catching chances

I’m an advocate for the belief that living a rich and remarkable life largely depends on taking risks and catching chances. It makes complete sense that we can never get anything different to what we have unless we first change some element of what we’re doing. Last week I asked you for your thoughts regarding when is too soon to consider moving in with a partner and during the week we decided, after much deliberating, reading, talking, umming and ahhing that we’re going to give it a shot. Like many of you pointed out, living together will either force a making or a breaking, and I have a good feeling. Of course, this is a big deal for me and I’m a little bit afraid. Still, this year was always going to be about pushing comfort zones, embracing vulnerabilities and taking the less obvious path, so this is just one of the ways in which I’m realising that objective.

As is often the case, once a decision is made, things seem to move quite quickly. Already we’ve been accepted for a cute little unit that we inspected on the weekend and we’ll be picking up the keys on Friday. We also made our first joint purchase; a rug for our living room floor. It really is exciting times. : )

 

When I moved to Melbourne at the beginning of January it was without a plan. No one can tell the future and it’s harder still when you’re at a total loss regarding what you might want for yourself. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy with what I had and I needed to do something about it before my battered spirit was damaged irreparably. I suppose I imagined that if I threw it all in and sought a clean slate, some magic might happen.

Six months and countless ups and downs later, I suppose that’s exactly what’s occurred. After some radical twists I’ve started paving myself an altogether different path to the one I was aimlessly wandering in 2011. When I reflect on the year to date, I think the biggest difference between my now and my then is that I’ve awarded myself a most precious gift: the permission to seek change.

For so many years I knew what I wanted to do (or rather what I didn’t want to do), but I lacked the courage to act. I don’t know what I was afraid would happen; perceiving it from my present state of mind, it’s hard to understand how I could have thought quitting my job and moving interstate would potentially herald the end of the world. But I guess at the time it was my fear of the unknown that was holding me to ransom. For whatever reason, back then I didn’t feel free.

In the last six months I’ve come to realise that one way or another, things will always work out. Also, you shouldn’t ever be afraid of failing because there is no such thing. Rather, there are simply limitless turning points that when taken will inevitably lead us in varied directions. And there are lessons. By golly, are there lessons.

In this life we can choose to remain on the one road, safe in the knowledge that we’re familiar with its contours and what might be over each rise, or we can take a chance and mosey off in a new and different direction. Sure, it might be risky, but there are sure to be wonderful things to see and to do. As for myself, let me always be the brave explorer. Because there is always that chance that the things we uncover really might be golden.

 

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what’s your number?

No one here needs reminding that life’s not a fairy tale; it’s a complicated, messy business. So unless your situation is altogether unique, chances are you’ve both enjoyed and endured a number of romantic relationships in your time.

According to a recent American study, the median number of sexual partners for a man in his life time is seven. For a woman, the median is four. Of course, this research included no data to illustrate the benefits gained from each relationship and the varied ways in which they enriched the lives of the participants; those would be things near impossible to quantify.

I think it is important to acknowledge that when it comes to love, it’s not the number with whom we’ve shared it that’s important but rather the nature of the beast; the way it inflates us, making us daring, eager, energised. Such is its potency and poignancy that even after a relationship has ended an echo of that former lover remains somewhere within our selves ever onward.

When I was younger, I naively believed that the number of sexual partners a person inadvertently accumulated was important; that it somehow reflected something about a person. My ignorance had me thinking that those with a larger number were careless. I thought love was special, and that by bandying it about they were lessening its value. Needless to say, I was missing the point.

As I matured and began accumulating the battle scars of life, I grew to recognise that the gradual accumulation of lovers is something we can’t always control. There is very little one can do about a relationship ending and furthermore, as ceaseless pursuers of the sublime, we’d be foolish to turn new love away when, bright eyed and bumbling, he finally comes calling.

