Saturday, 26 November 2016

Let's Make Art

"Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, to inspire, and to motivate." 
~ Unknown

I asked a friend if he would play piano for me, at our neighbourhood bar. He said he would -- if I sang as he played. "Fun!" I thought, before being seized by fear. He also suggested that I perform some spoken word poetry on open mic night. "Fun!" I thought, before being seized yet again by fear.

There's a theme occurring here. Fear. But fear of what? Fear of self-expression? No, that's not quite it...

Ah, yes. Fear of being seen. Being seen involves vulnerability and exposure. It opens up the potential for criticism. A wise man once said, "If you want to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." (Author of this quote up for debate).

"Nothing" is not an option for me. Nor should it be an option for any of us. Like so many introverted artists before me, I must swallow the lump in my throat, and walk hand in hand with risk as I show my art to the world, whether that be singing, poetry, or publishing my book.

In the case of my book, I'm taking it a step further; beyond a revealing, beyond exposure. I am asking for help. The truth of the matter is, without help there will be no art to show. It will remain on my hard drive, collecting proverbial dust.

In effect, I am not only saying "See me." I am also saying, "Trust me."

Trust me that this art is worth it. Trust me to deliver. Trust me to spread a message of love, courage, and companionship through a children's tale.

Finally, trust that this is not just about me being seen. This is not just about publishing a book.

This is about us creating art.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Embodiment

Past the point of prose,
Torn between "ought"
and "ought not",
the should-do
and the want-to.
One foot here, 
one foot there,
straddling the practical,
and the possible,
waiting...
For money? For power?
No.
For permission.

Who you are,
what you are,
what you do,
how you do it --
it's all the same.
Or should be.
My desire for art --
is it selfish?
To pursue it, to consume it, to create it...
It's all I want and ever wanted.
The movement, the music;
the canvas, the paint;
the actors, the stage;
the words, the page --

I want it all.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Superheroes and Converts

We cannot see what is ahead when we take action. We can only set things in motion, and then ride the wave. When I first sat down to carry on the stories of Mr. Schnoozle, I had no idea it would turn into a book. A book that is now The Adventures of Mr. Schnoozle. I had no idea I would love fall in love with this little green creature and his friends. In fact, I didn't even know some of his friends existed until they appeared on the page.

And I certainly did not think to myself, "I can't wait to finish this and then spend hours & hours of my free time researching self-publishing, marketing techniques, and crowdfunding!"

Yet here I am with a finished, fully-edited manuscript in my hands, and a least one million (maybe two) tabs open on my browser in an attempt to figure out how to convert this manuscript into a book and how to convert unsuspecting web surfers into fans of my dear Mr. Schnoozle.

I am also converting. I am slowly turning into one of those more-than-one-job individuals. Though I suppose I can't actually say I have two jobs until they both produce income. This full-time nurse and wanna-be writer life has me torn. I vacillate between "Isn't my life exciting?" and "What am I doing with my life?" with the occasional veering off to "Who even am I??"

In an attempt to reconcile this double life I am leading, I like to think of myself as an incognito superhero.

My workplace disguise: crisp, monotone scrubs, hair neatly pinned back, glasses, "Gretchen - nurse" on my shiny name badge, smiling face as I make parents feel better about the fact that their baby is in an ICU.

My after-work super-ness: pajamas (or whatever's most comfortable, which might be nothing), hair in wild disarray, glasses flung across the room, writing emails signed "Pattertwig" or "Luna", smiling as I save the world, one word at a time...

So, I've got some work to do. I have the incognito part down. Still working on the superhero gig. Even so, the imagery helps. I feel less like two different people and more like one person wearing two very different hats.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Weather the storm

Expectations are dangerous. We enter into something with a certain outcome in mind. If that outcome is as we expect, we are more or less satisfied. If it is better, we are thrilled. If the outcome we had in mind does not come to pass or changes drastically, we are somewhere on the spectrum of disappointed to devastated.

