In Defense of Self-Love

I got a bit fired up reading Laurie Penny’s Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. Part way through I found myself writing this short piece. By the time I got to the end of the article I could see that the author might not disagree with me, yet it seemed worth blogging about. That feels like something worth acting on at the moment, considering this is my first blog this year and I have a lot of unpublished work that has been victim to my doona dive.

While I agree that positivity isn’t the answer to a sick society, I think self-care is a worthwhile pursuit on the path to collective wellness. We are more able to collaborate for planetary solutions when we are in a healthy relationship with ourselves.

From my own personal experience in collaboration change agents, I certainly prefer working with people who have a decent relationship with themselves than those whose activism is sourced in misanthropy as a thin veil for their own self-loathing. 

Taking responsibility for our personal wellbeing is the first step, not the only step, toward planetary wellbeing. It can be confronting and our society certainly doesn’t have a lot in the way of role models for taking personal responsibility, much less collective responsibility. And, conversely, of course it’s easier to stay focused on ourselves than trying to make a difference in a world where being able to affect global issues like poverty and climate change seem futile.

Society is mad and messed up, and if we react from despair, what does that lead to? If we can get ourselves from reaction to response, responding with wisdom, it might create a new story, a new future. Easier said than done, I hear you say. But considering our reference point, and taking responsibility for what we bring to the collective table starts with loving ourselves. All of ourselves, including the part of us that has misanthropic tendencies and embracing our darkness/shadow/ego, so we can shine a light alongside those who curse the darkness.

This is also on my mind after reading Umair Haque’s Peace and Violence. If you read it, see my comment at the end.

17 Things I Learned from Future Assembly.

Future Assembly was an event celebrating all things tech. It was held in Melbourne November 13/14 to explore the connectedness of things. In a ultra-connected world what are the implications for us? My interest is in the Future of Work and how the changes in technology will change the way we work. I’m keen to learn what skills and mindsets will enable us to thrive into the future. I learned a lot over these two days, saw some very cool stuff and met some interesting people.
From the event website.
In 2008, the number of devices connected to the internet overtook the number of humans on earth. What will a connected world where most things can talk to each other mean for our world and future generations?
So what did I learn? Here’s a snapshot taken from my twitter feed (#FA15) and my memory:
  1. There are ethics to consider in the development of technology, especially AI, it’s important to ask ourselves “Why and for what purpose?” More stuff?
  2. Getting a mini-me figurine of oneself from a body scan is a vain pursuit until you see how bad your posture is!
  3. Being a last minute ring in exhibitor and being candid about how crappy your prototype is and how much of a pain it is taking the thing through customs, being mistaken for an explosive device, doesn’t always detract from how cool the device is. It was a bluetooth enabled iteration of a Thermomix like device that had only one button, all controls via iPad/iPhone.
  4. The internet of things can include a fork that analyses your food and tells you when you’re are eating too much sugar.
  5. Iceland is beautiful, I felt like I was there but I wasn’t, I had my first Virtual Reality experience.
  6. The Loon Cup, a Kickstarter-funded smart menstrual cup, may struggle in the marketplace unless they can address the issue of bluetooth emanating from one’s cervix to communicate how full the cup is. Not to mention battery life.
  7. We have a discomfort with injectable tech yet we’ve been using it for our pets for years.
  8. The hoverboard is real! I saw one in real life! My partner, an early adopter, has been wanting to get one, being able to talk to someone about functionality, price, run time, etc. was gold! (Update, since then she bought one and we’ve been having heaps of fun with it!)
  9. The Tesla has nothing but additional storage space under the hood. I guess all the machinations are under the chassis.
  10. Skills related to design for Virtual Reality are likely to be in demand very soon.
  11. Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2bn. Get ready for the merging of social media and virtual reality!
  12. Medtech seems to be bringing about a pivot in the medical industry, one that is characterised by a purpose-driven focus on actual health and wellness, such as preventive health via genetic analysis, enabling an antiquated system to go beyond ‘one size fits all’ medicine.
  13. CSIRO has an acceleration platform for tech ideas and are looking at ways to bring the cost of health care down globally.
  14. CSIRO have something called a Metal Organic Framework that looks like a powder and has a molecular structure that allows a speck of the stuff to have an interior the size of the MCG, application includes carbon capture for climate change mitigation.
  15. Design thinking and Human Centred Design are the new black. Workshops on these topics were standing room only.
  16. The future looks bright when you look at it through a clear lens. The mainstream media would have us think otherwise. We’re living in an era where crime is low, literacy is up, poverty is down dramatically, we’re living longer and it’s more important now than ever to develop a good bullshit meter to detect what’s real. FutureCrunch showed some great stats to help reframe the modern context. Bring on the future!
  17. Empathy is a critical skill for the future, as machine labour shifts the job market to more human-oriented skills.

What about you? What are you learning about this kind of thing? Were you at the event? What were your thoughts? I’m keen to hear what stands out for you here, what alarms or excites you?

Day One of being 43.

