Finding my peace

Today was the beginning of a new day.

It started with my alarm going off at the usual 5.15am. But without the pressing need to get up for work (hello only working one job now!), I rolled over.

At 7am I was woken again to a delightful melody of birds in the darkness of pre-dawn. Singing at the top of their voices on my doorstep, I caught myself in the briefest moment of their raw emotion: the joy-filled promise, belief and celebration of a new day dawning. Maybe it was the unseasonal autumn warmth, the gentle pitter-patter of rain, or the recent new moon but I feel the shift. Big one.
(yeah, it may also have something to do with me recently downsizing on stress/moving house/changing jobs too!)

I climbed out of bed and up the nearest hill here at my little farmhouse, just in time to sit a moment on a rock whilst I witnessed nature’s blessing: sunrise.
With every metre I climbed up that hill I stepped out of the dark cloud I’ve existed in for the past week. And at the top the rewards was waiting for me – a stunning autumn sunrise complete with epic clouds rolling in.
That moment I realised one more big thing:

I am right where I need to be.

This was nature’s way of reinforcing to me something I had ignored for the past few months…

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Rewind about four months when I was living what I thought was every girl’s dream: a carefree, inner-city life full of potential and opportunity, great friends and the job I had always wanted. Except, my health was failing. I was feeling badly alone: hormonal imbalances had left me fighting depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep and horrible mood swings. I was proceeding to feel less “alive” and even less motivated to explore Melbourne, the city that had captured my heart mere months before. I had pain and digestive issues that saw me eliminating more and more of the foods I loved and enjoyed. Where was the light at the end of this tunnel…?

But still, I felt trapped into putting on a brave face – I had everything I needed to be happy, didn’t I??

See, the thing my body was trying to teach me is that you can’t buy happiness living other people’s dreams….not a new dilemma for me, but one presented to me with a sense of urgency given my poor state of health.
There and then I made a decision to tackle these challenges, and their lessons I was destined for. When my mental and physical health miraculously improved during a three week holiday in late December, the path was clear: my whole lifestyle needed a reboot. With that, I worked on moving back to the country, to a job working outside in nature, and to a slower pace of living.

I became quickly attached to this change being a solution for all my angst. This would surely be the catalyst for my happiness to return: to eliminating stress, anxiety making way for joy and fear being replaced with courage, excitement. Of course, that is not the way this story goes. I found myself stuck between two worlds – not quite ready to jump off the safety step into the future unknown. Clinging to what I had lost, rather than focussing on the future potential I had made room for.

So I hid myself in a world that was busier, more chaotic and unsettled that I had previously known: we’re talking 50-60 hr work weeks, plus driving between two cities, bunking with friends and taking on way too much responsibility in my new job. Oh, did I include moving house, to live on my own for the first time in my life? (yeah, like a real grown-up!).
As expected I did my best “just-cope-and-get-through-the-chaos” performance…but I cracked.
Well, once again my body did. As has happened before – brave “game face” on as long as necessary then crash and burn.

Fast forward to last week when I completed my hospital work in Melbourne (i.e. free time and fresh country air) I did what anyone in denial does: flip out, ramp up into an anxiety driven ball of stress then curl up in bed with a block of chocolate and listen to my harsh inner-critic in overdrive…..why wasn’t I instantly “happy” now that I wan living the life I had wanted all those months ago? It culminated in yesterday finding myself working away on the farm exhausted, shaking and anxious (at 7am!) for no obvious reason. Looking over the edge into darkness again…

Today, though, is a different day. I woke up to find it was easier just accepting my world as it is. I’m OK with this ongoing battle with anxiety and managing my health. There will be no quick fix, no escape, no remedy that doesn’t include a lot of reflection and hard work. I’m pleased to say by the end of today, my list of “should do’s” is gone and replaced with my shortlist of things I do just for me, of things that bring me joy and make my head find peace. My stomach has unknotted. And my heart is filled with gratitude for my lesson taught by the glorious Mother Nature.

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big moments, little pauses and this [im]perfect life

The last few months for me have been epic.
Two jobs, two different cities, a new house and plenty of competing demands to be “managed”.
Working 50-60 hrs a week…often no proper weekend, and my “to-do” list still as long as ever each night I crawl into bed.

It has pushed me, bent me, and at times crushed my resolve but showed me such great wisdom I can’t be anything but grateful.

My head and body hurt at the end of each day  – from the physical challenges of working on a farm again, but also mental demand to keep each of my priorities in order. Naturally schedules have clashed, missed calls remain un-returned and various commitments I’ve made fall by the wayside in place of sleep, work and rest time.

I’ve never felt so out of control yet at the same time so grounded, present and content.

While I washed 3 days worth of dishes at dawn before running out the door to catch a train, it hit me – I laughed out loud –  because I find myself strong, healthy and alive in an imperfect world!??

