And then celebration showed up

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This post was meant for the 31st of March. That day was my birthday. But a lot happened on the day that these words found themselves bruised and bleeding on a page. They found their way to the bottom of the pile, the dusty and grungy bit of neglect. I picked them up last night and felt a sense of sorrow at lost moments and opportunities. How do we redeem the time? How do I redeem the time?

Here goes… Read More

Signposts

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The man whose head was resting on my shoulder was a stranger. A six footed, big boned stranger in a dark suit. I did not have the heart to nudge him awake. My book was open on my lap and I was comfortable, slowly settling back into my body after a day of negotiating the world; the maps and landscapes of Melbourne. All the physical, mental and emotional bits. Read More

You can’t be another person

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“If you really could be another person, you would. But you can’t. You are you. So you have to be you.”

She said these words to me as I spread out all the parts of my heart before her. She was helping me dig through the piles of uncertainty and fear that had collected. It is always a vulnerable place to be in, where you open the door and let someone else see the naked hollows that live inside of you, your heart lying there with nothing to hide behind.

But it is a good place, a very good place.

Her words were like fire. They rushed in and made things gush out – volcanos of fear and doubt scurrying together and falling away.

It was the words. These words. I thought they were the saddest truest words ever spoken.

The veracity of them jolted me out of my fixation on trying to replicate other people’s lives. People I admire who appear to be showing up in the world more courageously than I ever could.

The sadness I felt as the words sank deeper into my bones and spread their salve to every part of my body was not just for me but for all of us. Us, people, mankind. If we truly had a choice ninety percent of us would probably choose to be someone else, “a collection of personality traits selected from an endless automat of characters”. I get disturbed just thinking about it.

I have spent the last few months eating, sleeping and living in other people’s tents. I have rummaged through their stuff and their being trying to find that thing that makes them wield so much influence. I entered their bodies and imagined their sensations. The whole thing left me feeling depleted.

So then I spent the following months looking for methods of owning oneself. I took out all my guidebooks and compasses, papers and scraps of places I had been strewn all over the floor. I unpacked myself and looked underneath, above, inbetween and in all corners but my hands kept grasping air. It was elusive – this magical knowing of how one can fill out herself completely.

I thought it would be a big revelation that would arrive gallantly at my doorstep. I imagined it would announce itself and then proceed to enter me, almost like it was stepping into a pair of soft, comfortable house slippers. Instant possession.

It was none of these things.

It arrived quietly. So quietly I wondered if it really was. Could it be this simple? Could it be that the answer to the question of inner peace and doing work that is mesmerising is choosing to be yourself?

The world is a hard place to be you. I hear you. It is a hard place to be me too. Somehow we are born into a world that claims to value uniqueness but in practice wants us to be like everyone else. So we spend time watching how delicate others are; how long and sexy their legs are and what they wear on their sleeves. And we try to replicate their lives. Here a little, there a little. The project ends in misery because it was never meant to be in the first place.

By then the war within us would have already began. And it lasts forever. Or until the day we wake up to the evident truth; that you and I are unique for a reason. And it is an exquisite reason – we are to find pleasure and delight in each other’s individuality, as well as our own. Delight doesn’t live in allotment houses where worth is measured out in teaspoons and cups. In its most raw and true state delight is immune to these careless renditions of value.

We breathe so much energy into competing and comparing that delight feels soiled. She huddles in a corner and dies. She is a delicate thing, delight. Like porcelain dolls she thrives on intentional care and attention. She is all about seeing the pulse in each person, whether it be faint or arresting.

We were made to fall in delight with each other. I am convinced. And this steers us away from the path of wanting to be someone else. It has everything to do with being ourselves. It grows from there and steeps its roots into the very core of who we are, holding it resolute.

Being you is a big deal. You cannot be another person. And because that will never, ever happen the best and most beautiful thing you can do is to just be you.

This is the simple revelation that came to knock on my door. And I welcomed it in with open arms. It wants to infiltrate everything I own. And I say to it my body is yours.

I have wasted so much time already trying to be another person. I have to stop. You have to stop. We have to stop. Right now. Immediately.

