Finding home…

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Tonight I found home. It’s been a while and I’m so happy to have found it again.

But before I talk about where I found it, let me explain a few things. I haven’t written in a while, and my last few posts have been quite ranty and tanty. I have felt like my head is spinning and to be completely honest (which I always am) I’ve felt overwhelmed, and a little bit lost.

When I get overwhelmed I tend to shut down, scroll Facebook and watch nonsense on Netflix while occasionally walking from room to room shaking my head at all the things I have to do, furiously making lists that have too much on them, before making another cup of tea and scrolling once again.

Anyone who knows me will attest to fact that I do a lot of things. Some people say I have too many interest/businesses/things in my life, but I am the epitome of a multi passionate person. It’s not about money, I just love doing lots of things and for me it’s so liberating to be cubicle free. I want to do all the things. All of them.

I have six businesses, a charity, a social enterprise and many creative pursuits that I love. I have been considering cutting back on some, but apart from one, which is my app, I honestly love each and every one of them and don’t want to give them up, well not right now anyway. When it comes to money, I believe in abundance and never quite know where my next income will come from, but I always have enough and know that I always will. Always.

So back to the spinning head and overwhelm. It’s not from all of the things I do, none of them are full time and all are passion projects. I feel like it comes from a place of not taking time to listen and find home. Yes I know that scrolling Facebook and watching Netflix isn’t finding time to listen but that’s how I deal. For a long time I dealt with my stuff by writing and I’ve missed that, so it’s nice to be here sifting and sorting out the thoughts in my head via the keyboard and the inter webs.

In addition to not taking time to listen, there is a part of me that is feeling distressed, dismayed and almost helpless about the state of our beloved planet, and the level of distress has left me reeling and and with that awful sense of hopelessness that comes when we feel like we have no control over our situation. As a control freak I can tell you this is a dark place for me. The way I’ve figured out I can dealt with it is to remind myself of the fact I can only do what I can in my own space, with the resources I have and do my best to be a source of information and inspiration for people who want to know more about how to look after our precious one and only home.

It also comes from a feeling that I have so much more to offer the world than what I have been doing and want to find that place of deep authenticity where I am living, loving and giving from my heart space.

So that word – home. Tonight I found home again.

I found it at yoga. I am a long time yoga lover and tend to come and go to classes for various reasons relating to my physical and mental health, maybe that’s another post, and I’d like to think I’m back on the mat for good this time.

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Home isn’t a place, an address or a country. To me anyway.

Tonight I found home on the tip of my nose as the air gently passed by my face. I found it in the soles of my feet as they held my body strong in mountain pose, it was there in my spine as I did gentle compassionate back bends. I found it on my skin as we were encouraged to hold ourselves with love. I found it in my heart as I held my hands in prayer pose.

I found home, deep inside of me.

Right where it has always been.

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What I’ve learnt so far about writing my book…

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I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. I’ve always written in some form or another and I’m sure I was born reading a book. For most of my career my writing was centred around business writing, product development and training material.

I started blogging in 2010 when I moved to Ghana, this is my fourth blog. One has been retired, but the others are still going, each with a different purpose and audience. While I’ve been published in magazines, I’ve never written a book and it has been on my to do list for many years now.

I decided that this, my 50th year was the year to finally make my book happen. I’ve got a big to do list this year, and time is running by too quickly!! I took myself off to Bali to retreat for 32 blissful days in June, in order to focus on writing my memoir about the year I lived in Ghana. The working title is “How I learnt to love my bum and other lessons from Africa”.

I had this grand idea that I would knock this book off in a month, with time to spare. Yeah right. I started well, but quickly realised that it was going to be more challenging than I had originally anticipated. I’m so used to blogging, quick wins and finishes that the process of an unfinished product at the end of each day felt all awkward and prickly to begin with. As my wise friend and fellow writer Helen told me, writing a book uses different muscles than a blog, similar to the differences between running a sprint and a marathon.

So, after 32 days I came home with just over 30,000 words completed, not too shabby. I also had an idea for another book and that’s 5,000 words in, as well as various blog posts and other creative ideas flowing all around me. I’m very happy with the outcome of my retreat and I plan to make it an annual event.

snoopy_writing.jpgThis is what I learnt:

