Happy places Vol. 1

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I moved into a new house 4 months ago. The first day I walked through the empty rooms my chest felt like it was going to burst. It is the first time I am living by myself, a dream of mine for the longest time. Happiness was the word that came to mind when I sprawled across the living room carpet, thanking and blessing God. But it also felt like peace, gratitude, and rest. A settling down into all the deep and full places. My happiness had a life of its own as it pressed me into the outer edges of myself, bursting free into all these different postures.

But then happiness doesn’t always need events to make a home with us. I, for one, carry pieces of it in my happy places:

1. Inside my cup of extra-hot hot chocolate on a cold wintry day

2. In my inbox. Some emails come filled with such love, and I can’t help but want to be with them and in them, drinking up every word

3. My Wednesday morning body balance class

4. Sleeping in on a Sunday

5. The quiet twilight of dawn and dusk

6. The old vintage photograph of the Eiffel Tower hanging in my living room

7. Getting completely lost in a book

8. Watching people in the everyday mundane

9. Writing

10. Finding that perfect seat on a bus

11. Inside my cup of tea at the end of the day. Tea makes everything better

12. My heart

12. Other people’s hearts

13. Flowers

14. Chocolate cake

15. Warm socks

16. The sun falling down on my skin

17. Beautiful smells

18. Scarves

19. Chemistry. Attraction

20. Comfortable shoes

21. Mountains

22. The sea

23. A good romance movie

24. A clean house

25. Big, big hugs

26. Knitted wear

27. Perfume. Makes me feel like a woman

28. Bath products that smell delicious

27. A hot shower

28. Bookstores. The smell and feel of books is a pleasure beyond words

29. Slipping in-between warm sheets

30. The quiet. Silence.

Except for Wednesdays, every morning I am up at 6.30. The house is quiet at that time and Dandenong Road which never really sleeps is coming fully alive again. I sit on my white bedroom rug and take in the morning. The silence settles around me into a comfortable knowing. A gratitude I cannot put into tangible words. I realise I’m happy, not because everything is perfect in my life because actually nothing is perfect in my life. I am happy because I choose to see where the blessings are and I see all the good that is good. I’m happy because in an unconceivable way, I am the best thing that has ever happened to me. Everything else is just a bonus.

Happiness is hard to unpack yet it is also the easiest thing to pick out in a room. But maybe our job is not to spend too much time trying to unpack it into bite sizes so we can understand its formula, because we waste so much precious time trying to pursue it. It is like that beloved friend that comes and goes whenever she feel like and refuses to be tethered. When we accept this friend as she is and not rely on her presence or absence to still be and do us, we understand what happiness is – it is everything and nothing all at the same time. It is that simple. It is that hard.

I don’t remember the day I stopped chasing happiness. I don’t remember where I was or what I was wearing. I don’t even remember the tumult that caused the shift in me. Usually I remember such things because they become stenciled to my being.

I do remember though that that was the day I realised that authenticity is more important to me than any happiness. So I let that dream go, and the beauty is that in letting go I have found a constant joy and wellbeing, for it is only when I am authentic that I am my best and happy self.

My house is not empty anymore. It is all filled up with things, trinkets and special things. Various colours ad textures coming together, sitting well together. It is beginning to take on my reflection. It is beginning to feel like home. But still, every-time I walk from one room to another my heart flutters a little and on some days, a lot, because I love this space so much. And I am happy because I get to share it first with the one person who has never left my side through it all. Me. She too, is my happy place.

Joie de vivre

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She smiled at me, her rosy cheeks instantly blooming red as the frosty morning air touched her face. Melbourne in winter can make even grown men hug themselves. She was wearing white and black crocodile shoes, a flowy gray scarf and a black winter coat. Her short black hair was cropped back, revealing a face that was unmissable. She was stunning. I was drawn to her, intrigued by the sureness of her steps and her confidence in apparel. What was she wearing? Read More

Friday shots: neighbours in the morning

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Most days I rise to the sound of my neighbours. Their voices enter my fading dreams like characters in a story, pulling and pushing me in and out of two worlds.

