Why would you keep a bird in a cage?

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I am in Bali right now for a month, my beloved second home and enjoying taking time out for me, catching up with friends and relaxing. On my own. While I am very happily married, up until meeting my husband 7.5 years ago, I have never enjoyed the freedom I currently have and I love and appreciate every single moment of it.

On the day I was leaving home, I bumped into an old friend, Sandra. Sandra was my first true friend when my family and I relocated from Sydney to Adelaide in 1981. At the tender age of 15 we moved so my family could begin a new life, following my parents separation, it didn’t work but that’s a whole other story, but ultimately we were dumped in Adelaide. Leaving lifelong friends and family behind across the other side of the country I found myself starting in a new high school and in the unfamiliar situation of knowing nobody. Sandra took me under her wing with another beautiful soul Melissa and we soon became close friends and spent all of our spare time together.

Anyway fast forward 36 years – say what??? and we bump into each other putting petrol in our cars. We’ve seen each other only once in the last 20 or so years at a shopping centre and added each other on Facebook so we each had a vague idea of what the other is doing.

Sandra said something to me that I loved while we briefly discussed life, travel, marriage, careers and how the hell we have become 51 years old in the blink of an eye. She said to me with great admiration in her eyes ‘you have really re-invented yourself haven’t you?’. I wholeheartedly agreed with her at the time as yes, I have.

However, the more I thought about this fabulous compliment the more I realised that yes on the outside it may appear to be so and sometimes I feel as if that is the case, but you know what I realised? I haven’t reinvented myself, I have rediscovered myself and maybe I could even go so far as to say I have discovered myself.

You see at the age of 15 I met the person who was to be my first husband. At 15 I thought I knew it all, but in fact I knew nothing. Nada, zip, zero. Rather than continue to blossom and find my own direction, and place, I somehow became melded into one combined entity. I recall a psychologist saying to me once when talking about our family structure, that it was as if one of us breathes in and the other breathes out.

So when you are with someone from the age when you are still figuring out who you are, where you belong, what you love and don’t love, your belief system, your everything,  if you are not strong enough to hold your own, you soon lose that part of who you are and somehow deep inside I buried that little girl. Her hopes, dreams, visions and ideals. I am not saying it was all bad, no not at all. I raised two incredible sons to be amazing men, traveled, and had a wonderful life in many ways. But deep inside I buried the real me. The free peace loving wild crazy hippy woman who wanted to fly and be free.

Getting deeply personal here, cos after all this is my blog, I recall the day I finally decided after years of arguments that at the age of 33 if I wanted to pierce my nose, well fuck me I am hold enough to decide that for myself. So I did. Now this may seem like an insignificant something, but it was something I had wanted to do from about the age of 16, and was forbidden to do so. I won’t repeat the names I was called at that time, but let’s just say nobody deserves to be called them. I had also long wanted a tattoo and made the decision at 40 it was about time I did what I wanted. Divorce was threatened but I finally decided that if I could not express myself outwardly in my physical appearance at that age, then seriously what else was I repressing. So I got my first tattoo. It was tiny and I absolutely loved it.

Fast forward a few years and I started to do things to please me. Little old me. Outward some yes, but mainly internal. Spiritual work, some healing and deep soul searching. I woke one day and decided that I was no longer able to be in the same situation I had been for 28 years, and so it was time. Time for the bird to be let out her beautiful gilded cage and fly wild and free. Without going into too much detail here, it was not an impulsive decision, it took several years of trying and failing and then the realisation came that I needed to fly, for my heart, mind, body, soul and spirit. So much hurt, pain and trauma that cannot be told in a short blog post. Perhaps the details can be left for another story. Please note, I don’t want to bag or talk negatively about anyone else here, but the reality is that my story was so deeply intertwined it is impossible to talk about this without involving the story of another.

So fly I did. And wonderful magic things have happened. I now listen to only one voice, mine. My inner voice. My heart. My intuition. My internal compass. She guides me in every direction, with every step I take and every decision I make. She is wise and she is now wide awake and ready to shout from the rooftops, embrace every moment and squeeze every last single juicy drop out of this one short life.

So, reinvented perhaps.

Rediscovered, uncovered, invigorated and on purpose and free – most definitely.

