Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you to my wonderful friend Rachel for providing me with Eleanor for this week’s focus. It is always great to hear who inspires my friends and family and I encourage you to reach out if you have a beautiful human that I could feature!

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Eleanor Roosevelt is niece to the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. He taught her the power of political influence and she married her fifth cousin (once removed). Before looking into her story, I didn’t think much past the overwhelming notion of privilege that comes with these facts and knew very little about her. Here is a quick download of things that might surprise you:

  • Eleanor’s father was an alcoholic and drug user. He was committed to mental asylums in both France and the United States.
  • It is understood that he had an illegitimate child to a servant.
  • Her mother died at 29 years old from diphtheria. Eleanor was 8 years old.
  • Her and her brother were placed in their grandmother’s care. She was described as “formidable”.

Her life was once of both extreme luxury and intense challengers.

  • Eleanor received private tutoring and could write fluently in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
  • When she married her husband, Franklin D Roosevelt, she was dominated by her mother-in-law, living in discomfort until she re-emerged on the social scene following the birth of her 5 children.
  • Eleanor “played the role” particularly well as a spouse to an elected figure. At each stage of Franklin’s career she volunteered, engaged other spouses and participated in fundraising and social gatherings as needed.
  • She worked as a French translator during WWI.
  • She gave primary nursing care to her husband first became unwell and independently cared for her children during this time.

Some of the many bad-ass commitments she held before becoming First Lady include:

  • The Women’s City Club of New York, board of directors, vice president, City Planning Department chair, Finance Committee Chair
  • The Women’s Trade Union League, member
  • Women’s Division of the New York State Democratic Committee, member, Vice President, Finance Chair, and Women’s Democratic News newsletter editor and columnist
  • The League of Women Voters, New York State branch and national organization, Board member, Legislative Committee Chair (state league), Constitutional Revision Chair (state league), County Delegate, State Delegate, Vice-Chair of the New York State League
  • World Peace Movement and Bok Peace Prize Committee
  • and ooon and on it goes 🙂 (source)

During her husband’s campaign for President she actively campaigned for another candidate and refused to make speeches for her husband, yet she did vote for him and supported him absolutely in the role.

This really sums up her role as First Lady:

“No presidential wife served as First Lady for a period longer than did Eleanor Roosevelt – twelve years, one month, one week and one day. No First Lady served through two nationally traumatic events such as did Eleanor Roosevelt, presiding at the White House during the Great Depression and World War II. Unique to her tenure was the fact that the President was physically limited by his then-hidden condition of polio. Thus apart from finding a way to integrate her own professional interests and experiences into the public role of First Lady and assume the traditional management of the mansion’s functioning as a political-social arena, Eleanor Roosevelt worked closely with the President and his staff as an unofficial Administration representative and on policy-related issues.” (Source)

Her influence was far reaching and powerful:

  • Eleanor hosted women-only press conferences at the White House, resulting in the hiring of more and more women reporters so news companies could have their staff in attendance.
  • She wrote 6 weekly articles called “My Day”. She is reported to only have missed one entry, following the death of her husband. This humble blog writer is put to shame!!
  • She defied segregation rules and openly sat beside an African American Associate, risking imprisonment.
  • She helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • She often traveled on behalf of her ailing husband, allowing him to retain control over his presidency.

I really like hearing stories about women as detailed, curious and incredible as Eleanor. She is clearly an outlier, having achieved more in a lifetime that many of us could dream to. This was in part afforded to her by circumstance, social standing and opportunity. It was also driven by a spirit that couldn’t be tethered and full intention to just “get on with it”.

I think we all have tenacity in ourselves that we are unaware of. It comes out when we most need it. When, like Eleanor, you have multiple children and a sick husband and you just get on with caring for him. Or when you pursue your own political and social aspirations whilst helping to run a goddamn country.

For you or I it comes down to this:

If you think you’re tired, now’s the time to start working. If you think you’re defeated, now’s the time to start fighting. And if you think you aren’t capable of it, afford yourself a moment of worry before putting that aside and getting on with business.

We have got this.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: Bringing the Beach Home

In a week where Australia was nearly overtaken by a potato I thought we needed a lighter post this weekend. Enjoy!

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I’ve just happily committed to an upcoming weekend trip to the beach with friends and it has got me thinking.

Already, I am excited. I am longing for the salty sea air, the sand in between my toes, and the feeling of freedom that I associate to completely with the coast.

I’m thinking about what audiobook I should download for the trip, or if I should find a new Podcast series that will last the trip (any suggestions, comment below!). I’m wondering if we will play board games, or watch movies at night, and if we will go exploring over rocks or if it will be more of a lounge on the sand type of trip.

So… what’s my point?

Well… quite simply, if I can get this excited at the idea of an experience, doesn’t this mean I can create this excitement by playing with my environment at home, for those times when I need to unwind, relax and let go of stress but can’t quite fit in a round trip to the coast?

Here are the things that I associate with beach trips:

  • Long idle conversations that carry on lazily over a few days
  • Chilled out music playing in an otherwise quiet, sleepy home
  • That oh-so-comfy feeling of snuggling into a blanket after you’ve been outside all morning
  • Reading quietly alongside others doing their own thing, whether it be reading, playing games, chatting, and not feeling harried or imposed upon
  • Eating delicious food in groups and having meals that stretch out
  • Not feeling time pressure. At all. Like, none.

The list goes on and on.

But whilst all of those experiences are heightened by the location, they are not isolated to it.

  • I can chat to my husband and friends at home
  • I can play music and burn candles and create a warm environment at home
  • I can snuggle at home! I think you get the point.

So given my excitement that has emerged from setting a date for relaxation (in essence) I am challenging myself to setting another date for relaxation in my home environment.

I am bringing the beach home, minus the sand.

 

 

Stephanie Kwolek

Ever wondered who invented Kevlar? It’s a pretty niche thing to ponder on at any given time but luckily I have the answer for you!

Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar.

  • Stephanie was born in 1924.
  • She was a Chemist.
  • She discovered the correct fibers that led to the creation of Kevlar when she was in her 40’s.
  • She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • Stephanie passed away in 2014, at the age of 90.

