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

Being too much

Courage is not shaped by a Wonder Woman cape, it is an everyday girl facing that which terrifies her and saying yes anyway.” Quote unknown.

Two years ago, at age 44, after completing only two overnight hikes of around 20kms each I was compelled to travel to the Italian Alps. Originally, I looked at a hike in Sardinia but June was going to be too hot. Look up North they said, the Dolomites, there are some good walks up there. The Alta Via 1 is around 150kms. I never questioned my ability aside for a few jokes with my friends, I just took it in my stride I would do it.

In hindsight, when you are hiking a path of this scale, it might have been prudent to buy the topographical maps first and have a look. I cannot explain to you the drive that propelled me to choose this one. I did not question the call and I booked my flights. In the end I think my hike was about 200kms. You’ll read why.

I make myself sound like I didn’t do any research. I read a lot. I put out a call on Facebook and sure enough a friend of friend had done it the year before. Awesome. He sent me a billion photos and answered my questions. Did he use a compass? Was the trail hard? Trail markings clear? Problems with altitude? He answered in word, sending more photos of him hanging off cliff faces, holy crap, he looked fit.

I found a reputable tour company and booked a self-guided walk. This meant people knew I was out there and I was expected nightly at each Refugio. Perhaps the question ought to have been, should a gal who has been hiking less than year take on this trip solo?  Maybe subconsciously I knew what the answer would be so I never asked. I refused to listen to fear.

Of course, I trained, well what I thought was training for this hike. I took hikes with a hiking group who all reassured me that I could easily do the AV1. A few of them had done it but I failed to see they did it in a group. I added in stair work and hiking on sand, and for the record that did not prepare me for snow, nor did my regular Bikram yoga classes. Damn it, the snow was a hard slog.

However, as always, yoga prepared for me the mental anguish and despair I faced. I had learned to not give up, acknowledge the pain, name the struggle but keep on going. I also hiked amazing routes above Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast before the AV1, covering many kilometers with steep ascents and descents. The rest of the fitness came on the hike.

A handsome Italian guide, Andrea, briefed me on the maps marked out with highlighter, saying it was easier to follow and he did it for all his clients. Looking at the map, I thought maybe he was just sick of going to search for lost hikers. This was not just one straight path, it was crazing making spaghetti like trails. The map was a one big mass of green and grey with trails of blue, red and a little bit of orange. What the hell do they all mean anyway?

I was about to find out. I have a friend who talks about waking up bit by bit when you’re on a spiritual path, and maybe this was true for your first real hiking path too. There is no argument I wasn’t awake about how demanding it would be. The alarm was about to scream so loud I would be fully awake soon enough.

Back to Andrea, he asked if I had hiked before, um yes. Was I okay about being out there on my own and did I understand that people die on this trail? Sure, I said. I mean the hotel receptionist just called me the adventurous type. I guess that was the Italian assessment of my hiking ability. He said I could call him any time, as long as there was phone range, and if I needed him he could come to me.

He then cheekily suggested meeting me at the end of the AV1 for some via ferrata (Italian for climbing route instead of hiking). I nearly choked on my food. I remember thinking he definitely had an element of likable crazy to him. He laughed, said it would be fun. I did wonder if that was opposed to this not being fun. You know I’m so going to try via ferrata next time!

Had I thought this through? Yes and no. I believed a hike in the Dolomites would be spectacular and beautiful, pretty meadows, stunning mountains and cow bells. What I didn’t know was it would push me beyond all my physical and mental limits, allowing me to witness courage, exceptional fortitude and to uncover how self-doubt can easily rob me of encountering how capable I actually am. This was mighty girl stuff.

There’s a lot out there about moving outside your comfort zone, well this hike took me to a totally new level of discomfort. I experienced a few utterly desperate moments where I just had to surrender and lapse into absolute powerlessness. Paradoxically, I then watched the magic arise through bravery in action: making decisions, finding solutions, losing my temper and returning to a calm state once again. I nearly threw my hiking poles over the side of the mountain at one point. Not helpful.