  1. I am an expert procrastinator. I’ve written about this before here where I generously shared some of my best tips for extreme procrastination. I really am the queen in this area and if there was some kind of nobel prize equivalent, I’d win for sure.
  2. It’s not my husband’s fault. I always said I wasn’t able to produce a book with him around, because, well he’s my biggest distraction. However I left him behind and still managed to get distracted by lots of shiny things and almost everything else, every day.
  3. I remembered more than I thought I would. We lived in Ghana from July 2010-July 2011 and despite my hubby’s best advice to keep at least a small journal with even a sentence a day (yes he’s always right, as well as being extremely hot), I didn’t. This means I’m relying solely on my memory, which I’m pleased to say, has been very reliable to date. I have also found some old blog posts, photos and Facebook to be helpful.
  4. Writing a memoir can be painful and emotional. One of the reasons for writing this is to share my experience of living in Ghana. That year was both the best and worst of my life. It pushed all of my buttons, shoved me hard right out of my comfort zone and taught me more than I had learnt in the previous 44 years on the planet. Remembering the highlights and lowlights triggered quite a few tears.
  5. It’s ok not to get it perfect right off the bat. I learnt about shitty first drafts from Brene Brown and Anne Lamott and for that I’m grateful. I’m writing down the bones and fleshing it out later. I am a recovering perfectionist and this was a biggie for me.
  6. It’s ok to change direction. I thought I knew where the book would go, but it has taken me in very different places than I had anticipated, and that’s absolutely fine!

I’ve been home for a week now and I must confess to having lost my momentum a little, actually a lot, ok I’ve not looked at it since. I’m almost finished writing my smaller book and plan to have it off to the editor on the weekend, so after that I will pick it up again and get back into marathon mode.

Someone hold me accountable! Too many distractions…ooh look that’s pretty!

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Books books books!

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I was talking with a fellow Aussie book lover this morning, about the “international best selling” book I’m writing and some of the lessons I learnt in Ghana, as that’s the underlying theme of the book. Yes it’s going to be a bestseller and I’m going to retire with the billions in book sales I’ll make. I’m a realist, or is it an optimist, or perhaps delusional, pick any of those, I’ll go with that.

The topic of possessions and simplicity came up, as that was a big lesson for me. I thought I had it figured out, but I was wrong, and when we came home I took more action on that than I ever had before and culled like a person moving into a caravan.

Except books.

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This is not my bookcase, but a girl can dream

Never books.

I’ve got a few e-books, and some audios too, but they’ve never grabbed me in the same way that paper and ink always has. I can’t articulate why, but that’s the only thing in my world I have too many of. I buy so many that I could take a break from buying for probably about three years and not run out of material, but they keep printing more! Even here in Bali I bought three new babies for myself.

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See how I call them babies? That’s what they are to me. I wish I could say I read my books and leave them looking loved and dog-eared like when the Velveteen Rabbit became real, but no. Mine look like the day I bought them when I’m finished. Unless it’s a second hand book to begin with. OK maybe it’s time to fess up to be being slightly obsessive compulsive, but after 50 + years I don’t see that changing soon.

Oh there is one exception to my rule here. I got sucked into the Fifty Shades of Grey madness and have to confess I bought the trilogy. However they sucked, big time. Before I finished the first one, I had sold all three on e-bay. I’ve even heard second hand books shops are refusing to accept them now.

Even when I buy them, it can be bordering on torture. I pick them from the back of the shelf where nobody’s hands have dented or marked them and god help me if there’s only one or two to choose from, because they are never good enough. Now I buy a lot on line, I need to leave the destiny of my newborns to the hands of the packers.

When I finish a book that brings me great joy, I love sharing it. Now this comes with its own issues. I love when a person enjoys a book as much as I do, but at the same time I expect them to treat them like the delicate petals they are. Naming rights for first-born child/grandchild should come with the lending process or at the very least, a promise made with blood.

I’ve lent many books to others over the years, which resulted in varying levels of pleasure and disappointment. I lent Bryce McCourtney’s “April Fool’s Day” to someone once. When I eventually got it back, the pictures and some pages had come away from their glue and were hanging out all higgledy-piggledy, and the front cover showed me that my baby had become the telephone message pad holder. I could see numbers, words and names carved all over the previously immaculate cover. I was very upset, and what made matters worse was that the borrower hadn’t even had the chance to read it and didn’t seem to notice how much it had been destroyed.

Another traumatic experience involved me lending a book, the name of which name escapes me, to a colleague. She loved it and returned it with a box of chocolates as her kids had destroyed about a third of the pages. At least she tried, but if it were me, I would have replaced it. I’ve also had many books not returned and have held funerals and let them go. I don’t get it, I’d never do it and it boggles my brain.

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So, I’m off to start reading one of my new babies now. I really should be writing, but I’ve done a fair bit today and they’re calling me to come see what they have in store for me.

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My Bali.

It will come as no surprise to my regular readers that I’ve had a long standing love affair with Bali since I first came here in 2002. I’ve travelled overseas more than 30 times, according to my quick calculation this morning, and half of those trips have been to Bali. I’m here right now for a month working on writing a book about my year living in Ghana, and it was the only place I could imagine doing this. I was blessed to be able to host an intimate time out writers retreat for women that concluded yesterday. I honestly couldn’t be happier than when I’m here.

