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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WWW

On Monday I celebrated another year on Planet Earth.  During my Festival of Kylie, I spent time with some of my nearest and dearest which always brings me great joy.

As part of the Festival, two of my dearest friends took charge and whisked me away for a day in the mountains – good food, great conversation, excellent scenery, fabulous company.

I met these two gorgeous women when our kids were in preschool, many years ago now. They are part of a tribe of Wonderful Warrior Women I am blessed to have in my life. Over the years we have laughed and cried together; we have celebrated our triumphs, problem solved our various family ups and downs and supported each other through those moments of sadness that touch us all.  The loss of a parent, the trials of raising children, the odd health crisis, the joys of growing older. All of this is usually done with a high level of laughter, the odd glass of wine and liberal use of that very adaptable word, fuck.

We have retained over the years, a light-hearted banter between us over what it means to be a feminist.  As the mother of two strong, independent, feisty, grounded young women, I am a loud and proud feminist.  Being a feminist means we are free to exercise our choice and its thanks to our sisters who have gone before us, that we have them.  We can work, stay at home, be a mum, choose not to have children, stay single, get married (although not in Australia if your partner happens to have the same gender as you but we’ll leave that for another post…..)

No longer do we need to adopt the passive aggressive behaviours of the 1950s housewife, forced to adopt this approach given society demanded she resign the moment she signed the marriage certificate.  It was the only way she could get anything done in the patriarchal, competitive world culture that was prevalent then and sadly, still exists today.

Yet we continue to see women tearing down other women – at work, at play.  I have personally experienced this so many times.  Women who feel that to get ahead they must trample the competition.  Women who scheme and connive and back stab and bitch; women who continue to try and be second class men, nay human beings, instead of first class women.

Having been exposed to these behaviours, I had to acknowledge my own reactions to this and recognize when I was being triggered. The best example I have is the tale of how I made a solid friendship with another woman who I met when we were both participating in a work project for a highly competitive, male-ego driven company.  When we first met, so many echoes of competitive women who had torn me down in the past were ringing in my ears.  My triggers were flying out of orbit.  Thankfully, I recognised them, let my barriers down and lo and behold was blessed with a friendship that has only grown in depth and strength.

Gratefully armed with the wisdom gained through this experience, I continued my path of personal transformation which has rewarded me with abundance and soul enriching experiences.  On this path I have met other soul sisters and we have found each other in some fascinating places:

On the roof of Notre Dame      In a hamman in Morocco        Over an espresso in Lucca

Everywhere I went, I met women who were living life to the fullest and learning more about themselves so that they could give back to the world they were part of.  I met so many of them that I became a little blasé about the continuing struggle.

Imagine my despair when Em Rusciano felt the need to make a public statement over archaic comments made by Miranda Devine on radio this week.  I felt her pain once again as she defended her rights as a woman in this day and age against, god help us, another woman.

For fuckssake people, we are all in this together.

I recall the preschool teacher, Sr Mary, making an observation way back when.  She casually mentioned that there were a lot more boys than girls coming through the school at that time.

“Look out, we’re heading for another war” was her only other remark, adding that it always happens when boys outnumber girls in the birth rates.

I have no idea if there is any evidence to support this contention and it is not my intent to debate this with this blog.

What I do believe, with all my heart, is that now more than ever, in this hate filled world that the mostly male heads of state are driving, we need to embrace the feminine goddess and bring all that is good and wise about being a woman to the forefront.

Our world needs some nurturing, some kindness, the feminine divine in all her luscious glory.

Our world needs some soul food and beauty and enrichment.

Our world needs Wonderful Warrior Women who will fight for it and men who continue to support them.

And most importantly, it needs women that lift and support each other.

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After a long sojourn away from this blog it’s time to start this New Year off as I hope to continue, with a rekindling of my passion for words.  Indulge me, dear reader, with some rumination on the year that was……

I know of many people who had a challenging 2016, not the least reflected in the loss of many famous people who were key figures in my formative years.  The deaths of Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher were particularly devastating.

