Monday, December 9, 2013

Season of Giving

Holy moly folks, we're two weeks out from December 25. I've got most of my gift shopping done, how about you? Like so many people I have just about everything I need - as do a lot of my friends and family. There's a lot of traffic online this time of year about gifts. Our in boxes and news feeds are chock full of bargains if you buy NOW NOW NOW - and there are countless opinion pieces about where your holiday dollars should end up.

This is not one of those. I think you can do what you like with your money, but I'd like to share what I do each year.

I think carefully about the kids in my life and what meaning my gifts will have for them. Overwhelm them with piles of plastic crap and they won't remember anything, but just the right thoughtful things can give them joy. When kids get the gimmes, it's unpleasant for everyone - including them.

I like to make a donation. I'm not flush with cash, but I budget a bit each year to donate at Christmas time. It's a perspective thing - I have a roof over my head, I'm free from persecution, I'm relatively healthy and so is my family. Others are not as lucky as me so it's not a big deal to go without avocado or berries for a few weeks to top up the amount.

How to choose?

The good news is, you can't go wrong if your heart's in the right place.

Sarah Wilson often comes up with worthy causes, and with a following like hers she's in a great position to make a difference. I think that's ace. Last year I donated to one of the causes she listed, and also to the ASRC.

My folks have told me that they have absolutely everything they need, so they like to receive a card but not any gifts - so I make a donation in their name. 

Here they are, proving that everyone in our family pulls a very weird face whenever a camera points in our general direction.

This year there are so many causes that spring to mind I thought I'd compile a top ten (in no particular order) handy list with links and information, in case you're stuck for ideas. Every little bit helps - so even if you're like me and can't afford to give much, giving something is worth taking the time to do. Tell your friends and family - they might appreciate the idea, and then they don't have to spend any time at Myer or Chadstone and be trampled or elbowed or go cray trying to find a park.

Love Your Sister leaves me in a blubbering mess whenever it comes on the telly. I love what Sam is doing for his sister Connie, and the difference it's making in spreading awareness about early detection of breast cancer. Check your boobs! If you don't have any boobs, check your partner's boobs! (If they say it's ok).The donation button is on the front page of the website. Sam must have a very sore bottom after riding so many km's around the country on a unicycle. Think of your bottom, think of boobs. Donate.

Bowel Cancer Australia is a cause very close to my heart. I lost a friend who was 30 years old just before Easter this year to cancer. I miss Rel every day, and just like breast cancer, early detection is a big factor in survival rates from bowel cancer. If there's something up with your butt, or your poop, or your energy levels in general - get a check up and if your doctor isn't caring enough about what's going on, get a second opinion. Rel went to a doctor about six months before her diagnosis complaining of stomach pains and very low energy, her test results came back with low liver function, but the doctor didn't recommend any further investigation. By the time they caught it, she was stage four (there is no stage five). If something is wrong, get tested. There's test kits available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website, as well a a big donate sign on the front page. Other places that I'd like to suggest in memory of Rel are The Gawler Foundation who provide amazing support and wellness retreats for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious illness, and the Make A Wish Foundation who make dreams come true for young people who have terminal illness. When your time is running low and there's been a lot of investment in medical costs, there often isn't a lot left over for fun and bucket list items. Both of these foundations made a big difference in the last few years for Rel. See her blog for more info about her journey.

PBS is your local friendly community radio station - if you like supporting purveyors of fine tunes by underrepresented creative types, you can show your love through purchasing a membership or just making a donation. A PBS membership is also a really good Christmas present for any freeloader PBS listener you know - start them off in the right direction for a year and they may keep subscribing. Yay music! Yay Melbourne!

It's 2013, and there's still a crapload of discrimation and shizz going on for queer folks. The good news is that the next generation are starting to show us old fuddy-duddies how its done. Minus18 is a brilliant organisation based in Melbourne who do all sorts of things - run underage dance parties for queer kids, questioning kids, and their friends. They're backed by Victoria Police and do an absolutely brilliant job. A safe space to explore who you are is essential for good self esteem, and Minus18 provide amazing services and online resources like this one. You can donate to Minus18 here. Why is this important? Because suicide rates are still high amongst GLBTIQ young people, and anything that cuts through isolation and reaches out is literally a life saver.

The Royal Children's Hospital is fricken amazing. My niece was airlifted there from Mildura last month after coming off her horse and knocking her head quite badly. The care and facilities there are absolutely world class - all of the staff I encountered were respectful of Sarah as a human and never spoke down to her, something that doesn't always happen with children. She spent a couple of days in the ICU and now she's right as rain. What initially could have been a severe brain injury with lifelong impact was healed and I will be forever grateful to the RCH for their amazing work.  I know they have a big appeal in April, but why not chuck em a bit of love in December and shake things up a bit? Their donate button is at the bottom of their home page.

Dudes. What the actual Uck is going on with the treatment of asylum seekers in this country? If you have rage about this and also a heart, donate to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. They do very good things for new arrivals, like not sticking them in concentration camps, or sending them home where their ethnic minority is in constant danger of hate crimes and death. The ace things they do are outlined here. If you live near Melbourne and need a cleaner or some catering, contact the ASRC and they can help you out as well as providing an asylum seeker with employment. Yay! Seriously, I've used their catering for events before and it is yum town. It's a scientific fact that ethical catering taste 900% more delicious. The ASRC website's home page has a donate button.

The Lort Smith Animal Hospital do so many wonderful things. Located in North Melbourne, they provide budget vet care for people with a concession card who have pets. I adopted my cat Gingko from there nearly 14 years ago. We are pals - and she controls the remote in our house. Gingko says donate to the Lort Smith, or I will stare into your soul until you melt inside!

Equal Love is a good one to donate to if you think it's totally lame that Tony Abbott and a bunch of other jerks think my lady-loving relationship shouldn't be legally recognised in the same way as heterosexual relationships. Like Britney Spears and K-Fed, or Elizabeth Taylor and all of her husbands. I think we can all agree that Kanye and Kim will be 4 EVA though.

Anyhoo, Ali Hogg (convenor of Equal Love) works harder than anyone I know to try and get marriage equality happening in this country. You can donate to the cause through their home page.

That's all from me. I wish you a zenny Christmas and a safe and fulfilling new year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Creative Cheerleaders


Before I start - I hope I haven't given you the wrong impression. This is not about the type of cheerleading portrayed in the film Bring It On. It's a great moviefilm. I myself have watched it many, many times.

Allow me to explain. A few months ago Tavi came to Melbourne to speak at a writer's festival, and her keynote speech was televised on the ABC's Big Ideas. I watched it on iView one fatigued afternoon and was amazed when she told me who I am.

A creative cheerleader. I've always felt creative but found it difficult to define what I create.

Earlier this year I met Mirka Mora at a lunch thing, who asked me if I was an artist. I said no, but I write some things. I felt uneasy about saying this - like it was fibbing. You can't fib to Mirka Mora! Anyway, then she looked up my skirt and we had a champagne, because that's what you do when you're with Mirka.

Having always loved music, I've played a few instruments and could interpret the heck out of things other people had already written when I was younger and my arms worked. Want to know the bassline or vocal harmonies of music I love? I can hum it off the cuff til the cows come home. I can cross stitch someone else's pattern with the best of them. Soft toys? Give me the cut outs and I'll sew them together with so much love you'll feel it bursting out of the seams. Don't even get me started on a mix tape.

Other people's creativity really melts my butter. I think if I wasn't able to stand on some kind of soapbox and yell "Hey you guys, look at this! Listen to this! This made me SO happy and I hope it makes you happy too!" then my life would hold a lot less meaning and fulfillment.

How lovely to come to a place where I understand part of my purpose ('part of' because the best is always yet to come). Thanks Tavi. So I whole-heartedly cheer for love, music, and various other things. It's a lovely life to lead, and to understand and own that it's a creative process in itself is pretty sweet.

As a side note of cheer, the shades of blue that Romy Sai Zunde use in her paintings make my belly go flip flop. Absolutely amazing.