If we could choose to meet our other the first time around (assuming there is such a one) I suppose there’d be many of us who would. For myself I’m not so sure. Because while the notion of feeling settled and at home with another is entirely appealing, the experiences I’ve been granted through my interactions with previous partners (desirable and otherwise) have stitched for me a vivid patchwork of a past.

For this reason, rather than pointlessly attempting to minimise our number of romantic experiences, we need simply to see the importance of carefully selecting partners we’d be happy to see woven into our personal history. After all, while there’s a chance there’ll come a day that our partners will leave us, our past never will.

Lovers are parasites; every one you take claims and keeps some many tiny parts of you. Likewise, when the time comes that you shake them off, wandering alone into the blue, you will have collected some of their colours, placing them among your pieces for the rest of your days. An eternal legacy of lovers lost.

 

This road can be rough but when you choose the scenic route there are so many wonderful things to see. Life is short and sights are all the more glorious when you’ve someone with whom to admire them. So go ahead and ask her: what’s your number?

 

‘Cause you can just never know; maybe the next one will be for the keeping.

 

What legacies have your lovers left with you?

Do you regret past partners, or see each as representing a chapter of your story?

 

all women are fickle

“all women are fickle” or

Opinions Won’t Keep You Warm At Night.

 

fick-le

1. Marked by erratic changeableness in affections or attachments

2. Erratic: liable to sudden and unpredictable change

3. Insincere; not loyal or reliable

4. Faithlessness: unfaithful by virtue of being unreliable or treacherous

5. Unstable, especially with regard to affections or attachments

 

Yesterday evening I was enjoying the company of a typically lovely male companion, when he casually dropped this statement. Initially I was convinced that he was simply baiting me, so I humoured him somewhat, feigning insult and injury whilst generally playing along with what I had thought was a rouse. However, it wasn’t long before I realised that he had in fact meant exactly what he said; he truly believed that, collectively, women can be described using the term above defined.

Naturally I got serious very quickly, and had it not been for him backing down (he lives with a woman after all, and isn’t a silly fellow), things could have become messy quite quickly. As a self confessed feminist (let’s leave that one alone for another time) and a lady who prides herself on possessing strong and unwavering convictions, I found it difficult to hear such sweeping generalisations about what is obviously the fairer sex. (That’s a joke. Or is it?) As well as this, I was indignant; how can a person (regardless of gender) truly believe that all women can be characterised as insincere, unreliable beings who are unable to form lasting attachments to others, or even their own perspectives?

Thankfully we were able to bury the issue and enjoyed a perfectly amiable evening of wine and music, but the conversation got me thinking about the merits of saying the things that we think. Is honesty the best policy, or are there times when we should stifle our thoughts for the sake of the feelings of our significant (and insignificant) others?

 

For the most part, we all censure ourselves to some extent. This happens naturally in social discourse and is considered a necessary way of keeping the peace and maintaining pleasantries, whilst also ensuring the feelings of others are respected. Biting our tongue is something we are trained to do at a very young age; observe any toddler in a social setting with their parent and you can watch the conditioning taking place. I remember my sister telling me a while back about a time she’d been in a Doctor’s surgery with my niece, who was two and a half at the time. Turning to an older lady sitting on a chair nearby, she had stated as a matter of fact, ‘you’re very fat.’ Of course, this was followed by much embarrassment and flustered apologising on my sister’s behalf, who then proceeded to explain to my niece in no uncertain terms that you aren’t supposed to ever say such things out loud, regardless of whether they are true. In the given context, this lesson was clearly necessary; there is little to be gained by pointing out to a lady in a doctor’s surgery that she’s eaten too many doughnuts, after all. But having said this, are there times when speaking the truth and being blunt with our beliefs could prove beneficial?