I loved Alan Rickman; I loved his voice and his prodigious talent.  I loved that he could play light and dark with equal ease.  He was my perfect ghost in Truly Madly Deeply, my delightful villain in Robin Hood.  Who can forget the immortal line: “Locksley, I’m going to cut your heart out with a spoon”

And his penultimate role as Severus Snape – complex, profound, driven by obsessive love.  The world of creative arts is a sadder place for his loss.

Likewise, Princess Leia who was my childhood hero – a strong, feisty, brave woman who fought for the greater good over and over again.  I guess all those drugs eventually took their toll.

Celebrity deaths aside, last week I read an article about numerology, which stated that 2016 was a “9 year” representing endings with 2017, being a “1 year”, representing new beginnings.

I wonder if you were one of the ones who felt that vibe like I did.  Mind you, I am not being naïve; I recognise the power of suggestion to influence our thoughts.  This information did add to my reflections on the year that was, as is my wont at this time of year.

What stood out for me this past 12 months is that for many years, I had worked bloody hard to make life easy for just about everyone else but me.  I put a lot of time and effort into those I love, which believe me when I say this, was truly no burden.  It certainly can result in putting yourself last on most occasions.

This stems from some lifelong habits, for many and varied reasons which if you buy me a nice glass of red, I’d be happy to explore further with you!  Suffice to say, a major life event that happened 25 years ago this week, created a series of years when the focus on doing for others became all encompassing; at times, life threatening and sometimes soul crushing. Oh yes there were periods of great joy as well.  There was purpose and meaning and direction.  The lack of self focus was all from within and not forced upon me.  I simply forgot who I was in all of the busyness.

What happens when you put all others’ needs above yours?  You run out of steam that’s what happens.  You become overwhelmed and burnt out and completely empty. You fail to do the greatest thing any human being can do, be of service to others, when your tanks are dry.

Therefore 2016, splendid year of endings that it was, became my first foray into creating a life that is truly multi-faceted, like an imperfect diamond, with layers of different and diverse experiences, forming a glittering new modus operandi.  I started the fascinating journey of crafting a life I love, built on the foundations of the past.

And this amazing thing happened.  My tanks became full again.  I jumped head first into the flow of life and the right people crossed my path at exactly the right moment (like my incredible circle of friends who know just when to call me or my soul sister from Boston who spent 8 glorious days here with me).  I had reserves of empathy and energy that I couldn’t wait to share with others.

I have also become impatient for the universe to send me some indication of the next road less travelled.  I’m trying to cultivate patience but I wish it would hurry the fuck up…..

So welcome 2017 – I embrace you with joy and confidence.  Let’s do this!!

 

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Unconditionally

The other night as I was winding down in front of Kiwi television, remote in one hand, glass of fabulous Central Otago Pinot Noir in the other, I landed on E-TV and found myself transfixed by an older episode of the Kardashians.

There they were, swirling in a sea of long meaningful glances, pouting oversized lips, sporting enough eye makeup to make a drag queen blush and using the word like more than I thought humanly possible.

It was like watching a train wreck – I couldn’t look away.  I had never watched an episode before and the likelihood of me watching another one remains non-existent.  To me, there is nothing more jarring than vacuous, unimportant people, full of their own hubris, trying to make statements about such profound topics as gender reassignment, marriage breakdown, infidelity, substance abuse and child rearing!

Strangely though, this encounter with the loathsome Kardashians and particularly their awful mother (apparently she’s their “MomManager” – what the actual f*ck), has prompted me to reflect on a quality that remains elusive for so many of us; unconditional love.

Herewith a whimsical and slightly off-centre allegory for you to ponder dear readers.

