Hope and inspiration

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Today I saw something truly inspirational. Today I watched a young woman achieve something really big that she set out to do. Despite challenges. Despite doubts. Despite the things not in her control. Despite the things in her control. She conquered. Today I watched a young woman show herself and the rest of the world what she is made of. I watched her lift everyone around her as she ran the 10km run as part of the Melbourne Marathon. Today we were all awe struck, proud and inspired.

Tes is 24 years of age. She is a runner. She is training to do a triathlon. Even though she isn’t overly keen on the swimming. But Tes is used to dealing with things she does not like. She knows the commitment and persistence you need to give something in order to get through the tough stuff. Her training for dealing with hard situations started at the young age of 16, when life threw her some pretty big challenges.

But I am not going to talk about those challenges. I thought about sharing them, only to give context to the enormity of the achievement she has made today. So you know where she has come from. So you know what she has had to overcome. But you are going to have to come to terms with how big this achievement is without the context. You see, Tes has chosen to write her own story in life. And in doing so, I feel it is really important to honour her story, rather than give time to the challenges and their story. Because Tes has made a decision not to be a victim of the things life hands you, but to be the author of her own journey. To decide what her hero’s story is. And it is a damn good one. She is quite the hero. She is exactly as the word is defined: someone to be noted for courageous action.

Tes is all about hope and inspiration. They are the two best words to sum up this amazing young woman. She is a beautiful musician, who lost her music and reclaimed it. Who plays guitar and the ukulele with a gentleness of someone who knows the fragility of a gift handed down from another lifetime. She has a soulful voice and is a wonderful tender storyteller through song and poetry.

Tes is a teacher for students in the school of life. She is what determination is all about. She is a true example of what self belief looks like. She is persistence personified. And she is human. She has frailties. She has walked the long road of self doubt. She knows what it feels like to give in to fear. And it is her life experience which gives her a unique understanding and empathy. Something she taps into and draws on when working through her degree to become a youth worker.

It was only very recently, my recollection is about 2 or 3 months at most, when Tes decided to join a triathlon training group. To train most weeknights, three times with the group and three times on her own. To set herself the challenge of a triathlon. She cycles. She runs. She swims. She trains. She hasn’t been able to train for the last couple of weeks, or perhaps longer. Regardless, today she ran at her first running event. Ran 10km for the first time in her life. And beat her expected time by over 10 minutes. Setting herself a personal best to work against and towards, for her next one. And we will all be there to cheer her on. Like we were today. With our hearts full of joy and pride, our eyes welling up with tears as she ran by. Looking strong. Looking relaxed. Looking so comfortable as the pavement passed beneath her feet as she made her way towards the finish line. Towards her goal. She was exactly where she needed to be today.

She is pretty awesome. But of course I would say that. I am bias. You see, she is one of my best friends. I love her to bits and am so very grateful to have her in my life. Tes has reminded me many times what hope looks like in life. What it looks like to never give up. She is an inspiration. An inspiration to embrace the reality of life and make something of yourself. She is a musician. She is an athlete. She is going to be a youth worker. She is a girl with a mission. She has purpose. She is a great storyteller. And the best story she has written, is her own.

Walking beside you

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Who we are is determined by who walked before us, and who walks beside us and within us. The generations past are here in the present. Through what we have inherited from them in looks, personality and spirit. We carry inside us the thousands who have walked before us, we carry them in our hearts and souls.

My relationship with history is complex and somewhat strained. I was born to Lithuanian parents in the early 1970s. My paternal grandparents had already died. My maternal grandparents lived far away. The generations before my parents and grandparents no longer alive, and evidence of their existence, birth certificates and such, lost in the war. The thread of knowledge connecting the generations to me was very thin.

Our Lithuanian heritage was robbed by Russian occupation. There was no Lithuania on any map when I was at school. It wasn’t until after Lithuania declared independence from the Soviet Union on 11 March 1990, that day forever known as the Restoration of Independence Day, that Lithuania was a place I could point to on a world map to show people where my ancestors were from.

I felt somewhat displaced growing up. My parents spoke a language no one else did. There was no Lithuanian community in the country town I grew up. We had to travel some distance to visit my godparents and my mother’s parents to get a sense of who we were. To get a sense of our heritage. And it was on these trips I got a little glimpse and a little taste. The beautiful musical language, which was foreign to me, was a joy to listen to. My parents had decided it was best for us children not to learn Lithuanian, so we didn’t have an accent, so we didn’t get teased at school.

On these trips there were songs. Laughter. Card games. Beautiful food, dish after dish after dish of meats, fish, potatoes and sour cream. Cold and bright purple soup called Borsht (which I never liked). Pickled herrings (which I loved). Cepelinais - potato dumplings filled with meat. Kugelis - the biggest potato bake ever, served with caramelised fried bacon in cream. Cabbage Rolls. Dark rye bread, even darker pumpernickel bread. Poppy seed cake. I soaked up what I could of our Lithuanian culture and heritage on those trips, the rest slumbered deep inside me, knowledge passed down through birth and time.

I heard the most beautiful thing today about ancestors and their role in our lives. The poet, Joy Harjo expressed it so beautifully. I was listening to her on a podcast, being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, as the first Native American to be named the United States Poet Laureate. Joy Harjo was talking about our deep connection to our ancestors and the knowledge they bring through the generations.

‘Babies know. I have been at the birth of many of my grandchildren and someone always comes in with them. Usually an ancestor comes along to help them and I watch how they remember everything. They will look at me, like “OK, I remember you”, and they will even smile when they are not supposed to be smiling. And babies sleep so much because they have to adjust and they start forgetting. And every once in a while they remember. I think as you get older you start that remembering again. It becomes more present.’

She is so right. I have come across children who feel like they have been here before. And I am not alone in feeling it. People call these children ‘old souls’ and they are. They are like old men or women, in a 3 year old’s body. Before today I had never thought about it in the way Joy Harjo expressed it. It is a beautiful way of looking at it. To think that someone has come into the world with these children, with all children. Perhaps those that are old souls as toddlers are the babies who did not forget too much. Who did not sleep the knowledge away.

It was this beautiful idea, which inspired me to think about my own ancestors and my connection to them. Which in turn inspired me to write this post, with my beautiful amber ring (Lithuanian gold), a gift from my godmother, smiling back at me as I typed the words. I did not know my grandmother’s mother and the mothers who came before her. Yet, I see them in the eyes, which look back at me from the mirror. And I know, they walk with me.