When I write and conduct (but it feels more like a sincere kind of performance) weddings, I'm cheerleading for their relationship. Yo! Everyone here at the wedding - these people are in LOVE and that is ACE! Let's all  feel good about it - me and a bunch of other carefully chosen people will tell you the story of this couple for the next 10-15 minutes. Then we can all feel feelings together that will really give this a sense of occasion.

That wee snippet of time doesn't come easily or quickly, and so much energy goes in to creating the right feel and space for two souls to sign that mystical (and often legal) contract. Sure - it's creative, but it's paraphrasing what has already been said. My job as a celebrant is so much about listening and giving the couple the space and time to speak to, and from, each others hearts.

Tavi founded and writes for a marvelous website for teenage girls called Rookie. I've ordered a couple of the Rookie Yearbooks for my niece who is pretty shy, and has the most beautiful heart. I hope when she opens her Christmas presents this year, the pages crammed with words and images and amazing style inspire her and give her a world where she feels fizzy and bright*.

It's so energising to see the truth sometimes. I wonder about that - why it's so refreshing to see honesty in film, literature, music. It stands out. I guess my version of truth is very different to someone elses, and that's why I'm more into Neko Case than One Direction, but the other 32 year old woman living around the corner is hot for that boy band like a moth to a carefully constructed unkempt hairdo. Every day we're in these Venn diagrams - the things, experiences, thoughts I believe in and connect with intersect with yours, and that makes us feel a certain way when we're communicating.

Sometimes I feel so exhausted after having a short (but feels long) conversation with another human being I literally need to lie down and zone out for awhile to recalibrate. I've been trying to work out what that's about - what the common thread is. Why does it offend my nervous system so much if someone is outside the intersecting circle?

An example: we tried a couples pack delivery from a local fruit and veggie company. It came with eggs and milk we had no use for (the chickens provide more than enough for us and we drink soy) so Tracey and I offered it to a neighbour. We stood on her front step for an eternity as time marched on and so did her sentences. On and on and on about work, her children, how much she loves to talk, how other people are annoying. (Are they? Are they really?)

It was impossible to interject. Oh, how we tried. To level the playing field of conversation. To see if the neighbour had any interest whatsoever in anyone outside of the inner circle of her Venn diagram (herself). She did not. Tracey and I both have experience in workplace conflict resolution and I noticed us each attempting active listening, "I" statements, etc.  I wonder why it's so exhausting to be at the bum end of interest like that? It doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things - perhaps it's disheartening to reach out and be met with a solid wall of need and take.

The last thing I want to do is be unkind and be hatin' on folks. What is dull and overly needy to me is undoubtedly fascinating to another. Just like some shoes don't fit my feet but look fab and feel comfortable on someone else. Do other people feel it in such a physical way or am I a bit freaky deaky? Who knows. (The irony of blogging about myself isn't lost on me either).

It's pretty great to know what makes me happy, so I can head in that direction and tip the balance toward more smiles and less blahs.

A couple of my favourite creative cheerleaders are Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), and Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy (Women of Letters). How about you?

* Weirdly, I had to wrap the yearbooks before I looked through them properly because I found the experience too overwhelming. I also thought that maybe if I read it then all the magic would have been spent - and it was a gift for someone else.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You know what really grinds my gears?

Hi there!

Long time no write. I've been treading water. Mopey, painful, miserable, wintry water. Sitting still a lot. Walking a little. Recovering a lot from little walks. Walking again. Trying my best.

I've managed to keep my 365Grateful shots posted daily since beginning over a month ago. It's a lovely ritual. Usually I take several photos every day, and reflect on all the things I'm grateful for just before I sleep (or try to sleep). You can take a look here if you like.

It's led to being present a lot more often. That can only be a good thing. Even being present with frustration (at lack of energy/strength/movement) and pain, really sinking into it can give it permission to go away sometimes. Ok, I've seen you, I acknowledge you, now please go away. Me time. Happy time. Peace and tranquility, and a giant packet of chips. Yeah! It works a treat sometimes.

Yesterday was unbelievably bad, as far as pain and frustration and just not accepting limitations - absolutely not willing to lower my expectations any further and all the rage that comes with that. So I felt the things and did all the stuff that usually helps, went to sleep miserable.

Today I woke up with energy and clarity and movement. Amazing! Thought it best to capture it when it happens so here I am.

It's really lovely to focus on things that are good, parts of your life and the world that you're grateful for. I'm pretty good at that in general (it may not sound like it in this post, but trust me). I'm not so good at allowing myself to express when I'm pissed off. So I started a list in my phone of things that annoy me, but are actually no big deal. It makes me laugh to read the list so I thought I'd share it with you.

Things That Annoy Me A Lot But Are Actually Not A Big Deal 
  • Hashtags on Facebook. #whenthey'resolongthatitakesamicroscopetodecipherwhatthehellisthepointjustshutup
  • The sign at the 7 11 advertising hot chocolate, spelled "Hot Chockee"
  • Every time I go to the post office to pick up a parcel, they ask me for ID. Every time they say "but this isn't the address" and I say "turn it over". I live in the worlds smallest town. Come on. 
  • Misuse of their/there/they're. See also your/you're. This creates huge balls of fury in my gut. 
  • Attempting to stream a television show on the Channel 10 website, being interrupted by the same ad three times in a row, and halfway through the episode it gets stuck and you can't see the end. 
  • People asking you things they can Google, which leads you to Google it for them. How about this? How about in the time it took you to ask me something, you look it up for yourself? Man!
  • When people say "badge" but they mean "brooch". A badge is a flat round disc, attached to your shirt with a safety pin. A brooch is a whole other thing. Calling a brooch a badge makes it sound cheap, nasty, and like it's twenty cents from the local primary school fete. 
  • Don't even get me started on public transport users.
End rant. It's good to laugh again!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


You gotta love hopping on board someone else's applecart - thanks Romy for blogging about 365grateful this morning. I'm in.

Here's why. As winter rolls in it becomes easier to stick my head under the pillow, give in and sit in my aches. Some awful muscle memory kicked in this past Saturday and my muscles and connective tissue and mind all recalled that cold feeling. Heavy limbs drag down my heart and the black dog curls up inside my head, and it feels like there's nothing I can do. Last year was a doozy - days on end (or was it months?) spent crying and spinning around the endless litany of "you're a dickhead/fool/loser/idiot" with the cruelest parts of my internal monologue hissing at me, quietly, but louder than anything else I could muster. Crying into the sink as I washed dishes. Urgh! Fuhgeddaboutit.

I'd like very much to not disappear into that again, this year. I think my partner would wish the same for me and for us. All of us are different, but I identified with some of the feelings in this article and this one. It's a shitty, shitty illness. Mine came about after about six years of chronic pain wearing me down. That pain is quite a lot worse in winter (think Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz pre-oil can), and my body remembers that, and despair sets in. Melancholia. Whatever word you want to give it, it bites the big one.

What we are, we attract.  What we think, we attract. Saturday meshed into Sunday, and Sunday into Monday. I made french toast with cinnamon and maple syrup - Tracey prefers hers savory, and I forgot (there are no spaces for memories), and it was like a punch in the guts. I went back to bed. So much time in bed. Heavy and sad and lost, head pounding. I got up for work, went through the motions talking to the invisible people at the other side of what I was doing and got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home. Feeling intense anxiety and sadness for whoever was in the accident that slowed down our lives a little, picturing them in the ambulance, seeing their family in my mind hearing the news that someone had happened to the person they loved. It all seems like too much.

That night I got a fantastic nights sleep, and woke up completely different on Tuesday morning. Interested and productive and mobile. Today I'm grateful for that shift. Yesterday it was like I'd dodged a bullet, I was absolutely delighted in my own different perspective and lighter outlook. Hold on to it, please.

It's energising, feeling grateful. The majority of the time I can articulate what it is that I'm lucky to have, be, think and feel in my life. Sometimes a fog rolls in and it's tricky to see what's what. Maybe this will help.

"In early 2008, in an effort to fight depression, Hailey started a year long photographic project which involved taking one Polaroid photo a day of something she felt grateful for. Initially this was a chore but eventually it became a delight."