There is only one way to withstand changes: flexibility. This is not to say you won't feel any number of emotions at your unexpected outcome. You may feel anywhere from elation to sorrow, depending on what it is you're facing. Without flexibility, we will break. A reed that expects only fair weather and sunshine will snap when the storm comes if it does not bend with the wind. Where are you when the storm passes? Did you succumb and are now lying on the ground, acres away from your home? Or are you once again reaching for the sun?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Curiouser and curiouser...

A friend asked me why I write. More specifically, why I started writing children's books. I started to spout off all my altruistic reasons. My "how I want to better the world one book at time" hopes and dreams.

He interrupted me, "No, no. Before all those ideas. Your first reason. What made you sit down and start writing?"

The answer was easy, "Oh, simple. Curiosity. I wanted to know what happened to Mr. Schnoozle."

Then I realized, isn't that always the first reason? From the very first book we get lost in as a young child, when our parents are reading it to us, we are curious. The curiosity is there before we can even speak full sentences, let alone read them ourselves. Who are these strange and interesting characters? What are they doing? Where are they going? What's going to happen to them? The previously egocentric child is now enthralled with the idea of someone else's story. Reading stories, or having them read to us, is one of our first lessons in empathy.

I loved that experience as a child. I still love that experience. It brings me the utmost joy to think that one day my words, and the stories they form, could cultivate the ever-essential virtue of empathy by igniting a child's imagination. Among many other reasons, this is why I write.

Neil Gaiman, in characteristic genius, puts it perfectly: "When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from twenty-six letter and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed. Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals."*

People sometimes say to me, "Write for yourself." To a certain extent, I do. The very act of it keeps me sane. When it really comes down to it, however, I write for us.


*Originally quoted in Maria Popova's Brain Pickings (7 Aug 2016) from Neil Gaiman's book, The View from the Cheap Seats.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Trust Fall

Today is the day. I can feel all the thoughts I've been collecting over the last few days (weeks?), and the emotions that come with them, swelling up within me, like a giant wave. It's about to crest, about to crash; white, foaming, and thunderous. I can already hear the roar, feel the reverberations in my imagination as I watch the might wall of water, grow in silence, gathering momentum as it draws from the waters that were resting in stillness on the shore, unsuspecting, just a moment ago. Let it fall.

Today is my daddy's birthday. He would've been 56 today. Instead, he never made it to 33. What would he tell me if he were here? I think he wouldn't say anything at all, not at first. He would stand there with his arms wide open, as he used to do for me and so many others before the lymphoma took him. With the kindest of smiles on his face, he would stand there, waiting for me to be ready; ready for the embrace of vulnerability and total abandon.

After holding me tight and letting me cry out all my fears, only then would he speak. He would tell me to be brave, he would talk to me of faith, and he would say, "Leap, Princess."

The sharing of these thoughts is that leap. I cannot fall into my father's arms. Instead, I am closing my eyes and falling backwards into a sea of proverbial arms. Your arms, my loved ones, trusting that you will catch me.

So what is this all about?, you are likely wondering at this point. This is about art, connection, and vulnerability.

As you may have noticed, I am not active on social media. Not really. I've always preferred one-on-one, in person, deep, genuine connection over a message on a screen. I want to be able to touch, hug, see the person I am talking with. I want to look into your eyes, watch the subtleties of your expressions as you emote, as you honour me with your story, and I want to mirror back love, telling you: I see you.

I can't do that on Facebook. I've finally realized, however, after many months of stubbornness, that I am an ocean away from the majority of my dear ones. This world of social media (that I have held in disdain for it's bastardization of true connection) is not the problem. I am the problem. I talk about wanting to connect, wanting to see people -- truly see them. But I am afraid to reciprocate. I am afraid to be seen.

It's safer to let you believe that my life is a smattering of holidays and adventures; pictures of me smiling in exotic places. After all, why would you want to hear about my struggles as an artist? Why would you care about the fact that I constantly feel like I'm torn in two between my writing life and my nursing life? Why would I tell you about the fact that I've written a children's book that I'm over the moon about? Wouldn't that be ego-centric and self-seeking? Not just that I've written one but that I actually want your help getting it out into the world? Who do I think I am, anyway?

