How?

So, I keep saying follow your heart, jump and you’ll be okay, pausing my old life was the best thing I ever did, and things like those. But, how? How do we do this if we have kids, a mortgage, people to care for, no time, etc?

In small ways. Any change starts a ripple that could eventually turn into a tide of change. If that’s what you need.

I needed to jump. You may not need to or can’t. And, that’s okay.

I was feeling dead. I was just going through the motions of living. I was working long hours, coming home and watching mindless television or surfing the internet, getting sick all of the time, and sleeping most weekends. I was miserable. However, I was mostly competent at work (some inconsistencies in marking one task) and was putting on a brave face most of the time.

That’s not life. People comment now on my eyes. They have repeatedly said that my eyes have changed: they are alive, your eyes sparkle. Yes. Because I’m happy. Because I’m living.

It starts with one step.

1. What in your life brings you the least joy?

2. Write it all down, or say it out loud.

3. Are there things on that list that can be delegated and done by someone else (maybe not to the same quality, but well enough)? If so, delegate (at home AND at work). Is there anything you can just stop doing without the world self-destructing (maybe a cleaner once every six months to do the windows, or a cleaner every month to give you one weekend off, or a gardener or handyman occasionally to give you some time off)?

4. What things, that you already do, bring you the most joy?

5. What other things, that you don’t have time for, would you do if you had the time?

6. For the things you listed in 4 and 5, make a plan to do one of those things more or at least once during the next month. I’m not asking you to change your entire world overnight, just take small steps.

It could be as simple as getting up ten minutes earlier to stand outside with your face to the sun for five minutes before your day starts. It could be as complex as planning a camping trip or a weekend away in four weeks time, or for right now.

It is up to you. We are not machines. We do not have to live our lives without happiness and inspiration; it only takes one small change to change your perception of your world. Even if you feel happy enough, why not spend extra time doing something you really love to bring you a little extra joy.

It is Christmas, after all, and ’tis the season to be jolly falalalalala lalalala.

Merry Christmas Eve.

And, if you do try the above, drop me a line and let me know how you go. This is a mini version of a chapter in my new book (currently being written).

And remember, twenty seconds of courage. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Just stop making excuses. It’s your life, and it’s a short one. You deserve to live the way you want. Free your mind.

Thank you Paula Chalker for permission to use the image.

Deep Breaths

This time last year, I was excited by the potential of a new life. I was also absolutely terrified. That I wouldn’t have enough money. That I would fail. That I would be a hot mess for the entire year. That nothing would change. That I wouldn’t have enough money. That I wouldn’t have enough money. That I wouldn’t have enough –

You get the idea. More than all of that though, I was terrified I wouldn’t see it through. That everything would become too hard and I would just go back to what I knew. For the fourth time in my life, I had to jump, because if I didn’t, I knew I would be starving my life and my soul of something it needed, to breathe.

I think we know when we are hitting that point. We feel lost, stagnant, as if we are dying whilst we stand. We either become depressed or we change something. I had to change something.

So, I did.

From the outside, I guess it looks like I up and left my life. Big step. Lots of courage required. But, the truth is, I just put a pause on the life I lived. I created space to see what else my life could be. By doing this, I opened my life up, took the things I loved doing, and the space was there to do them.

I said yes to every opportunity, even if the opportunity was scary. I paused life as it was, and with it, I paused fear. As I’ve often said, twenty seconds of courage – acknowledge the fear, and then remind it that it isn’t driving the car (thanks, Liz Gilbert The Big Magic).

I have expanded. My life has expanded. I am happy.

At some point during the year, I let go of the fear of not enough money and really started to trust that I will always have enough. I am now working on becoming a multimillionaire within ten years, but that’s another story for another day. Especially as I face a January without income (or very little income because I will only receive what I generate for myself – and I’m cool with that. I think my bills are covered).

I have had many highlights this year. Many. I have been humbled beyond belief by the love that has opened within my life. I have been humbled by the growth of my business. I have been humbled by the sheer number of beautiful people and beautiful experiences I have encountered this year. I am in love with my life again. I am learning to see myself through the eyes of others, and loving who I am.

We create our lives. We create who we are. We create the potential and we create the lack of potential. We are in charge.

