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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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.