Is there anything more horrific than a farewell? Yet this is a moment of such parental pride and excitement. My daughter planned a Gap Year, worked hard to earn money to travel to Europe and has done it! She has donned the back pack and headed off for a glorious European holiday. Here we are in the final moment of farewell.

That last day I decided to work from home, to make sure everything was on track. Keep food and encouragement coming as the last tasks were slowly tackled among a gaggle of friends. Then the evening, meeting the new boyfriend’s parents for the first time (lovely people) at a surreal mini-gig. The day slowly but inexorably disappearing into the departure time of 1am. What we want for ourselves is for our loved ones to take no risks. What we want for our loved ones is to do what they dream of, risks and all. And so it goes, the endless parental teetering between vicarious excitement and selfish anxiety.

At the short gig, my daughter sits on one of the bean bags favoured by the young attendees while we more mature patrons sit on the chairs. All of a sudden my mature and capable adult child takes on the look of a 12 year old. The music coaxes the first tears I have been doing my best to control all day. How can I have let this come to pass? Allowing her to travel On Her Own? How did I forget to be a Helicopter Parent?

It’s not my choice, of course. She’s 18 and the endless letting go of parenting is giving me another suffocating squeeze. Similar to last year’s end of school which I wrote about in this blog – but much, much stronger.

The gig finishes, and then there is dinner with both our families. The clock ticks on. The streets of Fremantle will welcome her back in four months, her feet will walk these streets again, the bookshops will entice her in for another look. I know this in my bones.

Back home and another hour passes before we need to leave for the airport, my usual tame bedtime of 8.30 has long gone. My husband wisely decides to stay at home, says his farewells to his step-daughter on the front porch. Myself daughter and boyfriend in the car, as the trip moves far too quickly to the airport. Smoke hangs in the air, with a smell of burning. Like a London fog, it is hard to see, and the smell worsens as we reach the airport. Burning off? Something more sinister?

At the airport we made our way through the smoky air. Burning off. Then last minute tutorials in how to read departure boards. She’s a very well-travelled person, but always with me, or with a school trip. Is it enough?

Upstairs to the last piece of ground we can walk together, and the moment can be put off no longer. An eerie blue light emanates from the Departure sign and the quiet horror of the moment unspools. Dead Mum Walking, there is nothing to do but keep walking those last steps together. Myself and boyfriend as an afterthought pose for photos and I think “I knew her before she was born.”

After putting him in a taxi home there is no restraint to the maternal howling. All the way home. It will never be this bad again, I know. We will both travel, we will have other good byes, but none as bad as this.

Around the corner of memory I see my own departure, 27 years ago on the road to Europe as a 25 year old. I left Perth by train, to meander across the nation on the Indian Pacific at forty kilometres per hour, then catch an Aeroflot flight to London after spending time in Sydney with my brother. My mother and I have to say good bye at the charmless East Perth train station. The train begins to pull away, and she starts to run, still waving and we wave until we can no longer see each other.

We inflict these farewells on each other, and that is the gateway to adventure and travel and independence.

Yesterday my daughter and I had a Viber phone call while she ate a sandwich in Regents Park. The ravens were cawing and edging in for a bite. The weeping willow draped elegantly into the water and the bilious green of the English Summer lawn was close enough to touch. I have been parenting by Facebook Messenger for at least the last six months so in some ways it is business as usual. The connectivity we enjoy now is a parent’s dream, only now she is half the world away, not out the back in the studio flat.

After getting back from the airport, I creep back into bed, still weeping. I wake some hours later, and darling husband asks me how I am. I can’t answer and he just hugs me. I get up and concoct a makeshift cold pack out of frozen blueberries into a freezer back and place them on my eyes. I have a full day ahead of me, and my life is returning into focus.

Oscar Wilde Diary QuoteWith just a four day weekend in Bali, I couldn’t possibly justify more than a cabin bag. I’d already negotiated with darling husband to bring the laptop so I could keep working on the novel. And I’d slipped in my writing journal and writing reference file I need to have beside me. The writing journal is for angst debriefing, a sort of mini-Morning Pages, the other is a reference file of the golden rules of writing and story telling.

The cabin, laptop and hand bags were all zipped up and ready to go when my eye fell on a beautiful little journal I began in 2013. This was when I first started getting serious about coming out as a writer and entrepreneur. Something made me pick it up and squeeze it in the last available spot in the handbag (also quite heavy by now.)

Mindful of Oscar Wilde’s useful travel maxim I dug out the neglected little blue journal to read on the plane. I flipped back to the beginning and read all the way through. Sensational. Well, to me, any how.

