It is okay to not be okay

I need help – these three little words rarely roll off my tongue. I am happy being vulnerable with my feelings, letting you know my inner thoughts but to ask for help is just not in my repertoire of things to say. Actually strike that, I will ask my three children to help but rarely venture out of this small circle.

This week, I needed help in various ways and was kindly offered it but graciously declined many times. Then I decided I am not setting a good example for my children. Shouldn’t they learn that asking for help is ok? I am always encouraging them to help others but do not demonstrate the reverse.

Many of us don’t like to ask for help. We may have been taught that it is a sign of weakness, so we cling to the notion, “I can do everything myself,” even if it’s not always the case.

So this week with some encouragement, I asked my parents for help and they enthusiastically even excitedly raced to my rescue.

I broke my foot, you see, and am unable to drive or do basic things.

Around the same time my 15 year old son who is a keen cricket player was practicing bowling down our back yard and smashed a window. I was laying in my bed upstairs with my injured foot when I heard the crash, I closed my eyes and carefully said “what was that?”

That night my son cooked a barbecue and the gas ran out during cooking and I think at the same time I ran out of strength. It doesn’t sound big but it was all I could handle.

I usually write about how I overcame an obstacle and grew stronger but right now I am just lingering in the feeling of hopelessness. I assure you I will bounce back, but for now I have had enough. When my foot heals, I will learn to appreciate how wonderful it is to walk on two magnificent feet, I will learn to enjoy this time of rest and solitude, I will definitely dance but for now I am laying in my bed with my leg up with tears in my eyes thinking “enough”.

I accept that I don’t always need to be strong and sometimes I can be vulnerable, fall apart, expose my tiredness, feel scared and weak. I think there is a fallacy that we need to be happy and strong all of the time. I want nothing more than for happiness to be my constant state of being and have a hard time forgiving myself when I falter. But I am trying to accept that sometimes I feel discouraged and physically, mentally, and emotionally “burnt out” and just not myself.

My son rang my brother-in-law for help and he brilliantly came to our rescue with the broken window, a wonderful friend drove me to the hospital, my Dad filled the gas bottle, a magnificent bunch of flowers arrived from my sister and brother-in-law, my parents washed the sheets, did washing, left dinner in the fridge and just took care of me and I am finally and gradually finding my sense of gratitude slowly coming back. Even though this help is amazing it is me and only me who is responsible for accepting my feelings of hopelessness. And sometimes I don’t need physical help I just need to express how I feel and just be heard.

I am so adamant about being a grateful and happy person and believe that shining brightly is better than the dark. But sometimes I need to accept the dark. I am learning it is ok to let the world know that I can not ‘do it all‘ and that I am not some unrealistic ‘tower of strength‘. I am human. I have my bag of tips and tricks to get me through these moments but sometimes I just need to be brave enough to accept that ‘I am having a bad day‘.

I have so much to be grateful for but sometimes – I am just a girl standing here saying ‘life is a little challenging at the moment‘.

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Having a Growth Mindset

My life has changed from what I thought it would be and it has changed from what I thought I wanted. It has changed in so many massive and minute ways, but the biggest change was that I made change and growth a positive part of my life.

On reflection, I have always thought like this but major turning points in my life have really cemented the concept. For example, the diagnosis of MS continues to mean I need to reevaluate my approach to health and busyness. A relationship ending means I need to reevaluate what I want and what I can do differently next time. A loss of a wonderful partner means I need to reevaluate who I am on my own. Being a single mother of teenagers means I need to reevaluate my parenting style and embrace open communication with my children.

These turning points have given me opportunities to become really clear on what I want and who I am. Lately my legs have been sore, as a result of this heat, and so I have had to listen to my body and acknowledge I needed to rest (or find air conditioning stat). I needed to surrender to the fact that I can’t do everything and just accept the changes that MS bring me each day. Don’t get be wrong, I am no hero, sometimes I really feel like giving up but I don’t because my mindsets actively looks at ways to grow from challenges. When I’m frustrated, I persevere. This could mean simply finding a stool at a function and accepting that standing all night just isn’t going to work for my legs right now. Growth for me is made up of the hundreds of small but important choices I make every single day. When you are empowered, you are fully aware of the challenges you face — you see them with eyes wide open — but you know in your heart that you have the determination and courage it takes to navigate through them successfully. Self empowerment is not about being perfect or having all the answers, it can also be about finding balance in your life. 

Have you seen the below image before or looked at what a Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset is? The concept of these mindsets has been well researched by renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. You can apply these to a larger scale like in education but I found it helpful to apply it to myself personally.

Growth mindset

I was excited to learn about these mindsets because I felt that they finally explained why I value growth so much. Take the time to read over each one and work out which one you can relate to the most. There can be a misconception that you are one or the other but in reality everyone has a mixture. It is good to identify which is your most dominant mindset and watch for what your fixed-mindset triggers are – we all have them.

