bookmark_borderNeed writing motivation? Don’t write to be published.

Why removing the end goal can make the journey more staisfying and still provide the desired outcome.

Photo by Kevin Malik on Pixels

Cobwebs have grown where I once had a place on the Medium platform and a tiny following. No idea if anyone is still interested. Why would they be when I haven’t posted anything in…two years! Eeek! It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have a folder full of drafts to prove I have, but I just haven’t been able to finish any of them. When I thought I was close to done, I’d spend more hours editing and changing the story to the point that the original idea was no longer visible.

This current story you’re reading was another ‘dust gatherer’, until now.

As often happens, a major life event will either kick you into:

a) giving up or b) action. There is no option c).

The event that changed everything boosted my motivation to write, was the loss of a loved one, someone with whom I had a prickly relationship, the kind where you never felt like you’re doing it right, doing it well enough, how it should be done etc. These super-high standards are great if you’re hoping to be an engineer, but not so helpful if you’re a writer or an artist. Yes, of course you want to be the best you can, but there’s a giant chasm between striving for your best and your perceived best.

My bad habit of endlessly editing my posts ad nauseam happens because I strive for my perceived best, according to another persons’s standard, one I could never achieve. This has left me waiting, hoping that a magical unicorn will tap me on the shoulder and instantly make me an excellent writer, someone who overnight, writes stupendously good stories.

The unicorn never showed up. Seems I had to work for my miracle.

Change requires work

I set about improving my skills by signing up for any ‘Be a Better Writer’ course I could find, I dumped tonnes of free downloads into my overloaded hard drive, and bought every ‘writing’ book I could find. It was a good start.

The unanimous vote on how to be a better writer was to write. I’d been doing that, it’s just that most of my writing was languishing in my ‘Drafts’ folder and not being published.

While my perfectionism was not helping me hit the publish button, there was another twisted belief that was interfering with my ability to put myself ‘out there’. It was both the need and fear to be seen in equal measure.

I’m lucky I no longer have to work in the relentlessly aggressive corporate world, being a freelancer has it’s benefits, but working alone for a long time can sometimes make you feel like you don’t exist. There’s nothing like the daily banter at the water cooler to remind you that you’re seen by another.

My problem is that I’m plagued not just by perfectionistic tendencies but also deep insecurity. I figured that having my work liked by others or accepted by a publication was the equivalent of the water cooler fix, with a little extra sweetness.

False sense of security

Security is something we all crave, but it’s a myth, especially in the arts. In his book Release the Bats, DBC Pierre states, “You can be insecure and be a writer. You can be unsuccessful and be a writer. You can be a bad person and be a writer.” He goes on to dispel the many myths about being a writer which helped me greatly, but reading advice and taking action are two different things.

I know I’m insecure but even I can delude myself. To fill this unconscious and deep-seated need, I developed the lofty ambition of having my work loved, accepted and published by online and print publications and even getting paid for my work. Talk about shooting for the stars…in another galaxy!

Here’s the slightly twisted thinking that was behind this ambitious goal.

I decided to hold off publishing too many stories here on Medium until I was a better writer, so a prospective editor would look at my work and only see great writing.

But here’s the twist. Without regularly writing and publishing my work, I’d never actually improve my craft, and never get over my fear of not being good enough and confident emough to publish my work.

Aiming too high was keeping me down. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have goals, we absolutely should, but, it’s good to keep them in check, not let them fly off into the stratosphere where they’ll surely escape if we don’t do a reality-check to hold them.

Self awareness is a wonderful bedfellow. I’ve seen the folly of my ways and with insight, I’ve made some important discoveries.

Here’s how I’m going to overcome my fears.

  1. Spend only 1 hour finishing each of the stories in my draft folder and publish immediately when done. If they’re past their use-by-date delete them. No more dust gatherers!
  2. Pick and stick to a day/month to publish my stories — create a regular publishing schedule. Nothing like a deadline to shift a draft into a finished story.
  3. Write down my goals on paper and then put the note away, only to be reviewed a year later. Helps keep the focus on the present — e.g. keep writing.

All the above points are important but for me, but item 3 is the key. I have to hold my ambitions in check, otherwise, my insecurities will prevent me from doing the very thing that I love doing, and that is writing.

Pierre says of writing, that it can be like “hauling you naked to a place where nobody can help you is how writing wrings out art. That the management of passion counts as much as the words, and that every new book should make its author a novice again.”

There it is in a nutshell. Without a unicorn, writing is hard work. Publishing leaves us feeling naked and managing our passion, our muse is as important as every word on the page or screen. This quote is also a great reminder that even published authors can feel like a novice each time they start a new project. The feelings of perfectionism and imposter syndrome never go away, we just learn to befriend and manage them.

Creativity requires courage

Great courage is required for emerging writers and artists. We rely so much on what other people think of our work, especially if we hope to be paid for what we do. If writing or some other creative pursuit is a soul calling, then we should listen and write the story or make the art. Whether it’s as a hobby or professionally, to ignore that inner voice is to lead to regret and often a simmering sadness that can sometimes fly under the radar.

If no one reads this post, if no one claps or ‘buys me a cup of coffee’, then I’m ok with that. It won’t matter if each published story is seen by another human or met with just the sound of crickets, because I‘ll be satisfied with having done the work and followed my muse. Unicorns not included.

If I don’t write, I won’t improve, if I don’t publish my work, I won’t develop courage and resilience and if I ignore my muse, I’ll feel sad and empty.

Having a lofty goal is fun, but enjoy the now, the learning, the mistakes which lead to improvement and the mega joy when someone finally sees you and your work.

The truth is, one day I won’t be here so before I ride away on that elusive magical unicorn, I’d rather spend my time writing at whatever level I’m at, and feeling the satisfaction of overcoming my fears. And who knows, I might help someone else with their writing struggles. What could be better than that?

bookmark_borderWhat to do when you loath your creative output

How to understand and overcome “creative dysmorphia”.

Woman with lemon
Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

For some of us, creativity can be both a beloved and much needed companion while simultaneously, acting like an unrelenting berating beast, a harsh judge and critic.

For a decade, I have walked over coals trying to find a place of peace when I create work, whether it’s writing, printmaking or even cooking.

I’ve read almost every book on the fear of art making and creativity and while the advice was helpful and I’d be enthused for a few days, I’d inevitably slowly slip back into loathing my work and by extension, into self-loathing. It was a perpetual cycle of Make. Hate. Loath. Stop. Make. Hate….you get the idea.

I’ve struggled with this for a long time, but I recently had an epiphany. As a beginner, what you produce isn’t going to be anything like the image inside your head, to produce the type of work that requires years of practice. Ira Glass refers to this as “The Gap”. He beautifully explains that you have good taste but the work you produce as a beginner disappoints you. He says a lot of people ‘never get past this phase; they quit.” Hello!

But I take it one step further. Those of us who are highly self-critical, self-judgement, perfectionists, can harbour distorted beliefs and thoughts, but I also think this can lead to literally seeing things in a distorted way, what I call Creative Dysmorphia.

This is a really challenging dysfunction, hard to change, but an interview I listened to recently broke through.