It is the normal conversations of a morning. Filled with goodmorning greetings, breakfast, laughter and don’t do thats. The exchange of their words bounce off the walls and through the air finding their way down to me. I live on the ground floor. They live above me.

There is something reassuring about mornings where your neighbours’ banter wafts through your concrete walls and interweaves into your day. A reminder that there are so many other people who call this big, wide world home. That I am a sharer of all I have.

Sometimes I bump into them at my door as I leave my house. Grandmother awkwardly giving me way as she pulls the pram her daughter is pushing. The baby inside quiet and peaceful.

I smile. And I want to say no need for the awkwardness. I know what you had for breakfast. But I simply say hello and scurry off into my day carrying little pieces of them with me. Because the truth is they, at some point or another, merge into my world.

 

 

Friday shots: the thing about strangers

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The thing about strangers is that they are strange. In the way strangeness can only be – uncomfortable. The way of crinkled fabric on tender skin  or sawdust on the tongue.

These people we meet and sit together in rooms to do things together we have never done together before. We bump into them on street corners and in alleyways, in coffee shops and hallways of office buildings. We stand next to them in elevators and on escalators, feeling their breath. Smelling them. Every movement they make intensified in our own body.

We grow taut at the intimacy of various coloured bodies that are all around us. We imagine exactly what is not about these bodies precisely because they are separate from us, not our own. It is easy to do that.

I saw a stranger today. As I do every other day.

He crossed the road at just the same time I did. Our feet hitting the white and black lines in the same single moment. The synchronicity of our steps sounded louder than their separateness.

He smiled. I smiled. It was a moment of recognition. I see you. I see you too.

As I walked away I thought only of his smile. The way it tore into my world and made me warm from the inside. I forgot that he was someone I had never met before. A stranger. Instead I fell into his humanness as he and I pulled away from each other.  He was me even as I was him. And there was nothing strange about that. It was familiar. Like coming home.

Because the thing about strangers is that they are us.

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.

Dear Monday

Dear Monday,

Don’t bring your blues with you. Leave them at the door before you walk in.

The fullness that has collected in this place will stay. We have our ropes tied close around each other – friendships dipped in gold, lovers and family. We will not despair because you remind us of struggles with jobs and responsibilities drained of passion. We will not secretly wring our hands behind our backs as we walk down the street to the office.

Put on a new cloak. Your place in the week is not to haunt us with dread. You are the door to the starting over of our labours and the creativity we want to fill our work desks with. You are grander than the attitude you hide behind. So stop it.

Show up with celebration. And we will grab you by the hand and make you sit with us, around lace tables as we talk about mastery and love. You lean in and witness your worth to us. You craddle us closer. You can feel the fire in our veins and the way our hearts beat for a life saturated with purpose.

When it is time, you dont have dregs in your cup, you leave fuller than you came. We’ll see you again next week.

Oh, and please leave the door open on your way out…so lovely Tuesday can leisurely stroll in in her pretty skirts. Brand newness for the giving, and for the receiving.

Slaying dragons

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Every morning when I get onto the train, I like to watch people.

Beings perfectly put together at the start of a new day. Clothes prim and properly tucked in all the right places. Bodies occupying their assigned space on the carriage seats, making sure nothing touches anything else. Everyone is quiet. I think it is an unspoken rule. Much like the one that takes hold of us when we step into a lift. Head down or eyes fixed straight ahead on imaginary things in space. No talking. This seems to work for most of us. Never mind that sometimes we are bubbling to say good morning to the old man who hobbles in on his brown woody cane, or to compliment that beautiful woman in her green silk scarf.

So when I get onto trains I look for faces. I watch for the glimpses of emotions and string of thoughts that pass across them like a flashlight, moment to moment.