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Home is a sight I am forever grateful to see. Driving up the drive, I curse out loud when the sheep have got in and eaten the “garden”. I notice the growing pile of leaves that need raking up from the back door, a reminder that summer has been and gone with autumn now in her place. Everyday I think “today’s the day I will clean the cobwebs from the shower”…then proceed to find something else to fill my time with (usually cooking or reading instead!). I’ve embraced the space, the silence, that I’m afforded now that I live in the country…padding up and down the long corridors, eating on the makeshift couch or reading by candlelight tucked up in bed.

“Waverley” is still revealing herself to me, piece by piece. No water for 2 days in the first week I moved in (the tank was empty!) then the power goes out for 3 days (luckily for me, whilst I was in Melbourne for work). There is still plenty of empty rooms and blank walls to decorate, when I find time. Add that to the list…
But with all her kinks and crooked floor boards, with water pipes that clang and doors that don’t quite close; with spider webs adorning the windows and possums fighting on the roof at dusk, my Farmhouse reminds me that the wrinkles and bruises and scars we carry are evidence of a meaningful, rewarding life.

That it is all a “work in progress”, to be refined and polished when we find ourselves growing stronger and more certain of what is true.

Here’s to sitting squarely in our own imperfection and chaos, to learning the true art of building ourselves a content, happy life.

 

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Be careful what you wish for…

For it might just come true! I mean this in the most awe-inspiring, miracles-do-happen and dreams-can-come-true kinda way.

But it nearly didn’t happen…I was almost too scared to take the leap and say “yes” for fear of what may (or may not) come.  Oh so glad I did make the call late in 2013.

(more on this next time)

Because as it turns out, listening to that little voice inside me, saying yes and committing to the move has been the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

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Fast forward to this week, and I’m moving house. And not just any old house…but into  a 90-yr old farmhouse.

My dream farmhouse.
Yes, it’s currently covered in several layers on dust, mice droppings and flies, but this house is alive.

Oh, the stories she could tell!

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I can’t quite begin to explain the feeling I get driving in the driveway, up to my house….and there she sits, a little withered by the harshness of summer but no less impressive in her old age.

I love the wonky floor in the kitchen, sloping away towards the sink. The pot-belly stove tucked away with a peak-a-boo window behind.

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I love padding down the long hallway from the kitchen to my bedroom, noticing the squeaks and gaps in floor boards as they yield under foot after all these years.

I love the five – FIVE! –  fireplaces, the antique door handles and screen doors that don’t quite close properly. The lounge room, large enough and grand enough to hold a gala ball.

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Then there’s a study attached to my bedroom, with built-in book cases and just waiting for a desk to sit under the broad window. Complete with a view across the valley that will certainly prove a lovely distraction from any future work to be done.

There’s the bathroom….ah, maybe you’d call this look “rustic”?
I love it.
(minus the cobwebs)

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I love the pantry. Did I mention the walk-in pantry? Complete with blackboard for list-making and drawing.

And the cellar down below, waiting to be swept out and filled with wine, cheese, preserves and root vegetables.

But the fun’s only just started. Now I must spend a few days sweeping and cleaning and polishing her up. There’s a few things to fix, a few to find, and some big ticket items to buy. There’s a garden to grow, a verandah to sit on and more dreams to realise.

Then I can  begin to make this house in the country a home.

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Move over 2013, there’s a new kid on the block!

I am forever grateful for the adventures and lessons of 2013. It was a year that at times felt like a decade, yet other weeks flew by in days. It was twelve months in which I worked harder, yet smarter and learned more than I could imagine possible.

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I am so lucky to have travelled widely this past year – to new places and to revisit old favourites, close family and friends.

I am glad I found music again – choir, guitar, ukelele.

I have learnt (and continue to learn) the value of good health through ills and dis-ease; and feel better, stronger, more “real” for the lesson. I’m embracing all my imperfections, and just trying to value the little things that go a very very long way to securing my happy equilibrium.

I cooked and ate and drank merrily through 2013.

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I am blessed to have met new inspiring folk. I have found more inspiration in places I didn’t think to look. I have read well – devouring novels, memoirs, non-fiction, journals and food magazines alike. I have de-cluttered, recycled and downsized my worldly possessions from 3 separate interstate locations to one (well, almost).

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But the biggest lesson has been finding my own space and time.
Space to just exist and have fun and cook, laugh, sing, sit, drink coffee and write.
Space also to reflect and truly learn from the hard things that are thrown my way – not just to shove them deeper and deeper down and just go on “coping”.

Space in nature to nurture (and be nurtured). I am busy each day cultivating a little parcel of space that allows me to grow, create, and push the boundaries.

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I found time to celebrate birthdays and milestones and new beginnings. Time to feel sadness and disappointments. Time and space to live in the hustle and bustle of a city paced life; to watch and feel the throng of busy-ness around me. Other times to relax in good company. Or time to be alone.

2013 was the first year in my life that I thought about myself (my bliss, happiness, hopes and dreams) more than others. Not in a selfish “the-world-revolves-around-me way, but more accurately I committed to looking after my self before I gave over to anyone else. There is reward beyond what I could imagine when you bravely place the highest value on your own self and what brings you happiness. So, I have finally made peace with myself and 2013 has taught me there is no shame in walking away from something that isn’t the right fit.

