World AIDS Day

In 1998 I started working for an AIDS Service Organisation. Jim took me under his wing. He was in the Education Team, I was the new Volunteer Coordinator.  He was the first person with HIV that I’d met. He taught me everything I knew. He taught me about the virus. How to educate people, what an educational moment is and how to use this to fight ignorance.

He helped me understand why people still contracted the disease when they knew how to prevent it. He helped me understand the impact of stigma and taught me how to care for people with HIV and fight the stigma by treating people like human beings, who deserve love as much as anyone else.

Jim hated World AIDS Day as a single day of the year for people to show they cared and be off the hook the rest of the year. He resented the fact that for people who don’t have HIV, they can do a day a year, whereas everyone with the virus, lives with it every day. And many of them die alone, uncared for, rejected. For many, the self-loathing drove them to further risk-taking behaviour, isolating themselves, reflecting their perception of how they thought society viewed them.

In the years I spent working for the agency it was a time where the population infected was transitioning from predominantly gay men to the street entrenched community, sex workers and those who use drugs by injection. This brought a lot of conflict and tension into the space but our primary focus as health care providers was to be a safe place for people to come without judgement. This was difficult when the gay men judged the street people and vice versa.

But there were also people who used the disease as a reason to live life fully. I got to know these people, the ones who were hurting, the ones who were health-focused, the ones who scared me at first, and even the ones who frustrated the shit out of me. I learned from all of them. I learned to let go of judgement and see the human behind the disease, behind the bad behaviour and hurt, the acting out and the drama. I grew as a person because of my experience with them, because they let me help them. I am so deeply grateful to all the people I worked with, clients, colleagues, co-workers, volunteers.

One of the people who started as a volunteer for me is now the CEO. And the organisation is still full of people who care and are committed to providing a safe place for people to be, and addressing the complex issues associated with living with and preventing the disease. The stigma is still very much alive and fear is still a huge response to the word AIDS or HIV.

Jim passed away within a year of my return to Australia, but his cheeky smile and his quirky ways are still with me 12 years later. Thank you, Jim, I’m forever in your debt.


This is post 29 of 45 posts for 45 years.

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.

Day 31!!!! Self love challenge complete!

It’s the final day of the blog component of the self love challenge. The practices will continue for who knows how long! For as long as it seems useful. Although I am noticing subtle shifts, it feels like a long way to go to significantly improve my relationship with myself, impact my self worth and alter my day to day existence.

I have really enjoyed this challenge, especially writing every day. Although this is my heart-mesecond blog challenge, this is the first one that was self initiated and one I felt I fully owned. I certainly have experienced a shift in how I relate to my blog, including more personal experiences and events. I’ve been reluctant to bring that into a public space but from the feedback I’ve had, it’s mostly people I know reading this anyway. I’m not yet at the stage where people not known to me are reading my blog and keeping my distance isn’t going to change that.

Today I got my hair cut. A few hours later after accomplishing a big task I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and felt very appreciative and delighted! Interesting that I find it easier to be self loving in the mirror when I have short hair. I was saying to the hairdresser that when it gets too long I stop recognising myself as an expression of how I feel. I get a lot of people saying they like my hair when it gets longer, I really don’t like it at all! It just doesn’t feel like me.

So on this last day it feels appropriate to share some of the key things I have learned.

  • Some meditation is better than no meditation.
  • I know I’m doing well when I do several of my practices. Yoga is a given, plus meditation, plus writing or mirror work, reading etc. The more of these I do, the higher the indication that I’m in a good space.
  • Conversations with others help me see things I can’t see on my own, put things into perspective and illuminate progress.
  • Repeating the “I love myself” mantra is a practice that is worth sticking with, and staying present for. The longer I do it, the closer I get to actually experiencing self generated self love.
  • When the self love practice becomes reality in the moment, it feels sweet, nurturing and like I’m getting a really nice hug. This is something to cultivate.
  • I’ve come a long way and I have a long way to go!

