This could become a very long list… How often does it happen that an insight you once really “got” – something that was so clear and right – somehow drifts away? And then, a reminder will suddenly come, and you once again know an insight’s truth, right down to your bones?

Back in January, I had a moment of inattention. Well, I have many of those, but at this particular moment, my hand was wet, and the plate pictured above slipped from my grasp, fell to the sink and smashed. This plate still very much sparked joy every time I used it. Boiled egg with soldier toast breakfasts for example. Feeling forlorn, I took a photo of the smashed plate and posted it on Facebook.

“I have a cup and saucer in that pattern,” said one. “It’s the last in the set.” My joy sparked for that cup and saucer too, possibly enlarging my sense of forlornness. See left for joy-sparking.

Another person said, “Turn it into a mosaic.”

Good idea, I thought, but it would be another six weeks before I took any action. And then, one Saturday in February I took to the remaining intact plate with a hammer and turned it into a spiral mosaic, pictured above right.

It wasn’t until I had finished the mosaic, that I recollected that I had put a picture of the mosaic on the front of my memoir Not My Story and explained why Please note, the subject matter of this memoir may be triggering.

To quote myself:

“The mosaic image that appears on the cover was inspired by an excellent radio program on Post-traumatic stress I happened to catch one day. The interviewee noted how important it is for trauma survivors not to think about putting the pieces of their lives back together, like a broken vase where the cracks and weakness are all too apparent. Far better to create something beautiful, special, strong but different – a mosaic that uses all the broken pieces but rearranges them in a sturdy, transformed, stunning new framework which is stronger, beautiful, and different from before.

Stronger, beautiful, and different from before. I’m almost glad I broke my favourite plate in order to have this reminder. Almost.

This week, like many weeks at work, has got me thinking about the complexity of trying to do good work. Because nothing can be achieved without the combined effort of people, working together. If only it could be one person, striving valiantly in the arena as per this quote – but usually, the work that not for profit organisations do requires co-operative effort.

 

And that’s where it all goes wrong.

People have different ideas of what will work, and what’s important. And in the not for profit sector, often these ideas are dearly-held, they’re personal. Commitment to a cause often comes from experiencing something adverse, a permanent, life-altering consequence which could have been avoided. It can create an almost universal sense of T not wanting others to suffer as they have.

How and what you implement prevent tragedies is not usually simple. Many things can sound good on paper, and when you try to make them happen, it doesn’t translate well in the real world. You realise you have accidentally overlooked a key group’s ideas on the matter. People who will need to implement the change don’t share your perspective, and if they won’t or can’t change, then nothing gets better.

So, what to do? For me, I have finally understood that principle of working on yourself in order to create change in the world. Resisting other’s resistance to change just creates, well, more resistance. I have been reading plenty of Eckhart Tolle in the last few weeks, enjoying the debriefing of the book A New Earth on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday podcast. I think that the saying below is provocative and true.

So I am practising the art of being absolutely OK with what is, and then seeing what happens. Sometimes, I can keep this up for minutes at a time…

Let’s start with praise for the idea of domino habits – one habit creates a chain reaction of better behaviours which lead to a better life. For me, it’s been yoga.

I was nearly 30 old before I ever did any kind of yoga. I was living in London at the time and was well and truly into an exercise-averse adulthood. I can’t remember now what it was that attracted me to the yoga studio – I walked past it every day on the way home from the train in one of the lesser known suburbs of South East London, Deptford, as it was being set up. The building was beautiful-that surely must have helped. When it opened its doors, I became one of the first students. The teacher was Glenys Shepherd, a strikingly attractive 50-year old who looked almost no older than I was at the time, and had begun Iyengar yoga with scoliosis that had initially made some poses almost impossible for her to get into. Yoga had transformed her body so she now had a straight spine and exuded wellbeing. To say she was an Iyengar enthusiast was a vast understatement. I learned all the poses so well, and that excellent foundational knowledge has stayed with me. Thanks to the internet, I can see that the yoga studio is still there although Glenys has finally given up teaching (although she is preserved for posterity on Vimeo!)