It might not be easy, but it’s easier than continuing to live a life that you don’t enjoy, and that is slowly killing your spirit and your happiness.

I am very poor. I am very happy. I needed to come to this point to embrace the riches I have, outside of money, so that the next chapters in my life generate both equally. Having money in a life not loved makes us rabid consumers and breaks our connection to who we authentically are. I am now living a life I love, it fuels trust that I will always be provided for, and generates the desire to earn more to enable the sharing of wealth with others.

It’s been an interesting year. The moment that best encapsulates it for me occurred very early on, during February, in Western Australia, when Mel taught me to snorkel.

Oh my. I still feel the fear, then the conquering of the fear as the cool water streamed past my face, stroking my cheeks, as my eyes opened to a whole other world under the surface of the water. It’s beauty caught my breath then, and holds it still.

What a wonderful life. What a wonderful world.

What will you do to create your best life?

My dad has always said …

That if you love what you do, it will never feel like work. And I truly believe this. And over the years, recent years, some aspects of my job have felt like very hard work. I love teaching. It has been such a fundamental part of who I am and allows me to practice my beliefs – political and spiritual. It permits me to serve, to give back and to feel like I am changing the world. 

But, teaching does not afford me the complete lifestyle that I would like in my later years. 

And it has only been the last couple of months, since New York City, that I feel I have been able to articulate this to myself. And that I deserve the life that I want rather than the life I have. 

Again, I love teaching. More often than not I derive real strength, fulfilment and happiness in the practice of teaching. I love seeing my kids, and I love helping them develop the tools to make sense of, and to ultimately create their own world. 

Unfortunately though, this is a small part of teaching. Behaviour management and the politics, watching dispassionate teachers destroy the learning experience for kids and not care that they are, seeing parents who are so disconnected from their children and have no idea how to raise them, increasing rates of poor mental health in kids and adults, this takes up most of the time in teaching. Then there are the long hours, the never ending take home work, the stress from the welfare support, the extra duties and ongoing support of staff, parents and students, and the lack of gratitude. 

Quite frankly, the pay doesn’t adequately make up for what you lose. Time with family and friends, happiness, peace. 

And this, well, this part I think I am too old for, too impatient for, too arrogant for. 

Not today, but in coming years I do not think I will enjoy teaching as much as I do, or as much as I have. 

And I deserve more. 

Those words have taken me a long time to believe. I am deserving. I am valuable. 

I never used to believe this or feel this truly. My self worth was non-existent. Hard work and never ending support from those closest to me has forced me to change my internal dialogue over time. 

And as I have grown to appreciate my worth, I realise that I am growing out of my old lifestyle. And I think it is okay to say that it is time for a change. 

Not a change in school. I love my school, it’s staff and its students, and it’s community. I have a lot to offer my school and I achieve a phenomenal success there. 

Not a change in system. Hehe, public all the way because public education is the cornerstone and provides the foundation for a successful democracy where all are regarded as equal and equally deserving. 

A change in my lifestyle. I deserve that. We all do. 

But, change is terrifying. 

I am terrified. 

The lifestyle I envisage in my later years is one that is calmer and more peaceful than my current lifestyle. I still want to teach, I still want to heal/help. I still want interaction and fun from time with others. And I want to write. 

My small business will permit all of this. 

But, I’m not a business person. However, I crave challenge: another tick. 

The fear has been, and will continue to be, the thing that I need to acknowledge but then act in spite of. I can do that … I think. 

In her Big Magic podcasts, and in her book, Liz Gilbert (yes, hero worship) says that she has always had to fight her fears. Rather than conquering it though, she acknowledges it and regards it as part of her success/family. She doesn’t let fear rule though, and she doesn’t let fear speak or govern her choices. 

And I think this is crucial to success. 

Acknowledge the fear. But don’t embrace it. Twenty seconds of courage and just decide to do it (big thanks to We Bought a Zoo and The Newsroom Series 1 Episode 1). 

Then make it happen. 

I am building slowly. Usually I decide I want to do something and I run at it like a bull at a gate. Not this time. This time I’m letting every step sit with me for a little while and I have developed a realistic time frame. It is almost too slow but I am hoping that my success wil be ensured with a slower pace. 

Anyway, upshot of this is that I am going to create the life I want and that I believe I deserve. 