A little background first. Like anyone who grows up with overly critical parents, I believed that making mistakes was to be avoided at all costs, and as I kept making them, (show me a child who doesn’t), I naturally associated this inability to do things right the first time, as a flaw in my capabilities, including my intelligence. You know the internal dialogue, “Are you kidding me! You stuffed that up again? What the heck is wrong with you? Seriously, how many times do you have to be told?”

Anyone who’s had these conversations in their head and done some work to understand these voices, will know that these are not our original thoughts. This is NOT how a child thinks. A child will say, “Oops, I spilt my milk. Ooh, look at how it flows around the table and makes a funny pattern!”

Let’s be clear here. I’m not blaming parents who do the best they can with what they know. Nor am I saying we shouldn’t teach children to take care or avoid dangerous places, people etc. In many households, spilling milk can be a very big deal if you don’t have any money and each drop of milk is as precious to you as gold. But there are gentle ways of helping a child understand consequences. Both my parents grew up with very little money, plus they both had dysfunctional parents themselves, so they did not learn how to inform and educate their children without using harsh language.

While it’s helpful to know this, those early ingrained messages are cemented into our subconscious, and therefore are harder to shift, and finding new ways of changing our deep-seated beliefs takes time and effort.

The other downside of constantly feeling like you’re incompetent and not good at anything, is that for some of us it can lead to feeling not just hopeless, but helpless too. Feeling hope-less means that you no longer allow yourself to hope that things can change or get better, and that includes your own creative output.

When I started learning to draw as a teenager, I was eager and thought I could improve with time. But as the criticisms started to bite hard, I associated my other failings in life, with everything I did. In her book, Change Your Thinking, Sarah Edelman refers to overgeneralising as drawing “negative conclusions about ourselves, other people and life situations.” Common terms include, ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everybody’. ‘I always mess things up’ is one I know well, particularly when it comes to creativity.

Clearly perfectionism is at play here and because it’s such a hard demon to beat, it can lead to a sense of disempowerment and and so we give up. I write more about this here. And, no I’ve not posted a story in…forever…due to perfectionism and hating my work!

Feeling helpless to change situations as a child also leads to feeling helpless as an adult. While some parts of my life succeeded, eg: work and relationships, the thing closest to my heart, the thing that made me who I am, a creative person, failed miserably. I‘d subconsciously convinced myself that it was better not to try anything creative, rather than discover that my deepest love was unattainable. I was convinced, that I would never be good enough at creative pursuits. I’d believed I was totally flawed as a human being.

So, what was it about that interview that struck a chord?

The interview was conducted by Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard and her guest was Turia Pitt. The talk was called Turia Pitt on determination, defying expectations and taking up space.

Despite learning about how many people overcome challenges over the years, like a slow water drip forming a hollow in a rock, it was Julia’s interview with Turia that finally cracked the concrete in my subconscious brain and let in the light of awareness.

For a start, Julia Gillard is a tower of strength in her own right. As PM, She endured constant critique about her appearance and was subjected to horrid misogynistic behaviour.

Her guest, Turia is also a prime example of grit and determination. She had not only become a successful mining engineer in a male-dominated space but she also defied the odds when at 24, during a marathon, she was caught in a grassfire and sustained burns to 65% of her body.

Turia not only survived but she also returned to work, became a mum and returned to running, her determination helped her defy the odds of not just basic survival, but she has gone on to grow and flourish. Her story was so inspiring it made me reflect on what my own response would have been if I was in her shoes.

I hate to say it, but while my instinct would have been to fight for survival, my response to recovery might have been one of helplessness because that’s all I knew. Self-determination and strength were not qualities I learnt growing up.

So, what do we do when we discover that as children, we were not gifted the most essential life skills we need, to not just survive but to thrive as adults? We read books, get help from a counsellor and listen to interviews with people who show us that there are other ways to respond to life’s challenges.

Well meaning people often tell me that I just need to keep practicing, keep making my art and I will improve. Until now, this kind of advice has not helped because more often than not, my beginner art looks so ugly to me, and I just toss the thing out in disgust and walk away, vowing to never return! But I do. What’s in our hearts will not be denied. The pain associated with these feelings tells me that this is important to me and I have to find a way to remove the shackles.

When I recently reflected on my ‘hate’ reaction to my art, I saw it almost like some kind of body dysmorphia except it’s a “creativity dysmorphia”. Could it be that my brain has internalised so much of the criticism I heard as a child that it now view even my art in a distorted way?

According to neuroscience, yes it does. We all have brains with a negativity bias, but layer this with negative conditioning and of course you’ll double the effect of this bias and distorted way of thinking and seeing.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in action. You’ll be with a friend and comment on what a beautiful day it is and her response? “Yeah, but it won’t last. I heard rain and storms are coming.” Or, say to your friend’s father, “Your daughter is a good woman.” Her father’s response, “Oh yeah? You should have seen how naughty she was when she was a little girl.”

People with a strong negativity bias, are unable to say, “Yes ,it is a lovely day” and leave it at that, or “Yes, she is a good woman” without going to the past and focussing on the negative.

So, my dear friends who have inherited strong negativity biases and negative self-talk, I invite you to use Turia’s or any other strong person like Nelson Mandela, or a survivor of war, injury, or abuse, someone you can relate to, and try to embody some of their strengths and skills. Let’s channel the strengths of our Inspirational Person.

This week I’ve landed a horrid flu and have been feeling sorry for myself, but I remembered Turia’s fight against her horrific burns and I felt a bit ridiculous for whining like a baby. I thought of Turia, had a pep talk with myself, and found a little nugget of strength rise inside of me. I stopped complaining immediately. If a young 24-year-old Turia can do it, so can I.

So how does this relate to creativity? Very nicely in fact. Here’s how I use this new information.

Being aware of my negativity bias and possibly some kind of “creativity dysmorphia”, I visualise myself doing some much-needed and well overdue repairs inside my brain. I see myself culling and replacing those thick negative neural pathways and replacing them with life-affirming, helpful ones. I know those old thoughts were developed to help me as a child, but they no longer serve me and they have to go.

Emotionally this is painful work, but I remind myself of the courage of people like Turia who have to not only fight challenging emotional battles, but physical ones too. Again. If she can do it, so can I.

I don’t want to diminish the pain of self-loathing but in my new attempt at restoring some positive thoughts, I’m making an effort to focus on the gifts in my life, like family, friends and physical health.

So, how to accept and not loathe what you make?

Before I start any creative pursuit, especially the ones I know might trigger me, try the following:

  1. Put on some music that you love. Dance a little and shake out any tension.
  2. Light a candle and take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes if possible and visualise releasing all expectations. You might want to see your high expectations as a prickly seed pod that you place on a large leaf and send it floating away down a nearby stream. Or perhaps you can visualise an elephant stopping on it and crushing it to pieces. Whatever works for you.
  3. Grab an A5 or A4 piece of paper, and in large letters, write, “Whatever comes out of my efforts today, will help me move forward”, and place the paper next to where you’re working. Look at it regularly especially when those icky feelings start bubbling up into your head.

The last point is important. My well-meaning friends and mentors were right, the only way to improve is to practice. At times the work will sing, at other times it will totally suck! But, the key is to nuture that growing seed of determination and strength, channel your inspirational person and keep going!

