Saturday, March 30, 2013

Savouring my Saturday

This week, I have been grateful for...

1. A dear family friend's early detection of a tumour in his bowel. Despite its aggressive nature, early detection meant it could be removed and recovery will not, at present, require chemotherapy or radiation. A horrid and scary experience for this beloved man and his beautiful family... but he is surely one of the lucky ones.

2. Slowing the pace in the cooler clime. Settling into the rhythm of Autumn -- finally! -- and realising that I am actually quite enjoying my time off right now. Looking forward to test-driving my new slow cooker in the next few days.

3. This wonderful post by the always thought-provoking Rachel W. Cole. Exactly the sort of enquiry for the Easter holiday, methinks.

4. The gorgeous Anna, who runs a simply fabulous online clothing boutique called tribehaus offering me free shipping. All the way from the US! To Australia! Forever! Seriously, how generous and considerate -- not to mention business savvy -- is this girl?

5. The terrific new single I Get Lonely from Melbourne band, Saskwatch. Check out the nifty little video clip! It is somehow so quintessentially Melbourne. (Hoping to catch them live at the Prince of Wales later this month.)

6. Watching my sister perform in a wonderful orchestra performance of Bruch's Violin Concert No. 2 in D minor, Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor (New World), and Sibelius' Karelia Suite Op. 11 last weekend. I often forget how energising it is to watch a live orchestra. Especially when my beautiful, talented sister is playing the clarinet. And also when my little 'un sits still for most of it. (Plus I won two free cinema tickets in the raffle!)

7. An impromptu date night at La Luna. The chef is a former neighbour of ours and he hosted us most generously. The food was beautifully curated, lovingly prepared and delicately seasoned. One of the best meals out in ages.

8. This terrific interview forwarded to me by my thoughtful friend Krissie. Such wise words in here, whether you're a mama or not.

9. My twitter tribe: Noël, Brandee, Kelly (aka Mrs Mediocrity), Mehnaz, C (aka Mrs Streetlights), Debra, Meredith, Mujerzen (aka Artemis Retreats), Mesa (aka The Deranged Teen), Alana, Rita, Michael, Kat. You feed my soul and tickle my heart, every single day.

10. Having a much easier time of the Clomid this month. Fewer headaches, little queasiness, no back problems to speak of. Not sure why: perhaps my body got used to it? Perhaps I took better care of myself this time around. Whatever the reason, it can only bode well...

As always, I am linking up with my dear friend Maxabella and her brilliant 52 weeks of grateful project. You really should get in amongst it: it'll hone your vision during the week for all the things you're grateful for; and you'll meet some totally gorgeous kindred spirits along the way. Promise!

Friday, March 29, 2013

How soon is now?

Today is the day I wear these crazy pants. Even though I am probably not thin enough or tall enough. Even though I don't have the perfect top to wear with them and my shoes are not quite right.

Today is the day I post on my blog, even though it's a day late and still not as developed as I'd like.

Today is the day I head out without make-up, without even concealer, even though my skin is looking a bit blah.

Today is the day I have family friends over for afternoon tea. Even though there are shirts hanging up on the laundry door, waiting to be ironed and dishes in the sink and general assorted grot coating the floors. And even though I bought the afternoon tea rather than baking it.

Today is the day I just pull out the juicer and make myself a green juice with whatever I have to hand. And then drink it, despite forgetting a couple of key ingredients.

Today is the day I realise that my therapist was driving at one thing and I was driving at another. And so I sorta missed the point, although I sorta didn't too. My response was my response because I am who I am. And I take her point: I could work a bit harder to stay a bit more open and ask for help when I need it. But I'm also getting tired of trying and am pleased with what I have managed so far.

Today is the day I got out and have a long lazy lunch with my husband because he happened to be home early. It's also the day I strain to stay in my chair, anxious to fulfil my To Do list before my visitors arrive.

Today is the day I decide that I really should call that publisher... then decide to wait until after the Easter holidays.

Today is the day I say yes to a shopping date with my mum on the weekend. Even though I already have so many things. But I really enjoy catching up with mum. And I do love shopping.

Today is the day I let a chocolate Easter truffle melt in my mouth, even though it transgresses all of the dietary rules I have made for myself. Ditto a real coffee with milk.

Today is the day I look at the two huge piles of unread books next to the chest of my drawers in my bedroom and shrug. And then order three more books that I totally need to read. I'll get there, book by book. Especially when we light our open fire in the Winter.

Today is all I have. It's not perfect. But it's pretty damn good. And it's what I got.

I'm kinda tired of postponing life until, until, until.

Maybe one day I will be thin/smart/successful/open/calm/conscientious/liberated enough. Maybe not. I'm starting to care less.

Because I can't really be any place but here.

So today is that day. Now.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Worthiness Wednesday #88: The conversation about being seen and being heard

On Monday morning, I had the house to myself. My husband was at work and my daughter was having a sleepover and my mum and dad's. I decided not To Do anything! I stayed in my jammies until late, ate breakfast in bed, read a novel in a sea salt bath, watched Brené Brown's interviews on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday.

