Just turning up

“She realised she had this one. This big, bold and beautiful life. And she realised she didn’t want to live it chasing and crying and apologising. Starving and fearing and regretting. She realised she wanted to live it proudly and freely and creatively. Lovingly and fully and sweetly. She realised she could choose. And so, she chose.” Unknown.

The guide leads the ride out of town, yelling in his heavy Italian accent and broken English, “holes”, “this way”, and my favorite, “bumpy.” His arms are flying to communicate signals of where to go. I have no problem understanding given the terrific hand show.

I laugh and shout to him, “I love listening to your accent.” Immediately, he is somewhat alarmed, and moves to my side to question me, “you say you love me?” Oops. I have to try and explain myself, talk my way out of it.

I finally reach a point of maybe him understanding but that’s when another rider, an Australian troublemaker, yells out from the back, “that’s not what you said before.” Great. Now I just look like an awestruck Aussie girl and it is all wrong.

I remind myself you should never use the word love with an Italian unless it is actually love.

His turn now, he asks if we would like to go to taste the ashes of the bean. We all look perplexed. Another Australian translates the meaning. He wants to stop at a cafe where they roast their own coffee beans. What a relief. I’m for all things coffee except possibly the burnt taste.

The conversation and banter is absolutely entertaining. Just like being in the bunch back home but with more room for misinterpretation.

As I said, I love the Italians, but with this disclaimer, no one in particular.

On another ride, we are steadily on a climb. The day is getting hotter as we reach midday and every part of me in drenched in sweat. The guide stops to take photos and as I ride past I puff, “so much for the Italian flat.”  He lets out a mighty shriek of laughter, “this no Italian flat, this is fuckin bastaard climb.” My turn to giggle, seriously, what can you say to that!

Yet another day, my feet were burning from hours of heat and ill-fitting inner soles. The Italian solution, shoes off and feet under the cool of the water fountain. I was a little shy at this suggestion, I mean it is Italy and all about style, but I was assured it would be instant pain relief. Turns out it is true.

With that said, the Italians have got both decorum and practicality. I mean my cycling kit was pretty stylish, and pink, even if I was barefoot in the fountain with my companions chuckling at me.

These are the moments you remember and look back upon.

I’ve become a seasoned solo traveler, and yet with each trip it increasingly becomes about connection. I continue to meet amazing people living incredible lives, opening up my mind and heart to possibilities.

I long to live in Italy, even just for a portion of the year, and I have been haunted by this for some time now. My past three overseas adventures have landed me there, for part, or the whole trip. The fact my great nona was Sicilian might explain a few things!

Although I never knew her, my father’s recollection of how she explained the Italian Mafia when he was a young boy made me instantly love her. Rather succinctly she stated, “they’re only there to shoot the pigeons son.” I cannot look at those birds now without thinking of her.

If only my great nona didn’t donate everything, land included, to the church to immigrate. I’m sure there is an avenue to obtain an Italian passport in there somewhere. I just cannot imagine the paperwork involved, nor the navigation required to do so. Tourist it is.

I do wonder how this will unfold. My life always seems far from boring. I have four teenage children happily settled where we live with a few years of high school left. Sometimes I just feel divided. I have been mothering for eighteen years now, and whilst it is an absolute honor and joy, there is a part of me who is edging beyond the everyday responsibilities of child rearing.

I don’t know the answer…yet. I am curious. I trust the opening in me.

In the meantime, as I explore and look out into the world, beyond mothering, I am continually connected with people who live a little differently, I guess outside the norm. And what is normal anyway? People keep turning up linking me to my next directed step, which allows me to trust a bit more in what is developing.

Speaking of trust, there are many skills to learn as a cyclist, and one of my favorites at the moment is sitting on a wheel. This means you ride close to the wheel in front of you, just centimetres apart. You have to know the rider in front is reliable, consistent and safe. I choose carefully.

Back to Italy, I was always going back there, as I sat on both Italian and Australian wheel of some incredible cyclists, I contemplated often how much you have to trust the rider and the process. Although it is a team effort, I have found it is about surrendering control to the leader for the ride, otherwise it just will not work.

Sometimes you cannot see past them in front, and yet you have to believe they have got you. As I sat on the back of one wheel, pushing 45kms per hour, the fastest I have ever ridden on the flat for a good period of time, I felt this again. Just doing my part, pedaling, judging distance and speed, then letting go and trusting that it will all work.

