Letter to My Younger Self

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I have always been fascinated by the ‘Letter to My Younger Self’ and whenever I see them in magazines and online, I always make a point to read them. I imagined that it would be quite a cathartic exercise. I guess I’m quite fortunate that I don’t have a great deal to purge, and what has brought me challenges over the years, I sit with comfortably now. But what I most enjoyed about the process has been reflecting back on how I’ve grown and what I’ve learnt.

I offer no ground-breaking advice, but some simple musings will serve me well beyond today.

Dear Collette,

Here are a few things to help you on your way.

You’re mostly a happy soul so don’t lose that; this disposition will usher you through the trials.

Reshape regrets – they’ll only eat away at you. If you can reshape them you’ll see the purpose they served to make your life better in the end.

Celebrate your success, not only do you deserve it but it will help you identify your true friends. Those who celebrate with you, wish you only good. Those who don’t celebrate with you, harbour resentment and will one day let you down.

Champagne will thicken your waist (and your head), when you over indulge be sure that the joy of the over indulgence will outweigh the discontent of a thick waist. Mostly it will, but be sure to check in with it.

Listen to your father. He was wrong (mostly) about you being the class clown, the town drunk and at times the village idiot, but he was bang on with his advice about adjusting your expectations of others. He told me to never expect someone to behave the same way as you would, if you do you will always be disappointed (your older self is still working on this). 

Listen to your mother and store away what she has to say. Each day something will come up that you will want to ask her and when she is gone you will miss deferring to her on life’s practicalities. She would have known what to do when your youngest wouldn’t sleep. So listen up.

Be more compassionate when you feel that someone has failed you. You will fail someone some day to, and not be able to help it. We all have limitations.

Trust yourself. That sick feeling you get in your stomach has always been right. Don’t ignore it, act on it, then you’ll find that you’re on your right path. 

Write everyday, it is the only way to hone your skills (your older self is still working on this one to). 

That cliche, authentic. Well, there is no other way. The only way is to live truthfully, honestly. You will fail at everything you do if you are not living truthfully. Life will be so much easier to live when you are being your real self. 

Don’t worry about money. Things have a way of working themselves out, even if it’s not how you imagined it would be.

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but have fun, always. Even when you feel your soul is under fire. The joy of the small things will get you through.

And finally, always remember that life will never be better than it is now, so make the most of it.

And so my friend, be brave, be bold and go gently; it is a fine combination.

Collette

Do you have some advice to your younger self that you’d like to share? Share below, it is rather cathartic after all.

 

 

Busy? Don’t be.

 

 

Everyone is busy, it’s a way of life. But one thing we all fail at in such a momentous way is not being busy. I read a great article by Tyler Ward  ‘Busy Isn’t Respectable Anymore’. The article explains that we wear busy like a badge of honour. When someone asks how we are, we answer ‘ so busy!’, like we’re proud of it. How did we come to this?

 

And there’s a little bit of disdain reserved just for those who have managed to carve out a bit of spare time: ‘well it’s fine for her, all her children are at school’ or ‘they don’t have kids – say no more!’ Sound familiar? What this disdain actually says is ‘My life is so damned full, I am so important, you on the other hand are not as in demand as me! Thank you very much.’

 

Why do we think concessions should be made for busy people? Why is it an excuse to not be present, to not put in the effort to things we claim are important to us, because we are busy? Busyness doesn’t cut it for me anymore. The term has been overused and has lost its meaning.

 

Tyler Ward proposes some interesting ways to look at your busy life, I’ve built on those to help you make the choice not to be:

 

  • Busyness can be a sign of not being able to manage your time very well – it’s the classic case of the person who’s always in at work early and last to leave, feeling hard done by because they spend more time at the office than anyone else in the team. But really, this person is checking their email every ten minutes, popping out for a coffee break or cigarette break, stopping by to chat to a colleague – in short, not using their time very well. Ask yourself how you are using your time. Being busy is not the same as being productive, remind yourself of this.

 

  • Being busy can be a sign of negative self-worth. The reasoning behind this one is that being busy can make you feel important, that you’re contributing something. The truth is, you don’t have to be insanely busy to make a worthwhile contribution. Setting boundaries around your contribution to society does not de-value it, in fact it increases it’s value as it is an acknowledgement that you value yourself enough to make space for what is really important to you.

 

  • Busyness can actually impair your performance and compromise your mental capacity. As much as we’d all like to believe the contrary, the brain and the body need down time to repair and regenerate cells. Making space in your life and your mind allows your brain to function at its optimum – when there’s too much crammed in to your grey matter, things start feeling a little squashed, which in turn alters your perspective and your perceptions. Give your brain the space it needs in order to sharpen your focus.