There are so many things I love, that they could truly fill a book, and maybe I will one day, but for now I will write about a beautiful experience I had here a few days ago.

I was blessed to enjoy a sunrise walk through the rice fields in Penestenan with my gorgeous host and friend Made and Noma, another friend. As the sun rose over Mt Agung and she poked her head through the top of the clouds, I saw so much beauty and wonder that I’ve been wondering how to put it into mere words, but I’ll do my best.

The rice fields stretched as far as the eye could see, and as the morning stirred, people went about their morning rituals of work and prayer. We saw women, dressed in their temple fineries walking elegantly along the rustic path with offering baskets balanced on their heads, as they prepared to make their prayers and offerings to the gods to thank them for their many blessings, and to ask for a good crop as they prepare for harvest. Small shrines were placed in many places amongst the fields and the smell of incense wafted everywhere. Heaven!

We saw men cutting crops to carry home and to market, another man sat on his haunches sharpening his machete, and an elderly woman sat in a stream washing her clothes. We walked past a man gently taking flowers off a bush to put into offerings, as his young son sat complaining of his boredom and asking to go home, while his wife offered her prayers to the gods. Parents drove past on motorbikes, taking their children dressed in crisply ironed uniforms to school, as roosters crowed in the delight of the morning sun.

As we walked, Made stopped to generously share her plant wisdom with us, picking leaves for tasting and telling us with passion and wonder of their medicinal properties. A complete pharmacy grew along the edges, corners and amongst the rice fields, and I suspect it all grew wild. Made spoke with heart and love for her home as she shared stories and appreciation for the magnificent beauty that surrounds her. She told us about walking to school with a pouch of salt and chilli in her pocket, in case she saw her favourite plant, which she would pick and dip into the spices for an on the way to school snack. We learnt of plants for aches and pains, bladder infections, body odour, digestion, leaves that can be made into a poultice to relieve stomach aches for babies, those to ease labour (making the baby slippery) and so much more.

I felt torn between wanting to immerse myself in each moment and wanting to photograph every single thing, so I could preserve it forever. I chose the latter, but next time I will carry nothing and walk in wonder and amazement.

Although it felt like just minutes, it was an hour and a half later that we returned to Lily Lane, filled with gratitude and wonderment for this place that continues to inspire me moment by moment.

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I feel disappointed when I hear that so many people think of Bali as Kuta, Legian Street, Bintang t-shirts, $5 massages, cheap sarongs, bartering locals down and arguing over 50cents, loud night clubs, wooden penises and other equally trashy souvenirs.

Kuta is not Bali, sure it’s a fun and interesting place to visit for a few days, but Bali is so much more.

This is my Bali.

To be continued.

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I write.

 

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Roosters crow, birds of all kinds sing, and geckos make their chit chit sounds. Water flows rapidly over layers of rock filled pools, cool and calming to the ear. Children laugh and play, men and women work, motorbikes zoom up and down the hill. The pungent scent of incense occasionally touches my nose, mingled with frangipani, jasmine and wood smoke. A gentle breeze blows across my damp sweat kissed skin as the sun sets for another day.

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Where else would I be right now but here? Beautiful Bali, Island of the Gods, full of grace, elegance, wisdom and beauty, a feast for all the senses. As I lay here in the afternoon breeze, I’m playing with words, rearranging and sculpting them to create stories, poetry – word art to spread across the canvas that is my page.

I create word art that tells my stories, the stories of others and paints pictures in my heart and soul. I create art that tells of places, people and loved ones here and those long gone from this earthly plane.

I write because I love. I write because I live. I write because I am.

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Am I an artist?

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Artist

  • a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby
  • a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker
  • a person skilled at a particular task or occupation

I have never considered calling myself an artist until recent months. It took me many years to claim the title of writer, as while I’ve been passionate about writing for a long time,  I felt it was a bold step to proclaim it. Before this year I would say I’m a facilitator, and coach, I love writing and one day I plan to write a book. Now I proudly call myself a writer.

I’ve always greatly admired art in all its glorious forms, and to be honest completely in awe and incredibly jealous of those people I considered to be artists. You know, painters and sculptors and people who make things from other things. They have studios, messy clothes dappled with remnants of their art and get lost for hours on end producing their beautiful work. Time stands still for them as they get absorbed in the flow of their art, nothing else matters in that moment.

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Writing my morning pages

I recall about 15 years ago when a friend of mine began painting, visiting her home and seeing her studio set up, the overwhelming passion she had for her art, her itchiness to get back to the canvas and stay there forever, and the incredible pieces she produced as a result. She held a very successful first exhibition and I stood there in total admiration of her courage to put her self, her thoughts, heart and vulnerability out their for the world to see. Such bravery I thought, while continuing to mutter in my mind “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, and I can’t even draw a straight line”.