I’ve realised that as we improve, we will naturally want to push the boundary a little, so in effect, we are constantly beginners. But, each time we master a skill, we are one step further up the ladder. Here’s the thing, the climb upwards never ends if we are to pursue growth and improvement.

Don’t be disheartened by that last comment. It’s also ok to stop and enjoy the view for a while when you succeed at reaching the next step. Just remember that the gift of climbing a staircase is that you are going up, and the view is way better up there.

Accepting even our ‘ugly’ work is essential to improving. Without ‘mistakes’ we don’t know what works and what doesn’t. So keep gently climbing friends and I hope the self-loathing eases and the visual dysmorphia morphs into loving eyes that see things as they really are, not distortions from old demons.

Dealing with Perfectionism: Read more about it here.

bookmark_borderThe Joy And Pain Of Making Art

Why you shouldn’t allow perfectionism stop you from the joy and healing benefits of making art.
Photo by from Pexels

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” 

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Aaaah! The creative journey. What a joy and what a right old pain!

Somewhere around 2000, 2006, 2018 and 2021, I took up and dropped art making. I’ve made numerous attempts at following that unrelenting creative call but with little success, until now.

When I’d see a beautiful piece of art, whether it was printed fabric, street art or a glazed pot, I’d feel immediate joy. Visual art lit up my inner globe and I really wanted to be part of this creative world. But time and again, I’d start with enthusiasm and a basket full of tools and materials, only to see me, and my art supplies, languish on the shelf of promises unkept, gathering dust and being forgotten. There was an inner love/hate conflict that I struggled to resolve.

Despite my strong desire, what was it that continually stopped me?

It was Perfectionism with a capital P. Pure and simple. Sadly perfectionism is anything but pure or simple and at its zenith can be highly destructive. Yes, it’s good to strive for the best possible outcome, especially if you’re a brain surgeon, and even when making art. You want your painting to include the right mix of colours, values, shapes etc. but, chronic perfectionists who are creative, may stop making art altogether because they continually find fault in everything they create. This is especially crippling for beginners like me. The toxicity of perfectionism can affect any field of endeavour, but it’s particularly nasty in the creative world.

Chronic perfectionism and creativity are like water and oil. They don’t mix. Artists who are free of perfectionism will for starters have a go, they’ll try different materials, new techniques and push the boundaries of their craft. Artists with a message will push themselves out of their comfort zone and society’s restrictive boundaries, using their art to draw our attention to important issues.

Whether you’re an artist or not, perfectionism can make you sick, mentally and physically. I speak from experience here. It was perfectionism that landed me with a chronic illness that’s had a lasting effect on my health.

So where does perfectionism start and why does it help to know its origins? According to, there are a number of factors that can lead to perfectionism . They can include, “Frequent fear of disapproval from others or feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Mental health issues like anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).” I would suggest that anxiety and OCD can result from striving for perfectionism and it’s destructive cousin, control. We have far less control on our lives than we are led to believe. An issue for later exploration.

The reason why it helps to get to know our unconscious beliefs, is that unlike when we were children, as adults we can question the beliefs we’ve inherited and ask if they are true, if they are valid and if they are helpful and contribute to our wellbeing.

When I look back, I see that my well-meaning parents grew up in fearful environments and that mistakes were not tolerated, so they strived for perfection through control. While both my parents tried to change some of the behaviours they’d learnt, they still harboured some deeply embedded beliefs that were passed on to their offspring.

Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca from Pexels

Children are learning machines and they learn through trial and error. Trying not to make mistakes is not only unnatural, it’s impossible. Avoiding mistakes can often be a catalyst for developing anxiety. Mistakes or what I like to call ‘learning opportunities’ can be good for you. As my partner says to his staff, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” He knows that innovation, which comes from creative thinking, requires pushing boundaries and going into the unknown. This might lead to good outcomes and not so good ones, but if you don’t try something new, you’ll remain stuck in the old.

Children may also develop perfectionist tendencies if they fear care-giver disapproval which they may equate with not being loved. Disapproval triggers the need to do the ‘right thing’ again and again, and not make mistakes. This hyper-vigilance for mistakes is exhausting!

Perfectionism is why I stopped and started making art so many times. I wanted to make art and yet, I found a million excuses to stop. I never paused to look at those excuses until I was forced to do so through a health crisis. Eckhart Tolle refers to life’s hardships and suffering as opportunities for growth. So with poor health in hand, I began to explore my love-hate relationship with art.

What I found was that for years my hidden perfectionist monster was in the driver’s seat, always pushing me to strive for the impossible. I often had dreams about being the passenger in a driverless, out-of-control car which usually ended in a crash. I think my subconscious mind was trying to tell me that I was not in charge of my life, and instead old programming from childhood was in control. My parents are good people but they experienced really difficult childhoods and their desire for their children to have better (perfect) lives, embedded an unconscious message that mistakes were dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. And yet, not being real about life and knowing that you learn through mistakes, is what’s dangerous. For me it cost me my health.

When did I finally notice that ‘Mr Perfect’ was in charge? In 2006, when my physical health took a nose dive. I was extremely sick, thousands of miles from home, with two young children and I struggled. I became depressed, had panic attacks and my once simmering anxiety blew into chronic generalised anxiety. I wasn’t just afraid of art making, I became afraid of everything.

Mostly house-bound and unable to do work, I finally had an excuse to pursue my art again. Yes, I needed an excuse. Not only does perfectionism expect perfection, it also thinks that art making is frivolous and a time waster. Surely there are more important things to do than make art, right? Well, no actually, especially when it’s what you were born to do.

So, how do we move forward knowing that we are chronic perfectionists?

Well, funnily enough, the answer lies in making art. Yep, it’s a bit of a circular process, but the spiral will move up if you let it.

Image: Pixabay

Firstly, let’s recap. Reaching for unrealistic perfectionism can lead to anxiety. One of the remedies for anxiety is to find pursuits that get you into the zone, e.g. exercise, mediation, making art etc. We know that art can be problematic because often the idea/image we have in our head may end up different to what we create, this is especially true for beginners. We will make great and not so great art. This happens to professional artists too! It’s all part of the process. This is what I’m learning right now. As one of my favourite artists Kim Herringe often reminds me, “By making art you learn, and you learn by making art.”

Creativity is a messy pursuit and the perfectionist needs get in the back seat and let your art flow. If you have the space, spread out all your materials and create multiple works simultaneously. Move from one to another making marks. Don’t overthink it. Embody your five-year-old and have fun. Eventually, your child-like nature will start to come out of the closet.

A reminder before you start your art

Here’s what I do. Before I start, I remind myself that I’m a beginner. If you’re an experienced artists still struggling with perfectionism, then remind yourself that each day/project you start is a beginning. Each moment is new and anything is possible. If the results please you, then thank your creative muse and treat yourself for the wonderful outcome. Chocolate always works for me. BUT, if the outcome is less pleasing, then thank yourself for showing up, for having a go and not binge-watching TV or pursuing some other distracting past time. Give thanks for the learning opportunity that comes from every attempt.

What if….?

The other amazing thing I learnt from other artists is to ask the question, ‘What if…?’ Perfectionism often had me frozen in fear. Fear of making a mistake on a clean sheet of paper, of ‘wasting’’ the paints, pencils, crayons, you name it. I’ve been so paralysed with the fear of ‘messing up’ that I couldn’t even make a start.