It’s my first day of being 43. What’s on my mind is the businesses I’ve been connected to over the last year or so. I had an amazing conversation with my uncle about business yesterday. I’d known he was in the meat industry and was not keen to talk to him while I was vegetarian, especially after being in earshot of a conversation with another uncle at Christmas about 20 years ago about abattoirs. Lots has changed since then!

Now when thinking about the future of work, I knew he’d be a great person to talk with, he really lights up talking about business, it’s quite refreshing! In my new perspective as an entrepreneur and ‘recovering vegetarian’, I was delighted to hear that his current focus (among about 15 businesses he’s involved with) is Organic Beef! I’ve been struggling with eating beef lately but this gave me new hope! Roo has been my main source of red meat when I do eat it, and in Tassie last weekend, wallaby!

Interestingly enough at KPI event on Monday I met a woman who is doing paleo skin care, using organic beef tallow, a product of the beef industry that’s gone out of favour so is a good use of it from what I can see!

Another thing about being 43 is the laugh lines and smile creases that are making grooves in my face. I don’t mind them for the most part but when I want to do something nice for my skin it’s a no brainer, Integrity Cosmetics Serum is my absolute favourite! I feel nourished just smelling it, but I’m also aware of the quality of what goes into it. I worked for Tracey, founder of Integrity Cosmetics a few years ago and learned a lot about what the stuff is made of. Tracey has big visions of a better world and aligns her business practices with these visions by supporting organic producers, many from Tassie and always as local as possible.

TS 600x476AURORA-2Another highlight of the year is getting my logo! I’m thrilled to bits about working with Bodhi Designs to create a logo with layers of my fave shades of blue. I also worked with Alina Leang to have a set of branding guidelines that utilised the logo to establish my brand. This looks like a range of practical guide for tone, colour, font etc, to assist anyone working with me from a marketing, social media or internet profile perspective.

It was great to work with Ostii of HostGreener to create my new website and hear him say, “I love working with people who have branding guidelines,” when I told him I had them. Speaking of which if you need website hosting, Host Greener is a local web hosting provider that uses all renewable energy to provide their service, Ostii also teaches classes to empower entrepreneurs to do their own websites. I LOVED working with him, and was amazed that we could create a fully functioning website in 7 hours over two sessions! I was responsible for all the content and images but we worked hard to get it done and my site was live by the end of it! I was pretty happy and glad I made the decision to let go of Mindbody and Aurora LiveEdit.

I love the webs we weave, the threads and themes emerging here. I love supporting businesses doing good things for the planet. All of these links are people I’ve dealt with directly and have respect for. The links are not affiliate links although I am not adverse to the idea and may do that down the track. There are plenty more businesses I support and perhaps will write more about in the future. (I’d love to hear what you’d like me to write about in the comments.)

If you’re reading this, you have some connection to me and are likely to have some level of trust in me and I hope that you’ll utilise that as well as trust your own judgement about what is right for you. I’m also open to any questions you have about these businesses.

So this is day one of being 43. Pretty good so far, here’s to a great year! Thanks for being with me on this journey!


Art Fag Heaven

During my time in Vancouver I went to a party where I was the only woman, it was primarily members of of the Vancouver Gay Men’s Choir. In this environment, my gender was irrelevant. I spoke with at least 5 of the other party goers 1:1 and a few in 2s and 3s, all of them treated me like one of them. Their ages ranged from a few early 30s guys to 70s or 80s.I relished in the soft spoken yet camp expression of the punky butch looking boys, it was a true delight. Short shorts, white leather motorbike jacket, 3cm spacers in the ears, plaid pants held up with suspenders and accompanied by black combat boots.  There were many neatly manscaped beards, as on most faces of the men I met in Vancouver.

The place was in West End, in the middle of gay town, a penthouse with three balconies. It was exquisitely decorated. Rich red feature wall, table set with ornate china, a mirror with an embellished antique style gold frame, vases of modern looking bouquets. My inner art fag was in heaven.

Inukshuk: From artist Ben Houstie's page on Cap & Winndevon

Inukshuk: From artist Ben Houstie’s page on Cap & Winndevon

I was introduced to one of the hosts of the party as I was about to leave. A framed piece on the wall caught my eye. It was of a group of four hummingbirds, they were colourful but in the traditional native shapes. It was exquisite, I’d never seen anything like it. The vivid colours were striking, the space between the birds reminded me of seeing a group of hummingbirds furiously buzzing around a feeder at a friend’s lakeside cabin. From my days of studying anthropology I recognised the Northwest Coast art. My attention was diverted mid-sentence, I immediately expressed my appreciation of the piece. The host responded with “I have more, you can have…” I didn’t quite hear the end of the sentence, or maybe didn’t believe what I thought I heard.  He went off and came back with a large art folder, easily 100cm by 60cm. It had several pockets with different prints, at least 10-20 of each. He started pulling out prints as he told the story of meeting the artist, and commissioning him to do some images, going with him to the art store to get supplies, asking for some in brighter colours. It took him a while to find the hummingbird one, he pulled a few others out while he was finding it. One of a bright green heron, a duck, a spirit bear, a dragonfly, salmon, Inukshuk (not traditional to Northwest Coast art), sun rays, many brightly coloured except the salmon. The salmon were traditional red and black. He pulled them out saying we could have them, I felt unsure, was this for real? Was he really offering to give out prints of this artwork?  I was flabbergasted.