It traces all the heartache and confusion of trying to work out what it is I wanted to do in my business-to-be. The pages are infused with magical thinking about social media and what was going to happen. All of it went out the window when the job opportunity presented itself to me – the job that I have now been doing for a whole year. The diary documents the angst I felt as I let my business dreams go, and the agonising suspense as I inched my way towards securing that job, interview by interview until finally it was mine. Then it the diary falls silent.

With several hours of time on the plane, and nothing else to entertain me, I filled in the year’s worth of silence. Reflection is a useful tool, and these are some key things I extracted from my sensational journal review:

1. “Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere.”

This is a quote from dear E.M. Forster (Howard’s End again) that is so true. Something can seem so right, but then, suddenly it’s not. I was so sure that my path lay in becoming a coach for creative businesswomen. I’d done the coaching course, was well into a business mentoring on-line program to get up and running with a private coaching business when the job opportunity for my current role came to me. Like a torpedo, hitting my business ship fair and square on the broadside, sinking it in minutes.

2. When a really relevant door opens, for goodness sake open it and check out what’s in the room.

I had to grieve the loss of my business idea which I had out so much time, thought, effort, and yes, money into. I learned the usual way that businesses can take your money without giving anything back if you’re not careful. I have zero regrets about changing tack and following the job opportunity. And the assured money, paid holidays etc. I also have zero regrets about what I learned through my coaching course. I have zero regrets about taking the job.

 3. Don’t make the same mistakes you did before. 

Prior to my year of planning to start a business, I left my management role in a not for profit organisation, and took a much less responsible job, calling it my Business Loan Job. In order to manage the guilt I felt at quitting my not for profit management role, I sought coaching. All of a sudden I realised the lost opportunity-if only I had had coaching while I was actually in the role! What would that have meant? So often I felt that there was a glass pane between me and the work that would really make the difference, really turn the curve. So now, I make sure I get coaching. I have endless daily rituals to re-connect with why I chose to take on this role and what needs to happen to make a difference for health consumers in Western Australia.

4. Things take longer than you want them to

A wise colleague met with me not long after I started my new job a year ago. “Change takes time,” she said. She was right, it does. While much was achieved in my first year, I wanted to get so much more done. Another reflection from reading the diary hit me right between the eyes. In my previous management role, I got stuck on the hamster wheel of too many meetings and emails. I recognised, too late, that my time would have been more wisely spent communicating and connecting with the public. Meetings and emails are necessary evils, but reaching out to the public will always provide more opportunities for transforming the way we deliver our publicly funded services. Of that I am convinced. So, lesson re-learnt and listened to. Less meetings, more media. Come at me 2016.

IMG_2385Wagga – it’s not a name to conjure with and I held little positive anticipation of its pleasures. A 72 hour stay was scheduled in Wagga in New South Wales, Australia so that my husband and I could see his son graduate from basic army training. Attending the passing out parade if you will, where I hoped I would not pass out from the exertion of standing around watching incomprehensible marching formations.

But Wagga proved to be a quiet delight, with a number of pleasant features such as plentiful Victorian architecture, a main street rather than ghastly impersonal shopping malls, and a river winding on the edges of the town.

I did not pass out during the Passing Out Parade, and neither did any of the graduates. The ceremony itself was a largely incomprehensible display of marching but at least we were seated fairly comfortably to watch it; and see our dear boy get the physical training award for his platoon. And to see him so happy in the choice that he has made in his life.

It is a pleasure tinged with melancholy to see your young people moving into the world to try their hand at independent life.

The parenting job done well requires a painful redundancy.

And so we waved him off, with not even a tear although I must admit there was a little crying on the inside, on my part at least. I am sure more than a little part of it is selfish; the privilege of watching young people move into the world, see out the physical reality of their choices, causes me to reflect.

IMG_2405Were my young adult choices the right ones? Did I follow what I wanted whole-heartedly? Why am I still feeling so blocked with my writing? Is the answer reading books like Mrs Dalloway, where I come across the sorts of quotes about time that give me a further painful kick up the arse about its rapid passing? That remind me my time studying Literature at University, is now half a lifetime ago? I seem to have the bit about reading lots of books to develop one as a writer, but what about the actual writing, huh? It is interesting to recollect that going through a creativity nurturing process like The Artist’s Way is not a one-off thing. It needs to be re-visited when “blurts” emerge, what The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron calls negative self-talk about your creativity. So Wagga has seen some interesting mental loop the loops around my choices, my past, my creativity, my future. I have had to resort to getting a glue stick and some collaging materials. When in an artistic funk, collage can work wonders!