Here’s the irony. Artists make art by making a mess and asking, ‘What if..?’

‘What if I add some red paint to this?’ Or, ‘What if I tear the edge of the paper, and rub the paper against the concrete with a crayon and see what marks it get?’ These questions release you from an anxiety provoking outcome. Creativity becomes an exploratory process which is freeing because you just don’t know what you’re going to get. You can’t get a perfect result when you don’t know what the result will be.

Remember every time you try something new, you learn. That’s the whole purpose of the exercise isn’t it? To learn something new, not perfection. Eventually all that learning becomes a skill and we get the improvements we are striving for, not perfection.

That’s the other thing I’m discovering. Perfectionism often wants a quick fix, rapid rise to glory, it hates appearing imperfect. It hates the pain of being less-than but again, art is here to tell us that we can improve our skills. It just takes hard work and the good P’s, Practice and Patience and eventually we’ll become a little bit more our perfectly authentic selves. ????

I hope that today is the day you reach deep into your heart and find your creative voice, allow it to speak and spend time in the light. I know you’ll feel better for it.

There is no ‘right’ way to make art. The only wrong is in not trying. Not doing. Don’t put barriers up that aren’t there — just get to work and make something.”

Lisa Golightly

bookmark_borderThe Start of a New Journey

“The only journey is the one within.” 

– Rainer Maria Rilke

The lovely people who signed up to my blog will be surprised to suddenly find a new post landing in their inbox. Yes, it’s been a while. Yes, a disjointed life has happened and not just thanks to COVID. 

It’s surprising how chaos can refocus our attention. There is nothing like a global pandemic to take your carefully laid out plans and toss them to the wind, without a care where they land.

To say we’ve all been destabilised is an understatement, and while it has had a devastating effect on many people, it has also forced us to wake up from our sleepy mind-numbing lives and see if there are any roses left to smell. How often do we follow the same routine every day without a thought about what other roads we could take, even if it’s just a temporary detour?

These thoughts have percolated in my mind for months now. As another year progresses, I ask if I’m progressing. Like anyone who engages in the hard work of self-awareness, the changes can seem slow in coming ,but eventually our long arduous walk surprises us, as we discover we’ve reached the peak of yet another mountain.

As regular readers of this blog will know I’ve struggled to walk the steep incline towards wellness. While I’m grateful for some progress, what I found at the top of my mountain was that while I may not have perfect health, I have improved a little. Surprisingly it was my state of mind that improved the most. It’s because I’ve finally accepted where I am on the journey and am working towards integrating the lessons.

If you’re on a similar journey, be it issues with health, work or relationships, have you found peace where you are right now? This isn’t an easy journey, especially in the midst of a pandemic, but is truly worth pursuing. If you’d like to explore this idea further, you can read my small offering on acceptance and surrender.

Many of us have been waiting for a post-covid normal. It will never happen, because pandemics like all big life events, can never return to their starting point, or what we call ‘normal’. Big shake ups never leave us unchanged. While change can be harrowing, we must allow change for our own growth and to do that we must keep moving forward, even if the unknown is a little frightening.

For years, I’ve been waiting for my health to return to normal, hoping that the virus that invaded my body and caused mayhem, may have left, and taken its damaged cells with it. After a decade and little change, I have to accept that this is my ‘new normal’ body. In other words, a body now controlled by Irritable Bowel Syndrome and its cousin, Generalised Anxiety is the new me now.

Living with covid and different physical body, sets new limitations but it doesn’t stop us living altogether. I realise that I have to accept what I can’t do, but also what I can and to focus only on the latter. This means ending excuses that stop me doing things that have scared me. The covid pandemic taught me that ‘having time to do things’ is an illusion. Regardless of whether we have a pandemic or not, we never know how long we have to live and so, each day is PRECIOUS!

I began asking what I’d been putting off because of fear. What do I always fill my spare time with so that I don’t do the things I really love? Where do I procrastinate and why? For me, the answer is always around creativity. Creativity is something I love but I’m afraid I’ll have no talent for. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Since childhood, I’ve adored colour and textures. Like most children, I created because I just had to. There was no agenda, no deadline (unless it was a birthday card), no outcome to achieve. Nothing. It was simply the act of being! 

Fears that were hiding in my mind sabotaged me and stopped me from following my heart. In fact, I’d been shut down for so long, that I no longer remembered what filled me with joy. I decided to explore the mental viruses that had lived in my head since childhood. I took lockdown as an opportunity to open up my mind and see where I’d cut myself off from my true nature.

As a counsellor, I often heard about children’s dreams and ambitions being quashed by well-meaning but often unaware parents. If our passions fell outside the normal set of rules to study and get a job, then fearful parents couldn’t understand how a child’s love to create fantastic stick sculptors might lead to anything. But that child might one day, in their own time, become an architect, or civil engineer, or even a sculptor. The latter is often the less desirable one because a parent might be concerned about their child’s ability to earn a living from something beautiful, but useful?

We’ll leave the usefulness of art for another post, suffice to say that what a child or young person chooses to spend their time on may not match the ideals of the parent. So, parents often unwittingly allow their fears around what jobs are worthy or prestigious, crush a child’s hopes. It’s not just parents who burst a child’s passions. I’d heard an artist say that they were told by their high school art teacher that they had no talent, so the young student gave up art. Two decades later this man discovered that his teacher was wrong and his own heart was right. He is now a successful artist.

If parents didn’t dismiss creativity altogether, then they could be highly critical of the outcome. Unlike solving a problem where there is a right and wrong answer, art is very subjective. Parents who don’t understand their children, may not understand the messages they are trying to convey in their creative work. Unkind comments from a parent can shut down a child’s creativity immediately. Comments like, ‘That’s not what a house looks like’, or ‘Perhaps you might try some other activity. I don’t think this is for you.’ Both these comments imply that the child doesn’t have the capacity and permission to: 

a) be a beginner

b) to improve

c) express their vision of the world their way

While I didn’t have anyone criticise my artwork directly, I did develop an agonising fear around making mistakes. My parents tried their best to help us kids develop a desire to succeed where they had not, but this put undue pressure to always do well, do things right and by extension, not make mistakes. This thinking permeated my life. As a natural creative, this meant an inability to create art of any form and perfectionism became my unrelenting bedfellow. The demands of perfectionism were also matched by a need to do it right the first time and now! So, the combination of creating something amazing, the first time and quickly resulted in a creative shutdown. 

It’s taken me years to understand this, and now that I do, I can work on creating change. Knowing is one thing, acting on it is another. I’ve wasted enough precious time so in this, the crazy year of the pandemic, I’m having a go. 

I feel prepared to take the first step into creativity. I’m not sure what it will look like and for once, I don’t care. I’m going to throw my well-intentioned plans out with the pandemic winds. Spontaneity is my new mantra. I’m reaching my hand out to the past, hoping that my feisty and imaginative little self isn’t too deeply hidden so that we can join hands and finally let her creative voice be heard.

