Inside, I feel 27. No matter that I am that plus 30 years. There was something about being 27 – I felt like I knew who I was, and starting to kick some ass in life. Perhaps because my birthday is on the 27th I resonate with that number. I I decided this week that I would pick the 27th of the month to send my new monthly e-news out. Having made that pronouncement and felt that internal “click” of committing to a decision that I have made before but not honoured, I randomly googled the number 27. This is what leapt out at me:
This number is about non-judgement, compassion and tolerance of other and their beliefs. People with 27 in their numerology charts should use their idealistic viewpoints, humanitarian nature, people skills, and wide array of knowledge to help humanity.
Then this weekend I met with my Emerging Writers Mentor Nathan Hobby to discuss the latest round of edits. I got to the cafe early to make sure I had read through all his comments before he arrived. When I went up to order coffee, the waitress gave me table number 27. Another sign!
So tomorrow I will be launching this to my subscribers. I plan to pull together a digest of Sunday blogs and share other titbits that I prefer not to share publicly. If you would like to subscribe, just click on the image below.
In 1979 when I was just 14, life became a little interesting in my staunchly Catholic, very suburban household when my eldest (kind, thoughtful, smart, gentle and idealistic) sister joined the Orange People. At the time they wore orange clothes (hence the name) and followed Bhagwhan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho. It prompted a groundswell of all the things within my family as can be imagined. But for me, it caused an unpicking of my childhood Catholic strait jacket, seam by seam. There were so many of the same problems in both organisations it seemed to me, even though outwardly they appeared so different.
Fast forward many decades, and two months ago I was recommended the podcast A Little Bit Culty. I started with the episode featuring Erin Roberts talking about her time in the Orange people, and raged and wept as I listened. The abuse of women and children is so devastating. Also the fact it took Erin most of her life to recognise that what she experienced was abuse got me in all the feels.
I then went back to find out more about the hosts, Sarah Edmondson and Anthony Ames and their flight from the NLP infused self-development cult NXIVM. They escaped from NXIVM and were part of dismantling it and ensuring the leader will never get out of jail (very satisfying). I have been dipping in and out of this important podcast, every now and then needing breaks, because this stuff is hard.
So in the tradition of “Too Long Didn’t Listen” I have extracted some nuggest from my hours of listening:
-Much like people trapped in domestic violence situations, people outside a cult can look in and be very judge-y, imagining they are completely immune from this ever happening to them, and puzzled why they “don’t just leave.”
-People don’t join cults – they follow a dream or an ideal – usually a better world, a new way of doing things, a great leap forward for human kind. There can a lot of shame for people leaving cults, who can berate themselves for getting into them in the first place. It’s important to remember the positive things they were pursuing, and the wonderful experiences that can be had in a cult, even if it turns to ash after a while.
-Once they are seduced into a cult, the leader will usually perform a predictable range of manipulative behaviours. These have been painstakingly researched and put into a model called the BITE model by Dr Steven Hassan, himself an escapee from the Monee cult (see image above). You can look up for yourself here to find his short document which lists the features of a cult in terms of control of Behaviour, Information, Thoughts and Emotions. Working through that list and seeing how many ticks an organisation gets can help you begin to identify if you are in a cult, can open up that little gap to allow some critical thinking to creep in.
-It’s very hard for people in cults to have any time to have that little gap for critical thinking as they are kept very, very busy. This might mean a punishing schedule of talks, tasks, daily routine. Or it might mean distracting people with new ideas.
-Another key feature is disconnecting people from their gut instincts, their warning signals for when things are moving into the realms of abuse. Usually this is achieved by telling followers they don’t have enough faith, or they don’t have the grit it takes to keep on working on their issues etc.
-Dr Steven Hassan provided a super helpful approach when you think a loved one may be in a cult. He talks about this in the second episode of A Little Bit Culty.
Be open, curious, acknowledge the ideal that your loved one is seeking through the cult. Assure them that you too want a better world and ask them to explain to you how this cult is the only way to achieve that. This open conversation can encourage an ongoing dialogue which may help them think their way into freedom.
It just felt important to share this here. A little bit culty might be OK, but a lot culty is not OK…
“I don’t believe things happen for a reason, I just believe life is actually the randomness we see around us.”
Maya Shankar, Episode 17. Riz Ahmed Plays Himself, at the 17:25 minute mark
It’s been a week of rich listening on various podcasts, including a favourite, A Little Bit Culty which I am saving for next week’s blog.
This week belongs to the excellent A Slight Change of Plans. Not one but two Slight Change of Plan episodes I randomly listened to, tackled the popular idea that “everything happens for a reason.” These were episode 17 – Riz Ahmed Plays Himself, and Episode 32 – A Test of Faith featuring Kate Bowler whose life is upended by a Stage IV cancer diagnosis at age 35 with a 1-year-old son.
