13 Jun

Seeds Break Before They Grow

They call it a crisis, but they mean to say we were all together before, and now we look and seem so, so broken. But we were always in pieces – the difference now is we know it.

We know we have shadows and vulnerabilities and we understand selfishness is an aspect of self-care. We no longer aspire to inclusion, seeking to cure our flaws and have enough of our sins transmuted so that we are acceptable and useful to God and others. Now we know God is in us, and there are no others.

We have been the bad guy, we have hurt others and been hurt. We have studied forgiveness and found it both too difficult, and too easily surrendered up in exchange for the love we craved. We tried to be and do what was required, but we failed, choosing instead to be true to what emerged when everything seemed hopeless, when we could not be what and who they wanted, when the cracks appeared, when we stopped running and grasping and endlessly reinventing ourselves in their image and simply decided to let go.

And we were alone with all our flaws, mistakes, curses, damage and unforgiveness, and we dealt with them, are dealing with them, will deal with them.

We are now small, but we are at the same time infinitesimal. We are broken, but more whole than ever. We hold nothing, but have access to all we need, because we understand all the wisdom and strength we once looked for elsewhere was in us all along.

We do not hold to the past, because we are not it, we are who we are right now, in this moment. We know there are no heroes, no more fixed up people, no idols worthy of our worship. There are only those who awaken and share the wisdom, reminding us of what we already know, and those who are awakening to the wisdom.

This is not a crisis like a car accident is a crisis. This is a crisis like realizing the Emperor has no clothes. You’re the child calling it out to yourself. Are you listening? Everything outside that still, small voice is bullshit. You don’t go anywhere or sit beneath any authority to get this kind of revelation, this teaching, this permission to become. It comes from Source, from within you.

If you feel the pull to change, follow it. If you glimpse a vision of yourself more rested, more joyful, more at peace, throw yourself down that rabbit hole head first. Make it up as you go along. You’re supported in your happiness. Persist in your personal limitations and misery, and despite your company and the safety of numbers, you’re all alone.

Why am I writing this? I’ve no idea. Is it for you? Perhaps. I live this, have lived it. I’ve joined and left tribes, made and broken relationships, exploited and been exploited, faced death, experienced miracles, fought against being broken only to allow myself to come apart later. And life goes on.

I wanted a huge life when I was young. I have struggled for one bigger than I had at every juncture. Looking back, it’s been big. It is. Despite the fact all I have is my art, my family and my dog. I have no house of my own, no fortune or investments. I spent it all on the present moment.

The crises they warn us against can be painful, even feel like it’s breaking us apart. But it is the stuff of growth. A seed breaks apart to put out a shoot. I love that imagery. May that picture be with you today as you ponder your life. You’re not alone. You have not failed. You matter. Your being here is a marvelous miracle. Thank you.

Jo ?

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.

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.

09 Feb

The Illuminati Of The Peri-Menopausal

I’ve just read in the Sunday paper about this “new” phenomenon of the female mid-life crisis. Apparently, up until quite recently, middle-aged women didn’t actually have crises. Try telling that to past generations of women who had only Valium or insanity to retreat to when their husbands took up “working late” and heading off for “weekend conferences interstate”. If you ask me, the only precursor I know of for many of the crises women suffer from is having ever known or lived with men. But I digress.

There is something that happens to women when they leave their late thirties. It’s not so much a crisis, however, as it is a revelation. Unlike many men, women don’t wake up at the age of forty and wonder why the world doesn’t understand and appreciate them – they wake up and realise they don’t understand and appreciate themselves.

