Life beyond a dirty window

As you’d expect, when I’m writing I spend a lot of time at the desk in my home office. My desk faces a wall, and there is a window positioned to my left. Throughout much of the year I keep that window wide open, allowing the fresh air to flow across my desk while my fingers dance across the keyboard.

Every now and again I’ll take a break from looking at the computer screen and turn my head to watch the world outside.

Life beyond the dirty window

Most days my eyes focus in on how dirty the windows are, notice that the garden beds below really need a tidy, and spot that the fence palings are coming loose of their support beams yet again … but not today. Today the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a happy shade of blue, and I finally noticed the red and yellow flowers which had come into bloom. Spring has most definitely arrived.

Sometimes I get so preoccupied with the negative things that are happening right in front of me, that I fail to see the bigger, more positive picture a little further beyond. Thank goodness then, for the wisdom found to be found by looking through a dirty window.

On doing and becoming (a writer)

The act of writing is easy enough. One simply puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and repeats as necessary. In making the journey from writing to writer however, things can start feeling more complicated.

Unlike professions which require completion of a certain qualification, or training in a particular set of skills, there are many different paths you can take to become a writer. For me such a realisation has been both wonderful and challenging. Wonderful because it means the door is theoretically open to anyone who wishes to write, but challenging because with such opportunity comes an extraordinarily generous measure of crippling self-doubt.

Writing and a writer

Writing has always been something I’ve pursued in the background, treating it more like a dream than a serious venture. Being a writer seemed to be a thing that other people did, and it never really occurred to me that writing is something I could and should be focussing on. So I’ve spent many years in professional wilderness – working in jobs I didn’t like, wishing I could just be ‘normal’ and be happy working in a corporate nine-to-five kind of job.

Having the past ten months away from work has honestly been the best thing I have ever done. Instead of it being time ‘off’, those months have very much been time ‘on’. I have learnt so much about myself and my writing during that time, and I finally feel like I have a clear sense of my future goals.

Even though I still have some unfinished business to take care of back at the day job, I have decided to completely embrace this writing life and all the ups and downs that come with it. While I may not always be comfortable expressing it, I know that in many ways I have always been, and will always be, a writer.

Knowing isn’t everything

So I know this person who always wants me to tell her how things end. If she hears that I’ve seen a particular movie or read a certain book, she isn’t interested in knowing whether I thought it was any good or if I’d recommend it. Instead she wants a full account of the plot and to know if I’d describe the story as ‘nice’.

I’ve never understood her logic, and as someone who enjoys the experience of watching a movie or reading a book without necessarily knowing the storyline, well I find her whole attitude bewildering. What’s the point in knowing precisely how everything unfolds and how it’s all going to end BEFORE you decide to watch a film or read a book? Personally I think that having a complete (or even partially complete … GRRR spoilers) prior knowledge can detract from the entire experience, and therefore has the potential to make it less enjoyable.

Knowing the end isn't everything

The other thing that makes no sense to me is her decision to only watch or read things that are ‘nice’. From what I’ve been able to determine, her definition of nice basically means the story needs to have a happy ending with no loose ends, that no characters should die, and that things should never get too real, too sad, or too gritty. That seems more than a little restrictive to me.

I can’t imagine a life without surprises or exposure to a full range of emotions, and that’s the same when it comes to books, movies, TV shows … and pretty much everything. Sure, not knowing everything may sometimes be uncomfortable or challenging, but taking a journey into the unknown or into the realm of the not so ‘nice’, can also be exhilarating and you know … maybe just a little bit fun. Isn’t life too short to know all the answers before you even begin?

How not to look for happiness (and have it find you)

Hello. How are you? I’ve been meaning to write to you for such a long time, but I haven’t been too sure what to say. Actually that’s not exactly true… there’s been plenty to tell you but I haven’t quite known how to go about saying it.

Most of the things that have been happening since we last spoke are messy, boring, day-to-day sorts of things … the kind of challenges and successes that seem huge to me, but are really just teeny-tiny pieces in the great jigsaw of the world.

But pushing all that stuff to one side, there is one piece of news that I do think is kind of big … I’m happy.

A lovely gift

Funnily enough, I didn’t find happiness, but it sure found me.
The poor thing was huffing, puffing and straining for breath by the time it caught up with me. For whatever reason, I always thought the chase would be the other way around.

In the end, happiness wasn’t hiding under the bed, behind the couch, or on the top shelf of the pantry. One day it was just there.

New stools (yellow of course!)

It was in the green grass, the cloudy sky, and the gentle rain. It was there in the wagging of tails, the laughter shared over pets, and the brewing of a huge mug of hot tea. It was browsing bookshelves, slicing into homemade orange cake, and planning the next stage of my writing adventure.

Blue jeans, black shoes

Now I can see how all the little bits of happiness have never been all that far away. It just took me a while to slow down and notice what had always been right behind me.