I’d like you to do the same. Are you happy? Do you live your job? Does it feel like you aren’t really working? 

If not, twenty seconds of courage and jump. You deserve it. 

Highly Eventful Day

I have decided to grab my life by the horns and really start to live it again, like I did when I was young. I’m shaking my snow globe and daring the flakes to settle in new patterns. 

Today was my initial business consultation. It went exceptionally well. I have an action plan to follow, starting with applying for an ABN and then registering my business name (and trademarking it so that it can act as an asset – yep, I learned heaps). 

After that I drove to Bargo to pick my brother up and take him to the University of Wollongong for his Early Admission interview (which went well). As we were waiting I said to him, “I miss studying. I want to study again.” 

Uh oh. 

I looked up their Post Graduate courses. They offer a Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Arts) and a Doctor of Creative Arts. I have read the requirements; I am not sure that I meet them. 

But, twenty seconds of courage, and I have enquired. I am going to apply. It doesn’t cost anything except courage. I am going to focus on the therapeutic value of creative writing/life writing. 

This connects to the first phase of my business plan. The first phase of my business plan also then provides research participants for my research. 

Synchronicity or what. Boom. 

Add to that my foster care application. 

And I am making dreams come true in every direction. 

Self-empowerment. 

That’s the way to go … Following my bliss. 

Life is gonna change. 

Jet Lag and Processing

I love travelling BUT man, I hate flying. I never sleep well, always managing to just grab a few five minute blocks every so often, just enough to keep me from dying I guess. I just hate flying.

Next time I fly I am going to try premium economy; the extra money may be worth the extra comfort. We shall see.

Having said that, the amount of awake time permitted me to really evaluate my trip. And forward plan my life. Yep, never not thinking in this head.

My time away has permitted me to work out exactly what I want my future to be.

I remember the first time I wrote a poem as a child. It was about Adolf Hitler (yep, I have always loved writing about the darker aspects of life) and it rhymed. I was SO proud. I loved the act and the art of writing. Words have always held power and sway for me. Always.

I absolutely enjoyed keeping my blog whilst I was away. I loved writing every day (almost) and missed it when I wasn’t writing.

The act of writing allowed me to process my experiences as well as keep a record of my adventures and my responses towards them.

I want to write.

It is who I am.

I became a fan of podcasts whilst I was away (thank you Liz Gilbert for Big Magic – your podcast started my obsession). And I spent a lot of time on the Greyhound buses listening to interviews with authors and TED Talks. Illuminating.

Liz Gilbert said in one interview that she almost felt sorry for people who had more than one passion/thing they were good at because finding time for both and to succeed in both would seem very difficult to her; she feels blessed that she was only ever good at writing because it was what she had to do.

You can imagine why this was illuminating for me.

I love teaching and I am good at it.

I love writing and I am good at it.

But it has been very much sacrificed for my teaching.

And that has been okay.

But it isn’t okay anymore.

Writing always fills me with calm and jubilation.

Teaching does not.

That is the reality.

Enough said 🙂

A man I used to work with died whilst I was away. It hit me hard. Both Lauren and I had someone that we regarded as a good person die whilst we were away, different men.

Jeff was a PE teacher at Airds High School when I was finishing school. He was still there when I commenced my teaching career at Airds High School as a casual teacher in 1993. He was a fairly quiet man with a wicked sense of humour. He was very committed to teaching and to his family. He was a great person. He died from a heart attack. He is only just older than me. I was devastated.

Mortality is such a bizarre thing.

We all know that we will die.

But we expect that we will all be really old when we do.

Losing my friend Nat, well before she should have been allowed to die still hurts my heart every day. Having a sense of what Jeff’s family will be going through is just horrid.

It did enforce for me though how grateful I was that I was in New York really living my life, forcing my dreams to become my reality. Life really is too short to not do what makes us happy.

I have had dark times in my life. We all have. The depth of the darkness may vary among us, but very few people get to be my age having never experienced pain and hardship to some extent. I know a few kids who have experienced extreme pain and hardship, and who struggle to survive every single day. As we age we learn that things will pass, light will come after dark. But as kids, they lack that frame of reference of experience. They do not know for sure that light comes after dark. I want them to trust that it does, but that is a big ask.

I do believe that happiness is a choice.