I’m not going to go in depth into the science but here is an easy to digest summary:

“Unexpectedly, she discovered that under certain conditions, large numbers of polyamide molecules line up in parallel to form cloudy liquid crystalline solutions. Most researchers would have rejected the solution because it was fluid and cloudy rather than viscous and clear. But Kwolek took a chance and spun the solution into fibers more strong and stiff than had ever been created. This breakthrough opened up the possibilities for a host of new products resistant to tears, bullets, extreme temperatures, and other conditions.” (source)

In one of her interviews straight out of College Stephanie was tenacious enough to ask for the outcome of her interview on the spot. She attributes this boldness to the boss of the company bringing his secretary in and dictating a letter of offer on the spot to her (source). You don’t get if you don’t ask!!

The thing I love the most about this story is that Stephanie tested a product that most other scientists would have discarded because of the texture and style of it. Today the world of the academic and researcher (including scientists) is fraught with risk. You can’t take yourself too far outside of the norm because then you will be contradicting or challenging those who are responsible for your funding, or your position at a university.

Unfortunately this leads to our research walking around in circles at times, and an inability for the great “leaps” in progress that science, philosophy and intellectual thought was once famous for.

So this idea of just “giving something a go” to test how it would react, and the subsequent incredible outcome makes me so happy!

I am sure you have heard of Kevlar. But just in case you weren’t aware of some of these uses here is a quick list:

  • Body armour
  • Coating on optical-fiber cables that run between countries under the sea
  • Ropes (the strength of the fiber can hold a bridge)
  • Clothing for athletes
  • Kitchenware (fry pans etc)
  • And on and on (source).

The hard work Stephanie dedicated her life to has improved our lives in ways we now take for granted.

But Kevlar of course has also led to the protection of our service men and women in both military and police roles. I am sure many pacifist arguments would be against this and would not consider it a step forward. I get that, and whilst it is a complicated story bigger than this blog can afford, I for one have quite a positive view of police in my country (being very lucky to have had nothing but positive experiences with them as afforded by my race, social status and circumstance) and am grateful that they are given more protection so they can continue to keep me safe.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: You Knew What You Were Getting Into

Please share this post if it resonates with you. I would love to hear from you, privately on in the comment field below if you have gone through similar experiences. As always, if you have a topic you are sitting on I welcome you to get in touch so we can chat.

I’d also like to note that this isn’t in any way directed at any one person or event. This blog isn’t a shield for me to vent about something someone in particular did. I am using this as a platform to talk about thoughts, feelings, ideas or worries that have occurred to me or that have been brought up to me by those around me. Cheers xo

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I am an open and honest person and friend.

I try to share myself with and hope to receive the same back from others.

I am that person who can strike up a conversation with someone and within five minutes know their life story.

But this quality has been eroding over time.

I have learnt that my news, my work, my fears, my worries, my world, none of this belongs to those around me and I am not obliged to give them over to someone to do what they will with them.

Me oh my am I feeling dramatic today…!

Over the last few years I have often spoken openly to people about fears, stresses or worries I have about risks or choices I have taken or am about to take.

What has taken me off guard is how common comments can be thrown out about how it can be “expected” that something would be hard. That I “should have known” that it would be challenging. I could have “seen it coming”.

These comments are really stinging to me and it has come from good therapy and a lot of self reflection to realise why this is.

  • I feel underestimated.
  • I feel like I have been misunderstood.
  • I feel like I have been viewed as “hasty” or “rash”.
  • I feel like I have “missed something” or haven’t done my full research.
  • I have not been able to convey the emotion or point I had wanted to communicate.
  • I feel vulnerable.
  • I feel isolated.
  • I feel exposed.

The exposure and vulnerability is the key here. It shows me that I did not have a good enough relationship with that person to enter into that depth of conversation with them. Or it wasn’t the time/place to get into an involved topic.

Unfortunately this has lead to me, at times, “closing off” to people who genuinely give me so much happiness, warmth and love.

Sometimes I think people describe what I have just spoken about as getting “burnt” or “stung” by people who don’t understand them.

I completely understand that emotion. I have seen in myself, however, that it sometimes boils down to little more than disappointment in myself for trusting too early, for speaking too rashly, or for underestimating an environment/person/situation.

And that’s on me.

Why is that on me? Because I can’t control what you do. I can’t control how you will respond to me, so I have to protect some of that good stuff for me and for myself.

This 100%, hands down, does not come easy to me.

I have found myself physically sweating as I try to stop myself from sharing something with someone.

I have found myself anxious that I am disappointing someone for not sharing something with them that they 1) have not asked for and 2) have no idea I am sitting on.

There’s another reason why I am so actively employing this tactic.

It’s because my tolerance for that style of response has really shrunk.

A few years back, if someone had said “well, what did you expect?” to me, I probably would have looked hurt, closed down, perhaps even welled up and cried at you. In between all of that I would have been furiously justifying myself. I would have been making damn sure that I had my say and told you why it was not surprising but it was disappointing, that I was not taken off guard but that I was still hurting, what ever it might be.

That’s OK, because I traditionally have worn my heart on my sleeve and I’ve already been through the wave of emotions that have just been brought up by that simple sentence.

It’s also OK that I don’t want to deal with that anymore. There are so many reasons why someone might respond like that, and quite frankly I don’t have the energy to relate to you on that level of understanding when I am frantically working through my own emotive response.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I still can’t change someone else in the way they respond to me. But I do get to choose what I say in the first place.

So I will continue to be an open and honest person. Realistically, I will continue to get “burnt” by people when I step outside my newly defined comfort level in a moment of excitement of feeling of connection that isn’t quite there.

I am actually OK with this. I’m human, and that makes me vulnerable to getting hurt. It also leaves me resilient as anything so I know that I’m going to be fine!

I will also continue to take risks and make changes in my life that might seem silly to people. That’s because I am who I am, and my husband is who he is. We like to adventure and sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn’t. It means we have stories to tell and shared experiences and crazy memories. And that’s OK too.

I don’t really know how to end this one guys… I’m just sitting here wondering how many of you are sitting there thinking “I can’t believe she put this out onto the internet – the backlash she is surely going to get – what the hell did she expect???!!!”

 

Michelle Obama

Let me try to do justice to the incredible woman and inspirational human, Michelle Obama.

Quick snapshot:

  • We share birthdays (17 Jan) but she was born in 1964. I feel close to her already.
  • Michelle is a Harvard graduate and a successful lawyer. I am studying to become a lawyer. Omg guys is this real life?
  • If I recall correctly from a autobiography by Barack Obama I once read, Michelle was Barack’s supervisor at the law firm where they met. This is where our shared pathways are diverging rapidly…
  • Michelle has worked both as a corporate lawyer and as a public servant.
  • Her husband is former United States President, Barack Obama. I have long since stopped being anywhere near in her league but I will keep the illusion going in my mind…
  • In her time as First Lady she focused on a variety of social issues, including child-focused and health-based causes. She had a very public profile and activity encouraged people to engage on issues around obesity, healthy eating, positive engagement with public schooling and so on.
  • We can all look forward to the release of her book, “Becoming”, scheduled for release in November 2018.