Some people, as a result of the wiring of their minds, are unable to refrain from expressing their thoughts honestly and without inhibition. While this can occasionally be hurtful, it is often charming and refreshing. A perfect example comes to mind regarding a young man I used to teach (for the benefit of this anecdote, let’s call him James). James has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a condition that impairs one’s ability to understand and respond to social cues and conventions. A gangly fourteen year old with awkward mannerisms and a perpetual smile dwelling on the edge of his lips, this young fellow is a joy. However, on one occasion I happened to have a particularly nasty looking sore on my top lip, and while most people had been subtle enough not to mention it, James barrelled up to me whilst entering the classroom and exclaimed loudly ‘Geez, Miss what happened to your face?! It’s not very pretty today!’ To which I replied, ‘yeah, thanks dude. I hadn’t noticed.’ To which he responded (remembering that he has Asperger’s and comprehends purely on a literal level) ‘Oh. Well there’s a huge sore on your face. Go and have a look in the mirror, it’s gross!’ Thanks, James. Big up, man.

I think that possibly, there simply aren’t enough James’ in this world. Because whilst I clearly didn’t need to be reminded about the throbbing, oozing sore on my face (don’t worry, I’m exaggerating), it takes a certain strength and courage to stand proudly and with a big loud voice, state what everyone else is pretending not to see. I guess what I’m saying is that having an opinion and expressing it with passion cannot be a bad thing. After all, if you don’t stand for something, you might fall for anything.

Just make sure when you’re voicing your opinions that they’re something for which you’re willing to fall, fighting.

To end where we began, I am sure that when he accused my gender of being fickle, my gentleman friend wasn’t considering the extent of the negative connotations that the word implies, but rather simply meant that generally, women have the tendency to be more indecisive when making decisions and are typically more likely to weigh and consider multiple perspectives in comparison to our male counterparts. I suppose that if nothing else, this is a lesson in selecting our words so that what we say is in direct correlation to what we mean.

 

Because whilst we women may not be fickle, we can be terribly touchy when scorned.

 

the fruit of courage

On Monday I delivered my very first spoken word poetry performance at the local pub’s fortnightly meeting of Passionate Tongues. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been on a natural high ever since. That I had the courage to stand on a stage in front of many dozens of people and share my words is a concept that’s hard to fathom. It’s not that I wasn’t scared; I was freaking terrified. But I’d told myself this was something I could do and I needed to know that I was right.

‘I’m new to Melbourne; fresh from Newcastle, NSW’ I told an audience of raised eyebrows. ‘If you’ve never been, it’s the kind of place where if you write poetry, you mainly keep it to yourself.’ Back when I was at university, I wrote a lot of poetry. I enjoyed the way you could be sparing with your words yet still say so much. But after being awarded a measly credit by my creative writing teacher, I decided poetry clearly wasn’t my calling and turned to wordier varieties of self expression. Nevertheless, poetry has remained a guilty pleasure, and when I discovered that Melbourne was home to so many awesome poets, my excitement was tangible.

I was the tenth speaker on the open microphone, which meant I was beckoned after the stage had been warmed by feature poet Skye Loneragan and several other established writers. After a weekend of nervous anticipation, suddenly all eyes were on me. To my complete surprise, I remembered all my words and performed two poems entirely from memory. When I finished, the room began to applaud and I was consumed by an absolute euphoria. I felt as if I was on fire. Members of the audience and fellow poets were patting me on the back, praising my efforts; it was the best feeling I have ever had.

My personal pride at this achievement goes beyond being happy that I was able to perform for a crowded room. Since ever I was a kid, I’ve been afraid of letting people see me; ignored the pilot light burning within and it’s longing to catch aflame. All my life I’ve allowed insecurities to govern my actions and struggled with an inability to show others my whole self. Now I see exactly how limiting this has been.

After performing my poetry for a full bar, I’m pretty sure I can do anything. I’m no longer willing to keep a leash on my hopes and dreams, withholding that buzz for fear of failure. I’ve tasted the fruit of courage; watch as I eat my fill.

