Selflessness

I am all about self-love and having a strong self worth, however I will always be grateful for my experience with selflessness. It was a beautiful feeling to totally sacrifice myself for my husband in his moment of need. It felt pure, real and strong. When I am feeling a little self consumed it is heartwarming to remember that I truly experienced unconditional love in its highest form. It was truly beautiful to whisper in his ear “I will be alright, don’t worry about me“.

 

Australia Day

Well, here we are again – Australia Day, which for me means five years since I lay down, one last night next to my husband, before he gracefully took his last breath.

Grief continues to be a great teacher. I have learnt perspective, patience, tolerance, acceptance and gratitude for the present moment and so much more. I have also learnt that it is ever present in every moment guiding me and shaping the person I am.

Grief continues to force me to learn about Me and who I am. The five years have challenged me to find my voice as an individual and as a woman. I can no longer hide; I have to stand proud, raw and vulnerable. I have to do things that scare me and push myself until the butterflies in my stomach go wild. I heard once that each step beyond your comfort zone will reveal to you the infinite possibilities that live on the other side of fear. You simply have to take the leap to experience them.

Silence at times over the last five years has simply taken my breath away. Gradually I have learnt to embrace the silence, the peace and the quiet. In this silence I feel as though I found the true me.  It has been said that in the quietest moments our soul is the loudest.

“OUR SILENCE CREATES SPACE TO LISTEN. OUR LISTENING CREATES SPACE TO TAKE NOTICE. OUR NOTICING CREATES SPACE FOR AMAZEMENT. IT IS OUR AMAZEMENT THAT GIVES US THE ENERGY TO CREATE CHANGE, WHETHER THAT BE IN OURSELVES, IN OTHER PEOPLE, OR IN THE WORLD”.- Annie Rosenbauer,

 

This silence made me stop and forced me to answer the big questions – who have you been, who are you, who do you want to be.

This silence or being alone can be unbearably heartbreaking and healing at the same time. I recently went to Byron Bay, stayed in a sensational spot and explored Byron on my own.  I am telling you this story because at dinner, sitting in a restaurant alone really tested me. I am very happy going to the movies and sitting in a cafe with a good book but being dressed up in a restaurant  pushed my insecurities and my ego to the limit. I was in public surrounded by couples and groups chatting and laughing, I went against my golden rule and used my phone and messaged a friend in a call for help. She wisely replied with some great advice then suddenly my food arrived, I savoured every mouthful, enjoying the taste sensation and suddenly I had a wonderful night. I began chatting to a local couple sitting next to me and we had a surprisingly open and honest conversation. I did it, it may not be a miraculous feat but it made me feel empowered.

PicCollage

My solo trip to Byron Bay also reminded me how much I enjoy building connections with people. I would love to say that I don’t need anyone but in this area I am fatally flawed because I love spending time with people, I love conversations that can be both humorous and meaningful. I am grateful that grief has allowed me time for personal growth but I am also so grateful that I have truly learnt to value the time I have with people in my life.

Ultimately though, I have learnt that I am responsible for my own happiness and so each day in spite of my imperfections and flaws and challenges of daily life I consciously decide to fall in love with my life.

So in the spirit of embracing life this Australia Day I am celebrating with my gorgeous children and family. Last year we picked our favourite photo of my late husband and shared a story and this year we are sharing a special song that reminds us of him. Music continues to play such a large role in our lives and I have an abundance of songs to choose from.

The selections of songs will be interesting especially from my children. Last year everyone had a photo of my husband either as an adult or a child and had a great story to go with it. We have a large number of fabulous photos but for this task my son went in a different direction. He took his own photo of our back area and printed it out and displayed it with the other photos. When it came time for us to explain our choice of photos we sat in a circle and were intrigued by what my son had to say. My fourteen-year-old son said “this photo is special to me because Dad played handball with me here”. It goes to show that it is often the simple things that make the biggest impact. That special act of giving someone your time is so precious. Grief has taught my children and I the importance of spending time with each other and has also taught me to value each moment and even embrace time with just me.

