01 Jun

The Wilds

Sometimes, when we’ve had to become very wise very early in life, when we’ve had to grow up quickly, or make ourselves into a partner or a parent when we were not quite finished being a child, or childish, or gotten to spend much time alone, we might go a little off the rails later on.
When we make vows and promises and covenants and pacts in our youth, we often have to break them again sooner than we thought we might. This is not a thing to feel ashamed of – when we can’t stop a thing from falling apart, when we realize love really isn’t all we need to get by, it simply is what it is.
But when it happens, whoever unmakes the vow or cuts the tie, whoever allows things to fall, or perhaps even fights for them in vain, the one who breaks or is broken away from, this one might scatter for a little while, and do this other thing where they seem to run in five directions all at once, all of them terrifying and dangerous and risky and apparently willfully alarming and self-destructive.
When this happens, we might be tempted to rush in and save these ones from themselves. We see the wild abandon and the tightrope walking and we cry out, stop! It isn’t safe! Come back, come back! Be small for a while! Let us protect you from yourself!
Grief for lost self is a peculiar creature. It has this way of making us long to force the unfinished parts of us back into process. It may drive us towards dangerous people and dangerous places, because we long to feel something other than numbness and loss. We want to be wild again. We have unfinished business out there. We grew up too soon. We want to feel like conquerors, instead of like the conquered. Grief makes us feel around for the young, vulnerable, untested aspects of our psyche and grasp them tightly, kissing them tenderly on the forehead, before we drag them out on the town to get tattoos and meet dangerous strangers wherever they can be found.
Breaking a promise we made in our youth is often a kind of death to hope. But it can be the rebirth of the self that stopped exploring the wild, wide world when that premature promise was sealed.
If we do not finish our exploration of the wilds when we are young, the wilds wait until we are free again. Then, if we allow them, they come back to claim us.
For all the women who were not allowed to wander, to wonder, to become their full, wild selves, the time is come. The wilds have returned for you. You have only to set yourself free.~ Jo Hilder

 

To purchase this image as a canvas, please visit my online store here.

16 Nov

Doing Awesome Broken (Wyong Writers Festival, Nov. 16th 2019)

For those who may be interested to read my Wyong Writers festival speech on Doing Awesome Broken, here it is
……

There once was a woman who loved to walk in the wilderness. At night she dreamed of the scent of the trees, the feel of the earth beneath her feet and the sound of the wind moving through the tree boughs overhead. Every morning, she packed her knapsack and tied her boots, and headed out on her favourite track, excited for all the new experiences which lay ahead.

As she walked along one day, suddenly she heard a small voice coming from somewhere. “Where are you going?” the voice said. “Don’t you know it’s dangerous out here? Do you have a map?”

“No, I don’t need a map, I’m exploring,” she replied to the voice, “but excuse me – exactly where are you?”

“I’m here”, said a small child-like creature who suddenly popped out from behind a tree. “And I’m concerned. In fact I’m WORRIED.”

“What on earth are you worried about?” said the woman. “I’m fine, and you appear to be as well.”

“How silly you are,” said the creature. “If only you KNEW all the things that could go WRONG for someone just wandering about unprepared. I think I should go with you and warn you about ALL THE THINGS.”

Despite being already annoyed with this little bore who seemed bent on spoiling her adventure, the woman agreed to take it with her. They headed off with it perched on top of her knapsack where it could easily chatter into her ear.

“Always look down, there’s so many things to trip on. Look out! Those leaves are poisonous. Did you hear that? I’m sure that’s a dangerous animal in the bush waiting to pounce. Did you bring snacks? We might starve. You can’t go there! I did once, and what happened was HORRIBLE! Oh my God! How far are we going? Can’t you walk faster? Slower? I think we should go back. This was a stupid idea. I want to go home!”

