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?

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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!

 

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(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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The Missing

This last couple of weeks has been interesting and apologies for the lag between posts.  I have been getting to know a new workplace and a new group of people to interact with.  If you’ve been following the adventures of #consultantlife you will have some inkling of how much I thrive on this.

This sense of newness is something I have actively sought for much of my life – the freshness of new faces, the variety of different locations and unknown situations.  That may explain the craving for travel that I have indulged these last few years now that the kidlets are grown.  I have embraced the challenges of change, despite the innate human resistance that rears its head sometimes.

As I turn to face the change, I have learned that having a solid foundation is key to success.  Some of us build these foundations on our experience and learn as we go.  Many of us are lucky to have had a solid foundation in our youth and role models in our families and within our friendship groups on which to base our actions and behaviours.

There is nothing quite like a funeral to bring some of these truths to light.  Last week I sat amongst the congregation in a large Catholic church, praying that the ceiling joists were made of stern stuff, as I attended the final farewell for the father of one of my dear friends. This mate is part of a group of friends I have known for over 30 years and, as one of them said to me, “there is nothing quite like old friendships”.  This rang true for me, blessed as I am with a large tribe of genuinely kind people surrounding me.

These friends have been part of my life for a long time; from our glorious misspent youth, through engagements, marriage, children, relationship trauma, divorce, and now, as we ourselves age, we face the loss of our parents, our earliest role models.

Despite the knowledge that they have hopefully lived a good life and, at the end of their time on planet Earth, have left behind a rich legacy, it’s still a challenge.  The platitudes are valuable but there is no denying that losing a parent is hard.

I miss my Mum.  She was as stubborn as she was kind, as feisty as she was generous, as challenging as she was wise and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her.  Likewise my Dad.  They were made of stern stuff that generation.  They lived through The Great Depression, World War 2, the post-war era, the evolving 60s and 70s, the greedy 80s.  All with limited resources and a frugality that puts most of us to shame.

I miss a few people on a regular basis actually.  I miss those who have gone too soon, something I’m reminded of when I attend a farewell like last week.  I miss some of those friends that I don’t see as often as I’d like.  I miss my #2 daughter who is “adulting” interstate.  I even miss #1 daughter at times and she lives 20 minutes away!

Tonight as I type, I ponder if missing someone is a bad thing? Yearning for someone is a measure of the love you feel for that person isn’t it?  In this era of instant gratification, I wonder if missing someone is something to be savoured.  Perhaps not to the point that it becomes dysfunctional.  But surely that longing to see someone makes the reunion all the sweeter.

Missing someone is one thing.  There are things I miss too.

I miss being able to get up off the floor without groaning.

I miss the days when I could stay up past 10.00pm and not feel like a I needed to take a nana nap at 3.00pm the next day.

I miss being able to go dancing for hours like I did during my uni days, (usually sans alcohol as we couldn’t afford it and besides I didn’t seem to need it to have fun) and not need to take a packet of Nurofen the next day.

At the funeral I saw an elderly man hold his wife’s hand as he walked her up to receive communion and I realised I missed holding hands with someone.  I miss the feeling that tried and true love brings and I may never experience that again.

Please don’t be sad, dear reader.  My intent is not to provoke sympathy.  Indeed, one of Mum’s favourite expressions was “it is what it is”.

I will however confess to a little indulgent missing that evening.

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Lost in Transition

The swings and roundabouts of this art of transition are bothersome.

I have spoken before of the power of the universe to send the right people to you at the right time when you’re on the path.  My friend Kym described it as feeling like you’re an arrow completely on target to hit that bullseye.

What happens when you’re off track?

The synchronicity of life alludes you and no matter how you chase it, it will continue to duck and weave past you until you sit quietly and listen.

Sitting still with your thoughts and feelings is supposed to help.  What is your heart trying to tell you? The concept that your inner voice will speak to you is appealing.

What happens when you do this and the voice stays resolutely and annoyingly quiet!!

I’ve been reading a little about this whole transition thing and, upon reflection, I realise that I have done this many times before in different guises.  The changes that happen when you leave home for the first time; when you fall in love; if you lose that love; that moment when you first gaze into your baby’s eyes;  your first trip overseas, especially solo; when you see your parents getting older before your eyes.

