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.

jord__norse_earth_goddess_by_valkyrie240

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!!

 

hero-design-shine-on-you-crazy-diamond

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.

blogPic

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.

IMG_4431

Judge and Jury

Judgement – you can use it, make it, form it, exercise it, pass it.

In a court of law, judgement is made daily.  It’s legally binding and the ensuing obligation placed on the recipient can have long term repercussions.

It can have a negative connotation as well and there are quite a few people out there whose lives are defined by it.  I’ve known people who use it daily on others.  From the passing look we give the man or woman on the street, to the vitriol that is found on social media, judgements fly with no consideration for the person receiving it.  There are many who don’t even realise they are doing it.

Ah dear readers, I can hear you from here:  what is this blog but another judgement!  Fear not; whilst I write on this subject, I am the first to confess that I am not immune and have found myself passing judgement on many occasions.  Lately, I’ve tried to catch myself when I do so and in my kindest, most patient voice, gently remind myself to stop.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the world we live in today.  Is it simply part and parcel of this curse we call “being human” that we assign a negative lens to this ability we have?   Judgement is important.  That 1.9kg mass of jelly we carry around in our heads has a large part at the front that purportedly separates us from the apes.  The pre-frontal cortex is defined in part by our ability to use judgement to reason and deduce.  Stephen Hawking’s pre-frontal probably weighs a bit more than the average Joe’s and it’s also fair to say that there are quite a few humans whose pre-frontal weighs considerably less (including a certain current US presidential candidate).

We use our judgement to make decisions, take a risk, or draw sensible conclusions.  Look it up in the dictionary and you’ll find synonyms that include reason, logic, common sense, wisdom.  Used, dare I say, judiciously, it is a great thing.  Where it’s not so great is when we use it to define others by our own prejudices.

The other really interesting thing is how often we pass judgement on ourselves.

My completely non-scientific, non-evidentiary view is that this seems worse for women than it is for men.  One of my friends once described the difference between men and women as thus – women get up in the morning, look at the mirror and go “Sigh, better do something with this before I head out the door” whereas men get up in the morning, look at the mirror and go “Wow, you fabulous sex-god.  What a handsome beast. Go get ‘em!”

I’m not convinced it’s that simple.  I’ve known people, men and women, who are so full of self-loathing that it seeps from their pores in a vile concoction that could be mistaken for simple body odour were it not for the accompanying venom that pours from their mouths.  I kid you not – this putrid scent was a physical manifestation of their innate hatred of themselves and in their disgust, they created a poisonous trail of destruction in their wakes.

I long for a world where we live without judgement of ourselves and each other.  Where every time we turn on the TV or computer or radio, the words and images we hear and see convey tolerance and peace.  Where acceptance and humanity are the lens through which we treat ourselves and each other.

Until then, I am trying to practice what I preach.

Rays-1

(C) Adrian Bell

Through the looking glass

Have you ever had one of those completely inexplicable reactions to someone?  It’s completely visceral.  You can’t explain why but every time you see that person you get a knot in your gut, your skin starts to crawl and your heart beats a little faster.  The heart beats not in a “I’m so happy to see you” kind of way but more in the “if you don’t get away from me, I will cut your heart out with a spoon” kind of way.

No matter how hard you try, there is simply no way in this known universe that this is a person you want around.  Not in any universe – not even in a galaxy far, far away – is this going to be someone you could ever tolerate for more than a few minutes at a time.

This doesn’t happen to me very often so when it does, I have learned to take note.  Like many humans, I accept people at face value.  Blessed as I am with the cock-eyed optimism of the positive thinker, I see the good in everyone.  This attribute is fantastic when it all works out.  I have watched spellbound as people who have never seen themselves in a certain way, lift to become their highest version, simply by seeing themselves through someone else’s eyes.  This is without doubt, one of the best things about being a parent and certainly the greatest joy I have found in undertaking leadership roles during my professional life.

On the flip side of course, this optimism has produced bitter disappointments when people have let me down badly.  It led to significant head scratching, teeth gnashing and soul searching.  Thankfully, from the seething pits of despair, the lessons were found and I learnt something from each and every one of these difficult souls who present themselves to me.  My friend, Kym Lincolne, coach and mentor extraordinaire, and owner of an awesome business called The Field (www.thefield.com.au) once remarked to me that the universe sends these people to you as a mirror so that you can learn something wildly important about yourself.  Her advice, which is always spot on, was to say “thank you” to the universe.  In practising the art of gratitude, a very important reflection about yourself will undoubtedly emerge.

So, as I find myself dragging my developing self through this temporary break in transmission (AKA empty nest syndrome – more on that another day), the universe in its infinite wisdom, has sent me just such a mirror.  As is my way, I have turned this over and over in my mind without coming to any particular resolution.  It was driving me mad!  Why couldn’t I figure this out??  My head was doing somersaults trying to work out why I truly could not stand the sight of this person. Just as I was about to give in, I remembered Kym’s words about gratitude.

So what was any sane person to do?

Yep, I surrendered.

Throwing my hands up in a gesture of peace and acceptance, I heard myself say thank you to the universe for sending this person my way and, right on cue, that beautiful moment of clarity occurred.  I realised this was nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.  My sense of self-worth, my changing circumstances, my development into the next version of me.

As the realisation became stronger and I stared into the mirror, a beautiful thing happened.  My whole being breathed a sigh of profound relief and that person stopped being a source of annoyance to me.  They no longer made me feel uncomfortable; they no longer challenged me;  they no longer held dominion over my head and my heart. They became white noise in the background that was to be mindfully accepted and promptly forgotten.

In a spirit of silent sincerity, I thanked them for their contribution to my evolution, shelved my antipathy towards them and let go.

FullSizeRender