Like pretty much everyone who watched these interviews, I cried buckets, downloaded the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto (actually, full-disclosure: I ordered the pretty one and plan to frame it and hang it in our living room), had aha! after aha! moment.

Of course, as someone who has journeyed with the concept of worthiness for a while now, Oprah's reiteration that people just want to be seen and be heard and know that they are valued resonated with me greatly.

Then it stopped me in my tracks... and unfolded in real time as I considered a little dilemma I'm facing.

My little 'un is currently learning how to navigate the complexity of friendships in her kindergarten. She has a "best friend" at kinder, a delightful little lad called W. But she also enjoys playing with other children at different times (and, interestingly, particular children for particular games).

I've noticed that when we arrive, a couple of very friendly girls race over to greet my little 'un. They call out her name, say hello and smile, ask her to come and play, sometimes give her a hug. My little 'un does not like this at all. She turns away, hides her face in my side, does not respond. The little girls who have come to greet her tend to look perplexed, sometimes disappointed.

The look of sadness in their eyes, I have noticed, tends to trigger my stuff. I have been gently encouraging my daughter just to say hello. "You don't have to play, if you don't want to, and you certainly don't have to hug. You can tell them that you're not ready to play yet. But at least say hello," I know I mean well, but I can't help but lecture, "Your friends just want to know that you have seen them and you have heard them."

Usually I don't get a response to this and I suspect my little 'un has switched off. Sometimes she defends herself, "But I don't want to say hello. I want time to warm up!"

Listening to Dr Brown and Oprah on Monday morning -- particularly hearing the manifesto read aloud -- I realised that, in asking my daughter to hear and see her friends, I was not hearing or seeing her. I was so caught up in reliving my own childhood experiences of rejection and vulnerability, I wasn't open to what she was trying to tell me. Namely, that she wanted her personal space to be honoured above her friends' needs.

And, of course, my first inclination was to give myself mega-crap for being such a flawed mother. The pressure to prioritise other people's needs above my own is exactly what made me the anxious people-pleaser I am today! And now I'm turning my daughter into one too! But I clocked pretty quickly that this would be going against the grain of the whole conversation and not really helpful to anyone.

A part of me also wanted to push back in defence that I am only trying to [gently] teach my daughter some manners and to cultivate some awareness of other people's needs. Being polite and considerate has served me well in many areas of my life, even though I have a tendency to prioritise this over my own needs at time.

So, my task this week, is to have a conversation with my daughter. One that honours how she wants to be seen and heard, by me and by her friends, but also how she might start to open up to the idea that other people have needs too... and how we can find a path that acknowledges the dynamic between all of these things.

I know I am not going to get this perfect. I'm not even going to try and fix it. There's nothing to be fixed, really. I guess I just want to have the conversation. It'll be about a conversation where I am finding my own way as much as I am encouraging my daughter to.

This week, I invite you to join me in considering a push-pull dynamic in your own life. Where are the places that the good girl (or boy!) people-pleasing tendencies override your own needs and preferences? What would happen if you didn't give yourself a hard time or even try to change it, but started a brave conversation that acknowledged the dynamic, its origin in your deep-seated stuff and its impact on your relationship?

Obviously, you'd want to do this within the safety of a relationship that meets the criteria Dr Brown discusses in the second interview. (For the love of everything sacred, watch it!)

I'm guessing that it will all come down to the conversation itself. Especially if the conversation is scattered and flawed and confused and imperfect.

That's where the magic happens.

And that magic is called connection.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Exactly what I needed to read today

"Like J. K. Rowling and a raft of other teen-targeting authors unafraid to expose their readers to life's dark complexities, [John] Marsden and [Sonya] Hartnett have been criticised at times for pushing young readers into territory for which they're not yet emotionally prepared. 

'I get worried when I see people trying [to] dissuade [children] form their reasonable fears or trying to placate them or comfort the in a meaningless way,' Marsden says. 'It's as though they're trying to rob them of their fears, which is not doing them any favours at all.'

'Feelings like [...] guilt are given to us for a purpose. They're there to let us know when we've done something that is damaging and is wrong and we need to take steps to remedy it. The reason we have fear is so that we can judge situations and make appropriate resonses. So if you take that function away from people, you make them less capable of existing efficiently and effectively in the world'."


"For parents who are unsure how to discuss fear with their kids, it's important to resist the urge to make everything alright by assuring them witches with red scabby hands don't exist.

Our job as adults is to help them understand and manage their fears. That means discussing what they're afraid of, and why, and noticing what fear feels like in their bodies. In time, we can delve deeper into whether a fear is rational (which helps keep us safe) or irrational (which shows us that our thoughts are powerful but not always true).

Crucially, [Nick] Falk says, we need to let them know that we all experience fear and that it's one of many feelings that come and go. For some kids, drawing and writing about it lends helpful objectivity.