Hello Mellow

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It feels like, as we age, wisdom permeates through our body, along the superhighway of our veins or hitch-hiking on the electrical currents surging through us, changing us at a cellular level. Transforming us, not just physically but in our very essence. Altering our outlook on life, our actions and our very sense of being. There is a shift in energy. We become less impulsive, more tolerant. Less reactive, more amicable. The rough edges of our youth soften. Smoothed by life experience, knowledge gathered, love and loss.

Some time ago, I was going through some stuff. There was a lot of things going on in a number of areas of my life, which felt hard. Clearly, the universe had some lessons for me, which I wasn’t paying attention to, so things ramped up. It got a little tough. During this time, a friend at work told me that someone had said they were worried about me, that I had ‘lost my sparkle.’ The comment stuck with me. Worried me. Where had my sparkle gone? Had I really lost it? The person who said this sparkle comment, was part of one of the issues that was happening at the time. But I agreed. I certainly felt duller. I shared my concerns with another friend who laughed and said, ‘Man, that is like someone pissing on a fire and then wondering why the flames are going out.’ I was so grateful for her response. Because it made me laugh a lot, at a time I really needed it. And it put things into perspective. And as far as my sparkle goes, it is still there, but something new is there too, something more solid, something a little deeper.

Sometimes we have to go through difficult times to grow. Sometimes, these difficult times also give us knowledge, understanding and empathy we need for later in life, when we are called upon to help others. I have never felt more at peace with my self and my life, than I do now. I am sure I can feel more at peace, as time goes on, but compared to where I have been, I am at my most grounded. I feel exactly as that word describes, like I have solid footing. I know exactly who I am. What I stand for. I also feel more open. More accepting. More trusting to share my heart. To be me.

The saying that we ‘age like a fine bottle of wine’ is a great metaphor. When a bottle of wine ages well, its texture changes. A young wine is full of charged compounds (tannin) repelling each other. Much like a young person with lots of strong ideas, emotions and opinions all full of charge, bouncing off each other. As the wine ages, these compounds lose their charge. They start to combine. They become heavier and larger. This reduces the surface area of the tannin and the wine becomes smoother, rounder and gentler. And jokes aside about me becoming physically rounder, this is what I feel has happened to me as I have gotten older. I have become smoother in that I am more consistent with my thoughts, ideas, opinions and emotions. I have become rounder in my view of the world, I have a much broader perspective. I am not so tunnel visioned, I have more of a panoramic view of things. And my approach to situations is definitely gentler. That does not mean I am a push over. In fact the opposite. I now have a deep resolve. A quiet confidence. A surety about myself I did not have before. The texture of my soul has changed. I have found my voice. I have mellowed.

With this, life seems to have become easier. I worry less about all sorts of things. I still have energy. I am still thirsty for knowledge. My eyes still sparkle with life. But I am more decisive. I am not so hungry to do everything at once. I have less of a fear of missing out. I am more at peace. I am less in a rush to get somewhere. I am not holding on so tightly. My ego has quietened and softened. I choose much more carefully where to place my emotions, my energy and my time. It is nice to be here.

Reclaim the leftovers

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A shout out to all the mothers out there. The mums doing their thing. Day in. Day out. Nurturing their family with love, food, encouragement and care. Mums sacrificing a little or a lot of themselves in more ways than one, unapologetically selfless. You know who you are. I’ve got a message for you.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the sunshine having lunch with a friend, catching up and talking about life - our work, study, kids, husbands, projects and stuff. She mentioned at one point in the conversation that there are days when there is so much to do, she doesn’t get to eat lunch, doesn’t have time to make herself anything. I paused, and looked at her a little perplexed. You see, I work with her husband, and I have seen his lunches. They are made from some damn good left overs. I often have lunch envy. I just assumed he took some to work, and she had the same at home. This discovery that she has nothing, required pulsing ‘stop hands’ in the air, as I told her, in no uncertain terms, ‘Girlfriend! It is time you reclaimed those leftovers.’

It is not uncommon for women to place the needs of their loved ones above theirs, or to go to ridiculous lengths to provide what they think their family needs. I have been there. I will go there again. I have been known to rise hours before anyone to make cooked lunches for us all. I did this, almost every day, for a couple of years. I am sure if analysed it could be suggested that as a full-time working mum, I was absolving my guilt for not being around to nurture my family as much as I would like. I was making up for it through food. We all had some pretty good lunches for that period of time.

There have been times, particularly when my children were much younger, when I felt my entire purpose in life was to be a mum. Nothing else. And I loved it. Even while working, I loved being a mum and felt it was all I needed to do in life. Be there for them. Be there for them first. But there comes a time, when you need to not only reclaim the leftovers, you need to reclaim yourself. Rediscover who you are. Find yourself again. And it is so important to do so. For you and for them. For they will take your lead on this. They will watch you and learn from you. And if all you do is sacrifice. Then all they will know is sacrifice.

And chronic sacrifice can all of the sudden become resentment. A resentment which can catch everyone by surprise. As you do the things you have always done, over and over, without complaint, without asking for help until suddenly you just lose it. Like some crazed woman. Yelling about all sorts of things, as they all stand there with blank faces, wondering why you didn’t just ask for help. Or say no. Or suggest they do it themselves. There have been times when in these moments as I am carrying on, a part of me steps away from myself, away from the one consumed with rage, to stand alongside the others, my face also blank as I watch myself over there and wonder how it got to this.

It is important for our children to know we can be vulnerable. It is important for our children to see us recover. It is important for our children to watch us take risks. It is important for them to know we can fail. And it is equally important for ourselves to be vulnerable, recover, take risks and fail.

So catch yourself before the sacrifice becomes a habit, have a word to yourself and start nourishing yourself. It is time to reclaim the leftovers, just make sure it isn’t the burnt chop!

Happy Birthday my dear friends

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Today, the 10th day of October (the 10th day of Blogtober) is a birthday festival. I have three of my closest friends celebrating their birthdays today. So, I thought it might be kind of cute to write them a birthday blog! I bet they never got one of those before. I love birthdays. They are super special. The day we celebrate our coming into life as we know it. And of making it this far! I am going to do this alphabetically, so there are no fights later about favouritism.

Greg

Just because it is your birthday Greg, does not give you permission to wear your birthday suit indiscriminately around the house, in the garden or in public. Don’t subject your family to anything unnecessary, even though it is technically your special day. Well actually, your special day you share with your beautiful wife, because she has the same birthday. You know, if I was the limerick writing kind of girl, I would write you one. What the heck, it’s your birthday, let’s give it a go! (Remember, limericks are meant to be rude, and this is the first limerick I have ever written, and perhaps the last! Ingrid, I apologise in advance.)