When I moved to Greece to teach English as a foreign language two years later, I took yoga with me, and it saved me from the horror that is an early teaching career. When another two years passed and I found myself back in Perth and pregnant,  pregnancy yoga provided the perfect foundation for a wonderful experience birthing my daughter.

And then, as with so many things that require spare cash and time, it fell by the wayside in the early parenting years. In fact, my daughter was well into high school before I took yoga up again in earnest. I had had one try at Iyengar again and knew it was not for me, when my niece recommended her vinyasa flow yoga class at Momentum Coaching and Yoga. I have featured a photo of my current yoga teacher Natalie Snooke who established this yoga studio. And no, Nat doesn’t know I’m writing this and there are zero kickbacks for me. I think it’s good to acknowledge those who have really helped us on our way to a better life.

What changed everything for me was doing the 21 Day Yoga Challenges that she offers. The first year I was a student, Nat posted it on Facebook and I clicked that I was going and she rather uncertainly private messaged me. My practice had been patchy at best, and I had to come clean and say it was a Facebook yes, not a real yes. The next year my practice was more consistent and I took the 21 Day Yoga Challenge in earnest. You commit to doing either a class (classes are unlimited for this period) or to practice at home -in which case you text that you have done your practice. You get a star on a chart that is displayed at the Yoga studio for every day’s practice. I will do almost anything for a gold star, and all of a sudden, I could make yoga classes which previously had been too hard to fit in with my demanding job. Having unlimited access to classes also removed the cost barrier and the challenge provided the impetus.

But what I learned from this, and the subsequent 21 Day Yoga Challenges that I’ve done, is that the actual purpose of the Challenge is for you to develop your home practice. And that is the domino habit that I think has changed everything for me as a human being. I use the Yoga Download site to practice at home, and I can take yoga anyway, so when I go away for work or holidays, I take my yoga mat and keep up the regular practice.

Once, I wanted to do Uttanasana with straight legs (the pose where you bend forward as per this image) I have very tight hamstrings. Now, I’ve abandoned that ambition. What’s much more important is turning up on the mat, day after day and giving yourself that wonderful experience of yoga, bent legs and all.

And every time you come back to yoga, it’s always there, waiting for you just like Glenys told me it would be.

So here it is – the end of 2018, almost. There isn’t really too much time left to scrabble in many last-minute achievements, so it’s time for The 2018 Reckoning.

This year was my fourth using The Desire Map technique and annual planners. Desire Mapping is a subtle but to me very useful method of thinking how you most want to feel, and then setting goals from that basis. So for example, if you think about how you want to feel once you land the job, or finish the dissertation, or move house or buy the dog…these feelings give you strong clues about what’s most important to you as a human. It also allows you to get creative about how to bring those feelings into now. These are called Core Desired Feelings.

My Core Desired Feelings

This is how my Core Desired Feelings have evolved over the years:

2015: Abundant, Creative, Focused, Free Joyous.

This was my first year Desire Mapping. I didn’t use my journal for work appointments, so it wasn’t quite “alive”. I started in March.

2016: Creative, Focused, Free, Joyous, Mindful.

This was my first full year Desire Mapping where I used the journal each and every day. On the left-hand column would go work appointments, on the right-hand column the to-dos for the day job. But the Core Desired Feelings always reminded me that my writerly ambitions always had space in my life, and weren’t forgotten.

2017: Congruent, Creative, Free, Joyous then Abundant, Congruent, Creative, Free, Joyous.

I figured half-way through the year that my finances needed a bit more of a kick, and that it was time to put Abundant back into the mix. During 2017, I did a Women in Leadership Circle with the fabulous Sue Rolinson. One of the many valuable things we did was create a Vision Statement for ourselves.Worth the course fee alone!! Mine is: 

I am a courageous, creative woman who compassionately disrupts the status quo.