He talked about the business arrangement he had with the artist, Ben Houstie, and that he’d worked with Bill Reid (the most well known native artist in Canada), that his work was on the old $20 bill. He talked about the challenging relationship with Houstie, who had been ripped off in the past, the stories of others in the art industry who had been greedy and disrespectful. Although he didn’t say it overtly, his commitment to integrity in this arrangement, his appreciation of the art and respect for the artist was clear. He wouldn’t value them, it was a big unknown. Especially, unfortunately, while the artist is alive, it can be a bit arbitrary. He wanted us to have these prints so the art could be appreciated. I was so moved, and still a bit incredulous but I accepted the gift, a few others who were there also accepted this heartfelt generosity. My inner art fag was deeply humbled, and my anthropologist self thrilled, yet my activist self was a bit cautious of this man giving art away, though the artist had been paid, how much, we don’t know.

My friend Ashley took the Herron and Inukshuk, I took the sun rays (for my partner, her colours), the duck (for my mom), and the spirit bear (for my aunt). Another person took the hummingbirds, I didn’t want to be greedy, I took what was left. I feel weird about using the world ‘took’. Still in shock and awe we left the party. I didn’t want to leave too late, I had my school reunion the next day and my host, Jason, had left the party early to go to bed and had been messaging me to find out if I was coming home soon, he was going to sleep.

As we walked up to Davie Street to catch a cab with the poster tube of incredible art, Ashely and I still couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Part of me felt quite uncertain about having accepted the gift, and to refuse would have felt even worse. When it was all happening I started to think of offering to pay something but decided it wasn’t appropriate. I felt childlike in my uncertainty. How do you value something like this?

I have spent years learning to value my own work, which is a very different kettle of fish but part of the same question. What is value? Something is as valuable as you say it is and someone else agrees to pay that amount. But in this case the value for me was the experience, the generosity and the gift. For me this is invaluable.

It still leaves me with lots of questions, however. Was the act of accepting this gift respectful or disrespectful to the artist? When the host was asked if the artist was still alive, he said he’d seen him from across the street just recently. For some artists, having their work appreciated is their intention, for some it’s their bread and butter. I’m left with questions, wondering if I am contributing to exploitation of aboriginal artists or if my appreciation of the art and giving it to others is part of paying this gift forward. I am certainly interested in more of his work. In writing this I did some research and found that his art is available on everything from scarves, and notebooks to children’s toys and spectacle frames. In looking at other art sites, I found the hummingbird image and the sun, there were several I’d seen at the party that were not included on the site.

This experience was a perfect opportunity to receive, something I’ve found challenging in the past. In the end, rightly or wrongly, I now have not only this exquisite artwork that I brought home to Australia to put on my wall and appreciate, but also my experience of awe and humility.

Getting there – Bali to YVR

I was due to fly out of Bali 1am Monday morning. I’d been there for a week with my partner and the in-laws.  All weekend the airport in Bali had been closed due to a volcanic ash cloud over the airport. Thankfully it opened on Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t find anything saying my flight was cancelled. All the Australian flights were cancelled but I was flying to Vancouver on China Southern via Guangzhou (near HK). I said my goodbyes and went to the airport, with fingers crossed. The hotel staff had been trying to get in touch with the airline over the weekend, but their offices were closed. Not helpful!

The airport was full of people and my flight wasn’t even on the list of departures. There were lots of cancelled flights, all of which were clearly indicated on the check-in desks and departure screens…except mine. Finally it came up and I went over, I was the first in the line and only one person behind me. The line next to us wasn’t moving.TathraMeme-shedd-2

Four ladies in pink uniforms started to set up two check-in desks but no one got processed. People from the next line approached them, speaking Mandarin. At one point I heard one of the airline reps say “waiting for permission”. I noticed there was no gate assigned to flight CZ3006. There wasn’t one for the next line either, no wonder it wasn’t moving. It was a bit odd to me that no one else was getting in the queue for my flight. It was just me and a Japanese man who was pretty focused on his game device, not so concerned about what was going on around him. I decided to sit down on the floor. It didn’t stop people from walking over me, like I didn’t exist, I felt invisible. There was lots of chatter around me, I starting to get concerned that we weren’t going anywhere tonight.

I got especially worried when the head airline rep left, but the sign didn’t change. It wasn’t looking good. I asked the remaining airline rep what was happening with the flight. The woman said, “maybe cancel”, and as she packed up to leave I asked again. “Yes, cancel.” Right then!

I was unsure if leaving before the official cancellation would be wise but I decided to go. Got an offer for private taxi from a guy who said 120000 IDR which was a price I was happy to pay (approx $12 AUD), so I went with it. His car was nicer than some of the vehicles I’d been in over the last week, official taxis and tour vans included, and he got me back to the hotel super quick. I was back there by 12.30am. I emailed my travel agent on the way to see if they could advise me or get me any other information when they opened in Melbourne the next morning.