With mountain after spectacular mountain, both majestic and daunting, I had many moments of awe in the vast spaces I found myself in, I had to stop walking to take it all in. There was fear bordering on panic when I took the wrong trails, like I could possibly lose my mind at any moment. Well some might have argued I had already lost it. At my lowest moments, I just wanted lie down on the trail and take my last breath. Dramatic I know.

Self-doubt was ever present and dominating, screaming through me at what I loser I was to be out here. Ironically, it is the first time I looked at my self-doubt and knew with absolute truth it was a liar, to be pushing my boundaries like this does not take a loser, it takes a warrior.

Surprisingly, I write that with sarcasm, getting lost was a combination of some poor signage and let’s face it my own inexperience. I felt both enormous joy and sobbed my heart out, sometimes at the same time. My toes caused me excruciating pain in the last few days making me cry even more. I lost five toenails in the end. In contrast, my body was astounding and powerful as I walked up, down, over and through knee-deep snow, mud, massive boulders, little rocks, pathways, streams and meadows.

Climbing heights to 3,000 meters where it became this mystical realm beyond the world as I knew it, in-between layers of cloud, where anything seemed possible. I wandered through green valleys to the sound of only cattle and goat’s bells, curiously raising their heads to watch the lone hiker walk on by as they grazed in the morning sun.

Alone for hours in my own company, with both peaceful thoughts and dark, desperate ones. Forced to find my way when I just wanted to give up exhausted. I distinctly recall climbing one mountain, sobbing, and unreasonably wishing for someone to appear before me and hoist me off the mountain. At the same time, knowing to the contrary the only person who could save me was myself, you know be your own hero, by taking step after step to the top. Relief flooded me as the hut came into sight each day (which also meant a macchiato and Italian cake) as I navigated my way along those trails with wonder, doubt, happiness, confusion, agony, aches, energy and a force I never knew I had.

One of the days I hiked with a gorgeous young lady, Allannah, who was taking the same route, she was a perfect companion and geologist, very handy.  Day eight I hired a local guide, Roberto, knowing I was bordering on physical exhaustion with an 18km trek over five snow slopes, one mighty peak and severe descent. I remember the snow easing the pain in my toes. He even carried my backpack, a hiker’s dream. I declared I loved him in Italian. He couldn’t stop laughing. He spoke very little English but he said the mountains were in his heart. I could tell.

As I followed Roberto I remember thinking this is an exquisite walking meditation as I didn’t have to think. Asking for help was totally unplanned but instinctively the right thing to do for that day. Some trails were busy, some were remote, and regardless I kept on until I found myself grief-stricken with sadness on the last day, not wanting to leave these mountains both holding and changing me.

There were two common questions on my return, “did you know what you were getting yourself in for?” Ha, I have sufficiently answered that. Secondly, “what did I learn from my hike?” I saw both a contradiction and an erroneous belief, I thought the more vulnerable I felt the weaker I would be, but as I pushed myself into the most self-exposure I have ever known, the more robust I became.

Interestingly in this state where my thoughts grew dark I discovered I could hold myself in those spaces, indeed I was strongest in what I would once have labelled as pathetic. Essentially, it did matter how I treated myself in those moments, in dropping into extreme vulnerability I found resilience and self-compassion for the tenacity it took to be on the trail on my own. Experience and living in the unknown, the part that is beyond the plan, is where I found the magic, the inexplicable depths of who I am.

Back at home, I was recounting my tales to a woman in her sixties, with my then 10-year-old daughter snuggled into my side. I was a few months into a new relationship and the question was raised “with all this adventure, do you think you will be too much for him?” Well aware my daughter was listening to every word I replied kindly but fiercely, that I didn’t care about being too much for anyone because this is who I am. I realised how far I had come.

I have spent a great portion of my life pleasing others and thinking I am not enough, and now I was being presented with the idea I might be too much. I know this woman had good intention, I love her dearly, but I also understand this is no longer my story. I do not have to tone myself down for anyone nor do I even have the slightest willingness to do so.

In the relationship mentioned, we had talked about the possibility of hiking the Walkers Haute Route together this year. Little did I know this was going to be our last conversation, a few days later we ended abruptly and for good reason. This was a few months back and with my heart broken open, I booked the flights anyway. I am now happily planning my return back to the mountains of Europe, solo. This time I will take with me confidence and the experience I have earned. I’ve even mapped the route myself!