Now listen. I am an easy crier. I cry at motivational speeches. I cry at sad movies. I cry at joyful videos of puppies reuniting with their mum or dad after they’ve returned from their military service (yup, that one’s getting niche now).

But there are some people that make me tear up just with their energy, and Michelle is absolutely one of them. She speaks with purpose. She is energetic and passionate. She is clever and she is strong. I nearly always cry when I listen to an address by Michelle because she believes in what she says. It’s not an easy thing to convey that and she is such a role model to so many of us for different reasons.

There are so many examples to give, but the best is, of course, “When they go low, we go high“. Such simple advice to her children that has been applied again and again and again to adults navigating the world since the election of Donald Trump as US President and the sheer cluster of bullying, harassment and worry that has been stirred, boiled and stewed.

It is a fabulous way to look at life. Keep your head up, push on with the priorities that you hold in this life and do not stoop to the level of those trying to stop you. Continue with purpose and motivate those around you with good will and great energy.

Obviously both Michelle and Barrack have received criticism for their wealth, their “easy lives” and there have even been negative comments directed towards Michelle’s hair because it was not “natural” enough… I mean in the wider picture of the current administration it’s hard to really get too flustered about any that but that’s maybe just me.

I think that Michelle did a stand up job as First Lady, and her career is truly inspirational. She holds herself with poise and dignity and has kept a very “down to earth” approach to what must surely be a whirlwind of crazy.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: Please Don’t Say You’re Proud of Me

Language is complicated. We can’t police every word and thought in our head – we would never speak or have the confidence to generate our own thoughts.

What we can do, however, is slowly, gently, over time, shape and adjust the way we express our thoughts and feelings with language. It should take a lifetime. That’s what keeps it interesting.

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Do you have a friend that delivers the most spectacular truth bombs at a time when you need it the most?

I am fortunate enough to say that I do. I actually am fortunate enough to say I have a few.

I have had one stunning human who has chosen to stay connected with me, chosen to remain in touch and share their life and their fears and their sadness and their joy with me for the better part of our lives.

I have been “schooled” by this friend many times over. I would like to share one learning I got from this friend that has stuck with me for about 5 years now.

It is not my place to be “proud” of you.

Think of how many times you’ve said this (me too!)

  • “I am so proud of the way she handled herself in that debate”
  • “I am so proud of you. You danced beautifully”
  • “We are so proud of the award you received”

It is innocent. It comes from a lovely place and it is not a malicious or loaded compliment.

On this occassion I said I was proud of something a mutual friend had done.

My friend turned to me and told me that our friend is the only one who can be proud of what she has done.

It has stuck me for years and I have a feeling it is because I grew up seeking the pride of others. The respect of others. The validation of others. But in that one sentence, my friend cut all of that out of the picture to say to me “the only person you need to feel pride from is yourself.”

Hell. Yes.

It relieved pressure that I had carried for years, that I didn’t realise I had. It removed a whole layer of conversation with my parents that I didn’t realise I was inserting. It communicated to me that so long as I felt “enough”, so long as I felt like I had put my whole into the thing at hand, that it didn’t particularly matter what anybody else felt about that.

That isn’t to say that when  my family or friends tell me they are proud of me that I don’t feel good – of course I do! It tells me they see the hard work I put in. I’m not going to turn around and say to you “you don’t get to be proud of me. Only I get to be proud of me!!”

But ever since my friend said those words to me, it has adjusted the way I think about myself and my actions, it has reshaped how I approached things.

In one sentence my friend gave me permission to let go and just do the things that make me happy. It was permission I didn’t realise I was seeking and it came from such an unexpected place that it has nestled in and stuck with me for years.

It has taken me a number of years to actually start pursuing this without fear, guilt or worry. I am still working on it today. But I feel pretty damn good with how my inner dialogue is when I think about taking on a new challenge and why I am doing that.

JK Rowling

After starting to write this piece I have started re-reading the series. Hopefully this also prompts you to dip back into the world of broomsticks and magic.

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JK Rowling gives aspiring authors and young children hope.

I grew up with the Harry Potter series, ordering my copies in advance of the later books  as they were released. Harry Potter made reading fashionable – they got people talking about books! After people were finished reading them, they often then got a lot of young people into fantasy and other young fiction.

Her books are beautifully complex yet entirely understandable. They have this flow and pace that lets you binge on a book in complete bliss and look up a few hours later feeling warm and like you were temporarily a part of another world.

Many of you would already know that initially JK Rowling struggled to get her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, picked up by a publisher. That seems entirely laughable in hindsight, but this is so often the way! Whilst it could have happened to anyone, it has long been a known fact that female authors struggle harder than men to get their books published. JK Rowling is a gender neutral name and this is entirely intentional.

This aside, the ability of this woman is phenomenal. Apparently she was struck by the idea for the book on a train from Manchester to London in 1990 (source). The idea that this could grow into an incredible seven book series that has lived on and on and on, been transformed into movies and theme parks(!) and will continue into the future.

JK Rowling would be a billionaire but has donated millions of her dollars to charity, reportedly 16% of her net worth (source). She has her own trust – Volant Charitable Trust. The tag on their website is:

“Helping to alleviate social deprivation across Scotland, particularly supporting women, children and young people at risk”.

Volant provides grants to charities and projects that are working towards reducing the above risk in Scotland. It is such a straight forward, targeted commitment to help those who were in situations similar to her own prior to the success of Harry Potter and it makes my heart sing!

I absolutely adore everything about JK Rowling and the entire world of Harry Potter. I am so grateful I grew up in the time of this series and this escape from every day life. I have so much joy in seeing how the success of a person hasn’t led to a complete shift of  their values and has continued to give kids engage with reading and fantasy.

When you’re a kid, it is hard to articulate how you feel. It is hard to get across how serious the problems you’re facing really feel to you and it is easy to feel like your problems are trivialised. Realistically, many of the problems you have are indeed small-scale. But you have that pointed out to you by a parent or teacher it stings!

However, if you read Harry Potter you are suddenly gently reminded that there is this (fictional) kid out there. His parents died tragically. His responsibilities include saving the world. His challenges include learning to use magic, to learn a whole world that he is completely unfamiliar with.