There once was a man from Humpty Doo
A place so warm, your shoes turn to goo.
Met a lady so hot,
He loves her a lot.
Which is why, all they do is rumpy-pumpy ooh!

But jokes aside Chewbacca, I hope you have a wonderful day. No doubt you will be out and about creating and building more fabulous stuff, and thinking up amazing designs, and having a good laugh, while making us all giggle at yet another hilariously inappropriate post on social! Thank you for always believing in me. For your support. For understanding who I am. For loving me, regardless.


Ingrid

“We should consider every day lost, in which we have not danced at least once.” Friedrich Nietzsche

You, my beautiful friend, are special. I have never met someone so kind, loving and positive about life. You have taught me so much about self worth; how to stand with dignity and grace in suffering; and how to have fun in every moment. You make a mean cocktail. You are a sly poker player. And I love how you can dance the night away with such an abundance of energy. I feel blessed to have you in my life. Grateful to know you. To have the honour to grow old alongside you as a dear friend. You are a giving soul, who helps people every day to be their healthiest and their strongest. So, my birthday wish for you is long lasting love and joy. May you never lose your sparkle. May you always hold your grace. May you dance every day, even if only on the inside. May sunshine always rest gently on your shoulders along your journey in life (and may their always be a beach nearby and a cocktail in your hand).

Nikki

“What a joy, to travel the way of the heart.” Rumi

Ms Community. Thank you for being you. For knowing the value of bringing people together. Whether it be for book clubs, dinners, drinks, bike rides, a walk, a holiday or simply a cup of tea. Your door is always open. Your heart is always open. A wonderfully talented artist, with much to share with the world. Your lighthearted nature always present in the way you skip along the path of life. A smile for everyone. A hug if needed. Wise words of counsel too. Often taking the time to pause along the way to notice and enjoy the beauty around us, in every moment. What a delight you are to be around. The depth of your friendship is always felt, your generosity of spirit always the first to greet us. A traveller through books and a traveller in life. You bring colour and texture to ours with the stories you share. Fearless. You follow your heart. Loyal. You are the pearl of a friend we all hope to discover in this deep sea dive called life.

So, happy birthday to each of you my friends. I hope you have a glorious day. This, the anniversary of when you first welcomed the world with your cries as newborn babies as you each filled your lungs and took your first breath. And, from that moment on, with each breath you have brought light to our lives. Thank you.

I lost my wife to blahtober

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If I could make myself tiny. Like Alice in Wonderland. And I was small enough to crawl into my loving husband’s ear. Into his head. To make myself comfortable sitting on his brain. Like sitting on a bean bag. I imagine it would be like a bean bag. And I would use my hands to manipulate it, to make a comfy chair and then fall into it. Sinking in as it surrounded me. I would sit there, silently, just hanging out and listening to his thoughts. I imagine I would hear him think, ‘I have lost my wife to blahtober!’ And I would laugh.

Yes he would have a nickname for my latest project. And then I imagine I would hear, echoing inside his mind, his thoughts about Blogtober, a daily blog post challenge for every day of October, a challenge I have chosen to take on board to stretch my writing self. And man, am I loving it. But, I imagine he would be thinking something like...

‘Where the hell has she gone? She was here last week. And now. We have lost her. I have lost her. To her writing. To her thing. Yeah, I have my thing. I make bikes, recycled bikes. Alongside my photography. But today, I came in, my hands all greasy and it was clear I couldn’t make myself lunch. I worked my eyes, made them big puppy dog eyes, they were good ones, but she didn’t even look up from her computer. Didn’t even notice them. It was like I wasn’t even there. I know! What the hell is going on?

And the other night. I got into bed, on my own. Yep, that’s right, she wasn’t there. I fell asleep before she came to bed. I missed my hug. It felt really lonely. Although, the dog did give me some company. But the dog is way grumpier, and if I moved in bed, she growled and let me know she wasn’t happy. I fell asleep, my arm outstretched onto the other side of the bed, the vacant side. Waiting for her, my wife, to return. I think I was snoring by the time she stumbled into bed, after posting on her blog, just in time to make the deadline.

If that night wasn’t bad enough, this morning the alarm went off at some crazy time. I think it was 4am. She had it set to radio, and some head banging thing woke us both up with a start. She jumped out, turned it off, and was gone. The corner of her dressing gown waving to me, as I lay in bed, dazed, and watched as she disappeared out the bedroom door on a mission to write.

There is definitely less food in the house, and I have definitely had to do more than my share of dishes. She gets lost in her writing, and has ruined more than one dinner. She does seem happy though. Satisfied. And I am supporting her. I am liking her posts on social media. Making sure she knows I have noticed them. That I appreciate her art. Although, I don’t click on the link and read them. She caught me the other day. She wrote something about me, apparently, and I failed her test questions to work out if I had read it. Damn it. Might have to find some time to read that one. But I did use all my social media accounts to like her next post and was the first to do so, I am hoping that made up for it.

There is only 22 days to go. I have put it in my calendar. Alongside her period. You can never be too careful. Pretty sure I can make it. Pretty sure I can survive this “latest thing”. Just gotta be patient with her. Not long now and I will have her in my arms, all mine to enjoy. Blogtober a distant memory. The burnt tacos never mentioned.’

The sweet smell of oranges

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Ever since I was a young teenager I have been fascinated by Aromatherapy. I love the potion-like characteristics of the essential oils: the tiny dark-glassed bottles they come in, their potency and their delicate nature.

I am always amazed that three little drops of an essential oil can hold their own in a bath filled with steaming water. How those tiny drops dance defiantly on the surface of the water, change the aroma of the steam and transform the entire experience. As a curious, young person I was fascinated by the special qualities of the oils, and as a gentle rebellion, I appreciated aromatherapy as a natural practice and an alternative to modern medicine to enhance my wellbeing.

Aromatherapy is the therapy of smell, using aromatic plant extracts, such as essential oils, as the main therapeutic agent. The essential oils are extracted from plant resins, flowers, bark, leaves, peel, stalks, fruit and/or roots. The word Aromatherapy is self explanatory “aroma” “therapy” but I was always confused as to why the oils were called “essential” oils. The answer made my heart swell. According to a number of sources, it stems back to alchemists in medieval times bouncing off the concept introduced by Plato and Aristotle. The fifth element: the element of spirit, soul or life force, which sits alongside the other four being fire, air, water and earth. The element of “quintessence” - the purest essence of life. Magically, those little dark-glassed bottles hold the spirit of the plant.

The spirit of plants have been used for thousands of years by humans through both Ayurvedic practices in India and by the Ancient Egyptians to enhance our mind, body and spirit; treat certain conditions; alleviate certain ailments; and create an overall state of harmony and wellbeing.