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51 times around the sun

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Today at lunch with my love

Today is my 51st birthday. Even as I write this, I still can’t quite fathom it. All of the regular cliches come to mind – time flies by so fast, it only seems like yesterday, life is short, where did the time go, I’ve heard myself say them all and with great frequency recently. Seriously where the hell did 2016 go? I swear the planet is spinning more rapidly this year and it’s not just me who feels this way.

But – it’s true. I am 51 years of age. I have been on this spinning blue planet for 51 cycles as it circles the sun. In my head I still feel just as I did when I was in my teens, of course with more wisdom and knowledge and I only have to look in the mirror to know that I am no longer 19. I still feel like everyone on TV and in the media is older than me, but the reality is they are all younger than me, or mostly anyway.

At 51, I am proud to have raised two incredible men, Josh now 30 and Matt who is 26. I am grandma to two amazing human beings, Ella 5 and Jake 3 – me, a grandma! Seriously? In my day grandmas wore petticoats, stockings and frocks, had blue rinses and never left the house without their face on. No matter my age, I can’t see myself ever doing any of those things.

At 51 I am freer than I’ve ever been, happier than I’ve ever felt and think I finally know what I want to do when I grow up. Well, maybe anyway. One of the great things about living life with freedom and curiosity is that anything can change at any time. I might find something new and exciting that calls to my heart and I might do that instead. Who knows, and how awesome is that!

At 51 I have nothing to prove to anyone other than myself.

At 51 I have all that I need. I live a simple life, surrounded by simple pleasures that bring me great joy. I don’t want for anything. I am rich beyond measure; in love, health, family and friends and experiences that teach me lessons that I could never have learnt at school.

At 51 I am content.

At 51 I am wise. I am free. I am loved. I am happy. I am enough.

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Life as a recovering food addict

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I haven’t written about my food addiction in a long time. There’s a very good reason for that. I’m done. I’ve finally, after 35+ years, got the demon under my command. The demon that consumed my every waking moment. As with all addicts, it will always be part of my life, but right now, at this moment, I control it, rather than it controlling me.

It wasn’t easy. It took some massive soul searching, many dark nights of the soul, and finally some decisions others might refer to as drastic, followed by deliberate action, with the knowledge that I deserve better. It’s been the most interesting and life changing six months of my life and today I’m fitter and healthier than I have been since my teens. I saved my life.

My food addiction had begun to impact on my health in a variety of ways; fatty liver, fatty pancreas, both of which eventually would lead to diabetes and potentially cirrhosis of the liver. I was often tired, lived with constant pain and had a myriad of issues as a result of the excess weight I carried and continue to gain as time went on.  I felt powerless to change, and had tried everything. And I do mean everything.

Over the years I have lost, gained, lost, gained, lost and gained again more times than I can possibly count. I have written about this many times, there’s a whole section dedicated to addiction on this blog. At this moment I’m actually a healthy weight for my height. I look and feel good and sometimes don’t even recognise the person I see reflected back at me in the mirror or in photos. This is not about weight and never has been. It’s about addiction, but the side effect of food addiction is obvious.

The behaviour associated with my addiction held a lot of shame for me and it was something I never spoke openly about until about a year ago when I started this blog. I mean, I’m an intelligent woman, confident and professional and I was completely cognisant of what I was doing. It seemed so incongruent with every other aspect of my life, but addiction is addiction.

Writing about my addiction and talking openly with others was the beginning of my healing. It was the most difficult thing I had ever done and the rawness and vulnerability I felt was excruciating to begin with. However the more I spoke about it, the easier it got and my healing began.

I was talking with a soul sista yesterday who is identical to me in every way. She is the first person I ever met who got me, really got me and had done all of the things I’d done and felt the things I’d felt. I was telling her that I felt like writing a book about living with this addiction, it would have to be fictional but with my story behind it. I would need to make it fictional as some of my thoughts and actions would be too painful and embarrassing to share as a non fiction book. At least if it was fiction, people wouldn’t be sure which parts were true.

She said something that surprised me. She reminded me of how greatly my life had changed and how much I’d moved on. I had left the beast behind, why not keep running and leave it further behind, and continue to enjoy the freedom of living without it? Why rehash it again, when for the first time since I was 14, I was free of the daily thoughts, torture and anguish it caused me?

