Archives for posts with tag: Happy

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Dear 16 year old me,

I know you think that you have life pretty much worked out. Fun girlfriends, good grades, a nice job that funds your wardrobe, a boyfriend you adore, dance class every other day, and big plans.

But I want to share some things I know now which could help you make the most of the next two decades.

Firstly, wear short skirts now. Quit hating your thighs. They will never look better than this. And you are more beautiful than you think. Later you’ll look back on this body and wish you could have it back.

Hit the beach in bathers. Do not hold back from doing anything because you think you’re fat. Big girls need role models too. Be one.

Wear sunscreen and quit baking yourself like Sunday dinner. They’ll be cutting cancerous chunks out of your skin soon.

No tattoos. You’ll be more original by having inkless skin in time. Get scars from making great stories instead.

Treasure your adorable boyfriend. He is your first love. He will become the benchmark for your future fellas. And when, after fifteen years, you cross paths in the doctor’s surgery, each with a snotty kid on your hip, you want it to be lovely.

Sex is rarely as fabulous as in your mind. So hold on to your virginal status and enjoy exploring all the other options in the meantime. Then have sex with enough people to know a great bang from a blah one.

Don’t freak out. The nuns have you convinced that you’ll get pregnant if you miss a pill (not that you’re even on that yet!) So it will come as a rude shock when you struggle with infertility in your early 30s. Keep it together. You are meant to be a mum.

Learn all you can about boys. One day you’ll be responsible for raising two of them, so pay attention.

Cook. You’ll eat more than a thousand meals every year. Knowing how to make them enjoyable is an essential life skill. And cooking for others will bring you joy. Learn from your mum while you don’t have to pay STD call rates to find out why your crackle won’t crisp.

Stop drinking Diet Coke. It will be bloody hard to kick that nasty habit later. Quit now. And do not eat whatever you want. Sure, Caramello Koalas are yum. But if you can learn to love eating healthy now you’ll save yourself a lifetime battle with the bulge. Of course, I know you’ll ignore this advice.

Be good to your parents. You think they are overprotective, old-fashioned and naive. But you’re wrong. They are your rock, lifeline, lighthouse, sanity, saviours and fans. Always will be.

You will meet Olivia Newton-John, in a bank, and she will sign a copy of Grease for you. It will be the highlight of your financial services career. Yes, you’ll have one. Shockingly uncool, I know.

Be of service in retail and hospitality. It’s fun. And it will teach you how to be a good manager, and nice to your waiter.

Remember your roots. You can’t wait to spread your wings in the big city. But don’t forget your hometown best friends. You’ll need them to remind you who you are when you lose yourself. And when you make the big decisions, like getting married, you’ll want one of them standing by your side.

Keep shooting. You’re dreaming of being a photographer. Do it. You can do anything, but not everything. So if you get a ‘proper’ job first then it will be decades before you find the space to pursue this passion again.

Travel far and wide, with friends and solo. It will keep you forever curious and grateful. And it will help you recognise home.

Get some manners, proper toffy ones. So you don’t feel uncomfortable at a formal function or ever wonder what the ‘right’ thing to do is. Know the rules, then choose to break them.

You will always love Patrick Swayze and Dirty Dancing, but don’t confuse your dance teacher for him. That man will break your heart. This blow will help you to recognise a truly good man when he opens your car door for you. And when he proposes, in a spa, while you’re wearing ill-fitting bathers and last night’s makeup, say yes.

Marry a man who is good with his hands. Musicians and dancers are fun, but a guy who can build a cubby, unblock your drain, assemble flat pack furniture, fix a leaking whatever, and make you come is a keeper.

Love learning. Study. Take jobs that are just beyond what you think you can do. Read. Seek out inspiring people. Stretch your head in new directions and you’ll always find something to be excited about.

Fail more often. Stop hesitating to try things that might not work. It’s a terrible habit. Nobody cares if you fall on your face. Honest. So long as you can laugh in the mud.

Play an instrument or sing. Otherwise you’ll spend a fortune of music festival and concert tickets while you live vicariously, dreaming of being on stage.

Be nicer to your crazy uncle and your spinster great aunt. You’ll miss them when they’re gone. And, believe it or not, you will aspire to be like them one day.

Pace yourself. You can have it all, and you will. But it is a hell of a lot to juggle. And you’ll be happiest when you’re clear about what is most important at any given time.

Save. Money can’t buy happiness, but it does give you options. You will always earn more money than you need. Don’t waste it.

Never stop dancing. It is essential for your happiness. And when you take a big break, it is bloody hard to get your groove back. Trust me.