And that girl cuddled into me, well she is one of three gutsy daughters, and I also have a great son. I know they watch very closely in how I live my life. There is no space within me to give up on my dreams because I am on my own. I am busy seeking adventure and daring myself to keep on turning up to life in a mighty girl way. Some may label that too much. I would call it wholehearted.

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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

These are the moments

Every Wednesday morning about 6am the garbage truck arrives to collect our rubbish. Like clockwork, aged 2 to 5, my son jumps out of his bed and runs full force into the bedroom, and into bed. He hides under the covers, cuddled up against me. He hates the sound of it and he finds comfort with his mum. These are the moments. I find it a little amusing and relish in our snuggles, until he outgrows his fear. I let go.

I spend endless years reading books and doing jigsaw puzzles with him. We search the library to try and satisfy his need for Paul Jennings. We go to an Andy Griffith’s book signing. He thinks I’m ace. We bake goodies and he asks me for yet another story. I spend years bowling to him in the back yard. These are the moments. Until he declares that I’m a lousy bowler, and his Dad does it so much better. That is actually true. I let go.

Aged 11, he skips happily away towards the bus. He’s off on school camp so excited to be with his friends. He missed out the year before. A broken collarbone. It’s like he suddenly remembers, turns around to me, smiling, and yells “see you Mum, I love you.” I say it back and with that he leaps up the stairs, sits next to his best mate and starts waving like mad out the window. These are the moments. He then becomes too cool for that. I let go.

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“Little boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older.” Unknown.

Grade six graduation. The kids put on a concert. One of the songs they sing is Hall of Fame.  This night was some 6 years ago and yet etched into my mind like it was yesterday. There he stands singing his heart out to the words “and the world’s gonna know your name.”  He looks to me in the crowd. I know that look, it’s between a mother and her son.  I don’t have to let go, he’s still doing that. These are the moments.

Aged nearly 13, he sits diligently at the kitchen bench as we work out this high school homework timetable. We talk time management strategies and how his day was. These are the moments. After a few months, he asks, “Mum can I go and study in my room from now on, the girls make too much noise?” Of course. I know that’s over too. He collects his belongings and wanders off. I let go. I still bring him cups of tea whilst he’s studying. He always says thanks. These are the new moments.

At 14, he has to do a massive hands-on project. He asks me to help him. He chooses a sustainable house and garden. I spent endless nights with him making clay bricks. We chatter the hours away. It takes a few months.  He writes in his project notes saying we work well together. These are the moments. I feel sadness the day we carry it into school. I let go.

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“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” Peggy O’Mara.

These next few years are hard. He disappears into the tunnel of adolescent boys. He barely talks, but grunts instead. He doesn’t want to be touched. He moves out of the way when I reach for him. He wants to spend most of his time in his room, or watching TV. Any kind of conversation is met with “huh”, “what”, “yeah”, “whatever”. I struggle.  All I can see is my little boy, his curls and big brown eyes looking up me as he asks to be lifted. Still I let go. Every now and then I walk past him and reach my hand out to just touch him on the shoulders. Sometimes he lets me. These are the hard but new moments.

I look to engage him when he is open. Mostly whilst he is sitting on the back deck, taking a study break or eating food. I sit with him. We chat. We make each other cups of tea now. We talk psychology, physics, which I don’t understand, study pathways and he gives me his hilarious thoughts about religion from having to sit in chapel. He has a very dry sense of humor. We laugh a lot. We throw many weird ideas around on that back deck.  It has become a bit of a sacred space, especially so in the warmer months.  These are the moments. I had to let go to get to this. I am grateful.

A rare night out to dinner. My daughters are all away on various school trips. We eat a beautiful Vietnamese meal. I automatically think after we’ve finished eating he’ll want to go home. When you’re 17 it’s all about the food right? Turns out I’m wrong. He says, “let’s not leave yet Mum, let’s just stay here and talk.” My heart melts for the next hour and a half.  I just appreciate this time with him.  These are the new moments.

