Friday shot: driver of the 703 blackburn bus

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I’m looking for that moment again. The one where your eyes found me.

Tell me you meant every word you said with the intense way they swept all over me. Even if you tried I don’t think you could have hidden that.

There was nothing in the world that could have stopped you from spilling yourself open for me in that moment. It seemed written in all the lines. In all my steps to you.

I saw the exact moment your guard fell. I couldn’t breath. I think you saw me melt into you and the bubble you were shaping around the two of us, shutting out everything and everyone.

I would have stayed there forever, you talking over me and I talking over you – our words about directions and getting lost falling all over each other, caressing and touching.

But what we were really saying was:

Why are you making me feel so beautifully raw here? Who are you? And how are you getting under my skin?

I’m looking for that moment again, driver of the 703 Blackburn bus, the moment when your eyes found me.

Friday shots: comfort food

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Show up next to me. And love me senseless.

Let me stay in your arms, all the parts of me for all the parts of you. Moulding to you like perfectly sticky chocolate. Rich and decadent.

Your love, it is amazing. A thing of champions. The way it swoops me off my feet and into the very core of you. The way it caresses my skin. It traces my particular lines, defining my edges. I am beautiful. I am me.

Your love, it satisfies the hungry spaces in me, filling all my depths.

Your love, it it is amazing. It nourishes as it soothes.

Your love, it is all I want.

Living dangerously

Leap of Faith

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a brief talk about my PhD research and my experience as a research student.

Now, doing a PhD is essentially about being an academic and researcher in training but there I was, talking about dreams, passion, life, struggle, inspiration and changing the world. I could see the interest on my fellow researchers’ faces but I could also see the confusion. They were probably wondering, “what does that have to do with research and academics?!”

Standing there, it hit me that my passionate self was oozing out, and I was betraying some code of conduct.

Living in Australia for the last four years has taught me enough to know that generally, people here are uncomfortable with showing too much emotion, let alone talking about it. So I knew I was over-stepping some boundary of some kind. I bet if they had such a thing as the Emotion Police, they would have had me arrested! Ha! 🙂

Anyway, I settled within myself and listened to what I was doing. In a moment, it became clear to me;

I was living dangerously…and loving it.

There is this crazy belief that raw emotion is this bad, evil thing that should either be strangled and choked or avoided at all costs. This belief permeates our culture and we are brought up in its saturation and thoroughly schooled in it from an early age. As a result, most people work hard to hide what they feel because it’s just not cool to be seen and known as that emotional person.

For a long time, I struggled with this. I was made to believe there was something wrong with me for feeling too much and too intensely. I felt pressured to tone myself down so I didn’t scare people off. And in the process, I allowed myself to be defined by what culture and other people dictate I should be.

Inside, a part of me was withering and dying.

I felt shackled and I wanted desperately to break free.

The truth is, there is nothing wrong with me – at least not where my emotions are concerned. I just have a different relationship with them. My capacity to feel is simply magnified. This has its shortcomings but overall, it’s a beautiful way of being and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I have a different relationship with words too, including the ones I’m speaking to you right now. To me, they are not just tools to express what I want to convey but they are well and truly an extension of my soul; an extension of me.

My words are me and I am them. And therefore, I cannot disconnect my emotions from my words. For in reality, my words are my emotions and my emotions are my words, bound and sealed with an eternal chain.

I am emotion incarnate.

And this is something I no longer wish to apologise for; because it is my definition of myself.

It is only when you realise that you have no obligation whatsoever to be what other people want you to be that you enter the realm of what I call sophisticated freedom. And I call it that because it is the kind of freedom that lets you soar with the eagles but also demands that you march with the ants.

This is the place where you get defined…by yourself.

Having the courage and vision to define who you are goes against the grain of society. It is living dangerously because the world will always try to mould you into its image and being. And fighting it will be like swimming upstream in crocodile and shark infested waters.

But fight you must because if you don’t, you’ll become just like everybody else in the world. The world needs people who are not trying to be like everybody else. The world needs people to be who they are and not like each other. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule but you know what I mean. I’m talking about those unique characteristics and talents that make you, you. That’s what the world needs.

There is only one you and if you don’t let that come forth and shine, it is indeed a great tragedy. And this is no exaggeration because when you do that, you really are saying that you are not worth the gift of life as you.