These are the thoughts that plague me when I sign into Facebook, and cause me to sign right back out again. They are the voice of the Fraud Police (as Amanda Palmer* calls them). Every artist -- no, every person -- is attacked by the Fraud Police at one time or another. The voice (or voices) whisper to you before you create, as you create, and then when you get ready to actually share your creation, they begin to yell: "Illegitimate! Unworthy! You're a fake! No really, who do you think you are??"

This is the truth, so why wouldn't I share it? Isn't that the purpose of an artist? To communicate truth to the world with their chosen medium? This, for me, is the essence of vulnerability. I am standing before you saying: I have fears and goals, I have dreams and anxieties. This is my heart and this is my art. This is me sharing myself with you -- letting myself be seen. Don't let me fall, and I promise, when you are ready to make the leap, I will catch you.

My father knew when to admit he was afraid. He knew when to open his arms to love and be loved. This is me, following in his footsteps.

(*From Amanda Palmer's book, The Art of Asking. Brilliant read.)

Friday, 29 July 2016

Roots

The sun is ushering away the clouds on this chilly Saturday morning and the birds of South Yarra are positively thrilled about it. I am partaking in a few of my favourite things this morning: rising with the sun, reading the ever-inspiring Brain Pickings newsletter, putting on the kettle, and subsequently watching milk curl up in cloudy swirls as I pour it in my tea. And of course: writing. It is one of a few activities, such as dancing, which I do not engage in often enough. Rather than lament it, I am going to enjoy that fact that I am doing it now.

It is an exciting time in our household. We are moving. Our destination is the other side of the city to an apartment that has insulation, a spiral staircase, and a lack of black mould. I cannot say the same for our current residence. This move means a great deal of things for us. It invites (or insists, rather) a coming to terms. The goal is for this move to not be one of many, but one of few. It is a step in the direction of permanence. We have started the seedlings for our life together, and it is time to plant them. It is time for them to establish their roots -- our roots.

This means I must resolve myself to homesickness. I must accept it as a life-long companion. For even if we moved to Portland, after having made Melbourne our home, wouldn't I simply be re-naming my homesickness? No matter where we are, we are missing out on loved ones and their lives.

I digress... Yes, this is a time of establishment. We are tired of "playing house". We want to be part of a community; where the local coffee shop knows us by name and begins making our drinks as soon as we walk through the door.

For those of us who have become accustomed to (dare I say addicted to?) a certain level of chaos, it is a challenge to learn how to become comfortable with consistency. We shudder at the thought of routine. We've long-since associated comfort with boredom. However, if we give it a chance, maybe one day that feeling of comfort will naturally morph into a feeling of joy. The kind of joy that arises when one feels secure, and even (I cringe as I write this), settled.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Smuggler's Cafe

Watch for the moments.
Those shimmering moments -
of knowledge, of love, of pain.
Those moments when
your observations hang like magic
in the air.

The speckles of grey in my lover's beard,
the cracking paint on the cafe's wooden floor.
The piece of newspaper, folded up
and shoved under the table leg;
the table is stable, thanks to those crossword puzzles.
Over-sized Christmas lights and mediocre beach scenes hanging
crooked on the walls,
creating a feeling that invites a smile
and deters pretention.

All the while my mind overflows with love
for the man across me,
for the dimple in his right cheek,
for those strong, reliable hands
that turn the pages
of the Sunday morning paper.

And gratitude.
For the adventures we share,
for his gentleness,
for the way he calms me with his presence,
and makes my heart pound with a single look,
a single smile.

The moment shimmers,
unmistakable.
I take up my pen,
and write the magic,
before it passes.