50On the morning of my 40th birthday, 27th May 2005 to be precise, my mother called me, and when I answered the phone greeted me with this chirpy salutation;

Happy birthday darling! Fifty’s so much better!

I have thought about that a lot, and am thinking much more so as 27th May 2015 rolls around, and I will really be 50. When I think about her pronouncement, I recollect that I was her youngest child, and when she turned 50 I was 12. Freedom was almost completely within her sights; parenting duties were definitely at the “tapering off” stage. It would be just a few more years until she finally realised a lifetime dream of travelling to Europe.

I have just the one child – a very independent and organised 16 year old. I have already realised my dream of travelling to Europe – I first went with my mother and others in 1979; and went back in 1990 to spend the entire decade in the Old World. What will my fifties have in store for me? The same glee my mother reported?

There are a chorus of other positive women’s voices from my friends who have recently turned 50; and 50 is now the new 30 so there is nothing to fear, apparently. Sure, there are often disorienting moments; such as one of my rare visits to my daughter’s high school where I am usually assailed with flashbacks to my own high school years and then compute that I left school 33 years ago. When I left school, 33 was really old. 50 was just ancient.

However, when I am not feeling that disorientation between my actual age and my internal age (27 is about where I stopped counting) I feel the power of being 50. Whatever challenge is currently interfering with my sense of peace and well-being, I will have faced it before. I can draw upon a five decades of hard won experience. I will have perspective about the situation and a toolkit of strategies to handle it.

This hard-won experience almost feels like an entity and gathers behind me; it has my back.

It seems a small price to pay, looking a bit older, when you have all that juicy strength to draw on. And there’s always hair dye.

So yep. I am with mum. 50’s so much better!

rainbow detailIndulge me if you will. It’s my birthday on Tuesday, and I turn 49. Normally I have a birthday month, so for two weeks before, and two weeks after, I manage to stretch my birthday celebrations out in a variety of calorie-laden and sociable ways.  Somehow this year, it hasn’t happened.  I might be lucky to squeeze a week or two this year but the birthday month is just not materialising.

49 got me thinking; about 7 year cycles espoused by traditions such as Rudoph Steiner, numerology, reflected in the chakra system and on and on.

I have just finished my sixth 7 year cycle and am about to start my seventh. That seems significant.  A very long and detailed article on the phenomenon noted that from 42-48:

the unlived aspects of life cry out to be recognised and allowed. The desire to make a mark in life if it has not already been achieved presses for action here.

That certainly sounds about right.  Now that I am entering 49-55 cycle, this is what I have to look forward to:

This is when we take an inventory of our life. It’s a time of spiritual questioning and review of our life purpose. If we haven’t successfully understood who we are by this stage and achieved our goals, then depression, moodiness and turmoil will plague both our waking life and our dreams.

While I confess there was a certain selectivity in the sites I looked at (conveniently ignoring those who somehow indicated I was over the hill) it has been useful to reflect:

1. We women in particular REALLY need to live our dreams.  It is just not healthy for us if we don’t

2. Each age and stage needs to be celebrated for what it can offer us.

3.  When you are not keen on what the stage offers us, make up your own rules!  We are the architects of our personal, professional and spiritual lives.

4.  Age is just a number. I feel 27 so I am 27.

Now let the birthday celebrations begin!

Pip Brennan is a business coach who is passionate about supporting artistic and spiritual businesswomen to create profitable businesses that are aligned with their values.

Susan_BroughtonThe Abundant Businesswoman’s Summit would not be complete for me without the inclusion of Perth’s very own Abundance Expert, Susan Broughton.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Her answer on what is abundance was thorough and thought provoking.  You can still sign up to listen if you want – just click on this link.  The interview series has been going for two weeks now, with a week left to run, but you can access all the previous speakers (and their juicy free gifts) once you are signed up.  Each daily email has them all there for you to enjoy.

But back to Susan.  She shared some common attitudes that particularly for women, can be blocks to abundance;

I don’t deserve anything better than I’ve already got

or perhaps even worse:

I don’t deserve what I’ve already got

Do any of these resonate? Perhaps you have held these sorts of beliefs unconsciously; but it is only through bringing them to consciousness that you can clear your own pathway to abundance.