The forgotten fifth sense

In a world that is so visual, oral and tactile, it is easy to forget about the importance of your sense of smell. And, yet our sense of smell is, at times, the most dominant sense, it just does it in a humble way. A recent study published by Nature, the international journal of science, found evidence that what we see is influenced by what we smell. You don’t need a research study to convince you of the connection between taste and smell. Anyone who has lost their sense of smell, say through a bad cold, knows it has an impact on how food taste. Although separate senses, the neural messages of taste and smell converge for us to detect food flavours. Without a sense of smell, our sense of taste is diminished. Hearing and smell are an unlikely pairing but do collaborate together according to a recent study, where music was shown to influence what we smell. An aromatherapy massage is the perfect example of smell and touch working together, where the benefits of the massage are enhanced by the smell of the oils as you breathe them in and they affect your limbic system, the part of your brain which is responsible for motivation, fear, pleasure and processing your emotions.

The power of smell

It seems you cannot underestimate the power of smell. Smell can influence how well we sleep and what we dream. It’s been proven, through a study which has shown the scent of rose will result in more pleasant dreams, compared to rotten eggs. I am not surprised!! We also use our sense of smell to identify fear and find true love. Pretty powerful stuff. Smell can also help you relax, reduce your anxiety (even during childbirth) energise you and help your concentration.

Want to reduce your coffee intake at work? Put a few drops of lemon or sweet orange oil in a bowl of hot water, or diffuser. Or eat an orange and leave the peel on your desk. Your workmates might think you are a bit of a slob, but the smell of oranges can help boost energy and alertness. Sweet orange oil also settles a stomach or two, can tone skin to reduce breakouts, is a fantastic oven cleaning agent to remove grease and is said to lift your mood. A pretty good all round kind of oil if you ask me!

I’m doing a one-day aromatherapy course in a couple of days time. I’m really excited to learn a few more things, and hope to get to make my own potions, oops, I mean oil blends! No doubt I will come home with a few more bottles of oils, and a few more ideas for using essential oils, and aromatherapy, the ancient and magical craft of scent for well being and life. Hey, who knows, maybe I’ll deliver on Christian Dior’s request to ‘make me a fragrance that smells like love.’

The lost hour

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I slept in today. Not a huge sleep in for a Sunday, but a sleep in nonetheless. And I was OK with this sleep in, and the time I got out of bed, until I realised an hour had been stolen from me. And then suddenly and ridiculously, I had a psychological shift in my perception of time and the anxiety started and the panic set in. How was I going to get everything done today? I couldn’t possibly, now I had lost an entire hour of my life!

My phone said it was 9.20am when I sat down to do my morning meditation. As part of my meditation teaching course I have shifted my practice away from guided meditations and I am meditating on my own for as long as I need, for as long as it goes for. Whatever that may be. Today I surprised myself by doing an hour meditation. Although for a second, when I looked at the clock on the oven, it appeared I hadn’t meditated for any time at all. You see the oven clock showed 9.20am, the exact time my phone showed when I checked it as I got out of bed to go do my meditation. I was confused. How could that be? I know I started at 9.20am. Did I read the time wrong on my phone? And then I realised. Daylight savings had hit. Daylight savings was here. Even though my friend last night on the phone reminded me it was coming, I had clean forgotten. It was now 10.20am, as my phone confirmed. I went around the house and changed the other clocks, feeling the tightness beginning to build in my chest as my mind started going through the list of all the things I need to do today.

I have a lot to do today. I need to write two blog posts for Blogtober, or close to two. One for today and one ready for tomorrow as there is little time tomorrow to write given a full day of work, pilates for an hour in the evening followed by my meditation teaching course for a couple of hours. I also need to go and pick up some groceries from the Source Bulk Food Store, where we are buying non packaged food, and I have to go as I have run out of flour, and I need to make home made pasta today, as we aren’t buying prepackaged pasta either. At some point I also need to pick up my daughter from her post party sleep over, and I was planning to take the dog for a walk, as I really need to walk today. I really need to get outside. Being Sunday, it is my day to make Kombucha and do the second bottling of last week’s batch. And I have homework to do for tomorrow night’s meditation class. I can’t possibly get all this done now!

Reality check. I know all of these things will take more than an hour. And so, it really makes very little difference if the time is 9.20am or 10.20am. And, I looked at my phone when I got up, not any other clock. The change of time was already taken into account. I was OK about getting up at 9.20am when I first got up. Nothing had changed. I didn’t see 8.20am. I hadn’t really lost and hour. My panic was illogical. But acknowledging this did not help dispel it. No matter the reality, my day suddenly felt completely out of control and I felt I was facing an insurmountable problem. The irony, of feeling this way not long after writing a post about our perception of time, was not lost on me.

There was nothing else to do but give in to it. So, I sat down and ate breakfast. With food in my belly, my brain was much more logical and despite having three or four ideas for today’s post, I decided to write about my ridiculousness, to share my illogical reaction and anxiety about daylight savings because I know I am not alone. Somehow the ‘fading of the curtains’ during daylight savings gets to us, the feeling of an hour being stolen from us offends us. Until about day three, and then we are good with it, particularly given it signifies the start of summer coming and more daylight after work, more time in the sunshine, more playtime. And hey, it will be lighter longer today, and I can walk the dog during the extra daylight time in the late afternoon.

It is so much nicer to walk home from work with the sun a little higher, and it being daylight when you get home. And if there are no evening commitments, you get to sit in the sun for a bit on the deck enjoying a nice beverage or two. And yes, to begin with the mornings are hard, particularly the first Monday (grateful the first day of daylight savings is always a Sunday). It is a little darker when we rise to go to work to begin with, but eventually, it gets lighter and lighter.

I welcome with open arms the season changing to summer, the days becoming longer, the evenings a little shorter. I thrive on sunshine, I always have. Like a flower needing the sun to grow, to blossom and to open. In second year university, I was hit with an extreme fatigue for most of the year, the doctors suspected Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and possibly Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly named SADs. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was a relatively unknown condition by the general public in the late 1980s, and at that time it was one of those conditions where people raised an eyebrow when you told them about it. With that look on their face like what you were describing was all in your head. SADs was even lesser known. The year I was told I might have either of these conditions, or a combination of the two, was the year after the first definition of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome had been published. So it was something very new to most people, although looking up the history of it for this post today, I had no idea it had been around since the mid 1930s, just under another name ‘myalgic encephalomyelitis’.