For many years I have been allergic to cats.  I don’t recall having this allergy as a child and in fact, remember a beautiful black and white cat called Tom that we had when I was a child.  We were very original with pet names in those days.  There was Fluffy the (you guessed it) fluffy grey cat, Mitsi the black poodle, Nippy the budgie (because when Dad caught it in our backyard, it took a sizeable chunk out of his finger).

Tom Cat was very loving – he used to sit on Mum’s chest and purr and prance and rub his head against her chin in a display of pure love.  That is of course until he was fed. Then you wouldn’t see him for hours.  The internet is full of stories about cats owning their humans so the following is a truism – cats only love you because you feed them.

An early lesson in conditional love………

Now dogs are a completely different story.  Dogs love you in addition to the fact that you feed them.  They will curl up next to you on the couch just to be closer to you.  My earliest memory of this was said poodle Mitsi, who woke me up with a kiss and a cuddle every morning and wouldn’t leave my side as I studied feverishly throughout high school and uni.  My current little beloved takes up most of the bed especially in winter, as she backs into me for warmth and comfort and is content to sit next to me as I work from home.  She looks at me with sadness and regret every morning if I leave the house and greets me with a wagging tail and happy smile every single time I come home, irrespective whether a single day or a 3 month absence.

A lesson in unconditional love………

I once dated someone who at first seemed attentive and kind but took great pains to tell me that I’d be so much more attractive if I lost weight.

Another lesson in conditional love………

Of course all of these lessons paled once I became a mother.  First glance at that tiny human being (although not as tiny as others in the case of my first born), helpless and fragile, convinced me that there is such a thing as unconditional love.

Love without judgement or strings attached.  Love without expectation or provisos.

Motherhood became the very best lesson I could have hoped for in unconditional love……..

So my very long bow extrapolation is that as I grew up, I became allergic to conditional love and thus I learned slowly to embrace unconditional love, a situation which remains an ongoing aim to this day!

Which leads me to the inevitable questions – how do we love ourselves unconditionally?

Why do we look in the mirror and not see the qualities inside that make us who we are?

When do we dare to accept ourselves as the uniquely flawed, imperfect wondrous beings that make us human?

I want you all to get up and look at yourselves in the mirror – go on, do it right now!

I want you to say to that person looking back at you – I love you unconditionally.

With your hips that are too wide or too thin; legs that are too long or too short; skin that is pimpled or blemished or smooth or white; wrinkles that surround those eyes that have seen so much; belly that wobbles when you laugh; nose that’s too long or flat or bumpy or broad.

You, my lovely, flawed, imperfect human being, are awesome.

Unconditionally yours in love!

millie

 