2018: Abundantly Aligned, Courageously Creative, Joyously Free

After making that Vision Statement, I realised that Courage was missing, and I needed to add it! However, you’re encouraged to have no more than five Core Desired Feelings. With a bit of adjective/adverb collocation, I was able to sneak it in! Note that creative, joy and free are always, always there.

2018 Big wins

  • Having three overarching goals, with smaller steps clustered underneath
  • Getting my first novel manuscript ready enough for two competitions
  • Starting out the year at 75 kilos and finishing at 68, and incorporating the Five and Two/ Intermittent Fasting as just part of life
  • Putting together an awesome team at my workplace
  • Speaking at the March Stories from the Heart event

2018 Some important but not big wins

  • Sticking with the regular coaching
  • Reaching out for help with the manuscript, and getting it! So when I didn’t win either competition, I had somewhere to go next
  • Running Patient Experience Week events again, and adding in World Kindness Day events

Some areas for growth…

  • Weekly Artist Dates. They were not weekly, I think I did about three all year
  • I did not manage to manifest a Citizen’s Jury in 2018. I thought I was so close (I probably wasn’t) and was heartbroken when I realised it wasn’t going to happen.
  • Savings goals are still a work in progress. OK, so I am exactly where I started with one account, but $1,500 better off with another. So that’s something I suppose. And all debts are largely gone.

And now, for 2019…

I’m excited to be giving myself a mini-retreat to Nathaneal’s Rest to walk the labyrinth and think about 2019 Core Desired Feelings. I already have my juicy journal to get started with…

I hope that you have found some time in 2018 to think about what’s most important to you, and do the things that really light you up. And that you have fabulous stationery to help it all unfold! Happy New Year xxx

At 7pm on the 27th October 1998, I was several hours off becoming a mother. Being a first-time mother and everything being quite s-l-o-w, I was hopeful that it wasn’t as far away as it actually was. In reality, I wouldn’t be ready to push until 2am.
 
I was using water in labour, some 9 years before WA would get its act together and create a water in labour policy. If I had lived in NSW on the 27th October 1998, it would have been much more routine for a low-risk mother like myself to be offered the option of a waterbirth.
 
This demonstrates what I know in my bones – it’s not about the research, it’s about the culture. Unfortunately here in Western Australia, certainly in the maternity world, we are still in thrall to the medical profession. In this world, we are far more afraid of allowing a woman to immerse herself in a tub of salty water than we are to inject a range of powerful painkillers into her spinal area which will definitely cross the placenta.
 
About this time two decades ago, 7 pm on 27th October 1998, I would have been advocating for myself, and my request for more time to let labour unfold was expressed firmly, using medical terminology. What it actually sounded like was; “I WANT A VE (vaginal examination) BEFORE YOU TRANSFER ME!”
 
I was fully aware that I would be bullied. I expected it and didn’t take it personally. I didn’t take it lying down, either. I was firm with the Obstetrician, who did do a VE and noted that at 3-4cm I could carry on. He left me to it. I was “one of those” labouring women.
 
I was having my daughter at the Family Birth Centre Birth, at Swan Districts Hospital. The Family Birth Centre would last for just 18 months before becoming offices for obstetric staff, with all the glorious irony of a Christian Church built on top of a pagan site, as they so often are in Italy and Greece.
 
I squatted and I moved as much as I could. I used the many different labouring positions I had practised for the last five months of my pregnancy. I kept the birth within my power as much as I could, riding the wild waves of nature that birth actually is. I was lucky, and it all went my way, resulting in a happy, healthy, intervention-free birth.
 
The wonder and awe of managing to have a natural birth was a wave of joy I would ride until at least the first 72 hours after birth.
 
A daughter was born. A mother was born. A birth advocate was born. In that order.
 