Exasperated, the woman stopped and put down her knapsack. Sitting opposite her passenger on a  stump, she watched as it sobbed and rocked itself. At first, the woman felt afraid. Clearly this little creature was terrified out here, even though this was its natural habitat. The noises and strange movements seemed ominous rather than interesting, and suddenly she was afraid of becoming lost, despite the fact they hadn’t left the path. Perhaps wandering out here was a stupid idea, they really were both in danger, and it was time to go back. Dreaming of the wilderness was turning out to be much more pleasant than actually being in it.

But as she sat looking at the little creature sobbing, she was moved to compassion. This little one was much smaller than the woman and seemed to have suffered much in the past. She realised all the chatter and foreboding was nothing more than fear. All the wonder and enjoyment of the wilderness, the mystery, adventure and peace to be found there were invisible to it, overcome as it was by its private fantasy of everything that could go wrong. The woman gathered the little creature up and comforted it for a long time. “Everything will be all right. You are small, but I am big. I think if you come with me, rather than me obeying you, both of us will be much happier.”

And so they set off, the woman with the little creature on her shoulders. It never did cease its chattering and foreboding, but the woman now understood all it uttered were only little fears, not irrefutable facts, and so carried the little passenger with patience and love in her heart.

What we have come to know as the inner critic is that little frightened passenger who lives in our unexplored wilderness. Every time we venture from our comfort zone, its ominous little voice will begin to pipe up and try to have us return to where it’s safe and everything is familiar. But every creative, explorer, artist, adventurer and lively spirit knows our inner critic is not the voice of fact, but of fear. It wants to keep us safe from failure, from harm and from shame.

Rather than hating or obeying the inner critic, it’s better to give her the compassion, comfort and understanding she deserves and craves, and simply forge ahead. Better to try, fail and learn, than to assume failure at the outset and never have the opportunity to grow.

We all have a wilderness we dream about and wish one day to explore. A book to write, or perhaps one to read. A discipline to undertake, an adventure to have. I own a boutique and for some of my customers, trying on a dress in a brave colour, or even one without sleeves to cover what they believe are upper arms ugly enough to make planes fall from the sky, is terrifying. They fear criticism. They fear judgment. They have a permanent passenger screaming in their ear, shaming them about their bodies and asking them who the hell they think they are to not be INVISIBLE. When we have been shamed for the way we look – and shaming for many of us begins with our physical bodies – the desire to be unseen can be deep-seated, and painful when challenged. I have a sign in my fitting room which reads DARLING, YOUR ARMS LOOK FINE. You see, I like to address the passenger directly but with love and humour. That little blighter takes itself way too seriously and often, when called out, can be helped to see how out of perspective it’s demands really are. Nothing makes me happier than when a customer leaves my shop with an outfit she would never have worn before, having been given permission to feel, look and be the amazing woman she is. The inner critic does not speak truth, she speaks fear. And rather than obeying her frightened, and frightening, monologue, we can regard her as what she really is – a spinning nucleus of unanswered fears, driven by the desire to keep us safe. But obeying the inner critic won’t keep us safe. It will keep us small. The wilderness we dream of will remain a dream unless we find a way to comfort our fearful thoughts and feelings. They may be borne of experience, but they are also borne of our memory. The wilderness we desire is best travailed with our imagination.

I have a friend who created a wonderful project based on the concept of human happiness. As a psychologist, she studied the subject for years, writing content, conducting interviews and gathering data. She packaged it all up into a program she planned to launch as content on a website. I helped her create the site, and she set a date for the launch – her birthday. On this auspicious day, her baby would be introduced to the world. As the day grew closer, she began to baulk. She’d been working on her first blog post for months, and it still wasn’t ready. She was convinced the day the website went live, ninety eight percent of internet users would visit it, read that first blog post, and judge both she and it as rubbish. So, she wrote, edited, wrote, ditched everything, began again, procrastinated and panicked, all the time trying to make that blog post PERFECT. Her birthday came and went, he blog post was unpublished, the site remained invisible. I don’t know what happened to her project, but the irony of her being so miserable creating content on human happiness was not lost on me. There is no such thing as perfect. Sometimes it’s okay for things to be a little bit crap when you let them go into the world, including yourself.