Be happy. Not just because it feels good. But because you are better, healthier, more generous, more patient, more productive, and more creative when you are happy.

Worry less. It’s going to be splendid. And when it’s not, you’ll be just fine.

Of course, I know you’ll ignore all this advice. You’re determined to find your own answers. And it will make for one big, beautifully messy life. Enjoy it.

Big love,

36 year old Me
xoxo

PS: Rethink that velvet hat, please.

PPS: This post was inspired by the regular Womans’ Weekly column ‘Dear Me’.

PPPS: If you like what you read, subscribe below for more.

What advice would you give your younger self?

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Writing makes me happy.  

For decades I have paid my bills by writing, in all formats.  Mostly, my prose is presented under a company’s logo or by someone else entirely.  But writing as work made me forget that it’s fun.

Personal blogging is new for me.  Putting my musing out there, in my own name, is leap of faith.  And when I published my first post in March, it was a tentative toe in the web’s water.

Thank you for reading.

I was blown away to see that 450+ people regularly read my ramblings.  Your responses, online and offline, have led to some really inspiring, encouraging, heart-warming discussions.  Thank you, from someplace deep within me.  

I began blogging for me.  But being heard, understood and appreciated has been an unexpectedly lovely side-effect.  

My blog is finding it’s place.

I began this blog without a clear purpose.  But putting myself out there is changing my life.

It’s helping me to clear my head and create, for your consumption.

I am enjoying the discipline of writing regularly.  It has helped me to find routine in my new freelance schedule.  And satisfaction too.

Blogging is helping me to overcome my perfectionism.  I have a million unfinished tasks weighing me down because I want to do them properly.  And this means I actually do nothing way too often. Perfect really is the enemy of good.   

My inner critic stops me all too often, by convincing me that everyone else is more creative, clever, talented, worthy… but bollocks!  I also know that it’s not about the best, it’s about who gets it done.  And so I am aspiring to be a completionist.  And I feel much more accountable knowing you’re on the receiving end each week.

This blog is also an exercise in consistency for me.  I am great at starting things, but not at sticking to them.  I bore easily.  There’s always something shinier that catches my eye and I’m off down that rabbit hole before I’ve wrapped what was underway.  So I am curious to see whether I can stick with this little blog.  Time will tell.

Blogging demands uncomfortable levels of self reflection for me.  Naval gazing has been something I have actively avoided in the past while I glorified busy.  But I am learning that reflection and gratitude are key to happiness.  And I want to recognise joy more often, and therefore chase it less.  

We must stop glorifying busy, for everyone’s sake.

Life’s frantic pace often sees us squishing our social interactions into sound bites.  I fear we’re losing the art of lolling, day-dreaming and in-depth conversation.  

I believe that the explosion of counselling/coaching services in recent years is a direct reflection of our inability to make time to really listen to each other day-to-day.  We are now paying people for their attention.  Bit sad really.

This blog is a way for me to share my learnings in more than Twitter’s 140 characters, a status update, or a coffee break worth of chatting.  A kind of free therapy I guess.

I hope it helps you to slow down too, even if only momentarily, and that it makes your heart smile.

Great breakthroughs, inspired art, real progress, and happiness all require us to be still, tune-in, reflect and be grateful.  And this is bloody hard when our task lists run to multiple pages and we’re spreading ourselves wafer thin.  

My new (financial) year’s resolution is one post per week, for a year.  

Let’s see where that takes us.

It’s noisy out there (WordPress alone has more than 63 million blogs!) and so I am very grateful that you’re reading my ramblings.  

Thank you.

 

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I shot my sister-in-law yesterday (that’s her blue bump).  And while developing her images I realised that waiting makes me happy.

Admiring her beautiful bulging belly, with my new niece or nephew snug inside, I reveled in the anticipation of meeting her/him.

I believe that having things to look forward to is essential for happiness.

So tonight I’ll enjoy a slow cooked lamb curry.
Tomorrow Hubby returns from a fortnight interstate.
This weekend very dear (but seldom seen) friends are coming for dinner.
Next week I’m seeing The Great Gatsby with girlfriends and bubbly.
Next month we’ll welcome my new niece or nephew into the world.
Before Christmas we’re whisking the kids away to Bali for a week.
And next year we have a long awaited family wedding to celebrate.

So there are exciting times ahead.  And I’ll relish the lead up excitement.

Amidst our culture of convenience and instant gratification, it’s nice to remember that waiting sometimes enhances our enjoyment.

For too long I told myself that things will be better when I just meet this deadline, or lose that weight, or pay off X, or get through Y.

But what is infinitely more satisfying is accepting today and hopefully anticipating what’s to come.