It is very very easy to forget about your own worries and be transported into this world. To engage with characters like Hermione, who made me feel so joyful that she could use her smarts to get herself and her friends out of their problems. To see that despite bullying she could still be happy. And, what’s more, to feel happy that there was this character who was awe-inspiring in how she shoves her head into books and absorbs every word. My spirit-animal, albeit one I’m aspiring to.

JK Rowling is an inspiration and someone to inspire us to keep writing, to keep creating and to keep thinking outside of our own worlds. She has bound together millions of children in a shared love for one story line, connecting them to their parents in going to see the movies together, allowing their imaginations to grow and be challenged. I am grateful to JK Rowling and I would love to hear your thoughts and positive memories of the series.

I’m also keen to hear which of her other books (written under male pen name Robert Galbraith) should be given a go.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: Let “Shoulds” Take the Backseat

Welcome to a slightly more relaxed chat this weekend. Thank you kindly for all of the reads, shares, follows and comments from last weeks read.

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There is enough action happening out of obligation in the world. I would like us to reframe our thinking and reconnect with what is important to us. Then our actions will come from a place of happiness and excitement, and not just from the feeling of “should”.

How often do these thoughts run through your mind?

  • I should go to the gym.
  • I should go visit family.
  • I should tidy the office.
  • I should walk my dog more often.
  • I should cancel my medical appointment, I don’t really have time.
  • I should write more.
  • I should listen more.
  • I should think more.
  • I should be more caring.

Sooner or later, all that you should be doing is having a lie down because you’re exhausted from the weight of all of those expectations, amirite?!

But you are the only one that has placed those expectations on yourself (usually).

For one week, trying changing the thoughts to do:

  • I would like to go to the gym.
  • I would like to visit family.
  • I would like to clean the office.
  • I would like to walk my dog more often.
  • I would like to prioritise my health and make time for that appointment.
  • I would like to write more.
  • I would like to listen more.
  • I would like to think more.
  • I would like to be more caring.

When I have a good run of thinking like this, my entire week flips on itself.

I drive in the car getting excited to see my friends at the gym and to workout. I feel warmth when I check in with family to see when they are free for me to visit. And so on.

If you are struggling to make those little changes in your day or week that you know are going to benefit you and make you happy, like carving time at the end of the day to read, try adjusting the words to this, and see how it goes.

The hardest thing is continuing the momentum you can build with a week of good habits or re-framing. That’s part of the reason why I made this blog. The world won’t be falling over if I miss a post, but I like the continued momentum and the feedback I am getting from those of you who like reading these posts.

In that sense, I am really happy to say that the tagline of my blog, ‘community | inspires| momentum’, is playing out for myself as much as what I hope to achieve for anybody else. I am the luckiest person in the world if I can generate my own happiness and inspiration.

I am the luckiest person in the world if I get to share my thoughts with people and one other person has a feeling of connection from that.

I am the luckiest person in the world because I am in such a fortunate position. I am safe on my couch. I am safe in my house. I am safe in my town and my country and my world. I am extremely privileged and the whole purpose of featuring people on this blog is to demonstrate what other people are doing with their own privilege, or indeed despite a lack of it.

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The other great habit changing tool is to replace “I have to” with “I get to”, something I’ve definitely spoken about in the past to many of my friends. This one is great if you are feeling overwhelmed or burdened with too many tasks.

  • I have to pick up the kids early today – becomes I get to pick up the kids early today
  • I have to wake up early to walk the dogs – becomes I get to wake up early to walk the dogs, etc.

This is a really lovely way to reframe what you are prioritising, and remember why it is a good thing that you are doing those things. Things can be both an obligation and a pleasure. The kids have the get picked up, that’s not negotiable. But what is negotiable is how you feel when you get there.

 

 

 

Bonus Post: Reading = Good, Says Science!

At long last my love of reading has been supported by science!

The thing to note here is that the books described in this article are storybooks. Fiction. Fantasy. Escapism. Novels. Stories. Whatever you want to call it. Transporting yourself into the mind of another, or into the world of another, is the key to the good stuff.

I had a discussion with a warm and kind friend that I have who always encourages me to talk in depth about topics, books and worries we share without fear of sounding silly. She also encourages me to explore things that I haven’t fully thought through yet, giving me space to open my mind to itself and come to a conclusion about how I feel about something.

I am very honoured to have this friend.

In this chat the other day we spoke about how important books are for teaching emotional intelligence. We also spoke about why this in effect draws her and myself to fiction and books that explore the human experience, because we crave that feeling of understanding others and it nurtures us.

The cognitive benefits of reading are there full stop. Be it non-fiction, books on hardware, saving money, personal growth, self help etc.

But the gold is in the narrative.

Listen, I’m sure this isn’t breaking news. But giving our brains a break sounds delightful, doesn’t it? I am working on my Immskar Online Book Club and I would encourage you all to comment below or on the book club page with you favourite story for me to fall into next.

Check the article out here:

Why ‘getting lost in a book’ is so good for you, according to science

Speak soon!

Amal Clooney

Those of you who know me will know I am studying the law and I have always been passionate about human rights. It therefore made sense that, sooner or later, I dip into Amal Clooney’s life to see how she operates in her world, external to her husband. I hope you all enjoy my take on her and her successes.

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I think we all know not to underestimate Amal thanks to Tina Fey at the Golden Globes back in 2015.

  • She is a barrister.
  • She specialises in public international law, international criminal law and human rights.
  • She is of Lebanese-British heritage.
  • She has defended former Ukranian prime minster Yulia Tymoshenko, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. (source)
  • She is a member of the UK’s team of experts on preventing sexual violence in conflict zones. (source)

When I googled “Amal Clooney” the search results revolved around her and her husband, or just her husband, and all of the images were of her at awards nights.

Then, when I googled “Amal Clooney lawyer” boom! All of a sudden we have more “serious” photos of her, dressed as a barrister (often flanked by old white men hovering in the background lolz) and the news articles all commended her on her career, noting her husband as an aside to her success.

It kind of baffles me because her lifestyle is so far out of reach it seems laughable. She escaped hardship, traveling from Lebanon to England as a child, was highly educated and excelled at school. She then followed through various high-profile jobs and the list of those she has represented is huge. I would read the shit out of a memoir should she write one.

After establishing (and excelling in) her career, she found love, got married and had twins. One boy, one girl. Is this real life? As a child I used to dream of this kind of biography. I can only hope that Amal is truly living the life she wants to live, that she is in love with George Clooney and that they are happy.