'When you're reading a book and it's scary, you could choose to turn that book over and put it down,' Falk says.

'It's the same with a thought. You don't have to, when that thought comes into your head, stop everything and pay attention to it and try and get rid of it. You can actually carry on with whatever you are doing and just let that image or thought stay there. It's about giving [kids] the coping skills to be able to do that, so they no longer have to get rid of the thought or image. They don't have to like it, but they also know that it's not going to do them any harm'."

Kath Dolan
"Nothing to Fear" in The Saturday Age: Life & Style
March 23, 2013

The full article is well worth a read, whether you're a writer for young adults, a reader, a parent, or someone who is still afraid of the dark.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday is for savouring

This week, I have been grateful for...

1. The people who live in the house pictured above, at the end of my street. I don't know them, in fact, I've never seen them. And yet they make the most amazing and over-the-top displays on their front porch to celebrate every significant milestone during the year. During Chinese New Year, they hung over a hundred lanterns all over their front yard. Their Easter display kills me every time I walk past.

2. My sister forwarded me this terrific article, which had me sighing and exclaiming "Yes! Yes! YES!".

3. I attended a performance of Khalil Gibran's The Prophet on Tuesday night and it completely blew me away. So much so that I emailed the company the following words of rapture:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I had the privilege of attending your superb company's performance of The Prophet at the Melbourne Recital Centre last night.

It was one of the most mesmerising and exhilarating performances I have ever witnessed. The arrangements were superlative; the passion and delight of the artists was palpable, and incredibly moving.

Are you planning to release an album of the performance?

With sincere thanks,

You can be sure that I'll let you know if I ever receive a reply. That'll be a MUST for your CD collection, trust me.

4. Enjoying brave forays into cooking and baking, including (and forgive me for repeating myself): kale chips, almond milk, granola. Over the next eight weeks I will be dramatically reducing my sugar consumption, all but eliminating dairy and also lowering my grain intake. It's a mash-up of Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar and Lola Berry's 20/20 Diet, with a bit of Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet thrown in and possibly with the salt baths from Colette Baron-Reid's Weight Loss for People who Feel Too Much. Yup. Done the research. And going with the bits that work for me.

5. Layby! Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit this, but it feels so grown-up to pay off things as I can afford them rather than splurging then suffering until several pay days resuscitate my credit card. I collected my leather jacket yesterday, and also have a couple of other very special items from this beautiful local collection that I'm looking forward to enjoying later in the Melbourne Autumn (and New York Spring!).

6. A really enlightening and reassuring article, courtesy of my friend Anna. Something for the romantics, something for the science geeks, something for the stress heads, something for us all!

7. My favourite treat right now, and something that I am prioritising for at least an hour a day: a Phryne Fisher novel and a cup of tea. I'm almost at the end of the series (to date) and am so grateful to a colleague for lending them to me, one by one. The glamour! The cuisine! The amorous bits! The chance to sit down and escape!

8. We've been doing some pretty serious nesting at chez nous. We finally found a beautiful rug for our hearth, which we adore and has made such a difference to our living space. We also found a gorgeous set of nesting tables from a local Danish retro furniture store. We also -- finally -- got a proper fitted guard for our fireplace and are on the look-out for fire tools. The next task is to get our window frames repaired to stop the drafts and some decent blinds/drapes. It's going to be a deliciously cosy Winter.

9. Lisa Congdon's moving tribute to Margaret Kilgallen. Maggie made such an impression on me in the documentary Beautiful Losers. What an incredible person and generous artist. Actually, the same could also be said of Lisa Congdon.

10. The opportunity to think about how and when and whom I might ask for help, particularly with this fertility journey and if a new little person joins our family. To be honest, I suck at this and always tend to assume that I have to limp through on my own. It feels good though a little strange (and slightly scary) to be exploring this new territory. As I look around and see how many people truly are in my corner, I feel so very blessed.

As always, I am linking up with my dear friend Maxabella and her brilliant 52 weeks of grateful project. You really should get in amongst it: it'll hone your vision during the week for all the things you're grateful for; and you'll meet some totally gorgeous kindred spirits along the way. Promise!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Writing and frogs and stuff

My gorgeous friend Brandee -- a dear soul I met during #reverb12 and with whom I have become fast friends over twitter -- tagged me with this rather delightful little questionnaire.

She also sent me the most exquisite letter, complete with hand drawn picture of the sweetest little girl (who looks not unlike my daughter, tell the truth) that arrived in yesterday's mail.

Both of these facts remind me just how much richer my life has been, particularly through the connections I have made, since launching my blog and developing a life online. Which, I suspect, is the perfect place from which to respond to these questions.

Thank you, dear Brandee.

So, without further ado:

1)  Tell me about your writing process.  Do you plan out what you’re writing or sit down and do it?  What was the greatest surprise about this writing process for you?

It's pretty unglamorous and there's no great mystery to it. Two days a week, I take my daughter to kindergarten, then I come home and write. I am not allowed to get up from my desk and do other things (or sit and fritter away the hours on the internet) until I have written at least 1,000 words.