 

  • Being busy is an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol, that is used to distract us from the important things in life. We got busy slowly. Like an addiction, it crept up on us. Then suddenly, we’re all SO busy and SO addicted to being busy. Can you say NO to being busy? Or are you addicted. I’ll admit it, the thought of not being busy actually makes me a little bit uncomfortable, almost like it’s unfathomable. Sort of like the proposition, to an alcoholic, of never drinking again. Unfathomable.

 

 

The way of our modern world means we need to make a purposeful choice to stop and to re-engage on a personal level. It’s all interconnected with mindfulness and the slow movement, and according to Ariana Huffington, in Thrive, it is a new metric for measuring success. This new metric consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. It sits alongside the other two traditional metrics of success; money and power.

 

These concepts are not new, nor are they ground-breaking in any way. But if they do take hold, and become a new metric for measuring success, the world we all inhabit will be a much grander place to be. Simple, accessible concepts resonate with me.

 

The magic of this metric lies in the very possibility that if you achieve this new metric of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, the other two metrics, I think, will diminish in value.

 

Being so busy that you neglect your friends or family, or your art, or your fitness, or whatever it is that makes you truly contented, will be a thing of the past. I like this idea more than I dislike the discomfort of not being busy.

 

What about you? Are you a slave to being busy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear or Love – What Are You Choosing?

About a year ago I decided that life was too short to hope that one day things might change for me. Well rather than suddenly decide, it hit me like a brick, slap bang in the middle of my head. It came in the form of losing my Mum.

Prior to that, it wasn’t even really a conscious thought that I was looking for anything else. I’m blissfully happy with my husband and my children, we have everything we need. I had a job to return to after my maternity leave, as an editor in a business writing firm. That was good, great, in fact. There were things I didn’t like about it (like the commute), but mostly I was pretty happy with my job.

I’d done a Masters in Editing & Communications, so I was right on the path that I’d envisaged. Except that secretly, I really wanted to write, not edit. There were a few opportunities for me to do some writing, given it’s a writing firm that I work for, and I relished them.

But there was one issue, I was too scared to really give it a go. But those moments between my editing duties, where I got to write a feature for the website or a business magazine, I was in my element. But I had this internal dialogue going on. I’m sure some of you will recognise it.

Me: I love this writing thing. It really is what I want to do.

Other me: You’re shit! Don’t be ridiculous. Get on with your job. You have an editing deadline.

Me: I’m sure I’m not that bad, I’ve had some stuff published, surely your work doesn’t get published if you’re shit.

Other me: You’re shit. Forget it. It was a fluke.

Me: Hmmm. OK. I’m shit. Get back to your editing deadline.

And so it went. The number of times I had this internal conversation between me and myself, I can’t tell you. Then Mum died.

And yes, life really is separated into two distinct categories for me at the moment: When Mum Was Alive and After Mum Died. I got to thinking, Mum was 71 when she died; no spring chicken, but not particularly old. And I thought ‘If I die at the same stage of life that Mum did, I am over half way through my life’. That, my friends, is a very sobering thought. She still had lots of living left to do. ’Lordy’, I thought, ‘I need to make it count. From now.’

And so here I am. I still have my job as an editor, but I only do it one day a week. On another day, my youngest goes to day care and I work from home while the older two are at school, carving out my writing career. Success is elusive, but also subjective, so it’s not a metric I’m interested in measuring at this early stage. But the deep sense of satisfaction I get from doing this, I’ll boldly say, makes me a better person.

Better, in that I’m finally being honest, I can look at my husband and my children and honestly say that you must do what you love. But I can say it, and mean it, not say it but secretly wish I was doing it. It is vitally important, because you only get one chance and it is fleeting, at best.

There’s no hankering feeling anymore; and that’s a revelation. I recall a conversation with a friend, when I was telling her of my new plans to strike out on my own, doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I told her I was scared. Her response was simplistic, but completely accurate ‘It’s either fear or love that holds us back’. So when you don’t choose love, you automatically choose fear.

I get it that life is much more complex than this, but ultimately, when you distill all your reasons for not doing something important, more often that not, it is fear that’s in the driver’s seat.
While it’s never easy to learn from someone else’s experiences (life is best learned in your own boots) but if you’re open to it, I would urge you not to wait for your own ‘brick in the head’ moment. Put your fears aside and make the most of your transitory time here. It’s incredibly freeing. And the best thing about it? You choose.

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Winter: it’s all about the food

Winter has well and truly struck in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Melbourne. Every year I think us Melburnians enjoy the summer so much that we forget how torrid the winter can be. Now I know it doesn’t compare to some parts of the world, where winter very nearly knocks your socks off.

But here, well, we’re not really equipped for winter and each year we are taken by surprise when it drops below zero over night. We all freeze and complain about how freezing it is, with such fervour that anyone would think we’d been snowed in.