I always finding it interesting hearing about how quickly people return to work after having children. Everyone is just doing the best that they can, but it often strikes me that those women who return very quickly tend to do so either because they a) have the money and resources to afford and house a live-in nanny or b) have so little money and resources that they must return to work.

Amal is said to have returned to work 3 months after giving birth to her twins. Her work is not without risk – many of the people she has defended are targets of not very nice people, even taking on ISIS when she represented Nadia Murad, a human trafficking survivor. However, after spending so long building the momentum of her career and influence it makes complete sense to me that she would want to get right back into it.

With all of the high profile stuff there are risks. But there is also huge protection that comes with wealth and public profile. So I wish her all the luck in the world, because by all accounts she is doing amazing work and continuing to do so as she builds her life with her husband and children.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: You Make My Skin Crawl

Quick warning for those offended by the swears – I got a little angry writing this one. There are a few nasty words from “nasty woman”.

Talking to one of the lovely humans in my life this week I realised why this bothered me more than other similar experiences I have had. I have previously lived in a very busy city, where people are constantly swilling around each other. If a scenario like the one described below had happened, I would have been swallowed up by other people and moved on in a minute. I would have grumbled and been confronted, but it would have been gone. Now I live in a more sparsely populated place and the open space, coupled with the long time that they could continue engaging with me until I could physically leave in my car. Just an observation, now enjoy the read and let me know if this resonates with you.

**

Two weeks ago, when walking back to my car, I passed a group of young guys skating out in a public space. I had every right to be there. They had every right to be there. All was well in the world.

As I walked past these boys it started.

“Daaaamn.”
“Aaron, you can’t even handle that booty!”
“Fuck girl, how do you keep that thing so tight?!”

Yes that last one was actually said. Commence communal eye roll.

As I had walked near to them, I had felt their gaze on me. I knew something was coming. It could have gone a few different ways, as the women reading this will be all too familiar with.

Those words could have easily been words to bring me down.

I wasn’t wearing make up. My hair wasn’t all that flash that day. Had it been a different group, with a different vibe, they could have had me feel unsafe in an entirely different way. Shit, they may not have finished watching their buddy doing his sick ollie or whatever until after I had walked past, leaving my ass the only thing for them to notice and comment on.

In that moment, I went from being a 27 year old woman in a loving relationship with my husband, surrounded by friends, family and pets that love and care for me to feeling like I was nothing.

I felt my skin crawl, knowing that there was no “off button” for those words until I got in my car, locked my doors and drove away. I couldn’t remove their gaze. I couldn’t do anything.

Yes, of course I thought about flipping them off. I thought about yelling a solid “fuuck yooouuu”. None of it would have had the desired effect. All that would have gotten me is

1) “why are you so uptight?! Stupid bitch can’t take a compliment”

2) some form of attempt to physically touch me

3) insert further escalation of the situation here…

Why can I say those options with complete and utter conviction? Because they have ALL happened to me on separate occasions in the past.

On one occasion a man told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. I was 16 and standing outside a super market. He was maybe in his mid-50s and smelt of alcohol. I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms and mumbled “thanks”. He put his arm around me and started asking me something else but I pulled away from him and walk off, eyes down, feeling my skin crawl.

On another occasion I turned around from picking up my bag at a club to find a group of men surrounding me. I was 22 and they looked to be in their 30s. One stood physically over me and said “don’t think I can let someone as cute as you get past me”. I went cold, steeled myself, looked him dead in the eye and said “I’d like to see you try to stop me”. He laughed and looked at his mates and said something like “bitch” (I honestly can’t remember) and stepped away. I went to the bathrooms and cried.

I could go on and on and fucking on.

Listen, I get it, we have all seen movies where the guy says “I just had to stop you to tell you. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen”. Great. Good for that dude. Good for that FICTIONAL character in a MOVIE where the plot is PREDETERMINED and the woman’s response is SCRIPTED.

Women do not work like that.

So here are my tips for those men out there who think it’s a good idea to call out to women in the street, or attempt to physically control how they can navigate the space they are in.

  1. If you are about to open your mouth to yell at someone you do not know, in a public space, and you are about to single out something about that person’s physical appearance just take one moment, close your mouth, turn back to your friend, and continue as you did before.
  2. Don’t do it.
  3. Fucking don’t do it!

Well done, you have nailed it!

Your day will not be ruined because you didn’t shout at someone that they looked good.

But if you do, hers most likely will be. Maybe that’s giving you too much credit. But it will likely piss her off at the very least, and at most make her feel entirely unsafe in her world, even for a moment.

Surely, surely, that is not the emotion you are looking to insight when you yell at women… surely?! If it is, well… fuuck yoooouuuu!

 

Bonus Post: Lee Lin Chin Resigns from the SBS

Quick update to say Lee Lin Chin has announced her retirement from the SBS. Timely given her recent feature in my feature this week.

After a 40 year career this absolute boss has refused to identify the ‘why’, saying she may do so one day but for now she didn’t wish to.

At the end of the day she has had a damn good career and she must be happy with all she has achieved.

In a Tweet she said she has ‘resigned, not retired’. She also said in an interview that working was getting in the way of her drinking at the pub, something that won’t be a worry now.

She is the best. I wish her all the good vibes and am looking forward to seeing her pop up for the odd cameo here and there.

Thank you to the following sites:

Lee Lin Chin

On proofing this, I see that I have thrown in a lot of “Aussie lingo” to this post. It seems Lee has brought out my little bogan country girl that lives in my heart. Should you require translation, let me know! 🙂

**

Lee Lin Chin has been reading the news since before I was born. I guarantee if you are in Australia and you own a TV you have flicked across to her on SBS more times than  you can count.

Lee migrated to Australia in 1980. Her media career was already underway in Singapore and after working as a translator in Chinese movies (Cantonese, Mandarin and Fukien) she had become a newsreader for SBS by 1988 (source).

Lee doesn’t have a mobile phone. She has been Australia’s spokesperson for Eurovision. She is cheeky, she is strong-willed, she makes jokes about sleeping with men and going out to get drunk.

Australians have a rubbish culture of pulling women down that act like I’ve just described. So how does she get away with it?! I am truly fascinated by this idea. We interview her and watch her on TV and she says things like “Hello Australia, this is your Queen”. Imagine if someone like, oh I don’t know, Jennifer Hawkins tried to do that – people would be throwing a fit!

Is it because Lee is unapologetic? Is it because she is non-threatening in how she presents herself? Is it because she has flirted so perfectly with that line between taking the piss and pushing the limits of fashion? Is it because she came to Australia as a skilled migrant, then earned her place in media by slogging it out as an interpreter first?