It’s amazing what can be found when you’re not really looking. Don’t you think?

Shadows in the Garden

Hello dear reader, are you having a good week? I certainly hope so. If I push to one side all the deep thinking I’ve been occupying myself with (because that’s all rather exhausting and ho-hum), things are pretty OK with me. As I sat down to type this little message to you, gentle rain was just beginning to fall, a gathering of rainbow lorikeets were screeching in colourful happiness just outside my window, and I was enjoying a very welcome cup mug of tea.

Hey carnations, you're beautiful! :)

So what’s up with that title then? Well I’m rather fond of pretty things in the garden and shadows are something that I always find fascinating. I actually thought that ‘Shadows in the Garden’ would make an excellent title for a Virginia Andrews book, and wouldn’t you know it? There is actually one that is very similar, rather ominously titled ‘Garden of Shadows’. I’ve never actually read one of her books, but I know they were incredibly popular with a lot of my high school peers back in the day.

Anyway, I digress … I bought myself this bunch of flowers earlier in the week, and I really wanted to share them with you because (a) they’re lovely, and (b) you deserve this bunch of flowers too. I’m sure I’ve told you before of how partial I am to carnations … yes, I know they’re a bit old-fashioned and dated, but they really have the most wonderful blooms, and as cut flowers they last for a really long time.

Flowers and shadows make for a pretty picture

At the moment I have so much to say, and yet at the same time not much of anything to say … so rather than wait for me to gather my thoughts, let’s just enjoy these flowers instead. While the flowers are clearly beautiful, most of all I’m loving the shadows which form a part of this floral arrangement … I hope you like it too!

PS. My Sparkapolooza piece for this fortnight’s brief ‘Throwing Shapes’ features shadows too … fancy that! Oh, and the Mr has also submitted his own artistic and wonderful creation … featuring ninjas! :)

Dreaming of escape

Perhaps the reason I’ve been more there than here, is because I’ve been spending too much time in my head. There just seems to be more stuff than usual to think about. Or maybe I’m a little too preoccupied with dreams of future possibilities and opportunities.

Everything feels messy and up-in-the-air, so I feel all scattered and time poor. I go to start something and just don’t seem able to commit to it, and so I start another thing, then feel bad for not finishing off the first thing, go back to it again, run into the same trouble as before, and then start on something entirely different … and so the cycle continues. It’s frustrating and annoyingly inefficient, but I’m hoping to eventually find some method in the madness.

Dreaming about Paris, or New York, or somewhere...

This year was always going to be a pivotal year for me, and perhaps that’s adding to my general out-of-sorts feeling of late. I have a significant bucket of long service leave waiting for me, so I’ve been thinking on how best to use that time (which will hopefully include lots of sleeping and writing). In deciding not to go ahead with our trip to Japan, there are new travel plans in development to venture overseas later in the year (maybe London, maybe New York, maybe Paris … wherever really). These are all happy things to think on for sure, and that’s why the struggle is so puzzling.

So until I figure out how to make myself more here than there, maybe we can all just look at the pretty macaroons and dream of Paris? … Interestingly, the place I dream of most often is somewhere which may be of my own creation – it is a place built from dark black stone and thick-cut steps which lead up to streets with wide cobblestone paths. It is built on a steep outcrop which looks out over a swirling, midnight-coloured ocean. Nestled within this ominous and moody environment, is a surprisingly vibrant and modern city … wherever that place is or isn’t, it seems pretty fabulous to me. Maybe we can all go there together? (the weather always looks really nice, so that’s something). Dream of wondrous things, dear ones.

What I was going to do on the weekend

How was your weekend? I hope it was grand and filled with many wondrous adventures.

I enjoyed a relatively low-key, home-based weekend, and did my best to keep the stress bunnies away and eating their anti-relaxation carrots somewhere else. I think I’m still trying to find the right balance between work and out-of-work activities … I know I’ll get there soon, but still …

One thing I had planned on doing over the two day break was put together my new ‘Amsterdam Jewellery Stand’ from Polli

Well clearly that didn’t quite happen.

There were words to be written, paperwork to be organised, a house to clean, dogs to pat, rain to fall, movies to watch and sleep to be done … This will therefore be an activity I’ll look forward to doing next weekend. It will be lovely to see all my jewellery finally organised and on display – that way I may actually remember to wear some of it.

So how was your weekend? Did life happen while you were busy making other plans?

Quietening the Material Noise…

There is no question in my mind that this year will be a very big year, it seems to be rushing by ever so quickly and is already almost one quarter gone. In looking forward to my busy future I’ve also been reflecting on my past and thinking that the cycles of life are rather curious things.

Don’t look at me, I’m the same as everyone else‘ … Our early years can be spent aiming for sameness; we want to look the same, act the same, and talk the same to ‘fit in’. However once we’ve blended in, we eventually discover the downside to being just like everyone else is that we can lose our own sense of self. It becomes frustrating rather than satisfying to be counted as one amongst many.

