a lot of compassion may reveal a "god-shaped hole"?

This week, I invite you to think of how you want to fill that hole... because you really do have a choice. And you can fill it with things so abundantly beautiful and true, that there just won't be any room for anything else.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My most beautiful thing

I hear my question
I see I need no answer
Sphinx: I let you go

In the space you held
I see that I am not a
problem to be solved

With eyes wide open
We can travel together,
my story and I

Today I'm taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things, inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Bloggers from all over the world are taking part and writing or posting pictures of their most beautiful things today. Find out more here and see everyone else's blog posts here. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Scintillate your senses (for free!)

See: This video. Once you've watched it, stop for a moment and close your eyes. What does your body feel like? Is your heart racing? Are there butterflies in your solar plexus? [Warning: it may be hard to resist ordering the book right away]

Hear: The whirr of the washing machine. The hum of the fridge. The traffic in the distance. Your neighbour's dog barking, signalling her return home. The breathing of your little 'un, nestled in your lap. The almost imperceptible "click!" that your clock radio makes as it ticks past midnight. The rhythm of your days.

Taste: Your lunch. I mean, really taste it. Like, stop everything you are doing and savour every single morsel. If you need any convincing of the power of this, read Geneen Roth's interview in the Huffington Post about women who eat at their desks!

Smell: The roses. If you live in Melbourne, like me, you will notice that all the roses in the neighbourhood have exploded with the last gasp of Autumn sunshine. Stopping to smell these magnificent creatures over a garden fence will reward you with the full glory of the goddess in a single moment. (If you're living in the Northern Hemisphere, I'm pretty sure that blossoms will have the same impact. If you're living in the tropics, I'd image you'd be spoilt for choice!)

Touch: The bare soles of your feet together. Or the bare soles of your feel against those of the one(s) you love. I don't think I could explain how or why this is so delicious. It just is.

Know: That you understand this maxim of Joseph Campbell's on a cellular level:

I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about, and that's what these clues help us to find within ourselves.

(With thanks to Chris Guillebeau for the quote, and to Liz Lamoreux for the inspiration to honour this sixth sense.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday snippets

{sunday snippets} is a collection of photos from the week (or, in this case, weekend).  No need for words: let the pictures tell the story.  Be sure to savour more snippets, or join in, at {tinniegirl}.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Savouring my Saturday

This week I have been grateful for...

1. Getting back into swimming after an altogether-too-long hiatus. Dragging my feet to the pool, then swimming thirty laps without too much difficulty. Feeling amazing afterwards: clearer lungs, head, heart than I've had in ages!

2. Submitting my manuscript to PanMcMillan's Manuscript Monday. "God loves a tryer" as an ex-boyfriend Irish fisherman beat poet used to say (and he should know).

3. A hysterical night of Judith Lucy with my sister-in-law.

4. Discovering this incredible talent, and making plans with my bff and the usual gang of music lovers to see her live.

5. Glorious Autumn sunshine.

6. Saying no to some things, with the support of my sensational sounding boards... and my own intuition. Feels good.

7. Being recommended to a physiotherapist who runs a local pilates and yoga class, at a time and location and cost that work really well for me, and with a practitioner less likely to trigger my introjects.

8. Writing time!

9. Some sweet and slow dawning clarity about who I am, what I have to offer and why. Pondering what this means for my creative life and online presence. Feeling some bravery emerge...

10. The plan to press "Publish", log off, then go meet my sister for a facial and manicure: part of her early birthday present for me. I'm a lucky gal!!

For more gorgeous gratitude, be sure to stop by and say "hi!" to  Maxabella today!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Worst day, best day, just today

I was pretty certain that today was going to be one of the worst days ever. Not because anything especially awful was going to happen. Just because I didn't think I was going to be able to cope.

Actually, let me clarify: I didn't know how I was going to do it all.

Or be it all.

Or be anything, for that matter.

It was my little 'un's first day at kindergarten. It was also a work day for me. It was a day that required careful logistical planning. And learning how to use a Dymo machine to make iron-on labels. Then labelling every item of clothing in my little 'un's wardrobe. (In the end, I drew a line at socks. She can lose a lot of socks. As long as I don't have to iron labels onto every one, I don't care.)