Lee is a serious, deep-voiced, stern newsreader. Lee also happens to enjoy outrageous fashion – I still remember turning on the TV one afternoon to a full screen of her face in fluro coloured glasses. And perhaps this is the key – Lee is Lee. She just is. She doesn’t apologise, she bites back when challenged in a cheeky and light hearted way. She does a damn good job in the newsroom and then brings amazing colour to her other projects.

Thank you to the following sites:

Guest Post – Attention is the Rarest and Purest Form of Generosity

Thank you to my beautiful guest for contributing this post. Leave a comment for her below and show your support for her lovely post.

We are all trying to strike a balance between reclaiming ourselves/doing things for ourselves and remaining connected with the friends, families and contacts in our lives.

**

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity” – Simone Weil, 1942

While these words were spoken by a young woman more than 76 years ago, I suspect they have never been truer or more needed to be said.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be fully present; to resist distraction, to listen without forming answers, to sit with someone else and take in every word they have to say, curious, captivated, alert.

For an outgoing, bubbly and friendly introvert, this does not always come easily to me. And spoiler alert: that is precisely the point, but more on that later.

A very dear and special friend came to visit me this last weekend. An all-round loving, generous woman and a fabulous primary teacher, she drove 300kms in one direction to spend precious school holiday time with me, stay the night and then drive those 300kms back the next day.

Having completed that drive myself, more times than I care to remember, I know how draining it is, especially done in such a short window of time.

She arrived on a sunny winter morning, bearing gifts of blueberries, strawberries and coffee-flavoured dark chocolate. We sat in my cosy flat and drank tea, freshly steeped in a pot, from fine pink and white china cups. We ate cake, homemade lemon, coconut cake and enjoyed the moment. We talked, catching up on life, sharing philosophy and faith, laughing about ourselves and our families in only the way friends who have known each other many years can. This time was a rare gift in our busy and distant lives.

As I reflect on this encounter, the thing that stands out to me most, is how she listened. Deeply and with undivided attention, my friend listened and was present.

I’m the first to admit that I can be an unreliable friend, as much as I hate to do so. I forget to reply to messages, I bail on social events, I don’t reach out as often as I’d like, and then sometimes when I do I’m somewhere else, thinking of all the things I have to do and all the things I should say. It’s not the kind of person I want to be and it’s not something of which I’m proud, but it’s the truth.

If I’m honest, I sometimes feel too tired to be generous, too worn out from the grinding routine of work, chores, sleep, repeat. I’m a sensitive soul, that I’ve known for some time now. I take things on, they weigh me down. As a family friend once said, “you think too much”.

While the plight of the over-thinking, intuitive introvert is sometimes a burden, I think I owe it to myself and those around me to remember the hidden blessings it can bring.

In my thinking, I’ve been wondering if perhaps we are losing a sense of what it means to sacrifice. In a world where everything comes easily (convenience stores and fast food, online shopping and endless entertainment at the click of a button), I can’t help but ask, are we becoming reluctant to put in effort, especially if the rewards are not so obvious or immediate?

It’s against this background that recently, I decided I want to work on being a better friend. And the first thing I’m going to do is focus on giving my undivided attention, freely and generously.

Where popular culture teaches us to focus on ourselves and always put our needs first, the simple act of paying attention is a radical one.

Weekend Read: Start small but dream big

I am so thankful to the increased traffic coming through my blog. I love knowing you are seeing my work and I hope that you are enjoying it! If you like a particular blog post be sure to share it with your buddies and share the joy!

If you would like to write a guest post for this site, or you would like me to do a piece on a particular topic, please email me at janemadden17@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

**

They say there’s no good sitting on the couch doing nothing. So I find myself sitting on the couch writing this weekend post for you all. In a world full of noisy and non-stop social media, horrific violence and terrifying social problems that seem so big that we can’t even engage with them, I am choosing to start small.

Continue reading “Weekend Read: Start small but dream big”

Aya Kamikawa

I love Japan, but there are challenges to the society and the culture that must be spoken about. Just like Australia. Just like America. We can’t stay silent on what is uncomfortable, because otherwise those who are held back from achieving their goals because they are different will never get a chance.

**

There are so many positive elements of Japanese culture, tradition and society that I love. I could go on for days. Sometimes, however, Japan and its citizens get a little tripped up because there is so much pressure on what is referred to as the “front facing” persona – the personality you put out to the world.

Japanese society can be responsible for what seems like outlandish or shocking trends:

At the same time, Japan is one of the most traditional, modest and conservative societies on the planet.

  • Traditional views of marriage and relationships, both in policy and socially
  • Women traditionally leaving the workforce after pregnancy and childbirth
  • Entrenched traditions and cultures from Buddhism and Shintoism such as respect for the elderly, in-house shrines and of course the beautiful temples and shrines throughout streets and cities.
  • And on and on and on it goes.

What goes on inside your own house has little to no impact on what happens when you go into the office on Monday morning, so long as you don’t bring it to the attention of others.

So what happens when your “inward facing” personality becomes your “outward facing” personality? Aya Kamikawa is a transgender woman. Depending on the type of Japan you are familiar with will change how you think this should impact her life and career.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first trans-woman to be elected to win an elected office in Japan. Aya’s success was largely due to her platform being directed at helping the elderly and repairing public spaces such as libraries. She stood outside train stations with a microphone and told people passing by that she was trans. She was bold, she was strong, she connected on a policy-platform that resonated with people and she won.

I find this nothing short of incredible. I am so privileged in my own hetero-normative and gender experience that I know nothing of the hardship that Aya surely endured before, during, and after that win at the election booths. In order for transgender people to transition in Japan, they are required to be labeled as having a mental disorder.

Japan has this funny way of being simultaneously accepting of variations of the norm whilst at the same time stopping those variations (i.e. human beings) from getting too far out of control. This happens , for example, by putting transgender women in the entertainment or comedy industries and not the political sphere. It even happens with citizens who have one parent from another country, as you are often to be seen as an “other” even if you are born in Japan and have lived there your whole life.

But through the persistence of Aya, another transgender person, Tomoya Hosada, has been able to be elected to City Council. Perhaps in the coming years those from the trans community will continue to break into these “serious” social roles and find themselves just an everyday part of Japanese society.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: How do we stop inviting the trauma in?

This is not an anti-social media post. This is a PRO-self investment post! Get on the comment feed and tell me what you do to reengage with the world and reconnect with yourself – I can’t wait to hear from you! Happy reading!