So a very happy ‘Australia Day’ to everyone. I hope you can give someone the simple gift of your time because it is truly precious.

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Ending and new beginnings

By some very strange coincidence or example of sychronicity I just received the below message on my blog:

“It has been a while since you wrote a post. I hope this emotionally intelligent man is still putting a smile on your dial”

The short answer to this question is – no he isn’t and the long answer is slightly more complicated. Just last night the relationship ended after five months.

At first I was fearful that I would be back to where I started – alone and experiencing loss – but then I realised that I was not back there because I had learnt so many things in this relationship. He challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone and I am so grateful for this. I actually grew as a person. I actually really appreciated being given this opportunity to see another perspective, another point of view and I now know that I will always seek out someone who challenges me and someone that I can challenge, so we can evolve and grow together.

In reality no matter what positive perspective or spin I take from this relationship ending, it still hurts but I am prepared to be real and feel it. As always in my life I am not prepared to numb these feelings. A wonderful person recently said to me “you have survived worst” and I agree I know I have the strength to survive this but I also want to allow myself time to not push away the feelings. I will miss this amazing man who briefly came into my life. Whenever something great or funny or big happened it was truly wonderful having someone I could ring and share this with. Our phone calls at night and having his hand in mine was just so lovely. It is sometimes the little things that mean the most and it is often the little things that I miss.

It could have been different and I am totally prepared to take responsibility for this but I felt proud to tell my children that it is ok to want more and it is ok to ultimately think that you are worth it. I am on a very steep learning curve discovering my faults and imperfections, strengths and goals and that is definitely ok by me.

As I heal I can begin to focus on what makes my heart sing and appreciate everything that brings me joy in my life. It won’t be a walk in the park but hey I am up for it!

So today, this Fathers Day, I woke up to the most heartfelt cards from my children reminding me of the great job I am doing as both a Mum and Dad. We enjoyed a beautiful breakfast together and I know that no matter what happens, even when they can sometimes be teenagers, I will ultimately always have my greatest supporters standing right next to me in happy and sad times.

Happy Fathers Day everyone!

Becoming a fighter

I thought my last post would be my last but this morning I wanted to share some thoughts with you all.

Seven years ago today my late husband was diagnosed with cancer. Has this time gone fast or slow? The answer is a bit of both. So much has happened and changed yet other things remain the same.

I love this line from the book The Fault in Our Stars

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

Coping with a loved one being diagnosed with cancer, then becoming a carer and finally becoming a widow definitely revealed who I was. It magnified my strengths and weaknesses.

Ultimately though, today represents a day that changed my life forever. I remember the strong determination I felt to fight it and beat it. It was like putting on boxing gloves and getting in the ring with a powerful competitor and fighting the fight of your life. I didn’t hesitate or think of myself because I was going to protect my family no matter what. During this time I took the punches and just kept moving forward. No matter how many challenging and difficult experiences life sent me, and no matter how many painful situations, I always found a way to cope.

This determination remains today and I will continue to come out of these “battles” with my head held up high and a big smile on my face. Seven years later I still have the greatest role of being a protector, supporter, nurturer, encourager, fighter and mother.

Rocky

New Beginnings

I am a great believer in honouring each stage of my life. I honoured grief by really feeling it and allowing it to wash over me and will continue to do so. I honoured a diagnosis of an illness as a time to stop and reassess how I was approaching my life. By honouring these stages and not ignoring them or running from them I have become more self aware, more resilient and have become acutely aware of who I am and what my strengths and weaknesses are.

I have spoken in great detail about my challenges with these changes in my life and I have been very vulnerable at times and will continue to do so. Writing and journaling has allowed me to express my deepest thoughts and feelings.

Many people who know me have commented on my general attitude and vibrance at the present moment and so I thought it would be remiss of me not to write about this stage of my life and celebrate it as well. In a nutshell, I am feeling sensational and unstoppable.

Starting over and rebuilding my life has not been an easy thing to do and I am not finished, in fact it will be a continuous process. I had to learn to be patient and gentle with myself by treating myself with love, compassion and understanding. I have had to learn to surrender to what is and embrace my reality.

