Finale

It’s been a while hasn’t it dear readers?

There is an adage in business that outlines three kinds of services – good, cheap and Fast.  But you can only have two. Good and cheap means it won’t be Fast.  Good and Fast means it won’t be cheap.  Cheap and Fast means it won’t be good.

This hasn’t been Fast, and no one would ever say I’m cheap so I hope that means it’s good!

I digress………

I hope this year has been kind to you.  I’ve had a Fascinating year.

Through a serendipitous series of Fortunate events, I Found my birth Father.  It was enlightening on so many levels and thankfully, what could have been an uncomfortable experience has provided an opportunity to discover my hitherto unknown heritage.  It continues to deliver some interesting moments.  Reflecting back now, I realise how Fortunate I was to be raised by my maternal grandparents.  It wasn’t perfect; show me a Family that claims to be and I’ll show you a bunch of liars.  But I made the most of the situation and through that love and support and my own hard yards, landed on my Feet.

It was a year in which I recognised my true worth as a human being and, putting my own needs First, I Finally said Farewell to some toxic people and their behaviours.  This journey has been painful and not without some casualties along the way.  I’ve deliberately put some distance between me and these people.  Some people reading this will no doubt wonder if I mean them and yes I probably do.

Fear not, this has nothing to do with you (it never does) and everything to do with me.  When you put yourself First, you recognise what is doing you harm and, just like an allergy to Fish, you avoid the things and people that make you Feel low.

My Fierce eldest daughter had her First baby, another strong Female.  The wonder I Feel as those tiny Fingers grasp mine leaves me breathless.  My Fine son in law is an example of patience and kindness and my heart swells as I see this little Family growing in love.

My Fiesty second daughter discovered the joy of love with a kind generous man who has rapidly become an essential part of our Family.

I love these people with every Fibre of my being.

Once a year, a group of women I went to school with get together.  I’ve known some of these Femmes Fantastique since I was 4 years of age.  One of them said to me, “I was Fifty Fucking Five this year – can you believe it??”

Yes I can and isn’t it Fabulous!!!

I approach that magical number next year and I can’t wait.  I’m in the prime of my life and every day is a blessing.  I try to live life through a lens of Love not Fear and, although there are missteps along the way, I am eternally grateful that I am still here.  I love my Friends as the Family I have chosen and look Forward to growing old disgracefully with them.

And with that dear readers, I bid you a Final Farewell as I close this blog, leave Facebook and move on to other creative pastimes.  I am truly happy to have shared my ramblings with you and that you have read with openness and appreciation.

I hope it was worth the wait!

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Becoming

I’ve never fully read The Velveteen Rabbit although I aim to rectify that state of affairs soon.  Despite this gap in my reading history, there is a much repeated passage that has resonated with me for years.  It is thus:

He said, “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.   Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Recent events have been transformational dear readers.  In the life changing, evolutionary, shout it in capital letters, fucking HUGE kind of way.  In a way that rocks you so that life as you know it will never be the same.

And let’s face it, I’ve seen a few of these events in my time…..

Feeling experimental and capitalising on a playful mood not so long ago, I changed my social media name.  Last week I changed it again.  One of my beloved friends asked me, in the same playful vein: Who ARE you?

Here is my answer.

I am amorphous.

Shedding skins that no longer serve me, I am a shape shifter.

Like the rainbow serpent of indigenous mythology, I am casting off the layers that mask the real me.

The infinite me.

The powerful, centered, fulfilled, inspired and inspiring me.

The me that lives and breathes the values I seek to embody – love, trust, authenticity, presence, service.

I am casting aside the stories that hold me back; my stories, their stories, everyone else’s stories, every single last one of them.

Worn out from this longing for belonging, I am no longer playing small.

I am owning my shit because it’s mine and because no one can make me feel anything; how I feel is my choice.  Mine, I tell you, all mine.

Curious to the world and all who inhabit it, I never stop asking – what are you teaching me?  Why are you here?  Why, why, why?

I am all of you and none of you.

I am becoming……….

imagine

(c) Adrian Bell (https://www.facebook.com/adrianbellphotography/)

T H I N K

A recent post by someone on social media has my blood absolutely boiling.

This person, who I had previously considered a well read, intelligent man, posted an image which was titled “Male Privilege”.  The image reported statistics comparing men and women in certain situations; for example, the percentage of men killed in combat compared to women, or the percentage of men killed in industrial accidents, or rates of suicides across the genders.