What are you looking forward to?

On my 36th birthday I realised I had everything I had ever wanted.  Cue mid-life crisis.

It’s a nice problem to have, I know.  And yet a quandary none-the-less.

Now what?

I am achievement addicted.  I love the feeling of working toward something meaningful – planning, studying, saving, crafting, training, anticipating.  I get more of a kick from the process than the result most times.  And this trait has served me well to date.

But for the first time in my life, I found myself uncomfortably goalless.

I had it all – hunky hubby, gorgeous kids, happy home, healthy parents and successful career.  I should have been ecstatic.  Yet I was not as happy as I felt I could be.  But I did not breathe a word of this, for fear of sounding disgustingly ungrateful.

Then an insightful girlfriend gave me Getchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project”.  At first I was a little offended that she thought it apt, but on reflection it was genius gifting by her.  Much of the book is common sense, and it scared me to realise just how far I had strayed from the basics.  I resolved to make this the year I chose happiness.

In my eagerness to please and achieve, I had ended up carrying too much.  As wife, mum, boss, celebrant, photographer, friend and daughter, I made myself so busy that I had no time left to enjoy any of it.  And the stress of my over-commitment was manifesting in unwanted kilos around my waist too!

So I took stock of everything on my plate, and prioritised according to which brought me the most joy.  Then I made the brave decision to cut my job loose.

I’m pressing pause on my career, for now.  Giving myself permission to take a detour.  And making time to truly savour my many blessings.

Yes, my bank balance will suffer.  If I don’t adjust my lifestyle our savings will be hemorrhaging in fact.  But I am willing to take that.  After two decades of working I am deeming myself due for some long service leave.

If it sounds like I am justifying my decision, that’s true.  It’s been one of the most difficult I have ever made.  I love working.  And my job was with an awesome organisation, leading a team that I had hand-picked, for a boss I found inspiring.  But it took so much out of me that I had little left to give at home, and I hated that.

Having it all is possible.  But not having time to savour any of it was depressing.  Each week I survived the endurance test, but I was not having fun.  And it was making me feel yuck.

Sharing my decision to opt out has been an interesting experience.  People have told me they wish they could do the same.  You can.  Another working mum lamented the loss of a friend who shared the juggle.  I’m still here.  Others ask, perplexed, “so what do you do now?” which momentarily had me seeking a label for my new way of life.  My answer is simply “whatever I want!”  My father-in-law cheekily termed me “housewife” which is a title I hate.  It suggests I married a house.

I want my new title to be HAPPY.

I have not given up my career to be a mum.  I was already a mum.  I merely quit my job to create more space to enjoy my beautiful life.  And to invest time in being the best me I can be.

At the Big Hearted Business Conference recently, Catherine Deveny spoke about what she called ‘Fuck Off Status’ – that obligation free state where you can do whatever you choose without playing slave to anyone or anything.  Her advice included:

  • don’t have a mortgage or more children than you can manage on your own
  • use public housing, public health and public schools
  • have as few financial burdens as possible, because debt is the biggest barrier to being brave enough to do what you really want.

I resisted much of this messaging at first, but Catherine’s advice has played on my mind since.  She’s onto something.  And it’s sure worked for her.

I like the idea of not buying into the script that has been pitched to us – work hard at school to get to uni, work hard at uni to get a job, work hard at your job to get a raise.

There is another way to live.  All you need is less.  And perhaps choosing AWOL (another way of life) is the ultimate indulgence these days.

Stepping out is not the norm.  And I get that it’s an economic impossibility for many.  79% of Australian mums work, and that figure is growing.  For me, it’s merely a case of timing.  I am willing to bet that my career will get time to shine later.  But my kids will only be little once, and I will never be this young again.  I want to really enjoy now.

For years I have been striving for that elusive “balance”.  But I have finally decided that it’s not something you can achieve day to day.  We need to look at it over our lifetime.  There is a season for it all, and you can have everything, but it’s best not taken all at once.

My decision did not not feel fabulous right away.  Liberating, brave, and exciting – yes.  But it’s taken weeks for me to detox from corporate life.  And a part of me will always be tuned in to it.  I can take myself out of the office, but I don’t take away my professional skills in the same sweep.

Aussie music producer John Watson describes life as a four burner stove. “The burners represents yourself, your family, your friends and your career. True success involves you turning off at least two of those burners, and great success involves you turning off three of them.”

So it’s all about trade-offs and compromise.  I guess all we can do is be clear about what success looks like for us at each point in time.