In the process I seem to have rediscovered my own femininity and confidence which means I am proud of my body and instead of hiding it, which I often did, I am embracing it for what it is. I also continue to treat my body as a temple, nourishing it and appreciating it inside and out. Ultimately I have learnt to make peace with my body.

I now have an inner knowing of who I am and therefore have confidence in my own opinion, which in the past I sometimes did not trust or always listen to. This does not mean I need to express my opinion or force my ideas onto other people, in fact it means the opposite. I am more open to everyone’s right to have their own opinion because of the very fact that I myself value and trust my own.

Expressing gratitude daily has allowed me to value even the smallest and simplest things in my life. I use a simple app on my phone which alerts me at a certain time each day to record what I am grateful for. The app even allows me to add photos which I love because sometimes a photo tells a thousand words. (Check out Gratitude Journal in the AppStore! http://bit.ly/thegratitudeapp) “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” Oprah Winfrey

Another weird thing that I always do is have music playing around me, even when I am in the shower. There is something uplifting about rocking out to a song and dancing like nobody’s watching.

I also began by starting at the end by asking what kind of life I wanted to create for myself. With this beautiful image in my mind I was able to build my life. On the other hand, I also had to be flexible and sometimes go with the flow trusting life and stop waiting for my “real” life to begin.

All of this work and self-improvement has actually highlighted that the real me was here all along. It is interesting that the biggest changes occurred in my life when I started accepting my true and authentic self. Not until I realised I already had everything I needed in order to feel happy did I amazingly feel happier.

While feeling so good it shouldn’t come as a surprise, and yet it still does, that an equally emotionally intelligent man has stepped into my life who quite frankly puts a bright smile on my face. It is very early days but I am enjoying each moment and not looking too far into the future. As you all know I am a great believer in just valuing the present moment and not letting fear or my mind race ahead of me. Overthinking a situation can often diminish the fun and excitement of the moment and I intend on enjoying each moment (sometimes like a starry-eyed teenager).

So, in this very moment of my life, “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back” – Arthur Rubinstein

Love Life

Reinventing ourselves

Over the past few years I have begun to learn how to reinvent myself. The death of my husband and diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis de-stabilised me – in other words it upset the smooth flow of my life. Suddenly my identity was cracked wide open and I was forced to examine who I was. It amazes me that it always seems to take a tragedy or a devastating event to motivate or lead us to radical growth.

Never be afraid

Mahatma Gandhi said “Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in
being able to remake ourselves”

I have reinvented myself through education like reading, listening to podcasts, watching inspirational movies and writing. I have also learnt to listen to myself, trust my intuition and examine my thoughts. I have found ways to exercise that suit me and I have discovered the great benefits of eating food that nourishes my body. I have also found ways to have fun, laugh and enjoy life.

I have spoken about being the leading lady in our own lives but it is just as important to understand that we need to direct our lives as well. We are in charge of how we approach every situation and need to actively choose reinvention. I continually ask myself “What can I do in this moment to keep moving forward?” I promise you it is not always easy but somehow I know I have to maintain momentum, even if it is one simple small thing at a time.

Recently I was reminded of the below except from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson and I truly love the idea. I guess it is about choosing courage instead of letting fear choose the future for you and allowing ourselves to shine no matter what life throws at us.

Our deepest fear

This Moment

Recently I was in a meeting and was asked what was on my ‘bucket list‘. As the person sat with his pen poised ready to write my list I blankly looked up and said ‘nothing‘. This made me question  – should I have a list? Should I establish some goals in my life? I know I would eventually like to move out of my house to a low maintenance unit but apart from the unit I could not think of anything else.

Then the question arose – Am I putting my life on Hold? Am I in a holding pattern? What am I waiting for?

Do you sometimes feel like this? I see other people moving along in their lives and relationships while I seem stuck. Sometimes I take two steps forward and one back like a repetitive dance. Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely proud of how far I have come especially with my health and wellbeing. I just think it might be time to think even bigger. 