It was a busy work day. I had three meetings (that's three more than usual) and a research deadline. I also had to have a flu vaccination. And leave at lunchtime to meet my little 'un and Mother-in-Law at kinder, to see them settled in the arrival routine. Possibly eat somewhere in there. Then leave early to collect my littlie.

The thing that was going to make all of this run like clockwork was the fact that I was going to ride my bike. Quicker to work, quicker to and from the kinder (or home to get the car and drive everyone to kinder if it was pouring), quicker to collect my littlie at the end of the day.

I woke up to pouring rain.

I also woke after a bad night, which followed a not-so-wonderful day. A day of self-criticism and loathing. An evening of things-not-said, sensory overload, multitasking-gone-haywire, of misunderstandings.

I was feeling small and stupid and so very very inadequate.

And ill-equipped to cope with a tightly packed day.

So when the rain started pouring, I was pretty convinced that all my plans were going to fall apart, mainly because I was about to set out on my bike and cop a decent soaking first up.

Maybe it was a tiny whisper that convinced me to abandon plans to ride in the rain and catch the bus. I think it was just a fluke of timing that one of my meetings was cancelled. I'm very fortunate that the best barista on campus is located a stone's throw from my office, so I used that new little window in my calendar to sneak out and order a flat white... and today my barista not only made me an excellent coffee, he had seriously fabulous hair that made me smile for a good half hour afterwards (just wish I'd had my camera with me!).

I suspect my guardian angel was responsible for the brilliant sunshine that obviated the need for me to return home and ferry everyone to kinder. I was blessed by my Mother-in-law's willingness to take my little 'un to kinder on her own (and, as it turned out, stay for the duration of the session).

Maybe it was the glimmer of some of the things I have been learning about self-care that inspired me to go for a swim during my lunch break instead. It was probably luck that the other two meetings I attended were run efficiently and ended on time. It was calculated good fortune that the grilled haloumi hot roll I picked up for lunch was absolutely delicious.

I was incredibly glad the flu jab lasted less than a millisecond, was conducted punctually, and resulted in no ill effects. I made it comfortably on foot to the tram, which was also -- thanks be to the Goddess -- on time, and I made it to kinder in good time to collect my weary but happy little girl.

As I prepared her a light early dinner, my husband and I had an earnest chat about the clunkiness of our previous night's efforts... and promised to try and signal to each other when we'd prefer to defer our conversation for a quieter time.

Now that my little 'un is in bed, we are doing the last of our private unwinding: me on the computer, him on the playstation. The blue cheese is reaching room temperature.The champagne is chilling. A DVD from our sentimental favourite series is about to be selected.

I'm not sure this all makes it the best day ever, but who cares.

I'll take it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Worthiness Wednesday #54 Self-care, with others

A month ago, I received SARK's weekly Great Life Letter in my email inbox. It said:

When I ask people what they think self care is, they usually say 1 of 2 things: "I know I need to do it more," or "I try to make time for massage or yoga or bubble baths."
It's good that we know we need to do it more, and things like massage, bubble baths and yoga are very good.

True self care is more about our self-talk and inner dialogue, than it is about physical activities.
If you are experiencing repetitive negative or critical inner talk, as many people do, this will significantly affect your experiences of everything else you do. Many people don't realize that this is occurring and how they feel about it.

Most of us were taught and conditioned to take care of others before, or instead of ourselves. Then, if there's any left over, we try to practice some kind of self care. If you tend to your own feelings first, you will have more love and energy available for others.

This got me thinking, as I would certainly have found myself in the first category of folk i.e. the ones to automatically think about bubble baths and massages when asked about self-care. I am also very interested in my negative self-talk and the default inner dialogue that sabotages certain aspects of my life.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that this is stuff that I'm working on. It's hard work. And, to be honest, it can be a bit isolating. Partly because it brings up strong feelings that require private time to process. And partly because it can feel like I'm the only one that is dealing with this stuff, that everyone else has got it together, that it's embarrassing, that no-one else gets it... and so on and so on. Which, of course, is just ore "stuff" in the form of self-perpetuating protection mechanisms, that require more time and patience to dismantle.