It was a simple share of a slide which used statistics to counteract the view that men are somehow privileged; presumably a stance that all women take.  I say presume as there was no commentary accompanying the post; no thoughts or disclaimers. There were no declarations or opinions. Just an inflammatory post with some skewed statistics which were heavily drawn from sectors and scenarios that are specifically male oriented.

Let’s look at some of the background for the example of combat deaths.  In April 2015, according to ADF figures, there were 13,707 men and 936 women in various combat and / or security roles such as military police, firefighters, pilots and ground crew.  That’s 14:1 folks.  I’m no mathematician but I’d say the odds of a male being killed in combat are unfortunately much higher than a woman given those numbers.

Or what about one of the other statistics – rates of suicide in men and women.  Sadly much research has gone into these numbers as they are replicated throughout the western world.  One key reason the completion rates are skewed is that despite expressing more suicidal ideation (overall rates of mental health disorders tend to be around 20-40% higher for women than for men), the method of completion is significantly different.  Women who attempt suicide tend to use nonviolent means, such as overdosing. Men often use firearms or hanging, which are more likely to result in death.  Women also tend to demonstrate more help seeking and less risk taking behaviours.

You want statistics?  I’ll give you statistics…..

Here’s one for you:  in 2012, ABS data revealed that of the total victims of partner violence since age 15, 23% were men and 77% were women.

Or another: in 2016, the full time gender pay gap in Australia was 17.3% in favour of men.

Or another: despite improving education enrolments for women, in 2015 the United Nations estimated that 781 million people aged 15 and over are illiterate, with nearly 67% of them women.  This proportion has remained static for over two decades.

My point here is that quoting random statistics without context, particularly when used to support a contentious viewpoint, is useless.  Actually it’s more than useless, it’s inflammatory.  It doesn’t help create a culture where the world’s most complex issues are shared problems.  Random use of statistics to vilify or endorse a deliberately provocative platform sets up an “us versus them” mentality which over-simplifies and divides.

Gender issues are human issues.  The sooner we recognise this, the sooner we can work together to reduce the disparity.

The sooner we create some informed, balanced debate that is not based on “poor me” attitudes from ALL sides, the sooner we will see a kinder, more just world.

If you must quote statistics, do so with some thought behind it.  Use them to stimulate balanced debate and with a greater good intent.  Find statistics that open the hearts and minds of all and enable us to develop and implement solutions not just incite bigotry, division and hatred.

At the very least, look at the statistics you’re quoting with some basic intelligence, a touch of analysis and a dollop of context before using them.

For fuckssakes’, for all our sakes, engage your bloody brain before posting!

 

think

 

 

Trees

The parallels between what we find in nature and this art form we call “being human” never cease to amaze me.

When I was very young, I heard an analogy that has stayed with me throughout the years.

To paraphrase, it essentially described a perfect relationship as one that mirrors that of trees in a forest.  If a tree grows too close to another, it doesn’t allow the other room to grow.  Trees that lean on one another too heavily often falter as when one falls, the other falls too, lacking the strong base each needed to support themselves independently.

Likewise, trees that grow too far away from each other cannot support each other when the distance between them is too great and, with a relatively simple wind, they topple.  Over time the distance can increase and prove to be insurmountable.  To live loveless, separate lives seems like a form of torture to me.

Consider now a large tree – relatively safe in and of itself with its own strong roots and trunk as a base, providing a stable platform that allows its branches to spread, reaching for the light.  When you add another tree close by, standing side by side with its mate, not quite leaning but close enough to protect and support, it will usually withstand the vagaries of nature much better and will thrive.

I witnessed this first hand last week, deep in the Amazonian rainforest.  Trees that were hundreds of years old stood side by side, trunks firmly planted in the fertile soil, branches gently touching, providing support as the limbs extended up into the sky.  Monkeys and birds cavorted across the canopy as the trees seemed to whisper to each other – “I’ve got your back babe!” The massive trunks were a base that supported complete ecologies and being in their presence, even for a short time, was empowering.

As a student of human nature, it seems to me that the best relationships, the ones that provide me with my inspiration, are the ones where interdependence exerts much more influence than either co-dependence or total independence.

One can observe this in all relationships, both old and new.  I have written before about the beauty to be found in old love; love that has been tested and survived throughout the years.  Recently, I was privileged to witness it first hand as a precious life ended.  How extraordinary to feel the love surrounding us and enveloping us like a bear hug; the love didn’t leave, only the earthly vessel carrying it.

I see it in new love; love that is fresh with all the inherent pleasure that the joy of discovery provides.  The new love that offers so much delight and surprise both to the participants and the loving observers.