Often when I’m sewing in my shop, people comment on how CLEVER I am. I dislike the word CLEVER – it always sounds a bit smarmy to me. I like to answer, “well, if nothing else, I’m prolific!” I used to be a bit of a slap dash creative, but I learned it’s good to take on skills which will bring about a better result. I employed a guild-accredited patchwork teacher once to teach in my shop, and when she saw my sewing, she was horrified. I was glad for her guidance. However, I’ve also learned attaining to perfection is a burden. Author Malcolm Gladwell famously stated you need 10,000 hours to be a phenom (not an expert, as is often misquoted.) An expert is different from a PHENOM. A phenom is a person who is outstandingly talented or admired – in other words, CLEVER. Call me a phenom any day. But let’s not miss the bit about the 10,000 hours. That’s a lot of time doing something. That’s PROLIFIC.

Aiming to be prolific is possible. Aiming for perfection is a recipe for disappointment. It is self-sabotage. Prolificity (say THAT three times fast) is actually very easy when you love doing something and, importantly, you give yourself permission for it to be a little bit crap when you release it to the world.

I worked with an acting teacher who shared with me a phrase he learned from a successful screenplay writer. KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Let your dear things go. Launch them. Send them away. Give them permission to fly. So often we wilderness-seekers are paralysed not by potential failure, but by our former successes. We fear a change to the formula or exploring new ground will bring disapproval instead of the accolades we enjoyed when last we tried. My acting teacher friend encouraged me to move beyond what people appreciated before to explore new ground. Publish the blog post with its imperfections and move on to the next one. Thank people for their compliments, then sit down and make something new. Don’t find yourself in fifty years singing the same old songs to the same old people, just because they clap each time. Our darlings need to be allowed to fly away, so something new can come. Our little passenger likes to keep us repeating past successes because they’re safe, but the wilderness is for PHENOMS. Past successes can be as inhibiting as past failures, but both need to be released to move forward.

You and I are not perfect. Our message, creations, words and work can never be. We are all, in both little and significant ways, broken and imperfect. Ben and I lived as caretakers for a time on a sheep station in rural Victoria. It was a magnificent place, established in 1850 with a bluestone mansion of 12 bedrooms and six bathrooms. My job was cleaner and housekeeper. Even though nobody was in residence but us, our days were full. I loved to spend my free time wandering around the property, through the many historic outbuildings and across the beautiful landscape. I got in the habit of picking up pieces of broken pottery and glass which were everywhere, and which came to the surface every time the sheep scoured a section of a paddock down to the dirt. I imagined a story for every bit I collected. Elegant wine glasses for celebrations, elaborately decorated dinner plates for reunions and rustic bowls for end-of-day meals by fireside. Medicine bottles clutched during fervent prayers murmured on bended knees. Liquor vessels for blessed relief and raucous laughter. Scent and cosmetic jars for luxury and indulgence. Milk bottles for sustenance and nourishment, preservation, nurture and health. Coffee and teacups for conversation – sit a while? Pass the sugar. Share a moment with me. I bring my treasures back in plastic bags and the cradle of my shirtfront, washing them carefully in the kitchen sink. I hold each one and give it a story, bless it, place it aside with all the others around the house in bowls where I can see them. Now, I muse, they all have a story. No longer worthless, they belong somewhere, to someone, again.

We all are wounded by our past – shamed, embarrassed by failures real or imagined. We are plagued by doubts, and by our little frightened passenger who just wants to stay safe. We have hurt people and been hurt by them. We have tried to save what would not and could not be saved. Just like all those fragments I found in the dirt, we too can be broken, dropped and forgotten, our stories rendered useless or imperfect in our eyes or those of another, but we are not ever lost, worthless or invisible. The value of us, and of our stories, is not negated by imperfection. Each fragment of us holds not only beauty, but also the fullness of our lived experience and our essence – where we came from, where we have been, and what is to become of us. We are broken, but we are not unseen or lost. We are all a beautiful, broken, if sometimes buried treasure. Even though it may seem so at times, despite the things that happen to us our intrinsic value, and that of all the gifts we bring, is never removed. Our worth is in our very dust, in our grains, in our shards – and in our stories. And it remains ready to be found, by us, and every friend, lover, seeker and storyteller willing to get their hands dirty.