This is part of the view from my desk, and it's something I'm so grateful for. That enourmous gumtree in our front yard is 80% of the reason we moved to this house. So lovely in every season, smells amazing in the rain and flowers in the spring. I love being surrounded by so much green, and the smell of eucalyptus lets me know I'm home.

So that's day 1. Will you join me? 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lovely sleeplessness - part two of Losing A Friend

It's 11:47 and it's been bucketing down for a good hour, that lovely blankety feeling mixed with the slightly buzzy awakeness of the 19th hour of being awake. The peak after the dip.

It's delicious, this quiet house feeling. This is the time when things get done that can't possibly happen when there's washing to be done, dishes to put away, mail to sort, chickens to feed, fire to stoke, kitty litter to change (finally). This time - slightly mad, a bit itchy and everything feeling so sneaky - is when the best things happen.

I quietly fire up iTunes and at last I can hear this tune that's been swinging around in my head for days. Gently as she goes, my favourite parts are 'shiny shiny sky' and the oohoohoohs after ..'there's a window there'. I listen to music all the live long day, but moments to pass time enjoying something just for fun and to satisfy a want often fall short of getting everything done. This banjo! It seems to match my calmed heartbeat. Gorgeous. I've been waiting for yonks to have some time with those oohoohoohs.

So I've been meaning to write an update to this post. Yesterday it was two months (not exactly to the day) since Rel passed away, and I wanted to check in. How are you doing? Leave a comment, I'd really like to know.

I say two months because it was a Tuesday when I found out. I had just got my hair cut, I'd had acupuncture earlier that day, and I'd stayed in town on Monday night on a friends couch so I could do my city slicker appointments. I had talked with Sam my hairdresser about Rel because we both knew her. I told her she wasn't very well, worse than she had been before. We were worried. Then I got the call about twenty minutes later.

I will always be grateful to Dans for calling to tell me. There's some pretty hardcore bonding that goes on when that kind of information passes on from one person to another. It takes moments but you remember it for the rest of your life. A piece of your world smashes to smithereens and you know it. It was a difficult drive home down the Monash, I didn't know what to do (but I was driving so what was there to do but arrive at my destination?) It felt like such a lonesome journey knowing that Rel wasn't going to be around anymore.

Yesterday I had slept on the floor of my friend Adam Quayle's loungeroom, took myself out for breakfast and went to acupuncture, did a quick pop in at Heide to get something from the gift shop there and then went for my haircut. We talked about Rel, and babies, and life out of town, and trashy tv shows. I'm doing ok, I realised. I'm past the worst hideous parts.

I had hit the deck with a pretty bad flu about a month ago with nothing to do but lie there and feel miserable. Fever and an extremely runny nose and a lot of whining to my partner. Such discomfort for about a week. Lots of tv and sweaty sleep, soup and delirium and salty potato chips. I craved plastic tasteless frozen pizza, so Tracey went out and fetched some for me. It was such a crucial part of the grieving process for me, (the flu, not the pizza). I had to grind to a halt and sweat it out. I bounced back to functioning after the usual time and rest, changed ever so slightly from before the flu.

Now I'm at a point where I think of Rel constantly, but it's different. Every day I miss her, but there's no longer a confusion about when I'll be seeing her. No more tiny nanoseconds of crushing realisation. These days it stops me in my tracks more to try and imagine how her closest people are traveling along, my heart breaks for them and my eyes well and I wonder how on this everloving earth they are. No, that's not it. I wonder and I can send a message or make a phone call and find out. It's not that, it's more hoping they're ok. Hoping and wishing that this day will be kind to them. With such great love comes a ripping void at the end of a life, when we are apart. I wish with all that I am that this moment and this day and this week will be ok for Rel's people. I wish for bursts of happiness and light and laughter (but is that too much to ask?) if not now, then some day.

Yesterday after my haircut, instead of driving home and remembering feeling so horribly lost and alone I popped in on Dans, Rel's bestie. She kindly offered me Rel's mug to sip tea from and we had a lovely chat and walked her dog Bundy. Our visit had all the best elements - chats and dogs and records and tea and a walk and some autumnal foliage and honesty and connection. It did me good. Both of us, really.

I read a quote from David Steindl-Rast that Pip put on Facebook the other day "The root of joy is gratefulness" and it rang out like a bell. I am so grateful for cups of tea with my new friend, met through our old friend. It means so much.

Now as I sit here in the stillness listening to Sweet Jean on a low volume appropriate for 12.38 am, I remember that two weeks before she passed away Rel sms'ed me while I was on air and had played one of their tracks, asking about who they were. She looked them up but found nothing to buy yet on iTunes. Their album comes out over the next month or two, and I bet she would have loved it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cutting It Short

Spent the day yesterday at the Emerging Writers Festival and attended an excellent session on short stories. One of the panelists said that there has never been a better time to reinvent the format and write in whatever style you see fit.

If you're like me you constantly have ten million ideas rolling around like marbles in your head, and dismiss so many because they're not tom bowlers. (Are they Skittles? Empty calories and ingredients that read as numbers. Showbags - full of shit.)

My attention span is short and slow to catch on sometimes. I wonder if I could write from that place. What would happen? Would it be terrible? Who cares, do it anyway. Romy posted a great blog on Haiku the other day - about the wonderful healing aspects of being present in a single moment and documenting it. Don't worry so much about the 5-7-5 structure, just let the words tumble their way out. Short and sweet.

Here are some chunks, from my mind to you.  

Every time I get in the car
I adjust the rear view mirror.
Often akimbo, what happens?
For the longest time I thought
Someone had rummaged through
My car and knocked it,
Or I had nudged it with my handbag
(always too full of things I don't really need)
But I realised finally
It's my spine that keeps changing.


I found myself in a room of some importance, dwarfed by dead white men - all ten feet tall and framed in gold. Pointing at books, holding scrolls, none smiling - some in velvet pantaloons. I was all alone and loving it, in a room full of people. The words washed over me and I didn't understand many of them, truth be told. I haven't had the academic experiences of so many and sometimes that leaves me yearning for better mental health in my late teens, a greater capacity to push through and sit in that discomfort, even the freedom of not giving a damn about the others. But that hasn't been the way of things. I sit in a row of people, near the back. I smell halitosis and body odour all around and know that we're all trying our best. Some are concerned about what They think of us. Our time will come - every one of us. I know this to be true because my time has come in everything I really tried my hardest in, and I grew from that small fish to the frog standing on the rock and singing about it. It's so easy to forget those triumphs when you're an amoeba, starting all over again.


I crossed Gertrude Street fresh out of a cab, new hair product (salty sea curls), eBay frock and a day of fun ahead and I felt so shit hot that I assumed the person washing the window was waving at me until I saw the sponge.


The paralyzing fear of starting: a knot in my gut and a thorn in my side. It took me three months to apply. One day to get accepted. Three weeks to reply to that acceptance with pitches. Four hours to receive a positive email with a go head and request for more info. I'm sitting here, not replying. Not writing it. Thinking about it, marinading, being annoyed at myself, doing brainless admin, social media, chewing my nails, wiggling my toes. Write it, damn you.


I came home to her and found after all that, we were both fantasising about the same things. The freedom that being single brings (but not being apart). We'll rearrange our furniture, I'll spend some days in town, she'll have some time alone at home. This is a better us.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Pain in the Ass - International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Today is Mother's Day in Australia, as well as Fibroymyalgia Awareness Day all over the world.

I thought I'd write a post about it because it's one of the categories I find myself in. I'd like more people to have an understanding of fibro. I wouldn't say it's a primary focus, but it tries to be. It edges in to every area of living in one way or another. This isn't always a bad thing but it ain't a walk in the park either.

If you'd like a snapshot definition, there's a pretty good one here.