Relationships like these will survive best when the base is stable, the branches intertwine and grow together and the canopy allows room for others.

To possess a restless soul is both a blessing and a curse.  The cursed part is the difficulty you find in settling down, being still long enough for the rest of the world to catch up.

But this is a mere trifle when you compare this to the opportunity to experience other cultures, meet new friends in far off lands and recognise the human spirit that exists in all of us.

There comes a point in this being human gig where you stop feeling love and you simply become love.  And like the birds of the forest, the restless soul has the chance to spread the seeds of love wherever and whenever it can.

Best of all, that stable trunk called home will always be there to provide sanctuary and a place to recharge so that you can head back out there next year and share the love all over again!

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Love x Infinity

When I was younger and knew so much more than I did now, I thought that love was far more finite.

I loved my first love, the one I married, with an enthusiasm that can only be found in the young.  There were times I felt it may overpower me.  Sadly, that love was not meant to be for the long haul and the bleak times that followed sometimes made me doubt that love would ever find me again.

Being a parent changes that of course.

The first time you lay eyes on that little one, so dependent on you, that fierceness returns and you know that you would willingly take a bullet for your babies.  Mama or Papa Bear instinct kicks in and, with a depth of realisation that too can overwhelm you, you recognise the unconditional love of a parent.

At least it should be; it isn’t always so which is the ultimate shame.  The weight of expectation gets in the way and some parents, in their desperate need for their children to have more than they did, unwittingly create less love and more misunderstanding.

How sad to see this.  Believe me, dear reader, I say this without criticism or judgement.  In the end, I truly believe most parents try to do the best for their kids.

Perhaps past hurts get in the way.  Perhaps they themselves never fully knew what unconditional love and acceptance felt like.

Perhaps they just don’t like themselves very much?

One may never know what creates scenarios like this.

What I do know is that seeing your children grow into decent human beings, with kind and generous hearts, is to watch the love grow infinitely grander and richer and you come to realise that love is not finite at all.

Love multiplies, not shrinks.  It expands, not contracts.  It enlivens, not reduces.

During a philosophical discussion with one of the gorgeous open-hearted souls I know (one of many I have had recently), we coined the phrase – a life well lived and well loved.

As I prepare to say farewell to another member of my family whose life is coming to an end, I realise that love as a multiplier is the ultimate aim.  The more compassion and tolerance you give, the more it returns to you.  The more you invite kindness and love into your life, the more it will reward you, often in ways you don’t see at first.

It may present itself in a meaningful conversation with a new acquaintance, a night out with the girls with good food and wine, some sparkling conversation with new friends from another country, a chance to make a difference at work, a quiet night on the couch curled up with the dog!

The people who mow down innocents on holiday in Spain – they don’t act out of love.

The President who spews forth on Twitter with vitriol and hate – he doesn’t act out of love.

The moron who mocks someone’s religious freedom by wearing a burka in the Senate – she doesn’t act out of love.

The physio who sings Danny Boy with the elderly lady with dementia – she acts out of love.

The man who hugs his partner when they’ve had a rough day – he acts out of love.

The elderly lady who, at the end of her life is surrounded by her loved ones, including her mate of 65 years – she speaks of love.

In the face of all the negativity, and at the end of one’s life, isn’t that all there is?

love

 

 

 

 

Illumination

Those of you who have read previous posts of mine would be aware of my love of a good sign.  I don’t mean your garden variety sign.  Not a stop sign, or a safety sign nor the visual pollution one sees by the side of any road these days.

No, dear reader, I’m talking about the sign that reassures you that all is right with the world.

Said signs can be as blindingly obvious or subtle as a whisper.  I’m sure you’ve had the experience of thinking of someone and then unexpectedly hearing from them or running into them in an obscure location.

This happened to me a few months ago.  I had been thinking of a wonderful, wise, warrior-woman I worked with many years previously.  I recall our conversation as if it were yesterday; feeling desperately lost and confused, I confessed to this woman (let’s call her C) how I was feeling.  That as all the boundaries I had lived with for the past 20 years came crashing down around me, I now felt such overwhelming grief and loss that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I remember thrusting my hands out in front of me in a helpless gesture of bewilderment and described feeling as if I was completely laid out for all to see; a shapeless, formless pile of “BLAH”.

C didn’t bat an eyelid; she turned to me and exclaimed:  Isn’t it fabulous!!!

C taught me the value of living a life laid bare, barriers down, terrifyingly open to all that the universe has in store.  C is fierce and heroic and absolutely the person I needed to talk to as I bravely stepped into a new way of being, letting go of that which no longer served me and finally, magnificently becoming.