 

 

an uninvited house guest

When you move to a big city and the only people you know are your sister, her partner and your ex boyfriend, it’s easy to feel a little isolated. For the first month I enjoyed the seclusion, revelled in the quiet and the knowledge that I didn’t have to please anyone but myself, immersed myself in my writing and the harmony of words. I guess I’d classify myself as an introvert; I enjoy my own company and don’t require frequent socialisation to exist contentedly. But if you spend too much time on your own, what I’ve found is that slowly, almost immeasurably and without you realising, your contentment equilibrium steadily drops, and you begin to feel heavier. Introvert or not, people need people.

So inevitably, after a couple of months the Loneliness moved in. She took to sitting at the end of my bed, all droopy shoulders and forlornly upturned eyes while I worked on my computer. Or she’d wander in while I was in the bath and sit dejected on the toilet seat, full of sighs and heavy heart. When I was in the kitchen she’d linger at the breakfast bar, staring indifferently out the window and forcing me to question why I would even bother to fix a meal when she didn’t eat and I was no longer hungry.

Soon I began to wonder, whether as a result of her constant mumblings, or my own mind’s manifestations, why I bothered moving to Melbourne in the first place. After all, I was spending the larger part of my time alone in my little studio, secluded from the goings on of a city that was just outside my door. Until now I’d been telling myself that I was choosing to stay pent up; it meant I was being productive. But if productivity was my sole purpose, I needn’t have bothered changing states; I could have written words anywhere. The truth was that I had no idea how to discover or access the activities the grand metropolis had to offer.

I was feeling pathetic and totally dejected; an inevitable side effect when you begin taking life advice from an abstract embodiment of your own emotions. Clearly it was time to get out. Meet some people. See some things. After all, it was fairly unlikely that anyone was going to knock on my door and enquire as to whether I’d like to join them for coffee. Besides, that would be strange and slightly creepy. I’d have to take matters into my own hands. Order my own hot beverages.

If you’ve struggled to shake off the company of Loneliness, you know that she can be a nasty hanger-on. But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to find a number of activities she doesn’t enjoy so much. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think she may have moved out.

What I’ve learned is that Loneliness hates to help people (she really is a selfish piece of work). Seeing that they needed assistance, I started volunteering twice weekly at Lentil as Anything, which is a local vegetarian non for profit restaurant. This place offers three meals a day, serving a combination of vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s not a soup kitchen; guests from all walks of life frequent the eatery. The philosophy is that once you’ve enjoyed your fill, you’re invited to pay whatever you feel your meal and experience were worth, depending on your means.

It’s an awesome place with terrific food and an inviting atmosphere, yet when I was preparing for my first shift, Loneliness made it very clear she had no intention of coming with me. In the end she climbed grudgingly into the passenger seat, but when we pulled up she refused to get out of the car. After a fantastic first shift, I returned to find she’d given up on waiting. It was days before she showed up on the door step, wandering in wordlessly and without any explanation as to where she had been.

The more time you spend with Loneliness, the less you want to; she is quite the wet mop. Perusing the markets with my sister a few weekends back (Loneliness hates group activities. Like a jealous lover, she resents having to share you, so she stays at home, sulking), I stumbled across a woman who described herself as a spoken word poet. It turns out Melbourne has a thriving performance poetry scene. Basically, some dozens of people meet in any number of pubs throughout the week to drink beer and perform their poems for an audience. Once I began getting involved with the spoken word, Loneliness gave up on me completely.

Which brings me to a rather terrifying share; tonight I plan to deliver my very first poem at one of the local poetry gigs. I say ‘plan to’ because waves of nausea have already begun knocking the wind out of me. By the time tonight rolls around, I imagine I’ll be too comatose to leave my apartment, let alone mount a stage. But last week I witnessed firsthand the performance of Sarah Kaye, an American performance poet who I’ve been following for the past few years, and I decided I needed to try. Besides complete public humiliation, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

So spare a thought for me tonight, but for now, enjoy a performance by the gorgeous Sarah Kaye. x

 

 

how to be seen

On the occasional blue moon throughout my childhood, our mother would appear unannounced on the door step. Possessed by a sudden wave of bashfulness, we’d stand staring out at her from the hall, with no words to draw her across the threshold. Then, grinning like a Cheshire cat, she’d break the shocked silence with a gregarious gesture and in an instant a silly excitement would sweep through the house. Regardless of how long she’d been gone, we were always devastatingly pleased to see her. After all, she was our mother.