**

[If I asked you “what brings you joy?” what would you say?]

We live in a hectic world. You wake up to breaking news, you have your day interrupted by tragedy, you might even stay up late reading about problems in the world that are erupting everywhere you turn. Eventually, you emotionally burn out. You put the phone on the table and look up. But then what?

**

You are sitting on the couch or in bed at the end of the day and you are exhausted, strung out, fatigued.

The TV flicks on and you binge on violent, explicit, dramatic, angry and intense shows and movies. At the same time, Facebook gets pulled up and you scroll mindlessly across people’s lives, their joys, fears, anger, stress, holidays, posed and filtered photos… once you hit content you have already seen, it’s straight to Insta… then Twitter… then Snapchat… and on it goes.

You look up and its 9, 10, or 11pm. You are exhausted but you haven’t moved in hours. You feel strung out and like you need to move but you are falling asleep where you sit. You sluggishly make your way into your bed (if you aren’t there already) before realising that you are now wired and couldn’t possibly sleep.

You sit and scroll past ads or reviews of books you wish you were reading, you click ‘interested in’ events you know would love to attend but know that you never will, you feel jealousy at others on their beautiful holidays and feel trapped even though you have all the control around your own actions which then makes you angry that your actions aren’t “better” somehow.

You look up from your phone into the darkness of the room. You are bleary eyed, confused, maybe a little hungry, trying to work out what happened. Then you see the time. Shit. Now you are stressed that you are only looking at four hours of sleep before the alarm is going to go off. You are meant to be waking up to go to the gym/meet a friend for breakfast/do your mindfulness/write in your gratitude journal/get a head start on a busy work day and all of a sudden you feel a sense of panic wash over you.

You are going to be exhausted. You are going to be cranky! So you turn your alarm off or push it back to your regular wake up time before falling asleep in a slump of exhaustion. You wake up feeling lost and out to sea and when you sit down at your desk all you can think of is what you were supposed to do that morning but you slept through instead. Now you’re mad at yourself, you’re even weirdly mad at everyone on Facebook, as if you were forced to scroll. You are sad that you never make time to invest in yourself.

You get to lunch and when you sit down your phone comes out and the cycle starts repeating itself, this time it’s ahead of schedule and you’re going to be distracted all afternoon after seeing a horribly violent news story in your Facebook feed.

**

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OURSELVES?!

[If I asked you “what is your hobby?” what would you say?]

When we are constantly letting other people choose what we see (people sharing videos and news articles and algorithms spitting out what you are predicted to like) we feel out of control because we are. We aren’t choosing what we see, we are just being exposed to things that others have pushed towards us. It is not empowering, it is not even particularly engaging.

**

BUT JANE, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?!

I want to encourage you to reclaim your hobbies!! Maybe that is movie watching – but can you make it through a movie in your house without looking at your phone? But maybe your hobby is drawing. Maybe it’s jogging. Maybe it’s woodworking – I don’t know, it’s your bloody hobby!! But if the scenario above resonates with you, and you feel hollow and empty at the end of your night, I can tell you for a fact that reclaiming some time for yourself will go some way towards filling yourself with joy.

We choose how we engage with the news. With other people. With ourselves. So let’s have respect for ourselves, for others, and for our time. When you see someone’s holiday photos you should be able to feel joy for them, not jealousy, because you have filled your own time with things that make you feel joy.

**

Last year I realised that I was not doing something that has always brought me intense joy: reading and writing.

I have always written diaries. I have always devoured books, sitting for hours and hours just churning through stories. Thinking about it, I realised just how much time in my day I was spending staring blankly at a show I’m not that invested in. Just how long I spend scroooolling scrolling scrolling down my social media feeds.

So now, about an hour before I want to sleep I stop engaging with my phone, wrap up what I’m  doing, go do the nightly routine and make my way to bed. Then, once in bed, I read until I feel relaxed and sleepy, then without checking the time I turned the light off, roll over, and relax until I snooze.

Bliss.

I sleep better. I wake more relaxed. I feel like I empty my mind of my worries and get carried away in a story not my own off into my dreams.

**

[If I asked you “are you happy with how you spent today?” what would you say?]

 

Kiran Bedi

Let’s dive straight into Kiran Bedi – the first woman to join the Indian police force.

Here is a quick summary of Kiran’s life:

  • Kiran was one of four daughters.
  • Growing up, her father disobeyed traditional expectation and educated all four daughters.
  • She has an undergraduate degree in English, a master’s degree in political science, a law degree and a Ph.D. in social science (focus: drug abuse, domestic violence).
  • Kiran was a professional tennis player (winning Delhi’s first ever women’s festival sports title in 1975)
  • In 1972 Kiran became the first female police officer in India.
  • Kiran was sent to work in the prison system and used this as an opportunity to introduce a volunteer education program, including a meditation program.
  • In 2003 Kiran was appointed to the United Nations as a civilian police advisor.
  • Kiran has been awarded the President’s Gallantry Award (1979), the Asia region award for Drug Prevention and Control (1991), the Magsaysay Award for government service (1994), the Joseph Beuys Award (1997), the Mother Teresa Memorial National Award for Social Justice (2005) and the Serge Soitiroff Memorial Award for drug abuse prevention by the United Nations.

You can listen to a fantastic TedTalk by Kiran here (you may be picking up that I do love a good TedTalk – I am always happy to take suggestions!). In the talk, Kiran speaks about her approach to policing and how influential (and alternative) it was to the system she was entering. She sees policing as having a preventative role, not just the traditional role of response to acts and corresponding punishment.

There is a wonderful story she speaks of where she once gave the Prime Minister a ticket. The absolute inner-strength and conviction in justice is outstanding. After this happened, Kiran was shifted into correctional facilities, which was a common move for “problem” officers. I am certain she would have felt at times a feeling that her career would be over with that move. But instead of allowing that to happen, Kiran instead set up educational services for prisoners. She found people to volunteer their time and donate their goods to help those prisoners learn to read and write and up-skill.

I found it interesting to read about how Kiran condemned the government banning of a BBC documentary about a 2012 Delhi gang rape.

“The film… provides evidence of community indifference, weaknesses of justice system, ill equipped enforcement mechanisms, and of outdated mindset… ‘Hiding (banning the movie) is not the answer. Confronting the stark reality is the answer'” (Source)

Kiran is a strong and powerful activist and has had a hugely successful career  from police service into activism and politics. A lot of her achievements are put out in articles and it all reads as this incredible, trail blazing smack down of inspirational goal kicking progress. What I like about her work, however, is that she offers internships to young women and is constantly encouraging women and girls to get out there, be bold, take risks and take on the world.