I see misery. Yes, it is etched in the furrows of the forehead down to the corners of the mouth. Every face with a line or two. The etchings run so deep, touching the surface of the skin and into the deep tissue, right to the heart that sits behind the face.

Sometimes there is a gift given. When I notice the eyes quietly light up into a smile from across rows and rows of faces. I secretly smile to myself curious about the images behind the silent smile. But without questions asked I take this gift and tuck it in.

But this is not the norm. Most mornings I am not gifted with glimpses of happiness. Instead, they are heavy with faces that are steeped in a kind of gloom.

I marvel at the faces. I am voracious in my noticing – the different sizes, shapes, how each takes up its space in the world jutting forward, a mirror into the person. I marvel at the collective sadness of them. It fills the train. Maybe everyone is simply unhappy about another workday in jobs they may not like very much. My mind travels back and forth in thought, searching.

Then I realise that everyone is probably slaying dragons. Behind the scenes, behind those carefully put together faces is another world that is not completely supressed…because it seeps through.

I wonder about the dragons behind each face. Insecurities, inadequacy, a meaningless job, heartbreak, trauma, loss, health trouble, infidelity.

As people sit there, they are also somewhere else doing battle. We forget that these things show on our faces. And maybe this is a good thing. It is life reminding us that it cannot be contained, pressed down into a vessel that we seal and put away. Secure somewhere else. It cannot be sanitized, reduced to perfect moments of pleasure and success. A perfect existence.

Life is much more that that. It will be raw and it will be beautiful.

We live in societies where slaying dragons is a thing of shame, something you do behind closed doors of your house. And maybe there is time for that but we forget that we don’t leave our hearts at home when we leave the house in the morning. And wherever the heart goes, the dragons will be there, for as long as we are human.

My morning train rides remind me that people are not as perfectly put together as they appear. It is easy to assume this when I walk the open streets and my public face collides into other public faces. There is an illusion of order in the world that slips away when they sit on train seats and have nothing but the time to really see their dragons. There is often nowhere to run.

I hope one day there will be less shame about struggling with life. I hope we will become comfortable with discomfort, our own and that of others. That instead of stopping our ears, covering our eyes or turning the other way, we will look these dragons straight in the face so we can see where the blade should touch their necks.

And we will be mindful too, that we are not in this alone, everyone is slaying some form of dragon.

I will keep watching people. They will never know I’m there, embracing them in my mind and loving them through their battles. I will stand at my post, slaying my dragons, too.

Sometimes normal days

lonely on benchAs I’m writing this, I’m sitting here. Here on the edge of my bed. Listening to the tree outside my window rumbling. Branches beating into each other, waving frantically in the boisterous wind. It’s a familiar sound. It tells me in vivid ways that my tree is alive. And that I, too, am still here on this brand new morning.

This noise, this rumbling, it mirrors the one unfolding inside of me. Un-settled, un-quiet, un-still. When I woke up, my feet sank into the same carpeted floor they touch every other morning. I smiled at something silly my mind said. I had my usual morning banter with God. I bemoaned the state of my kitchen and of the world as I scurried through the cold, empty corridor of my flat. It was a perfect morning and I was perfectly…well, I was perfectly Sunshine. Then there was that moment when the wind outside was all I could hear. It drowned out everything else. I thought it whispered something about uncertainty.

The whispers caught on my skin like leftover snowflakes and soon they were pouring right into my bones. And this, this is the simple explanation to why I’m sitting here with the churning wind inside of me. The longer explanation requires me to tell you what it means to be human, because sometimes normal days are like that.

You wake up with every intention to rock life’s socks off. You are a rock star afterall. You can do this. You got this. But these become just words that filter through your fingers like black burnt ash. One or two steps later, you are on the ground, not quite sure which thought or emotion took you down.