As I contemplate that day with 20 years of experience as a maternity advocate, what change has there been in my home state of Western Australia?
  • There is a water birth policy. But still, in WA, most hospitals will not routinely offer water birth
  • Midwifery-led care is still the exception, not the rule. It is growing, but with a glacial place.
  • We still don’t have benchmarks across our nation to say what our targets for midwifery-led clinics should be. And we are meeting that by making no coherent progress.
  • Women are still having the conversation with their GP that goes a bit like “You’re pregnant, congratulations! Do you have private health insurance? Which obstetrician would you like?”
  • Women are STILL not aware that they can opt for midwifery-led care if they are low risk, and this GP conversation has shifted little in two decades.
  • Women who are medium to high risk STILL largely don’t have the option of care with a known midwife.
  • Women are STILL emerging traumatised from a first birth, vowing to do it differently next time. They still don’t know what they don’t know.
  • Women are STILL spending more time picking the right pram than thinking about how the birth experience can support them to make the massive transition from woman to mother.
  • We still have only one free-standing birth centre in Perth, but on the grounds of a tertiary hospital. We have another one being constructed as we speak, but this time right inside the ward of a tertiary hospital.
  • We have a smattering of midwifery group practices across our state.
I can say for me that the memory of my daughter’s birth is still with me, twenty years later. It won’t be with the midwife who was with me throughout the labour, or the Obstetrician who popped his head around the door a few times.
I suspect this is true for all women. The impact on us is life-long, and yet we still struggle to see our preferences enacted in the maternity services in our state. It still seems that it is always the health system who gets to have the final say.

I was enjoying a coffee at one of my (many) favourite cafes recently when I bumped into a gorgeous woman I met at an NLP course. We had not studied together for more than two years but she remembered me talking about my novel manuscript.

She was kind enough to ask me where it was up to. I was so happy to be able to share that I have lodged it in two manuscript competitions!!

See the action shot below, of me posting one of them, and having a champagne to celebrate!
“Is it finished?” she asked.

Oh, how I wish!

Here is an action shot of me blithely posting the first 50 pages of my manuscript to a competition hosted by the Queensland Writer’s Centre, combined with an action shot of the glass of champagne to celebrate.

This calm photo belies the panic of having finished my edits at 50 pages, exactly where I wanted the extract to end, then realising it was double-spacing, not 1.5 line spacing. So page 50 had become page 64 and more painstaking hours of editing were required.
When I had finally finished and printed it out, I lovingly placed it in the envelope, removed the cover from the adhesive of the envelope, then I could not resist pulling it back out for one more look. Page 50 stuck to the adhesive and could only be removed by me ripping it.

Off I went to print out the 50th page, only for some reason, it said “page 51”. I triple and double-checked that it was the last page and could not account for the gremlin which had shifted the page number forward by one. In the end, I grabbed a pen and changed the one to a zero. Then came this action shot, and the much-needed champagne restorative.

I should find out in the next few months if I have been successful in either of the manuscript competitions I entered, and meanwhile, I will chip away with further edits. If I don’t win either, I will then move onto plans B and C in order to get my first novel published! I will keep you posted.

But one thing is for sure – these writing projects are never finished!

It was early morning, like before 5am and I was having one of my usual very early, scratchy-eyed tired but still awake moments, and listening to the latest episode of the Beautiful Writer’s Group coaching call. I’ve been a member now for several years, keeping in touch with a supportive online community of writers as I continue eking out my first novel. Writing in the dark. Painfully slowly!

This month featured a new segment where the co-hosts, Book Mama’s Linda Sivertsen and the Organised Artist’s Samantha Bennett read out from their latest pieces of work. Samantha read out a powerful extract of being in jail – the jail of a salaried job – and highlighted that the jail door is actually open.

This was hitting my buttons already. 2014 was the year I was going to make the break from salary to business ownership. I was very happy to jump first and ask later and wrote many blogs about this time. At that time as well as being fearless I also regularly felt my guts roil with cold terror about how on earth the mortgage would be paid, among other things. Another slightly awkward reality was that I wasn’t sure what I was selling, and for how much.