Last week I read Alex Carlton’s “The Retro Housewife” article in The Age and I wondered if I was indeed the newest “cult of domesticity” recruit.  I have long been an admirer of the Stepford-esque 1950s aesthetic, but I draw the line at aspiring to the associated entrapment.

Inspirational baker and maker Pip Lincolne, responded to Carlton’s article with her take on women reshaping their lives and re-inventing themselves via all things home-y.  Her post “The New Domesticity” is a great read.

Perhaps I am just cementing gender stereo-types.  But I am no less ambitious or capable than I was when I was on the payroll.  I just want to find a way to do it that works for me and my family now.

That said, if I start building a backyard chicken coop or planning home-school lessons, somebody slap me please.

I’d love to hear about the bold calls you’ve made in pursuit of happiness.  Please do share.  

Inspired by m.a.d.woman and her Grateful in April initiative, I’m sharing some of the things that make me thankful.

This April I am grateful for…

Long time friends – Those people who really do wish the very best for you. The ones you can see after a long absence, and instantly find a groove like you’ve never been apart. The people you never tire of talking to. The ones who make your soul smile. The ones who make you want to be a better you. The ones who remind you who you really are, what really matters, and that everything will be ok. I ran away with my longest time friend for an entire week and it was bliss. Read my Reset post for more on this.

Being missed – I returned from my week away to my hubby and both boys literally waiting on the doorstep, pink roses in hand. My one year old jumped into my cab repeating “ello mummy” over and over in his heart-melting toddler tone. And my four year old’s bedtime cuddles have been a little bit tighter, and his manners just a little bit better, ever since I returned.

New babes – I was invited to photograph a gorgeous four week old bub named Roy. The pride on his new daddy’s face translated beautifully in camera. And this month I met and cuddled the the newest addition to my extended family, baby Lily Skye. She’s the first girl born after seven boys in this tribe so it was fun purchasing pink pressies at long last.

Kiwi politicians – Not something previously likely to make my grateful list, or even my radar, but this month our NZ neighbours truly inspired with their marriage equality move. And the spontaneous singing that followed made me well up. Come on Aussies, catch up!

SNAGs – My gorgeous four year old son is a Sensitive New Aged Guy. He instinctively stroked my hair and rubbed my back while I threw up my nasty virus into a bucket. Meanwhile, my hubby did absolutely everything else at home until I recovered.

Dave – My hubby and I spent three out of four weeks in different states this month. And never do I appreciate him more than when he’s not here. House is humming happily again now that he’s home.

Baking – Making and decorating cupcakes with my boys for no reason other than to pass the time. And baking spiced apple cake because nothing smells more like ‘welcome home hubby’ than fresh cake cooling. The weather has turned along with the leaves, and so I’ve dusted off my slow cooker too. While I type, gorgeous corned beef with sticky plum and balsamic glaze is my work in progress.

Healthy thieves – My kids keep stealing carrots from the fridge vegie crisper and justifying it by saying that they are rabbits. Then they hop around the house singing Hop, Hippity, Hop.

Miracles – This month I ditched a twenty year addiction to Diet Coke. And, as if that was not enough, I reversed a two year (ok, decade long) trend of creeping weight gain. I fully expect to see pigs flying by or hell freezing over any moment now.

A gorgeous dress – The latest addition to my collection is a gorgeous, cherry colored, dance-worthy dress from Queenslander Leina Broughton. It’s so nice to find beautifully cut, feminine, Australian made creations. And it came with outstanding online customer service too.

Sausage sizzle at the supermarket – The smell alone was awesome, but feeding the kids lunch, supporting a good cause, and not having anything to clean up afterwards made my Saturday morning.

Following my bliss – Having time to do things, just because I want to. This month I did a photography walk that took in the sunset from Williamstown and I learned some new tricks to try. And I took my one year old to his first dance class, which he quite literally threw himself into. It’s the most fun hour I spend with him all week.

Quality entertainment – this month I loved the adorable Australian mid-career crisis movie Any Questions for Ben and the inspiring true story of unlikely friendship The Intouchables. Add them to your must see list.

Mentors – My best mentors have always been the ones who push me into slightly uncomfortable but richly rewarding growth. This week I got an email from my most recent ex-boss and she validated my leap of faith into non-corporate life and instructed me to keep creating. It was a beautifully timed gesture of support which made me smile.

Most of all, I am deeply grateful for my recent shift in focus from making a living to making a life. For all these blessings and more, I am so very grateful this April.

Tell me, what is it that you are grateful for today?

Stop being busy.  Press pause.  Make some space.

Be still and silent.  Close your eyes.  Quieten your mind.  

Breathe.  Deeply.  Right into the floor of your lungs.