One of the things I'm realising is that while self-care (in the form that SARK describes it) is critical, it really doesn't have to be done alone.

If I'm going to be honest, I've always been a little suspicious of women who talk about their "tribe". And more than a little jealous.

But I'm beginning to realise that this is because I have a rigid idea of what a tribe does or should look like. And it's either something I abhor (i.e. something that resembles high school dynamics) or something I yearn for but fear I can't have (i.e. a communion of blogging creatives that I've witnessed in other people's lives).

When actually, if I stop and really look around me, I see that I do have my own tribe. I have my bff for conversations about life and family and work and the arts. I have a dear friend on the other side of the planet who is my go-to for any conundrums about marriage and relationships and the work we're doing on ourselves. I have a great gal pal who doesn't live too far away who is a fantastic sounding board when it comes to living the creative life. I have a gorgeous mama friend, who is great for sharing the ups and downs of motherhood and parenthood. I have quite a few great colleagues, with whom I indulge in some very satisfying venting sessions. I have my sister for just about everything. I have my husband for unconditional love. I have my parents for some things. I have an excellent GP. I have my therapist.

But when the chips are down, I know that I rarely call upon these resources. I am beginning to suspect that, alongside the work I am doing on my own inner dialogue, it would be worth investing in the courage it takes to take my dialogue outside of my head, and into a sacred space honoured by a trusted companion.

I know this is not an easy practice, and may take some time to cultivate. But it seems to me, it may make all the difference in coaxing out those inner critics to play a little more nicely.

So, this week, I invite you to think about the people in your life who form your tribe. Rather than focus on the whole, try looking at the individuals and the unique way in which they each connect with you. Soak for a moment in the gorgeous feeling that floods your solar plexus when you think of the gifts they have given you, and what you give them in return. Open your eyes gently to honour the boundaries you have with each person e.g. my husband is always there for me when I need a hug or sympathetic ear, but his eyes glaze over when I talk about touchy-feely arty-farty stuff... but that's OK, I have loads of other arty-farty touchy-feely friends I can share that side of my life with!!

This week, I am holding a little space for you that reminds you that you are not alone. That you do, in fact, have a tribe of your own making. And that it is a worthwhile and worthy tribe, regardless of how ad hoc it looks.

[If you get a little stuck during the process, you might want to have a look at the fantastic free e-course Self-Care for the Soul provided by Jenn Gibson at Roots of She. It's short and unbelievably sweet, and so very very good. I did it and recommend it highly!]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An ode to my trusty steed

My little 'un starts at her new kindergarten this Friday. I'm going to duck out of work at lunchtime to meet her and my mother-in-law there, so we can walk through the first arrival routine together. Then I am going to leave work a little early to pick her up three hours later.

It occurred to me late last week that, realistically, the only way I'd make it from work to kinder (and back) without having to steal an unreasonable amount of time from my employer would be to ride my bike. Walking was just too slow, public transport too unreliable.

I can't say I was looking forward to this. I am not the most confident rider and I am not especially fit.

But, over the weekend I bit the bullet and asked my dear husband to dig the bike out of the garden shed, where it had been stowed outta sight and outta mind for two years.

Today, I pumped the tyres with air and rode over to the nearest bike shop to organise a service. I also need some new lights and a bit of reflective gear.

Today, was my favourite sort of day. Cool but sunny.

Today, I just got on my bike and rode it.

Today, I sailed along the bike path and it felt so damn glorious and easy.

Today, I arrived at the bike shop in Nicholson St and booked in for a service. Then I wandered up the street in the direction of the fish monger.

Today, what I saw was a whole new world. My little 'un usually walk up to the fish monger from a different direction. Nicholson St usually looks tired and a little saggy and quite uninspiring.

Today, having parked my bike and strolled from a new direction I discovered a new French patisserie, a bakery that makes my husband's all-time favourite white hi-top sour sough loaf, a beautiful independent children's book shop, a cute retro vintage store, and a butcher I'd never noticed before. The latter was something of a revelation, as the one we usually go to (a little further up the road) has some major 'tude.

I also picked up a flyer on classes run by the local council for adult riders who want to build up their bike riding confidence.