Never one for answering uncomfortable questions, she’d coat us with her sticky charm in order to avoid having to admit how long she planned to stay. So we’d hang on her every word, for fear it was her last, and furtively cancel our plans, knowing from experience that it would be while we were away that she’d surreptitiously take her leave. Of course we couldn’t avoid school, so after a few days we’d inevitably arrive home to learn that she was gone. Flattened with disappointment, we’d grieve our loss anew. She never stayed long, but knowing that did nothing to ease the sorrow.

As a result of her sporadic and unpredictable pattern of visitation, I developed an agonizing obsession of imagining every car turning into our street was hers, and I spent my early adolescence sneaking shameful glances down the road. It was all I could do to disguise this secret longing for someone I knew would never come. The painful truth was that as hard as I tried to will her to me, she and I were never connected.

For me, our mother’s visits were both glorious and wretched. While my siblings would willingly open their hearts like well worn books to the page on which she’d last written, I would covet mine in bitter defiance. I was angry that she could come and go as she pleased while I remained here, needing her. I’d learned the hard way that like a wild wind she’d no sooner arrive than she’d be gone again, and I couldn’t bear it. So during these rare and short lasting visits I kept her at arm’s length. I thought I was protecting myself from further hurt, but regardless of how detached I appeared the pain when she left was no less raw.

Since the earliest days of my childhood I’ve struggled with feeling vulnerable. What initially stemmed from a combination of pride and self preservation with regards to my mother is now an integral part of who I am. Perceiving emotional dependence as a brand of personal betrayal, I learnt to greedily guard my weakness. Now I’m wondering whether, had I been more like my siblings, who gladly offered theirs like a gift in open palms, I might possess more peace and contentment.

On Saturday I was at my weekly writing group in the city. A broad spectrum of individuals who write for both pleasure and profession, we meet weekly to discuss what we’ve been working on, offering suggestions and constructive criticism to one another. After having completed a five minute warm up writing activity, we’d commenced moving around the table and sharing what we’d written. Before long everyone’s eyes were on me. I didn’t want to share; what if they thought I was dumb? But I choked down the foul tasting fear and the words of decline that were dancing on my tongue and I began to read my work. Against my instincts, I permitted myself to connect. It felt good.

I’m realising that if I’m ever going to experience freedom in all its brilliance, I’m going to have to allow myself to be fragile. I know I can do it; I’m courageous. I just have to let go of the fear.

I think of how my mother looked as she stood on our front step, giddy with cheerfulness. I couldn’t understand how, after twenty five months of absence, she could show up and act so exuberant. But now I recognise that performance for what it was; a facade behind which she was sheltering her own vulnerability. While standing alone on the other side of the door, a part of her must have worried whether this time she’d be turned away. And she couldn’t bear to let us see how much that would sting. For all those years, I was incensed by her superficiality, but only now do I understand what was happening behind the veil. My mother, like me, was afraid to be truly seen.

I’ll close with an offering of wisdom spoken by Brene Brown, a lady who’s spent years researching the subject of vulnerability and whose uplifting and informative presentation I have included for your pleasure. It’s worth a watch; she’s quite the funny one.