I do not want to dwell on the past but I was astounded when I recently saw the above image. My very first thought was “oh my goodness that is why my relationship last year ended“. To be honest I could never really put my finger on it, he was a nice guy but something just wasn’t right for me. His inflexibility was a major contributor. I made the mistake of saying on our first date that “I don’t want to change you”, which I meant but I didn’t think that this would close the door to any possibility of any growth, flexibility or self reflection. Really for me actions speak louder than words so you can’t just ‘talk the talk’ you have to ‘walk the walk’. It was an amazing wake-up call and a massive gift to learn that I am looking for someone who is open to change, who is adaptive, open to being challenged, will challenge me and who can enjoy a fun, joyful turbulent-free life. It now seems abundantly clear to me how crazy it was trying to relate to someone so fixed in their ways when growth and change are basically my anthems.

Next time a poignant question I will ask in any relationship is  “how much work are you willing to do on yourself when s#%t hits the fan?” “Will you run away or will you really discuss the issues?” I am looking for a shared willingness to becoming conscious. I do not want to change someone to suit my needs but I do want to be with people who are interested in growing with me and also growing for themselves. Why not also ask “What are your expectations of me?” These questions are applicable to both romantic relationships and friendships. Of course this requires more work, and no small amount of courage, but the rewards are also far greater. I am very aware that being so vulnerable and transparent will not be everyone’s cup of tea but that is ok.

I believe the world we live in insists there be change but it doesn’t have to be hard if you recognise where you are resisting change and get creative in how you can adapt to it. Resistance to change can mean suffering whereas embracing change means happiness – it is all proportional 

Life is a constant lesson and happy people tend to be well aware of that. Not only are they always open to change, but they truly listen to suggestions, respect and consider all opinions, and take criticism constructively. Some of the happiest moments in my life occur when I let go of what I can’t change.

Being flexible and resilient helps me to bounce back and cope with changes in my life. It has been said that flexibility stems from a well-developed sense of knowing who you are. Change is not about being submissive, for me it is a powerful part of my life. Change means growth, learning lessons and becoming stronger. I never ever want to stop learning from life. Right now, I am just proud that I have survived every bit of pain and loss that has shaped me up until this point. I choose growth in my life. I choose becoming stronger, being flexible, developing a strong sense of my self. I choose me.

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Finding the Connection

I haven’t been feeling my best lately, not health wise but just mentally a little lost. Yesterday marked four years since I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  I was very fortunate to spend the day at an amazing Food Matters Live workshop. As I listened to all of my idols talk (James & Laurentine from Food Matters, Jon Gabriel, Lee Holmes, Dr Libby Weaver and Kim Morrisson) and then danced to the talented Wes Carr, it occurred to me that what I am seeking is CONNECTION! By connection, I mean the amazing feeling I get when I have conversations with like-minded people or sit in an audience listening to people who rock my world. I get excited about sharing knowledge and learning and it is even more electrifying to be sitting in a room filled with people who want to learn, thrive and flourish.

Food Matters

I am beginning to realise that in the past and even now I have limited myself to one-on-one connections and find that it can end up leaving me quite isolated. I think this connection with just one person might be too micro and maybe I need to look on a macro level  and think bigger.

Lately I have been noticing that I am surrounded by strong, fun, amazing women who are absolutely inspiring me. I recently went to the movies on my own, actually twice last week to see Brooklyn and Deadpool (definitely have a crush on the hilarious Ryan Reynolds). Anyway, when I mentioned this, I was surprised that lots of people I know, especially  women, go to the movies on their own.

This planted a seed in my mind that maybe I am not alone in wanting to connect with people. Maybe, sometimes it would be nice not doing everything solo and be part of something bigger. So do I start a book club or spiritual women’s circle or can I just suggest we hit somewhere with live music and dance? How do I connect with these amazing women? 

I guess the point I am trying to make is that I am surrounded by these connections I seek already. I tend to opt to do things alone thinking that everyone around me are busy but what if they are looking for the same thing I am?  Maybe I just need to pull off a classic Taylor Swift move and get my squad together. It might feel intimidating at first, but once I take the bold first step, hopefully things will start to fall into place. I simply just need to be brave, disregard my fear of rejection and just ask “do you want to join me?”

Can you relate to this?

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Love Happens

Love – what a great word. I have to admit, sometimes I seek love outside myself. I crave to be noticed or validated but I have made a decision that, right now, this behaviour is going to stop. It has been said that “You begin by ending your search for love”. So I  am dismissing the search party and letting it go. I am not giving up on the notion of a romantic partner in the future. I am simply saying that instead of searching for the perfect partner I want to BE the perfect partner first. Over the past five years I have done heaps of work in this department, however every now and then I find myself falling back into old habits.

To keep me on track this is my absolute favourite quote and it is on my phone screen reminding me of exactly the type of woman I want to be.