Today, I felt like riding my bike revealed to me a whole new world... one that had been under my ose the whole time and patiently waiting for me to notice it.

Would you believe the hardest bit, and the bit that took me the longest, was finding my helmet in the back of my wardrobe? I'd cunningly hidden it, so that my little 'un would desist from using it as a toy. A little too cunningly, as it turned out!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Savouring my Saturday

This week, I have been grateful for...

1. My daughter being offered a much-coveted place at the most wonderful kindergarten in our neighbourhood. We went in on Thursday to drop in the forms and she walked right into the room and started playing. The Manager was amazed by her confidence and ease. So proud of my little 'un. And, dare I say, of myself.  (Would you believe that this kinder has a garden including special section just so the kids can savour the deliciousness of playing in mud?!)

2. Seeing James Vincent McMorrow live. Absolutely exquisite.

3. This fantastic blog post by Brené Brown had my shoulders coming down half a metre.

4. Discovering lots of wonderful self-care resources, prompting me to ponder what it really means for me. (More on that soon!) Discovering lots of tantalising writing opportunities in the process.

5. Browsing in my favourite little bookstore and, as always, stumbling on a little treasure that I'd never heard of but soon became my favourite. This time, a book about the artist Swoon. Seriously mindblowing stuff.

6. Deciding to get over myself and buy that pair of trousers, even if they are not the size I think I should be. This is the size I am now. And I really need smart trousers that fit me comfortably.

7. Discovering a Totoro plush during a shopping expedition. Happy times!

8. Hydrangeas.

9. Taking micro steps to dig my bike out of the garden shed, dust off the cobwebs and get it serviced. Reading this delicious book was a great motivation... not that I ever look that glamorous or sanguine riding my bike. Sigh!

10. My sweet husband and little 'un making me quince pancakes this morning!

For more sweet savouring this weekend, be sure to visit munificent Maxabella.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Belonging elsewhere

I went to work today for the first time in just under two weeks. I was surprised how hard I found it to shift my brain into gear! Usually an almond croissant and coffee is all that I need (that, and catching up on a little blog reading to ease myself into the day). But today, it just wasn’t happening.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised: I’m still not feeling 100%.

But I know it’s not just that.

The more time goes on, the more I am overwhelmed by the feeling that I don’t belong here.

I really like most of my colleagues. I enjoy most of the tasks I am asked to perform. I know I can do them well and I do. And I am almost always recognised and thanked for my contribution by people who “count” (to the organisation, and to me).

But the truth is: I’m drifting. My feet are not really planted on this ground underneath my desk. My hands dance across the keyboard but my head is in the clouds. My heart is truly elsewhere.

I’m dreaming. Of writing. Of making art. Of pretty things. Of real connection. Of sweet sweet music – like the gem I’m including here, the exquisite talent I was privileged to witness live last night. I wonder about this feeling.

s it a sign that it really is time to push my self, my creative life, to the next level and move on from this place? Or is it me longing for a life that is not really mine, wanting things to be something else, not really inhabiting where I find my self now? Or a bit of both?

Or neither?

I do resist my day job, insofar as I don't exactly leap out of bed on Mondays and Fridays. And it’s a good thing too. The politics of this place is a vicious vortex I am keen to avoid. But I don't exactly dread Mondays and Fridays, either. And this job does provide me with structure, salary, socialisation.

At this point in my life, I can see how much I do need all of these things.

So maybe this not-fitting-in just is what it is.

Worth noticing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Simply smashing

Colours of Autumn
Cheeky snaps from magazines
Yummy washi tape

Playing fast and free
Not a thought of perfection
Look and I see me

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Worthiness Wednesday #53 Log off and get out

I think I'm done as far as soul searching goes, for the moment.

I'm just home from an hour-and-a-half round trip to drop my little 'un off at my Mother-in-Law's house for the day. I have approximately four hours before my husband brings her home.

I'd like not to spend this time in front of my computer, or even inside the house.