According to Australian writer Toni Jordan, writers fall into two categories: plotters and pantsers. The distinction has been capably explained here. Allow me to confess I am a pantser. When I sit at my desk on my writing days, I have a vague idea of what is going to happen next -- and idea of the direction/resolution of the plot overall -- but otherwise submit to my muse.

The greatest surprise for me, day after day, is that this seems to work.

May I also add as a postscript: I worked for sixteen years in the one organisation to earn long service leave, often in jobs that I absolutely detested and all but broke my spirit. I'm on that leave now and this is the only way I have space and time to write. I also needed to wait until my daughter was old enough to attend kindergarten! In addition, I have put a number of support mechanisms in place to ensure that I am constantly guided towards healthy creative, emotional and physical wellbeing.

My friend Phil (also a writer) once told me that she'd heard that the writer's life required a mentor, an income and a deadline. I am living proof that this is true.

2)  What was your worst job?  (It doesn’t have to be about writing.)  Why?  What did you learn from it?

I once spent a day dressed in a massive pink bear suit, standing outside a Melbourne city toy store attempting to entice small children to drag their parents inside. It was over 30 degrees Celsius outside and at least 40 degrees Celsius inside the suit. The bear's head weighed probably more than I did at the time. It had a metal frame that sat on my skull and made my neck ache. I could barely see out of the bear's eyes, partly because they were black mesh and partly because I was crying my eyes out.

I learnt that, even under all those circumstances, even with teenagers jumping on my back where I couldn't see them or trying to push me over, even with a deep pit of anxiety eating away at my insides (that had nothing to do with the job), and even though no one could see my face... whenever I waved at a little kid I would automatically smile.

I only did performed this job that one day. The experience was too unpleasant. And the proprietors never paid me. They subsequently went bust. Perhaps I wish them well.

3)  If you knew that tonight would be your last meal for a week, what would you eat?

Mmmm... probably an entire chocolate cake. Sad but true. (But oh so very delicious!)

Then again, I made my own granola for the very first time yesterday. And my own almond milk! And the end result was pretty dang amazing. So I could probably chow down on the entire lot and that would leave me feeling quite satisfied and nourished for the week. Though I'm not really sure whether that's just because it's nasty and nutritious, or whether I still can't believe that I made it.

4)  How do you feel about frogs?

In this, I defer to Vali:

Image credit: Rudi Rappold

5)  Where is your favourite place to chill out and why?

A toss up between Paris and New York City. Neither of these places are particularly "chilled" per se. But whenever we go there ("we" being my husband, my daughter and I) we sure know how to have a good time. We eat, we walk, we shop, we visit museums, we drink, we walk some more, we laze, and we generally enjoy our lives, ourselves and each other.

NOW it behoves me to tag three friends, in the hopes that they will share their views on writing, work, food and frogs! I am so curious to know what these gorgeous literary lasses have to say:




Until next time... bisous.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Worthiness Wednesday #87: It's OK

It's OK if things feel a bit different now. It's OK if you feel like being a bit quieter than usual. It's OK if you have the space and the strength to carry it all inside you. It's OK if you don't feel the need to put it "out there" quite so much.

It's OK if you wonder whether this is OK. It's OK to worry that pulling back from your life online may have consequences that you regret down the track. It's OK if you still have a fear of missing out on connection or presence or opportunity or whatever. It's OK if that fear never goes away.

It's OK if you can't make much sense of it but still want to sink deeper. It's OK if you feel proud over the smallest achievements. It's OK if those achievements are ones that you never thought you'd enjoy, let alone take pride in. It's OK to keep this to yourself.

It's OK to take three weeks to respond to emails. It's OK to be deeply affected by the weather. It's OK if this takes the form of total rapture and overwhelming optimism and it's OK if it manifests in anxiety and retreat. It's OK to let things pile up. It's OK to let all those things To Do be held by a list which will sit there patiently, waiting.

It's OK to say nice things. It's OK to say nothing at all. It's OK to take the plunge and buy a blender without researching it overly much or hunting around for a better deal. It's OK to ease into a new way of shopping/cooking/eating slowly, taking what appeals from different approaches and finding your own way, even though certain people would disapprove of certain things.

It's OK to ask for help. It's OK to battle things out on your own, like you've always done. It's OK to receive someone's frustration as an accusation, even when you know that's not the spirit with which it was intended. It's OK to sign up then not participate.

It's OK to walk home in the pouring rain without an umbrella then run a huge hot bath at an unusual time of day. It's OK to throw your hat into the ring, even though you rarely win anything.

It's OK to wonder if you really want to do something. It's OK not to know. It's OK to wait and see.

It's OK to feel like life is asking a lot of you. But it's also OK to see just how great are the gifts it is giving you in return. It's OK to see just how not possible it is to do it all and have it all.

Wherever you are (or aren't) please know: it is OK.