© Jo Hilder 2019

 

18 Mar

InSPIRED Business

So, is it possible to be professional AND spiritual in business?

My spirituality is a fundamental – and substantial – part of me. I can’t separate my philosophical and religious thoughts, ideas and practices from the things I do any more than I could remove our massive flat screen TV from the living room wall. Certainly not without a struggle, swearing, a huge mess, and a cacophony of unnecessary and disruptive emotions.

As far as what constitutes a healthy spiritual practice, anything that makes a human being less of an asshole is a good place to start. Spirituality of this kind can be worked out anywhere, in any way, big or small. I find making my art, exploring my creativity, writing, studying, and holding my space open and safe for those who enter it to be a deeply satisfying and perpetually energizing way to live. I can’t do anything in my personal or my professional life without drawing on something – someone – greater than myself. Yes, I mean God – Goddess, Source, The Universe, whatever.

For me, my business, as with my personal life, is “inspired” – literally – as being energized and moved by Spirit. Working inspired means saying no as often as I say yes. It means examining my motives and delegating my energy intentionally and carefully. It means making self-care a priority. The priority, in fact.

Being an inspired business – a spiritual business – isn’t waving hands over people’s auras or rambling on about woo woo or selling crystals and salt lamps. It means looking for the holy, the sacred, the good and the true in every person, whilst instating and keeping boundaries and safe spaces for all involved. It means operating ethically and honestly. It means showing your true face to people, and speaking your truth to them. It means not trying to take the place of Spirit in their lives, to trick or deceive them, or use guile and inauthenticity to create increase for ourselves, at others expense, financially, emotionally and socially.

It means, simply put, to create a spiritual business practice of not being an asshole. Or, as Kasey’s Dad so succinctly put it, simply not being a dickhead,

Happy inspired business.

09 Mar

There Is Enough For Everyone

Being a creative and/or a person in business is a challenge in many ways. Not the least when we feel others are out to steal what we believe is ours, be it ideas, customers, a share of the market etc. I know first hand both what it feels like to have something I created blatantly copied by someone I considered a friend, and to be accused of doing the same to someone else. It’s a tough game.
Or is it?
While we definitely need to protect ourselves legally from intellectual property theft and copyright infringements, and the likewise respect the legal rights of others, getting tied up in knots worrying about others “stealing” our ideas and even our customers will drive is crazy. Holding the perception there is only so many ideas and clients to engage with them is basically a poverty mindset, and will inevitably stifle our creativity and growth.
Disengaging our own personal worth from the ideas we have and the products we send into the world is vital for every artist, creative or entrepreneur. Seeing your creation as simply one expression of your vast imagination and resources helps us avoid the paranoid worldview which stifles creativity and makes us wary of others, turning potential allies into enemies.
The fact is, there are enough clients, money, ideas and opportunities for everyone. They don’t run out. The more energy we exert in trying to make everything ours and hoard it, the less energy we have to generate new ideas.
It’s not personal. Take steps to protect what is legally defined as your IP. Let go. Let your creativity and prosperity come through you, rather than merely to you. In this way, we open ourselves up to ideas, people and opportunities in ways we perhaps have only imagined.

27 Feb

Pushing Through By Letting Go

If you’re going to push through what can at times feel like never ending barriers to your joy, you’ll need to accept the way you feel as normal, whatever the way you feel is.

Frustration. Sadness. Melancholy. Worry. Boredom. Listlessness. These are moods, and sometimes not the response to something that’s happened we interpret them to be – they can be caused by a biological or chemical imbalance in us, rather than a circumstance happening to us.