But I’ve come to reason that winter is all about the food. I hate the cold, I’m a spring and summer kind of gal, but I get through winter because I celebrate the amazing food that just doesn’t work when the weather is warm. I was reminded of this a few days ago when I visited the ‘Whole Larder Love’ blog. The man is a genius and his love of the seasons and the simple life he has created, is so authentic. You can feel it through his velvety prose and his beautiful photos. Specifically, the ‘Buckets of Rain’ post sent me directly in to my kitchen with the intention of cloaking myself in the warm comfort foods of winter.

To start, Roast Chicken. What is there to say about Roast Chicken, except that it definitely deserves the capital letters I have given it. When someone says they are going home for Roast Chicken, I say ‘say no more, my friend’.

And from that humble, but joyful dinner comes more winter culinary joy. In the form of the Pie. Chicken and Mushroom Pie, to be precise. And today I give you mine. Serve it with mashed potato and peas and then tell me how much you love me. Because you will.

Ingredients
250 gr mushrooms – any type you feel like
the left over roast chicken, stripped off the carcass
three sheets of puff pastry (or make your own if you are feeling especially homey)
1/4 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of olive oil
chicken stock (and preferably some gravy also saved from the roast)
a handful of fresh herbs (if you have them) – oregano, thyme, parsley

Method
Preheat your oven to about 175C
Grease a pie dish (big enough to accommodate your left over chicken, or to feed your family)
Line the dish with pastry so it is ready to fill.
Put a sheet of pastry aside for the lid of the pie
Thinly slice your mushrooms and pan fry in olive oil or butter and set aside
Heat the olive oil till you can see its very runny
Add the flour and stir vigorously and turn down the heat if you need to
Once the flour and oil are combined, and look like a yellowish paste, add your stock, a little bit at a time. (If you have some gravy left from the roast, add this first and stir through until very thick, then start adding your stock).
Keep adding the stock each time the roux starts looking gluggy, stir and continue until you have cooked out the flour flavour and can just taste a lovely thick and smooth chicken-y roux.
Add your mushrooms, stir through then add your chicken.
Give it a good stir so it is well combined, then fill your pre-lined pie dish with this glorious concoction.
Add your pastry lid, brush the top with milk (to help it brown) and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until brown and daring you to eat it.

Pour yourself a large glass of Pinot Noir and enjoy your pie. You will visit that happy winter food place and for a minute, you’ll be glad its so cold outside.

Creativity – A Salve for the Soul

 

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People tend to categorise themselves. Do you consider yourself creative, or academic or a ‘maths and science’ person? Believe it or not, we all have our own creative adaptor. It’s just that some people have learnt where to plug it in, and some haven’t.

We are also quite constrained by what we think is a creative undertaking. Being creative is not just about painting pictures or doing ‘art’. It can be anything you want it to be. What characterises creativity is that it is done with a passionate outpouring.

Mindfood’s theme for this month’s edition is ‘Creativity’, which is what has inspired this post. Carolyn Enting interviews art therapist Irena Stenner in her article ‘Unleash your inner artist’. Stenner explains that creativity is a way of connecting with something ‘beyond our intellect’. I think it’s important to remember this; not every activity you undertake needs to be cerebral.

When Mum was very sick, I was having a hard time managing my emotional stress levels. My very thoughtful and intuitive brother presented me with a sketch book and a set of artists pencils, and reminded me that when I was younger my art was a strong force in my life and a means of expression that I was heavily reliant on. My practice fell away over the years and was replaced with going to work, studying and looking after my children. It had been many years since I’d sat down to draw.

Mum passed away not long after this, and so for his birthday I decided I would take his advice and make a piece of art for him to take home to Queensland, where he lived with his wife and family. The process was incredibly soothing and I had forgotten how healing it could be. I had transcended to a peaceful happy place, right there in my living room, with my baby kicking on the floor and my older kids happily drawing at the table with me.

But you don’t have to draw or paint to be creative. You can sing, or bake, or whittle some wood. Try something that you’ve always admired other people doing, but believed you wouldn’t be good at. The point of the exercise is not what you produce at the end, but rather, the process of creating and where that process takes you.

There was a time in my life where I was stuck in a bit of a rut, with not much money or support to change things, and I read an article that suggested doing one thing each day, that you wouldn’t normally do and see how it feels.

So the next day I wore red lipstick out to the supermarket. I felt fabulous all day. The day after that I wore a beret. The next day I walked, instead of drove. These simple acts were acts of creativity, without any effort, expense or time required from me. And I tell you, they were a salve to my soul.

I still struggle to make time for creativity, but when I do, it feels like I’ve been on a little holiday. What about you? Is there something you do that makes you feel brand new?