 

* photo courtesy of Jo Chin. Check out her awesome work here*                                                             

A thing called hope

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The world is not made out of sugar. There are no mountains whose bodies are crafted from chocolate candy or corners of the earth that are filled with strawberry popsicles. We come to know this as fact as the years pile up on our bodies and our minds grasp the threads that explain what it means to be a human being. It is sticky and hot and cold and hard and beautiful – everything rolled into one.

And yet, despite this shocking realisation that in this human life sugar is not always a given, there is a song for all the moments when our heart is filled with it, when it is dripping with sweetness. A song for all the times when the heart refuses to give up and die.

Because the opposite of sugar is often something very painful. Even when it lingers in the middle, it is something unbearable. There is a going back and unfolding of all the pain and brokenness, tears and shattered pieces that collect in a pool at the feet. I think this is done so the heart can see, really see the extent of the knots life creates because what follows next is a mystery even the heart itself can never unravel: the heart gets up on its feet, steadies itself and decides to try again. Even with the evidence lying in the open there is a relentless compelling to walk again.

There is a song for those moments. A song whose lyrics weave across and fall in and out of each other. The richness of rhythms that pour courage into the loins and make one more time possible and within reach. It becomes a place the hand can extend to grab and pull back into its body.

In my mother tongue we have a name for this song: Icicitekelo. In saying it the tongue rolls over the syllables as if pulling them in, drawing breath from them even as they become defined.

In English it is called hope.

When our hearts are broken, it is the thing that makes us believe that healing will come, and that we will love again. When we fall flat on our face and the way is dark before us, it is the thing that helps us up and illuminates the way.

It is hard to talk about hope without talking about expectations, for hope is constructed with the same threads. We live in perpetual fear of expectations because we know we are fallible as humans – we cannot possibly meet each other’s expectations perfectly. But there is also something else that fuels this – our fear of responsibility, the kind that demands we hold up other people. We have never truly learned this. To be expected to be there for someone else means to be responsible for showing up for that person. It is hard. It is scary.

Expectations mean vulnerability and vulnerability means open hearted feeling. And so hope is not a shy little thing that lives in the secret corners of our minds. It is a big, bold thing that dares consume the whole being – mind, body and soul. It can steer a life into a new direction, pulling it from the ever-encroaching pits of despair.

Hope doesn’t mean everything is going perfectly accordingly to plan. It means being centred whole-heartedly in the knowing that everything works for good in the purpose for which it is created and woven together whether it is life journeys or relationships.

Hope pulls the strings of life together and gathers it back to us; back to the centre of knowing. It is not incidental but coursing right at the core. It is a thing based in trust. This is why it cannot be disassembled from expectations. When we trust someone or a process we expect it to function a particular way. We expect the someone or process to show up in a way that is equivalent to the very trust we hold. It is that simple and that difficult. We hope in what we trust. And to trust requires vulnerability – a tenderness of heart. Hope works in the same way. It softens our outlook on life, caressing all the rough edges, aligning them. It is the foundation of faith, and it is what makes us believe that everything, everything will be alright.

We each decide where we lodge our hope, in which compartment or corner. It matters that we know because when its beautiful melody comes floating through our house we recognise it and are not afraid to grab its rhythms tight and embrace it because in actuality the end of this thing called hope is the beginning of all other things.

 

Friday shots: in plain sight

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I want to stand somewhere where you can see me.

Not behind fences or other bodies.

I want to own this face and this skin. It is all me and all I’ve got.

Some people say I’m too fat, too dark, too dumb, too quiet, too much. But people measure things by remote control. They do not take the time to see how the pieces fit. How the beauty is right in the pores of me.

So I want to stand somewhere where you can see me.

I am a work in progress.

I am a work of art.

On friendship

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In the spirit of being properly human, I’m showing up on the page today to completely bare myself. Sometimes I will write these kinds of posts. They may be uncomfortable for you but they are essential for me. For the work that I do and for how I show up in the world. Your job? Don’t judge. Practice empathy. Reflect.

I suck at friendships. I’m just putting it out there.

I love too much. Fiercely. Like a monster even. I am too selfish, fundamentally & deeply so. My kind of selfishness is the kind that wants all of the person. To myself. & to myself alone. I want to possess the person. I want to own. All their parts inside of me. All their heart, mine. I don’t want to share them. No. Not at all. I get jealous. The emotions rumble through me, passing like a thunderstorm, wave after wave after wave until I summon the courage to confront them.