Validation

 

I want to be this woman. Someone who is confident, complete, warm, loving, divinely feminine and totally comfortable in her own skin.

I am discovering that each time you offer love to others, be it through a loving gesture, word or thought, you plant the seed of love in that person. So love for me is becoming so much more than romantic love. It is becoming more about being a loving person. It is not about filling a void or what someone can give me because I am empty, it is about what I can give others because I am already full.

I have a very wise 13 year old daughter who sees love everywhere she goes. She doesn’t search or go looking for it but it constantly turns up for her. She gives out love with her kindness, compliments and quirky enthusiasm for life which is contagious to people around her.

“Only the loving find love, and they never seek for it. The loveless never find love”. –  D H Lawrence

Something very simple, yet quite beautiful is that she sees love-hearts everywhere.

When she sees them she either excitedly shows me or sends me a photo. These are my favourites:

My daughter is my constant reminder that if we just open our eyes, love is already everywhere. We don’t need to find it, pursue it or chase it. We just need to be it. I am the love I seek.

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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.

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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!

She

Every now and then I need a little push or reminder on how I want to live my life. I own a book with the following words in it and it always pulls me back to who I want to be and how I want to live my life.  Sometimes a particular line will really stand out and speak to me and sometimes I simply use it as a checklist in my daily life and try to tick as many off each day. Sometimes I might achieve one or even none and sometimes I go crazy and tick lots. It is an empowering list and has managed to pull me out of times when I have felt like I was losing hope or feeling a little lacking in confidence and drive.

I always say that actions speak louder than words and this list represents not just beautiful words but things to do, ways to live and how I want my life to be.

I hope you enjoy it!

She loved life and it loved her right back
celebrate her passion
She listened to her heart above all other voices
celebrate her wisdom
She pursued big dreams instead of small realities
celebrate her priorities
She saw every ending as a new beginning
celebrate her resiliency
She discovered real measurements had nothing to do with numbers or statistics
celebrate her self-esteem
She was kind loving and patient…with herself
celebrate her tenderness
She woke up one day and threw away all her excuses
celebrate her accountability
She realised that she was missing a great deal by being sensible
celebrate her spirit
She turned her cant’s into cans and her dreams into plans
celebrate her goals
She ignored people who said it couldn’t be done
celebrate her independence
She had a way of turning obstacles into opportunities
celebrate her magic
She went out on a limb had it break behind her and she discovered she could fly
celebrate her faith
She discovered that she was the one she’d been waiting for
celebrate her self reliance
She added so much beauty to being human
celebrate her presence
She walked in when everyone else walked out
celebrate her friendship
She just had this way of brightening the day
celebrate her radiance
She made the whole world feel like home
celebrate her warmth
She decided to enjoy more and endure less
celebrate her choices
She decided to start living the life she’d imagined
celebrate her freedom
She coloured her thoughts with only the brightest colours
celebrate her optimism
She was an artist and her life was her canvas
celebrate her brilliance
She ran ahead where there were no paths
celebrate her bravery
She crossed borders recklessly, refusing to recognise limits, saying bon jour and buon giorno as though she owned both France and Italy and the day itself
celebrate her joie de vivre
She held her head high and looked the world straight in the eye
celebrate her strength
She not only saw a light at the end of the tunnel she became that light for others
celebrate her compassion
She designed a life she loved
celebrate her joy
She took the leap and built her wings on the way down
celebrate her daring
She said bye-bye to unhealthy relationships
celebrate her happiness
She remained true to herself
celebrate her authenticity
She made the world a better place
celebrate her

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

The Two forces: Fear and Love

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We have all been born with love yet fear is a powerful force that can consume us. I once read that where there is love, fear can not survive, and where there is fear, love can not survive. So why do we choose fear when we can choose love?

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live” – Dorothy Thompson. These words are powerful for me because, I have to say, they totally describe how I feel at the moment. It is so easy to let fear run the show; I know I fall into this trap often.

It is strange but every time I let go of my fears does my life begin to change for the better.  Unfortunately I am not perfect though and still get caught up being afraid of situations, circumstances and being hurt.

I believe that letting go of fear involves not blaming others for our predicament and deciding to take responsibility for how we feel. When we do this we will notice a significant shift in our lives. I guess for me it is about giving up on past beliefs and past limitations and looking within where I can find my true nature and real self. Often when I am very happy I began to use many self-preservation tactics to ensure that I can safely not get hurt. These include withdrawing from a situation, circumstance or even from someone. However, in doing so I can often also miss out on the amazing moments of exhilaration and pure joy. I guess the secret is balancing the delicate combination of being cautious and being afraid with letting go and giving life and love a chance.

So with some reflection, I have decided to no longer be afraid and start living. Look out world; I am fearlessly jumping back in with an open-heart ready to embrace life.