What this does (in my opinion) is start breaking down the “but how do I do any of that?!” feeling that springs to mind when you are so overwhelmed by all of the glory of a person’s career and you have no idea how they navigated each hurdle.

I do believe she brushes over things, particularly when asked about starting in the police force. The 50’s and 60’s would have been a shocking time for her to be starting in the police force as a woman. She would have suffered tremendously. I hope that she does tell-all one day when she is ready, but I do respect her right to silence on those matters that she perhaps feels are no longer relevant to her story.

Thank you to the following sites:

Guest Post – An Open Letter: Why we are more powerful than the problems we face.

Thank you to my beautiful friend for writing this entry. You are a kind, clever and inspirational human and the things we are going to achieve knows no bounds.

**

An open letter to the change-makers, to the hopeful souls and to the perpetually afraid.

Dear human,

I guess it’s about time we came clean. We are tired. Tired of fear driving all conversations, embedding itself in our central operating systems, like that one friend who comes to your house, steals your TV remote only to declare reign over bad re-runs of ‘The Ghost Whisperer’. And we have a feeling that you might be growing tired of being afraid too.

Why?

Because fear breeds our greatest challenges. We also live in a world that feeds us an ongoing diet of media telling us what to fear and who to blame. In many developed economies, inequality has risen and the public fears that social compact is broken, leading to a backlash against globalisation, humanitarian assistance and immigration, to name a few. This has caused people to disconnect and turn inwards to their own communities, to themselves. We have never before been so technologically connected in history, yet so disconnected from a real understanding of the lives of others. But fear doesn’t serve us, at least not anymore.

What was derived from an evolutionary survival mechanism, we have come far enough to have long outgrown our need to consume fear on a daily basis. Fear spreads like disease and over time conditions to become hate. But we need to remember that hate was once fear, just now dressed up in a swanky, oversized coat. Many use fear as a platform to dehumanise others in order to justify most inhumane actions. They need fear to do so, because we as humans are biologically hardwired against hurting our equals; ourselves. So fear created the concepts of superiority and inferiority to serve alongside them. These ideas were then passed down and so procreated many of the events in the world that are unfolding.

But if fear is taught, then it can be untaught. If we can re-write the factory settings for fear, then we are more powerful than the problems we confront. What we need is a new framework; a new mental model. They say that Trump received so much public support in the US presidential vote not necessarily because of support for him, but because those who were vulnerable to his suggestion were shouted down and shamed for being so influenced by fear (which only further fed their fear and multiplied unto others). Imagine if we used compassion as a weapon against the seductive control of fear on the human psyche instead of vilification, by stepping into an empathetic space with those in a learned state of unconscious fear. I will always believe that human impulse towards a greater good will eclipse those that make us vulnerable to suggestion. Above all, I believe that intelligence and compassion can be one’s greatest assets, because what we know matters, but who we are matters more. We can defeat fear – but we need everyone to do so.

As humans, we are hardwired for curiosity, creativity and above all, connection. What we create here exists only because of how it impacts on others, and how others including ourselves, connect to it. The success of everything we do in our lives depends on our ability to meaningfully connect with others. I encourage you to collect the autobiographical stories of humans that you may now explicitly (or implicitly) fear and to let them profoundly remind you that perspective matters. Let them be the authors of their own stories. I have learnt more about resilience, about generosity and about how to find the beauty in everything from some of the world’s most ‘poorest’ (not inferior) people. I deeply believe that every single person has something in them that the world needs. I also acknowledge the sobering truth that every person has a story that could bring you to your knees.

We craft courage from failure when we understand that showing up, being here and holding an empathic space with others is our greatest power. We are all made of both struggle and strength and we are intrinsically connected to each other through the messy and complex experience that is being human. We are resilient and we will achieve, not because of what we are supposed to be, but because of who we are. All I ask, is that you show up and continue to be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Yours sincerely,

A friend you haven’t met yet.

Weekend Read: You Are Such an Old Soul

Please let me know what you think of the new weekend reads! Thank you so much for those who have been reading my entries and engaging with me. I love hearing how my entries have influenced you.

**

I love reading and hearing about people who have “done their learning”. I spent sooo many days, full days when I was growing up in the care of my grandma and listening to her stories. Listening to the learnings she had along the way, the silliness of this life and the perspectives she came away with.

Since I can remember people my age have called me an “old soul”, those older than me have said things like “oh you don’t seem [insert age at time of comment]”. It became something that I strove for, that comment. That compliment! It felt like I had a “one up” on those around me, and I think the warmth I would feel when a friend or family member who was older than me said that to me became addictive.

I have often felt anxious to get to the next step, to move to the next stage in life and achieve the next goal. I use that word “anxious” very deliberating because it does manifest in anxiety.

I am realising that this is all closely linked to my desire to please others. I want to sacrifice all that I have for those around me. To support them and help them and make them see that I am doing my best for them. All the while, progressing at a rate equal to if not faster than them.

In essence, I often don’t feel like I am doing this ‘life’ business right if I am not jumping forwards in leaps and bounds.

Anxiety is an absolute coward that hides until there is nobody around to help you move through it.

So if you strive to make those around you impressed with your progress, what are you meant to feel when you are left with your own thoughts and reflections? Often, it leads to stress, to anxiety, to fear of failure.

I wrote about the way this fear of failure can manifest in friendships last Saturday in my Open Letter to a Fading Friend.

It is all really confusing. I feel like listening to the learnings from others is essential. Those that can teach me, guide me, help me and push me further along in shaping my own story. It means that I am curious, I am respectful and I am grateful to hear those stories when they are shared.

But I need to work on being conscious of how it manifests in myself. I do not require the validation of another to know that I am progressing in this life just as I should be. At this moment, in this instant, right now. I can pursue the topics and pursuits that fill me with joy, I can engage in meaningful conversation with those who fill my soul to the brim with happiness, love and affection and I can share my fears, doubts and worries with them.

But I do not owe it to the world to be at a place that I am not yet meant to be at. I can’t help that I haven’t had that life experience. I can’t help that I have not suffered in the way that you have, nor should I ever strive to experience it for the sake of learning.

What I can help is how I take your story, your warning, your guidance, to bolster my understanding of you, perhaps influence my expectation of my own future, and the way in which I will continue living in this life alongside you and those around me.