There isn't a lot of press about fibro, but here are some of the things that spring to mind:

- spoon theory
- purple logos involving flowers and fonts that I must say I don't find aesthetically pleasing
- yuppie flu
- mind/body grey area
- affinity and connection with other conditions and illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, crohn's disease, glandular fever, etc.
- pop culture references: House MD (a person came in complaining of fibro, House gives him tic tacs and tells him it's medicine and he comes back a week later "cured"), The Gilmore Girls (The senior Gilmore's talk about attending a fundraiser for Fibromyalgia and decide that it's "a very dull disease")

The other day I went on a first friend date with a gorgeous lady I met at the Big Hearted Business conference. Lily Mae Martin is a fine artist, writer and mum. We went out with her toddler, and aside from completely adoring each other, wee little lady and I seemed to have a fair bit in common. As we drove to our destination (Heide Gallery for a spot of lunch and artsy appreciation) she wanted to know if we were far away, what would be happening, she was very excited and happy. As we sat down to have lunch (banana milkshake and crepes for toddler, beautiful seasonal salad for Lily and wagyu pie for me) our tiny friend became tired. Her whole face changed in an instant. Oh, I know that feeling! All of a sudden, your whole energy levels just drop. Bang.

Being a 32 year old woman, it isn't really appropriate for me to crack it and cry, but gee whiz that's what I feel like doing sometimes. It's like every ounce of air leaves the energy balloon and you revert to that primal way of getting by before you really learn about the needs of others. Flailing madly, and hoping to make it through.

I absolutely loved spending that time with Lily and her beautiful child, it felt the way it always feels to witness honesty and realness. Toddler gets tired, gets a bit grumpy, mama distracts and loves and supports and negotiates, toddler feels better and relaxes a bit. Toddler reverts to sweetie pie. SO CUTE. (I'm not sure if I'm being clear enough about the levels of cluckiness I'm experiencing at the moment, care for a tonne of bricks?)

The whole day was cute, and I don't believe that the tired behaviour was bad in any way - that wonderful girl was communicating her needs in the best way she knows, and her mama was teaching her all about love every moment of that day by loving her solidly and consistently through the ups and downs, the divine and the difficult.

So how do we love ourselves consistently as adults, when in our core we have the rapidly changing constitution of a tired toddler?

It's not easy, but it is possible.

There's a memory that often pops into my head from nine years ago. I'm 23 and the fittest I've ever been in my life. A psychic had told me I was going to meet someone soon (for holding hands etc), so I wanted to look hot and started walking in the mornings. Lifelong chub melted off me and I was fit and energised, fulfilled in my study and work, and I was at a gig at the Corner Hotel in Richmond with friends. I think it was Spiderbait, or the Lucksmiths, or someone bouncy. I remember that I'd been standing for hours after a full day and I didn't feel tired. I was so happy, and had the awareness to pause in the moment and feel grateful.

It wasn't long after that, that I met the person for holding hands etc. (it turned out to be a woman), worked myself into the ground, the relationship didn't work out in all the worst ways, I had a massive blow-up with my entire friendship group and ended up moving on because I knew I deserved more, I moved into a random Fitzroy sharehouse and after a few weeks the guy in the next room shockingly had a heroin overdose, I had an extremely bad flu, I moved out of the sharehouse and in with my brother, he fell off a roof whilst working and was badly injured (he was very lucky to survive), I injured my shoulder through overuse and got put on anti-inflammatories, I got a haitus hernia and was in agony during the final months of my course, I took on more work anyway, I got injured in a workplace incident and that's when it all stopped.

Quite a list isn't it!  Drama drama drama. Physical, mental, social, work and family drama. I stayed upbeat and positive, somehow. I'm starting to understand now that things may have been different if I could let myself be shitty and angry about all these things that happened. The anger is in my bones now because I wouldn't let myself really feel it.

My body could not cope with all these things, and put a stop to me getting into anything else that would wear me out or upset me. I couldn't get up out of bed. I couldn't move. My arms did not work. It hurt to brush my hair, so I didn't. I went through workcover which was a total head-fuck nightmare and to this day I don't remember much of the next eighteen months or so. I stayed in a bad relationship because I was terrified to do it all on my own.

I finally got a diagnosis when I went to see a sports physio recommended to me by a friend who was good at helping out with weird shit that wouldn't go away. He did a tender point test and told me it was Fibromyalgia after I retched and doubled over with pain, breathless and clammy. I saw a rheumatologist who told me it was Fibromyalgia. He was so kind and gentle. He recommended meditating to help with stillness and acceptance. I read a book and finally understood.

To have a name for something, even if it can't really be fixed, is like being handed a golden ticket to the chocolate factory. It's real. I'm not crazy. I'm not a faker. The guilt and shame of my body going wrong still lingers, but it's mixed in with a healthy dose of reality these days.

My dad got really sad. He couldn't deal with reading the book about it. He dealt with it as best he could, urging me constantly to keep turning stones over and trying new things to get better. Years of turning stones over taught me that those stones and the frantic hope they bring up are more exhausting than any illness could be. These days it's massage, tiger balm, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, osteo and finding my joy as best I can. I do all these things regularly and it may look like a long list but it's a tiny fraction of what I used to squeeze in to each week.

There are a lot of snake oil merchants, miracle treatments, diets, workshops, programs and rehabs. They are all expensive, have caused me a lot of pain and disappointment, and a lot of setbacks. The worst of all though is the bitter sick people. I am so freaking terrified of them - being lumped with them, becoming one of them without realising. I prefer to hide myself away than risk being that person.

Recently I've been trying out being a bit more real, being more honest about why I can't always make it to things people are kind enough to invite me to. Being less ashamed and guilty. It's a delicate balance and challenging to convey to someone you adore that you can't come to their gig because it's not possible for you to be up that late/stand that long/be overstimulated without days of painful consequences - without sounding like a whinger!

Sometimes I'm met with odd reactions like a fast change of topic. I guess it's hard to hear and know these things about someone. I water it down as best I can. If I'm telling you I can't come because of migraines/exhaustion I truly don't need sympathy or for you to do anything for me, I just want you to know that I care about you and would much rather be at your shindig than resting. Resting sucks. I know to some it would be heaven on a stick to have enforced rest, but even when I'm resting it's not restful. My body is screaming at me. My mind is racing with unaccomplished tasks. There's always catching up that needs to happen and never enough fuel in the tank to get it done. I'm worried about taking too many painkillers (I barely take any, they're all over the counter, but still I worry that it's too much). If I don't manage my pain I don't sleep properly. If I don't sleep properly I'm 100% worse than if I did.

I had a brilliant chat in the middle of the night with Larissa Tandy from Iamloveproof and The Strine Singers the other day. You should check out their music because it's freaking beautiful. She'd texted me about a gig she had last night, and I had received a message from her about something else and saw she was online and thought I'd try out that being honest thing.

Tell me about it man. You can find me livin' on chronic pain lane too. What a drainer.

Me: You're so good at rhymes! How the hell do you manage?

L:  I could write a book I reckon. If I had the attention span. 
But really, I've developed an acute ability to disengage (necessary but affects quality of relationships), and an intense focus on the things that bring me joy, like writing songs. You getting treated?

Me: Yeah I get that. You gots to find the joy or what's the point of the slog.
I'm treated all the time, it's just a reshuffling really. I've got fibromyalgia so it's a long haul thing. Annoying.

L: Fark jenny. That's intense.
I'm just wrapping my head around a potential "no cure, lifelong" situation. How the hell? You're right.. It's so annoying!

Me:  What's yours from? I have memories of a hip thing and some surgery. You're freaking amazing to be able to do what you're doing.

L: I have a list. Deformed pelvis. Old injuries that my body won't accept as surgically repaired. And the knock on effect of permanent damage to knees, back, ribs and shoulders. I'm in a weird chicken and egg situation that no one seems able to understand or resolve. It's gettin to the point where I can't play guitar a lot. Upside.. My creative output is only increasing with my need to be distracted.

Me: Holy shit, pelvises are a motherfucker.
Crunchy high five to you sister, go creative output go.

L: Fkyeah! Crunch on! It sucks you're suffering. But thanks for sharing. It's a difficult experience to describe or explain.
Me: You too. Chat to me anytime, it's nice to know not so alone in the crunchy old lady action whilst rocking out and being youth.