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Tram Man

I am coming home from work, which requires a tram, and then a train ride. I am tired and not feeling well, so as soon as I board the tram I find a seat. For some reason, I don't sit at the seats closest to me at the end of the tram where I boarded, which would've been far more convenient. Instead I turn right and walk towards the middle of the tram and see three empty seats. There are four total, two across from two others, and there is a man in one of them. He is plump, his grizzled face looks unshaven for about the last decade or so, he has a large knapsack with him, and his most recent shower appears to have been a questionable amount of time in the past. Also of note: he has no shoes on. It is 15 degrees Celcius outside. Not exactly barefoot weather.

My first thought is, "Why are all these people standing up when there's three available seats right here? What are they afraid of? That he's going to ask them for money? Assholes." I sit down at the seat diagonal from him and notice that there is nothing unpleasant or malodorous about his immediate vicinity, as my presuppositions about "such characters" would have expected. (Judge me if you like, I'm just being honest).
No sooner do I lean my head back against the wall, and close my eyes, that I hear, "Hello."

I open my eyes and see that the man is looking at me, leaning slightly forward, with a rather inquisitive smile on his face. His eyes are deep and soulful; not a hint of crazy.

"I am so sorry to disturb you, because you do look very tired" (Thanks, buddy) "but I noticed you appear to be wearing a kind of uniform"(yeah - also known as scrubs) "Do you happen to work in a hospital?"

"Yes", I reply simply, but with kindness so as to not deter him from continuing. I was mildly intrigued as to what may come next. I also had just gotten on the tram at the stop right in front of two hospitals, so that may also have been factored into his deduction. Then again, he does not strike me as someone who pays much attention to things like time and space, so who knows.

"Have you studied anatomy?"

"Yes." (please don't ask about genitals, please don't ask about genitals)

"Do you know how much a colon weighs?"

I smile and somehow avoid bursting into laughter. I can only imagine what the eavesdroppers may be thinking. Oh wait, they're too busy looking at their goddamn phones to notice. "No, that's not my area," I say with what I imagine is a rather bemused expression. He then goes on to ask me how much I think it weighs, in pounds per square inch. I tell him that I have no idea (I'm practically laughing now) and that I work with tiny babies.

"You don't happen to know a proctologist, then?" He says, appearing to mirror my expression, as he is now bemused; his face in a state of laughter, but he remains calm. I shake my head. In sudden seriousness, he says, "May God -- not a he or a she, there's no gender, people think there is, but there isn't -- may the God of Nature and all things bless you for what you do every day." I thank him with the utmost sincerity for his kind words. Then the real fun begins.

He asks, with no transition of subjects whatsoever, "Do you think the gains of growing up outweigh the losses of childhood?"

Without missing a beat, I say, "Yes." If I was intrigued before, he now has my full and undivided attention, excepting the occasional glance out the window to make sure I don't miss my stop.

He sits back, "Mmm." He nods, seemingly in agreement. Then he follows it up with another home-hitter, "Children have 'imagination', adults have 'mental illness'." He looks away for a moment, a half-smile of cynicism on his face.

It's my turn to be the mirror. "Mmm," I say, nodding and thinking, my friend Brian is gonna love this.

He interrupts my thoughts with the next question: "What if children were the teachers, and we adults," he says, pointing to me, then him, then everyone, "were the students?"

"That would certainly change things up," I reply.

But before I can say, "Sounds like you want to go to Nevernever Land", he says, "You know the Bible says Adam is the first man?"

"Yup." (Just go with it, Gretchen.)

"But it doesn't say he's the only man," he looks excited now. He starts to ramble on a bit about mankind popping up all over the place at the beginning of the world, the Jewish think they're the special ones, etc. I try and keep up with his mind, which seems to be a skipping record. He tells me about how he lived and studied in Israel for 10 years, I ask him what he studied, he tells me he studied the Bible, and that there's many more books than just the Bible. I say "Yeah, like the Apocrypha." He's very impressed with this and asks me how I know this... blah blah blah...

Then he says: "There's 12 people all holding hands around a tree. If you asked them to draw what they see, would the pictures look the the same? No. Are they seeing the same thing? No. So why do we think we only need one perspective to see the whole picture? We look at a tree, and we think we have a good idea about what it looks like, but we don't. We need all 12."