There are times when we mirror our external world – the ugly things people say to us, the doubts about us they whisper into the air, and the inadequacies they sew onto our sleeves. These become things we see in ourselves. Not that they are true but because they are reflected back to us. We are taught early on that mirror reflections cannot lie. But what they don’t tell us is that mirrors cannot capture the whole of us.

So sometimes normal days are made up of sorting out the dross reflections from the gold. Sitting with the rumbling inside and listening to what it is saying. And, yes, it is always saying something. Rumblings tell us where the insecurity hides, where the fear is, where we need most work.

I saw a woman seated on a bench, her big collared coffee-brown polyester jacket holding her body tight. She had this gorgeous red hair that made me look twice. Her gaze was stretched out across the Yarra River, far, far away. A dry autumn leaf sat in-between her fingers and she twirled it round and round and round. Her world seemed frozen in that moment. She oozed a sadness that was defined and complete. I could reach out and touch it. My heart went out to her and caught hers.

I haven’t been able to forget her.

As I walked away I thought about her. And I thought about myself. And of the thing we held in common in that instant my life grazed hers – the churning within.

I saw it in the noise of ordinary life that filled every corner of the city. There was a rhythm in the commotion. I fell right in step with it, with the beating of my heart and the noise inside on which it swung. But to catch the pulse required me to listen to the noise.

Sometimes normal days are not quiet. They force you to sit on the edge of your bed or on a lonely bench cupping yourself. But if you listen to the sounds of your own disquiet, you will notice the flow. The up and down, rise and fall of the moments that make us who we are.

We can feel these moments and not be paralysed or disintegrated. We can be in the rumbling and still hope for the quiet that comes after the storm. And we do this by staying. Noticing. Breathing. And breathing again. If you stay within yourself long enough, you will realise that there is nowhere else to go. And that you owe it to yourself to love you through the boisterous moments. And that some normal days come to test the muscles of your human spirit.

Staying put and reaching out for another hand is the victory of what it means to be human. When, as Ellen Bass poetizes “….you can hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you. I will love you, again”

 

 

 

Noticing green & orange

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I have this image stuck in my mind; of two birds perched on a power line, frolicking & kissing. Covered in deep, rich & luxurious green & orange feathers. They were exquisite & I wondered whether they had any idea just how beautiful that green & orange looked on them.

They inspired an awareness, a noticing of colour. we are bathed in it from the moment we wake up.

I could tell you of the pinks, browns, burgundies & purples that play in my room. & you could tell me about the rainbows that live in your life. We could sit around the fire & whisper to each other. & watch the flames dance their way into heaven dressed in brilliant red, blue & orange hues.

But instead, I shall tell you of another kind of colour – the kind that is easy to miss.

It begins at dawn, in the still silence of the morning. It’s almost as though the earth takes a moment to worship its creator – everything soaked in quiet. dripping with a sacred silence. synchronised & perfect. I sit in the quiet listening to the silence.

At exactly 6.30 the bird that lives outside my bedroom window begins her morning lullaby. At 6.45, she stops. It’s always at the same time every single day. she is reliable with her song as the sun is with his course. she shows me everyday what it means to show up, whether people see you or not.

I notice how alive the train platform suddenly becomes whenever a train arrives. People get off, people get on. Who are they? Where are they going? Are they ok? I watch & ponder, my book forgotten as it lays open on my lap.

Eyes meet, eyes withdraw. my heart misses a beat & my palms sweat as my eyes linger on the vanishing delectable form of a man. I am so gullible. I sigh & smile in the same moment, lowering my head in contentment that even in the thick of noise & commotion I am insignificant – a simple soul among souls. Save for the man, nobody else can see my heart blush bright red & I can abandon myself back into the book atop my sweaty palms.

From the corners of my eye, I notice the struggle of an old, grey woman as she pushes herself up from the seat.

“My back is no longer the same y’know” she says to me in an equally crackly voice.

I gently close my book & offer her my un-divided attention.  The invitation must be written all over my face because she proceeds to pour her story into my lap. Of a daughter’s loss of an arm after being pushed under a train. She & her sore back had just come from the hospital where the doctor had delivered the good news;

“Your daughter will live!”