Learning to be with our feelings and emotions, training ourselves to understand our thoughts and moods is so important in our growth and evolution. Self-understanding can help us avoid impulsive decisions and reactive choices which can undo our prior work and create unnecessary chaos and disorder.

It’s possible to sit with feelings of dissatisfaction, fear and frustration, and simply allow them to come to us, then through us, without our interpreting them as calls to action until we have had time to assess the facts and take an objective assessment.

When I was going through cancer treatment, I experienced more fear and loneliness than ever I had. I spent two months away from my family having radiotherapy as there was no facility where we lived. This time spent largely alone with my own thoughts and feelings was the first prolonged period like that I’d had in my life up to the age of 33. What I learned about myself – and about how to stand outside my thoughts and feelings, knowing they were not me, but a product of many things – has helped me so much since. I know how to be alone with my moods. I know how to sit with fear and sadness, even the inexplicable kind. And I understand also that even when we go through horrible circumstances and suffering, joy and happiness is possible. This is the gift I was given in my cancer experience – to see the possibility of joy in me, despite the imminent threat of suffering, and even death. Nothing scares me now. Not a damn thing.

Learning to sit with our own thoughts and not react to them immediately is a valuable skill and puts us in good stead across the whole of our life. We are not our thoughts. Like our art, our choices, our decisions, they are a product of us. You know, the hardest part of facing cancer is realizing that when it boils down to it, the cancer is made of you. And it’s the same with our thoughts. We get so caught up with fighting them, or surrendering to them, we forget about having compassion, because they are made of us, by us, often without our even being able to help it very much.

Give yourself a break. Sit gently with your thoughts and feelings and remember they are made of you – even your sadness, fear and anger. Hold your thoughts patiently with compassion, and as they come to you, allow them to come through you. Give your rational, mindful self time to process them. Don’t act until you’ve listened to yourself cycle through the response, the feeling, the rationale and the reasoning. Because you will. And eventually, your wisdom will join with your intuition in the quiet afterspace, and you’ll know exactly what to do.

You’ll know exactly what to do.

21 Feb

Your Business Is A Safe Space, And It’s Up To You To Keep It

You’ve heard me speak about safe spaces before, about creating, holding and keeping them. Your venture, enterprise or business is a kind of safe space, into which you invite others who become your customers, patrons, tribe and/or ambassadors. Your skill as a micro business owner operator is to know how to create and safe space, and learn and keep the guidelines which make it a place where the best of people can prosper.

But here’s something many small business owners and operators neglect, or even deliberately overlook.

Your space isn’t safe if it isn’t also safe for you.

For some months after we opened a year ago, a woman would come into the shop quite regularly, not to purchase anything, but mostly to download her problems. She would try on clothing, look around, ask for items to be put on hold, but I don’t remember if she actually purchased anything in all that time. After a while, whenever she entered the shop I would feel anxious and know I would need to be careful not to find myself standing for an hour listening to her unpack her terrible story to me, or to my mum, who helps out. No doubt, she was going through a hard time, however she did disclose she was seeing a qualified mental health professional to help her deal with it. Knowing she was supported certainly helped me draw a line behind which I knew I needed to stay, or I was at risk of being drained every time this person came into my space.

The last time she was in the shop was to ask me to hold an item **again** for her, with the list of terrible things that happened this week which she felt justified my removing the item from sale for another period of time. To clarify, we don’t hold items, I don’t have the room to store them, and we turn items over so quickly it’s simply not tenable. But her sad story and the long telling of it had moved my poor mum to agree simply to placate her and hasten her leaving the shop, as she was more than a handful, and it took all our patience and skill to provide a competent service to her, and any other customers who happened to be in the shop at the time. So she came in to read me her long list of sad reasons I needed to bend store policy and keep the item off the rack for her, and I gently told her that the item needed to be purchased today or would be returned to stock. After all, I run a shop, I conduct transactions. The customers inclement circumstances may at times impact the nature of these transactions, but at my discretion. That’s the skill of holding space. It’s called boundaries. And as the space holder and keeper, if you don’t set boundaries and make them clear, someone will walk right up and start making demands which make you wish you thought about boundaries approximately ten years ago.