"That's right," I agree. "That's a great analogy."

"How many of them do you think would draw the roots?" He says, leaning forward again.

"The imaginative ones," I say. "Or rather, the insightful ones."

His eyes light up. "Yeeesss, the insightful ones. Children are insightful. Adults are insane, but children? No, they are insightful. They understand more than we do. Did you know there are actually 12 senses? We have organs that detect five of them, but we have 12 --"

At this point, the tram is coming to a stop at Melbourne Central Station, and it's time for me to depart. I begin to shift my things to signal that this is my stop, and he looks a bit sad as he mumbles, "Oh you have to go, I see," or something to that effect.

I stand and reach my hand out to shake his, and say, "I wish I could continue this conversation, but unfortunately, I need to go."

He waves my hand away and says, "No, no, I can't, it's in the Bible, I can't."

"No hand shake? Okay, well it was lovely meeting you."

"May the God of nature and the God of all things bless you." He moves his head as if we were to kiss on both cheeks, (though he was sitting and I was standing several feet away), and then he bows slightly with prayerful hands against his forehead.

As I walk towards the station, I begin to write this story down in my head, and then I realize: I don't even know his name.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Perspective

Death summons perspective. It stops us in our tracks, even if only briefly. The closer the loss is to our souls, the longer the pause. The lens through which we have grown accustomed to viewing our lives shifts. For some, it zooms out. For others, it zooms in. Things come into focus, or become blurred. What doesn't happen, is nothing.

Those who are far removed from the loss may offer a gasp or frown, or some other acknowledgement when they hear the news of the tragedy. Then they move on. It may appear that nothing has happened, but it's only a fa├žade. At the very least, they have put up their proverbial hands to deflect the facts from reaching their heart. No sooner have they heard it, than they have shaken the thought from their heads. They straighten up their shoulders, close their eyes, and move through the pause that news of death insists upon.

It is not a malicious act of insensitivity. It is an act of self-preservation. To enter into the loss, the pain; to be swayed by the breakers that death hurls at the shore of safety, is to admit that they are not invincible. After all, it is the most terrifying kind of vulnerability to come face to face with mortality; to admit that every day is not a guarantee, but a gift.

For me, the lens has zoomed out, and has come into focus. I am not impervious to loss. To believe the lie that I am somehow sheltered from the final link that closes the loop in the circle of life, would be to separate myself from the world. It would create a belief of "otherness." I would be saying, "I am the fortunate, they are the less fortunate."

We are human. Our ability to love binds us, and our ability to lose unites us. If we are not in this together, then we are not in it at all. Life is a gift. As my father put it: "I cannot run from an aspect of the gift without running from all of it. If I run from life, I fail to live life. If I fail to live life, then I am unworthy of the gift. Right now, this morning, is life. Be a worthy steward of the gift. Embrace it all."

Monday, 4 April 2016

Contemplating the end of a long "sabbatical"

I sit and wonder how to best soak up my last moments of unemployment.
It’s the first of April and the sun is setting on this waiting game that started at December’s end.
Life is a volley between feast and famine,
And there’s no doubt I’m sitting firmly in the latter.
I squirm in my seat.
I can see the feast ahead.
But I’m not there yet.
No, no. I look around me and I see clearly – I’m not there yet.
I am right here.

I’m right here wearing my worn out shoes and outdated clothes.
But my bowl isn’t empty.
It’s full of rice and beans!
“Survival of the fittest” I joke with my Love, as we smile through tears at the state we’re in.
Secretly my mind is on that last piece of chocolate, sitting cold and preserved in the empty cheese drawer of our fridge.
We’re saving it for a rainy day, we say.

‘Cause right now,
with our garden that won’t grow, the cool that won’t stay in, and the mosquitos that won’t stay out –
It aint rainin’.
Oh no, that sun is shining.
It lights up this city and lights up this flat and lights up my baby’s eyes.