With that arrives the pure enjoyment of the ride unfolding as it needs to, with speed and ease. Very much like my longing to be on the move and living in Italy, I have my part to do for sure but there is a point at which I hand over what it might look like, and even how it will materialize. As I have always said about cycling, I just turn up, and extraordinary events and connections have transpired.

Remarkably, I also have that same trust in life. Bellissimo.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

About love

I have learned someone can love you with their whole heart, and still break yours.

And that hurt they carry has nothing to do with you, but everything about the relationship they have with themselves.

I have learned no amount of love can heal another’s pain.

They have to love themselves enough to find their own way. I can only walk calmly beside them in their distress.

I have learned that is enough.

And that, this is love.

I have learned if someone wants to wreck something incredible I cannot stand in their way.

I have felt the pain of stepping aside, to take care of my own heart. At times, this has meant walking away.

Shattered.

And that, you can never predict this moment of truth, and its delivery is a ruthless, harsh blow.

Because of this, I understand the wretchedness of leaving someone, or being left, even though you would give anything for it not to happen.

Even if it is for the best.

Loss and rejection has made my heart tender when once it was hardened by fear.

I have learned you have to save yourself when someone is destructively unravelling.

It is down to you or them.

For in my past, I also have been that person grappling and trying to find my way in love, and failing.

Beautifully, this has somehow gifted me the grace to not be cruel even when I have felt rage beyond my understanding.

For the broken deserve the most love.

However, this does not mean I stand willingly in harms way, or that I will not be fierce in protecting myself.

I understand betrayal is not a story about what is wrong with me, but rather where a person is in profound struggle.

I have cultivated compassion, born in despair, both towards myself and others, welcoming healing rather than remaining bitter.

This is freedom and creates heart space to eventually move on.

I have learned you can love someone with your whole being long after they’ve gone.

And that is okay, it is the way it is meant to be.

I have discovered a gentle space within where you do not have to disconnect from your heart. No matter what you, or they have done.

Rather the more you wish them well, the happier you become. I also know reaching this place takes time and emotional fortitude.

I have learned the art of both enormous love and letting go. And eventually being okay with both.

I can live in that contradiction.

For when you open your heart to love, you risk hurt. I have found it is worth the gamble.

I have experienced the opposite too, where I have padlocked my heart. This has meant I closed myself to everything, not just love.

I do not wish to live that lonely way.

There are no guarantees and I have stopped looking.

However, I am learning the way of discernment, for not everyone who stops by is worthy of my heart.

Reaching a place of strength, I would rather allow love to break me open than break me apart. This is within my power.

I have learned a person can only meet you as deeply as they have met themselves.

These days I am able to stand in the invitation of loving someone whilst I take care of myself.

To be fully and humanly present in the ecstasy, mess, joy, and darkness of loving.

And if I find myself bleeding and broken over love leaving, I will hold myself in the grief of these callings.

From loves departures, I am finally in the place where I feel imperfectly whole on my own.

And ultimately, what I have learned is from this space, where I am already complete, only more love can arrive.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Her Time

“She has been feeling it for awhile now — that sense of awakening. There is a gentle rage simmering inside her, and it is getting stronger by the day. She will hold it close to her — she will nurture it and let it grow. She won’t let anyone else take it away from her. It is her rocket fuel and finally, she is going places. She can feel it down to her very core — this is her time. She will not only climb mountains — she will move them too.” Lang Leav

You know that mother who sacrifices her own wellbeing for the sake of all others? The one who is tirelessly (but is really tired) giving of her time to the family and community. She bakes herself silly, attends infinite amounts of committee meetings, helps out in the classroom, runs the household and the kids around, juggling babies, toddlers and routines.

Somehow, she keeps it all ticking along in some of kind order. She smiles when asked how she is, there is no time to be sick or flat. She just keeps going.  This was me.

I’ve driven my kids to ballet, soccer, basketball, football, book signings, art classes, meditation, softball, karate, the list is long. I’ve taken them camping and hiking, introduced them to the wilderness. I’ve lost count of the concerts and sports finals. I’ve made playdough for what feels like a thousand times, read endless books out loud, built mud pits and mowed cricket pitches in the backyard. The fairies even lived in our garden for years, and you know someone had to orchestrate that too. You get the drift.