I’m so different you probably shouldn’t look at me‘ … From there we often set out to dramatically re-define ourselves and show the world we are clearly different from everyone else. These actions are often something obviously transformative like changing hairstyles or drastically changing our clothing style. However we demonstrate it, we clearly seek to demarcate ourselves as ‘our own persons’.

Look at me and all that I have‘ … Sometime later the radicalness of this self-expression generally tones itself down and we start to expand our material domain – perhaps by accumulating clothes, moving into a house, buying furniture, CDs, DVDs, books etc. Life can feel more secure, but it can also feel heavy, sometimes too heavy. Once more we can feel a little lost amongst all the ‘stuff’ of our lives.

Look or don’t look, either way is fine with me‘ … Pretty soon we come to realise that these efforts to define ourselves through such external means are rather pointless. What becomes important is less to do with the image we reflect to the world through our possessions, but instead has everything to do with the richness of our experiences and who we are as people.

I’ve been wanting to streamline and simplify my life for a long while now, but for the first time I feel like I’m actually making true progress in that direction. The wardrobe is shrinking, the bookshelves are emptying, and many hours have been spent listing items on ebay and waiting in line at the post office. While sometimes it can be sad to wave goodbye to some of the things I’ve owned for many years, all in all this has proved to be a re-energising process. I’m enjoying the feeling of setting things free into the world again and figure if I really do need to have them, they will find a way to come back into my life again at a later date.

Rather than seeing the space created by down-sizing my possessions as an opportunity to fill with more things, I now take great pleasure in the nothingness – the chatter and noise created by all those extraneous material possessions is gradually being quietened. Of course the desire for ‘things’ is ever present, but I now find it easier to separate a need from a want. I am better able to convince myself that many of my previously identified ‘needs’ are not life necessities at all.

This time of material purging fortuitously coincided with an article I read about Sam Worthington. In the article he spoke about his early film success and subsequent struggles with the ‘falseness’ of Hollywood. Eventually he reached a point where he needed to make a change. The solution? He decided to sell everything he owned – well, everything save for two bags: one for clothes and one for books. In his own words:

‘I sold everything I owned before Avatar. I had a house, a car, a microwave, but I had a bit of a brain-turn on reaching 30. I sold everything at an auction, so when I met Jim I just had a bag of books and a bag of clothes. Four years later I’ve still got a bag of books and a bag of clothes. I haven’t had time to settle down and buy a house, and I don’t think those things make up who you are. What makes me who I am is the person I’m discovering doing these films…’

While such a drastic distillation of my material life is currently unattainable for a whole host of practical reasons, I will use the sentiment as an aspirational goal to work towards. Little by little the background material noise will fall away, until nothing but a whisper remains.

Life will be lighter, quieter and so much richer.

Journey in a life

pathforest.jpgThere is one ultimate truth that we all must accept. Just as we are born, we must also die. The first experience is not something we can concern ourselves with, but the second is different; it’s something which is always lurking out there in front of us. This is not meant to be a depressing statement; rather it should be used for inspiration when the intricacies of life threaten to bury us under their combined weight.

In our lives we are faced with abundant choices that sometimes overwhelm us and cause us to overcomplicate our lives. We tend to forget that the real experience of life is to be found in living life for ourselves.

There are so many people out there lining up to tell us how we should live our lives. The government would like us to fulfill certain places in our society, managers tell us how to do our jobs, teachers tell us what we should learn, parents tell us what type of people we should be and the media tells us what we all should be. We are told how we should make lots of money to be happy, what we need to spend all the money on to be happier and how we should tow the company line to keep the world on an even keel.

roller.jpgOf course life is never going to be easy. However sometimes it’s good to appreciate life’s ups and downs as this way you know that you’ve truly lived. What’s the fun in travelling on a roller coaster that travels straight ahead at the same speed with no bumps, turns or loops? I don’t know about you, but I love the roller coasters that scare the hell out of me, I want plenty of speed, tight bends, loop-d-loops, turns and quick drops. By experiencing the extremes for myself I can directly feel the pain or joy that those experiences cause. Mediocrity is a terrifying prospect.

Taking the road less travelled is often thought to be a good philosophy to apply to life. For me though I say don’t take the road at all. Go places that no one else has been, do things that no one else has done and take away memories that no one else can have. Don’t choose a life where you are defined by your possessions, your job or your social standing, choose a life of rich experiences, vivid memories and evocative stories.

Life is inevitably defined by our choices, so make a decision to strap your metaphorical machete to your back, head out your front gate and don’t look back. Perhaps take the road for a while if you need to, but when you’re ready, and you’ll know when this is, step off the road and use your machete to cut down any overhanging branches that threaten to block your way. Now your life is your own and you can really start to live.