What song remains unsung in your heart? If you’ve lost touch with your creative self, then I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery.

bookmark_border…And now back to our Altered Programming…

Image: Pinterest

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Leo Tolstoy

For the dear souls who signed up to my blog, I’m sorry that there’s been a long break in transmission, but changes were afoot, and they needed all my attention. Here’s what’s been going on.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m always fishing, not for fish, but for knowledge, for information about what makes us who we are, and about what is learnt and what is innate. I do this because the journey of self-discovery can yield some great insights that help us live a better life.

For example, I knew that I hadn’t learnt the essential skill of resilience as a child. No one’s fault, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles, but it doesn’t stop me trying to develop this important skill now.

It’s never too late to change – it’s an ongoing process. The way I do that is to continually test my boundaries and as I do, gain important feedback. Each time I try something outside my comfort zone, I’ll know by my response whether I have the skills to cope. When I don’t cope well, I know I need to discover why I feel out of my depth. After a good dose of self-analysis and reframing my thinking, I’ll try again.

If I succeed, I feel empowered knowing that I’ve made progress towards taming my fear. This kind of learning helps me expand the boundaries of my life, as opposed to a tiny life lived in fear.

As a young professional woman, my world was expansive and exciting but a decade ago, after I became ill with a mysterious illness, I developed anxiety and my world shrunk so much, that I became stuck, unable to move forward or backward. Life couldn’t get any smaller. My house was the only “safe” place. The irony is that while on one level home felt safe, it was also suffocating. It was a no win situation.

Image: Jesse Renee

So, to continue pushing my boundaries, I chose to do a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) course, to become a pastoral carer. The practical part of the course was conducted in a hospital and an aged care facility, two places I avoided like the plague, especially hospitals. I’ve had a bit of a phobia of hospitals after my health crisis, and so I wasn’t sure how I’d manage the practical part of the course. Of course it wasn’t easy, in fact it was truly confronting, especially the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I’ve never seen so many machines attached to one person. I found myself in the largest trauma hospital in my city. The most challenging and traumatic of cases would be found here. Talk about really testing my resilience! Along with the ICU, there was the spinal unit, mental health unit, cardiac ward, every single unit was challenging in its own way. I met people dying from cancer, those who went in for a small routine operation then woke up a paraplegic, mental health patients unable to string two words together because they were zombified by drugs. It was an eye opening experience.


If we don’t have solid foundations, that is a strong sense of self and resilience, then helping those who are suffering can tip us over the edge.

A program like CPE is challenging not just because there’s much to learn about effective listening skills and the art of being present, but you are also required to do many hours of reflective work and here’s why.

We need to know ourselves well before we can help others. We need to discover, our blind spots, our prejudices, and to find out if we really have the strength to face really confronting situations. It doesn’t mean we need to be perfect, but being aware of beliefs, especially our negative beliefs, means we are then able to develop new ones and, whilst we’re working on our beliefs, we can work with people, always being aware of our own limitations.

We learn very quickly, that we cannot bring negative, unhelpful beliefs or fears to the bedside, because not only won’t we bring comfort to the patient, we could cause them distress and, even harm ourselves in the process. If we don’t have solid foundations, that is, a strong sense of self and resilience, then things can go pear-shaped, very quickly.

During my course, I realised that I struggle with people of a particular character. Many of us believe that we’re not judgemental, but enter any public place, with a myriad of personalities and a mixed bag of socio-economic backgrounds, and you’re sure to find someone who will annoy or even intimidate you. Self-reflection helped me understand that I struggle with intimidating people, which I’ll write about in a future post. The course helped me delve into the reasons why I felt intimidated. I was then able to slowly change my beliefs as a result of my growing awareness.

This was followed by another freeing moment, when I realised that anxiety would no longer rule my life and that I was capable of much more than I’d led myself to believe. This turn-around occurred about half way through the course. I went from walking through the wards on jelly legs, to finally feeling safe and comfortable being in the hospital environment, and meeting people with all kinds of life-threatening conditions and injuries. I was forced to face my own feeling of vulnerability which wasn’t easy. Again, it was a signpost that I’d not developed resilience as a child. I’d never felt truly safe or empowered, but the great thing about self-reflective work and having a great supervisor, I was able to drill down and find out where those fears came from, and reframe my beliefs and thoughts.

Image: New York Times

The other thing I learnt about myself is that while I loved being with patients and helping them through a difficult time, I found it equally hard being in such grey and visually sterile environments. Don’t get me wrong, hospitals are amazing places – full of caring and skilled staff, working long hours, doing all they can to save people’s lives. But, wanting to help, can work against you if the environment isn’t right. I know pastoral carers who love working in hospitals and I thought that I should too, but I don’t, because I’m different. I struggled with the lack of fresh air, open windows, colour, the presence of nature. The only living thing was the humans. I know the reason for not allowing plants, but colour? Why do we have to have grey walls and not mauve or sky blue, or a forest scene?I haven’t found a hospital like this in my home town yet, but if I do, I’ll be there in a flash!

Image: Hospital Wallart

I know some people will think this strange, after all, shouldn’t I be there to help people and not worry about the wall colour? Yes, but it must be a good fit for both parties. During our course, we also learnt to identify the environments that help us thrive, and therefore give the best care. Choosing the right place to work is as important as self-care, a necessarily, often ignored by those in caring roles. Self care is as essential as giving good care. Because my peers all felt at home in a hospital, I thought that I should, too but I realised that sterile places are detrimental to my wellbeing. While I was no longer afraid of hospitals, the environment drained me. I understood that I prefer to work in more natural places, and that’s ok. It’s not a weakness, it’s not a fault, it’s just who I am. It’s horses for courses.

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I believe we are like tuning forks and certain jobs, places and people will resonate with us, while others won’t. I believe much of our growth journey is about discovering, what is a good fit, and not because someone says it is, or because we think we should fit our round selves into a square holes.

So, as much as I liked the idea of working in a hospital, I discovered a new place, which for me, is a most unlikely place, and one I stayed away from for many years. A place that is disliked or ignored by many, but nevertheless, unusual circumstances have lead me there. It’s a lovely old weather-board church, run by a progressive, female minister, who wants to build a loving community, and like tuning forks, our motives are in tune with each other. During my course, patients claimed to be “spiritual” and not “religious”. The minister and I want to help create a spiritual space for our community, without rules, and dogma, and instead, to connect through our spirituality. It’s an exciting time as I get to use my new pastoral care role and use it to spread love, support and caring to our local community.

Image: Perry Grone

I don’t how long I’ll stay, but it feels right at this moment. That’s the other thing I learnt from my CPE experience. Any of us can unexpectedly land in hospital and so plans should be kept very loose. I’ve agonised for too long about finding the right path and making the right choice. Woody Allen got it right when he said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

So where to now? Well, I’m dipping my toe into the pastoral care waters, in my local community and allowing my inner compass to guide me.

How about you? Have you had feelings of heading somewhere other than where your head is telling you to go? Is your heart, your soul trying to take the lead? Will you follow it?

If I were to pass on one piece of advice that I received time and again from my hospital patients and especially from those in aged care, it’s to seize the day my friends, because you never get another one like it, and you never know what’s around the corner!

Image: Chris Lawson

bookmark_borderAcceptance and Surrender. They’re not the same as Giving Up.