No one directly asked me to do this, nor did I think I ever made a conscious decision to do so. I did it because that’s what I thought a good mother was. I didn’t question it. Then one day I tried to peer past what my life might look like after raising children, it was bleak. Nothing in fact. I felt innately unsettled. Is this all there is?

Then everything changed.

Don’t get me wrong. Being with my children has been wonderful, messy, hard, awesome, dull, rewarding, downright hilarious, and challenging. There is so much I’m grateful for. There are moments of pure joy, discovery, fun, horror, struggle, pain and grief. What a mix it has been. I love them with a fierce and full heart.

But I had to get cracking on building something for me. I needed me. Beyond mothering.

Before my great awakening, I recall my brother generously offering me a ticket to Europe after my marriage ended. I was shattered into a million tiny pieces, and I still said no. Can you believe that? A quality problem I realise. I could not imagine taking 4-6 weeks out of my life to just take care of myself. I opted for a quick jaunt to Hawaii instead. You know in case they all needed me back home. Hello girl!

A part of my unraveling was a statement I came across, it simply said here’s to all women who say no to be of service to themselves. I was struck by its simplicity, and wisdom.

My how things have changed. I saw how depleted I was, the juggling as a solo mother of four children, and I started to say no.  Not to everything, my kids still have very active and engaged lives, but I stopped the superfluous busy. Remarkably, this opened up spaces in all of lives to be doing what we all really love, and time in-between to be.

As I’m about to take off for another four-week adventure holiday in Europe, ahem my second one in two years without kids, I am no longer worried that they ‘might’ need me. If they genuinely do, I am two flights from home. Fancy that, they can get by without me for a bit. And these days, I will always say yes to adventure first then logistics later.

I had to sit with the question a few years back about what would make me come alive, and I found it incredibly difficult to answer.

As a result of even pondering that question, new worlds started to open up, and it’s taken some mighty courage to push myself outside of those comfort zones. Letting go of that internalized story of who I should be, and becoming who I really am.

Turns out, I am not that mother. The one who will be cesslessly taking care of her children’s needs. I will always, always be there for them but as they are all in their teens now I am handing more responsibility to them. They can cook, make their own lunches, clean their own rooms, get themselves to and from school, one works casually, they understand how to manage their money and time. They are responsible for their own homework and schedules, and everything that entails. If they forget something for school, so be it. I only help out when genuinely needed.

Recently I added the washing program in, that is they take care of their pile of clothes, or not. This has been comical to watch, and they have now successfully negotiated teams to share the load. One less thing I have to do, and one more thing they are extremely capable of.

All of this has opened up time for me to create a vision in the empty space I saw when I looked beyond my children.

Now, on most days Mumma has gone cycling or hiking and has left the house at dawn.

And I always come back, happy.

And the kids are great.

What made me come alive? That would be the time created by doing less for others. This time is where I am Georgina, not mum, not the trauma counsellor, or the daughter, or sister or whatever to anyone else for anything.

And I find my heart is full. I feel empowered and strong. I’m living a life I love.

This flows back into everything, and ultimately my family have a whole, calm and shall we say, an adrenaline filled mother.

The kids continue to call it my mid-life crisis.

I call this my mid-life.

And I found me in her time.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Her heart knows the way

“You have seen my descent, now watch my rising.” Rumi.

My 11-year old daughter swings the car door open, leaps in and greets me with “hello adventure Mum!” She makes me laugh. She has been at her Dad’s house all weekend and we catch up on what’s been happening for her. She asks after my weekend, I tell her about my 7-hour solo hike across the Cathedral Ranges, the 60kms of riding in the hills and a 30km recovery ride afterwards. And then there’s a work day thrown in, and before picking her up I smashed out 100kms on the bike.

Just because it was my day off. Who wants to do housework right?

She turns her head towards me, her beautiful eyes wide open and she exclaims, “Oh mum, I feel like I don’t know who you are anymore!” I look at my baby girl, trusting me wholeheartedly as only a child does with their mother, and respond with a big smile, “oh bella, but I sure do.”

Yep, it’s taken me many years and so much life experience to bring me to the place where I know and trust who I am. And I like that person, a lot. This is my mid-life and Mumma is playing hard. And my daughter, I can see her rolling her eyes, but at the same time I’m aware she’s observing how I live my life. This is the paradox for her, she knows me as her mother but who is this wild woman emerging? You’re not going to fit that into a box anytime soon.