I was very grateful to have a place to come back to, lots of people would be sleeping in the airport. After a decent sleep I got up early and went to the concierge to see if we could get info on my flight. “If your flight has been affected by the volcano, press one.” I was on hold for 20 minutes which turned out to cost nearly 400000 IDR ($35 AUD). The minute I hung up I got an email from the travel agent. She’d booked me on a flight for 1pm but there was no guarantee it would go ahead and no info about connecting flights to LAX from Guangzhou. I had breaky with Emma & the Lynch’s once more, said good bye again and went to the airport.

This time CZ3009 was already on the board and the queue for check-in was very long. Where were all these people last night? How did they know not to come? I’m pretty sure there was only one other non-Asian person in queuing for the flight. I was glad to see it looked like it was going ahead, still no gate number but people were being processed, luggage was going on the conveyor belts.

It took at least an hour to get through the line. With my Australian Passport in hand, I checked-in and was told that my connecting flight would be sorted at the transfer desk in Guangzhou. The flight left after 3pm. It was smoky, I swear someone had a cigarette in the loo at least 3-4 times during the flight. It reminded me of the days when smoking was allowed on flights, back when my parents were splitting up and we flew from Canada to Australia and back a few times. This was an unexpected memory of another very difficult time in my life.

When I arrived at Guangzhou around 8pm, we were piled on to three buses that drove at least 3km across the tarmac from the plane to the gate. Thankfully, the transfer desk was right there. I went to get my passport, it was gone. WHAT!!!??! Completely mortified. I checked all my bags but I was absolutely sure I’d put it in my computer case which was under my arm the whole time. I knew it was the first thing I’d need so I’d kept it handy. I don’t know how it could have gone missing. If it had fallen out, wouldn’t someone have noticed and picked it up? Thinking about my experience with other passengers cutting in front of me in the line at the gate, I wondered if looking out for each other was a lesser value in Chinese culture, or maybe less extended to foreigners.

After we looked through my backpack and carry-on luggage they looked on the plane and the bus. I was so hopeful it would be found. I kept saying to myself, ‘It’s been found’, and imagined it being handed back to me, feeling grateful. The woman approached me: “I sorry to tell you we have not found your passport.” Then it went from bad to worse. I couldn’t travel any further without a passport. They were going to turn me back. The next flight to Melbourne was full (they wanted to send me to Brisbane!) and was told I may be waiting a day or two… OMFG! I was devastated.

I contemplated what this meant. Going back would mean being home for my partner’s birthday, I’d get to sleep in my own bed, I’d see my dogs again. That would have been ok, good even, despite the cold. I was gutted thinking about giving up on this trip to Canada that I’ve been dreaming about for a year though! The lady went back to the desk and I began to weep. Letting go of my trip was painful. It meant a lot to me. I allowed myself to feel and express the pain. I didn’t care that people could hear me. I was grieving, hard.

Then I remembered I had brought my expired Canadian passport, with the idea that getting it renewed whilst in Canada would be easier than from Oz. The lady at the transfer desk was doubtful but called the Canadian Consulate, and put me on the phone. I had a nice chat with a friendly guy with a refreshing Canadian accent. He was from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island and we talked about living in different suburbs of Victoria: Oak Bay; Fairfield, and of course Fernwood. He said he was satisfied I was legit, not some imposter. I thought he was just friendly, but he was sussing me out! I thought he was in Canada but he is stationed in Guangzhou to deal with people like me!

The upshot: my trip was back on! I was flooded with relief. Next, to get me on a flight to YVR (Vancouver Airport)! By this time it was after 10pm and no more flights tonight, which we already knew. If I had a passport they’d have put me up in a hotel until they could get me a seat, but without one, I couldn’t leave the airport. I slept on the floor not far from the transfer desk. Not fun but I managed. I was glad for the neck pillow I got just before leaving Bali. I used it under my hips instead of sleeping on polished marble flooring.

My flight the next day was at 2pm. I was stressing but used all the techniques at my disposal to accept the situation and make the best of it. I’d been listening to the Philosopher’s Notes (PNs) on Byron Katie’s “The Work” in the queue for the check in to the flight in Bali. It’s all about “Loving What Is”, acceptance, not arguing with reality and what we think ’should’ be. How appropriate. I gave myself space to feel what I was feeling but caught myself worrying, let it go, breathed, and came to a place of acceptance. It felt like the best choice to make.

I did a lot of writing while I was waiting, and listened to more PNs. The one on Introvert Power helped me realise I’d been needing space and being on a family holiday for the last week, I hardly took any time to myself. No wonder I was a bit withdrawn toward the end! I also really struggled with the noise. People talking loudly, announcements for boarding flights at the gates, on top of the fact that I’d slept on the floor and got maybe three hours sleep, it was taking a toll. I did what I could to take care of myself, I felt ok considering.