L: Ha! Gold

I loved what Larissa said about an intense focus on the things that bring joy. It was a bit of an Oprah lightbulb moment to be honest. After the day out at the gallery I was overtired and sore, and didn't sleep til 3 am, then woke at 8. Pain disaster, but totally worth it. Kept going and had another great day. Took it pretty easy yesterday and will again today, so I can launch into this week where I have full on funtimes happening. Radio and teaching, a birthday dinner for a friend in town, a flower arranging class, an exhibition opening in Lilydale, then a friend coming for a sleepover on Friday. Bliss. I'll snatch in bits and piece of rest where I can.

When I let it all grind to a halt, slow enough and still enough for long enough, I get depressed. Way down in the black hole depressed. If I push myself too much I'm in a forced stop, but that feels a bit better than taking on too little. Make sense? It's a constant balancing act. A tightrope walk. Every decision has big consequences. I choose giving it a go and getting amongst it when I can. I completely disengage from my physical body regularly. While that isn't healthy, it's a nice break and a necessary one.

I saw a post on a fibro group on facebook a few weeks ago that a young woman wrote. She said she would rather have cancer than fibro, because when people have cancer everyone rallies around you, brings casseroles, sends positive vibes and checks in and cares about you. Cancer will either kill you or you'll recover. With fibro, nobody seems to understand or care, and it's unlikely to kill you so you know you're going to suffer on and off for the rest of your life. I found it very upsetting and triggering to read that, but also intriguing and kind of brave. When Rel died from cancer in March I realised that was the conversation I never got to have with her. Then I realised I didn't need to have it, because being alive is such a blessing anyway.

I don't connect with the word "suffer" because there is so much more to it than that. Fibro may have caused me to be completely brainfogged all the time, but because of that I'm extremely organised and never let other people down when I've committed to work. I have amazing systems in place to make sure I know where to find things when I have no idea where I put them. My work ethic is through the roof. Perhaps it would be better if I admitted to myself that I do suffer, but it just feels jarring to even type that word. I know that when Rel died she was at peace because her pain was no longer with her, and sometimes I think of that night at the Corner hotel when I was dancing and full of energy and long for those days.. but the days I have now are engineered to be the best and happiest they can be. I'm so thankful for days out with sweet toddlers, midnight conversations about tricky subjects, understanding and love.

In conclusion, kiss your mama today and if you have any pals with fibro - blow em a kiss too!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013



Last night I was trying to get to sleep and I was listening to a podcast made by the lovely Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes and JustB fame. I'd had it open in a browser on my iPhone for a few weeks to get to when I found the time and brain space to listen properly. That time came and as I listened to her lovely voice and did nothing else except breathe, I felt a great stillness.

Then I realised the absence of that stillness is pretty much always with me. I'm always so very, very busy in my head. Busy and not achieving much because I'm worn out by all the spinning around of ideas, wants, worries and wonderings that are constantly happening without anything... happening.

Do you know that feeling? I call it the Borders 1999 Feeling. Allow me to explain. In 1999 I moved out of home for the first time, lived at uni and would go on trains and trams and drive myself places without checking in with mum and dad or needing lifts, for the first time. I wasn't far from other people, they were all around me and I gravitated to bookstores and record stores and cinemas and wound up one day at Borders on Chapel Street with a notebook I always carried with me. I started listening to things at the listening station and made myself a little list. That list just kept going, pages and pages filling and spilling with books and albums and I had to sit on the floor because it was all just too much! How would I ever grasp all these things in my hands that I wanted so badly, to fill and expand my mind and line my shelves and surround me wherever I was living?

Good grief. It's lucky we live a long time and have many years of gathering these items and artworks for our nests. I didn't know that then, not really. I was 18 years old and needed it all right now because what if it's too late and it all flies away?

These days I'm kind of in the same boat if I'm honest with myself. It's books and records. Blogs and craft projects. Travel, recipes, renovations, gigs, people I want to see, documentaries I'd love to make, podcasts (make and listen to), things I'd like to grow in my garden, walks, shoes, skills, languages, etc etc etc.

I saw this link of great blogs of 2013 and nearly cried. I want all of that! To read it all! What if I miss out! FOMO!!!!!!

Today I'm recovering from the flu so there isn't a lot going on. I'm listening to Aural Text on Triple R, we've just had a wood delivery that needs to be stacked, it's the first day out of bed/couch really so I'm a bit sweaty and tentative. I'd like to plant some seedlings in the garden, prepare Homebrew for Monday, go to the post office to pick up a parcel, tackle my emails, call my mum and on it goes.

My friend Dan Vo told me that to be successful in life you should make a list of three things to achieve in any given day, and not exceed those three things (it may have been five). Are you freaking kidding me Dan? Don't you know that there are approximately nine thousand things that I absolutely must get done today, or the sky could quite possibly fall in?


He's right, you know. When I'm overwhelmed I get distracted by every fricken shiny thing in the world, when I'm underwhelmed I'm empty. My goal is just to be whelmed. Nicely in the middle - spirit level style.

Smiling Mind is a nice start, it's a great app for meditation. They're not too long or kooky, just help to slow the brains a bit. I'm a really crap meditator but I try every now and then.

So. Today my three things:

Stack the wood
Write this blog

Then tomorrow I can go on a friend date with Lily and her wee person and see some art and have some lunch.

How are you? Are you whelmed?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On Friendship

This morning I received a message on Facebook (edited slightly to remove identifying factors):

Hey there Jenny
Thinking of you. You always light up my facebooking with your wonderful little posts and amusing updates.
I'm just coming out of a week long depressive episode. It's not always as linear as that, as yesterday was pretty crap. HOWEVER, today is a new day.
Sometimes feel incredibly close to you -- it's a little strange I know, considering I haven't seen you for years. Take Care x

It could not have come at a better time. That generous vulnerability warmed my heart and echoed with understanding.

I have 920 Facebook friends, and a lot of the time I feel alone in the world and wanting more. I've been turning this notion of friendship over in my head for a few weeks now, taking stock after the loss of Rel. Yesterday was one month since she passed away and it's getting easier and harder all at once. It's not a shock to remember on waking anymore, but settling in for the long haul of loss sends that chilled, dull ache to my gut. When you water the plants in the garden you also water the weeds, and they have deep roots going back years that are impossible to disentangle from the now, the fresh grief raises up the old and it is somewhat crushing on the harder days.

I wonder, truly, how humans deal. Death is a part of life, and with love comes loss, that's a given. But how do people move about in the world and keep on truckin' when those blows just keep coming?

This has led me to deeply consider the role of friends in my life. Do I have enough, do I want more, do I expect too much, what do I deserve, how do friendships change as you go through life, and so on and so forth.

I have a love in my life who is my best friend. Her smile lights up my world and her depth of understanding and wisdom quite frankly takes me aback. We talk a lot about friendship and the challenges and loveliness of experiencing and maintaining meaningful friendships over years and decades. We both place high value on having adventures separately outside of the relationship - and it's wonderful to have stories to tell each other after the fact.

Most people can say they've moved on from friendships that turned out to be too dramatic, cumbersome, draining or that didn't change and grow as the parties included in it did. I've moved on from my fair share when the time was right and never regretted it for a minute. I've missed who people used to be to me and felt loss, which is a very different thing to regret.

Sometimes friendships are location dependent - when you live or work closely with someone, these friendships are easy and flow beautifully, but when circumstances change and someone doesn't happen to be in your field of vision that commitment can become a task that falls short of our daily to-do lists.

Look what we've done - moved an hour away from many people we love. Now interactions involve diaries and planning and time and energy, and with that change comes a bit of awkwardness. I think many friends wait for an invitation to come visit, as we wait for people to say they want to come and see us, and we all wait and time moves on and the space between seeing one another grows bigger and bigger.

Don't even get me started on the old "we must catch up" with no follow through chestnut. Lord! 

Life is full and so many of us are pulled in multiple directions. We all do our best - and our experience of that level of 'best' range from fulfilling to disappointing.