The next day, my daughter was playing her basketball game, and a mother whom I had only met once before sat next me. She seemed a little nervous. As I was wondering what I was sensing, in her broken English she tells me she found out last week I have four children. I chuckle and confirm. What else can you say? This is a common query always coupled with disbelief.

Next thing I know she is reaching into her hand bag and pulling out a trinket, it’s from China, and represents peace and happiness for women. She offers it to me. Maybe she thinks four kids means less tranquility, but I know differently. My inner life is usually still. The most used word to describe me is calm, but rest assured the adventure mum reputation is a current work in progress. And those four kids, my family, are some of my greatest spiritual teachers in that journey. I thanked her for her thoughtful gesture and felt grateful for her random act of kindness.

As we continued to watch the game together, my daughter made a pretty bold move, intercepting the ball. Again, this mother turns to me, clapping her hands and cries, “Your daughter…. fearless.” That makes me so happy. I love hearing people describe my three daughters, and it’s a constant wherever I go. Words defining gutsy young women, including brave, determined, independent, strong and my favorite, feisty.

One man even described my oldest daughter as having some strong feminist views, and I know when he said this, by the way he said it, it was terribly confronting for him. Of course, I asked what his point was? I wish for them a powerful voice and a self-belief where they stand in their own lives knowing they are valued, supported and loved for who they are. So far, so good.

The day after basketball, I arrived at work to a gift and a card from a colleague. Reading it made me laugh out loud. The card said, “congratulations on raising four children, getting the word ‘lycra’ into your bio and riding the most kilometres.” And yes, I did manage to get both cycling and hiking mentioned in my professional biography. This must of been the week for small gifts and women lifting me up. I’ll take it.

The other irony is I never set out to be this woman in her forties who is compelled to be way outside her comfort zone. Yet the more I do, the more I know I am home. The societal rules about how a solo mother with four kids should be are unravelling for me. And yes, sometimes I wonder when enough is enough. The answer isn’t forthcoming so I just keep turning up.

Mostly, what I am called to do cannot be explained in words. I just have to go. My next adventure is in four weeks where I’m taking on a 180 kilometre hike in some big European mountains. I know this is what makes me come alive, like I am breathing deeply into this precious life, really living. This is uncharted, letting go of a life expected of me, and being here instead.  With that, I feel this mantra resonating through me as my constant guide: her heart knows the way. And so she does

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

Smashing it out

“They won’t tell you fairytales of how girls can be dangerous and still win. They will only tell you stories where girls are sweet and kind and reject all sin. I guess to them it’s a terrifying thought, a red riding hood who knew exactly what she was doing when she invited the wild in.” Nikita Gill – Girls of the Wild

With my inherent love for the mountains, how could I say no to our friends asking us to leave town a week before Christmas and camp. Get away from the lead up and the madness? Hell yes. The alternative of staying in the city felt untenable for many reasons. And who could knock back days of swimming in the lake? I was enormously grateful for the invitation as we packed up and left. I had no idea when we booked I would soon be holding a heart laden with grief. This kind of heartache in me belongs in the wilderness, where her tenderness soothes more than any other place I have ever known.

If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll know I’m a girl who honors the call to be somewhere out in the wild, and sometimes that shout out requires some serious logistics to pull it off.  In recent years, I’ve woken up to how vital it is for me to put my oxygen mask on first. I spent years putting myself second, and um, very last, with everything. Turns out those airline safety announcements have actually come in handy!

I borrowed an old road bike for this camp to decide if I would take on this cycling gig back home. From our site, I watched my lycra-loving friend take off to ride and up down the mountain. I was filled with both curiosity and envy about what it would be like to do this kind of climb on a bike. The thought was enticing and incredibly overwhelming, it had my attention. I already felt its pull.

Already climbing on foot with hiking, I knew the joy and exertion in reaching a summit. As I watched my buddy ride off, I recognized a glint of excitement in in his eyes, and I vowed I’d be back to ride up this mountain as my first serious cycling goal. I hadn’t even brought my bike yet. You’ve got to be careful what you wish for. You might just get it. Another wild call.

The next directed step just appeared. Why am I not surprised? I registered for the women’s supported ride up the very mountain I set my intention to climb. Yep it just came up in my newsfeed. Three months into my cycling life I found myself standing listening to the briefing, softly sinking into the muddy autumn earth filled with the same sense of adventure that draws me out hiking.

