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.

Off guard moments

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I get on the bus this morning, my mind present yet far away. The morning is lovely. I think I’m going to watch the sky today. I have a book in my bag that I have loved on for weeks. Reading the last chapter though means saying goodbye and I don’t want to say goodbye. Read More

Fixing broken things

img_20161011_184532Thursday comes along and I do everything else but the one thing I am supposed to do. I turn my gaze away from all the piles of blank pages and rows of pens that sit on my desk. They all look pitifully at me, as if they know something I don’t. I have been avoiding writing. I have been avoiding breathing. Sometimes it hurts to breathe. Sometimes it hurts to be alive. And I want to escape myself – to stealthily crawl out of my skin and take some time out from feeling everything and nothing. Read More

34: Lessons from losing my hair

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I once was a girl, small and fragile. On the days we went to town, my mom would hold my hand so tightly, pulling me close, protecting me. I would sit on the bus with my curious big, brown eyes taking in everything. I would watch big people and dream about how and when I was going to be like them- a self written in the stars, bulletproof and perfect. Read More

The nooks & crannies of change where beautiful things grow

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And then change takes you through a place where questions are the only answers.

Where have you come from? How far and wide has your journey been? Where are you going? And what does this whole thing mean?

This thing that beats inside of you, the fullness  of which you feel in the up and down rhythm of your chest and in those still, quiet mornings when the mist is real and naked. You come face to face with life, vulnerable and raw.

Who are you? the whispers come, sometimes softly sometimes urgently like your life depends on it. Change has a way of turning this question inside out. Those moments when everything around you is unsteady and your feet wobble too. The reflection of yourself you see is shaky too, pulled in all sorts of directions.

But when the waves of uncertainty pass there is a refinement that remains in their wake. A refreshing. Like the first summer rains. It doesn’t come all at one. It is little treasures tucked in all the nooks and crannies of the passage of change.

It is always a shifting. A moving out or moving in. Old things give way to the beginning of others.

Sometimes change is a new home, a new city, a new space.

Sometimes it is a new job.

And other times it is pain – a loss, an ending, an eruption.

But the way is peppered with moments when you glimpse the beauty that is you learning to dance with change. Side to side. Two steps. Three steps. Like lanterns gliding across each other but together through air following an unknown river in the dark.

You find it in you. The skills to be you through the confusion. Your fingertips know how to hold things by holding them. They clutch the walls for you and lead you. Your legs give space to one another ushering you forward faithfully. This is the way.

Every change leaves an imprint on our lives. An addition to the way we will never be the same person again. This is called growth. And sometimes it comes at a cost.

I often think of butterflies. Because they embody this cost. They understand it.

They live everywhere in my world. They are carvings on my walls and in between the pages of my books. For something so beautiful their beginning can seem almost traumatic. The dying and living again. Cocoons. They know everything there is to know about metamorphosis, the changing into something beautiful, into adulthood. They remind me that the opposite of harshness is softness. And that life will offer me both at one moment or another.

There is nothing sweeter than looking back and realising how much we have changed. How that one particular moment cracked us open and pulled out all the good stuff. Stuff that would never have come out without the churning. Without the shifting that change can bring.

This is what this thing is about, the human beings we become because we lived.

The girl who lived inside the quiet

 

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She sits in the quiet like a rose petal sits in the gentle rain. Drinking in what is offered from heaven. Drinking and being washed all at the same time.

She notices the motion that lives at the center of quiet. The motion that causes her to peel herself open and look inside. It is irresistable, this desire that the quiet brings, to pry closer inwards; to watch for the rhythms the heart makes; and to find the meaning behind every heartbeat.

The quiet makes her search. She doesn’t want to but her hands, of their own free will, reach for the measuring tools so she can measure things – her growth, her metamorphosis. How wide has it been? How long? Has it been complete? Has she been illuminated?

She picks up the compass, the clippers and the map and follows the the old trails, calculating the miles and the heights. The journey to here has been full and sticky and hard and beautiful.

She has long fought the quiet. She stopped her ears so she couldn’t hear it and closed her eyes so she couldn’t see it. She much preferred the cacophony of the chaos, the discord that would keep her mind occupied instead of picking at itself. Then she wouldn’t have seen all the places where it had cracked.