Last week I'd stayed in town overnight after teaching as I had an appointment on Tuesday morning in town, and had a spur of the moment breakfast with an old friend. An old lover in fact, from years ago. It was experiencing that light and intimacy over eggy bread and a decaf that I realised how much I'd been missing those interactions - how much it feeds your soul to sit with someone who knows you so well, that you can say "I can't bear to talk about myself, I'm sad today can you please just keep telling me about what's happening in your life?" and they happily do and you both have a lovely time. What a gift!

On Sunday I went to a family BBQ (Tracey's brother and sister in law had turned 31 and were having a shindig) and then we went our separate ways as I traveled into town for a solo night out. I was so close to just going home because I felt like a loser (I'd sent tentative, last-minute messages to about three different friends asking if they wanted to join me, all were busy) but something in me knew that being afraid of being lonely was fine, acting out of that fear was something else altogether. I could become a hermit! The horror. (Perhaps I already am?) Leaving from the BBQ had shaved about 20 minutes off my travel time in to town, and so I was propelled into the great bustling metropolis of Melbourne town.

Good golly, I had a fabulous time. First stop was Temple of Music at Chalice in Northcote. I'd interviewed Kirsty about this on PBS earlier that week and was thoroughly intrigued about the church experience minus the Jesus stuff, and including music and discussion and philosophy and a bit of old-fashioned chanting and Leunig and George Harrison and an egg shaker. Brilliant. I thoroughly recommend getting along to the next one if that sounds like your bag (Sunday May 19 at 5 pm, Northcote).

Next I drove over to Trades Hall and saw Catherine Deveny in her last show at the comedy festival, and the first and only thing I managed to get to this year. Fabulous. Outrageous. Cacked myself til my sides hurt. (Side note - I wholeheartedly say YES to trampolines without fences around them). She even made a cancer joke (from the perspective of a survivor) and it didn't make me curl up in a ball and wail, so that was a bit of a personal milestone.

Then I came home, triumphant that I'd broadened my horizons and had stories to tell.

The next day I had work (radio show and taught a class) where I get to see all sorts of lovely people and do creative things. Mondays are so great because I get to do these things that mean I connect with other people. The down side is that all the driving wreaks havoc with my back and my arms and my neck, and Tuesdays are often spent not feeling so great and needing to be still. Is it worth it? One hundred per cent yes.

It's a shame though, that with happiness and fulfillment comes physical pain. I never get used to that and overcommit myself, having to cancel things often and being too embarrassed to explain myself properly (or sometimes I do but people don't really understand - how could they?) then I'm the piker pariah from Loserville.

Who would think that being around people three days in a row would mean overcommitting myself? But there it is. So my solution is being an extremely active Facebooker. If something makes me happy, I like it. If I think other people will like it, I share it. It keeps me connecting and interacting with people and smashes isolation to smithereens. That's the intention anyway.

Tracey once told me about a time when I was off doing something else and she had been spending time with three of our friends, and they decided to work out a chart of my Facebook activity (bestill my nerdy chart-loving heart) and there was definite correlation with what I know as my lay-low days and markedly increased traffic. The days I'm gathering strength to get amongst it again I am rarely without my smartphone in my hand, checking in on what's happening in the rest of the world. I have massive reading lists of websites and blogs that I'll get back to when my levels of concentration will let me take it all in.

I print out amazing things that have rocked my world - I have no idea where to put them but I know I want to keep them and somehow hold on to the feeling of being moved.

Back to the start and the message I got through Facebook this morning - I was delighted to hear that the closeness and connection I feel goes both ways in some instances. Don't you love it when people tell you that you've been on their mind, when they've been on yours?

Today I'm driving about an hour down the road (further from town) to see a new friend I met through the BHB conference just over a month ago. There's a cinnamon tea cake baking in the oven and I can't wait to go have an adventure out in the world and hear about how she's doing and see some beautiful beachy goodness.

Looking forward - I'd love some friends close by - drop in for a cup of tea kind of friends. Easy friends. I wonder where they are? I'm looking forward to seeing more friends in town, as always, and having visitors when the time suits everyone.

One thing's for sure, when your energy is limited you definitely make every bit count.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

After a friend dies - a handy grief how-to

Over the past three years three of my friends have died. Two very suddenly and unexpectedly, and one from cancer (although it was still a huge shock, it felt slightly different in that I had attempted to prepare myself). So I have a bit of experience up my sleeve and some things to share. I'm not going to go into the whole stages of grief thing, there's millions of pages about that, so go forth and google if that's your thing.

Here are some things that I didn't know before, but are handy to understand now.  Obviously we are all different, maybe you'll relate to this and maybe you won't - but if you are reading this and you're feeling this kind of loss I really hope you'll be ok and I genuinely care about you. We are officially Bro's in Loss.

When someone I love dies, I will be out of my mind for a while and that's ok

When your body is processing such a massive concept as the death of someone you love, you're going to have about ten percent of your awareness and energy. This means it's super important to do things like look both ways when you're crossing the road, don't drive if you're not up to it, ask for help from friends or family if you just can't cope with cooking (eat your veggies - you need your strength to get through this). Basic survival things can easily fall by the wayside when all of your physical and mental resources are focusing in on other areas.

The first time someone I loved died who wasn't at the end of a long life, I happened to have an acupuncture appointment booked in on the morning of his funeral. Addam was a dear friend, co-worker and mentor. He was like an older brother figure and I was out of my freaking mind when he died suddenly. My acupuncturist Helen told me something very scary that I thought was awful at the time, but with hindsight has been very helpful. When someone is taken out of our lives who we will miss, every single cell is screaming out for them. The physical body grieves and will do so for the rest of our lives, in varying intensities. 

Geez! Thanks a LOT!... I thought to myself. But when I realised that this felt so true, that my body ached so much and I felt such sadness I didn't feasibly think it was possible to come back from, it enabled some compassion and care to enter into the equation, and things got so much better from there.

Recognise your things as your things

When Addam died, I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. Episode after episode, hour after hour. When I'd had enough, I'd have a warm bath and stare into space, then watch more. When Jordan died, it was Glee. When Rel died a few weeks ago, it was (and still is) Grey's Anatomy.

Visual valium and coocooning are some of my things. Pizza is also one of my things. On the way home from Rel's funeral yesterday, my partner and I went through not one, but two McDonalds drive-throughs (we hadn't eaten a thing all day, but still. Gross) and spent approximately $60. We had feelings to eat, and boy did we eat them.

Being in bed a lot of the time, or on the couch, with many blankets and fluffy doonas in both settings, is one of my things. I understand now that I become physically exhausted. I remember when Addam died, I had made my way into the city about three weeks later to do some podcasting at the station we worked at together and I was walking along Exhibition Street and there was a hotel I had never noticed before. I gave serious thought to walking in there, handing over my credit card and taking the worlds longest nap. I fantasised about big fluffy hotel doonas and hiding underneath them and just letting my mind go blank. In the end I remembered how broke I was, went and did the podcasting and did the same thing at home. 

After awhile, for me it moves on to obsessively listening to the saddest music I can find, and especially music the person loved. I've made an example playlist on YouTube here but they can be kind of annoying because all of a sudden in the middle of a good wallow you'll hear an ad about toothpaste and be all wtf? Whatever your chosen playlist medium, I recommend you keep it. Because sometimes it's nice to listen to those songs down the track.

Another thing I tend to do is assume I will die the same way as the person I love died. Addam had chronic migraines, hey presto - so do I and I'm convinced that they will kill me. Jordan died in a car accident - I'm terrified of driving or being in cars at all for a while. Rel had cancer - I start making plans in my head because my life will undoubtedly be cut short in the same unfair way. This fades after a time, and it's a weird way of being close and having affinity with your person.

Other people will understand

After a few weeks or a month sometimes I get an intensely short fuse, where things that are only slightly annoying before will make me want to slap a person silly, or kick them in the shin. This is another one of those 'physical and mental resources' things. All of your energies are ticking away underneath the surface, helping you to process grief and loss, so there's none left to stop you wanting to commit actual bodily harm to someone who is popping their gum or whatever. Apparently this is really common. I recommend walking away, or explaining to whoever is annoying you (if you absolutely must be around them - i.e. a work colleague) that you're sorry you're such a cranky pants, but you're having a bit of a rough time because your pal is gone and you're finding life hard to deal with. So if you could do me a favour and not pop your gum for a few weeks I'd really appreciate it and I promise I'll be back to my old self soon.