PS I know: it's Worthiness Wednesday on a Thursday. As far as I'm concerned, that's OK.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Who knows?

Maybe it's the cooler weather. Maybe it's the fact that it's March and I'm beginning to sink into a routine. Maybe it's the lull between medication side-effects; a week of feeling calm and grounded and, just, well.

Maybe it's because I just finished reading Elizabeth Lesser's Broken Open and inhaled its wisdom deep into my soul. Maybe it's because I noticed that reading certain passages didn't make me ache in the core of my being, as it might have done twelve months ago.

Maybe it's because we've been doing a little nesting at chez nous. We finally bought a guard for our fire place. And a huge soft rug for our hearth. Maybe because it feels like this Winter is going to be a cosy, snuggly one.

Maybe it's the knowledge that evaporative cooling is going to be installed in our bedrooms on Monday. And while we may have missed this late Summer heat wave, it means that next Summer will be less harrowing.

Maybe it's because we are getting closer to our trip to New York and the reality of this is starting to blossom like the magnolias in our front garden.

Maybe it's because my husband is launching into two of the most stressful weeks of his working life, and I am making the conscious choice to make more space for him but also to stand closer.

Maybe it's because I don't have so many social engagements coming up. Just one concert and one comedy act and a dinner with my bff that has required a bit of rescheduling but I'm really looking forward to when we do finally manage to synchronise our calendars. Maybe I'm realising how much I love not doing as much, even though I find it hard to resist new experiences.

Maybe it's because I am finally starting to pick up books from the three piles next to my bedside table and read them.

Maybe it's I found a different way to walk home from my daughter's kindergarten the other day. And I saw succulents grow out of bathtubs and an elderly gent shuffle across the street wearing drab trousers and cheap shoes and the most flamboyant Hawaiian shirt fully buttoned except for a tiny bow holding the front two corners together.

Maybe it's because I have made some decisions about how and what I would like to eat, simply because I want to feel and look lighter. Maybe it's because, for once, I am doing a bit of research and finding inspiration and making some lists and not plunging in without preparation... or using a punitive approach. Maybe it's because, for once, I am excited about the idea of simpler and more mindful eating.

Maybe it's because I spent yesterday evening puttering around and suddenly noticed how present and spacious I felt, and how unusual and delicious that felt. And then realised that I hadn't picked up my iPhone or checked my twitter feed in almost twelve hours and how freeing that felt. Also, noticing that the television wasn't on so my husband and I weren't flaked out in front of it.

Maybe it's because I am not committed to any e-courses or programs or anything much at the moment. I did sign up for The Scintilla Project and I really do hope to contribute something before it ends (and I'm blown away by what I've read so far, seriously). But I'm not feeling inclined to put pressure on myself right now.

Maybe it's because of all of this stuff and maybe (in fact, very likely) this feeling is not going to last for long.

Who knows?

Who cares?

I'm loving it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Worthiness Wednesday #86: stay complex

So I got a call today from the lady who owned the first motel I stayed in during my stay in Adelaide last weekend. She was pretty unhappy and mostly used the call as an opportunity to chastise me for lodging a complaint using the official customer service email address publicised by her franchise owner.

I listened to everything she had to say, did not correct her when it appeared that her memory of our conversation differed from mine, apologised that her feelings were hurt, gave her my credit card details when requested (she didn't want my money!) and, at the end of the call, thanked her for sharing her insights and experience.

I saw then that I had a choice.

To be honest, this is the sort of experience that has the capacity to bring me down and ruin my day. I know now that this sort of experience pushes all my deeply seated good girl, people pleasing, conflict avoiding tendencies.

I could see this start to happen today... then I remembered something else.

I sat down and made a list of all the things that could be said to be true about the incident:

* on the day, I acted in haste, out of anxiety
* on the day, she seemed defensive and annoyed
* our memories of our conversation on this day differed considerably
* I hadn't even realised she was the owner
* I didn't even think to argue the case with her in person, let alone ask for a refund
* she certainly didn't offer one, and she could not guarantee me a different room
* I did say that I would put it in writing but apparently she didn't catch that
* she found my behaviour on the day confusing and annoying
* I was fortunate to be receiving a refund
* it was pretty inappropriate for her to "tell me off" for lodging a valid concern through official channels
* we are both doing our best in a pretty sticky circumstance
* I'm sorry that a past client flouted the house rules and, in effect, damaged her property
* I'm sorry that she felt that my behaviour signalled a lack of respect for her authority, experience and benevolence ("My silver hair should have been a signal to you!")
* I really think that obvious "No Smoking" signage in the room may have helped obviate the entire experience
* I'm also sorry that by refunding my money she will lose out financially
* it wasn't really her fault but she could have responded better
* it wasn't my fault either, even though my behaviour wasn't stellar

Dwelling on all this stuff may make me seem over-sensitive and more than a little bit precious. After all, this was a minuscule encounter in the scheme of things and it actually ended in my favour.

And what's an "off" afternoon every now and again?