I love art in all its amazing heart opening, raw and rich forms. I am happy to say my definition of art has changed and I’m embracing the fact that I do have artistic bones, right throughout my body, as we all do. I learnt to bead in Ghana and to this day when I look at my pieces on the wall I feel a wave of warmth in knowing that I made that.

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Me with my first beaded wall piece in Ghana – it’s on the wall in our home

I work with clients creating and maintaining dreadlocks and hair wraps as a beautiful outlet from my usual work of talking about mental health. It gives me such joy to work with my hands, create beautiful things and stand back at the end of a consultation and see the art I created and nurtured. You can be an artist in anything. How you arrange your home, your garden, cooking meals, how you dress or how do you hair. The definition of art is limitless and only cramped by the restrictions we place upon ourselves.

It is only now that I’m feeling confident to say that as a writer,  I’m an artist. What do writers do? Much like painters, sculptors and other artisans, we use tools and our heart, mind and vulnerability to create beautiful pieces. I use words and join them together in different ways to create my art. I take the pieces of my heart, my mind and my soul and spread them onto the canvas in the form of sentences, paragraphs, stories and poetry. I paint pictures and I sculpt beauty, from the depths of my vulnerable soul.

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Writing in my office this week

I don’t have a studio, the world is my studio. I am blessed that I can take my art anywhere and I’m always inspired by my surroundings. Right now I’m sitting in my room in a beautiful village in Penestanan, Bali with the sounds of community, family, nature and nature life surrounding me. The heady scents of jasmine, frangipani and incense waft up occasionally into my room and stimulate all of my senses. I don’t have an artists outfit with drops of my art on my clothing, but my words linger in my mind and stay in the air long after I release them onto the page.

I am here with the intention of finally writing my book and I’m working on it. This has been a very different process for me as usually I have an idea, grab my laptop, the words fly out across the keyboard and I hit publish. I never plan to write, never. It is always a moment of spontaneity inspired by a word, song, conversation or a thought in a quiet moment, usually the shower.

A book is a completely different animal and as someone wisely said to me this morning, it requires different muscles. Similar to running a marathon versus a sprint. This blog is my sprint and where my passion and heart want to open and share. This morning this post demanded to be written before I could do anything else, so write it I must. The book will be a marathon of so many precious stories and memories that take time to digest, reflect upon and share. It is a labour of love, and there have already been many tears.

Am I an artist? Hell yes I am!
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I got a letter in the mail

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Today I went to my post office box to collect the usual statements, bills and whatever books I’ve bought this week. Books are my guilty pleasure and no matter how much I tell myself I’m not going to buy any for a while, I can’t resist. Anyway I digress.

Amongst the usual assortment of expected items was a letter.

A hand written letter.

From a friend.

A letter!

Oh the joy and delight at seeing that beautiful hand written envelope addressed to me from a dear friend. Kay, knowing that I was in your thoughts and that you took the time to write to me, just made my day. My first instinct in our social media world that I’m so entrenched in, was to take a photo and put it on Facebook. However I resisted the urge.

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It was so nice to sit down when I got home with a cup of tea and read the lovely letter. I remember a few months ago taking a Facebook holiday as I was feeling overwhelmed by the constant flow of information, memes and offers to make six figure incomes. I updated my status to let friends know, as they are used to chatting with me via messenger, that I would be offline for a while as I didn’t want them thinking I was ignoring them, or perhaps that something untoward had happened. I suggested a phone call, a text or an old fashioned letter as a way to stay in touch during my period offline. I exchanged addresses with Kay at that time, with the very best of intentions, but I didn’t get around to it.

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Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

Well today, she brought me so much joy by that simple but so very meaningful act of putting pen to paper. When I was a teenager I used to write letters all the time. I had pen pals in many countries and it was such a thrill to get letters from them. Ah those were the days. (imagine reminiscent sigh and pause here). When I moved to South Australia in 1981, my best friend Lissa and I used to write really regularly to each other, and a few friends and I shared the very occasional letter. Lissa and I were very consistent though. This was back in the day that an interstate phone call was reserved for incredibly special occasions or emergencies, as they were just too expensive. Letters were it. I was only thinking the other night about my old metal biscuit tin that is in my keepsake box in the shed, it is brimming over with letters that I haven’t looked at in years. I think it might be time to take them out.

In this time of instant feedback being given and expected through all forms of communication we have become used to, the beautiful art of letter writing has been sadly put to rest by so many of us. I’d like to start a revolution. A letter writing revolution.

Can I suggest you take a few minutes to make someone’s day today. Drop them a note. Let them know you are thinking of them, the old fashioned way.

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