When I step back and look at it from outside my body, I feel a sense of loss & sadness & pain & pity. I want to gather the self into my arms and hold her until her skin is moulded to mine & our hearts beat as one.

You see, all that stuff going on in my heart as I swim in that confused state of being is merely a cry for help;

“Please love me. See me. Value me. Walk into my life. Oh, please, please love me. Fiercely, like a monster even”

Life is forcing me to say goodbye at the moment. To friends. Some of this friend I have come to love more than my being. And goodbye is the last thing I want to say.

In the midst of all the heaviness & my own failure as a friend, I’m compelled to consider, to face head on, the sacredness of friendship. The all-consuming profoundness of it.

To be a true friend you have to be incredibly vulnerable. You have to be willing to have your heart broken. And sometimes you have to love expecting nothing in return.

This flies in the face of what we hear every day – ask for what you want, your rights, your needs, yours, yours, yours…it’s all about us.

We think it is the culture and the times that make us selfish but it is actually our own selves. We produce the selfishness that makes the culture that compels us to be selfish yet. It is a dirty web we help create.

True friendship flies in the face of culture. It goes back to the core. The basic of being a human being —connection— that thing, that essence that is present between people when they feel seen, heard & valued in all their parts, when there is no judgement over what they give & receive in the relationship, and they feel nourished & sustained & strengthened by the friendship.

True friendship is about being fully & wholly human – magnifying the good & working on the bad. A true friendship allows you to work through the parts of you that are imperfect, difficult & painful within the protective enclave of the friendship. She will hold your hand. She will feel with you. She will grow with you.

True friendship is showing your heart, letting it be seen by the other. And the other desiring to see it while showing hers.

This stuff means incredible vulnerability. And courage & compassion… It means putting yourself on the line.

Here is what I know now;

People don’t want to be owned or possessed. They want to be loved. To smithereens. So my jealousy reminds me of my need for love but it also calls me up on my responsibility – I need to learn to share people. How? By suspending expectation when it needs to be suspended. In those moments it stops being about us. And how we feel. It is about the other person. And what they need.

When we do this right, we come to this important point of truth that the world will try very hard not to tell you:

Friends who actively know and have learned how to love each other will love each other forever.

Because the truest of friendship is a choice. It is a scared space. You can’t bull doze your way in or stealthy sneak in. You have to enter through the front door, with courage, compassion, passion & sobriety. Because what is done in this space shapes the kinds of human beings we become.

I have much work to do on this. I don’t have it figured out. And I have no answers for you. I can only show you my heart. And my commitment to do this better.

Join me.

Every bit of together

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It counts. In all the corners of our being, growing from there & unfolding into one piece of human fabric; bone of bone & flesh of flesh. Attached in the all the ways important.

Sometimes, you see it green & I see it red; it gets complicated. The together we share is shaken. You storm out leaving the door to my heart open & bleeding. I’m angry so I slam the door when you return. in your face. It’s too hard to talk; it’s too hard to be vulnerable; to say, I’m sorry or I don’t know how to love you, show me. I want to learn. Instead, we say we used to be friends but the together we shared broke. & so we moved on. This is life, they say. This is sad, I say.

For life is short. truly short. A day ago, I was a little girl with pony tail braids running through the pastures behind our house, without a care in the world. I could name what hurt me & I giggled when my daddy threw me in the air & mama made blowing sounds on my tummy. I was easy to love.

Today, I am a woman with a heart that beats at a thousand miles per minute. Humming & pounding & breathing in & out passion, love, hope, need, longing & all the stuff that sit at the core of me. sometimes full & incredibly blissful with the abundance pouring into my lap. & sometimes, empty, lonely & broken, clutching my heart into my chest, desperate to give it away, please sir, will you love my heart? I’m still easy to love, I promise. Please sir”

But togetherness is not as easy as it sounds or looks. No matter how hard we try to make it so & dress it up in blog posts & facebook photographs. We leave out the bits that are raw; the bits where we cry ourselves to sleep because we hurt; the bits where we are giving each other the silent treatment because we don’t know how to voice the pain that is tumbling within us; the bits where we just want to know, like really, really know that we matter to someone. These bits of together are hard to capture or treasure & yet when done right they are the bits that together stands on. Not the sounds we make when we retell only the good bits of the story or the visions we send forth into the world.