So I told this customer, no. I’m returning the item to the rack today. You may purchase it now, or tomorrow, or next week. However, it isn’t going in my back room again.

What followed was a further litany of reasons I had to acquiesce to her request, mainly because of terrible things she was experiencing in her personal life right now. It felt uncomfortable. I was being manipulated. She was using her own misfortune, pain and unhappiness to get what she wanted from me. And she was not asking for my understanding. She was demanding I obey her. At volume. With wild arm movements. And a finger pointed in my face.

And it is at this point my focus shifts from making safe space for her, and keeping it for myself.

I did not need to ask her to leave, thank goodness, because in a split second of clarity she apparently realized she was becoming hysterical over a shirt, and so she threw one last aspersion at me and left.

I was going to ask her to leave. I felt threatened, and I was being verbally attacked. Her response to the situation was uncivil and disproportionate. Whilst I empathize with her circumstances, I’m not her counselor, nor am I obliged to provide her with additional services or favours because of them. She is not welcome to come back, because in my space, there are boundaries, and I am the one who keeps them. My customers, both the ones who come to conduct appropriate business, and those who don’t, need to know this.

If the space isn’t safe for us as well as for our customers, the space isn’t safe at all.

Comments and responses welcome.

19 Feb

Why Your Purpose Is Not The Same As A “Hustle”.

I’m not keen on the term “hustle” used relating to small business. Actually, I despise it.
See the graphic shared with this post for why.

Words matter. The smaller the enterprise, the greater the meaning and impact little things have on your mindset and actions.
When you’re a micro-business, perceptions about you, and that you have, are not lessened by your size – they’re magnified.
Your intention setting matters. Your motivation matters. Your purpose and goals matter.

Think carefully about your definition(s) of what you do, even if you only ever kept these to yourself. Calling your business a “hustle” is virtually describing it and what you do as definitively lacking integrity, as categorically self-centred rather than broadly focused, as using guile and gaining advantage by a kind of “white” deceit. If you were to tell a client your service to them was a “hustle”, what do you think they will surmise?

My business is not a hustle. I’m not practicing sleight of hand here, nor am I doing some kind of commerce-burlesque behind giant red feathers to get people to part with their dosh. When you do dealings with me, what you see is what you get. Integrity is important to me, and so I don’t give my business my “all” – I keep some of myself back for me, protecting it carefully, so what I do give is honest and sustainable. My values are plain to see. I care about people, and I want them to become more of who they truly are, whilst I, through my business, do the same. That is not a hustle. That’s purpose.

My challenge to you, little business owner, as you navigate your way in the sea of entrepreneurship. Think about whether you can keep up the “hustle” you’re supposed to want, or you’d prefer to get up each day living the dream you know you do.

14 Feb

Tired Is Not A Life Skill.

They say it like it’s a badge of honour, as if pushing through our exhaustion, or hanging on when we want to let go is some sort of achievement of itself. But sometimes letting go is exactly what’s needed, even if just for a time. Stepping away, or even just taking a rest, may be essential for our own health and that of our interest or enterprise.

There are no such thing as “tireless” advocates, entrepreneurs, artists, activists or human beings. We all get bored, frustrated, jaded, angry, exhausted and disillusioned. And these are legitimate feelings and experiences we can learn from, and which sometimes must be obeyed. Tirelessness, relentless activity, keeping on as if we had something to prove, these can be toxic to us and the things and people we love. Listening to our bodies and to our intuition, reading the signals of circumstances and seasons, knowing when it’s time to hold on and time to let go, these things are wisdom, and sometimes we learn the hard way. The term “tireless” sounds great in magazine articles and podium introductions, but it’s not real. We tire, and only we can give ourselves permission to accept we do, and take rest in whatever form is necessary.
“Tireless” is not a life skill or an achievement of itself. You are allowed to become frustrated, jaded and exhausted. You are allowed to stop and do something different, or differently. Don’t be tempted into relentless activity by the desire to be known as a “tireless” achiever. Give yourself a break, friend.