As soon as I press "Publish" I'm logging off. Putting on a cardie. And my sunglasses (this is Melbourne!). I'm going for a walk. I might see if the lass at the closest beauty parlour could squeeze me in for an eyebrow wax. I might treat myself to chai and macarons, maybe reading a novel or possibly just staring out the window. I hope I can resist the temptation to read tweets and blog feeds on my spiffy new iPhone.

Painting, blogging and journalling are my favourite ways to spend the precious time I have to myself. But today, I have a strong calling to leave them be. I'm shelving books that falls into the Personal Development category. And resisting the call to enrol in yet another e-course that will bring me closer to the life I was meant to lead.

Today, I'd just like to get out into the world. And just be.

I want to spend a little time savouring my life exactly as it is now, in the world I live in now.

This may or may not involve shopping. Or a movie.

Will you join me? How about logging off and shutting down your computer? Would it be possible to switch off your phone? Go for a walk with no destination? Treat yourself to "$50 worth of cheer", as my pal Cathy so beautifully put it? Read new magazines at your local library? Get a manicure? Buy some fresh flowers?

Could it be that it's possible to spend a day (or even just a couple of hours of it) not striving for anything? Not pushing yourself towards your best self? Just being the self you are, in among all the other selves out there in your world?

By my reckoning, you are worthy of a break and you are enough just as you are. We all are.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

OOPS! I think I just reached enlightenment

This was quite the Easter. On the surface it was a quiet one. No commitments or outings. A lot of naps. Altogether too many medications and a lot of moaning about unwellness.

Deep down, it was a profound one. A game-changer. A life shifter. Like, seriously: I think I have nutted myself out.

It all started with a tweet. Someone, I can't remember whom, retweeted something from Geneen Roth. It reminded me of that fantastic book of hers that I'd read in New York. So I dug it out, recalling the impression it had made 18 months ago but reasoning that it would have new significance now, in the context of all the work I'd been doing with my therapist.

It did.

It led me down a path, to a recent conversation I'd had with my therapist about something I'd been avoiding. Something I'd been brushing off with a "whatever" attitude, steadfastly uncurious about why I'd be so blasé about something so important to me.

I followed this path to my recent unwellness and forced myself to why it was that I tended to disappear, forget who I was, lose sight of my own agency. After all, it's not like I can't look after myself.

I pushed forward, dismantling the drama I create about how the people nearest and dearest to me tend to evaporate when I am unwell, becoming competitive and/or diminishing my suffering, rather than offering tea and sympathy (which is all I really want... although some offers to pick up the slack also wouldn't go astray, but I digress). I wondered why I expected more of people when it wasn't their inclination to provide it. In fact, they'd never provided it.

I wondered why I languished in the disappointment.

I realised that this stopped me from facing the deeper truth that whenever I was unwell, I felt a bit abandoned. If I accepted that no-one else would ever step in to help me, I guess I reasoned, then I would also have to face how I alone I felt.

But then it struck me: what is so wrong with being alone? There are so many things about aloneness that I love, often crave. I usually work best alone. I certainly create best alone. I lived on my own for a long time. I have travelled extensively on my own. I am at home with my own company. Time to myself feels like the greatest gift ever. And, as I said, it's not as if I'm not capable of looking after myself and meeting most of my own needs.

So what was the problem?

A little voice whispered in my ear that being alone really equalled being lonely.

And then I saw it: I feared being alone because I associated this with the feeling that comes with having done something wrong. I was alone because it was my fault.

And then I saw it, the bind I'd been in all this time: I thought was being rejected because I was unloveable, and that I was unloveable because I was being rejected.

I recalled how, early in her book, Geneen Roth encouraged one of her clients to make space for her younger self, that little girl who had been wounded, to give her pain a little space to breathe.

I heard my own voice say, aloud: You didn't do anything wrong, little girl. It wasn't your fault.

And there it was. The cause of all this unworthiness stuff. The reason for my low self-worth. The nagging feeling that I need to ask permission to do something, to be something, and constantly waiting for rejection.

After a lot of crying and rocking back and forwards in foetal position, it's fair to say that I felt a lot better. In fact, I felt like I'd been reborn.

I feel I should add here that I don't want anyone reading this to worry. I have had a good life. I had a happy childhood with a loving family and no major trauma. I am one of the lucky ones... which is why is has often perplexed me (and my loved ones) why I can be prone to feel so crappily about myself.