Those eyes…
They can’t decide if they’re green or they’re blue.
They seem to spark when that dimple shows up on the right side of his face,
Hiding in that speckled scruff of a beard he won’t let grow.

I follow those eyes and I see – [gasp]
They’re lookin’ at me!
I look deep into those turquoise pools,
And I start to fall.

He smiles, my heart pounds, my lips are chasing his, I’m sure I’m gonna drown, and then he says:
“How ‘bout them beans?”

I laugh,
And then he laughs.
We laugh til we cry and we hug til we sleep and then we say goodbye…
To another day.
I’m one day closer to that shiny, new job,
One day closer to paying off that debt,
one day closer to something new in that bowl.

After all,
One day is all we got.
Each and every day is just a collection,
Of the here’s,
And the now’s,
And the moments we call: “present.”
We call them that because that is what they are:
A present, a gift,
Already unwrapped and waiting to be seized.

I wake up in the morning on my last day of unemployment and I see that sun is shining but I say:
“Sure looks like rain to me!”
I make a beeline for that fridge,
That drawer,
That patient piece of velvety dark chocolate, because I know..

No matter what the weather,
Right now is all we got,
And I’ll be damned if I’m not gonna seize a delicious piece
of that stuff we call,
life.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Happy Easter

I have no great excuse for the large gap of time between blog posts. I had a goal of one post a week. Then some small, irritating-yet-very-convincing voice told me that I have nothing to say, and therefore nothing to write. Nothing that anyone would care to read, anyway. Maybe if I produced something worthwhile, I would have something to say about it, this voice tells me. So I turned inward, allowing my insides to congeal one Netflix episode at a time...

Therein lies one facet of the great lie of our generation. That is, the lie that tell us that our worth lies in our accomplishments; in what we are able to produce. Every pixelated corner of every social media site -- no, every internet site -- is overflowing with information. Not just information: ideas. Pick a subject. It could be politics, gluten-free cooking, DIY body butter, or yarn bombing. Almost anything you could possibly think to type into the search bar will have a plethora of sites to dig through. Soon, one hyperlink after another, you will be drowning in ideas, facts, and opinions. But mostly just pure rubbish.

All the while, there is something happening subconsciously. We realize, as we are sitting there consuming it all, one byte after another, that we are just that: consumers. All these other people, the ones who have discovered how to make no-sew tote bags and wine bottle bird feeders, have contributed something to modern society as we know it. What's happening in our subconscious is the forming of a question. This question slowly rises to our conscious mind leaving us (that is, people like me) feeling paralyzed: What can I contribute? Now, you can give into the paralysis or you can ask yourself another question: What does it take to transition from a consumer to a producer?

That's all well and good, but perhaps the real question is this: What is the source of your value? That is for you to decide, but I can tell you this: it sure as hell can't be found on the internet.

Monday, 15 February 2016

"Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people-it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people-it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone."

- Parker Palmer (emphasis added)

Friday, 12 February 2016

Boring is the New Brave



"Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about — quite apart from what I would like it to be about — or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions." - Parker Palmer

I spent a good number of minutes reading and re-reading this quote from Palmer's book "Let your life Speak." I pondered for some time, as we all do when reading something inspirational, over what this means in real time. That is, what do I hear when I listen to my life, rather than telling it what I want from it? What do you hear?

For me, the answer is a series of questions: They say you must write for your readers. Can you do this and also write for yourself? What my life is truly about... is this different than what I want it to be about? Can my life as a nurse and my life as a writer stem from the same values? Did I force these vocations upon myself, or was I called to them? Am I doing these things because I want to be "great", or simply because I want to do them?

Which leads me to further questioning: Where has this obsession with greatness come from, and how have we redefined what greatness is? Perhaps our obsession is fed by the headlines we read about over-night sensations. Gratuitous fan-fiction turning into pop culture phenomenons, or what-have-you. We may or may not admit it, but we want what these people have. An average human being one day, a guest on Oprah the next. We want to see our face next to a net worth seven - make it eight - digits long when we enter our name into the search engine. Without investing a kidney into Google Adwords, of course.