I was reflecting one morning recently on how far I’d come, how much I was enjoying this person I’d evolved into, the people who helped me along the way and, you guessed it, C popped into my head with a memory of generous gratitude.  As is the way of the universe, who should I run ran into at my local shopping centre but that same lady, despite her now living on the other side of the city.

Serendipitous of course.  But also one of those unique signs that give you confidence that you’re on the right path.

Recent events have reminded me of the universe’s ability to give you a nod and a wink and say, it’s ok, we got this.  Some shifts have convinced me, yet again, that the path is open, wide and welcoming; both on the personal front, on the work front, and within the lives of some of my dear ones.  The old sense of purpose is gathering momentum again and, having had some much needed time out from life and letting go of my self-imposed, limiting boundaries and expectations, I now know that it’s all good.

With evolution can come restlessness; a yearning to see it all happen quickly.  Sometimes, this impatience means an overly active mind or the odd sleepless night.  Just last night I had such a night.  I woke at 4.00am, in the pitch dark, wide awake.  I rolled around in bed for a while to see if I could get comfortable but my bothersome brain kicked in and I slowly started to surrender to my wakefulness.  Giving it one last attempt to return to blissful slumber, I rolled over in bed, almost ready to give up.  It was right at that moment that I opened one eye to see the most glorious star shining in on me through my kitchen window.  It was breathtaking; lighting up the early morning blackness with such luminosity that I shed a tear with the sheer power of it.

Then I laughed out loud.

That gorgeous star sparkled and winked at me as if to say, told you we got this!

 

AdrianStars

(c) Adrian Bell

The perfection virus

Oh perfection shining bright; how I chase you with all my might.

As I seek you far and wide, I quite forget to look inside.

How is it I never see, the brilliantly perfect, imperfect me…..

Clearly I am no Percy Bysshe Shelley.  John Keats can rest easily in his Grecian Urn.  Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson will not be disturbed by my bon mots.

What I will claim is a quick turn of phrase when the inspiration hits.  And hit it did last week as I ruminated on some trials that a few of my dear ones are facing at the moment.  My Leunig-esque verse above is one that tripped lightly into my head a week or so ago and, most likely could have popped straight back out again were it not for the realisation that the perfection virus strikes us all at various times.  Perhaps this little ditty may strike a chord.

That bloody perfection virus can be crippling.

When I was a child, I was forever singing.  I danced around, hairbrush in hand, in front of the mirror trying to hit those notes.  My pitch wasn’t perfect but good god, I had some fun with it.  I hit primary school and the bug didn’t leave.  I even have a book in my collection which was awarded to me as Best Supporting Actress at the local Warana Festival in Year 7 an awfully long time ago.  It is one of my most treasured possessions.

My Oscars speech was well rehearsed and I knew that when the time came, I would deliver it with such depth and gravitas that there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.

At high school I continued in this vein; writing, performing, ripping off Monty Python skits (the parrot sketch was a favourite) for the school talent quest.

It was around this time that I was struck down in my prime by the perfection virus.

Not content with simply performing for the joy of it, I determined that if I couldn’t do it perfectly, I wouldn’t do it at all.  Even a brief moment in the spotlight as the lead singer of the infamous Budgee Smugglers couldn’t quite restore the careless delight I had found as a child with that hairbrush.  Years of self-doubt, that niggling little voice that said the performance (or you) were not quite good enough, finally smothered the creative spark.

Until I found it again in Italy 2 years ago.

My bella Italia – the land where passion and love and art are bundled together in a jubilant celebration of what it means to live life in all its breathtaking magnitude.  Revisiting the “life renaissance” there provided that inner spark and let me rediscover my creative voice, my inner truth.

Stephen Sondheim wrote:

The art of making art, is putting it together, bit by bit, piece by piece.

The creative life will find you if you let it.  But to allow it to manifest, you have to kill that dreaded perfection virus.

Art isn’t easy.  It is imprecise and messy and confusing and frustrating and delightful and invigorating and absolutely, gobsmackingly terrifying at times.

Much like life really…….

Art is very personal.  What inspires one person may be considered folly by another.  Where we find that connection will be very different for each of us.  If you allow it, you may be delighted to discover a muse and surprised at when they choose to appear for you.

I’ve also discovered that the creative life is very patient and with luck will take you a very long time to master; perhaps even a lifetime.

Purge yourself of that perfection virus and it will find you in whatever shape or form you need.

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