We all have times of darkness and pain, very often not a choice. And it is important to experience the full breadth of the pain and associated suffering. But I also believe that there comes a time when we choose our direction.

Continue to suffer.

Or move forward.

And this is the choice.

Much easier for me to say than for others to do. Inevitably the question of HOW comes.

How do we choose happiness?

If I say, “I choose happiness”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that happiness just comes. It requires some work. Unfair and unjust I know, but if we want it, we need to work for it.

It helps if you know what makes you happy.

For me it is reading, writing, serving others (to a point), travel, discussing, exploring, gardening, baking. Yep, just for starters.

So when I need to choose happiness, I choose these things.

Happiness is a buoyant feeling. A feeling of utter peace. Bliss. Contentment. A knowledge that you are where you are supposed to be doing what you are supposed to be doing.

And that requires work.

Often to break away from the invisible binds that shackle us. Like work/school responsibilities, family responsibilities, social responsibilities, and most oppressively underlying all of these, fear.

We fear what will happen if we aren’t what we are expected to be.

I now think that we should question what will happen to us if we are not being real, and being true, to our own selves. We should fear those consequences. They are the binds that really shackle us. That fear stops us from embracing opportunities that permit us to feel real and long term happiness. They are the binds that we should be severing.

And that’s where real courage comes in to play.

I have been utterly blessed that my trip to Europe five and a half years ago and my trip to New York were completed with two exceptional travelling companions. I would never have dreamed that two people could travel so seamlessly together as Courtney and I did, and as comfortably as Lauren and I just have. I will be forever grateful to both for supporting me in ticking things off my bucket list.

It takes courage to travel away from everything you know.

But that travel invariably permits you to be wholly you, away from the expectations that your life choices have forced you to incur. Travel allows exploration, other ways of seeing and of doing, not all positive, but permitting us freedom to revise our own choices with more information. Every time I travel my world opens that little bit more. Travel permits you to meet other people, often nameless, who impact on you for better or worse, but permitting growth. It is an amazing thing and something that I believe everyone should do, if only once.

New York. Wow.

As the Greyhound Bus arrived in the first parts of New York City on Wednesday, I just started to feel so alive and so connected again. I smiled, inside and out, feeling like I was home, that this was MY New York City. The place where dreams can come true.

I felt the electricity of connection flood through my veins. Boston is a beautiful city. New York is the heart of it though. The noise. The dirt. The homeless. The diversity. The traffic. The buzz. A never ending buzz, permeating everything.

Man, it filled my soul and I felt truly alive, Truly transformed. Magical. Energised. Alive.

Even now, sitting on my lounge in the quiet village of Thirlmere where I live, the excitement of New York still courses through my veins. Our meeting was perfectly executed; our friendship now lifelong.

And I am grateful for all of my blessings.

Today, because I could travel.

I could live.

I am living.

Empowerment: Twenty Seconds of Courage

An update to my last post …

I felt a sense of peace and right after writing my thoughts out. I am forever telling my students that we can only process so far in our heads; eventually it needs to come out and if we control how it comes out, it can be less damaging.

Terrified, I spoke to one of the people on Friday. I think it was empowering for me to show my vulnerable side. They saw a different side to the perception that exists of me. Don’t get me wrong. I am strong, arrogant, forthright, etcetera, but I am also very soft, very fragile and very damaged. In my workplace though, that me rarely has the need to be seen.

Apart from being fixated on my tattoos, they were very responsive, very honest and very genuine. And as a result, another layer of trust was constructed. The context they afforded me completely made sense. The eyes and gestures were not directed towards me but to the day. And I can appreciate that; I myself have made comments about training days.

And even after that, he still apologised. So my respect for him grew.

It highlighted for me how important communication is, and how important that type of confrontation is.

Being vulnerable ensured that I went in with an open heart and an open mind. Knowing that I had Sara in the staffroom waiting assisted  me to find the twenty seconds of courage it took to knock, sit down and start.

I learned several things from this experience. Support is vital. Courage is only ever required for twenty second bursts. Perception exists but shouldn’t be trusted; there are always layers to truth. And contexts need to be understood before judgement of any kind occurs, if judgement is necessary at all.

I was terrified but I did it anyway.

I’m a little proud of myself … just to go against Ekhart ;-).