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

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”

 

 

 

Because I want to roll with beauty like that

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Sometimes I obsess about beauty. Only because I live in a world that is obsessed by it.  A world that rations it out in small little teaspoons to so many of us.

“Do you have long legs? Well, erh…no…I’m four feet two.

Ok, you get half a tick.

Do you have blue eyes? Actually, my Mother had brown eyes.

Not our problem honey, you should have inherited better genes. You get half a tick.”

The world teaches us how to see & frame bodies & people. How to dress them up or dress them down with our fully loaded, shaken but not stirred beauty vocabulary. There is a centre, a standard to which we shamelessly gravitate towards.  Maybe we got handed down these ideals from infancy & it’s the only thing we know. Maybe we are afraid to ask the tough questions of who made us lord over each other in that way. Maybe we just like the way things are because our position on the gradation is secure – we embody beauty in all its defined ways. And who cares anyway, right? Afterall, there is so much else going on in the world & we are too busy. & sometimes, no matter how hard we try to go the other way & see the raw beauty imprinted on each soul, we are strongly pulled back to the centre.

& the centre is vile & filthy. There is no grace there. No purity, no hope.

So, yes, sometimes I obsess about beauty. Because I want someone else other than myself to proclaim it for me, a stranger who has never laid eyes on me before. who can see the gold shimmering off my skin & call it out. Not because he knows someone who looks like me but because he is not afraid to claim the glimmer he sees reflected back to him. He is vulnerable enough & strong enough to want it. To pull away from the centre.

I want to roll with people like that.

When I think of beauty, I stand apart from symmetry. It is never uttered in my thoughts. I am swayed by things un-named that move in the spirit & give each person their being. From that peculiar way their lips curve into a smile to that pulse they try to hide at the intensity of emotion. I think everyone harbours a beauty that is so sexy it floors me. I go about each day proclaiming it & patting God on the back for having stitched so & so together, this person & that person. My days are filled with secret sighs & smiles, watching beauty in all its form pass me by.

Who would have thought to give me curves & volume & a heart that can build things? Pure genius, I tell you.

I want to roll with things like that.

When I think of beauty I think perfect functionality—synchronicity of hearts that are both flawed & perfect. This is the beauty I want to capture. in my hands. in my heart. I want to snuggle up with it, like a warm blaze on a cold autumn morning. Breathe it in until it oozes out of my pores. I want to lie with it skin on skin.

I want to roll with beauty like that.

I am in as much danger of falling in love as I’ve ever been. Only this time, I know my own heart a little bit better. I know where its crevices are & where the boundaries are sealed in molten rock.

& this is the growth that comes from heartbreak & experience. So falling in love this time around will be brilliant. It will be messy, it will be beauty itself.

This is what I want to cradle. & never let go.

Beauty does not lie in the eyes of the beholder—it is essentially & always will be in what is seen. What we need are eyes that see it in its natural state, untamed & untempered. eyes that seek it, eyes that proclaim it. unashamedly so.

I so wish we could roll with beauty like that.

Falling in awe

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Inspired.

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.