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One week into 2014 and the priorities are shifting further…the dreams and visions are becoming clearer, my inner voice is calling me to let go and live a more AUTHENTIC existence. 2014 will be about further refining my world, not being afraid to leave behind stale beliefs and old worn-out dreams. It will be about bucking my life-long habit of avoiding commitment and seizing each new day. There will be more travel, more reading, more time for singing and talking and of course eating and drinking well.

It will be more adventures to discover a stronger and leaner body. But a softer, gentler mind. And an open, grateful heart.

Welcome 2014.

Standing stuck

Lately I’ve been feeling it. Hard.

This morning I walked into my room no fewer than 3 times, only to stop inside the door…what was it indeed I had come for? Where would I find it? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it…unsettling as it was, there is a lesson to be learnt.
What did I need to do to quieten that gnawing feeling inside my stomach that threatened to spill out?

Last night I stood in the centre of the room, taking all the chaos in – and not a moment before time. Given how much my world has shifted in the last month it was bound to catch up with me eventually.
I had thought that when the last box was unpacked I would settle. That when I walked around my new neighbourhood I would grow more comfortable. Or as I spent quality time with family and friends in Melbourne I would be filling my life with the balance and contentment I have always strived for. I figured now a few weeks in my new job, I’d start to see why I chose to leave the last adventure behind and return to physio for the next chapter.

But there it was again. The shadow had reared itself up and cast across me. The doubts crept in at night when I lay my head on the pillow, exhausted by having more time free than I was used to.

There was a heavy empty space that lingered, where one thing had ended and another just begun.
The “shoulds” and “coulds” had returned to my vocabulary.
My creative outlets – writing, singing, creating – all dried up.

The more I fought to fill my time with people and places, the more I felt alone and stuck in a fast-moving world.

Paralysed, struck with fear that glued my feet firmly to the floor, unable to fathom the next step forward.  The to-do lists in my head grew…I was  stuck wanting to and wanting not to all at the same time, with such fierce conviction that sometimes it took all my energy just to breathe.

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I thought making the choice would be the hardest part.

I figured saying goodbye to what I had out-grown was tough enough, but I was wrong.

It’s finding the next thing, searching for the next hand hold or stepping stone.
Looking out into the unknown with a plethora of opportunities in front of me has freaked the hell out of me.
Ironically, it is a circumstance of abundance that has sent me into a tail spin. I’ve always been challenged in life to act rather than just dream – I’m well practiced at procrastinating the days away, worrying myself into inaction as I “think through” the potentials. But this time – the anxiety, the fear, the worry of right versus wrong – have taken over and rendered me a chaotic mess.

Today when it all came to a head, I was floored by the overwhelming desire to curl up under the bed and wish the world away. Hoping that if I screwed my eyes closed tightly enough the chaos would be gone.  But instead I put on my shoes, headed out the front door and down the hill. I walked and thought and walked and thought some more.
My eyes let tears spill over – from emotion or the gale force winds blowing in my face, it didn’t matter.
Slowly the knot loosened in my stomach, my breathing deepened and the shadow lost its grip.

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And then I remembered some wisdom from last year:

it is not making the “right” decision that matters, but making one and giving it your 100% effort

We are strange creatures, us humans.
Lessons come from the most unexpected circumstances.

The hard lessons [to be] learned.

It seems at the moment there are days when life rolls on quietly and sweetly.

And then there are days where progress is slow…like wading into untested flood waters. You go in further, the waters rise and the currents grow stronger. You become unsure of the safety of your next step, working hard just to keep balanced. At the moment for me, there are days – even weeks – where I have sat pondering what next. Where to? What for? And why? But most of all how do I get to where I want to be? And where exactly do I want to be……???

In this state, just the simplest of things leave you stuck with more questions than answers.

Whether it’s the stars, the moon, the season or the time change lately I’ve been left to wonder and wander. It seems that the faster I try to move, the more overwhelmed and out of control I feel. The edges of my world become blurred, my focus of gone. Things are left to pile up – washing, dishes, unread emails and books. I stop doing the things I enjoy, like craft, creating, music and cooking. My mind begins to race, looking for answers and solutions.
And once I feel overwhelmed like this my go-to reaction (head) kicks in to hyper drive to bring things under “control”. The more I have pushed to right myself lately, the further I have fallen out of kilter.

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OK, so it’s been a little quite here on the blog front lately….let me just say that its got nothing to do with life being at all quiet or mundane. In fact the opposite is true – living out dreams and aspirations and working through plenty of hard stuff too. But that’s all for another day….this post has been brewing for a couple of months now!

Even though we are eight thirteen fourteen weeks into 2013 I feel like I have only just re-surfaced after a busy 2012. Life changing stuff. Scary change-your-world-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-and-dream-big kinda stuff.

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