From rollercoaster to transformation – Happy New Year

As we know ourselves more, truly anything is possible. When you connect to your true self, then life is limitless and anything you can possibly imagine can be your reality.” ~Yut

I rode an emotional rollercoaster in 2018 and at times experienced a curious duality where I felt like I was watching from a higher vantage point, witnessing the ride, the twists and turns and the transformations. It was a challenging year yet one of the richest and most rewarding years of my life. My 22-year relationship and 20-year marriage dissolved in January. I was floored and absolutely broken for a time. Can I say that 12 months on I’m completely healed? Can we ever say that with absolute certainty? There’s so much involved and tangled up in the healing process of a relationship of this length ending, but I’m in a good place, a solid place.

One of the biggest priorities for me, after this unexpected wake up call, was to strip back a lifetime of behaviours and exceptions to rediscover who I was before all the years of conditioning.

I now realise the absolute truth in the saying – “behaviour happens in a context”.  So often over the course of the year I found myself behaving ‘out of character’, then realising that perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps it was just different to the way I had behaved previously, under the veil of restriction.  There were times my opposite reaction to what I might previously have chosen, was a stunning revelation.  I feel like I am blooming. I feel alive and full of love for life.

I realise now I have spent the majority of my life carefully crafting a persona that I thought others wanted of me, wanted me to be. I projected to the world a conventional, well-behaved, educated, ‘proper’ front.  It never sat well with me, but I felt my worthiness was measured by toeing the line and by striving to be the best at anything I could be.  I strove for perfection. I created routines and structures to keep the illusion going. I did this to support a need for validation and to feel safe.  I needed to feel safe in a world where I was neglecting my true self.

So, imagine the chaos a marriage breakup causes to someone who has behaved in line with perceived expectations, who has restricted themselves for the benefit of others, who has chosen not to follow their passion, so others could follow theirs, who has hidden their spirituality because it wasn’t approved of or understood, who did not reveal their strongest, deepest desires for fear of ridicule. It throws everything off kilter and out of balance.

I had put myself in a box and suddenly I had the opportunity to see life, the world and myself differently. 2018 was a year of summoning all my courage to delve deeply into and take personal responsibility for how I had been. It was a frightening, revealing and ultimately satisfying journey to openly look into the dark crevices of my emotions and behaviours to learn how I had been blocking my own growth. In my pursuit of a more meaningful life I built a relationship with myself that I had abandoned at a young age.

 To find the true me, to allow her to emerge, I had to be willing to let go and erase parts of myself that were causing chaos rather than bringing balance. For the first time I started to listen to my passion rather than my fear. It was uncomfortable at first for the façade I’d presented to the world had to go.  Some people around me were challenged by my emergence, while others fully supported and cheered me on. I can’t thank these amazing, genuine, loving people enough for stepping forward to support me. Having these incredible people around me and accepting their love and support has been a humbling experience.  I cannot begin to name them all for they are many; they live close and afar, we have known each other for years and relatively recently. I have grown as a result of their love as much as my own self-discovery.

As this year begins I am full of a love for life that is new to me. I am full of love for friends and family. I feel strong. I feel more fully myself than I ever have. I am learning to love myself, the whole mixed bag of contradictions, intricacies and quirks. This is a year of continued transformation and I am so very excited for what lies ahead.

Happy New year.

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A letter to my friend (#1)

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.—Albert Schweitzer

Letter to my friend
November 2018

Dear Michael,

Someone asked today, as an exercise in gratitude, what the highlight of my day was.  I replied by telling them I’d spent the day in tears.

As you know there have been many tears lately, yours and mine, and I’m crying again as I write this, I’m finding it hard to catch my breath and quell my sadness. The gratitude comes from knowing how lucky and blessed I have been to have you in my life; knowing I have someone in my life who makes saying goodbye so hard. I know we will always be friends, but I will miss seeing you every day.

I don’t think I would survive now without you in my life. You bring the sun with you; you light up the room, you bring laughter and fun but most of all I have valued your wise counsel, your belief in me and encouragement along the way.

Friends cheer each other on, I know that, but you were daily at forefront of my horror and you cheered me on when my biggest achievement was getting out of bed and standing up straight. You have made me feel loved and cared for in a time when I was sinking. You have been a trusted and faithful ally through the ugliest of days, taking me away from the office, making me eat, giving me cause to laugh, checking in on me minute by minute, hour by hour; and when my head gradually rose above the watermark you were still there.

We are an unlikely duo who have become firm friends. I thank God and the universe for bringing us together. We’ve been the dream team: MJ and Pippin, Harvey and Jessica. We’ve played a long game and smashed some big goals this year. We’ve enjoyed intellectual debate and I know it stung when I won but Jessica’s composure and experience will always trump Harvey’s suave impulsiveness.

You’ve taught me what real love is, what true friendship is, you’ve taught me to trust myself and back myself, you’ve encouraged me to fly and pushed me when I was afraid. You’ve listened to me rant, you’ve supported me when I’ve doubted myself, you’ve helped me see the light and taught me to have fun again.

