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.

#100happydays fatigue

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Image via Pinterest

As many of you know, I’ve been taking part in the #100happydays, which is meant to foster mindfulness and a greater awareness of the small things in your life that make a positive difference.

 

On Friday I read an article called ‘Is 100happydays making you miserable?’. It was my lightbulb moment. To say it is making me miserable is probably a little extreme, but it’s fair to say, it was starting to become a chore.

 

Part of my efforts to become more mindful and more present, was a decision to disengage somewhat from social media. The problem was I’d just about be ready for bed and I’d remember that I hadn’t done my 100happydays post, so I’d have to get on Facebook again.

 

Then I’d curse inwardly because I wasn’t quick enough with my camera phone and had missed the perfect moment earlier in the day. But I wasn’t quick enough because I probably had the baby in one arm, and a basket of washing in the other, and food on the stove that needed to be turned off just before it caught on fire. But the point is, I was cursing myself. Surely that goes against what 100happydays is trying to do?

 

So then I’d quickly try and find something to post – I think the ‘love heart log’ takes the cake here. It was kind of cute, and it DID make me happy, but only because it meant I didn’t miss my post that day. Seriously, a ‘love heart log’?

 

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Last week I wrote a post on my love/hate relationship with Facebook. My participation in 100happydays was actually fuelling the ‘hate’ part of that post, because when I was done with social media for the day, I’d then have to get back on so I didn’t miss a day.

 

But there was also the performative aspect of it that didn’t sit well with me. You can choose to email your pictures in for privacy, but I chose Facebook and after a week or so I tried to change it to email so I wouldn’t have to get on Facebook everyday, but there was no option to make changes, once you’d registered.

 

One day I posted a picture of baking cookings with my daughter. It was a lovely thing to do together, no question. Later a friend told me she had wondered how I was able to get everything done and still bake cookies. Chaos followed that evening, because I’d lost time that I would have used to make dinner, but of course I’m not doing a follow up post on the baby screaming at the dinner table because she’s so hungry, because I’m 45 minutes late with dinner! Not so happy days, yes?

 

Then after I read ‘Is 100happydays making you miserable?’ I saw the inaneness of it all. I was off the hook. Now, I know the stats say that 75 per cent of participants don’t finish their 100 days, maybe it’s because they all got happy days fatigue, like me.

 

That’s not to say it wasn’t a worthwhile venture, it was. Because in the first few weeks I really got a lot out of it. Without a doubt, it did what it was meant to do, and I definitely take more pleasure in the smaller things, than prior to the challenge.

 

If it was #30happydays I think the success rates would be much higher, as when the fatigue sets in, you’d only have a few days or a week to go, so it wouldn’t be such a chore to finish. But also, 30 days is enough time to change a habit, so doing the challenge would still achieve its objectives of encouraging mindfulness and gratitude.

 

So on the Happy Days theme, I’m just going to be cool with it all. Cool with not finishing, cool with not recording every happy moment, just cool. Like the Fonze.

 

My Love/Hate Relationship with Facebook

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Image via Pinterest (buzzfeed.com)

There are many people who have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love the connectedness it gives me, but I hate the addictive nature of it. In fact, I feel like I need to vent, so here is my list of why I hate Facebook:

 

  • I hate that it draws you in without you even realising. The kids are finally asleep, you just have a quick look at Facebook before you read your book/write your emails/wash your hair. Lordy, it’s 10.30 already! How did that happen. Too tired to read/write/wash hair now. Another night lost to Facebook.

 

  • I hate the performative nature of it. We all post photos on Facebook, but they are only ever really photos of us having a great time. It promotes this un-reality. So yes, the picture is real and it happened but the collage of pictures posted creates a false impression. I’d like to say that my make up is always perfect and I am always ‘party ready’ and that my kids are always cute and loveable. And while we all know that what we see isn’t necessarily what is, it’s easy to believe the story in front of you.

 

  • I hate that I love it. I really do. Over summer I disengaged from Facebook for two weeks. It was great, and terrible. I kept feeling like I was missing out on something. But all I was really missing out on was people’s montages of an un-real life. Logically, I know that is true, but for some reason the reality versus and performed becomes indistinguishable.

 

  • I hate that Facebook doesn’t have a breathalyser! There absolutely should be. If you’re over .05, Facebook should be off limits. Because there isn’t an adult in the Facebook world who hasn’t got on Facebook after a few drinks and then wished they didn’t.

 

  • I hate that it’s now being used for advertising. This just shits me, plain and simple.

 

But it’s not all bad. Like I said, it’s a love/hate relationship. Here are a few reasons why I love it:

 

  • I love that I can keep in touch with people who are really far away. My husband is English and some of his siblings have never met our children. So Facebook is a gift for them, they can see almost ‘real time’ pictures of their nieces and nephew, and get a glimpse into the ‘every-day’ of their lives.

 

  • I love the connectedness it brings. We have a private family Facebook page where we post things that are only relevant to our family, that only we will ‘get’.

 

  • I love that you can let a lot of people know something important, quickly. I announced the birth of our third child on Facebook, it saved me a lot of time sending emails and text messages. I know a text message does the same thing, but there are lots of people on my ‘friends’ list that I don’t have mobile numbers for, but still want to share things with.

 

  • I love that I hate it. Because while I still hate it (but also love it), I will continually be reminded of why I hate it, so won’t take it so seriously after all.

 

How do you feel about Facebook? Does it rile you or make you happy?

Diary of a (Novice) Meditator

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Image via Pinterest ( OrganicGirlca.tumblr.com)

Everyone who meditates extols its virtues. Mental clarity, reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep: the list goes on. But when someone says “You should meditate”, it’s the same as saying “You should do more exercise” or “You should drink less”. We all know what we “should” do. Actually doing it is something else all together. I knew I needed to do something to manage my stress. Last year, I had my third child and lost my mum suddenly, in the space of four months. My husband and I were already in chaos as our baby daughter rarely slept, day or night – but when Mum died, things started to spiral. We got through it with the help of a supportive community and friends, but my pattern of thinking had changed. Lack of sleep combined with shock and grief meant my thought processes had completely changed rhythm. I needed a way to iron out the kinks, and meditation seemed to have the answers. The 21-Day Meditation Challenge, hosted by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey, appeared at this crucial point. Once registered, each day a link to a guided meditation is sent to your inbox, and you then meditate for 20 minutes at a time that suits you. Each Challenge has a theme, and this one was “Finding your flow”. Here’s my Challenge diary.  

 

This article was first published in Sunday Life Magazine on June 1, 2014 (Fairfax Media) and can be accessed on the Daily Life website