It is much easier to avoid things. To push them away where we cannot reach for them. Until maybe we feel ready or we simply forget  that those things are there and they get swallowed up in the noise of daily routine.

But her destiny was sealed from day one. She was born in a quiet place, a little sleepy town on the edge of a country where the trees rose so high they could touch the sky. And the wind never shouted, just whispered in soft, hushed tones. Even though this quiet also lived inside of her, she wanted to escape, to run away, to scrap it all out from inside of her. She wanted to change herself.

But one day, sitting in the quiet, she realised the peaceful energy it brought. The nourishment. So she learned to curl into it and listen to all the wisdom and beauty it gave. She learned to honour it. She learned to honour herself.

Secrets & passive aggressions

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I am not a psychologist nor am I a therapist.

Yes, I am doing a PhD but it is not in attachment theory. I am still an expert though. I know the secret places of my mind, the dark and illuminated crevices where no one else goes but me. I trace the lines of my every unfolding back to its core, cracking open the things that hide in corners.

I am an observer of people and life. I watch and listen and tie things together. I tuck them in. Here, there. Sometimes closely and tightly. And at other times, loosely so they can find their way back to where they need to be.

The other day I came face to face with something in me I had never named before. Little actions that can be easy to dismiss. Little actions that can be huge in the ripples they create.

There are moments, dear friends, when I can be passive aggressive.

At first this hit me like a tonne of bricks. Me? How? Where? When? I had to sit down for it. When I did sit down with this fact and allowed it to press against my chest, the swelled questions flooded in. I rode them to the end, and at the end there was nothing but quiet. I didn’t need to hurl insults at myself. I just needed to understand as understanding made herself visible. And she does.

I found myself sitting on that chair with the secret parts of me open in my hands that particular day because my best friend had to work. But when her work slid into the spaces of time when I needed her to be there for us to talk and connect, I became angry. Yet it seemed so silly and childish to be angry, and so I took a heavy-duty plunger and pushed the emotion down, down to the pit of my being. I thought it would never bother anyone there and I would be okay. Until she arrived in our space and I found it difficult to lovingly respond to her. There was something heavy sitting in my belly. I was avoiding her questions, evading and not initiating conversation. I was sulking and resisting the connection she was offering.

Later I realised that I was hiding. I was withholding myself from her as punishment for her absence. My unacknowledged and unexpressed anger was finding other ways to self-manifest.

Passive aggressiveness is often supressed anger seeping out in subtle verbal and non-verbal ways. It includes the bubbling to the surface of the uncomfortable feelings we try to push down into the bowels of our being where they will not see the light of day either because we are shamed of feeling them or we think they should not be expressed.

Experts will tell you there are particular people who are textbook passive aggressors, complete with textbook characteristics. Here is my theory: anybody who is a human being can be passive aggressive. Even though some human beings may be more prone to passive aggressiveness that others, it is not a secret society group to which some are condemned. Rather, it is a consequence of the human failure to express and interact with emotion in a healthy manner. When we hide or suppress emotion that needs to be expressed, over time we create blockages in our communication channel, which in turn miss-feeds the harmony that chains body, mind and soul. Emotions will always find a way to self-manifest; this is why it is crucial that we learn to do the tango with them. Emotions are not a curse. They are the rain showers that make the gardens of our lives rich and decadent. But if left to control us, they become the floodwaters that carry us away.

This is a big space of a subject. And it can be overwhelming. But I want to make it simple, human to human:

Say it. Say the stuff that hurts. Say it. Say it to the one you love. Let them see your disappointment, your anger, your pain, your hurt, your confusion. Say it. But whatever you do, please say it with grace and integrity; with compassion for yourself and your loved one. Learn how to. And listen. Listen to the moment. Listen to the one you love. Listen to yourself. This is a two-way thing. It is not just about you. It is never just about you. As long as we are human, our potential to be passive aggressive will be one hundred percent. But we need not succumb. We can rise above this.

I had to apologise to my best friend. I told her I was being passive aggressive and that I was sorry. I said the words. Saying it made it real. It forced me out of hiding. And in that moment I knew that I can rise above this. I am committed to. I can cultivate a healthy and loving way of dancing with my emotions. No more secrets. This work begins today.