07 Feb

Be By Yourself.

I like being by myself. It wasn’t always so. Once, I hated isolation. It seemed like evidence I was doing something wrong. I blame the “naughty corner” idea – not that my folks were big advocates of sending me to my room if I did something wrong, but I reckon the idea of using alone-time as a punishment has taught generations of us that our own company is shameful and punitive, rather than special and beneficial.

I know now I can’t function without large chunks of being by myself. I need time to think, to feel, to undo and do and wind and unwind. My best growth has occurred in my most silent, unseen moments. I once was a creature of being seen and heard, of attention and crowds and constant company. I craved the attention and affirmation and proximity of others. But now, I do my best work by myself.

I feel my feelings and think my thoughts. I ruminate, undoing the ways and beliefs of my past, holding myself with compassion and patience as I break apart my ideas and work at healing my wounds. Without aloneness, these actions can’t occur. I love my friends, I treasure my family, but I crave my own company most. To be best friends with oneself surely is one of life’s most beautiful reconciliations.

06 Feb

Do Awesome Broken

We hold the broken pieces in our hands and say to ourselves, well, dang. Assuming we need to put it all back together again the way it was makes us feel tired before we even begin. Plans, projects, ideas, relationships. All now lined up on a mental and emotional shelf we reserve for anything we feel we failed at and need to get around to fixing, a testament of shame, proof we still haven’t got our act together, still aren’t good enough, still can’t get it right even when we know it counts.

But what if we just sat with the broken pieces, just held them with compassion and love, and accepted them as things of beauty of themselves. What if we resisted the pull to work once again at everything that fell apart or failed? What if we simply accepted some things we loved and treasured are now in pieces? What if we just let it be?

Not everything we begin and which doesn’t last forever has lost its beauty and value. Not all our breakages and failures are evidence we are unworthy and not good enough. Not everything that’s broken needs to become a trophy of our shame.

Let it be.

Knowing how to give respect and honor to the things that broke, that didn’t last, which didn’t work or stay together or weather the storm is part of growing and knowing. Being at ease with the broken things is as important as believing we deserve all the goodness and abundance coming our way.

We can do awesome, and we can do it broken. We can be awesome broken.

Jo Hilder

07 Jun

Do What You Love, And Do Not Stop.

In High School, my sewing teacher said I was crap at it and gave up on me pretty early in the piece. My music teacher couldn’t stand me and as a result, I failed music as a subject too.

Perhaps not a coincidence I had the same teacher for both subjects.

I tell you this to say I’ve been both a professional singer and songwriter (I still get a royalty payment from APRA every year so my songs are being played on radio somewhere) and professionally sewed, despite the learned assessment of a qualified educator I was rubbish at them both and not worth teaching.

How did it happen? Despite the discouragement, I did both music and sewing and did not stop, just as I have with writing and a few other things. Most talent is actually tenacity.

I just felt it was appropriate right now to say for the sake of someone perhaps who is doubting themselves because of someone else’s laziness to do their job and just fucking teach you, or someone’s fear, or jealously, or their plain dickheadry, and who couldn’t keep their mouth shut and made you think you couldn’t be good at that thing, screw them. Yes you can. What it takes to be good at a thing is to do the thing a lot. A lot. And not stop.

I used to sing and be good at it too. People still tell me they miss my singing and ask if I’m still doing it and whether I’ll go back to it. My answer is, not now. Thing is, people assume I was born with a strong, pleasant-to-listen-to singing voice. I was not. But I wanted one. So I did a lot of singing. And I sang so much, eventually I became a good singer. I was never great. But I loved doing it, and my singing pleased others, and I think that’s a great thing, and it’s enough. I am done with singing for now. I don’t feel the time spent becoming good was wasted. It was wonderful. I feel privileged to have given people pleasure with it.