Then it occurs to me that when I see people rushing around so busy, not able to give you any of their time I get very annoyed. I feel frustrated. I don’t understand why people fill their lives so full that they miss out on the very simple things. Rushing here and rushing there just does not make sense to me. For me, there seems to be a fine line between busyness and being what I call stuck. But am I really stuck?

Do I need to start making a list and start making some plans? Is it really necessary for me to be busy chasing after all sorts of things that I believe will make me happy? Do I want to live in a constant state of waiting for something magical to happen to me?

I am often seeking my life purpose wanting to know where it will lead me. Secretly I would love to be asked out on a date with a man but am unsure how to make this happen (sorry online dating is not for me). I would love to work a few days a week in a fulfilling job. But these things require me to go into unchartered territory. What if I was rejected or what if I fail? Am I safer watching a movie on the couch with my children on a Saturday night? Or should I place my trust in the universe and have faith that all will happen at the right time? I wonder if there is a plan for me and I will someday look back and say – Oh I get it now, I needed that time. Why is it that the next moment seems to be better and more important than this one I am in? Is it possible for me to let go and surrender to whatever I am experiencing right now?

I think I need to stop waiting for my life to begin and as hard as it is, try to live in the present moment.

As Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book The Power of Now –

“Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome.
Since the present moment is life itself, it is an insane way to live”.

Australia Day – A day to reflect

Here we are again, celebrating Australia Day. Which also means it has been four years today since my husband died.

 This big question I have been asking myself is ‘How am I going?’

I have learnt how to make nourishing and rejuvenating choices for my body, mind and soul.

I try to live a life without unnecessary drama or over scheduling,

I have learnt how to keep my body active

I have grieved and taught my children how to openly grieve.

I remember my husband by openly talking about him.

I engage in daily conversations with my children about their Dad, remembering his many funny quirks.

I have taught my children to laugh and enjoy life even when faced with tragedy.

I have developed deep and meaningful relationships with family and friends.

I have found my own voice.

I have connected with my deepest honest thoughts.

I used journals and my blog to express myself.

I have learnt to practice gratitude.

I have understood the many lessons that can be gained from tragedy and loss.

I have allowed my grief to be felt.

 

I have achieved a great many things yet my loss is still in the forefront of my life. It still plays a prominent part and can still cripple me at even the most unexpected times.

My husband left a letter for me before he died:
“You have lived and given up one life with me and for me,
and now you have another life to live sweetie.
You have to be open-minded to being happy again”.

So I wonder am I living my life? Do I put walls up around me in fear of being hurt again? Am I brave enough to really leap into life with both feet?  These are all questions that I am currently contemplating and hopefully as 2015 progresses I can begin to answer them honestly. I am very grateful for my husbands brave and insightful words because they remind me to examine how I am tracking.

Today as we place our Australian Flag tattoos on our skin and dress in Australian colours I am proud of how far I have come but am also mindful and patient of how far I have to go. As we enjoy our traditional Aussie barbecue we remember and honour a beautiful man who was only here for forty years yet made a huge impact.

He is like a shining light in our lives, forever brightly shining and forever in our thoughts today and everyday.

Happy Australia Day Everyone!

Boys (3)

26th January 2010

Embracing Solitude

You may have noticed that I have not written anything for some time. There are numerous reasons for this – firstly I have been on holidays and try to go offline as much as possible and secondly I don’t like writing unless I have something worthwhile to say. After a great deal of reflective journal writing and reading I have had the opportunity to analyse my thoughts, let out steam and find the confidence to find my voice and write again.

Over the holidays I spent time at the beach with my three children. As they are nearly all in their teenage years I found myself spending time alone. We still have fun at the beach together but as they grow older they need their own time. I am quite determined to allow them the freedom to live their own lives and not have to entertain me. I also believe that great parents lead by example. So even though it is fairly difficult at times it is my responsibility to be a positive role model.

On holidays, I love going to the beach, going for rides and being active and sometimes my children just want to relax after a busy school term. At this point feelings of loneliness and loss rear their head for me. I instinctively know I need to learn to say “I can go on my own” but I secretly really don’t want to be alone.