Whether I had it or not, I will never know. Regardless, after the suggested diagnosis I considered some of my lifestyle choices and slowly made changes to recovery. At the time there was no clinics, no specialists in the area, so I just went back to the basics. I drank less alcohol. I changed my diet. I had previously decided to cut out all meat, but my vegetarian diet was insufficient as I was not eating enough of the right foods to provide me with my protein and energy needs. A bowl of rice and corn, doesn’t really cut it as a nutritious dinner. I removed wheat and then gluten from my diet. Something confirmed, much later in life, as necessary, not long after the release of the Coeliac gene test. As well as changing my diet to overcome the extreme exhaustion and malaise, I started, very slowly, a regular exercise routine and when strong enough I joined the gym and began going to aerobic classes (it was the late 1980s), eventually becoming a bit of a gym junkie, doing three classes in one night. But the most significant change was making sure I got enough sunshine. I opted not to take up the artificial light therapy offered, but made the effort to be outside as much as possible, particularly in the colder months, and took Vitamin D supplements regularly.

I don’t hate winter like I used to. But even so, when the warmer weather starts, when the sunshine and bright blue skies welcome me in the morning as I wake up, I instantly smile. It does lift my spirit and change my mood for the better. And I see it have this influence on other people too. Over the recent couple of days of great weather, I have noticed people look happier, smile more, have a spring in their step. So, despite the initial (and unreasonable) panic about everything I need to do today, I am grateful daylight savings is here again. And I feel OK now about losing an hour today. I hope you do too.

The art of forgiveness

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We all have something to forgive, or someone. And often the person to forgive is ourselves. It is not unusual for forgiveness to be a journey, and sometimes, it can be a long one with winding roads and obstacles born from an unwillingness to release the person (or yourself) from the offending act. It doesn’t always take a brave soul with an open heart to forgive, sometimes it just takes a little practice. And when you reach forgiveness, it is not just rewarding, it is liberating. A freedom worth the work. Worth learning the art, to shorten the journey.

I used to think that to forgive was to excuse someone’s behaviour to the point you were saying what they did was OK. Acceptable. Right. To say it didn’t matter. To exonerate. To condone. To absolve. A while ago, in order to try and come to terms with my own need to forgive, I wrote a journal piece about a particular incident from my past, the hurt, which I had carried for many years. It had become a heavy back pack full of pain I had been dragging around. Weighing me down. I wrote about it, to see if I could write my way to forgiveness and healing. I decided the logical staring point of my writing was the definition of forgiveness. I felt I needed a solid foundation. A concrete base to build my house of forgiveness. I was shocked to discover the definition of forgiveness by psychologists was not what I assumed it to be. It was not in line with my understanding of the word. Not at all.

According to the Greater Good Magazine forgiveness is defined by psychologists as:

'“…a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

They go on to explain that forgiveness is not condoning, you can still consider the action as wrong. It also does not excuse the person from what they have done. They are still responsible for their actions. Nor does it involve forgetting what has happened. To forgive is not to give your pardon, or wish the person an official pardon. Nor does it require any form of reconciliation or restoration of a relationship. It simply means, you do not hold any ill-will towards this person. You do not wish them harm and you have decided to release yourself from any bitterness or negative feelings. You may still not like what they have done, but you don’t wish vengeance on them. You may still feel what they did is wrong, but you do not wish harm to come their way. You may not forget what they have done, but you will not let it define you. Also, you do not have to have them back in your life, after you forgive them. These last two were big for me. I realised as I read the definition of what forgiveness was and wasn’t, that these last two parts of the definition were the two things standing in my way of forgiveness. Blockers which lifted the moment I read those very words. But let’s come back to that in a little while.

Firstly, let’s apply this definition of forgiveness to ourselves. When you do something wrong, something you are deeply ashamed of, you may not like what you have done but there is no need to wish vengeance on yourself. You may still acknowledge what you did was wrong, but wishing harm to come your way is not helpful and will not change what you have done. You won’t forget what you did, but it does not have to define you. If you do not like what you have done, or who you are, you do not have to keep being that person, or acting that way after you forgive yourself.

I have said to my children, since they were very young, ‘It is not the mistake you make that counts, but what you do afterwards that matters.’ Humans make mistakes, it is how we learn. How we find out what we need to change in our lives or to change in ourselves. How we need to adjust our behaviour to live in harmony with others. After making a mistake, apologising or making it right in some way is much more important than the mistake itself. This is where the energy needs to be. This is what matters. This has seen me, and my family, through difficult and sticky situations. It has also helped each of us, when feeling helpless by the fact we cannot take away our words, or change something we have done, which has hurt someone. It has helped us all to move beyond what we cannot change, and focus on what we can. To make the difference. I should point out that making it right is sometimes to commit to not repeating the mistake, to simply learn not to do it again.

I am not sure how, but somehow along the road of life, I locked into my sphere of understanding the idea that how someone treats you, defines who you are. That someone else’s action, someone else’s choices, make you act in particular ways. And it made me change who I was. Be who I was. For a long time. I blamed my failings on how someone else had treated me in the past. Rather than taking responsibility for my actions, I let someone else’s actions define and drive my own. It took a long time for me to realise how ridiculous this was. And, thankfully, I no longer do this. I have forgiven, separated my responsibility for my actions from their responsibility and moved on. Let go. Forgiven. I also thought if you did not let the person, you needed to forgive, back into your life, you weren’t truly forgiving them. I was stuck on this one for a long time. And frustrated it was blocking my path to forgiveness. Discovering you can forgive people, while you walk away from them, was equally as liberating as discovering that my actions are totally my own. With this combined knowledge, I have a found forgiveness and the associated freedom, to live a happy and fulfilled life full of love and joy.

This realisation of not letting how someone else treats you define you, was reinforced when I stumbled on Elizabeth Smart’s Ted Talk. Well worth the 11.36 minutes she takes to shake your perception. To make you rethink things. If you haven’t watched her Ted Talk, do so, those 11.36 minutes are some of the most valuable minutes you could choose. Her story is nothing like mine. I have not been physically or sexually abused. I have not been abducted. I have not been held captive. Yet her story, and what she has chosen to do with it, has helped me come to terms with my own journey and cleared the path to forgiveness like no other. That is the power of stories.