In a way, we all fall short of the worthiness of this awesome gift but we are here, aren’t we? Shouldn’t that count for something extraordinary?

The world doesn’t teach us to celebrate ourselves nor does it teach us to be comfortable in our skins. In fact, we are taught the very opposite – to devalue ourselves and be uncomfortable with who we are.

As I stood in front of my fellow PhD cohorts, I couldn’t help but consciously recommit myself to myself and to growing and learning to be comfortable being me;

I will be emotional. I will love hard. I will speak of hope and beauty. I will look for the good in people. I will find pleasure in daffodils and sunsets. I will smile at strangers and bless them on their way. I will ooze passion. I will demand a love that rides on fiery shooting stars and crashing ocean waves. I will find a man that will want me to love him recklessly the way I’m longing to. I will trust completely. I will question convention. I will give empathy to those who need it. I will stand in the gap. I will fight for the feeble. I will speak for the voiceless and for those unspoken for. I will love again and again and again. I will be vulnerable. I will share my heart. I will grow and be transformed. I will inspire. I will change the world. I will be Me.

This is living dangerously.

And I invite you to join me on this incredible and challenging journey of a lifetime. There is only one condition;

You be You. Don’t cut and paste. Unfold in all your glory.

The world needs you. So, I dare you;

Live. Dangerously.

All that jazz

I’m not exactly sure what triggered it but for the last few weeks I’ve been listening to Jazz while working on my PhD research.

I have a file of Louis Armstrong songs on my computer which I had never paid much attention to before. The day this love affair with Jazz started, I just woke up, dusted my Louis Armstrong file and played it without thinking. I haven’t been the same since.

There is just something about Jazz.

Some people love its swing, its vitality and spontaneity. Others are attracted to its solemn, deep and spiritual nature.

For me, it’s the rhythm.

It’s that essence that makes me unconsciously swing my body from side to side and tap my foot while at the same time, it squishes my insides; mellowing and lifting me; opening me up and moving my soul back and forth.

Jazz seduces everything in me to get into rhythm.

One of the elemental rules of Jazz is that the performer should interpret a tune in an individual way, never really playing a composition exactly the same way twice.
To me, that is the essence of rhythm. It’s different for everyone. Each one of us carries and brings our own individual pulse to any rhythm we hear. And life is no exception. It has rhythm too and we all create our own as we inhabit each step we take.

In her final show, Oprah Winfrey spoke about how we are each responsible for the energy we create for ourselves. In the same way, we are responsible for the rhythm we create for our lives. In fact, energy and rhythm are one and the same thing. Without energy – that personal vibration, aura and spirit you emanate from within you, you can have no rhythm.

Like Oprah has learned, witnessed and shown through the thousands of people she has interviewed, if you are not paying attention to the rhythm of your life, you set yourself up for disaster at one point or another.

Our life’s rhythm is largely determined by the nature of our thoughts. This is simply because what occupies our mind is eventually what we do and become. And rhythm is synonymous with movement, beat, steps, action, and behaviour. I know I keep talking about this but I am seeing it work in my own life so I want to imprint it on your minds because it really is true. It’s one of those principles that we just cannot afford to ignore.

In Jazz, the music is often viewed as the product of impartial creativity, interaction and collaboration, placing equal value on the contributions of the composer and performer.

Similarly, the final product of our lives will be an interaction and collaboration between God’s infinite grace and what we do.

We have to be creative. We have the awesome privilege and opportunity to make something beautiful out of our lives. To make music from within ourselves; the chance to knit our passions, dreams, goals and ideas together to create a rhythm that is unique and our very own to possess and to share with the world, as far as our world extends.

Listen to the rhythm of your life. It is speaking to you.
So, be attentive. Be Jazzy.

‘Why it means so much to me to be alive’

I was incredibly moved yesterday.

It started off as one of those mornings where you wake up snapping your fingers and dancing to a tune in your head. Not once did it cross my mind that just two hours later I would be holding my head in my hands, sobbing.

I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across TEDxEuston talk videos on YouTube and I am becoming consciously addicted.

TED is a non-profit foundation devoted to ideas worth spreading. It brings together amazing and talented people from all walks of life and gives them a platform to tell their story.

I find the talks inspiring and when it comes to all things inspiration; be it words, people, journeys and stories, my brain is like a natural sponge. That’s my wannabe turf; my ideal environment.