I don't blame my parents. I see how my fears were instilled by an entire generation of family, teachers, friends and mentors, many of whom had experienced war, deprivation, migration, disruption. I feel lucky that I have the resources at my disposal to dig deep and analyse where my worldview has come from, and think about what I really want from my life going forward.

It's not been all sunshine and roses over here since this epiphany, and I know that my realisation was the first step in a long road. But now I see that accepting "comfortable lies" without question is no longer an option.

This life, real life, is not for the fainthearted. But, honestly, it is not as frightening as I thought it was.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Perfect Day for the message

Last Christmas, a very dear friend surprised me with a treat in the mail: an intriguing novel and some sachets of Mexican-style hot chocolate. She warned that the novel would be a page-turner and suggested that the hot chocolate would be the perfect accompaniment. I thanked her for her generosity and thoughtfulness in selecting the perfect gifts for me (accompanied by the delicious element of surprise) and decided to save them for The Perfect Day.

Of course, by The Perfect Day, I don't mean that the day itself had to resemble or include perfection. Rather, I was waiting for the right day to savour these treats. Does anyone else do this? Keep special things aside for a special moment to savour them?

The Perfect Day did not have any criteria other than, perhaps, I'd know the right time to stop and savour a special treat.

That day was today. It was rainy and unsettled and uninviting outside. Recovering from unwellness, I stayed in my pyjamas all day. When my husband and little 'un went for a walk to the supermarket, I ran myself a hot bath and luxuriated in green tea bath salts... then got back into my pyjamas. The wonderful novel kept me company all day, including in the bath and in between bouts of tending to, and crafting with, my little 'un. I sipped the sweet spicy hot chocolate on the couch with a hot water battle and nanna blankie.

The novel itself -- Larry Watson's Montana 1948 -- was set in a place and time I knew very little about. But dear Monica was right: it hooked me in straight away. The writing style, the narrative, the characters, were all beautifully rendered. I read it easily in a day.

The flavour of this book will stay with me for a long time, and has inspired me to revisit aspects of my own novel.

But something in the afterword also jumped out at me. I gather Larry Watson is the recipient of a number of literary awards for this, and other, novels. The Judge of the 1993 [US] National Fiction Prize has this to say:

Montana 1948 is a shining example of a literary work that demonstrates how a disturbing truth is preferable to a comforting lie. This story makes you turn its pages as fast as your favourite detective novel, but when you finish it, you have received gifts of permanent value -- an appreciation of the moral complexity of our history, a refined sense of our weakness and our strength [...].

Perhaps this is also why the book resonated with me. Perhaps this is the theme that binds most of my bookshelves, the gift of stories that ring true to my soul.

The stories I want to write.

I can see the gifts of pushing past that comforting lie. I am learning that unravelling that complexity is the only way to live with a nuanced view of this life that we're in. This is where the beauty is.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday snippets (tableau style)

{sunday snippets} is a collection of photos from the week.  No need for words: let the pictures tell the story.  Be sure to savour more snippets, or join in, at {tinniegirl}.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Savouring my Saturday

This week, I have been grateful for...

1. My spiffy new iPhone. Have been loving the learning curve! Getting right in to twitter and instagram, though am somewhat baffled at the number of porn stars that have signed up to follow me. (Seriously!)

2. A night of soaking in Yann Tiersen's extraordinary talent. Can totally see why he was the top choice for the Amelie soundtrack!

3. Andrea Scher's brilliant new Superhero Manifesto.

4. Signing up to meet the extraordinary Oliver Jeffers in Melbourne in a couple of weeks.

5. Sweet sunshine, seeping through my windows.

6. Feeling super grown-up and putting some new clothes on layby rather than splurging and placing myself in financial difficulty (for a change).

7. Rereading Geneen Roth's Women Food and God. I bought this book in New York 18 months ago, and [ironically] devoured it whole! This time around, nine pages in, I'm bawling my eyes out. It's exactly what I need to hear right now.

8. My husband's roast veggies: the smell, the texture, the taste. Heavenly!

9. Starting to feel a little better after the headcold descended into a chest infection, then the dodgy disc in my lower back enticed my whole back into spasm. Fair to say it's been glamorous times around here.