The truth is this: if not tended to, all those disregarded "off" afternoons here and there will tend to accumulate. Then they build and build until they become disproportionate and I become overwhelmed and anxious about the sheer breadth and enormity of what they seem to represent.

So today, I decided that I could live with the knowledge that all of the things I wrote on my list -- and many more besides -- could be considered true. And that good, bad or ugly, they were what they were. And the sky didn't fall in. And, actually, my afternoon got a lot better.

And in doing this, I realised that I was brave and strong enough to live with complexity.

This week, I invite you to stay open to a small and seemingly inconsequential experience that leaves you unsettled or uncomfortable. Rather than sweeping it under the "no big deal" carpet, sit with it for a while. Tease it out. Unpack it. Think of everything you possibly can. Scribble it all down (preferably accompanied by a cup of fancy tea in your favourite china cup, with a couple of squares of artisan dark chocolate).

Then reflect.

And see...

how much bigger you are than all of it, individually and combined.

how strong your heart is, and how much it really can hold.

how much more spacious your mind feels, knowing that you can tackle the little things as they come up rather than letting them snowball into something monstrous.

My lovely Naturopath recently sent me a tweet sharing some words of wisdom she'd gleaned at a workshop held by a well known and highly respected Melbourne psychotherapist. "Don't change", he'd said, "And stay complex."


Monday, March 11, 2013

Is this the rapture?

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life.
I don't think that's what we're really seeking.
I think that what we're seeking
is an experience of being alive...
so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
-- Joseph Campbell

I have a card stuck on my refrigerator that shows a woman standing in reverence before an open freezer door, saying, "Amazing! Perfect ice cubes again!" That's the kind of simple rapture I'm taking about.

I realise we are not put on this earth to stand around open freezers ranting like idiots about ice cubes. But a good question to ask yourself is this: If perfect ice cubes or an evening sky or an old song on the radio has not made your heart flip-flop lately, why not?

What is keeping you from feeling the rapture? 

I can assure you, you won't find the answer in a lighted room. 

What stands between you and a full-bodied life can be found only in the shadows. What wants to live in you may be waiting -- as it was for me -- at the end of a long loneliness.

Elisabeth Lesser
Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Processing (an excerpt from my journal)

The writing life. My dream life. Innocence lost. Overwhelm.

Just not sure where to start. How to unravelthis. Where I am. I am just sitting here. In it.

I can't drink my myself out of this. I can't eat my way out of it. I can't shop my way out of this. Sleep might help. No e-course will hold the solution. No book will have the answers. No dress, outfit, pair of boots, gloves/hat/scarf/shiny accessory will solve the problem.

There's no problem to be solved. I do not have a problem. I am not the problem.

Nothing needs fixing.

This is my life and I am in the midst of it.

I imagined it would feel different to this. I thought there would be more of a sense of "I've arrived!" or "I feel free at last!" or "Finally, this is bliss!". Instead there's a lot of "This feels hard" and "I just don't want to do this today" and "I'm scared" and a helluva lot of "I'm tired". And, sometimes, a tiny bit of "This is boring".

And a sense of missing the old days where it was all new and it was all open to me and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, what my path was. Oh! How I was in a hurry, giving myself so much grief for not yet knowing my purpose.

Now I see that it all unfolded exactly as it was meant to and there was a delicious sense of openness and wonder to that time where now there is focus. The path is clear and no one/thing can help me but me. I just need to do it. I AM DOING IT.

This realisation leaves me feeling alone and more than a little afraid... but... every now and again I get a glimpse of strength. Of tenacity. Of hope. Of faith.

Trying to conceive -- be it a story or an actual new life, let alone both -- is harrowing at the best of times. I'm not sure that this is the best of times. But this I do know: I am doing my best. Even though my best looks grouchy and unglamorous and horribly uneven and sometimes ungrateful.

My best it is.

And it's all I've got.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Savouring my Saturday: what I learnt about self-care

Last weekend,  I spent the best part of two days and two nights savouring the offerings of Laurie Anderson as part of the Adelaide Festival.

In many respects, the trip went smoothly. The flights were [almost] on time and the airport experience was practically flawless (a rarity when it comes to Australian domestic travel, believe me!). I met so many people -- service providers, fellow theatre goers, random strangers -- who felt like guardian angels, providing me with assistance, comfort, support and cheer exactly when I needed them.

My stumbles, however, included a serious miscalculation when it came to accommodation. My first night was the busiest Saturday night of the year in Adelaide, as it included a motor racing event as well as the arts festival, plus another competitive sports event, the nature of which I've forgotten. By the time I came to book, there was only one place left in the whole of the city.

I knew this particular motel would be a distance from the city, and was happy to work around that. It was relatively inexpensive and I figured it was only a place to sleep.

What I did not expect -- and what I soon discovered -- was that it was unclean. Despite assurances it was a non-smoking room, the room was redolent of cigarette smoke. Being an asthmatic, it made for a very bad night indeed. The room, the layout of the motel, the noise levels from outside, the appearance of some of the other patrons, and the motel's location also made me feel (for the first time in almost 20 years of solo international travel) unsafe.