Here is my heart, come closer & see, there is no guessing here, I want to say to every person who wants to hitch their togetherness with mine. I am not the most perfect creature you will ever come across, honey – I struggle with contentment & sometimes I can’t look my own beauty in the face. But the whole earth will give you no one as genuine. I am as raw as they come, right from the very ground. Even in my imperfection, my love is pretty damn good.

I want to show them my scars – the ones I gave myself because I loved without reserve; because I dared to cut myself open. it was scary. It was risky. But it was the only option worth the woman I have become.

I want to show them my bruises. The ones other people’s togetherness have left on me; the imprints of the misunderstandings, the working it out & the glorious love born out of those spaces; out of that vulnerability.

& then I want to show them my soul. So pretty & colourful, raw & intense, heavy & thick, sexy & passionate – everything lined up from A to Z. take your pick.

But instead, I tremble as I hand you the best & worst version of myself all wrapped up together, like two lovers making the sweetest love possible. To get to my heart, scars, bruises & soul you have to go through me. hook yourself into me. Every bit of togetherness we have counts. To get to your heart, scars, bruises & soul, I have to go through you. hook myself into you. Every bit of togetherness we have counts.

The in-betweens of togetherness have to be nourished too. Those moments when you want to un-cling perfect fingers from mine. When you want to stare at the walls all day & see nothing else but your shadow. Togetherness works because two separate beings come together, full & complete in their own way.  They create one new, beautiful thing. Without separateness, there can be no together. & so we learn to give loved ones space for growth & replenishment. For my soul to matter to you, it has to matter to me too.

I don’t know who decided to hitch fear to together. They should have talked to me first. Something so beautiful became something so poisoned. & so the world demands that we walk around with heavy armour protecting ourselves from all those selfish people who only want to keep their hearts to themselves; they don’t want to share. they don’t want to share themselves. they don’t want to get hurt. who can blame them? we don’t want to get hurt either. So, who is going to make the first step?

I’ll just sit here & wait…

Hurt will be present in together. always. Because wherever people are taking off their heart’s clothes, there will be nakedness & hurt & shame. Our greatest fear in many of our relationships is getting hurt, getting broken. I’m scared too. But logically the only fear we should tolerate is the fear of hurting & breaking others. If we all started our race from that point, we would all be loving each other like the days were made out of gold; we would be loving each other like superstars. We would be a little more vulnerable, a little more open.

Nobody said together would be easy.  Nobody said it didn’t require work. Nobody said it didn’t require your showing up with your knees steeped into the business of getting it right. This togetherness stuff is crazy hard but it’s crazy beautiful too. The kind of beauty that knocks the air right out of your lungs.  This is what together does – it brings beauty into our lives.

And that counts. Every single bit of it.

Beautiful inventory

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You are made for so much more. I know this to be true.

I will not lavish you with sweet words of what you deserve i.e. happiness, success, love…because I don’t know if you do.

Deserve is such a powerful word. & it is greatly, greatly misconstrued. misused. It is thrown around like a wet towel that is meant to suck up all the mess in the world. all the mess you & I have made in the kitchen because we thought mama wasn’t looking.

No, I will not even claim to know what you deserve. I dare not go there.

I do know though that you were made for so much more. For beauty & honour & glory. for love.  & this is what gets written over & over on the canvass of your life – in what you do; in the way you think about others & yourself; in the way you treat others & yourself. this is what forms your identity. not so much what you look like or how many people think you’re cute or that you can write so well.

My dad always used to say that life is about relationships; that life is a love relationship. But relationships are tricky beasts. & sometimes they are plain difficult.

A few weeks ago I laid it out for my mom. I told her I had it up to my ears with people who rub me the wrong way – people who breathe negativity into my life. I had taken inventory & they were getting the chop. My wise mother let me vent for a while & then paused, the way she does when she is listening hard.

“Sometimes you can’t choose who walks into your life. Nor are you meant to in those times” she finally said quietly.

Her words sat uncomfortably into me for days. Later I realised what she had been trying to tell me; what I had been resisting – every inventory begins with myself. If I’m not getting it right why should I give other people such a hard time? I cannot ask people to do what I am not doing. & I cannot ask people to do what I am not willing to do. That is hypocrisy 101. Sometimes people walk into our lives to teach us this very lesson. This is the inventory that counts. It is the one that produces the more that you & I were made for.