Image: Bernard Hermant

“At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.” – Maya Angelou

My commitment to writing regular posts fell by the wayside some months ago, not because I wasn’t writing, but because I seemed unable to finish anything I’d started. While I felt I had a lot to share, I’d become frustrated at my non-existent output, until I realised that the best course of action was to do nothing, let things be, surrender to life as it is right now.

But what does surrender really mean? Is it like giving up? And where does acceptance fit into all of this? I knew that these were concepts that would be helpful in living a more balanced life, so I thought I’d explore these concepts further. Continue reading “Acceptance and Surrender. They’re not the same as Giving Up.”

bookmark_borderLost in time on the telegraph line

Image: Casey Horner

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” – Anne Lamott

One of my goals for 2018 was to sit and eat breakfast, without distractions, and certainly not scoffing my food whilst simultaneously putting on a load of washing, and reading a book. I wanted to slow my life down, and breakfast seemed like a good place to start.

Dr Joe Dispenza says that the only way to change a habit is to change the way you do things, so to have a more mindful breakfast, I changed from eating in multiple places, to sitting on my very neglected front porch. As I re-familiarised myself with this lovely space, I took a moment to look around me.  What caught my attention was the  telegraph poles and their gently swaying wires that weave their way through my  suburb. These tall, lanky poles and wires, instantly transported me to another time and place, to my younger years, travelling those long distances in the family car. It was a time when journeys to a new holiday destination took days to complete. The journey itself was a mini holiday as we ducked and weaved into cute little towns, each with its own unique architecture and personality. It was a time when we would have to stop and eat at a local fuel station diner, as there were no fast food outlets back then. Yes, those drives seemed to take forever, but then, it meant we had more time to just be, the pace of life, slower, gentler. We had time to stop and eat, time to visit the local botanic gardens, or buy some local produce or hand-made wares. Every town and every landscape was unique. These days, car trips are completed in a quarter of the time, thanks to super highways and byways, we skip the smaller towns and gulp our food while our cars gulp up the miles, on monotonous and continues streams of ashphalt.

While there were challenges back in the day, I still look back with fond memories because life was simpler. There weren’t the distractions of social media, 24 hour news cycles, endless stories of disasters. Road trips consisted of big old, spongy, roomy cars, with the voices of bored children drowned out by a static-filled radio station. When the game of ‘I Spy’ had exhausted itself, and our throats were hoarse from loudly belting out our favourite car tunes, there was little to do, but stare out the window. Kids these days might burst a blood vessel at the idea of not having an electronic device to entertain themselves, but I loved looking out the car window in a trance-like state, watching the road’s edges move in and out like a grey wave, melting into the asphalt under our car, and then there was the telegraph poles. I’d amused myself by trying to focus on each pole as it came closer and then zipped past blurring into the backdrop of the countryside. But it was the wires that I loved to watch the most. I loved the way they looked like they’d been delicately draped across each pole, how they seemed to move like gentle waves rising up to kiss the top of the telegraph poles and then slowly drooping back down like a jilted lover, only to rise again once more. It felt like a metaphor for life. Up, down, up, down. Continuous lines that went on, unbroken, no matter how many towns we passed. I was fascinated by how a simple wire could connect people, and before mobile phones, was often the difference between life and death. I would be mesmerised watching the sway of these simple strands of metal, interrupted occasionally by a flock of birds, happily surveing their domain.


I would often just stare, looking but not seeing, my mind viewing but simultaneously not thnking. I think this is what I miss the most. I was lucky, as a child, it was a time of greater freedom, few responsibilities, of not having to worry about anything, but mostly, it was having time to zone out. It wasn’t a deliberate time out, as we seek to do these days with a scheduled mediation or mindfulness practice, it just happened naturally as a part of everyday life, a time when we lived more slowly and in the moment.

In our ridicouls drive for economic growth, we have created lives filled with endless chatter, input, output, deadlines, manic drives for growth, that there is little time for gazing. When’s the last time you looked at the night sky, or sat quietly watching the sun rise, or simply sat in a park, without a book or device and just watched the trees sway, people walking, clouds emerging and disappearing? I know I can’t remember.

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The other day, I was due to meet a friend for a coffee. She didn’t turn up because she had double-booked herself, so I sat there and wondered, “What do I do now?” I didn’t bring anything with me to occupy my time, because I knew I’d be busy catching up with my friend, and I’d gone to a little extra effort putting on a nice outfit. I thought, do I sit here alone and treat myself to a lovely cup of tea and just watch the café as it goes about its daily rituals, or go home? I didn’t really want to go home because I was in the mood for some social exposure, one of the downsides of working from home. I decided that I was going to test myself to see how I would manage sitting alone, with nothing to distract me. I’ll be honest and say I found it difficult to start with. The not-so-nice part of my mind was trying to tell me that if I stayed, I might look like a looser, sitting there alone, obviously I had no friends! But the wise part of me said, who said there’s anything wrong with enjoying some time on your own, enjoying your own company. Plus, the creativity I’d been trying to foster, I now know, flourishes when I allow myself time be still and empty, creating a space for inspiration to drop in.

hot choc

It was such a freeing and inspiring experience, that I promised myself that I would take myself out on a date again. Whether it’s sitting alone in a park, a cafe, or staring at telegraph wires floating in mid air, I understood the great benefits of creating head space. I’m not so great at dedicated meditation practice, but I am able to just sit and stare into the distance, to just be still, with my eyes open, feeling, more than seeing all that is around me. I’ve decided to stop berating myself for not being a great “traditional” meditator and instead, I’ve found a method that allows me to be physically and mentally still. Sometimes I find stillness when I draw or sew, but the body is still active. To be able to be fully present in mind and body is a real gift. It slows down our nervous system, calms our breathing and just gives our neural circuits, a much needed rest.

So, as we watch as the machine slowly wind up after the holiday break, consider making time to if not stop, at least slow down long enough to notice life around you. It seems counterintuitive to take 10 minutes out of our crazy busy days to indulge in a little quiet time, but just like an over-tired toddler, a short nap or break, leaves us refreshed and able to tackle the noise and demands of the rest of our days and weeks.

By gifting yourself time to notice a telegraph pole, or opening your eyes to the magic of simple events in your neighbourhood, you may not only create a little peace inside yourself, but you may also notice how some of life’s simple sights and events, when put together, create that rich canvas  that is the lived experience.

dog looking out window

What helps you zone out and find a moment of inner calm? What have you noticed today? Why not write these in a journal. You might be surprised at how some of the simplest things can bring you some peace-filled pleasure.

bookmark_borderIt’s more than OK to feel sad, sometimes


Don’t forget that you’re human. It’s ok to have a meltdown. Just don’t unpack and live there. Cry it out and then refocus on where you are headed. – Unknown

I, like many others, write a blog primarily to inspire others, to share possible solutions to life’s varied challenges. Along with it being a place that provides me with a creative outlet, it’s also a place to share insights that hopefully leave you, dear reader, feeling better. I recently wondered, what I should do on those days when I’m facing a seemingly unsolvable problem? Do I just write some lame piece about the problems with the colour beige, or wait until I’m able to solve my problem? I faced this dilemma a week ago. Despite my best attempts, I just couldn’t find a solution, not even a hint about what was ailing my mind, let alone how to fix it. My feet were stuck in mud and I was just having a pox day. We all have pox days, but what happens when you just feel like sinking into those murky depths of your mind’s mood, feeling every inch of despair? Is it ok to do that, especially in our “Be happy” obsessed world? I think, like a good detox, sometimes, it’s ok to slide into the mud. Mud is after all good for our skin, right?