Nothing is ever straight forward when you’re a beginner, there seems to be so many small fine-tune ups to this cycling. My very next lesson involved having so much mud in my shoe I couldn’t clip in. I didn’t discover this until I was in the bunch riding. Oops. I had to drop off once I realized what the problem was. Did I mention rookie? Yep.

As I stood on the side of the road trying to fix my problem, more bunches rode past asking if I was okay. Internal groan. There is so much humility in cycling. I needed help. And then he appeared. A very loud and Irish ride marshal ringing his cow bell at me. Couldn’t we just do this quietly? Apparently not. Mr. Charming handed me the bell and instructed me to shake it at the bunches coming. You know I smashed that out. Cool, so that’s now off my bucket list.

As my shoe was inspected, he decided we needed a pointy object to service it. He reached for his pocket and said, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, I giggled as he got to work.  As the next bunch came along the now Mr. Swordfighter yelled out, “I’m just seeing if the glass slipper fits.” What a dude. With my problem solved, I declared him my hero for the day, and took off to smash out my first real mountain.

As I cycled up, I called out to another rider to let her know I was passing. Spinning her legs, she puffed, “yep, another person going by me, I think I’m close to last now.” This is where all that math came in handy from high school, I churned the numbers in my head, we were probably in the middle, not the fastest, not the slowest. There was a heap behind us. She seemed relieved.

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Fascinated, she told me about a serious bike accident she had just two weeks ago. I told her she was pretty awesome and gutsy. She immediately tried to rebuff it with negativity. I wasn’t having that. I had also come off my bike a week before on the tram tracks. We were both doing our thing climbing that god damn mountain. That’s worth celebrating. And so is reaching the top.

Taking a quiet moment, I acknowledged my efforts to get to this day, and how I am no longer that person who allows fear to tell me what I can’t do. Interestingly, I quickly label fear but I’m starting to see it’s actually excitement. My inner commitment is to find and do what makes me come alive. The strong hold gripping me for years caring about what others might think has all but gone. Now I am motivated by what I believe of myself. This keeps my life continually opening up to more adventure. Bring it on. My part is allowing myself to be a beginner and learner, and that makes me one hell of a happy girl doing her thing.

After rocking that first mountain climb, there was an optional much longer ride the next day so some of us took off early morning. To say it wasn’t daunting or I was very ginger on the huge descent is understatement (think tram tracks) but I still did it. As I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone, I had to trust in the training coupled with the enthusiastic voices I carry within me of my loving friends, and of my own heart knowing I’m doing what I love. The magic for me is in the turning up. Not just with cycling, but everything in my life.

Going back to the top of the first day climb, another cyclist wanted to ride beyond to see what was there. I knew already. I jumped at the chance to ride a few extra kilometers, actually I always do, and yes there were a few eye rolls when I declared a recovery ride for myself later that afternoon. The sun was shining, we were coming down at a cracking pace and there it was, the lake, I almost squealed. I was returning to a place that knew me well. A few months ago, my tears had softly fallen upon this earth and the lake met me exactly as I was.

And here she was again, holding me in another time where my heart was whole and opening to love. This time she received my happiness. I was on my own bike and was reflecting on how I can never know what will unfold at any moment. Through turning up in the messiness, I knew I was finding my way back to trusting in life. I thanked her silently for I suspect she already knew how the timing of my life is always, always perfect.

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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

The right people

“We’ll be friends forever because you already know too much.” Unknown.

My friend wraps her arms around me, it’s her 70th birthday celebration, without fail she always finds something so loving to say to me when I’m in her embrace.  She is an awesome woman, lived an incredible life with so much dignity, grace and hard work. The smell of her perfume lingers on me for the afternoon as I race about picking up and dropping my kids from the school fair to basketball finals. For some reason, the fragrance gets me thinking about the incredible friendships I have in my life.

Odd how the brain works sometimes. Maybe it’s actually the heart.

As I move with the family’s events, I find different friends popping into my mind with love and appreciation. These friendships span a great number of years and over many, many life events. We’ve travelled, celebrated, grieved, laughed, danced, walked, partied, explored and spent endless hours talking and hanging out. There is a history binding us together underpinning who we once were and who we are are now.

Fair to say I’ve lost a few friendships too, that happens. At times, you just outgrow each other for a number of reasons and I’ve learned the art of letting go. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t hurt or I haven’t experienced the loss but, as I’ve become older I accept that not everyone is meant for the long haul.