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She was right. I have moved on. The beast is lagging way behind me now, and I am controlling this demon that ruled my life. I am free, unburdened and lighter than ever, in every sense of the word.

If you have an addiction, no matter what it is, please know that you are not alone. Addiction shows up in many ways and for a variety of reasons, too many to discuss in this short post. But it is very very real.

Please seek help. Please take whatever steps you need to take and do whatever you can to overcome the demon and live your life to the fullest. Please don’t let one more day pass without embracing the amazing human being that you are and living your life free of the burdens this life sapping monster brings with it.

You deserve it.

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Reframing – feeling powerless.

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The art of reframing can be a powerful tool to see things in a more helpful and positive light. I first heard of it in this context many years ago at an NLP conference where the facilitator was explaining how it works and how to put it into action. She shared a personal story of coming home late from work one night to her husband and teenagers who essentially were being lazy, bins were still outside, nothing had been done and they were wondering what was for dinner. She said that rather than getting angry about the situation, she reframed it to “I am grateful I have a home and a family to come home to after a long day at work”. If it were me, I might not have been quite so generous in my thinking and I think teaching kids personal responsibility and household chores goes a long way and I’m proud to say my boys have grown up to be independent and capable men around the house, however I digress. This example demonstrated immediately the power of reframing and how helpful it can be in changing our mental states.

The fact is that sometimes reframing is the only option we have in an otherwise challenging situation and I’ve used it often since that course many moons ago. I’m not unrealistic or a person that believes that an affirmation or sunshine and unicorns fixes everything, but sometimes reframing is all we have available to us.

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Let me share a very recent example. I returned home from a wonderful trip on Friday evening and unfortunately I was subjected to a rather unpleasant interrogation by our immigration staff upon my return. In addition to this, my husband had been subjected to a far more unpleasant experience in my absence. Both are being dealt with by the appropriate authorities, so they are in hand, and the details are not relevant for this context.

Since Friday evening I’ve been quite upset, I have been waking up after about 3 hours sleep most nights, rehashing and going over the interrogation I was subjected to and unable to sleep again. I am probably bordering on hysterical with sleep deprivation and I hope that tonight it will be deep and uninterrupted. I’ve wondered why it has affected me so deeply, but the reality is that it has and I have had to accept it. The constant replays in my head, the “why didn’t I say this?” questions, the “if only” moments in addition to the rather unpleasant situation itself have left me feeling upset and angry. At 3am, they become far worse.

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I realised why I felt strongly about this today. It’s not that they weren’t doing their job, well one was, the other was something else. It was that for the hour or more I was interrogated, questioned and scrutinised, my privacy invaded, my personal life on show, probed and prodded, I felt completely and totally powerless. It’s not a feeling I’m used to or have experienced, so it’s a very uncomfortable place for me to have found myself.

So how to reframe this? I was talking with a wise friend today who gave me the best way to look at it. For the first time in my life I can truly empathise with what it might feel like to be powerless, to be controlled, to be the scrutinised minority. I thought I had a sense, after all I have lived in Africa, but I never had the feeling of what being completely and totally powerless felt like. Now I can get a sense of that. Sure mine was only for an hour or so, it has however left me reeling, I am a sensitive soul and an amazing over thinker and expert rehasher. My experience can only give me a small sense, a taste, a feeling, just a hint, but I can now truly feel a deep sense of empathy for the powerless. Thank you Michelle for helping me see this so clearly.

I have long valued my freedom as a Western woman, and have always felt blessed to have been born in this rich beautiful land and I have written about this many times. Now I appreciate it even more, even though the situation I faced was at the hands of my own people. I ultimately still have control over my fate, my options, decisions and choices and the way I live my life.

Billions of others don’t.

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Writing in Bali

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As any of my regular readers and friends know well, I have a longstanding love affair with Bali. Last time I was here in December/January I wrote every day, sometimes more than once a day. I love it so much. There is something about this place that gets my creative juices flowing and it doesn’t stop.

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Yesterday I was walking and contemplating the effect that this place has on me on so many levels. I was waiting for hubby to finish buying something and made a quick impromptu video about the concept of being cleansed in body, mind and soul and how it is so good for creative pursuits.

I’m returning to my beloved Bali in May for a whole four weeks to dedicate myself, my time and energy to my art and to write full time. Ah bliss! While I’m here I am very excited to be hosting an intimate Writers Retreat for women who know they deserve the time and space to nurture their creative spirit.