I've found that if you genuinely explain where you're coming from, people are ace and really kind. 

Be kind

Speaking of being kind - be kind to yourself. Seriously. Remember that compassion and care mentioned earlier? It really, really helps. Do not beat yourself up for not being able to be the same as you were before. You have been changed by this, and being changed by other people and your love for them is an amazing part of life. Sometimes it hurts like the Billy-o. Sometimes it lifts us up and fills us with strength.

If you need to sleep, sleep. If you need to watch their favourite movie over and over again, watch it. If you need to yell, or eat pizza, or smash plates, or be alone, or be around people, then do it.

I actually asked my GP about four months after Addam died if it was normal to still feel like total crap and want to sleep all the time, and she said yes it's fine and normal but let me know if you start gambling or sleeping with a lot of people who you don't know. Okey dokey then.

I have also learned to not listen to 774 or watch the news if every sad piece of information about loss in the world makes you want to curl up and howl for a week. Just take a break, the world will go on without you, and you can rejoin the fight for justice when you're strong again. You will be strong again, but only if you're kind to yourself and let yourself feel all the things that need to be felt.

When you have to go to work/look after kids/function in energetic ways you don't feel like

This is a tricky one. When Addam died I was working on air in breakfast radio, and there were weeks where I literally did not remember anything about that morning's program when 9 am came along and I would go home to bed. I realised this was going on and called my boss to ask if I sounded like a zombie on air, and he said to take the rest of the week off. I was lucky to get that time and understanding, but I was able to work on autopilot and apparently it didn't sound any different. Weird.

Ask for help when you need it. Delegate and just put things on hold where you can.

I don't have children so I'm not really sure what advice to share here - but from what I understand, it's good to be real with kids so they will learn to be honest with themselves and their own needs. They might enjoy snuggling up with you to watch DVDs, and entertain themselves while you're having down time. Keep them updated. Tell them you're feeling sad, or you're feeling a bit better today so let's go to the park.


Yesterday morning when I woke up on the day of Rel's funeral it struck me as so odd that the word funeral starts with 'fun'. I had this strange mood yesterday morning, I was actually pumped about going. I was excited about seeing people who understand and love Rel, and I think ultimately pleased to be doing something positive in the grief journey. Funerals are there to be healing and help us feel what we need to feel.

Every funeral is different. Yesterday was the first religious funeral I had been to since my crazy and super old Grandma died in the 80s. I wasn't raised Catholic, but my partner was, and she found it really therapeutic to be in something so old and sacred, to say the parts in the mass that everyone mumbles along with, to be a part of a ritual that was comforting and familiar.

I found it really interesting and appreciated how inclusive the priest was - he encouraged everyone to not feel self conscious if they didn't know what to say in response to the prayers, and let us know there would be a lot of sitting down and standing up and kneeling if we wanted to, and to just participate in the bits we felt comfortable to.

Halfway on the drive there I was practicing my bible reading that I was doing in the funeral (side note on that, I was so privileged to be able to play a part in yesterdays funeral, I know Rel had a LOT of friends who she loved and who love her so it was really, really amazing to be able to speak) and there was a bit about how Jesus suffered and I lost it and my bubble of high and stokedness just popped as I thought of the suffering my beautiful friend went through. I let out the sadness, and then stabilised a bit around a dim happiness to be in a group of people who understood.

I laughed a lot in the funeral at photos and the amazing eulogies spoken by Rel's gorgeous sister Mich and her BFF Dans, and felt such peace to be sitting close to her coffin. It was nice to be close to my friend again. Other funerals I haven't been able to bring myself to look at the coffin. You just gotta roll with it hey. 

I found I held it together until after I read the thing I was reading, then I cried big sad gulpy tears and that was ok because a lot of other people were too. A lady sitting in front of me turned around and held my hand and her baby stared at me and gurgled and I thought I could see Rel staring out at me through the baby.

Anyway, it was a big day, exhausting and uplifting and sad and peaceful and loud and everyone I spoke to had a massive headache by the end of it all. It was wonderful to come home and put on my jammies and curl up on the couch with dogs and Grey's Anatomy and have a big sleep and I woke up this morning feeling like I had angel arms curled around me. My bones and musces and cells all felt fizzy and lively and loved.

I'm not sure what I believe, but I feel that in this instance Rel is an angel for all of us and I'm very fortunate to have her in my corner. She's like Santa - she can be in a million places at once, wherever she's needed. If you need your friend who is gone - just talk to them. Out loud or in your head. Chances are you'll know what they would have said in response, and that's a pretty amazing gift for a friend to leave behind.

I'm going to watch Anchorman and have some porridge now, because Rel loved jazz flute and being in a glass case of emotion and putting cinnamon on things. I'm also going to not answer my phone because I feel like being quiet.

How are you going?

Monday, April 1, 2013


In 2005 I was up in the hills at Ruby's seeing some live music with a bunch of friends. Vika and Linda Bull were performing, amongst other people. I was twenty-four years old and very much in the midst of a 'what does it all mean' splash of time.

When those ladies hit the stage everyone was completely captivated. I felt a lightning bolt going into my chest and out my fingertips and buzzing around in my head. This is what it all means. To do what you love will turn you into an astonishingly beautiful person, and then you will be visible. Then you will make your life and everyone else's life better.

It's like seeing a really great teacher in action, or an artist in the thick of creating a great work, or a wonderful parent loving their child. There's a transference of great joy that seems miraculous.

I think of that night often and keep wondering where that magic will happen in my life. There have been glimmers but I'm still searching.

My earliest memory is from when I was three or four years old and everything is hazy and magic in a brilliant pink sunset, or was it sunrise? I recall that it was very early or the very end of the day, and someone in my family took me outside to the paddock to see a foal being born. I understood then that when baby horses come into the world, everything is pink. Everything is dreamy.

Last year a very talented photographer I know through PBS shared this image and I was instantly transported to that sleepy memory where everything was dazzling.

(Photograph by Eleanor Butt)

I'm saving up to purchase a print of this so I can put it in a lovely frame and hang it in our study. It reminds me that memories can be dreams and dreams can be memories.

This morning I asked a few friends what springs to mind when I ask them to describe a beautiful memory.

Tracey told me about going to India a few years ago for the first time, and when they made it off the beaten track and stayed in a village with a family in their home and were shown how to get to a place to sit on the roof around sunrise. She sat on the roof in a comfy spot with a shawl around her and every now and then someone from the family would come up and say hello, have a brief chat and then leave again. That balance between being in company and left to her own devices to be fully present and experience that amazing sunrise, watching a peacock soaring across the skyline, and learning that was the national bird of India, was one of those time stopping still moments in life.

Jed said:  a beautiful memory for me is my grandma and me jumping on our beds playing tennis with balloons.

Caitlin said: walking into the square in front of the cathedral in Santiago Spain, and the energy of the place...running into people I had walked with along the Camino to Santiago....800kms to get there and a long walking meditative experience. Another was when my then partner bought me a guitar for Christmas...I felt supremely seen and known by him.

Kerry said: this one time when Irene and I were first dating and I went to her house she had recreated a starry night inside - fairy lights all over the ceiling and a picnic laid out on the floor. It was perfect.

So it seems that everyone's story involved generosity in some way, being understood, being visible. Life being a bit richer and sweeter in ways we weren't expecting.

What do you think of when you think of Beautiful?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Big Hearted POW!

How can it be I haven't updated this thing since September last year, when my head is like a constantly erupting volcano of Things I Am Burning To Say And Do?

I think what happened is, I got blue because life changed with the sudden death of a friend who is so entangled it my identity that every single childhood memory I have involves us laughing together. Every place I love from that time in my life I love because we had fun there together.