Thanks for all your support. Your comments really make a difference, even on past posts. Feel free to read the others if you haven’t and let me know what you think, what difference it makes to you. With deep gratitude for your attention and support!

Day 24: Worth it?

I’m impressed that I’ve made it to day 24! Woo hoooo! Celebration! I even meditated for the second day in a row this morning. Not a great quality meditation but gives me more incentive to keep going and do another one tomorrow. I’ll do it after a dog walk, today it was raining so the girls were itching for a walk but sat with me while I meditated, not so subtly dropping hints for attention.

Just before I went to sleep I saw that I’d been tagged in a facebook post, it was a discussion about questioning the anti-wealth sentiment in our society. One of the things I’ve noticed and uncovered in myself is tied up in my fear of becoming wealthy (that sits beside my desire to earn a lot of money, and grief about not earning as much working for myself as working for ‘tha man’) is about my relationship with myself especially worthiness. Brene Brown talks a lot about this in The Gifts of Imperfection.self-worth-matters-300x220

It’s one of the motivators for me to do this self love challenge, to improve my relationship with myself, which you’d think would have a positive effect on my self worth. When my self worth has improved, ideally that will help me shift out of the rut I’ve been in about earning money. The transition from employee to entrepreneur has been a rocky one for me.

I have an infinite amount of motivators to earn more money, yet it feels like there’s a glass wall that I keep hurling myself at. With this challenge, I’m stepping back to see if there’s another way to remove the wall, to enable me do things like get a new hot water system and fix a growing list of things around my house. Not to mention paying the mortgage and not having to worry about what happens when my old dogs need more vet care. And on a grander scale, I envision being a philanthropist, supporting some of the great initiatives that are making a difference and advancing our society toward a more enlightened existence.

As I begin to love myself more, will I free myself up and value myself more so that I attract what I’m worth? I don’t know. I can only guess and do what I think will hit the mark. I’ve done all sorts of things that seem like a good idea, that might dismantle the wall and provide some new tools or clearer direction for getting me where I’m going. I know I’m capable of greatness, I help my clients uncover theirs all the time, just can’t do it for myself. I’ve had some great coaches too and still it feels like something is missing. I’d much rather write about what I’ve accomplished and how well I’m doing but it feels important to be real as well. Watch this space, I know I’m on the precipice of something big!

Day 19: Why do we do what we do?

This morning I woke up to the dogs alerting me to someone at the door. It was my neighbor with my chooks in hand, upside down, by the feet. They seemed quite relaxed, so much so that I thought they were dead at first. I don’t know how they got into their yard. “They were eating my vegetables” he said. I responded “I’m so sorry!” I took them from him, and took them back to their fenced area.

I inspected the fence and found part they may have gotten through but there were already bricks on the other side. He wasn’t taking any chances they’d get in through a second time. The chooks are part of the reason I don’t have veggie garden this year. And after the historic heatwave last week, I’m glad I don’t have one. (Never thought I’d say that!)

I’m also aware of a significant amount of shame I have for not ‘controlling’ my animals. In my ideal world we have no fences and animals roam as they please, no leashes, no boundaries. I didn’t say it was practical, just ideal. Until then, the shame is likely to be present.

Today I sent off two invoices that are drastically overdue, one eleven days after seeing the clients and one nine days after the event. What prevents me from sending out invoices? It’s not a priority, doesn’t seem as important. I know it will go out eventually. Money isn’t the main reason I do my work. Not a reason to get down on myself, but clearly something else at play. Self worth? Not sure, probably in some form. I’m so ready to let go of that shit!

Why do we do what we do? Why do I go to an event where I know quite a few people but subconsciousfeel most comfortable talking to people I met at the same event two years earlier, for most of the first hour I’m there and then the second hour letting go of my social awkwardness to connect with new people and others I’ve seen before, even a friend I haven’t seen in five years!

I hope the hypnotherapy course in February gets me closer to understanding or getting access to understanding the subconscious world at play that has us do what we do despite what we want to do, ought to do or really could do if we didn’t have our own shit in the way.