It breaks my heart when I hear people say they love a thing and want to do it, but they don’t believe they are good at it. Of course you’re not. You haven’t done it enough yet. You need to do it, and do it a lot, to become good at it. And you must start doing it sometime. Why not now?

Why not now?

05 Jun

Everything Is Broken

My husband Ben and I and our teenage son spent a year caretaking a 641-acre sheep station in regional Victoria. I’ve always imagined myself as reincarnated from some Australian colonial character, romanticizing about the era of long, layered skirts and cookstoves and reading in the evenings by the light of oil lamps and such. The reality is on the farm I painted about two miles of white post and rail fence, swept enough possum poo to fill a hipbath, and learned more about sheep than I’ll probably ever need to know.

Apart from possum poo, I also picked up a peculiar habit. I became addicted to wandering through the various abandoned houses and cottages, scouring the paddocks and sheep ruts with my eyes fixed on the dirt looking for – well – stuff. It started when I first spied a few pieces of broken pottery embedded in the field next to our cottage; fragments of blue and white china, or a chip of smashed plate. It was then I noticed thousands of pieces of broken bottles and other household vessels in the ground; bits of blue, green and brown, some the pinky-violet tint of amethyst. I hadn’t seen them before, but suddenly, they were everywhere.

Every little fragment spoke a story, each tiny treasure the seed left behind of the whole they once were. A piece of plate, perhaps part of a set stacked away in a cupboard, probably saved up for in pennies and pounds, the darn thing carted out to the farm across miles and miles out back of a horse. A shard of broken glass half an inch thick, the same minty color of the sea, perhaps the remains of a medicine vial or wine bottle or a pot for some tincture, ointment or perfume.

I imagined a story for every bit I collected. Elegant wine glasses for celebrations, elaborately decorated dinner plates for reunions and rustic bowls for end-of-day meals by fireside. Medicine bottles clutched during fervent prayers murmured down on knees. Liquor vessels for blessed relief and raucous laughter. Scent and cosmetic jars for luxury and indulgence. Milk bottles for sustenance and nourishment, preservation, nurture and health. Coffee and teacups for conversation – sit a while? Pass the sugar. Share a moment with me.

My family think it’s amusing. Whatcha want with all that busted stuff? You’re mad, you know.

I bring my treasures back in plastic bags and the cradle of my shirtfront, washing them carefully in the kitchen sink. I hold each one and give it a story, bless it, place it aside with all the others around the house in bowls where I can see them. Now, I muse, they all have a story. No longer worthless, they belong somewhere, to someone, again.

During our time on the farm I thought about the process a thing undergoes when it stops being of value to people because of its use and beauty. Perhaps it ends up miles from anywhere in pieces, discarded, forgotten and invisible. But those broken bits were not lost, forgotten– not really. Not to the earth that held them while they slept. Not to the sky above them, or the sun or the moon, who saw each fragment and smiled on them without judgment. Not to the stars, made from the exact same stuff, just like you and I are. Not to me. They were broken, but they were, just the same. And their value and their stories were there, for every seeker with enough inclination and imagination to seek out and find them.

Just like all those broken pieces, we too may become broken, shattered, cracked or worn, our stories rendered useless or imperfect in our eyes or those of another, but we are not ever lost, worthless or invisible. Our stories are not forgotten, nor our value stripped simply because we are no longer perfect. Each fragment of us holds not only beauty, but also the fullness of our lived experience and our essence – where we came from, where we have been, and what is to become of us. Know this. We are broken, but we are not unseen or lost. We are remembered, known and loved – at the very least by the earth, and the sky and the sun and the moon. We belong. We are all a beautiful, broken, if sometimes buried treasure. Even though it may seem so at times, despite the things that happen to us our intrinsic value is never removed. Our worth is in our very dust, in our grains, in our shards and in our stories. And it remains ready to be found, by us, and every friend, lover, seeker and storyteller willing to get their hands dirty.

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