All of these things that make up this life we lead – they all contribute to the evolution and all of us can relate.  Each time it has felt rather overwhelming and for some reason, it feels even more bewildering this time around, compounded as it is by the knowledge that you have simply no fucking idea what you should be doing and there feels like less time to be doing it in.

I am surrounded by people in a similar situation at the moment, a fact which provides a modicum of comfort.  You don’t feel quite so alone when you know there are others in the same boat.

I always say to my kids, if you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.  In my heart I know that this is a valid and appropriate response.  It’s worked for me before and I have seen it work for others too.  It’s one thing to say those things to others and a completely different kettle of fish when you have to apply it to yourself!

Yes, I know, tell yourself the same things you would say to a friend in the same situation.  Listen to the advice of others and you might be able to hang your hat on something they say to you. Read something that resonates with you.  Do something that you enjoy doing.

Blah blah blah……….

I know all the theory; I’ve read so many of the books, listened to the meditation tapes, called upon many of my long suffering, emphatically supportive friends, focused on the positive, felt the gratitude, done all the right things.

Change is hard.

It’s lonely too.  Only you can make the changes, only you have the answers.  In the end, you are the one who has to make the decisions and roll with the outcomes for better or worse.

Sometimes, a lot of the time, nothing makes any sense.

So I write.

I write so that I don’t feel so alone in this transition stage of life.

I write these ramblings in the hope that something will resonate with someone and perhaps they will have some advice or thoughts that may help me.

I write because in baring my own soul, I just might inspire someone else and maybe they will share something they have done to help themselves; some bright spark of encouragement that may help the rest of us on this rocky road.

I write because that seems to be the only thing that does make sense to me at this time.

I write so that in the act of writing, I may find some answers myself.

And eventually I feel the fear and do it anyway.

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(c) Adrian Bell

Because

Look up the dictionary definition of rant and this is what you find:

“speak or shout at length in an angry, impassioned way.”

The following words are synonyms: outburst, bombast, tirade, rage, bluster, histrionics.

When one feels strongly about a subject, as many do nowadays on social media, it can seem like a rant.

This is not a rant.

This is an explosion of frustration that this week, the week which celebrates all that is great about being a woman, I am still hearing arguments around the value of International Women’s Day.

This week, in March 2017, I find people harking back to the good old days when men were men and women were women and never the twain shall meet.

Today, the day after #IWD2017, I read a tribute to the wife of one of the most corrupt despots Australian politics has ever known.  I’m sure Lady Flo is a lovely woman but she stood by whilst her husband ruled with ignorance, ego and blind ambition for over 25 years.  Come on Barnaby Joyce, what are you thinking!!

This morning, I laugh sadly with a girlfriend over the exchange she had with a woman, a woman for heaven’s sake, who asked her if she was out buying the coffee for the blokes back in the office. My girlfriend is a highly intelligent, senior manager for a large international company who has also worked bloody hard to get there and, with her very supportive husband, raise 2 beautiful children whilst she’s at it.

I shake my head that women I know and respect, still can’t see the point of celebrating all that is good about feminism and the utterly human lens it puts over this tired old world.  That they feel the need to ask “where is International Men’s Day”, which for the record is on November 19, as if equality is as simple as each gender having a day!

Feminism is about choice and a fair go for everyone.  But the facts around women’s equality even in this enlightened age, are sobering.  It’s these facts that hold me accountable and declare myself as a proud feminist.

I am a proud feminist because the ABS Personal Safety Survey conducted in 2012 shows that of the total victims of partner violence since the age of 15, 23 per cent were men and 77 per cent were women.

77%………

I am a proud feminist because even in workplaces where a large majority of the workforce is female, like health and education, a large majority of CEOs are male.  Granted there is larger balance in the next level down where the number of women executives is generally much closer to those of their male colleagues.  But this is tempered by the types of roles they hold.

Marian Baird, professor of gender and employment relations at the University of Sydney Business School, said that whilst these numbers are encouraging, the roles are generally more in human resources, communications or public relations as opposed to the finance and operations management roles that typically go through to the C suite.

I am a proud feminist because there are less large Australian companies (ASX 200) run by women (19) than are run by men named John (32).

Or Peter (32).

Or David (21).

I am a proud feminist because according to UNESCO, two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female.

That’s over 518 million people.