Finally I got on the plane, but not before more people cutting in front of me to get in the queue to board the bus that took us to the plane. The good thing was that this flight was direct to YVR, no stopover in LAX, and this leg was 11 hours to Vancouver.

I sat next to a UM (unaccompanied minor, I’d been one myself back in the day) and a girl on a school trip who smelled like she hadn’t bathed for a while and wasn’t feeling well. At least it wasn’t smoky this time. I think I got 2 hours sleep altogether, my earplugs didn’t seem to help. The food was good and we got two meals: one while I would have loved to have been sleeping but I was also happy to eat.

Acknowledging that I wasn’t going to sleep more on the flight I did some more writing, listened to more PNs, watched some business shows on future trends and automated manufacturing, robotics, nano tech etc. and some original CSI. Not much else was of interest. I just wanted to pass the time until the flight was over.

When we finally touched down in VYR, the tears started to flow.  The sense of familiarity was like a wave of comfort, I loved it, relished it. Vancouver Airport has become one of the most beautiful airports I’ve seen. The aboriginal art, the recreated natural environments, the light airy feel. It’s just gorgeous.

The passport machines not surprisingly didn’t work for me, but being able to go to the Canadian Passport section was great. The process was very simple: streamlined and no line ups! The expired passport was fine. I was very emotional at the customs counter, telling him about losing my Aussie passport, using my expired one, just the whole situation, so much pent up emotion, leaking out all over! The officer consulted with his colleague about my passport and then came back to me and said, Ok, thanks. Off I went! Was it really that easy?

Getting my checked luggage wasn’t too long and being in a nice environment helped. Somehow it bothered me less when a couple of people from the plane pushed in front of me again to get their bags. The fact that I was here and had no passport hassles had me feeling really grateful. Before I got off the plane I said to myself that I’d like to get on the next possible ferry and I was in luck!

I managed to get to the PCL counter 5 minutes before the next bus, and I got on the 1pm ferry! I headed straight for the buffet, had an amazing lunch of beautiful BC salmon and salad with sprouts, cuke, shredded carrot, spinach and ginger soy dressing, SO tasty! I spent a little time on the deck but it was quite windy and carting around a roller bag wasn’t great. I went back inside and found a seat with a great view and within 20 minutes of sitting down: “Attention passengers, we are now approaching Shwartz Bay Terminal…”

As I write this I’m on the PCL bus into the city and so much of what I’m seeing is familiar, some new stuff, fresh faces on old buildings, but lots is the same. I can see the Olympic Mountains on the horizon and am really loving being here. I worked my ass off to get here and I made it!

Good-bye Glad

Yesterday we buried my grandmother-in-law. She isn’t actually my grandmother by birth or marriage but sometimes it takes someone’s passing to put things into perspective. I learned a bit more about her life and the impact she had on her family, my partner’s family, my family. She was a woman who spoke her mind, smoked and drank with a regularity almost like clockwork, not excessive, but often. Gladys Moll was loved by all who knew her. She was a country woman, with a knack for gardening and didn’t hesitate to shoot a snake if she saw one or thought she saw one.


Gladiolus, flower of her namesake.

She came down to our place a few times with her daughter, my partner’s mother on the Queen’s Birthday long weekends for a gardening fest and a visit. As the years wore on she didn’t cope with long drives so we only saw her when we went to Mildura for family gatherings and holiday visits. I watched her age a fair bit in the last few years. Her decline was evident in the reduced dexterity in her hands from arthritis and a year or so ago she had a small stroke which left her nearly blind, and sapping much of her vigour and will to live.

I remember one weekend of gardening she sat down with our orchids and separated the bulbs, I’d never grown orchids and the first year I lived in my house, it was a pleasant surprise to find them in bloom that first winter. I don’t know how it would have been for the orchids if she hadn’t separated them but I like to think she has helped me enjoy the orchids for longer than if she hadn’t done it. She loves to be helpful but doesn’t ask, just finds things to do and does them, pruning and weeding as she sees the need.

I didn’t have so much fondness for her at first. I really struggled with her smoking, found it hard to be around. She seemed to complain a lot, the thing I heard come out of her mouth most often, almost a habitual response to anything was “Oh gawd,” often followed by a little chuckle. I didn’t understand her little sayings either. Hearing the eulogy yesterday I appreciated her in a different way. I saw the silly little sayings as part of who she was. I think some of it was a product of her time and her way of making life interesting. I guess when you grow up in a remote farm there’s a need for that. Something our modern world with its technology and fast pace wouldn’t be able to appreciate so much.

When she’d say something that to me sounded odd, my partner would look at me and say, “Have you never heard that saying before.” No. I hadn’t. I didn’t grow up here, I miss a lot of cultural references. At least with things like “It’s going straight to the pool room.” I could watch the movie and understand it. Yesterday I had the funeral service to build more context for the sayings that made little sense to me at the time. It helped me understand who she was in ways I didn’t when she was alive.