These two thoughtful episodes dig into the idea that the belief “everything happens for a reason” means that when bad things happen, it lets loose the dogs of victim blaming. There must be something you did or didn’t do that caused this bad thing to happen to you. Life is not random, but completely ordered. It strips away our empathy and fellow-feeling.
Kate Bowler describes how her terminal diagnosis made her aware of the precariousness of life, and this realisation “opened up in me a capacity to love other people and their precarity.” (23 minute mark)
In short, if we give up the certainty that life is ordered, and that when things happen “there is a reason,” we are able to embrace the complexity and randomness of life, and see each other as we all really are – not special, not immune, all just as likely or unlikely to have bad things happen.
In a New York Times article Kate Bowler wrote in 2016, just months after her diagnosis, she recounts the neighbour who came to drop off a meal and tell Kate’s husband that “everything happens for a reason.” She was very startled by him asking what that reason might be.
“She wanted some kind of order behind this chaos. Because the opposite of #blessed is leaving a husband and a toddler behind, and people can’t quite let themselves say it: “Wow. That’s awful.” There has to be a reason, because without one we are left as helpless and possibly as unlucky as everyone else.”
Certainty or love. Not really a choice, is it? Love wins!
While I have some regrets about this, I did not send my daughter to Steiner School. She comforts me by reminding me she wouldn’t have met her partner if she hadn’t gone to the school she did, so I think I have let that go now. But still, mainstream school wasn’t great in many ways and I still love Mrs Aylward with a passion parents reserve for those teachers that “get” and encourage our children.
Rudolph Steiner had many things to say about many things, but I am always intrigued by his belief about the importance of seven year cycles. This short article reminded me that I am at The Cross-Roads – Mastery or Evaluation, ages 57-63. Steiner maintained that 56 is an important turning point in your life, and for me, that signaled me joining the Great Resignation and leaving my leadership role and venturing/blundering out on my own. And letting my hair go grey, a sign of the massive transition within.
I have been Marie-Kondo’ing my website, reading old blogs with a fascination of watching my seven-years-ago self tackling the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, a coach. I am saving these old posts like bugs in amber for posterity into a separate database and then deleting them from my website, to let the fresh air in. I’ve come out as a coach and lived experience consultant properly, with whizzy online forms to meet with me for coffee. Plus of course updated the whole site so it’s clear I am a silver fox/ proper crone now.
I am just at the beginning of this new seven year cycle. It does feel that life gets better and better. Or at least, that my website is getting better and better. Lol.
It’s a Saturday morning, after yoga and we’re having coffee. I haven’t been for a while so some of my fellow yogis ask me how it’s been going since I left work, almost exactly two months ago now.
I reel off the things I’ve been doing – making a drum, going to Quairiding, some consulting, some committees… I may not have shared how very good I now am at Wordle and Quordle (there are practice games as well as the daily games, if you really want to disappear down the five-letter rabbit hole forever…)
“It sounds like you’ve filled your free time with a whole lot of things,” one of them challenges. “What about writing?”
“Ah. Yes, I’m glad you asked me that”, I dissemble.
What floats to my mind next is the many, many hours of volunteering work I have done in the last two months, as a sort of rebellious “I’m not working now so I can do what I want!”
However, all that volunteer work involves lots and lots of administration and small details. To-dos breeding to-dos on my list – which make me feel productive and valuable until Poof! it tips over from exciting and engaged to overwhelm and I find myself snagged on my to-do list like barbed wire.
“What beautiful earrings!” my Hairdresser complimented me. This happens to me quite a lot now. Since my friend Lencie died earlier this year, her many many pretty things were divided up among her family and friends. So we are carrying her around, each and every day. Earrings, necklaces, rings, scarves, mugs. She did have exquisite taste.
Sometimes I think that all the wisdom of life is contained in E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End, which tackles money, death, friendship and class (among other things). When people compliment me on Lencie’s jewellery, I keep thinking about that scene after the main character Margaret Schlegel loses a friend from cancer. She is pictured at a metaphorical beach, where a “wave had strewn at her feet fragments torn from the unknown.” I think of these objet d’arts of Lencie mysterious fragments of that transition – she was here and then, she is not here.
I’ve never been much of a collector of things, I worship de-cluttering. It always amuses me that I lumbered into a museum career three decades ago by accident, because I had computer skills (that was the 1980s, man). Objects really aren’t my thing, but their stories are interesting. I know some of the story of Lencie so her pretty things are interesting to me. I like that I can take her out and about and that others can admire her taste.