We don't read about the everyday heroes. The one's who put their nose to the grindstone day in and day out, because they are passionate about what they do. They may one day be successful, but it could take them years. Decades, even. We won't hear about them until they've already made their millions. What if they never make their millions? What if their life is about providing for their family, and raising children to be healthy, productive members of society, and just that? Would we care? Would anyone read about them? What if we heard that they accomplished this doing what they love to do? To me, that is bravery; that is something worthy of applause.

There was a time when having well-fed children with a roof over their heads was a great achievement. When did that become boring? We've long since left Maslow's Hierarchy in the dust, taking the basics of comfortable survival for granted. Will better, and bigger, and richer ever be enough? Instead, why don't we spend our energy appreciating these basic elements, and let our values that lie deep in the core of who we are guide and direct our vocation? You may be forever anonymous to the world wide web, but if your children see a smile on your face at the end of a day's work... Well, this is the part where you decide if that's worth it.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Diary of a Cynic

You’ve finished uni, you’ve done some travelling, and you’ve even worked a bit here and there to make some money. It may even be a job related to what you studied, if you’re lucky. But most likely not. It’s possible you’ve even accomplished something creative. You’re approaching 30 rapidly, if you haven’t hit that mark already, and you find yourself asking, “Now what?”

It’s possible that this is becoming the popular age for the initiation of parenting because suddenly we 30-somethings of Western, middle class society are craving a purpose of some kind that is beyond increasing the number of selfies in foreign places on our Instagram. The creation and rearing of another human being provides this sense of purpose.

This will make many young people gag or shudder; the thought of a dependent child requiring your 24 hour awareness sounds like a cruel version of solitary confinement. Other’s may think, “Yes, that’s what I’m missing!” The rest of us, like myself, fall into the other category. Not ready to be a parent, we’ve spent all our money on travel, the creative project is done, and the blues have set in. We realize as we stare into the mirror that we really are a jack of all trades, master of none. The question remains, “What now?” 

If you’ve read this far you may be hoping I have some kind of revelation to share that answers this question. Sorry to disappoint, I don’t. I’m like you, wading from day to day, watching other people accomplish great things and wondering if I have greatness hidden in me somewhere and one day I’ll be inspired, and also make a really rich friend, and make headlines by changing the world. For that day, at least, until someone else comes along and does one better. I am a realist, however, so I ask again (I truly want to know) where does one go from here??

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The In-Betweeners

What happiness… “Today marks the beginning of an awesome, exciting year ahead”, my love said on the first day of 2016. Indeed it does. My current happiness is a tribute to to the fact that change is possible. A tribute that says: if one is miserable, one can change their current state… with just a few, seemingly-impossible, incredibly challenging decisions, of course.

 But they are life changing – and isn’t that the point? Was it just four years ago that I was newly separated from an unhealthy marriage, ridden with ulcer-forming anxiety, torn on a soul-deep level, entirely unsure of what my future held and what happiness looked like?

It all seems light years away, as if from a different universe, a different life, a different person altogether.

Here I am, at the dawn of 2016, writing down my hopes and dreams (not resolutions – those are silly) for my life for the next twelve months. It will be my first year living in another country. It will be my first year working somewhere other than the hospital that has more or less borne and raised me for the last 6+ years. It will be the first year in which I publish a book (but certainly not the last).

It will be my third year, however, practicing presence. I have been practicing this most recently with the mantra, “Find happiness in the the in-between moments”. That is, I have been practicing finding beauty and joy in waiting for a train, in walking down the street between destinations, and in those slow, yet brief, breaths taken at the end of one task before the beginning of another.

We think – and read – a lot about being present in every circumstance. We forget, however, about the moments between circumstances, waving them away in our minds as being of no consequence. Think about how much time we waste in these moments, usually looking down at our phones instead of looking up and around at the beauty that surrounds us.

When you finish reading this, and before you move on to the next thing on your agenda, just breathe and think about the happiness that can be found in this moment, right now. Happy New Year.