That night, while mesmerised and transported by Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet, I tried to block out panicked images of someone breaking into my dodgy motel room while I slept. Confession: I actually slept with a chair wedged under the door knob.

After a terrible night of tossing and turning and reaching for my asthma pump, I took a chance the next morning and found somewhere else to stay. I was lucky! There was a vacancy. There was a room available there and then, even though it was only 10am. The rate was higher than I'd usually pay (and I'd already paid for two nights in advance at the other motel) but I did have the funds to cover it.

I jumped in a cab, threw my stuff in my suitcase, checked out of the old place with a hurried explanation, drove back to the city. I checked in to my new room, hung up my smoke-sodden clothes, showered and washed my smoke-stinking hair.

Then I sat and reflected. This new room was clean. It was actually a little plush. It was quiet. It had airconditioning. The hotel was in a familiar place (I used to stay at this particular hotel back in the day when I was a business traveller, I even recognised the concierge) and in a great location. In fact, it was right opposite the theatre I'd be attending that night.

I felt safe.

I grabbed my journal and scribbled down all the things that I realised I needed to enjoy a holiday:

* good planning (for smooth sailing) and surrender (when smooth sailing is out of my control)
* personal/physical safety
* the chance to have a decent sleep
* elegant surroundings, maybe even pampering (non-negotiable: cleanliness)
* beauty, adventure, transcendent experience (theatre, galleries, street art, great food, good coffee)
* feeling good in my skin and in my clothes
* a camera, a journal, my tarot deck
* a reasonable/temperate climate (inside more than outside!)
* enough funds for contingencies and maybe even spoiling myself too
* kind strangers with fascinating stories
* great location, the chance to walk a lot but also to incorporate rest times
* friendly, helpful, respectful service providers
* privacy
* no pressure to constantly "do" and the freedom to "do" (or not) as I like

This made me realise something. Actually, quite a few things.

One being: I am long past my backpacking days. A place to stay is never just a place to sleep anymore. My younger self would not have been at all phased by last Saturday night's events. My current self was thrown into wave upon wave of total panic. This completely detracted from my capacity to enjoy this precious time.

Another being: it's not just when I am travelling that I need these things.

And for that realisation -- and the chance to ponder how I might honour and incorporate more of these things into my day-to-day life at home -- I am truly grateful.

As always, I am linking up with my dear friend Maxabella and her brilliant 52 weeks of grateful project. You really should get in amongst it: it'll hone your vision during the week for all the things you're grateful for; and you'll meet some totally gorgeous kindred spirits along the way. Promise!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Art of Asking

OK, so every woman and their blog has been tweeting and retweeting this. 

But if you haven't watched it IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S SACRED please do so now.

Yes, right now.

It'll be the richest thirteen-and-a-bit minutes you've spent in a long time.

Trust me.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Spacious (a poem)

Dear you, 

you who always have 

so many things to do 

so many places to be 

your mind spinning like 

fan blades at high speed 

each moment always a blur 

because you’re never still

I know you’re tired 

I also know it’s not your fault 

The constant brain-buzz is like 

a swarm of bees threatening 

to sting if you close your eyes 

You’ve forgotten something again 

You need to prepare for that or else 

You should have done that differently

What if you closed your eyes? 

Would the world fall 

apart without you? 

Or would your mind 

become the open sky 

flock of thoughts 

flying across the sunrise 

as you just watched and smiled

Kaveri Patel

I am indebted to my dear friend Jill for sharing this.

It is perfection.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Worthiness Wednesday #85: Ask not what is wrong with you

Recently, I was telling my therapist about a dear friend who is pregnant with her fourth child. Her eldest is the same age as mine: about to turn four.

I confessed that while I was delighted for my friend -- who was keen to have her children close together in age -- a part of me was grieving. "What's wrong with me," I whispered, tears rolling down my cheeks, "That I can't even manage a second, when she's onto her fourth!"

Recently, I attended a morning tea for parents at my daughter's kindergarten. I got chatting to a chap whose son was about to turn four, just like my little 'un, where most of their peers were a year older.

"Like you, and all going well, I am intending to send my daughter to school next year," I confided, "But we seem to be in the minority." I asked him if he'd mind sharing his own thoughts about whether to hold his son back for another year so he wouldn't be one of the youngest in the class.

This man was generous and candid and I felt very reassured by his measured response. His son was his first child so, like me, every experience was a new frontier. Like me, he wondered whether he was pushing his child too far before he was ready or whether holding back would, well, hold him back.

The next day, I bumped into this man again as I dropped my daughter off. He made a point of walking up to me and saying, "Hey, I was talking to my wife about our conversation yesterday, and she wanted me to tell you that she'd spoken to two school principals in the area about whether or not to hold your child back."

It turned out, these two principals were of the view that there was no significant benefit to holding a child back from starting school unless parents have strong views on the basis of emotional, physical or developmental issues. That said, one of the principals in question had held her own daughter back a year and remained certain it had been absolutely the right thing to do.