And sometimes I’ve even felt enormously grateful they’ve gone.

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Having children changed the way I experienced friendships too. There was no longer the time there once was. I’m pretty sure that cost me a few mates. Having four children in five years pretty much put me in ‘unavailable-just getting by’ mode for quite a time. Then there were the years of post-divorce survival and intense study as I transformed my life.

One friend left telling me I had changed. They were absolutely right, how could I not? I think they might have been saying they needed me to shrink back to the way I was to them. I actually didn’t ask, the attack came thick and fast and I decided to step back, let it all go to the wicket keeper and see what was left. Nothing apparently. As another beautiful friend always says, onwards sister.

These long-time friends have been the kind to not demand my time when I was running on limited output. They are the people who I can call at any time and I know they will not only answer, but have my back to the end of this earth, and then some. They can experience me emotionally unkempt and jagged as I grapple with what life may have thrown at me for that day, month or year.

They can distinguish my sobs on the end of the telephone long before I’ve thought to say it’s me.

Even as I unravel in tears they will at the same time have me gasping for air by making me laugh as we face life on life’s terms together. They can hold me in all my despair, joy and grief but also do not feel obliged to find my answers or solve my problems. We have learned to be there without co-dependency enmeshing itself to our souls. We are free to disagree, to share our wild and fierce opinions and dreams, and even if we don’t really understand why, we will back up in each other’s lives anyway.

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“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” Winnie the Pooh

These are the people who don’t think twice when I tell them about what my next adventure will be. They are the ones who believe I can do what I set out to do. We celebrate who we are: gutsy, wholehearted and true to ourselves. We don’t tell each other to stop, reign ourselves in, or roll our eyes saying, “you should have this sorted by now.”

There is a calm acceptance of where we are at, and sometimes that is at the seemingly bottom of the barrel facing a struggle, maybe a thousand times over. We know life is shockingly difficult at times, as we’ve faced destruction and deep loss, both unexpectedly and by the decisions we or others have made. We have never given up on each other.

We know we are messy as we strive to live this beautiful life, and we just hope it’s not all of us of the same day. So far, so good on that one.

We are an interesting bunch, all ages, spread across many places, with extraordinarily different education and careers. Some of us have kids and we understand what it is to parent day in and day out, to lose your stuff and feel like we’re failing. And we also get to share when we ace it too, and everything in-between.

Some of us were unable to have children, and we’ve walked with each other whilst facing the unbearable loss of both miscarriage and the opportunity. Some have decided to not have a family, and we’ve celebrated this decision as well. Us parents might have put them off!

The mix is rich, the variations are deep, and that is our bond.

These people are the ones I trust when I lose my equilibrium, when all about me seems unfathomable and shaky. We understand there are times where we find ourselves in the darkness and we call to each other so we know we aren’t alone there. Sometimes we pull up a seat and a coffee and sit there, in silent support. This can be enough.

We trust in each other’s goodness and ability to find our way through. We respect that sometimes one of us is not available, perhaps reached emotional or physical capacity, and there are times of retreat.  Other than checking we are okay, we don’t take this personally, and if we do, we talk about it when the time is apparent.

We are not perfect, but I know we are no longer striving to be. We have ditched the rule book and found ways to be who we are in relationship, without drama and emotional chaos. Quite frankly, we have full lives and there isn’t much time for that. I am not talking about a hundred friends, but a good few who have become a part of me for all of time.

They are the ones who have left footprints on my heart and very bad jokes on my voicemail and inbox. They will tell me the truth, even if it hurts, but that same breath will be backed up with love.

These are the friendships I cannot live without.

All images via Pinterest
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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace

For the love of lycra

With everyone sound asleep I leave the house at 6am. The streets are mostly still. I rely on the bike light as I cycle towards trendy Beach Road. The only sound is the changing of my gears against the backdrop of birds singing the world awake. It’s Saturday morning and I’m avoiding bunches who usually start at seven. I figure if I’m out early I can ride quietly and not be overwhelmed by numbers.

As I roll to a stop, giving way to a small group barreling down the road, the silence is shattered by the sound of each rider saying good morning. I look around to see if there are others behind me. No, it’s just me. I’m taken aback by their friendliness and impressed they can even speak at the speed they’re going.