Switch off.  Seek peace.

Sit in the sun, soak it in and daydream.

Go somewhere tropical, where the air is thick, the pace is slow, and the enormous plant leaves dwarf your troubles.

Enjoy yoga on the beach at sunrise.  Stretch.  Swim.  Move.

Indulge in uninterrupted, deep and meaningful conversation with a friend who really knows you and loves you anyway.

Eat more raw food.  Drink water.  Try something new (like spanner crab).  Devour coconut gelato in a waffle cone.  And make your menu selection the most difficult decision of your day.

Relax.  Sleep.  Recharge.  Get a massage and facial.

Read a book, in a day, which makes you think differently.

Unplug.  Switch off.  Open up.

Walk on the beach.  Climb stairs.  Puff.  Enjoy the view.  Wander through the rainforest.

Sleep is deeper.  Food tastes better.  And your gratitude and happiness blossom.

I have resisted and rebelled against this advice for decades.  Silly me.  
But a week in Port Douglas with my childhood bestie has helped me find my centre again.  

Take your leave people.  For yourself.  And I don’t just mean a family holiday (which is really just parenting made more difficult by an unfamiliar environment).  I mean a REAL holiday.  Where YOU get a break.  Make the time.  Do it.  

I’d love to know what you choose to do to rejuvenate.  

Inspired by Pip Lincolne and her #52lists I decided to jot down, in no particular order…

Things that made my March magical.

1. Quitting my day job.  More on this soon.

2. The Port Fairy Folk Festival – sleeping on the lounge floor in a house full of people who’ve known me since birth, and sharing a weekend choc full of music, in a picture perfect setting with flawless weather.  Woke to waves.  Swam solo.  And now my 4yo son makes up his own folk songs absentmindedly while travelling in the car.  Melts me.

3. Clare Bowditch – and her Big Hearted Business conference where I found my peeps, learned to appreciate being a multi-passionate-sensitive-creative-type, and was flooded with inspiration.  Clare’s joyous new album “The Winter I Chose Happiness” is helping me hold on to this feeling.

4. Making lasagne from scratch.  In fact, did quite a bit of baking.  None of it more satisfying than cooking for two mum’s with new babies.

5. Reading a book from cover to cover in a weekend.  Catherine Deveny’s “The Happiness Show” is a fabulous romp of a read with a truly satisfying ending.  She toys with relationship taboo’s and left-behind love.  And she made me laugh lots.

6. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – My 4yo son has been singing a medley of these tunes since we saw the show so beautifully staged.  A magic, floating, flying car that runs on manners.  Just gorgeous!

7. Sleep – I nodded off mid Endota massage for the first time ever.  Bliss.

8. Christening the newly renovated home of treasured friends – with slow roasted pork belly and stone-fruit tart cooked simultaneously in new twin ovens.  Oh how I love friends who can create beautiful spaces and love entertaining.

9. Hanging washing – My younger self would never have believed this could be true.  But hanging washing means the sun is shining, I am hearing birds in my backyard, and my boys are in their sandpit where their shouting is much less deafening.

10. Family photos – Nobody likes having their photo taken, but everyone loves a good photo of themselves.  The gorgeous Angie Baxter created a collage for my hallway which beautifully captured the four of us happy together.

11. Dying eggs and making pom-poms with the kids – We decorated our Easter holiday cabin.  Handling a ball of wool took me straight back to the craft project basket Mum used to keep by the telephone desk which I was little.

12. Being celebrant for a beautiful wedding in Daylesford.  He is an Australian Youth Ambassador and she is an aid worker.  The world is a better place for their union.  The bride, groom, ceremony and reception at Frangos & Frangos were stunning!

13. Showers – long, hot and uninterrupted every Tuesday.  I did not appreciate this utter luxury until four years ago when motherhood saw it cease.

14. Playing on a jumping pillow with 4yo Declan, who broke his femur doing just that last year.  His joy and my relief made for a perfect play date.

15. Cheeky 3pm wine and cheese with good friends on a sunny Easter Sunday.

16. Mid-day cinema date with a long neglected girlfriend.  New friends are fun, but the perspective of someone who has known you through multiple boyfriends, career moves, fads and failures is solid gold.

17. Joining the gym… and eating almost my body weight in Cadbury eggs.

18. Painted toenails and yellow sandals – scream sunny days and leisure time every time I look down.

19. Cuddles with one of the newest additions to our chosen family, baby Mia.

20. My 1yo son’s first Easter egg hunt and watching his chubby fingers delicately unwrap mini-eggs.

Tell me, what are you doing that makes you happy?