To now, when he is up on the school stage shaking the headmaster’s hand. He is a bright kid, motivated by wanting to succeed academically. He receives his award, and he looks into the audience to find me. I know he wants to know I am there, even though he knows I am attending. It’s a moment of eye contact and a knowing look. I’ve seen it for many years now, except it is now between a young man and his mother.

Some moments never change.

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“We didn’t realise we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.” Winnie the Pooh……. My son and his three sisters playing soccer with a rock in Paris.
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Finding True North

Unhinged. Full of fury.  A recklessness rising up in me. I cleared my weekend schedule and took to the trail.  Not one of my more sane hikes but nonetheless I smashed about 40kms in under 24 hours.  I could not stop until the rage began to soften within me.  Not generally an angry person, I knew this grief was raw in form.  I felt extraordinarily exposed and like nothing in me was contained. My usual calm disposition was nowhere to be seen. And like many things in my life lately, my intuition was right on par to take to the trail, to hike this energy out.

As I descended one side of a mountain, I could see the cove ahead and I saw two hikers walking along the beach way off in the distance.  I made a mental note that that was where the trail head would begin again after the beach walk. Needless to say, I hiked along the beach, head down, beside myself with frenzied thoughts of confusion and trying to make sense of recent outcomes.  I came to the end of the beach, to what I assumed was the trail and started my angry ascent.

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If we stay present with the rawness of our direct experience, emotional energy can move through us without getting stuck.  Pema Chodron.

Much to my confusion, the trail ran out and I found myself in scrub.  I pushed my way through thinking I’d somehow force myself to find the track.  The bush got thicker and I was seething at myself to find a solution, to bash my way back to the trail. Surely it was around here somewhere. Again, the recklessness screaming at me, and I did not care I was off trail.  I stood there willing the universe to take me on. And then the moment of softening arrived, where I saw myself hurting and lost, realising these are the times people need to be rescued for wandering way off trail.

Disorientated, and not just because I was off track.  I reminded myself of the rule that when you get lost on the trail, you always go back to the last physical point where you were orientated.  I needed to back track.  Within ten minutes the trail head appeared, which I had hiked right past in my heightened emotional state.  I was back walking the trail.  There actually would have been no way through from where I stood in the scrub lost, and as I was so clouded by my emotions I could have made a whole series of dangerous decisions.

And so it is with my emotional life when powerful responses are arising in me. I can see there is a stability and safety in not straying far away from what I know is the core of me.  These intense feelings are there for a reason, they demand to be felt but I also know they are not who I am.  They could easily drive some erratic decisions, if I allow it, and have me acting in ways that would continue to disorientate me into murky waters.

Instead, whilst taking this particular hike, I was reminded I need to keep closely orientated to my true self, to what I know to be nurturing and that which helps me soften, not harden, into the changes.  Feelings are real but they are not facts.  Even when I feel completely stripped bare, I want to lean inwards, and to live this life wholeheartedly.  For me there is no other way.

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You are the sky.  Everything else is the weather.  Pema Chodron.
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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

You’ve Got This

Eight years ago I left what some labelled a good marriage. On presentation, it ticked a lot of other people’s boxes; the business savvy husband, gorgeous children, the huge family home, the holidays and a pretty comfortable lifestyle. However, this perspective depends upon what your kind of boxes are. I grappled for 2 years trying to bridge the widening gap between us. My decision to separate was cemented on the tail end of my ex-husband’s words declaring if I was unhappy it was my problem, but to also remember he had all the money and he would be taking the kids

Needless to say, that launched us into legal proceedings which were endured for 14 months.  Acrimonious they labelled it, which is just a dressed up way of saying it’s going to cost a lot.  I lived the experience that when he does have all control over the money it makes for a powerlessness and helplessness I never, ever want to feel again. For a long time, I sat with not knowing what my life may look like post-divorce, which was reinforced by an ever changing story. In the end, I was pretty sure I never saw the truth, just many versions part-thereof, but by then the cost had gone beyond money. I knew it was the right decision to go but it was a naïve undertaking. See above.