This is how my day begins, riding beside the ocean with the sun rising and the sound of the cyclists all wishing me well as they fly on by. Yeah kind of shows you how fast I am not going. There is something about it, almost intangible as I peddle along, that is pulling at me with each greeting. There is a kindness in such a simple gesture. There are some who don’t say a thing as they pass but the ones who make the effort impress me. It doesn’t take much and it creates a connection, even just for that moment. Reminds that I am not alone. I feel happy.

I am seeing connection everywhere these days. Worlds opening up. The support has been incredible and the enthusiasm for a woman getting on a bike is second to none. I’ve been out riding with a couple of different women’s groups, learning skills and increasing fitness. There has been nothing but encouragement, and a lot of laughter.

As a side note, how awesome are some of the clothing kits. Wild. Just quietly I don’t mind a six foot man in lycra. Am I allowed to admit that? Now I’m a lycra girl with nowhere to hide.  However, here is a tip, you should never refer to Rapha as Ralph in the bike store, it stops conversation. No need to thank me.

Back to my new efforts, most of my life I have suffered from black and white thinking, my mind doesn’t seem to like the middle ground. To my credit, through the years I have learned to see when this polarized mindset kicks in and to ignore the initial cognitive assessment. This was once again evident when I borrowed a 17-year-old bike from a friend to see if cycling was a hit before I brought myself one. Gosh if Sister Lorraine and Father Michael could see me now, so sensible.

This borrowed bike was the clip-in-your-shoe-on-the-pedal kind so that took some getting used to. Yep I took a few falls. My shins, hips and hands covered in bruises for a good few weeks. Ouch. I’m glad one my cycling friends gave me the heads up about not unclipping fast enough. He laughed twice, first when he warned me that falling over was all part of learning and all riders do it. Thanks buddy. I didn’t feel so stupid when it happened. And again. And again. And secondly, he was amused when I reported in with each fall but he also tempered his response with be safe out there, and seriously, what about a bike path? Now that was a good idea.

Three falls in fact, each with embarrassment written all over them. One was outside a building site, and yeah you can imagine. My last one was on a two-laned main road. I had traffic behind me, I timed the turn really well, coaching myself in my head, you’ve got this G and then some pedestrians stepped out onto the road. I needed to stop suddenly and couldn’t unclip fast enough. Yep, I just fell sideways, in what felt like slow motion, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I happened to be wearing bright pink so you couldn’t miss the chick cyclist falling. What was I saying about wild kits?

As I lay there humiliated with cars and trucks stopped behind me, that black and white thinking kicked in. Blow this, I quit, it’s too hard and I do not know what I’m meant to be doing. I pulled myself up, utterly frustrated, and limped off the road to safety with the voice of a kind driver asking if I was alright. I wanted to scream back I’m not alright, this was a stupid idea but I forced a smile and thanked her for asking. My thoughts continued to swirl, why wasn’t I getting this cycling gig? Surely at 46 this is just a ridiculous undertaking! Um, hello girl, you’ve been on this bike for two weeks, on your own. Get help. Sometimes I annoy myself with missing the obvious.

Now weeks on, yes it’s still early days, I’m riding my new bike, it’s a brilliant red by the way, and that help continues to arrive. I have joined a cycling club that runs an awesome beginners group. You know that means more rowdy kit. Facing my fears, I’m learning the skill of riding in a bunch and meeting so many great people. The polarized thinking has relaxed a little now that I am not on my own. I have a couple of cyclist friends who have been so generous in riding with me, and teaching me how to ride safely and confidently on the roads, and cycling paths (yes I took that suggestion on board too).

On my first beginners bunch ride, an older gentleman with the kindest demeanor rode beside me for a time. He asked if he could give me some advice, sweet. Sure, I said. He told me that my bike was my friend, it wanted to help me so how about you stop strangling the handlebars, and relax your shoulders a little. He had me laughing. He was right. I was murdering them with tension.

Now when I ride I have his calm voice in my head. It has been like that with each person who has taken the time to help me. I am grateful I didn’t quit on that last fall, and my next goal is to climb Mt Buffalo, and a few others (wink, wink) before I head to Europe mid-year to hike. Hopefully, I might be able to meet up with others and tackle a mountain or two on a bike. I wonder if there is a kit for that?

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I never thought I’d see the day she photographs her own bike!
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A 45cm sterling silver wearable affirmation to remind your self, or someone you love, who is trying their hardest and refusing to give up that like us, you’ve got this.  No matter what. See https://leaning-inwards.myshopify.com/products/youve-got-this-necklace