Of course, you don’t want to make a habit of it, but sometimes, we just need to wallow in our sadness or misery. When our feet hit the bottom, we have ground upon which to propel ourselves back up. It’s unnatural to think that we can always feel great. It’s the sadness that acts as a contrast against our joy, helps us identify our different feelings. Without contrast you have beige.


On my recent pox day, the more ferocious my self talk was about just getting over it, the deeper I sunk. It was made worse by the annoying and constant spruiking by social media “life coaches” telling me that I can choose to be positive. While it’s true that in some situations, we can choose how we feel, at other times it’s not easy, nor possible. For example, anyone who suffers with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will tell you that when your bowel is cranky, so is the rest of you. It is know well known that our gut biome affects our moods and vice versa. Sometimes our sense of sadness is triggered by out of control hormones, or we are exhausted after caring for a loved one, or we have been sick ourselves. Fighting our biology to ensure we are always happy is exhausting and so sometimes, we just need to wave the white flag of surrender and move into acceptance.

We also need to take care not to fall into the “fake your emotions till you make it” kind of thinking. Pretending we are ok when we’re not, leads to a build up of emotions that may be unleashed when least expect it, e.g. behind the wheel of a car, or trying to discipline a child. Pent up emotions can also impact our health. In IBS, these emotions can exacerbate an already fragile gut.

I’m not saying don’t find a positive angle, or seek the lesson in a difficult situation, but sometimes you just can’t find the positive or the lesson, at least not while you’re in the middle of your maelstrom. I’m talking about giving ourselves permission to feel sad, explore it, see what it shows us, and then move on.

When our beloved dog passed a few years back, I couldn’t believe the depth of my sadness. She was a rescued Greyhound who had been treated so badly, that she came to us a bundle of threadbare nerves. Just as she was settling in to her new life, she developed bone cancer. I couldn’t understand why, after all her suffering, when she finally found a loving home, that this could happen. My sadness was so deep, I thought I’d disappear in it. I didn’t even try to hold back the tears, not even in the supermarket. I couldn’t stop the flow, nor did I want to. I was so truly, deeply sad. Slowly, the tears became less frequent, the huge hole in my heart began to mend a little at the edges and over time, it sealed enough so that I felt less of the rawness of my pain.

girl in nature

If I’d shut off my feelings or shoved them down, that deep sorrow would’ve eaten away at my body. My health would have suffered. Plus the lesson I learnt, some time later, was that her presence and her passing, revealed to me not only the depth of pain I was capable of feeling, but that it was equally matched by a depth of love.

So how do we navigate the darker waters of our lives? For starters, it’s important not to judge ourselves for feeling sad, but rather, give ourselves permission to have a bad day. A good cry always helps release the raw edges around pain, as does writing in a journal. When feelings are too overwhelming, it’s important to get support from a loved one or a professional counsellor. Sometimes, going into nature can greatly help us catch our breath and restore a sense of peace back into our bodies.

We each need to find what works for us. Personally, I have found that feeling my emotions and letting them work through me like an invisible wave of energy is more helpful than resisting, not acknowledging my true feelings and putting on a false, happy face.


I think that to be truly balanced people, we need to feel the fullness of joy, sadness, frustration and exhilaration. It’s what gives our lives colour, we need the colour black to understand white. All emotions, but particularly our less favourite ones, can alert us to a conflict between our minds and our hearts, or that we simply need to work through our  feelings of loss.

It is emotions that act as little red flags, telling us to look at our feelings and the associated situation more closely. We can ask, is my anger telling me that I’m viewing a situation from an old childhood wound or am I justified in feeling angry? Is my sadness telling me that I’m lacking resilience that would help me deal with certain setbacks?

Our painful emotions can highlight a hole in our knowledge and understanding giving us the opportunity to rectify it. Talking to a wise friend or professional counsellor or reading a good book on the mind and emotions, can help fill the gap in our knowledge.

Finally, if you are feeling sad, or experiencing any other negative emotion, be kind to yourself. Humans feel the highs and the lows. Take time out from your busy schedule and treat yourself to something beautiful and nurturing. The human journey can be a challenging one. It’s more than ok to feel sad sometimes, but it’s even more than ok, to treat ourselves with love and compassion, and a hot chocolate!

hot choc.jpg

Whether you are happy or sad, why not be kind to yourself anyway.


bookmark_borderWhen changes are unseen

Image: animal

In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.” – Susan Sontag

I recently heard an interesting question put forward by a podcast presenter. She asked her guest if she would recognise herself from ten or fifteen years ago. The question drew my attention not only because it was a thought provoking idea, but also because an hour earlier, I’d stumbled across something I’d written ten years ago, to my mentor, during a dark time in my life. Reading my own journal entry, shocked me. I couldn’t believe that I had written those words. If I didn’t see my own handwriting, I could have sworn, it was the work of an imposter. Did I really feel and think like that? How could I not see that I was making things worse by the filters through which I was viewing my world and my situation? Was I blind to my own thought patterns? Clearly I was. I struggled to recognise this younger version of me.


As I read my story of despair and loneliness, I felt sadness for that young version of me, but as I peered down the time tunnel, I could also see with such clarity, how my thoughts and beliefs made a difficult situation, even more difficult. Experience has taught me that rather than judge myself for the choices I made, nowadays, I show compassion for myself, because after all, most mistakes were made due to a lack of awareness. We all do the best we can with the tools we have at any point in time.

In this particular journal entry, I could see how my old myself was swelling with self pity, blocking my ability to view my own thought processes that were compounding an already difficult situation. Yes, I did find myself in a rather pox place. I’d been very sick for almost a year, finally able to go on a holiday with my family, only to come down with the flu the minute we arrived at our beautiful alpine location. While the rest of the family went off skiing, having snowball fights and seeing the sights, I was sick and alone in a hotel room, day after day, and only started to feel better the day before we headed back home.


At the time, all I could see was the injustice of the moment, as though some invisible adjudicator deemed me unworthy of good health and happiness. This of course was just faulty thinking. There is no force, or high power that simply wants to play us like puppets, dishing out  positive or negative situations, depending on what mood it’s in. This is simply looking for someone to blame. I do believe in a greater power that is benevolent and the creator of all things, but I don’t believe it is a judgemental force. What I do know is that for the most part, I was the lead player in creating this situation. Getting sick was often the result of being unable to deal with stress. I lacked the skills of resilience when facing adversity. I was a black an white thinker and loved to punish myself for what I saw were dreadful failings. I wasn’t the first, nor will I be the last to get sick on a holiday, but with my blinkered eyes, I couldn’t see that.

It is so hard for us to see the progress that we’ve made over time. As multiple years cross our paths, those changes simply blend into the fabric of daily life. It’s not until we are given an opportunity to time travel and visit a younger version of ourselves, that we can contrast and compare, to see if, and how we have evolved; if our views have altered, our beliefs softened, our wisdom expanded.