In a metaphoric sense, to stay in my marriage felt like I was amongst the living dead. What I didn’t understand back then, and really why would I, was that this would be the very unravelling of me.  Little did I know this collapse would continue for at least 5 years afterwards, it was so far in my 46 years on this earth, the hardest, most difficult time of my life.  Everything changed. I was challenged on many fronts as every part shattered into what I thought would be irretrievable pieces of me. I felt intrinsically broken for a long time. I think I was.

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This decision catapulted me into solo motherhood of four children, a changing identity that had more punch than I ever anticipated.  I was judged. I was criticized. I was gossiped about. I was bullied. I was threatened. Aggression was delivered upon my front doorstep for years.  The distain was palatable. Family relationships changed, and some ceased all together. Friendships ended.  I lost any sense of whom I could trust, aside from two family members and a few friends, I backed away from a lot of people.  I faced a clinical depression for the first time in my life, sleeping maybe an hour a night as I began to live in a haze, barely functioning along side many desperate and dark thoughts.  Warning signs that should not be ignored or down played.

In spite of this, and with the right professional and spiritual help, I began wading through the cauldron of loss and despair, and uncovered something beyond that wreckage and heartache. I somehow found myself rising through the wake of my divorce with an incredible call to keep changing my life. To back myself in a way I had never done before. I didn’t have the words back then. I think I always had this longing to come home to my self but it took being annihilated to find it. Yet, this homecoming did not appear all at once in some magical moment, but rather it emerged as I began to move from threat and survival into living, wholeheartedly so.

In the past 8 years, I have almost completed the equivalent of five years full time university study, culminating with graduating my Masters at the end of this year. I started a small business, a counselling practice, where I have interest in grief, trauma and addictions. We have created a new family home in which I have continued to mother our four mighty children.  And rather randomly, I have taken up hiking. To really kick this off I went to the Dolomites in Italy a year ago and hiked the Alta Via 1 on my own, all 150kms of it. Hmm, there seems to be a solo theme here. I want to exclaim I do not know where I have found the strength and energy to do all of this but in the spirit of backing my self, this is who I am.  Empowered, capable, and perhaps a little mad.

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There is the honourable mention of being a sober alcoholic, which I must say is contradictory to read the word sober and alcoholic in the same sentence. I am grateful for being sober, and it has been a long time, 27 years of abstinence.  I found sobriety at 19 years old, or rather it found me, so that makes me a teenage drunk.  I was on a reckless and downward spiral into destroying myself.  To say I’m sober must include that this happened in spite of myself.  I wanted to keep drinking until I couldn’t feel anymore, I wanted everything to dim out.  Forever.  Just quietly I’ve had some life experience.

Painstakingly I’ve slowly awakened to the truth that only I can make myself happy, I cannot live my life through anyone else. I’ve learned I am accountable for all of my actions, my feelings and my thoughts, and especially my wellbeing. No one has the power to control me, unless I give them that gig.  I no longer accept aggression or verbal violence as someone having a bad day, now I close the front door or walk away. I don’t care that the communication doesn’t get finished, it has ceased to be my problem.  My responsibility was addressing what it was in me that minimised and accepted that in the first place, and let’s say that’s been a journey! People can easily judge your life sitting on the sidelines, and they did, but the truth is they are not living yours every day.

I certainly do not live my life perfectly. In fact, there have been countless moments where I haven’t understood what I am doing, where I have made some what I’d call monumental mistakes; trusted the wrong people, gone against my intuition, questioned my parenting, given too much to people and too often, allowed those 3am negative thoughts to pummel my self-esteem, and much more.  Sometimes wondering if there is even punchline to all of this. Like it’s a cosmic joke or worse. At times, I have felt so alone, absolutely questioned my purpose and thought if there was truly a God, it has sure abandoned this ship.  Frankly, the idea of God is a current write off.  However, I believe in the power of good, and of love, thanks to those gorgeous and amazing humans who are my people.

Through all of this I have had to keep coming back to my self, realising there is no one coming to save me.  I have had to save my self.  You know, be my own hero.  This realisation as I said has been bone-achingly crushing and ruthless, but it sure got my attention to where it needed to be.  With me. I have lived with the story I am not enough for a long time.  It had to change.  It is changing. My big life lesson, if you want to label it that, has been finding myself through everything I have both endured and experienced, I have discovered what it is to begin leaning inwards.