If there truly is such a thing as a soul mate, I believe you are mine. Maybe I have relied on you too much, but the pain of your departure is so intense that it could only be the separating of souls.  You know me in a way only a very special few do. I appreciate your acceptance of my quirks and failings. Your relentless jibes at my (few) particular nuances has helped me laugh at myself and taught me not to take life so seriously.

One of my greatest joys has been watching you fill people up.  You are passionate about life and you value your friendships.  I see you reach out and care for people before you take care of yourself. I see you go out of your way for those you love and expect nothing in return.  You are like a knight who goes to war for those you love, without hesitation.  You love fiercely and unconditionally. It’s who you are. I see your strength, your passion, and I see your vulnerability.

Thank you for allowing me to witness your vulnerability, for trusting me, for confiding in me, for sharing your heart and allowing me to hold the space for you, on the few occasions, when you needed it.  You have grown stronger this year without realising and while you are independent and don’t like relying on others, just remember you’re not Superman, Batman, LeBron or any of the super heroes, you’re a man and you need a support team too mate.

I hope you know how much I appreciate you, how much I appreciate everything that you have done for me and I hope that you know I would do anything for you.  It’s inevitable that relationships change over time and while life is taking us on our different paths, please know, I will always be there for you. You’re my person (you were brave enough to volunteer) and while you have ‘K’ now, know I will be your person for as long as you want.

Thank you for getting to know me, showing me the sincerest support and unconditional love. I can’t thank you enough for the countless half strength flat whites on almond milk, or the times you stopped traffic for me, or held me back from stepping off the curb too early, for all the Pimms jugs, roof top bar chats, my first espresso martini and Jagerbomb, for the gorgeous photos, best Japanese food and the million laughs; for not shying away from my tears and trusting me with your heart and your story and your inner most feelings. Thank you.

I want you in my life forever Michael, you’ve made every single day better. That’s what makes your move so hard. I’m ecstatically happy for you. For the new life you are about to begin; a new job, a beautiful partner, a new home. You deserve it all and more.

I know you will never see yourself in the words I have written but I’ve seen it every single day, and so much more. It’s why you deserve this incredible new life that’s unfolding for you. You deserve every good thing the universe has to offer Michael because you make the world a better place.  I love you for it.

For these reasons and many, many more, the highlight of my day, was you.

xxx

Six reassurances for living with a disproportionately large shadow

Vincent Mars

A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow.”
Djuna Barnes

The shadow escapes from the body like an animal we had been sheltering.”
― Gilles Deleuze

“When we are aware of our weaknesses or negative tendencies, we open the opportunity to work on them.”
― Allan Lokos

I fell off my perch recently. I didn’t just slip or stumble, nor was it a little hiccough. I fell from grace in a spectacular fashion.  While it wasn’t a public shaming, it was ugly and vicious and intense.  I felt I’d let myself down.

It was sparked by an incident. Well, a series of ongoing incidents really. You see, few things get me as riled up as injustice. I can’t stand by and see someone, particularly someone I love and care for, treated poorly and unfairly.

Nothing annoys me more than people hiding behind the cloak of dogma, proclaiming how we must all adhere to said dogma, yet behave in anything but the same fashion they expect of others. Hypocrites annoy me. Weakness annoys me. Ignorance and stupidity annoy me.

I’m cranky. Can you tell?

I witnessed what I believe to be an injustice. A debasing of someone who is loving, giving and so very generous. I’ve seen this person’s love thrown back in their face. Their feelings ignored and trampled on. I have seen this incredible person devalued by the people who should love and support them the most.

This constant undermining attack on this loved one has been delivered by people who hide behind the veil of Christian virtue. Their behaviour has been anything but christian or virtuous. Their actions have been coloured and influenced by ill meaning advisors.  I loathe to see people manipulated, used as puppets for other people’s end game but I loathe even more the idiocy of those who are so weak-minded that they cannot rationally approach a situation and see what is clearly happening, as those looking in surely do.

You know those movies where the protagonist becomes so enraged they morph into some unrecognisable fire-breathing monster? Well, that’s what I became last week.  I literally felt like a red-eyed, raging, stampeding beast. The anger, the vile loathing, the deep-seated hankering for vengeance boiled inside me. I thought I would explode with it. I felt I would go mad with it.

I was tainted by and shocked by the venom within me.

image: shadow self sourced from lackofa

I then felt like a hypocrite, proclaiming peace and love yet feeling this ugliness. I decided to share my ugliness with friends so there would be witnesses to my darkness. Why? I wanted to ensured I maintained my integrity by being truthful about who I am. I didn’t want to hide this disgraceful behaviour.

My wise women friends offered some interesting insights and revealed the lessons in the situation for me. I share with you some of what they shared with me, not to justify my behaviour but because it might help you too, if you find yourself in a similar situation.

One wise friend told me that this was my truth. She thought my courage and honesty at sharing the ugliness was amazing. She assured me I wasn’t alone. That other people too have  really tough and intense dark sides. She had, herself, been ‘surfing the inland sea’ for several weeks. I wasn’t alone in my quest for vengeance. That hers had also thrown her into shame and despair.

