Why would you keep a bird in a cage?

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__640

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.

f5825fe0f6c3f4a4cb400f090eeae75e

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 5.09.25 pm

 

 

Selfish is not a dirty word. Let’s change it up!

Selfishness

When we talk of a person being selfish it’s usually with a negative connotation. “Oh her, she’s SO selfish!” “I wish you would stop being so selfish!” I’d like to start a movement to change that.

First let’s look at the definition according to the Oxford dictionary:

adjective: (Of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

Now for a few synonyms: egocentric, egotistic, egotistical, egomaniacal, self-centred, self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-serving, wrapped up in oneself, self-loving; inconsiderate, thoughtless, unthinking, uncaring, heedless, unmindful, regardless, insensitive, tactless, uncharitable, unkind; mean, miserly, grasping, mercenary, opportunistic, out for what one can get informal looking after number one, on the make
Selfish
Do you get the feeling that being selfish isn’t seen as an admirable trait?
611ffaedea8e17998e2c7426abadadb2
Now on the other hand those in the self care/personal development space are very wisely encouraging us to fill our own cup before helping others. I like to use the analogy of flying on a plane. What do the safety instructions tell us? If the oxygen masks drop down, fix your own before helping anyone else. Why is that? Because if we’re dead then we can’t help anyone, obvious isn’t it? That’s not being selfish, that’s common sense.
Oxygen-Mask
I propose that we reconsider our definition of selfish. In my humble opinion if we can invoke the positive aspects of selfishness without the egotistical and self serving parts, then we become more whole human becomings as a result.
It starts with a sense of self. I believe we all must have a strong sense of self. Without one, how can we possibly know who we are, what makes us tick and how we fit, and therefore how we best we can live in and provide service in the world? Get to know YOU, the wonderful person you are. Sit quietly offline with no distractions somewhere really comfortable with a book and a pen and complete the sentence, beginning with your name……… is…….. Write it out. All of it. The junk, the good bits, the shit and the stuff. Write it as if nobody in the world is ever going to see it but you. Spend time in the coming weeks getting to know the essence of YOU. Every single aspect of YOU, unique and wonderful YOU! You might be surprised at who you really are and what you truly want, like and wish for when you ask yourself the question.
o-SELFISH-facebook

image source: Huffington Post

Once we have a sense of self, it is our responsibility and nobody else’s to take care of that special self. Self care is something that some people are great at, and some of us (me included) totally suck at. Oh I can talk it, write it, preach it and teach it but I have failed miserably at walking it. I have a phrase that I use a lot and it’s that I’m great at outsourcing my self care, which sounds hilarious and there is so much to it that I will write about it separately, but it has been true.

Until now.

I turned 50 at the end of December and I decided that my focus for my 50th year is self love and self care and I have put many things in place to make that my number one priority. For the first time in my life I actually have a word for the year and my word for this year is nourish. What a beautiful word that gives a feeling of support and comfort just by saying it and writing it. Consider having a word for this year and ensuring that all you do supports that. It is a powerful technique. Self care is YOUR responsibility, no matter how many ways I tried to outsource it, it doesn’t work. Spend time looking at your needs, and what you need to do for yourself and what you need from others to facilitate the highest levels of care you can imagine. Get those needs met! Every single day! You only get one shot at this life, so let’s get this part right!

Self care can be challenging for others in your life if they aren’t used to you putting yourself first. You are highly likely to be accused of being selfish when you start to put yourself and your needs ahead of all else and this may cause dynamics to shift in some relationships, especially when those relationships depend on you being the one who gives of themselves beyond the level of what’s healthy. Since the beginning of this year I’ve seen this play out in different settings and it’s fascinating to observe human behaviour when you don’t behave as people expect you to. It’s ok. It’s life. Life is an ever evolving series of incredulous and wonderful experiences and we move through and change constantly. If I reflect back on just a year ago and compare it to the Rae-Anne today, all I can say is wow, well done girl! 88d41eb4614c13fda2a004cf8195e9aeIn addition to self care, self love must be way up there, and that usually follows a strong sense of self, but it isn’t always an easy process, depending on where you have been in your life up until that point. For this I highly recommend looking at working with affirmations, perhaps some mirror work, and being very mindful of the words you use when you talk about yourself. Words have resonance and thinking carefully about how we think and speak about ourselves is one of the most powerful things you can do to begin your journey to head over heels self love. There is much more I can say on this and I will at another time.