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I found myself asking what if I leaned into the discomfort itself rather than pull away, looking for all sorts of outside influences to make me feel better?  What if I backed myself, no matter how messy it got? What if I could tell myself I’ve got this?  Surely, evidence shows that I have. I have fronted up, day after day, feeling utterly defeated at times and not knowing how I was going to crawl my way out of the unravelling.  But I have.  I am here. I am a lot more willing these days to lean into the discomfort, face what is arising in me rather than desperately trying to find something else to fill the ache.

Returning to the hike in the Dolomites, the same questions kept arising in my mind, what if this boldness I was experiencing was an intrinsic part of me?  What if it had been there all along? What would my life be like if I tried to live this every day? I thought I was experiencing extreme fear in those Italian mountains and in actual fact it turned out to be excitement, exhilaration and joy, maybe fuelled by adrenaline, but it was a positive, not a negative. It just got me thinking the way I often see myself is not the way I actually am. Remember that homecoming to my self I mentioned earlier? Well exactly that.  So much so, I’ve registered the business name, Leaning Inwards, started this blog, and created some products, which will be launched in the coming weeks on this page, to hopefully help others recognise and know they’ve got this too.

Even as I write there are parts of me that flinch with the thought of putting this out there. Alternatively, what if this hesitation is an opportunity daring me to courageously step up to my ideas?  That’s not fear, that’s bravery.  It’s time to own the boldness as a part of me, not something I had once hiking in Italy. I understand there are so many people facing so much, significantly much more than I ever have, and I want them to know, you to know, you can do this too. Fear will attempt to dictate the worst that could happen. Discontent will demand you look outwards for the answer. Pain will whimper it’s too much. Doubt will want you to question your ability. But what if you were to lean into your fear, discontent, pain, and doubt? There is no safer place than coming home to your self. I call it Leaning Inwards.  This is to remind you. You’ve got this. And then some.

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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

Go hard, or Go Home

Earlier this year, my 14 year old daughter and I took to the trail to hike the full length of the Overland Track, feeling confident we could ace the 80 kilometres together. Admittedly, doubt arose when said daughter turned up the day before we left with new acrylic nails, an untimely but generous gift from her grandmother.  She said it would be both glamourous and an additional challenge to see if there were any left by the time we finished.  The joy of teenage rationalization. I guess though if this was teenage risk taking starting to take place, as a mother, I needed to be grateful.  I did remind her that a broken nail did not constitute a helicopter rescue. You know, just to lower expectations on that front.

For a fun gift, I brought us two bracelets, one said “Squad” and the other “Goals”, which we wore for inspiration, it’s the small things. Needless to say, it was an awesome hike.  Plenty in it to be physically demanding which also pushed mental boundaries, something I know we both enjoy.  We carried some 20kgs plus water each in our backpack and I declared ourselves to be mighty girls.  A phrase we often threw at each other as we walked up and down steep and rocky slopes, over unrelenting exposed tree roots, and through puddle upon puddle of mud and slush in the sopping Tasmanian rain.  If there was ever an experience of uninterrupted mindfulness, this hike naturally created the absolute need to be in the moment.

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We had planned a six to seven day trek but my daughter had other ideas, she was pumped and I suspect it wasn’t just the chemicals involved in attaching acrylic nails.  She is competitive by nature, and possibly nurture, as certain family members have similar traits, although we won’t mention names.  She once told me one of her favourite expressions was “go hard or go home”.  When it comes to sport, she will give it her all and then some.  We finished the hike in five days, which meant we had four 17-19 kilometres days, all determined by Little Miss Go Hard.  Hmm, there could be a book in this.

Happily, I went with her squad goals as I am a fan of human behavior, and got to witness my daughter being herself, pushing her body and her mind as much as she could.  I could have told her to take it easy and even restricted the hiking length in our days. However, I saw it as an opportunity for her to experience how strong she was, probably beyond what she started out believing at the beginning. There was no doubt, the last few kilometres in those long days had both of us struggling, but there is something so incredible about thinking you cannot go on, and doing it anyway.