We went to the viewing before the funeral, a chance to have a private, open-casket good-bye. I thought there’d be a few people there but it was just us, my partner’s mom and sisters, and brother-in-law. None of them had experienced this before. They were all a bit freaked out at the idea of seeing her dead. I was impressed, she looked very peaceful. It was a nice way for them all to see her looking better than she did in the hospital with tubes and stuff coming out of her. It can give a sense of relief to see a loved one who’s passed, without suffering, and even with out life as sad as it is.

I felt honoured to be able to share the grief with the family, this family I have become part of in the last 10 years. They never questioned my presence or role at the funeral and found myself sitting in the front row next to my partner who was next to her Mom, the other sisters didn’t want to be in the front. The pallbearers looked very smart as they carried the coffin over to the frame above the open ground. I swear the coffin would have weighed more than she did. She was a tiny woman with a big personality despite how unassuming she was. It still feels weird to refer to her in the past tense.

I didn’t go to my grandmother’s funeral. She died a couple of years after I came back to Australia. It was sad that my reality at the time meant it wasn’t affordable to fly back to Canada. But when I think of it now I could have asked the family to fly me back, if it was really important to me. At the time I guess I felt like it wasn’t or maybe I wasn’t.

Grieving Glad was a blessing. It felt a bit like I got to grieve my own grandmother as well as who Glad was in my life. I think I let go of a bunch of other stuff or at least released some of the sadness that had been sitting in me, unexpressed. Being able to grieve with the family at a time where sadness is appropriate felt like a gift. The domain the family primarily operates from is the physical and I’ve struggled in the past being comfortable expressing my emotional self among them. It felt good to be able to cry together. Especially sitting in the front row as the tiny coffin was brought onto the silver frame above the hole in the earth.

At the end of the service people were given a chance to pay their final respects, a basket of flowers and a tin tub of grain was available for people to put on the coffin. It had been lowered a bit but not right down, even that was an emotional thing to watch. It gave the reality of her being put in the ground a sharp edge but still respectful. We went up, took a flower and tossed it on top of the beautiful flower arrangement already on the coffin. And tossed some grain in, likely grown on the farm where she lived. It reminded me of how she was part of the great undeclared pillar of Australia that is its primary producers, growing food for our tables. It’s amazing how you can appreciate things in death in ways that life doesn’t seem to offer. It inspires me to make the most of my life, my relationships, and appreciate who each of them are while we are here, in life.

Money – Moving Through Fear

The idea that we teach what we need to learn is a powerful one. There are those who teach what they know and that’s an important and valid choice. Yet I find myself compelled to teach what I’m learning. I value vulnerability and walking my talk so it’s no wonder that I found myself being vulnerable, opening up a shame filled topic, and teaching what I know, sharing what I’ve learned on my journey. Recognising the value in what I’ve learned along the way and the opportunity I have to help others on theirs, hoping they don’t need to go through the tough slog I did.

Yesterday I co-led a workshop called Money Tools For Conscious Entrepreneurs. Even just two years ago I’d be a very unlikely candidate to be doing this kind of thing. Sure, I’ve worked hard on letting go of my baggage around money but when I think of how far I’ve come, I still shake my head. One of the things I shared in the workshop about my own journey is that I remember taking a screenshot of each of my bank accounts (spending, saving and business) all having less than $10 in each. Today I regularly have 4 digits in each and sometimes my business account has 5. When I took that screenshot of how poor I was I knew it wasn’t going to stay that way and that I’d look back at it when things were different and remember how far I’d come.

From the Workshop Presentation

From the Workshop Presentation

I had another one of those moments yesterday when we were looking at a demo company in Xero, at a profit and loss sheet and what I’d advise the company to do given what I could see in the months of income and expenditures. When I finished speaking, I had a little epiphany. I realised just how much I’d learned in the past year from working with my accountant (that I was running the workshop with) that I could interpret and advise, at least to a limited extent, just from looking at a profit and loss statement!

At the end of the day I checked in with myself about how I was feeling. I was aware that I still have shame around talking about my success as well as my history with money. I anticipated judgement or at least the potential for being judged. Although my story can inspire others who feel like they are crap with money to turn things around, I still have a background concern that people will think less of me for not living up to a standard or being too open about my own history.

It had me thinking about my work and who I am. Yesterday I delivered the workshop from my edge. I wasn’t wholly in my comfort zone. Despite years of facilitation experience, which certainly helped, I felt anxious about sharing my story and offering burgeoning expertise about something I haven’t known about for very long. Who am I to run a workshop on Money? From so many angles it seems ridiculous!

What I do know is about my own journey and I know about mindset shifting and that was the part I was bringing to the workshop, but I surprised myself at how much I had to contribute to the accounting stuff as well. Initially I expected that Bronwyn would be doing that, more or less on her own.

In the past year, I have come a long way. If I can do it, anyone can! When I think of all the people I know struggling to make ends meet, unaware or perhaps marginally aware of their own money blocks, I can only imagine what they could accomplish if a) they moved through those blocks, and b) learned how to manage their business finances.