P.S. Sunday was canceled in a flurry of feeling ill and getting Covid tests. Yet again I convinced myself I had the dreaded lurgy, and I certainly did feel awful – but it is not The Covid. Anyhow, I didn’t surface all Sunday, or even for much of today, so the Sunday blog has become a Monday blog, and it’s still Sunday in America somewhere…
a weekly expedition to explore something that enchants or interests you
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, in a 2015 blog https://juliacameronlive.com/2015/02/24/the-magic-of-artist-dates/
About seven years ago I got serious about that classic book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and began my Morning Pages (three pages of hand-writing -stream-of-consciousness/ blurting/ dumping and certainly no editing.)
I started to work through the exercises she sets each week to uncover any artist wounds you may have seen over the years (here’s looking at you, art/ signing/ English teacher…) although fairly early on I began to wane in my zeal. I think I still have the letter I wrote to the tutor I had in the 90s who told me my play sagged in the middle. (That’s week One’s exercise, where you write to someone who crushed your artist spirit, so it’s an indication of how soon I flagged.)
The Artist Date is a great concept – a weekly date with just you and your creativity. You can’t take anyone with you, because then your creativity is having to play gooseberry instead of feeling centre-stage where it belongs, for at least one hour per week. You don’t have to do anything very high art either – just something that enchants or interests you, as Julia says in the quote above.
Today was a treat – the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel exhibition where you get to see details of this incredible fresco close up in replica form. There is an app (of course) where you can scan a code and listen to a description of each panel while you marvel at the craft.
Interestingly even though it is an exhibition of replicas there was an echo of the bustle and crowd of the Sistine Chapel as we all milled around the images and kept on having the tap the QR code for the next bit of audio (and it always took longer for us Gen Xers and Boomers while the Millenials tapped and listened.
But I digress. This is just to say, taking your Artist out each week is a wonderful habit to get into. Thanks and big love to Julia Cameron.
There is a trigger warning for this post which references sexual assault. Please take care when reading.
“One day this date won’t mean anything. You won’t even remember it.” So said a friend of mine about the date that changed me forever. 10th May 2002. At the time I was dubious, and twenty years later I know for sure this is not true.
On 10 May 2002, a man broke into my house – well he came through the back sliding door which I had forgotten to lock – and sexually assaulted me. My daughter was just 3 and was there but was unharmed during the attack.
I used to call this a Slash in the Canvas because it was just so unlike everything else in my life. This Slash in the Canvas has taught me so much over two decades. How trauma lives in the body, and the body can help us heal. What the difference is between what I experienced – a single incident trauma – and complex trauma with significant adverse childhood experiences. I have learned over two decades that to have so few hiccups in life is a privilege marker. And that my family of origin did very well in how they insulated me from life’s harsher lessons. I understood trauma from the inside and this revealed to me many blind spots I didn’t know I had, and I think it has made me a better person.
I learned how hard it is to get real change – to move from the (politically popular) virtue signalling of White Ribbons to real change. Things like funding independent advocacy services, implementing therapeutic justice approaches and adequately and supporting a diverse workforce including peer supporters. I learned that Inquiries and Recommendations will not magically be implemented, even though we survivors turned up, spoke the truth even though our voices shook, were heard kindly by panel members. Even though I personally dedicated many hours to volunteering on a committee responsible for implementation, almost nothing was done from that Inquiry I was involved in.
This morning I awoke around the time it had happened, about 3-4am. In the quiet and peacefulness of the early morning I spoke about it to darling husband who at the time lived across the road. Twenty years ago he was only a date, not a husband. He couldn’t remember me calling him that terrible morning, telling him what happened. He couldn’t remember coming over straight away, and when the police arrived, being taken off for questioning.
I thought about it several times during the day. “At this time I would still have been in the police station.” “At this time I would just be getting to SARC (Sexual Assault Resource Centre) to do the forensic.” “At this time I would finally be getting to my parent’s house to see my beautiful little girl.”
I haven’t had an event to mark the ceremony for a while, but I always remember this date. Always.
Many years ago, I read this wonderful paragraph from Nancy Venable Raine’s book After Silence, Rape and My Journey Back which articulates why I still want to mark this date. I uncovered it well looking through old blogs, and I wanted to share it again today:
I began to write about the seventh anniversary of my rape and the six that came before it, and when I wasn’t sure how to end what I was writing, something happened. Flowers arrived from the flower shop at the foot of the hill; “Happy 7th. You are not alone. Love always, Kate”…
The flowers Kate sent that day had power. For the first time in seven years I had the sense of connection and community. I was celebrating my anniversary in the only way I knew how, and Kate was there. This anniversary, unlike all the others, was shared. I suddenly knew how to finish what I was writing – with an image of women, marching, openly and together, celebrating their anniversaries, speaking their names, carrying flowers.”