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As for expectations of our trip, I didn’t have too many, nor did I plan to provide my daughter with opportunity to increase self-image. Interestingly, through my own experience and observing Little Miss Go Hard, hiking compels moving beyond what we think we can do and fosters an increased innate belief after the fact, that is when you’re finished. Whilst you’re hiking you have to find the inner and physical resources to get to the destination and sometimes this involves facing disbelief, mostly in yourself. This skepticism lurks on any given day, waiting to unhinge any spec of confidence by asserting you haven’t got what it takes.  This requires you to step up, and not just with your feet. I have loved seeing that unravel and resolve in both of us.

Interestingly, someone lovingly said to my daughter, “I bet you and your Mum had a great time, especially the opportunity it gave you to talk about future dreams and secrets that only a mother and daughter share.”  My daughter looked at me, momentarily puzzled, and replied “ah no…. we talk like that all the time not just when we are hiking.” I was surprised by that reply. More importantly though, I think it offers insight into how one can be so intensely focused in one area of their lives, aka Little Miss Go Hard when it comes to being competitive, but also be well balanced in other aspects.  In close relationships, she knows emotional consistency rather than an all or nothing experience.

Finally, I would never try and change her drive, it is admirable and fiery. Rather, I am hopefully fostering that although she can go hard whenever she wants, if she feels the need to go home, I would like her to know and connect with that she is already there.  There is nowhere to go, she has everything within her to always be home. I would call that inner balance and belief. Just quietly, it’s part of the ongoing and unspoken squad goals.  I think it was worth the hike.

 

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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

 

 

Superwoman has Resigned

Life can become very busy, especially in a society where occupied time is valued as achievement.  The busier you are the, the more you must be kicking goals, no matter the personal cost.  I love the saying “stop the glorification of busy”.  I have spent the last while slowing my life down, on purpose.  Not such an easy task with four children, studying a Masters full time, running a small business amongst the usual array of commitments, responsibilities, life happenings and celebrations.  However, I was determined to start enjoying life at a pace that had me in the moment, not crossing things off my list and rushing to the next thing.  Where is the serenity in that?

Not an easy task, but I have found effective ways to actually move into a life I think is more considered, and much more enjoyable.  The first thing I did was respond with no thank you or I will think about that and get back to you, because I always automatically said yes.  I heard years ago “if you want to get something done ask a busy person.” For a long time, I believed the more I did the better I was as a human.  I was a human doing, not a human being. This went on for years. Do not get me wrong, I have really enjoyed many things I said yes to but I reached a turning point where I needed to get the focus back on my life – specifically family time, study, career and relationships.  I had to look at my hours in the day and what I could realistically achieve. This meant a big evaluation of where my time was going, and a lot it was on service to others, in many different capacities.

I made a decision to be very considered about who I spent my time with.  I have some amazing and wonderful friends and we do not get enough time together as it is.  I stopped distracting myself with allocating time on matters that weren’t important to the family or myself.  This took some newly acquired pauses instead of instantly saying yes because I was asked. To do this, I considered my available time, what my current capacity was and if I wanted to turn towards or away from a new invitation.  I have focused on not spreading myself too thinly just because someone or something is asking for my time.

I am not sure about others but working part time for myself and studying from home, I am inclined to receive more social invitations during the day. I started to structure my week so I knew when it was a work or study day, and it has become not negotiable. Having said that though, my close friends are very good at receiving and respecting a “sorry cannot do that right now, writing endless essays” response.  They are used to that, and they are my true friends.  I know they will be still be there when I finish studying.

Simply, I got tired, both emotionally and physically, of trying to juggle really busy schedules for five people.  I started to say no to some of my children’s requests for joining more sports teams, and I have encouraged the older ones to start taking public transport a bit more often, which means less driving for me.  I certainly have been ridiculed for these very decisions, and not by the kids. However, even in the face of this judgement I have to continually come back to trusting myself and my new limits.  Really it is none of anyone’s business anyway.  At the end of the day, I am flying solo, I do not have an extra person earning household income or contributing to the logistics of our lives.  I believe what I do is good enough. I no longer have to be a self-appointed superwoman. She resigned a little while ago, without notice, and she’s not coming back.

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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