The work Bronwyn and I did yesterday takes one small step toward enabling this vision. I imagine thousands of hippie millionaires creating subtle shifts as we move mountains. If there were more people with hippie-like values with more money, can you imagine how the world would change? I imagine people buying up land for conservation, protecting wildlife habitat, funding education for women and girls, creating paradigm shifts in social spending and political priorities. This is one of the reasons I want to help people learn about how to manage business finances and empower people to make a difference in the world by working for themselves, earning a great living doing what they love.

42 Things I am grateful for

42 random and not so random things I am grateful for at this particular moment, not in order of importance, sort of.
Emma – for SO many things, loving me unconditionally, learning from our relationship has been pivotal in shaping my self development and practise. This is incredibly valuable to me.
Dad – being able to get to know him as an adult and the time we share fortnightly.
Mom – for giving me my life and shaping who I am today.
Paula – for being my mirror and a guide for my future physiology and being an amazing support all my life especially now that i’m here and my mom is in Canada.
Sally – For challenging me so respectfully, helping me grow in a way that really works for me.
My dogs – for constant companionship and taking me to my sanctuary daily, among the big old gum trees along the creek.
My motorbike – for the thrill and power as I ride.
Kombucha – for keeping my gut healthy and giving me a new hobby!
iPhone insurance – for being able to replace my missing phone within days. Massive gratitude, SO worth the money!
My garden– as chaotic as it is, it managed to give me some beautiful clematis blooms on my birthday IMG_0248
My clients – for the ability to earn a living doing what I love and know I’m good at plus the opportunity to see you as my mirrors and my teachers
My health – especially when I was feeling unwell they day before an important facilitation gig, being able to function as a half decent facilitator felt like the response I was hoping for as I offered to listen more deeply to what my body wanted.
Podcasts – for broadening my horizons and deepening my understanding.
new friends – particularly Fiona and Fleassy, you two have been a real treasure to me this year.
Anne Hunter – for being an awesome business partner and brilliant colleague, knowledgeable, skilled and talented! Sure have benefited massively from all this with YRT this year!
Self awareness – recognising traits like ambivert, pedant.. etc.
Mirror Theory – integrating all aspects of myself, especially those i despise the most and criticise others for!
Flexibility – by willingness to blend ambition with reality. I have 18 things on this list of 42 which may grow later on.

Added Oct 23 (which is still my birthday in Canada!)

Baby Birthday Greetings! – I got two messages from a 4 month old (Fleassy’s Kaia) and from Lily (Emma’s sisters daughter, my niece)! CUTENESS OVERLOAD!
Bag of Love – Emma came home from Gridiron training with a bag of all my fave things from the supermarket, not just treats but healthy stuff too! She knows me well after 9 years!
Future of Leadership Conference – And Rola for connecting me to it, this event is what lead to both the big facilitation gigs I got this year
Retainer – being on retainer is awesome. So pleased my facilitation gig from earlier this year lead to being put on retainer to coach and mentor the new team leaders!
Relax School – for allowing me to express who I am as a second generation team leader and all the learning that came from it and especially for the support from the poly community!
Facebook – for being the conduit that allows me to connect to the people in my life, near and far, new and old.
Walter Lee Elementary Class of 1985 – Thanks to facebook and posting a class photo from grade 5 lead to people tagging themselves through our vast network of connections and I got reaquainted with my childhood companions, first boyfriend and generated a desire to go back to Canada for a visit. I plan to go there in July 2015 for our 30 year reunion! Wow do i feel old but excited to reconnect to that part of my youth!
Entrepreneurial Success! – This financial year I earned more from my business than I did from side jobs, for the first time since I started my business 5 years ago! This feels like a massive achievement and has resulted in the Take the Leap workshop to share what I’ve learned.

Emotional Intelligence

I experienced an emotional catharsis yesterday morning that has lead to some interesting reflections and social media dialogue. Where it came from is inconsequential but the expression of the pain really had me present to how alone I feel in my emotions, how I trust very few people to hold the space for my pain, to support me in a way that really works for me.

I thought about what I wanted. And how I could communicate that. I did some writing and some relevant and timely posts came up on Facebook that I reposted, sharing a bit of what I was experiencing which started an interesting conversation. What follows is some of that, as well as a response to a question a friend asked me. I’ve edited it to make it more clear and expand a bit on what I meant.

When I’m having a big emotion, a difficult, painful feeling, I usually feel most comfortable being alone. I’d love to be able to share this stuff more and to feel supported not just in principle but in a way that feels fulfilling, like I’ve really been gotten, understood.

How people typically deal with difficult and painful emotions is often with a response that leaves me feeling pitied, ugh! And we have a terrible compulsion to console. I DO NOT WANT TO BE CONSOLED or PITIED! I’m sure it’s stuff I’ve done to others in response to big emotions but I’m looking at it from what do I really want when I’m upset? And maybe I can start doing that more for others.

I want the strength and courage it takes to express and release this emotion to be acknowledged and I would love to find more people who I trust to hold the space for me to do that. Is that too much to ask?