I have just three spaces left, so if you would like to join me in paradise and spend time just for you and your art, please get in touch.

I look forward to sharing my love of writing in paradise with you.

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Goodbye Bali, for now anyway

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After two blissful weeks in my beloved Bali, I am heading back to Australia tomorrow. Two weeks is never long enough and while we have booked flights for another two weeks in March, we are looking at the possibility of returning for an extended stay of about three months later this year. We really want to see what it is like for us here on a more long term basis. We have some plans that could assist us in earning an income here and will work on those over the coming months.

While I always love it here, this trip has been extra special.

I am thankful for:

  • My incredible family and friends who flew all the way here to share my 50th birthday with me. Words are simply inadequate to express my profound gratitude.
  • Pampering and relaxation time.
  • Precious holiday time with my gorgeous hubby.
  • Finishing two books in a week.
  • The fact that I wrote almost every day.
  • My creativity was at its best.
  • The tattoo I got today to celebrate my birthday and the decision to call myself a writer.
  • My freedom.

Freedom is something I am ALWAYS thankful for and have written about on many occasions, but it really stood out again for me today. You see I was sitting next to a lady in the spa while I had a pedicure, we were discussing Bali and she said sadly she had only ten days here as her work wouldn’t let her take any longer off. That made me feel sad. I started working for myself a little over two years ago and sometimes I take for granted the fact I can just hop on a plane whenever I want, and I have no restrictions imposed on me by anybody.

I know self employment isn’t for everyone, but for me it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself. Freedom and flexibility are right up there in my non-negotiables in life, and I expect they will stay that way forever.

So I would like to repeat that I am so very very grateful for my freedom and say Sampai Jumpa Lagi to my beautiful island home. ❤

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Eat, pray, thank you

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Tonight the boys wanted to go to Apache, the Reggae bar in Kuta and we decided to have a girls night in, so I went and bought a whole stack of movies. As we are in Ubud I thought it would be nice to be completely cheesy and watch Eat Pray Love, even though I’ve seen it before.

I first read the book in 2008 when a dear friend posted it to me in Darwin, where I was living at the time, saying she thought I would love it, and I did. It was also incredibly painful for me to read, as at that time I had realised my marriage was over and I was living in a strange kind of limbo land, mostly miserable and occasionally happy, trying to figure out how to leave. I had tried many times before, without success and at this point I knew it really was time to go.

As I read the beginning of the book, especially the part where Liz talks about sitting on the bathroom floor praying, when she came to the conclusion that she needed to go, I really struggled. I was desperate for my freedom, I knew I had to leave but I felt trapped and unable to make such a massive decision to move on. I feared the ramifications of what needed to happen (and my fears were validated a few months later when I eventually did go, but that’s a whole other story), which was complicated by the situation we were living in at the time as well, and it was an overwhelming but necessary thing to consider. My mental and physical health began to deteriorate and eventually I was left with no choice. The body has a way of letting you know if you don’t listen to the whispers of your soul.

As I read about her travels, oh I envied her so much. I wanted to fly, to be free, to be let loose, to find myself, grow, blossom, pretty well all of the feelings that she had and the experiences that followed for her.

I actually was in Bali in November 2009 when they filmed the movie here, it was 4 months after I had left my marriage, it was my first solo overseas holiday and I loved it. So this is what freedom feels like!

Fast forward to tonight and it was interesting to watch it again, being in a whole different head space. I am here in Bali, with my amazing husband, friends and family and I am completely, totally satisfied with my life.

I met my soulmate a little over six years ago, we are very happily married, and at the same time, I have never felt more free in my entire life. I can’t express the freedom I feel that I am so grateful for. Freedom to choose anything I wish to do, have or be, while secure in the love of an incredible man. This is what a relationship should be. I am not saying we are perfect, because we are far from it, but I now have the freedom I craved for so long, and I didn’t need to travel the world or be alone forever to find it.

So on this first day of 2016, I would like to express my gratitude for every experience I have had which has led me to where I am today. I don’t believe in regrets or what ifs or shoulda coulda woulda’s, tempting as they might be. All of the choices I made, at the times that they needed to be made, have led to this wonderful life.

May you always be free.

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