So; self love, self care and a strong sense of self is my suggestion for starting to live a “selfish” life. Once you have filled your cup and it is overflowing with nourishment, love, juiciness and flooding the whole space around you, then you can help others. But no matter what, always fill your own cup first!

I wish you a nourishing and selfish year, just for YOU! ❤

Nourish_FacebookTease

large signature straight

How we do cross cultural marriage

IMG_0698.JPG

My husband and I have been together for just over 6 years. He is Ghanaian, I am Australian. He has never married before, I was previously married for 28 years. He has no children, I have 2 children and 2 grandchildren. I am 50, he is 42. He was a muslim when we met and I’m an atheist. I was a vegetarian and he a butcher. We had less in common than anyone I can think of.

We have a very happy marriage because we make it work. We have our moments that’s for sure and believe me when I say it’s not all sunshine and rose petals but we’re incredibly happy and in love.

We moved interstate just 17 days after meeting each other and moved to Africa less than 5 months later, so we really did it the hard way. We took a brand new relationship where neither of us had experienced a cross cultural relationship in the midst of a ridiculously ugly divorce and threw it into West Africa! Who does that? We always say that if we can survive that, we can survive anything.

I have seen many relationships begin and end in the time we’ve been together and sadly cross cultural relationships are notorious for not lasting the distance. There are many reasons why this happens and while I’m no relationship expert, I’d like to share some things that I feel have helped us.

  1. Try to get a handle on each other’s cultures and what each of you values the most. This takes time and patience and you can’t possibly cover all of the things that are important to you until they crop up. Patience is critical here as things that come up for both of you will be in the moment, often unexpected and full of emotion.
  2. Compromise compromise compromise. You both won’t always be able to get things your way and you will both have to shift to accommodate each other. The pendulum might swing one way in some things and the other in others. When trying to work out which way to swing it, discuss what’s really important to you on this particular occasion and decide which of you can be more flexible, if it’s more or less important or not such a big deal to you or your partner. Establish your non-negotiables very clearly. For example my husband doesn’t celebrate christmas and we do. Our compromise is that he’s part of our family celebrations, enjoys the family day and eats with us, but he doesn’t participate in gift giving. This one was simple, others are much more complex and take a lot of discussion and negotiation. Compromise.
  3. If you have a misunderstanding, always assume language first. So many things can be misconstrued and miscommunicated and the slightest change of a word or two can completely change the context for the other person. Early on we had several misunderstandings that occurred simply by the use of one word. Always get clear on what your partner is trying to say or what message you are trying to convey before either of you take offence or heated emotions come into play.
  4. Family values are SO different that it could fill a book. Western family expectations are incredibly ridiculously crazily amazingly (get the idea?) different to those of developing countries. Get a handle on it and really understand the expectations of each others families on the both of you. Trust me, this one is HUGE.
  5. Did I mention compromise? Oh yeah I did, but just in case the point wasn’t clear – compromise, BOTH of you. Too often it goes one way and that’s why some relationships don’t work, it has to go both ways.
  6. Expect to be challenged. All relationships take work and are worth the effort, no marriage is easy but cross culture adds a whole level of complication that others don’t.
  7. Expect to be happy. Just like any ordinary relationship, you were attracted to each other for a reason and that reason doesn’t change no matter the pressures you each face.

Shanton and I in Bali.jpg

I could write a whole lot more, but I like to keep my posts brief and these are just a few things that I’ve found work for us. The key to success is to find out what makes you both tick, what ticks you both off and doing the best you can every day.

Life is short. Live well. Love hard. Kiss lots. Love is beautiful. ❤

large signature straight