Without justifying my behaviour or supporting my view-point I was tutored that life is prickly and sticky at times.

What startled me most, and bore into my brain slowly over the days to come, was that this incident, this turbulent inner battle, was progress on my path and a testament to how much work I had done, to not only feel but name what I was experiencing. I was encouraged not to judge my feelings, to just feel them intensely and release them.  I was encouraged to take care of myself and forgive myself.

Despite my despicable thoughts, the tempest, the rage and rantings, my wise women’s circle told me that I needed to know that I truly deserve kindness and love. But also, a parting lesson, that I am only responsible for my own happiness.

So, dear reader, please know, that if you are on a spiritual  path or simply trying to be more present and grateful and loving in life that:

1. it’s human to be angry, to be messy, prickly and sticky. LIfe happens and over time we get better at dealing with it. Ignoring your anger and emotions doesn’t help nor does wrapping yourself in bubble wrap to avoid life.

2. if you feel like you’ve slipped off your perch, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally, you won’t be the only one. Climb back up.

3. we have to forgive ourselves. How can we ever move forward with the weight of self loathing dragging us down? Easier said than done. I know.   I also acknowledge that we must forgive others too. That might, in this situation, take me a little time to work through. But yes. There is huge relief and release in forgiveness, and it will come, in time.

4. as awkward as it might be, part of forgiving yourself and climbing back on your perch is deliberate self-care. Walking in nature, digging in the garden, floating, swimming, massage. Whatever nurtures you, heals you.

5. letting go isn’t condoning a situation or other people’s behaviour. Letting go and adjusting your attitude directly benefits your inner peace.  You can find peace amid the chaos, it’s a matter of choice.

6. you are only responsible for your own happiness. While we can be discouraged, enraged and moved by injustice; taking on issues for others, carrying around unresolved and destructive emotion isn’t helping anyone reach their happiness, nor does it help you with your own quest. I’m not saying don’t take meaningful and purposeful action where you can, just be aware of bottled up emotion and how it affects you and resolves nothing.

We all have a shadow side. Mine feels disproportionately huge. It’s ugly and misshapen. It fumes and steams and flares red hot. But, I’ve realised, it’s human to feel the darkness and to be in the darkness just as much as it is to revel in the light and bask in the warmth life has to offer.

Be gentle with your dear hearts. Remember, self-development and spiritual development are not events, but processes. Ongoing processes.

I send you love wherever you may be on your personal journey.

Shannyn

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In their footsteps. Well, almost!

Albion is a tiny suburb in Brisbane approximately six kilometres north east-ish of the city centre. A busy major road runs directly through the centre of the suburb which boasts an interesting history.

I set off with a friend to explore this little gem of a suburb, best known to me for its harness racing track, which was, I discovered, established in the 1880’s.

Following a city council designed heritage trail we discovered a hidden history. We admired historical buildings, grand old homes and tiny workers cottages in varying states of repair. We called on our imaginations to visualise buildings and historic sites, replaced now by modern factories and vacant lots.

Dunaverty

Dunaverty

Worker's cottage

Worker’s cottage

Hampton court

Hampton court

We were intrigued to learn there had been a vibrant Chinese settlement here with thriving market gardens in what is now a well known park and football field.

One architectural and cultural icon that was sadly missing was the old flour mill. Built by Scottish migrants in the 1930’s it was sadly destroyed by an arsonist’s fire late last year. The historic mill produced flour for 72 years before being shut down in 2004. The desolate site is soon to be transformed into a ‘lifestyle precinct'(high density yet elegant housing).

Photo supplied

The old mill.  (Photo supplied)

The site of the old mill today

The site of the old mill today

Completing the circuit we pulled up a stool in a little cafe in what was once the Albion public hall. The ground floor of this gorgeous building is now a thriving hub of cafes and restaurants while upstairs is soon to be converted into loft apartments for short term lease by tourists and visitors to our city.

Image by libraryhack

Image by libraryhack

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This was a fun way to catch up with my friend. We talked and laughed while we puzzled over the map. We caught up on a months worth of life events as we strolled through this modern suburb while recreating the past in our minds. We enjoyed the winter sunshine, each other’s humour and easy company. We got in a little exercise (there was a hill) and didn’t have to fuss over food or expense.

I’m keen to know: How do you catch up with friends? Have you explored an interesting place close to home recently?

How To Be An Explorer Of The World
1. Always Be LOOKING (notice the ground beneath your feet.)
2. Consider Everything Alive & Animate
3. EVERYTHING Is Interesting. Look Closer.
4. Alter Your Course Often.
5. Observe For Long Durations (and short ones).
6. Notice The Stories Going On Around You.
7. Notice PATTERNS. Make CONNECTIONS.
8. DOCUMENT Your Findings (field notes) In A VAriety Of Ways.
9. Incorporate Indeterminacy.
10. Observe Movement.
11. Create a Personal DIALOGUE With Your Environment. Talk to it.
12. Trace Things Back to Their ORIGINS.
13. Use ALL of the Senses In Your Investigations.”

Keri Smith, How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum

Albion Hotel

Albion Hotel