I think back to a time when my husband and I were so busy with three children under 3 ¼ and we dreamed of time alone together. We would imagine being able to go out for a meal on our own or go to the movies or really just have a second to ourselves. Now I experience large chunks of time by myself and it is one of my greatest challenges. I adored spending time with my husband and possibly relied on him as my best friend. Amazingly, I value independence and self-reliance yet strangely seem to struggle with it.

The Milky Chance song ‘Stolen Dance’ opens with:
I want you by my side. So that I never feel alone again
Which succinctly sums up how I often feel. A difficult part of loss and grief is learning to be on your own again when you desperately want your loved one by your side.

Likewise, the Taylor Swift song ‘Love Story’ has the line “Marry me Juliet you never have to be alone” and I guess I believed it. In fact I lived it, I married my own Romeo and yet somehow I now find myself learning to be alone for the very first time.

I try to challenge myself by stepping out of my comfort zone and going out to lunch and breakfast and even the movies on my own. This holiday as I sat in a café eating on my own it was hard not to feel a little sad. I have a policy that if I go out on my own I cannot use my phone as entertainment. So I sat and really enjoyed the food and tried to appreciate this stage in my life. I guess it comes back to being grateful for what you have not what could have been.

A great challenge of being a widow is embracing this alone time. I understand to some busy people it sounds wonderful but when there is no alternative it does not seem as enticing. I personally find it challenging to enjoy my solitude. Some could think the solution is to surround myself with people but even at these times I can feel just as alone. When I see an elderly couple together it tugs at my heart and I cannot help think about what could have been or what I thought my life would have been like. Even after four years I continue to crave the company of my fun-loving joyful husband.

I try to remember the line in the beautiful poem ‘The Invitation’ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments

I understand that it is in these moments of silence when we are alone with ourselves that we can really connect to our inner selves but unfortunately my fear of solitude does occasionally lurk its head.

Don’t get me wrong, over the holidays I have had fun with family and friends and have had lots of laughs. Embracing solitude is my greatest lesson but I am grateful for the opportunities to appreciate every experience life sends my way. The universe continually sends me little tests to make sure I am working on improving this area of my life. Sometimes I want to fall in a heap and other times I simply hop on my bike and go for a ride along the beachfront on my own and think how lucky I am.

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Shine

To all of those people out there who use excuses in their lives please think of my daughter last night. At fifteen years of age she walked across a large stage and received an ‘Outstanding Academic Achievement’ award for five consistent semesters of five A’s or more. Academically this is a brilliant result but what makes it truly amazing is the fact that this child watched her brave father fade away and die and yet never used it as an excuse. She misses him every single day and could have given up on life, on school work and lost hope. Instead she strives for excellence never ever using this tragedy as an excuse. My daughter set her mind on a goal and worked tirelessly towards it. Don’t be fooled,  she did not get it because of good luck or natural ability it was because of pure determination and hard work.

It goes without saying her dad would be proud, just as I am, of the hard work that she puts into everything but the real pride would be in her unwavering attitude to live the best life she can for her. For my husband a positive attitude and hope was everything.

“There is a Tibetan saying, Tragedy should be utilised as a source of strength. No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” – Dalai Lama XIV.

Tonight I was reminded of how much hope my three children have. They don’t use excuses. They have experienced loss yet have never lost hope, motivation or joy. They feel the great loss and void that is ever present in our lives, they allow these sad feelings to surface but make the decision to keep living. The true skill is finding the balance.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating the need for fame, awards, accolades or approval, I am acknowledging the sheer pride I feel when I see my children make the most of their lives and for this I couldn’t be prouder. My daughter would not tell you about her achievements if you met her because she is not motivated by others, instead she is totally self-motivated and self-driven. She does not crave the attention of others and is humble in her strengths and aware of her weaknesses.

For my other two children they may strive for totally different goals because all that really counts is the way they live their lives with enthusiasm shining brightly in their own individual way. Last night, they sat proudly watching their big sister and clapped enthusiastically because in our family we support the big and small things happening in each others lives.

I think that the real lesson here is to live a magnificent life and never be afraid to shine no matter what that may look like for you.

shine