Archive for April, 2016

It’s the places you least expect

shutterstock_70796809My best friend was shopping in our local Big W a few years ago when an unexpected announcement came over the PA: “Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon is currently in the store and signing copies of her books.” This is the Diana Gabaldon who wrote the wildly popular Outlander series—with more than 26 million copies in print, in 23 languages. Salon magazine described Outlander as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting “Scrooge McDuck” comics.” And now it’s a major TV series with a massive following—my best friend and I included.

You can imagine how excited she was to have happened upon this book signing. She already had all the books and had read them several times, but bought another one so Diana could sign it. It was the strangest thing that this world-famous author with an international cult following was hanging around in the same shopping centre in Canberra where we’d busked on brass instruments as kids and got our first part-time jobs as teenagers…

Truth be told it’s not the only slice of magic to have unfolded in that Big W store unexpectedly. I was there one Christmas Eve and it was stiflingly hot as the air conditioners had broken. People were queued half-way back in the store with trolleys laden with gifts, and everyone was harried and ‘over it’. Next, the lights went off. All the cash registers went down. You could hear a pin drop.

I closed my eyes and waited with bated breath for the inevitable uproar of complaints from people who just wanted to get their loot and get out of there. Instead, a lone man far back in the queue started singing. “Dashing through the snow…”

One by one, people joined in until hundreds of frustrated shoppers had formed an impromptu mass choir that went on to sing an entire set of carols, wholeheartedly. It became one of my all-time favourite Christmas memories.

We don’t have to be leading traditionally ‘glamorous’ lives, in exotic places, to be able to experience beautiful things. Extraordinary opportunities sometimes unfold much closer to home, provided we’re open to noticing and receiving them.

Life meets us where we honour ourselves

IMG_1097 (1)I spent all of Saturday doing a beginner’s photography course with two friends. It was fun and educational and, after years of pointing and clicking on ‘auto’ we learned how to use the functions of our cameras properly. In one day, we improved out of sight.

When we came home, I saw a quote from Danielle LaPorte. “Life meets you where you honour yourself.” On Saturday life had met me smack in the photography skills and there was an immediate improvement. Other times, life meets us in our relationships if we honour those, or in our health, our work and study, homemaking, our parenting or in any other aspect of our lives where we consciously choose to shine the light.

Sometimes we get stuck in ruts where our focus is on things that don’t really serve us. Unhealthy habits. Staring at our phones until they depress us. Numbing ourselves against problems we’re avoiding. Life meets us there, too, but not any kind of life that we crave. Everything feels out of kilter when we ‘honour’ the wrong things.

When we take charge as the directors of our lives, we’re able to make choices about what goes where. We can move elements of our lives to centre stage and push others to the back, or even off stage altogether.

Whatever we move to the front and into the spotlight will grow. The things we honour will flourish—whether they’re healthy for us or not.

It’s why it’s worth standing back and seeing where all the attention has been lately. If you’d rather things felt different, or if you’re not making progress where you’d like, perhaps it’s time to shuffle things around.

I realised that if I can make as much progress with my photography as I did in seven hours, then seven hours spent on anything else would also mean big improvements. Seven hours exercising in the week, seven hours de-cluttering, seven hours writing the upcoming My 15 Minutes book. Seven hours of conversations with people who matter. Seven hours of relaxation… It’s how we shape our lives certain ways. Just through our focus.

So what’s your focus this week?

I really needed to hear this

Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

It’s been probably the most challenging couple of months I’ve had in the last ten years, with some big worries and significant stress. I’m still trying to sort out some health problems that have been exacerbated by the worry.

When this stuff happens, what you desperately need is a break. Except the timing feels wrong: the very reason why you need the break hasn’t shifted, and you’re needed here.

I’m really good at taking breaks and going away and having me-time when things are cruising along well. When they’re not, it’s harder.

Then I read this life-changing quote by Maya Angelou:

“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

These words are balm for my soul.

The cares will not withdraw from us. The problems will not go away. The solutions may not yet have been found. So we need to do the withdrawing…

The more needed we are, and the more trapped or isolated we feel, the more important it is just to leave. And having that day away is like being in the eye of the storm. We just ‘be’ and don’t try to wrap our brains around fixing things and holding people up. It’s not only deserved, but required.

On Wednesday, I’m getting in the car on my own and driving to a gorgeous country retreat in the Hawkesbury, where I’m presenting at a business event and staying til Friday. I’d thought about not going, because there are reasons—big ones—that could keep me here. The same reasons would keep me here this week, next month and any other month that an opportunity came along to escape for a little while.

So I’m going. I’m taking two novels. And exercise gear. And leaving the rest of my work at home. I can’t wait.

And everyone will exist in my absence.