10. Deciding to screw the giveaway and give the copy of Spoonful to my sister, who never lets me down.

Be sure to savour more gorgeous gratitude with the mucho-magnificent Maxabella.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Worthiness Wednesday #52 A Year of Worthiness (and a giveaway!)

Has it really been a year since my first Worthiness Wednesday post? It's hard to describe everything that has happened since march last year without sounding sentimental or trite.

I feel like I am living light years away from the place I was this time last year, but I also feel that I have come full circle.

Something prompted me to have a look at my One Little Word journal for last year. The April prompt was to write a letter to myself and this is what I wrote:

Right now you are:
working so very hard on it all
trying to get your creative projects off the ground
struggling against hard truths
working on letting go
disappointed with your body weight
loving your family as best you can
kicking real goals professionally
not interested in publishing your thesis
believing in dreams
learning what trust and compassion are really all about

One year from now I hope you'll be:
well on your way to becoming a published writer
less worried about what certain people might think if they discovered your blog
in a good place with your artmaking
recognised for your worthiness work and your haiku
making exciting travel plans
having fun with it

Looking back on this list I see that I haven't ticked all the boxes but I also know that everything that happened a year ago, everything I longed for, and everything that is happening now is all just a part of who I am.

And that all feels rather supremely OK.

So in honour of this journey, of this year of working with worthiness and all the discoveries and challenges that have come with it, I would like to give away a little gift. In doing so, I would also like to share another chuckle about coming full circle.

Last time I hosted a giveaway it's fair to say it was a bit of a flop! Writing about my floppiness cheered me so much, I rewrote my blog post as a little article as sent it off to my favourite zine called Spoonful which has a fantastic column entitled Spilt Milk: a celebration of all things failure. The unbelievably gorgeous editor, Anthea, graciously replied that this particular column was booked solid for the next few issues but invited me to contribute some words in response to a different prompt for the forthcoming edition.

If this isn't direct evidence of the universe rewarding failure with triumph, then I don't know what is!

So, it's in this spirit that I am offering the forthcoming edition of Spoonful: A Happiness Companion as a little prize. All that you need to do, to be in the running for this seriously gorgeous gift, is to tell us about a time when you managed to turn failure into triumph in the comments below.

Sign up as a follower to this blog and you'll get an extra entry in the draw. Sign up to follow me on twitter and you'll also get an extra extra entry in the draw!

I'll draw the winner by hand this Saturday night (Saturday 7 April) at 7pm Australian Eastern Standard time and will post the name of the winner soon thereafter.

Thank you all for your wisdom and witness over the past twelve months. The best bits of the journey were the ones that had you in them. xx

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Not really

I had to smile at the photos I posted on Sunday. They did look very calm and contemplative, so I can see why so many dear souls commented as such.

They were actually taken during short breaks on a management retreat late last week. And anyone who has worked in a large and complex unit in a large and complex organisation will know that management retreats are rarely calm and contemplative.

The end of last week was high octane. It was all about balanced sorecards and system problems and lack of role clarity and ad hoc communications and forecasting and workforce planning. It was very much about problems but there was also a big push for solutions. A lot of work has come out of those two days.

For my part, I was struggling with a sinusy head cold, only partly relieved by pseudoephedrine.  Then there was the knowledge that I was leaving my little 'un for two days while she was not 100% herself. But I was also more than a little overwhelmed by the experience of spending two very intense days inhabiting my work persona, including dinner and an overnight stay then breakfast the next day.

At various points during the two days, I found myself wondering, "Where am I in all this?"

Often, these moments coincided with the tiny moments I took to take these photos. It's fair to say, these were the only moments that I felt truly myself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Where good ideas come from

I saw this last week at a work retreat and it blew my mind. It totally blew my mind and I suspect I may the last person on the planet to see it... but thought I'd share, just in case!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday snippets (Werribee edition)

{sunday snippets} is a collection of photos from the week (or, in this case, a the latter part of last week).  No need for words: let the pictures tell the story.  Be sure to savour more snippets, or join in, at {tinniegirl}.