At 14 years of age Elizabeth was abducted and this resulted in a horrific nine months, before she was rescued. One minute she was in bed asleep, just an average school girl, the next minute she was held captive in a tent, at the mercy of others - a newly claimed ‘wife’. She was physically restrained like an animal, so she could not run away. Her story is beyond heart wrenching. Today she is a child safety activist and missing persons advocate. The day after her rescue, and reunited with her family, her mother gave her advice which Elizabeth has chosen to follow in life. With great wisdom, love and tenderness, her mother, Lois, said to her:

‘Elizabeth, what this man has done to you is terrible and there are not words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil he is. He has stolen nine months of your life that you will never get back. The best punishment that you could ever give him, is to be happy. To move forward with your life, because by feeling sorry for yourself, by holding onto the past and dwelling on what has happened to you, that is only allowing them more control, more power and stealing more of your life away from you. Don’t let that happen. Justice may or may not be served. Restitution may or may not be made. But don’t you dare give them another second of your life.’

Elizabeth uses her story and her mother’s advice to help people realise they have a choice in what their lives look like, despite the past, despite circumstances. To encourage others to live their lives as they want to, without it being defined by the actions of others. And she is awe inspiring as she talks about how, despite her horrific experience, despite the fact she would not wish what happened on herself or anyone else, it is to her something she has, astonishingly, chosen to be grateful for. Because she has chosen perspective and empathy, over pain and anger. Because she has chosen to speak out and encourage others to have the courage to speak out. To share their story. She believes we all have things to overcome. She does not hold her story above anyone else’s, but chooses to use it, make it her own for preventing this happening to others, and for healing. She has chosen not to be consumed by what was done to her, but to take her circumstances and do what she wants with it. For her to define who she is, not others. There is no doubt that Elizabeth has a brave soul and an open heart. That it has taken great courage for her to be who she is today. To forgive the world for what happened to her. There is also no doubt that she continually practises forgiveness. Find out more about her work at the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

Elizabeth’s story is a reminder that to heal, we must first forgive. And that the art of forgiveness starts with a choice. And that choice is ours to make. No one else’s.

The wonder of joy

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I have often wondered how we have found ourselves, as a society and as a species, in the situation we are in. A situation where one of the most primal emotions, something we are born with, which comes so naturally in our youth, is hard to locate in our daily lives as we become older. Joy.

What happens to us in life as we grow? Why does joy diminish, dilute, become elusive or unnoticeable? Joy is there when we first start out. In abundance. It is there in us instinctively, pulsing through our veins, our bodies, our hearts, without any limitations. Think about a recently born baby and the joy on their little face, in their entire body. The joy they express, and spread, time and time again as they see things for the first time. The joy in their innocence, the joy in their wonder.

The joy in their wonder.

There is a symbiotic relationship between joy and wonder. Joy feeds wonder and wonder feeds joy. And there is the answer. What happens to us in life as we grow? We lose our sense of wonder. What happens when we lose our sense of wonder? Joy diminishes, dilutes, becomes elusive. We don’t notice it anymore.

So, to rediscover the joy in your life you need to rediscover the wonder in life. Rediscover the mystery, dial up your curiosity. It is not just our brains which thrive on novelty and on new discoveries, our souls thrive on it too.

Rediscovering the wonder in life can be found in learning to play an instrument, learning a language, embarking on a creative adventure, meeting new people, travelling to new places, starting a new career or helping people. But it doesn’t have to be so big or so formal. There is great joy in rediscovering the wonder in the moment, whatever the moment holds.

Look at the world through the eyes of a child in everything you do. When you brush your teeth, do the dishes, walk the dog, or sit on your back deck. Pause in the moment, open your heart in such a way you are entwined with your inner child, allow the inner child to lead what you perceive. See the toothbrush for the very first time. Really see it. Like a child would, with wonder and curiosity. See the details, think about why and how it came to be, how the bristles work, how many there are, why they are the colour they are, the shape, the texture.

Next time, you are walking to work, to a friend’s place or simply taking the dog out for some exercise, take time to notice the things around you. The light of the day. The shape of the clouds. The leaves on the tree. The petals in the wind. The colour of the houses. The flowers in the gardens. The texture of the path. The sound your feet make as you walk. The messages carved into the pavement. The smell of the jasmine. The smell of rain coming, of freshly cut grass or perhaps someone baking bread or cooking in a house somewhere nearby.

You can also appreciate and notice things when you are gardening. Pay attention to the texture, the smell and the weight of the earth, as you dig or weed or plant your garden. Notice the finer details of your garden, the intricacy of the plants, where the ants are coming from and where they are going, even what they are carrying. The birds around you. The trail of the snails. The scents, textures, colours and movement in your garden.

Take time to notice. Pay close attention to what is around you, in the moment. And choose to dwell on the things which make you feel good inside. Watch the joy return to your life, through your day to day activities, through every step of your being. Focus on being in life rather than the doing of life. And when you start noticing and you allow yourself to be curious about the smallest things in life, it becomes a habit you transfer to every other layer of your life. And joy will be with you, throughout everything you do.

At the heart of the matter

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I have been thinking a lot about the heart lately - what it does, what it symbolises and what moves mine. With an unusual flutter now and then, mine tends to draw attention when I get too wrapped up in the world.

Over 10 years ago I found myself at the doorstep of a an electro-cardiologist. After I underwent a number of tests and hung out with halter monitor for a while, my cardiologists explained I had a couple of rogue cells in my heart. I was told these mischievous cells were causing around 22,000 ectopic heartbeats a day. To give me a sense of this number, it was explained to me that the average person has only a handful a day, like maybe 5.

Ectopic heartbeats are when the heart skips a beat or the heart has extra beats. In my case I had cells in my heart that wanted to be the ‘big beater’ and so they would jump in with a beat, putting the big beater out of sync, creating lots of additional heart beats - tens of thousands of them a day. Seems these rogue cells were working hard to win the fight to be the boss. When my cardiologist told me what was happening, I couldn’t stop laughing, of course I would have a heart that would go rogue! But not for long, I had a procedure called an ablation, where they burnt those naughty little rogue cells away, and other than the occasional ectopic beat or flutter, my heart now beats to a more acceptable rhythm.

Recently, I had to have an echo-cardiogram, an ultrasound of my heart. Lying there chatting with the specialist sonographer, while the inside of my heart was being examined, I glanced up at the screen briefly and was astonished to see what looked like two little hands inside my heart clapping. The sonographer explained to me it was a valve opening and closing, and he did agree it looked a lot like hands clapping.

I haven’t been able to get this beautiful image out of my head. How delightful to discover that inside our beating hearts are hands applauding us through life. Clapping a rhythm for us to dance. Clapping a rhythm for us to live by.

Pondering this image, got me thinking about the significance of the heart, above and beyond its physical role to pump blood around our bodies to keep us alive (as if that wasn’t enough). I got thinking about what moves my heart. What makes it swell inside with emotion, so much so that it brings tears to my eyes. And I realised when I went through the list of things, they tend to correspond to some of the virtues Aristotle put forward, for people to ‘live well’. Courage. Temperance. Kindness. Joy. Pride. Honour. Equanimity. Friendliness. Honesty. Wit. Friendship. Not necessarily the words he originally used. But you get the idea. I have taken the time to elaborate on a few which stand out for me at this moment in time.