And so my TED dose of the week was Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma’s moving story.

If you haven’t heard of Winnie, she is one of the first women who publicly declared her HIV status.

Winnie has HIV. And she’s had it for 23 years.

Her story seems surreal – full of sadness, loss, pain, lost dreams and that beautiful thing called hope. I was dumbfounded and I couldn’t help but hurt for her on a very deep level.

If you’re like me, you’ve obviously given a thought or two to HIV/AIDS. As humans, it’s hard for us to think concretely about things that don’t affect us. And with this limitation we find empathising with others challenging.

But I often wonder if we really try…if it is something we do with all of our heart.

I was sobbing because I was witnessing a life that is bruised and bearing life-long consequences but at the same time exhibiting passion and dedication that puts us able-bodied, healthy people to shame.

I was reminded of my aunt who also has HIV. I have seen firsthand what the virus can do to people’s bodies and lives. And I also know the incredible stigma attached to it; how easily we judge and instantly think of promiscuity whenever the disease is mentioned.

Sitting there, listening to Winnie’s story I was impressed by her deep appreciation and gratitude for life. Because she had come so close to death, she said it meant so much to her to be alive.

Does it mean so much to me to be alive? Does it to you?

As I made my bed this morning I paused and pondered the question.

No matter who we are, where we’re from or what our circumstances are, life is never guaranteed. It is a gift.

Every day we have the privilege to be fabulous at what we are and do, whether it’s smiling, making the bed or empathising.

It means so much to me to be alive because I can see the beauty of what I am becoming as I grow day by day.

It means so much to me to be alive because of where my life comes from. I have contact with God – the most inspired and inspiring Being in the whole universe.

What a priceless gift life is!

I hope that you can take time once in a while to deeply consider the depth and value of your life. I know sometimes this is hard because of everything that happens to us and around us. It’s easy to forget that we are not owed life.

It’s easy to take it for granted. And this is something we have to be conscious of.

So, I ask you again – Does it mean so much to you to be alive?

And as you think about that question, please spare a thought for Winnie and for all those whose bodies are marred by pain and disease.

Empathise.

Catching fire

It’s ironic.

I’m listening to hauntingly beautiful classical music – Debussy, Delius, Mozart, Rodrigo, Beethoven all brought together in a collection of blessed tranquillity. I’m transported to another world. In my mind, I’m walking bare feet in a meadow; feeling the wind on my face as I admire creation from the highest of mountains; taking a walk along the river in the rain as I follow the winding paths of a valley.

Peace. Tranquil. Calm. This is what I feel.

But my rebellious mind wants to speak of something totally opposite – fire, combustion, energy, passion.

I just finished reading Karen Kissane’s brilliant book, WORST OF DAYS. In it she chronicles the devastation that happened on the 7th of February 2009 when parts of Victoria burst into flames. 173 people died that day in the bush fires.

The book re-tells the stories and experiences of different people that fateful day – the shock, terror and loss that will always be that moment in their lives.
As I turned the last page of the book, I couldn’t help but feel an incredible mixture of emotions: sadness for the devastation but at the same time, unashamed awe of fire’s relentless power.

Fire is fascinating. The energy it wields and produces creates a self-sustaining system. Fire feeds off itself. Its ability to enhance itself means the bigger it gets, the bigger it gets.

What does this have to do with you…or me? Well, I feel…let me rephrase that…I am certain that there is a powerful principle we can learn. And that is, just as physical fire sustains itself; non-physical fire is also governed by laws that allow it to sustain itself. Some people call this non-physical fire life’s force. I call it passion.

Fire is not shy, timid or apologetic. It is chaotic but orderly at the same time. Its power lies in its complete understanding of its own purpose. Fire never deviates from its design. Even then, it needs the right conditions to thrive.

Like fire, passion can be incoherent. It is that force that spurs you on regardless. It sustains dreams and gives life a certain framework. Without it, life is like an unstable boat with no real sense of direction. This is why passion is power because used wisely and correctly, it is life changing. It brings a clarity and resourcefulness that is an absolute requirement for anyone who wants to soar rather than walk through life.

So what is passion? Passion is fire.

My hope is that you will be filled with a passion for your life and future; that you will use every opportunity given you to develop your talents and skills to the best you can; that you will not be timid or afraid to let your passion guide you. You know where you need to go in life. Just trust.

I hope you catch fire today.