The period of insanity/ bravery coincided with being 49 and having just self-published my memoir (respectful trigger alert applies). It was my line in the sand year where I declared publicly that I was an author. Once declared, never retracted. That part of my pre-50th birthday crisis was going just fine.

But Battleship Business Ownership? Not so much. Even though I never let any uncertainty hold me back, and just kept steaming ahead into the fog, fate had other plans for me. While still wrestling with the next tranche of online business training that was going to give me the 6 step fool-proof method to start earning money in my business right away, a job opportunity torpedoed the battleship and leapt out, onto the life raft of this opportunity and watch the battleship sink with alarming rapidity. I found it hard to watch just how easy it was to abandon my entrepreneur dreams.

To be fair, it wasn’t just any old job. This was the sort of job that set off a light bulb in my heart. Weird, I know, but that’s what it felt like when I heard about it and mentally tried on applying for it, getting it. The job was to run my state’s not for profit patient advocacy agency. Tilting at the windmills of entrenched power and privilege, turning the dial back towards the needs of the patient, away from the voracious, insatiable needs of the service or hospital. That life raft became an actual job which I began in January 2015.

Real Prisons…

Fast forward three years to me listening to the Beautiful Writer’s Group, listening to the reading likening salaried work to being in prison. Just two days earlier my salaried job had taken me to actual prison, to hear from prisoners about how they experience their healthcare services. First, a female prison, and a group of 12 articulate, diverse women talked on behalf of their fellow prisoners. We sat around a Board Room table and listened to these Peer Support Workers, took notes and I plotted what I could do without further swamping our small and highly dedicated advocacy team.

The next visit was to one of our male prisons, where I sat at the front of a room of more than 35 male prisoners, also Peer Support Workers. I was up the front of the room in a row of bureaucrats, myself and my colleague the only non-government staff there. I had worn my Birkenstocks as part of my non-profit uniform, hoping the prisoners might understand the dress code.

It was like a dull Q&A panel, although we were asking the questions.

I tried hard not to stare at the many wonderful, colourful and intricate tattoos – because, rude – although there were some truly eye-catching ones on arms, legs and faces.

“What’s good about the health service?” One bureaucrat asks. Crickets.

“What could be improved?” A babble of voices and the conversation quickly builds. There were little hints – sentence lengths of 20+ years referred to, feedback on how the health services, especially the methadone program were this time around compared to the last swing – of crimes that might have been committed, why they might be here. One prisoner with a rat-tail and self-confessed history of meth usage kept chiding his fellow prisoners as they listed the various failings and gaps in the health services. “Well it’s prison, whaddya expect?” he said, more than once. Currying favour with the guards?

Another more mature prisoner reflected “this is good for some of the boys. Somewhere to sleep. Three meals a day.” Yes, and again the distressing peeking through of what is behind many of the faces, hidden in many of the stories of nastiness and evil. Absolutely entrenched disadvantage of the “give me not poverty lest I steal” school.

I am reminded of my own experience undertaking a victim offender mediation conference more than 6 years ago, my last reason to visit a prison.

The Day Job

It is always a blessed relief to hear the prison’s front door locking behind you, leaving you out in the fresh air, and for the next few days I basked in my freedom. Sat on my porch, listened to the birds, watched the trees moving in a gentle breeze and occasionally saw the faces of the prisoners waft across my mind’s eye.

And I pondered my other goals that haven’t quite made it to the top of the 2018 goals list – of doing something in the restorative justice field, helping the justice reinvestment movement take hold. Goal – a word so close and yet so vastly different from gaol…

But am I in prison because I work rather than run a business? I don’t think so. Do I want to work less and write more? Hell yes. Do I want a Writer’s Life? Rather than the life of a hard-working not for profit evangelist whose writing time is squashed to a corner of the weekend? Hell yes. But maybe not just yet…

 

I wrote this back in January, and forgot to hit publish…

It kind of says it all about the pace of 2018 so far, but anyways… here is my 2017 review and my 2018 Intention Setting Declarations!!