Kindness
An act of kindness will always bring a gentle smile to my face and a long sigh of appreciation. This may sound a little odd, but next next time you notice someone being kind, pay some attention to your reaction, the gentle smile and the long sigh. A particular act of kindness in my memory banks, which sprung up as soon as I typed the word ‘kindness’, was one from about three years ago when my then 11 year-old daughter was running a cross country race. It was a hard slog of a race. Cold, wet and muddy. As she cross the finish line exhausted from the gruelling race, a girl running not far behind her slipped on a muddy patch of grass just before the finish and fell. She was done. She lay there unable to get up, only a few steps from the finish line. It was heartbreaking to watch. She lay there, defeated, with no more in her. She couldn’t move. She was emotionally spent. Beaten. My daughter saw her fall, so she walked away from the finish line, walked away from her own exhaustion. From the promise of water and rest. She walked to this girl on the ground. My daughter bent down and spoke to her and encouraged her to get up. And when she did, my daughter helped her cross the finish line. Walking with her. Guiding her. Holding her arm. Supporting her across the finish line, together. Helping her drag her muddy limbs and face across the line. My heart swelled at my daughter’s act of kindness. At her care. Her generosity of spirit. And as I share this story right now my heart swells, alongside the tears in the very corners of my eyes.

Courage
I am always moved when people are vulnerable enough to be brave. The most recent example of courage that I have come across is the story of Tara Westover. I could not put down her memoir, Educated. I read it with such desperation to turn each page, to find out what was going to happen. So incredibly thirsty for her story. As I collected it from my library just now, and took it to my computer so I could find a quote to share, I notice I was holding it close to my heart, such was the impact of this beautifully written story of a young woman finding her true self at the expense of the love of her family. The book should always be carried beside your heart. When you buy it from the bookstore, walk out with it, cradled to your chest.

Spoiler alert!! Please go to the subhead ‘tenderness’ in order not to ruin your upcoming reading of this fabulous book, as I am about to share something of it from close to the end. A poignant memory Tara shares at perhaps her lowest point.

The moment in the book that broke my heart (which can happen when it swells way too much) where I ended up with my tears falling from my eyes, down my temples and along the edge of my cheek bones into my ears (I was reading in bed, my head in my pillow, and could not get out until I finished her book, and gravity has a way with tears) was the moment she reads the letter from one of her brothers, Tyler, expecting it to be a rejection, but instead it is a moment of acceptance and support, and love.

‘I clicked on the mouse, the attachment opened. I was so far removed from myself that I read the entire letter without understanding it: Our parents are held down by chains of abuse, manipulation and control…They see change as dangerous and will exile anyone who asks for it. This is a perverted idea of family loyalty…They claim faith, but this is not what the gospel teaches. Keep safe. We love you.’ Educated, p363, Tara Westover.

Keep safe. We love you. After I read these words. I sobbed and sobbed for Tara. I know no courage like hers. I was so relieved she was rewarded with love, and not rejection. So relieved that staying true to herself was met with love.

Tenderness
Before my husband became my husband. He was a friend. A photographer, my then boyfriend, who was a graphic designer, hired now and then. I remember the moment I fell in love with him, my future soul mate, although I did not realise that was what he was at the time. We were in Fitzroy, at a rooftop cafe for an opening for something, I can’t remember what. All I remember was it was night time. There were young children there. There was light. A wall. And my then friend, who would one day became my husband, was giving the children attention when no one else was. Entertaining them, with what seemed like a magical trick, but was actually simple hand shadow puppetry. A rabbit. Brought to life on a graffitied brick wall, on a Melbourne evening, on the rooftop of a radio station. The light, behind his hands, bringing to life a rabbit. A rabbit met with wide eyes, gasps, awe, the biggest smiles. The delight of young children. To me, this was an act of tenderness. My heart swelled. Almost to bursting. And I knew in that moment that I was destined to love that man. That man with his shadow puppetry. And I did. And I do.

Creativity and Beauty
Music and art will move my heart. Every time. The beauty of nature, will always expand my heart. The way the sun hits the deck. The way the water glistens from the sunshine. I have spent the day at the beach today. The sunshine, the different hues of blue in the water, the light greeny-blue from the shoreline, the deeper hues of green and blue in the breaking waves, the almost purple blue of the sea where it meets the horizon. The sky blue of the sky from the horizon to above our heads and beyond. It was glorious.

But when I think of creativity and beauty which makes my heart swell, I think of my son playing his guitar. Something he started when he was just 7 years old. Something over a decade later he still loves to do. Sitting in his room or on the couch in our dining room. Playing with such feeling. The guitar almost an anatomical part of him. Not a separate instrument at all. The beautiful blues he plays. The beautiful Spanish guitar songs. The jazz pieces. His favourites. Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’. And Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heavens’, with it’s lyrics inspired by the death of Clapton's four-year-old son. When talking matters of the heart, of what makes a heart swell with emotion, with tears to match. I couldn’t think of a better way to finish, than with these lyrics. Thank you, Eric Clapton.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven

Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please

Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven

Sitting with uncertainty

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We live well planned lives. It is pretty much mapped out way in advance. Start preschool or kindergarten at 3 or 4 years of age. Start school after turning 5 or 6 years old. Stay at school until between the ages of 15 and 18. Expectations follow. Graduate. Defer. University. Job. Fall in love. Buy a house. Have children. Know where you are heading. Plan your life. Save for the future. There isn’t room for uncertainty. There isn’t tolerance for uncertainty. Certainty is king.

It certainly is. Shops will be open every day at their set times. The supermarket will have in stock their regular items. Your clothes will gradually wear out. A sock will always go missing in the laundry. Summer will follow Spring. The birds will sing. The dogs will bark. Lunch is around midday. Dinner around six. You will get tired. You will sleep. You will get hungry. You will eat. People will die. Babies will be born. The world continues to turn. And we feel comfortable and safe.

When uncertainty peeks around the corner, there is often no patience for it. We have no relationship with uncertainty other than to scorn it, or try to ignore it. We are shocked when the unexpected happens. When someone treats us in a surprising way. When a friend dies before her time. When illness befalls us. When the weather changes suddenly, or does not match the forecast. When our words fail us. When the TV show is not the one listed in the TV program. When we are confused by the way we are feeling. When we don’t understand why something happened. When there is no logic. When we lose, at a time we thought we would win. When people walk away. When people turn up.