Should you be crossing & dotting negative people off your life list & casting them into your version of utter darkness? Probably. But it’s not about having people in your life that make you feel good. It never was. You can feel good & still be lost. It’s about having people in your life that help you grow. & sometimes that will involve a bit of frustration & pain.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s super important to surround yourself with people who are real, kind & compassionate. But first check in the mirror – are you real, kind & compassionate yourself?

By all means take inventory. But make sure you start at your own doorstep. What you will have in the end will be beautiful. It will not necessarily be easy but it will be beautiful.

Intimacy 101

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I am a sucker for coziness. The leave-no-space-between-us kind.  Of fire-place warmth. Feet wrapped in thick, woolen socks. & fingertips curled around a generous mug of hot cocoa. My mother’s favourite. & feeling the sweet heat of the beverage sip through my fingers into my blood.

Radiating. spreading the warmth to all parts of me. nourishing.

Coziness is what you get when you un-bridle me. in conversations with me. When everybody else was learning how to do small talk, I was getting stuck in the reasons behind the small talk. In the deep & heavy. the nitty & gritty.

Are we talking about the weather & UFOs because we are uncomfortable, nervous or because it truly is interesting both of us?

What is going on with your heart?

How are you feeling?

See, some of us were born with this need for intimacy weaved into the very fabrics of our being. all mixed up with bone, tissue & nerve. Impossible to tell where it begins & where it ends.

It is a curse & a blessing. When it is met & satisfied, it is nourishing soul food. the foundation for any real & robust relationship. But the lack of it impoverishes the soul. drinks it up dry.

We are all wired differently. Some of us do intimacy like the back of our hand. & some of us struggle to even glance at it, immobilised by the fear of what it entails.

When I was little, my siblings & I would sit at the feet of my Dad listening to his mesmerizing voice as he weaved story after story. There was intimacy there, at his feet, in his voice & in his stories. With Mom, it was the way she held each one of us & made everything better. the way she gave expression to inarticulate things.

I didn’t stand a chance. Intimacy won me over. Thoroughly invading every crevice in me.

We all crave it.Some more than others but we still want to experience it with lovers, friends & families. It is the silky, luxurious spice that makes relationships deliciously magical. But the thing about being a human being in any relationship is that we show up with our fears & insecurities. & one of the most general fears we have is that of being found out – as inadequate or not good enough.

Intimacy cuts through that crap. & it compels us to fall in love with the us that our loved ones so willingly embrace. We come as we are even as we grow & become better versions of ourselves. Intimacy has room enough for this expansion of self & togetherness.

Movies & films have no capacity to capture or represent intimacy in its entirety so they try to convince us that it’s all in the kissing & cuddling & their all-time favourite, the hot, steamy sex scenes. This upsets my stomach.

But even without much help from the movies we all seem to share a general misconception – that intimacy is like chemistry. It just happens. How else can we explain our closeness to certain people & not others?

Intimacy & chemistry are two different things. One may have aspects of the other but that is where the similarity begins & ends.

It makes logical sense that intimacy be influenced, shaped or grounded in shared history, interests, backgrounds, culture or race. It makes sense, right?

Well, it doesn’t entirely work like that on the ground.

Here is your fundamental lesson in intimacy – your intimacy 101;

It is about intention. Pure & simple.

Psychologist Kristen Howeton captures it so fully & so eloquently: “intimacy is about shared vulnerability and a commitment to grow – the best friendships are birthed from a desire to engage at a deeper level…to challenge one another, to grow individually and collectively and to be willing to learn from another.”

There is nothing about this that suggests easy or safe because intimacy takes work, vulnerability & courage. It doesn’t just show up on your doorstep. You have to open the door, walk out with your heart & soul in their undergarments. To be seen & to see. This is scary stuff but it brings back into your life a beauty that is out of this world.

In an age where true & raw friendship is becoming a rarity, we need to do our part in preserving intimacy, by doing it right ourselves. We have to work on our relationships because they will not suddenly become deep & meaningful. There is no magic-wand waving here, baby. This ball is the one in our court. We do the work. & we get to decide if intimacy is in or out.

I hope you choose in. I know intimacy is dying to love your face off with relationships that will rock your world.

Who in their right mind wouldn’t want that?