Educating women reduces maternal death rates, improves childhood nutrition, reduces child marriage rates, and significantly reduces child birth rates.  One in eight girls is married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, and one in seven has given birth by the age of 17. These facts are from 2013; a mere 4 years ago.  Education improves employment rates and leads to reduction in pay gaps.

http://en.unesco.org/gem-report/sites/gem-report/files/girls-factsheet-en.pdf

I am a proud feminist because in Australia, the current national gender pay gap is 16.2% and has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades.

There is a favourable pay gap towards men in every single industry in Australia.

Every single industry.

Ironically, as with senior leadership, some of the highest gender pay gaps can be found in traditionally female dominated industries including health care and social assistance.  And it tends to be much larger in the private sector than in the public sector.

There is a gender pay gap favouring full-time working men over full-time working women in every occupational category.

Every occupational category.

https://www.wgea.gov.au/addressing-pay-equity/what-gender-pay-gap

And don’t even get me started on the irony of a group of middle-aged male American political animals making decisions about what a woman can do to her body.

Or that most of the war on this planet is endorsed and encouraged by the patriarchy.

Mostly I am a proud feminist because I am mother to 2 wonderful young women, who are blessed to know a whole heap of other wonderful young men and women, who believe that equality is important, that they all have choice, and that they can be the change they want to see in the world.

While we continue to fight, while we continue to celebrate #IWD, we are blazing a path for the future together.

#BeBoldForChange

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Grazie Mille

One of the great joys of having children is that they bring all these other incredible people into your life.  There is nothing sweeter than sitting at the table with your adult kids and their friends, sharing a glass of the good stuff and generally talking shit.  It’s a moment I have experienced with an enormously grateful heart in recent years and makes every cross word, every angst ridden moment seem like a distant memory.

I constantly feel inspired by these young adults as they commence their navigation of life and am blessed that they share some of their journeys with me.  We hear so much negative press about the “millennial” generation but I am invigorated by the members of this generation I know.

For one thing, the enthusiasm they bring to understanding themselves and their place in the world is contagious.  Perhaps it is the ones I am exposed to, perhaps it is the wisdom of age that makes me look upon them with a mixture of reminiscence, longing and gentle patience.  I don’t really know and to be honest, consciously chose not to over analyse.  I just know, with every beat of my heart, that I love spending time with them.  There is a little part of me that is envious of the sense of exploration and willingness they share with me to know themselves, to be better versions of themselves, often with an eye to the greater good.

The ones I have spent time with recently demonstrate such readiness to listen and learn some skills that could help them make sense of life.  It makes me reflect on my own early 20s to wonder what might have been different if I had sought out this level of counsel.  In any case, seems you can teach an old dog some new tricks as I learn something new with every conversation, in the same way that I hope I impart some hard won, worldly wisdom back to them.

What are some of these learnings for me I hear you ask? For one thing, they keep my musical education evolving.  Who would have thought that Snoop Dog could be so entertaining?  They help me manage my ever increasing reliance on technology.  They tell me when I’m being too hard on someone that has pushed my buttons, or being a bit judgemental, or driving too fast, or eating the wrong foods.

Once this might have annoyed me but no more.  I am centred enough now to know what will or won’t work for me and their well-intentioned teasing makes me laugh.

More than anything though, what they inspire in me is an overwhelming desire to keep living life to the fullest.  One who is very dear to me recently said something about ensuring they live, and I quote, “the full magnitude of life”.

Isn’t that the most brilliant line?  It bears repeating folks:

The full magnitude of life……..

How many of us can say we do that?  Granted, there are bills to pay and work to do and laundry to be done and gardens to be mowed.  We all know it’s important to have a certain level of routine and have some boundaries, especially once you start getting those commitments like a mortgage, family, kids.  We all need a bit of structure – that’s how humans are programmed to think!

Seems to me though that somewhere along the way, in the midst of all that adulting, we lose our sense of fun.  We forget what it’s like to be open to every experience that comes our way and to believe that anything is possible.  We forget that here and now is all that we have and that, in living for tomorrow and what MAY happen, we have lost that art of enjoying the very moment we find ourselves in right NOW.

The challenge is bringing this spirit to the little things as well as the grand activities.  It requires an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart.  When you are open, the most wonderful people will surprise you; they can fill your heart with so much love that you may feel fit to burst and inspiration can be found everywhere.

Live your life in glorious technicolour every day with curiosity and zero judgement.

Who knows what doors it may open for you?

Bring a little bit of generation “why the hell” not into everything you do.

Couldn’t we all use a bit of that full magnitude of life?

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