Life’s Soundtrack

Recently I was sitting in a cosy café in Queenstown, the lake and snow covered hills providing me with a spectacular backdrop. I had spent a joyous couple of days with 2 of my loved ones and on that particular morning I took a moment to pause and reflect on a few things.
When you surrender to the mindful moment, the rhythms of the universe kick in and if you tune in, you can be rewarded with some mind-bending clarity.
For me that morning, I was presented with a moment to savour the blessings of my life and to revel in gratitude at being right here, right now, in that present. As I gazed out as the towering hills, dusted with white, the song Landslide started playing. As I have often found lately, the soundtrack of life chimes in, serendipitously and often ironically underlying the pause.
This song has a range of poignant lines; the one that always resonates for me is this one:
Well I’ve been afraid of changing because I built my life around you
But time makes us bolder, even children get older and I’m getting older too…..
Listening to those words in that café brought tears to my eyes and, even now make me marvel at the power of music as a soundtrack to life.
It also made me look quite a sight in that quiet little corner of Queenstown…..
As I think back to that moment now whilst writing this piece, I wonder why those particular lines resonated so strongly for me. I am tempted to not ponder this too deeply and simply revel in the moment it produced. However being the curious soul that I am, I still find myself reflecting on this.
My thinking is thus; as my children grow into the wonderful adults that they are becoming, I am reminded of my own progress on this adventure called life. This doesn’t scare me at all; far from it. So many of our friends and family don’t get the chance to grow older. I learned this at a very early age and still to this day, I try to have a pause daily to reflect on the joy that is life and practice meaningful appreciation of the fact that I am still afforded this honour.
It seems to me that there are many who struggle and I sat in that café in Queenstown, gazing out on the magic, wondering why? I meet people who scrap for attention and power; who pursue the tangible at the expense of the intangible; who seemingly have it all, yet remain desperately and achingly unfulfilled.
Is this a generational thing? In Queenstown I met a number of younger people who had left a comfortable existence at home and set forth into the world, thousands of kilometres away to experience another way of living. Perhaps? These young ones are certainly living in a much smaller world than the one I grew up in and travel is so much more a part of their expectations.
Yet there I sat, in the full bloom of middle age, embracing all of these same opportunities, eager to drink from the fire hydrant of life.
My point in this – and yes dear reader I will get there – is that it is very easy to get so caught up in the day to day that the minutiae of life often passes us by. Every day, it’s important to pause and reflect back to the universe how grateful you are to be alive. When I do this, I am rewarded by things that I otherwise would not see and hear. It could be a song that moves me to tears in a dark café overlooking a mountain, the chatter of an excited little boy diving into his pancakes with gusto, a group of old friends who are travelling together for a quick little getaway.
Whatever it is, it’s exactly what you need to see and hear at that moment and despite what your logical mind may say to you, it undoubtedly MEANS something to YOU if you took the time to notice it.
Hmmm – I’m not sure that last sentence made sense to anyone else but regardless, I’m going to let it hang in the air like a brick doesn’t anyway!

NB: apologies to Douglas Adams for stealing his immortal line.

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Handling the Truth

When I was a child, my mother always used to say that when tact was handed out, I must have been at the end of the queue.

I feel like this was her less than subtle way of saying I called a spade a big fat shovel!

As I grew older I learned the value of tempering my less tactful remarks with a degree of kindness.  Well I hope I did anyway; only those who know me and have interacted with me will be able to confirm this.

I fear I was born with an incurable belief in the value of truthfulness, a trait which at times has been to my detriment; never more so when I realise it has been passed on to my children.

There is power and beauty in truth.  Plus it’s a lot easier to remember the stories you’ve told and not get into any sort of mischief.  To be a good liar is to have a brilliant memory.

Last week, I and many others farewelled my sister in law, or as I fondly call her, my SFAM (Sister From Another Mister) after a long battle against melanoma.

As is the human condition, we spoke in hushed tones of her death being a blessing, a release from pain, a reminder that she is now at peace.  These words served to ease our grief and validate her strong conviction that she was indeed going to a better place.

All of this is true and of great value to those of us left behind who struggle to make sense of a life lost too soon.

However in the midst of this, her courageous daughter, my amazing niece, spoke the truth.  She stated clearly and calmly, ” Well this really sucks”.

Which was also very true.

We are so conditioned to trying to make things better, to make sense of something that defies logic, to hiding our pain behind albeit soothing platitudes, that we sometimes forget how to speak the truth plainly and eloquently.

Death really sucks…..

The truth that I know reinforces this on a regular basis.  Daily we are bombarded, either in person or through the media, with people who suffer needlessly in jobs they loathe, relationships that undermine them, appalling living conditions, deadly war zones, unassailable poverty, brutal dictatorships.

The truth that I believe is that we need to speak out whenever we can about injustice and unfairness.  We are a long time dead – we must make the time we have alive worthy.

The truth that I value is that we need to make our politicians accountable for improving the world.  Never more so relevant in this cynical and beige world of sameness.

The truth that I understand is that we must play our own individual part to make the place we call home, sadly at times for such a short period, a place that is brighter, lighter and more kind.

A work colleague asked me the other night, how could I honestly believe that I can make a difference in my interactions with people I know or in the organisations I work with when all they are driven by is ego and bottom line thinking.

The truth I live is how could I not.

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