There’s another way. We need to let ourselves be seen; deeply seen, vulnerably seen. We need to love with our whole heart, even though there’s no guarantee. We need to practice gratitude and joy in moments of complete terror and to just be grateful; feeling vulnerable means we’re alive. And we need to believe we’re enough. When we work from that place, we stop screaming and start listening. We are kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

 

 

on love bites and loneliness

When I was midway through the second grade, I was enrolled in what was to be my fourth new school in half as many years. On our first day, my siblings and I were escorted to the library where all the students were assembled. A wiry woman with pursed lips led us to various class groups and instructed us to sit down. Abandoned amongst a sea of strangers, I began to sink beneath the weight of my despair. Blinking back a sting of tears I somehow made it to recess when I was smacked with another shock; I wouldn’t be able to sit with my sister, as primary and infant students had separate playgrounds. I’d had enough. Desperate to go home, I gave myself a hickey on the inside of my arm and informed the nurse I’d been bitten by something big and deadly. With raised eyebrows, she phoned my dad. I stayed home with him for a week before he relented and re enrolled us in the school across town. It meant a thirty minute drive every morning, but it proved an instant cure for my stomach cramps.

Sometimes when we were kids, we’d go to our nanna’s place for the weekend; a prospect which delighted me to no end. I’d have a terrific time until the end of the first day, when the idea of sleeping in a strange bed after having eaten my evening meal from someone else’s dinner service became too overwhelming. Dad would get a phone call, and an hour later I’d be bundled into the car, where the relief of the familiar washed away my unease almost instantly. For the remainder of the weekend, I’d wander the house aimlessly, while the others phoned to relay excited stories of cinemas and trips for ice cream.

I’ve always been a little anxious.

The onslaught of change and uncertainty has devoured me this week. Once more I’m that lonely little girl with an ill feeling in the pit of my stomach, a shortness of breath, a lack of mental clarity. My instincts are to retreat. But gone are the days when a harmless love bite might herald a rescue party or offer refuge. I’m a grown up now, I know the secret; we are all alone.

Yet in the midst of attempting to quiet the raging cacophony banging away in my mind, and while doing what I can to ease the insistent churning of my gut, I’ve somehow managed to find myself a home; despite my attempts at self sabotage.

Having heard that the rental market in Melbourne is ridiculously competitive at this time of year, I figured it would be best to apply for absolutely everything. I dutifully attended approximately one billion inspections and filled in what felt like a trillion applications. While it was exhausting, it made me feel industrious and good. In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have been surprised when I began to get calls congratulating me on my successful submissions. As it turns out, I was less than ready. A stammering mess, I hastily declined several perfectly acceptable offers before ardently attempting to proffer why each was unacceptable. However, while my friends and family empathised with my bout of bad luck, the reason in me was growing sceptical. The apartments were fine, it scoffed. The problem was me; I was being a noncommittal pansy. I had to toughen up.

Without allowing myself too much thought on the matter, I held my breath and said yes to the next offer. I’m now in possession of an inordinately pokey and ridiculously overpriced studio apartment. On the up side, it’s light and airy and very cute, and it’s near enough that I might feed off the life of the city; a feature which may prove essential once the money runs out.

From past experience, it’s unlikely that my nerves will abate until I establish some kind of normalcy. I need to do it soon; my instincts are urging me to retire, my long neglected creative side is growing impatient. But I’m still worried. While I’ve signed a lease and am ready to commit to a life of part time seclusion for the sake of my writing and self discovery, what if I discover I can’t sustain it?

So many of us seem stuck in a vicious cycle of having passions we want to pursue, but realising that to maintain a certain standard of lifestyle we need to work, leaving us no time to explore the potential of our whims. I suppose that’s why they call them struggling artists; when you choose your craft over comfort, the sacrifices are significant. And I’m not sure if an anxious creature like me has what it takes to handle the bumps. After all, behaving unconventionally is scary.

I keep thinking back to that little girl pottering absently through vacant rooms, desperately awaiting her siblings’ return from their holiday. She was young and had been through a lot for her age; her need for comfort was understandable. But even she could see that if only she’d had the courage to see out the night, things would probably have seemed better in the morning. Even she recognised the fun she might have enjoyed, had she only acted a little braver.

I suppose it’s time I waited out the dawn.