It is one of the reasons I have journaled for the past decade and diligently kept each book. Whenever I feel like I’ve made no progress, usually during one of those moments when an old unhelpful belief rears its ugly head, I’ll re-read an old journal entry to remind myself that while some beliefs may still be a work in progress, many others have  truly been transformed. While my physical body still presents some challenges, the real “I” has changed for the better, even though it’s often challenging work.

Sometimes, we also find that a part of our life remains stuck in the same difficult situation we once found ourselves in. For example, while my health is better, I’ve never regained the good health I enjoyed before I collided with a mysterious illness. It’s easy to think therefore that little has changed, but this isn’t true. While our physical bodies might not appear to have transformed, our minds on the other hand, are capable of great transformation, so much so, that over time, these changes can then go on to positively affect our bodies. I’m so much better than I was even five years ago, but not the same as ten years ago. But then that is only natural as my body is also ten years older. Occasionally, I still experience physical pain but I don’t suffer from it like I used to. The pain hasn’t changed, but my relationship to it has. The old me suffered deeply because I focussed on the injustice of the situation, whereas now I realise that nothing is fair or unfair, it just is. My pain has also reduced because I’ve dropped my obsession with being pain-free. Through acknowledgement and understanding I now know that it’s not a matter of fairness or justice, I simply experience certain symptoms.

Mindfulness and breathing techniques have also helped deal with physical and emotional pain. When I think I’ve not changed, I can see that I truly have. Our memories can gloss over events, alternating between emphasising the good, and the bad. It is  through our journals that we get a clearer understanding about how we were truly thinking and feeling at the time.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth

Therapeutic Journaling

If you don’t write in a journal, I suggest trying it. Not only is it a record of your own life, but the process of writing often frees us from the endless babble that takes place in our head. People who journal often find that allowing thoughts to flow onto a page helps them gain clarity because seeing their thoughts in writing, often helps them see more clearly what it is they’re thinking.  Oftentimes, the mind will rerun thoughts in an endless loop. Putting thoughts into writing, tells the brain that the matter has been recorded, and so there is no longer a need for that particular train of thought, to keep running along the same continuous track, never reaching its destination.

Try keeping a journal and see if it might bring with it a new way of seeing your thoughts and gaining insights into beliefs that may not be serving you. Once you can identify a negative thought, try to delve deeper and see if you can remember a time when you may have heard a carer bring up this viewpoint and how it might have influenced your own thought development. Once you are aware, you can choose to replace a negative thought with a more positive one. If you still struggle with this process, someone like a counsellor  can assist with this process.

Happy Writing and Happy Discovery!


bookmark_borderAt what point do we say, “Yes I am that”


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“Life is a lively process of becoming” Douglas Macarthur

Recently, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for some time, at a small local art show where she was displaying her beautiful ceramic work. I was in awe of her skill and courage to purse a more challenging vocation in the arts, rather than her formerly safe job as a teacher. As I excitedly embraced her, I said, “I didn’t know you’d be here today.” To which she replied, “It’s good to see you too, and you should be here too.”

In a rather diminished and child-like voice I said, “I’d love to…maybe…one day.” The rather different response inside my head instead was “Um, duh, No. Why would I be here. I don’t have anything to offer. I’m not a bona fide artist. I’m not formally trained in any medium, why would I be here?”

But then I thought, hang on a minute, over the past few years haven’t I’ve tried my hand at ceramics, photography, sewing and print making and writing. Surely this counts for something, and isn’t there a clue here as to what my passion might be?

While I hadn’t been prepared to call myself anything remotely “arty”, I have been in exploration mode, looking for a new world in which I want my future self to inhabit. The journey into creativity isn’t an easy one for people with low self-belief. Criticism is rife in our world at the best of times, sadly, it is deeply intrenched in the world of creativity. I was beginning to tire of pretending that I wasn’t creative so, I’ve decided I am going to give myself permission to…

  1. Mess around and waste time, paint and/or fabric or whatever other materials, as I practice, practice, practice
  2. Try different creative pursuits, mediums, techniques
  3. And EXPLORE!

Explore! Remember that thing we used to do as kids. Get dirty, climb things, cut and paste anything we could get our hands on, and sticking them to anything and everything we could find.  We’d try this with a dash of that and then asked, what if I turn it upside down, or inside out, add a little salt, or soil or a beautiful leaf that’s just been offered to us by the autumnal apple tree in our backyard? “What if?”, is what we constantly asked. We didn’t look for outcomes. We looked for solutions in the process itself. Creativity in childhood is a vibrant, courageous and brilliant time. But sadly, as we get older, some of us can lose this precious skill, this gift.

As soon as I had a quiet moment I explored my ideas around how I saw myself in relation to creativity. I realised that when I got my ego out of the way, and it’s demands for impossible standards of skill and qualifications, that I was slowly growing a nice little body of creative work that wouldn’t look out of place at a small local art show.  Importantly, despite not having a Doctorate in creativity, I can at least call myself an Artist-in-training and heaven forbid, even display some of my work!

So far there have been a few wins in the photography stakes, particular success with one of my favourite subjects, flowers. That’s one of my babies at the top of this post. And with each blog I write, there is often a “like” here or there, so my writing can’t be too bad either.

Then I thought I’d try my hand at a long burning desire to screen print on fabric. While these first attempts are quite simple, I just fell in love with the vibrancy and joy that comes from even the simplest of designs. I also love the tactile nature of this process and you get to see the results immediately. This simple leaf design has become one of my favourites and as it’s printed on a tea towel, it makes drying the dishes just that little bit more pleasurable. I did say a little bit!


The print below was made by creating simple butterfly cut outs from the cheapest of cheap materials, newspaper! I started with orange on one side and blue on the other and then one of those happy accidents happened, and the two colours began to blend, creating a beautiful purple in the middle. Who would have thought!


The person who couldn’t call herself creative or artistic also made quilts, various other funky bags and soft toys. The list seems to grow the more I look!


She who has struggled to call herself creative also crocheted these baskets and then as I looked at what else I’ve crocheted, the list grows here too.


It’s so easy to forget what we have achieved over time, to dismiss the many things we have tried or created simply because we don’t consider ourselves “qualified”. If you grew up with little emotional support, or for whatever reason suffer with low self esteem, you too might also be very hard on yourself and think that what you achieve is never enough. I know that my crochet basket photo is not perfect, and that I’ve probably made a few mistakes in writing this post, but I’ve decided to leave a few flaws here and there. There is no longer room in my life for perfectionism because it affected my health, and I’m certainly not wasting any more time waiting for the day when I’m supremely qualified or perfect. It might matter if you’re a brain surgeon but I’m not a surgeon who works on bodies, my work is in the mind and why we think what we think. Which is why I’m exploring an old/new passion, exploring vulnerability by exposing my work and my journey, and learning to be brave through creativity and seeing where it takes me.

So when someone asks me what I’m “doing with myself these days”, I’ll bravely reply that I’m a CREATIVE-IN-TRAINING. I will no longer skirt around the issue or make excuses for what I do. With my brave boots on, I step forward into my ever evolving life.


I invite you to join me in declaring what it is that you love, and finding ways that you can become at one with that thing that you love.

Don’t waste another day not living as a whole person.

It’s your life. Live it wholly and fully.