So today was a good day for her, aching back & all.  I couldn’t get to her joy. I was still drowning in the pain before the joy. I was still wrestling with the ‘pushed under the train bit’. Who would do such a heart-wrenching thing?

I watch her take each short step as she walks away. I whisper a prayer for her & her daughter.

I notice the rain.

As I walk home, it has the nerve to start drizzling. I look up at the sky, suddenly dark & foreboding & I grimace. My day was long & the last thing I need is to be drenched. Soaked blue-wet to the bone. I’m just about successful working myself up into a bad attitude when two raindrops, soft as a petal fall on my lips. I curve into the gesture & my heart strings are pulled completely. I am being kissed by the rain. I am being wooed in the most irresistible of ways. Everything melts away – the longness of the day, the pain encountered, the ache in my heart. everything.

Life is bursting with gems & pebbles; lessons in colour that whisper & shout. They form beautiful patterns of tapestries right across our life journeys. They surround us & sometimes box us in, living right under our noses – the green & orange of everyday.

All we need to do is notice

Falling in awe

girl-holding-sunInspired.

With no sound for the words that fail to intelligently form. Your lungs gently lean into the sweet air that comes pouring into your chest. You are captivated. spellbound. mesmerized. by the awe in awesome.

There might only be a few things that take you to this place – this place of unbelievable wonder. Life is not full of these magical things & moments. You don’t step out of your house & a unicorn greets you & whizzes you away to fairyland.  Instead we wake up to do ordinary things – making the bed, making breakfast, going to work, laundry, school work & the list is endless. & so we are inbred with this notion that life happens when we are on the A-list of something or on top of our game & that everything else that does not resemble this is an imitation, a sorry excuse for a life. Without intending to, we rear shame in our hearts because fireworks are not constantly going off in our lives. We are not winning business mergers, travelling the world or writing best sellers on a daily basis.

On the contrary, we are meeting the same people on the bus every day. We are staring our loved ones in the face every day. We are waking up alive & well every day.  I often wonder, how can we not show enthusiasm for these beautiful things that happen every day?

Because I am guilty as charged, for the last 3 or so years I have been on a mission to find meaning in the everyday mundane. It bothered me that I woke up every day holding out for the next day desperately hoping that something big would happen; that I would be discovered as a budding writer, sign with an agent & write a bestseller; that I would finally meet the one who would single handedly charm me to pieces & we would get married & spend an eternity together. But none of those things have happened. Not yet anyway.  Thank God, I woke up one day & decided I was going to live better. I was going to make every day meaningful, lovely & full of awe. The work continues to challenge & humble me.

On the surface the everyday seems monotonous & it is. But there is also a beauty present in the moments of each life as it ticks away – every second of every minute is & can be special.

It begins with perspective. realizing the tremendous gift of life & being in your flesh & blood. & that the only reasonable response is gratitude. Gratitude. Not that our lives are perfect for they will never truly be but that we have the opportunity to be here & make something of ourselves. to create beauty. of our lives.

It’s much more than living in the moment. It is hitching your wagon to a constant. & for me that constant is God. It may be something else for you. It is “looking as though you never saw and then you see”; falling in awe with the way your body & being are wired together to make you who you are. a one of a kind person.

Every day is precious & we have to see it like that for this to work. I used to bundle all my days together. Now, I fall in awe day after day of the mercy, grace & favour that has captured my soul. I can’t help but respond. Now, I live each day like I mean it.

I won’t lie & tell you that doing this is all hunky dory because it’s not. But it gets better & easier as I consciously choose to live that way.

You need your mind, heart & soul ready to do work. Hands-on dirty work, but pleasing & fulfilling in ways that make you cradle yourself in love & compassion. This is where awe begins; the realisation that you are not enough on your own but at the same time, you are. You are. You are.