We rely on people to stay with the herd. Follow the herd. Stay within the boundaries of the paddock. Do what others do. Do what we do. Do the accepted. Do the expected. Don’t stray. Don’t be too individual. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t push it. Get a good job and pay your bills. Be at the train on time. Be home on time. Don’t drink too much. Don’t laugh too loud. Act like the herd, or you will be an outcast. Know what your purpose is in life. Run after it.

But a hell of a lot of people seem to be running away from life, rather than after it. Maybe it is time to make some room for uncertainty. To be, as Eckhart Tolle puts it, ‘at ease with not knowing’. Perhaps all this planning, this rigidness, the map of life, the order of things has created an imbalance. Perhaps it is time to let a little chaos in. A little unknowingness. A bit of throwing ‘caution to the wind’. A ‘maybe’ or two. Are we caught up with feeling like we always have to have the answer? When did the words ‘I don’t know’ lose their value?

As young children we run around and play like free spirits, ‘without a care in the world’. Our lives are not dictated by knowing. By expecting. By the plan. The map. We play. Eat when we are hungry. Cry when we are sad. There is chaos. There is unknowingness. There are lots of ‘why’ because we are comfortable in not knowing. Because we are curious, and we like finding out stuff about the world around us. We are pretty fearless. We are open to possibilities. Yet as we grow older, this fearlessness and openness is diluted as certainty cements itself around our hearts.

The relationship between possibilities, fear and uncertainty is beautifully articulated by Eckhart Tolle in his book ‘A New Earth’.

‘When you become comfortable with uncertainty then infinite possibilities open up in your life. When you become comfortable with uncertainty it means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do, and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change.’ Eckhart Tolle

So much of our lives is driven by fear. The fear of loss. The fear of rejection. The fear of failure. The fear of not quite cutting it, not being good enough. The fear of not doing it right, not knowing the answer. The fear of not knowing. We think of certainty as the hero, saving us from our fears. Certainty fights with the mighty sword the fear of loss, rejection and failure. But with all its action and heroism it leaves no room for possibilities. Too much certainty is more the villain, locking us up in a high tower, to protect us from our fears, but leaving us a prisoner of our own circumstances, where the possibilities of our life are out of reach.

Perhaps it is time to free our hearts from certainty. Maybe the forgotten hero is uncertainty. Perhaps it is time to take a seat on the bench next to our old friend and sit for a while. Sit with uncertainty. You never know what might turn up. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Blog your heart out

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Some people do FebFast, some do Dry July. Raising awareness. Changing habits. Then there are those who love to grow some fur on their top lip for Movember (for some it is a lot of fur) and suddenly we are surrounded by Tom Selleck look-a-likes for 30 days. They do it for charity, they do it for fun. Others do a 12-week body and lifestyle transformation program with Michelle Bridges. Me, well, I am doing Blogtober. I am taking up the challenge to write one blog post a day for the month of October. No moustache or rock hard abs for me anytime soon!

Today marks day one of Rocktober, a month celebrating rock music. It also marks day one of Blogtober. Both of these things I hadn’t heard of 12 hours ago. What a difference a day can make. Although to be honest, I still don’t know much about either of them. Other than Blogtober is about taking on the challenge to write a blog post every day for 31 days. Crazy I hear you say? I know.

My dear friend and beautiful writer, Lisa Wylde, inspired me this morning, when she told me she planned to take on this writing challenge. I was excited for Lisa but my immediate reaction was one of relief - better her than me. As I explained to another dear friend not long after my conversation with Lisa. ‘I don’t write like that. I don’t write my blog to a deadline.’ You see, I have posts collecting inside my head, kind of like, I don’t know, let’s go with chicken eggs in an incubator. They are all lined up. Warming, growing, transforming and waiting to hatch. And when they are ready, when they are first in line, out they come. It is time. I wake up and write. Perhaps I should have thought of a more elegant metaphor, no matter, you get the picture.

But just because I have always written my blog this way, doesn’t mean I always have to. Armed with the words from my wise and encouraging friend that it ‘might be a good exercise to do the challenge and write to a deadline, to see if writing more often makes me want to write with equal pleasure, or if it makes it a burden’. I decided I would give it a go. Run the experiment. See what happens. Make myself the lab rat.

I announced to my family that I plan to join Lisa and participate in Blogtober. My son raised an eyebrow. Elvis style. My daughter’s response, ‘Bye mum, see you in a month!’ My husband, ‘October is my biggest month, you know you will need to do some running around with the kids.’ My daughter’s words are accurate. Damn her! I do tend to disappear when I write and become somewhat myopic. I can’t see much beyond the keyboard and screen. My husband’s response is typical. Bless him and his rational and reasonable thinking. Not one of my strongest points. So, it should be no surprise that my response to them was, ‘Bring on Blogtober!’

Sometimes it is good to commit. And, like any form of exercise, exercising commitment is easier when others are doing it too. This is one reason why Febfast, Dry July, Movember and the Michelle Bridge’s program work. Because people do them together. They don’t face it alone. Curiosity has also got me on this one. I am intrigued to see what I might write over the month. How it will feel. Although, after doing some research I am a little worried. It might be a mountain of a challenge. And it appears some people are a little more organised than me, they have prepared for Blogtober in advance, some as early as July! I have read the tweets, one person has six posts ready to go already! I don’t have any. Preparation, it would seem, is also not one of my strong points. Well, who cares. Let’s see how it goes. Give it a go. This might be my first and last post for Blogtober, or it might be my first of many. We will just have to wait and see. But already, I feel like it has stretched me as a writer. This post was not in the incubator!

What I love about the idea behind Blogtober is that it is about community. A community of writers. A community of bloggers. And it is a way of bringing us together. Yep, nothing like a tough challenge to bring people together. So if you are a writer, or a blogger, or if you are an inspiring writer or blogger, come on board. See what you can write in October. No matter when you find out and if it has already started. There are no hard rules (as far as I can tell), other than - just write! Write your heart out!

I listened an interview with Dr Dean Ornish today. So much great stuff. But one thing that stood out and resonated was when he spoke about what hell would look like to him.

‘If there is a hell it would be to see what my life could have been and not being able to do it.’ Dr Dean Ornish

And although I might in thirty-one days, rewrite his definition of hell to ‘committing to write a blog post each day for a month’, for now it is an inspiration. His words and Blogtober. Another reason to write. Another reason to do what I love every day.

My family have just returned, and are asking why I am sitting in the dark with a possessed look in my eyes. My response. ‘Welcome to Blogtober!’