My therapist honoured my grief as I processed the impact of this fertility journey, then noted: "Your impulse was to ask 'What's wrong with me?'. But someone who grew up in a family where the children were all born close together might ask, 'What's wrong with your friend? That is to say, why does she feel such urgency? What does she assume the benefits are of having her children so close together in age?'."

Of course, the point is not whether it's right or wrong to have your children one year apart or over four. It's also not about whether you send your kid to primary school at the age of four or five.

It's about perspective. My therapist was right (of course). My knee-jerk reaction, my introject, my samskara is always to assume that there is something wrong with me. That I am making the wrong choice. That I do not know enough or have enough. That I am not giving enough or doing enough.

That I am not enough.

This week, I am processing this information, once again. It's an old old story. In fact, it's the oldest, deepest, most entrenched story I have. Despite all evidence to the contrary. It's the story I am going to be learning and unlearning for the rest of my life.

I am very grateful to my therapist for the new perspective. I am also indebted to that kind kinder dad for making a point of sharing information that he thought might reassure me. It did.

But now I want to practice noticing, acknowledging, shifting on my own.

This week, I invite you to notice the times when you assume: what's wrong with me? I'm certainly not advocating jumping to the conclusion that "I'm not the wrong one: they are."

But maybe, just maybe, everyone's perspective really is different. And, in the mix, there is enough room for yours.

Because you actually know what's best for you and yours.

And because you are enough.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday is for savouring

1. This video of my ballet teacher! I'm not sure how my sister found it, but the minute I heard Mrs Cross' voice, I was transported back in time. I took her classes from age four to 19. She remains such a profound influence on my life.... and has not changed one bit. Love.

2. Navigating out my way out of a stifling, emotionally oppressive week. If I hadn't felt the effects of Clomid last week, then I certainly did this week. Constant headaches, hot flushes, anxiety, nausea, fatigue, skin breakouts, bloating, depression. And back problems triggered. Oy. Thank goodness for the cool change, inside and out.

3. Fresh nashi pears off my mum and dad's tree. Scrumptious!

4. Finalising our accommodation in New York! It was surely a lot of fun, browsing the airbnb and VRBO sites for places to stay, kinda like having a sneaky peak into people's homes and imagining what it would be like to live there. Finding something that met all of our needs was a little trickier (especially with a little 'un in tow) but we managed to find two really wonderful places: one in the East Village, Manhattan and one in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Starting to get excited about this trip, even though it is three months away...

5. A wonderful coaching session with Satya during the week. Helping me identify the gaps in my daily life -- including the god-shaped hole -- and understand how they impact my creativity. Making a mindful effort to seek joy. And rest. And transcendence.

6. A whole day to myself on Friday while my little 'un played at my Mother-in-Law's house. This included a rare solo movie date to see the 10.45am session of Beasts of the Southern Wild. (Oh my. Words are still failing me when it comes to this film... but the images will haunt me forever.) It was a day of a steady pace and moments of calm, slowly filling the well.

7. Finally taking the plunge and giving the go-ahead to have evaporative cooling installed. My word. I cannot begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to this.

8. Signing up for The Scintilla Project. How fantastic does this look? So glad my pal Noël worded me up on this. I reckon I'll be learning a thing or two on how to host a blog challenge along the way (my gremlin couldn't resist informing me that this crew make my reverb efforts look rather amateurish!).

9. Flying to Adelaide this afternoon! I am going to see Laurie Anderson as part of the Adelaide Festival: both solo and in partnership with the Kronos Quartet. (She also has an exhibition that I am keen to see.) I have had such misgivings about this trip, if I am going to be honest. But it's not too hard to see what a gift this little mini adventure is going to be.

10. This delicious prediction from Rob Brezsny, which totally spoke to me:

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): In the language of the Huron Indians, "orenda" is a word that refers to the spiritual power that resides in all creatures and things. If you've got enough of it, you may be able to declare at least partial independence from your own past. You can better shape the life you want for yourself rather than being so thoroughly subject to the limitations of your karma and conditioning. I happen to believe that your current supply of orenda is unusually abundant, Gemini. What's the best use you can make of it?

As always, I am linking up with my dear friend Maxabella and her brilliant 52 weeks of grateful project. You really should get in amongst it: it'll hone your vision during the week for all the things you're grateful for; and you'll meet some totally gorgeous kindred spirits along the way. Promise!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fever, happiness and self-knowledge.

If what Proust says is true, that happiness is absence of fever, then I will never know happiness. For I am possessed by a fever for knowledge, experience, creation.

I think I have an immediate awareness in living which is far more terrible and more painful. There is no time lapse, no distance between me and the present. Instantaneous awareness. But it is also true that when I write afterwards, I see much more, I understand better, I develop and enrich.

The Diary of Anaïs Nin: Volume One 1931-1934
Edited by Gunher Stuhlmann