Who wants to read a sad blog? Who wants to see my shades of blue splattered messily all over this page? So I judged, and I stopped, and oh boy has it been building up.

On Tuesday the 26th of May it happened again. My darling Rel slipped away that morning after fighting so hard, and loving so hard, and laughing this incredible laugh that everyone is now talking about, all the time. So infectious and marvelous. Bless her. I can't stop watching this video that some took of her at Burning Man a few years ago, just jumping on a trampoline and smiling. It's so comforting to see her and hear her voice.

So after sweet Jordan died last year, Rel was my oldest friend. You know, the kind that you're still hanging out with and in regular contact with. My last text to her was "Omg old school Neighbours with Skye and Boyd is on ch 11". That kind of friend.

Well, forget hiding in a corner and disappearing just because I'm sad and don't want to piss people off. This time is different. 

Hi everyone - how ya doin? I need my people around me. I've got that Life Is Short fire in my belly so let's collaborate and get excellent things happening. Rel was thirty years old and I am 32 and it's not good enough to get overwhelmed and fade into it.

This weekend just passed I had a life-changing time at the Abbotsford Convent. I know - so many people do! All that old nun energy is ripe and sparkly! Clare Bowditch started this pozible campaign to launch Big Hearted Business a little while back. They were offering tickets to a conference so I bought one with the last dollars I had in the world because hot dog, I believe in the magic that woman makes on this planet.

First time I knew about Clare was at Meredith Music Festival in 2002 (I think?), she was the first act on and it was raining and there were a few of us standing there with umbrellas while everyone was pitching tents and she spoke about an album that they'd made called Autumn Bone but hadn't had the money to release - so if anyone liked what they were doing could they please, pretty please, pre-order a copy after they'd finished on stage?

The rest is history. What a powerhouse of creative energy! Love love love her work. All of it. Remember when Clare was on Q&A and was probably the first person in history to actually be realistic and not talk a whole lot of crap on that show? Gold.

Anywho, bought a ticket to that conference and it was a hum dinger. You know when good things happen in your life and you find yourself standing up a whole lot straighter than you ever knew you could? It was one of those things. Everyone I met was completely ace and absolutely buzzing with that creative energy where you know they'll make the world better if they're supported and someone helps them with their marketing and bookwork childcare and stuff.

I won't go into too much detail of what happened there, I need to go through approximately 80 pages of scrawled notes to get that out on the Mac (project pending).

But what I will share now is the absolute maelstrom of ideas I have pac-manning around in my noggin, wanting to get out.

We spent a lot of time focusing on what our bigger story is. It's pretty simple for me. I need to feel proud of what I'm contributing. I need to know that lives have been improved and expanded and happiness has been unlocked. In particular that women have been empowered. Men too, but mostly women. Statistically men have oodles of power already so let's even the score a bit.

I'd like to share what I need to happen in my life.

So. At the moment this is what's going on:

  • I'm a celebrant so I marry people and do commitment ceremonies and name babies. LOVE it. I love love, I'm a big goonie-eyed love nut.
  • I'm a broadcaster at a community radio station. I focus on local and independent music. In my own small way, giving a voice and air time to the creative passionates. Love it. 
  • I'm a teacher. I deliver a few short courses a year at the same radio station, and by the end of the five weeks my little radio babies fly out of the nest and make their own radio (if they finish their demo. Why don't more of them do that? They all promise me they will?!)
  • Other random things like DJing at events, doing broadcasting workshops in rural communities to empower minority groups to have a voice, being filmed for educational DVDs about podcasting and other aspects of broadcasting, whatever else pops up.
  • And here's the big whammy. Large chunks of my life are spent dealing with illness. I am not a well lady. As much as I don't talk about it (see previous message about not wanting to piss people off). For the past nine years I've had chronic pain, and for the last three years chronic fatigue. 

This did not come from doing things that I do not love. I was embarking on a brilliant and fulfilling career as an Auslan interpreter. I had never loved anything more in my life. Then illness came along and kapow, I have about 20% of the energy most people have.

How does it feel? It literally feels like jetlag and a hangover and like I have a cold and have been in a small car accident, every single day. Some days are better than others. I am really fricken tired. When I go to gigs and see music (all seated these days) it hurts to applaud. I get a lot of migraines. I have not accepted it. Rel was the one person I talked to about that stuff who had the capacity to understand it at a cellular level. I am grieving that loss as well.

I loved that about her - she was dealing with some incredibly challenging things daily (high pain levels, terminal diagnosis, keeping up that hope) and despite that she never caved into herself and forgot about the situations of others. If someone had stubbed their toe she would give them as much sympathy as a fellow friend with cancer. She understood what I understand - that pain is not a competition, and the fact that someone else is worse off does NOT make my suffering any better. Everyone has something they're dealing with. They may have an asshole for a boss who makes their life hell - there's no way I'm going to play the "well I'm a sick lady" card because their pain is every bit as valid and real as mine.

It's not all bad. It led me to change of career to the things mentioned above. I have been forced to ensure I have very flexible working hours. That's pretty cool - it means I can be energised at home by the love of my dogs and my cat and my chickens. It's a scientific fact that following free-range chickens around the garden makes people feel better. They're so funny.

My partner is amazing and she loves me because of every other aspect of me. She can see past the pain. I love her so much I could explode because of everything she is and everything we will become together.

I have literally L I T E R A L L Y tried everything money can buy to be well. That's a lot of money. I have a supportive family. I am so freaking lucky. I believe that one day I will be well. It's challenging to be patient about that as well as fiery and passionate and having faith and getting the oomph to keep turning those stones over.

I could list all the things I've tried but we'd be here all day. I've already dwelled too long.

Moving on - the ideas that I desperately want to put into place. Also I'm nervous that people won't like me if they know what's really going on. It feels very important to slap on a happy face and manufacture energy that isn't there, but bugger that.

Suddenly feeling really, really timid about putting all of these things down on the screen. When in doubt - do something! If I'm going to fail, I'll fail while daring greatly (thanks Catherine Deveny for the mega pep talk at BHB on the weekend).

Public speaking classes

We've all heard that statistic about public speaking being one of the most stressful things we can do in life, right? Man - I love it! I can't believe what power and energy it brings to communicate an idea effectively that opens doors in other people's heads.

I think a lot of women lack the confidence to stand up and be heard, so I'd like to create a safe space for The Ladies to work towards it. It would be fun and funny and exciting and scary and ultimately (the magic word) empowering.

I can see it branching off into public speaking for kids as well. Kids need to be heard just as much as adults - they have the most brilliant ideas, and sometimes the message gets a bit muddled on the way out.

Ceremony and ritual

I'm a big fan of these concepts, see celebrancy stuff above, but what about the healing power of ceremony and ritual to recover from horrific events in life? We have a big party when people get married. The reason we get together is as a community to pause and reflect on what that means to the group as a whole. Everyone is impacted by a marriage. What about divorce? What about sexual assault? What about abuse perpetrated on women and children in what is meant to be the safest spaces in their lives?

Those women and those children need to recover the parts of themselves after going through that trauma. Everyone in a community is impacted when violence occurs, or a marriage breaks apart. Spaces need to be reclaimed. Parts of their souls need to be returned to them.

I'd like to work on some sort of ceremony or ritual where a group can surround those people and help them to heal. That shame has no place in. So they can be tall again.


My partner and I want to have babies. We have a sperm donor, we have the turkey baster, we have no money, but we have a house and we want babies. I see this as a major creative project in itself. We are practically gagging for babies! I want to blog about that. I never knew it was possible until I asked two amazing women I know who have the same pain stuff as me, who both have two babies (duh, Jenny) and they said it had healed them like nothing else has. All that love. It's possible and I CAN do it even though my body is somewhat defective. I love love! As if I wouldn't want babies! If I blog about it then more people in my situation can get another perspective and maybe face their own fears and take that leap. Babies.

Ok well that's me. What are you burning to do, be, create? Love to hear from you.

Also love to hear from you if you're interested in collaborating in any of these ideas (except the babies, we pretty much have that covered thanks).

This is in my head today, thinking about all this. Just beautiful.