******

“It’s Saturday night of my last week of holidays before starting back at work, and I’m practising my Zen Master skill of having no preferences. Holiday. Work. All the same, right? I will keep letting go, letting go. Letting go…

How I love this time of year. I love Christmas, the food, and because of the hemisphere I live in, the beach. Every day plunging into the ocean for dip, swimming through the water like flying, feeling, well, joyously free.

2017 – how did I go?

Another reason I love this time of year is for the opportunity to review how my last year went, and plan the next year. I set my intentions by my Core Desired Feelings, which for 2017 were Abundant, Congruent, Creative, Free and Joyous.

Of the five intentions I set for the year, I achieved three. A big one was finishing Draft One of my first novel project, working title Shakespeare Street. I also synchronised my monthly and yearly goals, which really worked well, and developed new income streams at work.

I didn’t blog and write my newsletter regularly, and I didn’t progress my idea to source pro bono legal support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. There’s always 2018…

2018

Talking of which… 2018 will be my fourth year using a Desire Map Planner. They are juicy and delicious, and they help me connect with the way I most want to feel – which in turn connects me to the direction my soul needs to take. I’ve gone for an adverb+adjective configuration for my Core Desired Feelings, which has allowed me to sneak in Courage: For 2018 I am Abundantly Aligned (because I kept having to explain Congruent), Courageously Creative and Joyously Free.”

 


Now it’s the end of February, and what a year it has already been… How’s yours been??

On this very desk in Chania, Crete, I finished the last scene of my shitty first draft of my first novel on 27th September, three days before my deadline.

Last year I found out about The Writer’s Studio online First Draft Novel course which insisted that I start all over again (I had a part-finished another draft one and mooshed together a second incomplete draft one – so two draft ones if that makes sense. No, not really!). So I started all over again and eleven months later, I made it!! That’s 93,947 words. Just under 24,000 this writing holiday which started 9/9.

Now, to get cracking with the Writer’s Studio Draft Two course. I believe there will be lots more rewriting. So Sisyphus-like, I’ve started rolling that boulder up to the top of the hill!

But first, I celebrated with beer, olives, feta and anchovies. A sweet snack! Chania will always have a place in my heart.

They say that after arguments about sex, money is the number two thing that people argue about. Money is a strange, strange beast. Over the years I have read and thought and reflected on money to try to get upsides with it.

My pattern is to spend what I have, live from pay to pay. When I discovered Desire Mapping, which is the work of Danielle La Porte, I was quick to include Abundance as one of my Core Desired Feelings, to see if I could challenge that old, old pattern. I was, still am, a devoted Desire Mapper.

It all seemed to go so well for the first two years. All that Desire Mapping seemed to pay off as I finally landed a job that paid well, for the first time in my entire life! Then, I must have gotten complacent. Fast forward two years, to January 2017 when I decided, when reviewing my Core Desired Feelings, that I had conquered Abundance and could remove it from my list of Core Desired Feelings (CDFs for short). I launched into 2017 with these four CDFs: Congruent (doing what I say I’ll do), Creative, Free and Joyous.

And then, last month, there was that ghastly moment when darling husband asked if I would please refrain from buying my lunches on the joint account when I’ve worked my way through my entire salary. Ahem. It doesn’t help that he has actually been surviving on savings for nearly 18 months because he has had impeccable financial management techniques in place for the last 20 years. His polite and embarrassing request was just the wake up call I needed. It was time to jam on the brakes of overspending, and turn my financial ship around, so to speak.

I have started making my lunches again. I have pored through the many financial commitments I have unthinkingly signed up to and removed every single one that I can. Instead of just collecting data on my finances using that neat little Pocketbook app, I am actually looking at that data and constantly checking it against my financial goals.

And, I put Abundance back into my Core Desired Feelings, for good measure! I have made a little movie (after significant swearing and at least four hours more than I thought it would take) of my Core Desired Feelings and 2017 monthly goals and other Desire Map themed images here. Enjoy!

Desire Map 2017 Video