From Facebook

For me, expressing the pain that came up for me this morning was about honouring an emotion that emerged. It’s taken me years to move from being numb to emotionally reactive (simply reacting to emotions), to emotionally aware (being aware of how I’m feeling-still working on this one!) to being emotionally responsive, where I can choose how I respond to emotions that come up, especially if I feel safe to express it and let it go. I’ve been getting better at being aware and letting go, it’s an ongoing journey. But that’s just me, on my own, dealing with my own stuff in the safety of my own holding and self love. I want to be able to share these emotions, yet often when I’m around others, I suppress them. I want to feel safe asking for support. That feels unrealistic and fleeting.

We seem to be so focused on being ‘positive’ that we eschew the real raw emotional stuff that comes up and tend to come back with things like 1) “It’s going to be ok.” (Said it myself to others heaps) and I’m not in doubt of that at all, and 2) generally trying to make our friends ‘feel better’ to avoid our own discomfort with big feelings.

I want to be acknowledged for the courage it takes to feel the pain openly, and to feel like it’s ok to express it, to honour it fully. I look forward to the day when our society is more emotionally open and intelligent. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and honouring my feelings in the best way I can and asking those around me to work with me on creating safety to express stuff as it arises.

I hope this is coherent. If I let my perfectionist self take over, I’d totally rework it and drastically diminish the changes of this being published. So here you go, imperfect as it is.

First Confest

My Confest was a delightfully relaxing experience. I gave two workshops, attended two and did some work as a volunteer. Beyond that I was able to completely let go of the need to organise, facilitate, coach, or be switched on to all that was going on around me other than to be a good friend to my friends, connect with new people and have great conversations.

As much as it had been described to me by friends who knew I’d want to go, I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t expect such density. I expected a bit more nudity, and a few more outlandish costumes (maybe that’s a different festival) but I didn’t expect so many tents so close together. 

I mentioned to a friend that I went to the bush to get away but usually there aren’t that many humans around. I experienced having far more people around than I’m used to, especially working for myself and spending lots of time working from home. Perhaps that’s what had me go into a bit of introvert mode. A bit overwhelming, not in a bad way, lots of lovely things and people to see and experience but taking it all in, well, that’s a feat I’ll leave to my subconscious! 

Hanging Out With an Amazing Toddler

I had an opportunity to spend some time with little Diddle, the daughter of a friend, for a couple hours as her parents spent quality time together at the massage tent. I got to be on the edge of the love bestowed upon her as she went around melting hearts with her adorable self. She’s 20 months and very independent.

I was super impressed when we came back from our walk (where she completely forgot about her parents absence) and she helped me pack down my tent. She took the pegs out of the ground (knowing she was capable after seeing her pull up the solar lights stakes the day before) put them in the peg bag, took things out of my tent that I asked for and when I handed her an empty biscuit tray and asked her to hang on to it for recycling, she took it over to the bag I’d put other recycling in and put it in there on her own volition, she’s not even 2 yet! Smart one!

Self Organised Chaos

It felt like a real see saw of letting go and self organisation. There were lots of dirty dishes left in the communal kitchen waiting for someone else to do them or when the person who put them there got back to them, eventually. 

People came to let go and be free to be themselves, express parts of themselves they feel inclined to. It could be their nature loving self, magical self, yogi self, primitive skills self, mud tribe self, conspiracy theorist, peacenik, nudist, masseur, drummer, dancer, fire tender, tarp erector, gate keeper, the list is endless but you won’t find much in the way of the corporate self, the suit wearing, conformist, duty bound, obliged employee. This is what many people come to Confest to escape. Some, strictly based on appearance and stereotyping, it appears, that was never their world. I noticed myself looking at them, wondering how they earn a living. And then, told myself to let go of assumptions and judgment. But I still wonder.

What else did I learn. Oh yes, when i was so chilled and relaxed a few people asked me if i was ok, my response was that this is what being relaxed looks like. I didn’t feel compelled to fit into social norms about polite conversation and engagement, I simply allowed myself to be. To be introverted, to be with out an agenda and wander around the site checking out the various spaces, meeting random people, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was lovely to connect with people and share with them that it was my first time at Confest.

Many looked at me with disbelief. Many expected I’d be a seasoned Confester. And it’s true, there’s a big part of me that is an earth loving hippie that craves community beyond the confines of normal society. 

And there’s a part of me that has made assumptions that once I go to Confest, I won’t be able to re-discover that corporate suit wearing part of me. Oh, do I even want to find that part of myself? Well, there’s a place for it, as much as there’s a place for the self organised chaos of Confest, there is a place for the office towers of disengaged workers and occasional pockets of innovative and creatives businesses. 

I do want to work with them, I do want to help the disengaged workers alter the culture of their workplace, and inspire new ways of doing business. So I don’t need to let that go, and I can put on the suit (like the women at FOW) if it feels like the thing that will help me support a company to change the culture that will help bring some of the self organising creativity that confest is known for. Even if it’s only a drop, as we know a single drop of oil can significantly alter a bucket of water. 

Will I return next year and let my freak flag fly, you can count on it.