Nancy Venable Raine, Rape and My Journey Back
Keeping silent does not move us forward. We need to talk about this stuff, together, and celebrate our survival, preferably with flowers. Maybe it’s time to build on #MeToo and #LetHerSpeak and include #LetHerCelebrate…
Happy two decade survivorversary to me.
If you need to reach out for help or to talk to someone, there are plenty of links on here and hereand here
It’s not that often that a group of women who meet at a Retreat follow through with meeting up again. You know how it goes (especially if you are a Retreat fanatic like I am) – you meet awesome women, exchange numbers or emails and promise to meet again.
This time it was different. We had two women attend the Retreat from Quairading, a town two hours’ drive East of Perth in the Wheatbelt. It’s on Ballardong Noongar Boodja, the land of the Ballardong peoples.
The women talked up Quairading suggested we re-convene there a couple of months after the Retreat, and this weekend about half the Retreat attendees, six of us in all – did just that.
We met at The Makers Keep 6383 which is a treasure trove store of original art, gifts, wares with a workshop space out the back. Our hosts had put together arrival packs (see photo) which typify both the warm welcome and why I love Australia. There was a two-pack fabric face mask and RAT because COVID had come to town, a Quairading map, sweet notebook and a fly net that goes over your hat. Flies are not usually bad in May but they were a bit friendly and the fly net definitely came in handy.
We stayed at the Quairading Hotel which is what it is, an ageing beauty with warm, welcoming hosts who could not have been more hospitable. It’s a 1908 building with the gorgeous verandahs and wonderful high ceilings you get in old pubs. We had a floor to ourselves, we all had our own ensuite in our own rooms with a History of Quairading book on the bedside table. Maybe the carpet tiles aren’t so awesome but the spaces were so clean and very comfortable. Soft towels. Nice smelling soaps. A space to retreat back into and do a bit of yoga, knock out a blog etc.
And the catering – the Quairading Hotel and local catering company Flavour Town Catering had catered for us with delicious food and generous (I mean generous) helpings of everything. It was all so tasty – especially the pea and ham soup with the special Toapin Rise Farm Rosemary Salt.
Morning coffee was from the Foodworks supermarket next door. I felt somewhat dubious about what the coffee might be like, but it massive shout out to Kymbo and Wicked – their Foodworks has coffee as good as any you’d get in Fremantle’s cafe strip.
I took my coffee next door to the Makers Keep 6383 and sat out the back working on the novel. I had set myself the target of editing three scenes. The conversations drifted in and out from the shop every now and then as I edited. I am someone who doesn’t mind some background noise when working.
And then… as if all of this wasn’t awesome enough, it was World Labyrinth Day this weekend. You may know that I love a labyrinth and the Anglican Church just so happens to have a Chartres Cathedral-style labyrinth beautifully rendered in brick. On Friday night it had been lit up with candles around its edge, and I’d missed it. The town’s resident Texan not only lit it all up again Saturday night for us, but she also put on a wine and cheese spread. I was just in heaven. Walked in to the centre, out again – it was just the best. Afterwards she shared stories of cutting the bricks to make the labyrinth. I went back at dawn for another go.
Taking weekend time for the Muse is important. Dressing for the Muse in loud pants is important.
It’s now been exactly a month since I left my job (see here for the Eerie Quiet blog update) and I am well into the swing of my new life. That new swing of literally never going back to work. And back sharing the housework with darling husband.
So I’ve been taking stock. April has seen me
Spend quite a bit of money on computers and tech support to get said computers working
Attend three work-related things I had committed to do pro bono (perhaps unwisely) when I was still working
Dip my toe in the consulting water
Get totally confused about which day is which (helped by all those lovely public holidays)
Emerge with my gray hairdo
Make myself a frame drum out of kangaroo skin (it’s a bit awesome if I do say so myself)
Attend three writing workshops
Try out a new local co-working space
Lodge a couple of grant applications in for my suburb
Re-do my writing deadlines, meet with a sensitivity editor and even work on the damn book
Write four Sunday blogs
So not bad, all in all. Another interesting activity has been literally dusting off the coaching certificate I did in 2014 and never really got to use. I’m thinking about coaching health and social care professionals who want to create systemic change and are feeling the pinch of how hard this work is. I’ve also gone back into the excellent Marie Forleo BSchool business school training because I am actually working for myself now. This time I have been able to progress through the first module because, well, I am in business now.
What I like about BSchool is that it forces you to implement, all the time. She always says “clarity comes through engagement”. It’s no good me coming up with business plans in my head. I need to reach out to people. So I have done my homework and have spoken to five very generous coaches about what they do. Each time I have gone into the conversation almost thinking I know what will be said, and each time I have been surprised, energised, and have become a little clearer. It is a very rich and generative thing to do.
I think it’s great advice for just about anything you want to do – clarity does come through engagement, not by just staying in your own head. So I’m reaching out, inching towards a new clarity…