She also highlighted the attitude of “I’d better get it for me before others do!”  Certainly in the early stages of business, there can be a lot of fear around being able to make a living through your business; but this “grabby” mentality will block abundance.  It is a constant exercise in self-discipline, to avoid feeling that competitive, even desperate edge.  Abundance really is there.  It’s all in our mindset; if we can bring some attention to our abundance beliefs, we have a fantastic starting place to develop our business ideas into reality.

 

 

Nicky Kriel PhotoI first “met” Nicky when I purchased her excellent book, How to Twitter for Business Success. I read it, and I was instantly inspired and empowered by her big picture summary of the different social media platforms and how best to work with them. All of a sudden it seemed completely doable. I implemented, and then began to here the plinking sound of new twitter followers! So, I implemented again and tweeted Nicky. She tweeted me right back and I decided I would be brave and ask her to be interviewed for The Abundant Businesswoman’s Summit.

Obviously, she said yes!

There were many things I enjoyed about Nicky’s interview – her insightful description of women returning to work after having children and how we need to change our thinking about what we bring back to the workforce.

Of course I loved her discussion of Twitter and how it changed the course of her business life, and there is a fantastic Pinterest tip she shares (apart from not going on Pinterest while hungry!)

I am so excited that Nicky is going to write another book about Social Media. I think she is a gifted teacher and writer and she really helps us get off the fence and into social media.

Her free gift is pretty awesome too!

I would love for you to join us at the Abundant Businesswoman’s Summit – sign up and tune in today to hear Nicky’s talk and access her generous free gift.

“See” you there!

Katrina SawaI was busy googling jump starting businesses, and fell over Katrina Sawa on the net. I liked Katrina’s style – she keeps it real, not promising the world but promising results for those that are willing to put in the time. So, I invited her to join The Abundant Businesswoman’s Summit.

And she can certainly can speak from experience as someone who transformed the way she worked as a coach and finally started to make the living she had dreamed of.

Listen up on 4th March to hear more about it. It’s all free 🙂

truth 2It’s a phrase I hear a lot; “The truth is…”  It starts a seemingly never-ending number of sentences.  It seems to be a particularly popular phrase in the endless hours of business training I listen to.  (Ahem, it is progress not perfection – my training addiction still seems  quite well and healthy!)

It is such a comforting thought, that by putting these three words at the beginning of a sentence, all that follows says all that is ever needed to be said on that subject.  It’s what we all want, right? Certainty!

As it jarred on me, I was listening for what followed, weighing it up and thinking “is that the truth? As in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”  Generally each phrase that followed would fail in some way.

Usually it was true in some sense, but not ALL senses.  Truth is, as the saying goes, a relative concept.  Sometimes I might not agree at all.

I pondered on why it jarred with me, and then I thought – I like uncertainty.  I like keeping my options open seeing all sides of the story, even the mutually exclusive ones, and holding them all in mind as being facets of the truth.

I was discussing with a not for profit colleague recently about the experience of being asked for media comment.  Inevitably their request can boil down to a yes/no right/wrong – he’s a monster/ he’s innocent or similar soundbite.  Providing a holistic, truthful answer leaves the reporter glazed eyed and moving onto the next social commentator who will keep the biffo rolling and ensure paper sales.

On the other hand, being a great teacher can require you at times to simplify the truth into a concept that people can grasp.  Then, as their understanding expands, you can put in another building block of the picture, and even if it is contradictory it will not necessarily confuse or demoralise the learner.

So what’s best, simple truth for clarity? Or complicated, nuanced truth for completeness? The truth is, I just don’t know!

imageI am definitely a New Year’s Resolution Enthusiast. Or perhaps more of a 365 24/7 goals person – but there is something so special about the beginning of a new year. I have cleaned out my wardrobe and chest of drawers, depositing three full bin bags into the charity bins. I have purchased new sheet sets so I can start the year with fresh bed linen (a new initiative for this year).

So as well as my recently updated Vision Board I am going to add two New Year’s Resolutions into the mix:
1. Gratitude
I chose this image out of the plethora available because it reminded me that I have had the opportunity in my life to go right up to the top of Big Ben and put my hands on this very glass. And be there for when it chimed eleven.
I may not be travelling as much right now, but I have travelled much and enjoyed the wonderful novelty that travel brings
2. Letting Go
Yes I didn’t think buying real estate in the 80’s was something that people did unless they were boring suburbanites and I knew I was destined to travel the world! The prices are laughable in hindsight, and the proportion of the first home owners scheme relative to the price of the real estate is enough to make one cry. But I have to let that go. I didn’t buy real estate then and that is ok. I bought in 90’s. Let. It. Go.

So I am ready, with some gratitude and letting go, to embrace whatever 2014 will bring…