From the ages of about eighteen to thirty-eight, most women believe they will never be as good as everyone else in the world, including other women. We spend our teenage years unable to see our own inherent beauty and vitality. We try all through our twenties to be sexy as our duty to men, and at the same time smart and successful as our duty to our liberationist forebears. We enter our thirties believing that by this age, we should have the perfect body, children, husband, home and career because for crying out loud, we have been at it for about fifteen years and we should have gotten it right by now. Told in our childhoods we had the right never to be violated, oppressed or abused by anyone, by our late thirties we sadly discover most of us have been anyway. Then we reach our forties. Our husbands leave us, our children rebel against us, and our bodies betray us. The “all” we are supposed to have is divided up in court settlements, sent to family counseling and lopped off along with a course of chemotherapy.

In middle-age, many women realise they have expected too much from themselves. By this time we absolutely know that we can’t have everything. We have come to realise that what we have now will probably be what we have when we’re sixty, except it may all be closer to the ground. We’ve also learned that we can’t be all things to everyone else, so we stop trying. Most of us have had at least one health scare, or at least lost someone very close to us. Forced to change our view of life, we now accept we are not immortal or bulletproof. We know we’re not young any more, but we also know we’re not old…just yet. Middle-aged women don’t generally rush out and buy sports cars and get young lovers, although some do. More often, we simply take a look at what we do have, and decide to make the most of it in whatever time we think we have left.

Some decide that what they have at forty is a body they have kept cellulite-free and size double D for twenty years, and venture out to see how much trouble it can get them into. Others decide the reasons they didn’t write or paint or travel or study when they were younger no longer exist, i.e.: they no longer believe they are dull, stupid and responsible for the happiness of others, so they take the limitations off themselves and go for it. A woman’s mid-life realisations often are more of a crisis to others around them than they are to themselves. Some middle-aged women come to accept that they possibly only have a few years left with the capacity for cognitive and intelligent conversation, so they decide to leave their monosyllabic house-mate in his recliner with a TV dinner, and head off to a book club or lecture theatre instead. One could see how this might cause problems.

Unlike most men, women often have less to lose anyway. Middle-aged women are less likely to see their assets as an extension of their egos, because this generation of women are accustomed to earning less, and sacrificing what they do have for their families. Middle-aged women will fight as hard to keep her family together, seeing that as part of her identity, as a man might exert in leaving it to prove his.

Middle-aged women have been largely invisible in our society. It’s taken a re-emergence of us as a force – albeit in tattoo parlours and universities – for that society to even acknowledge we do exist. And then, they have the hide to dismiss us as menopausal shrews; as nothing more than the demographic responsible for the unhappiness of a whole generation of brilliant, misunderstood and apparently incredibly good-looking middle-aged men. May I point out that even the most successful Self-Made Man came out of a woman’s body at some point?

This female mid-life crisis thing they are trying to label us with is a ruse, a myth and a lie. There is something going on, but I can tell you, it’s no crisis – it’s more of an enlightenment. As for me, yes, I’ve had my nose pierced and got myself three large tattoos since I turned forty. Yes, I’ve dreadlocked my hair and bought skinny jeans – in a size 14. Yes, I went roller-skating last Sunday and I refuse to wear Cottontails. But let me tell you, if you don’t like the look of my cellulite, you’re standing way too close to my butt. Just hand over the pink slip to your V8 pal, and no one gets hurt.

 

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

30 Jan

It’s Okay To Not Be Brave Today.

Hey there, I know you’ve been struggling in this rough patch right now. I know the thing that happened was horrible and unfair, and you’re not done dealing with it, not by a long shot. I want to give you the only thing I can think of that might help – permission to not be brave today.

Feel your feelings. Say your words. Everything is going to be okay. Not today. But it will be again. No need to prove you’re tough or be stoic so others don’t feel uncomfortable. It okay to not be brave today. xxx

12 Jun

Depression Doesn’t Care About Your First World Solutions

DEPRESSION DOESN’T CARE ABOUT WHERE OR HOW YOU LIVE. (**Trigger warning – discussion about suicide)

I think the world is messed up, big parts of it anyway. The bit I live in, however, is comparatively great. The problems I’m subject to by default of living here would be generally known as “first world problems”. So let’s be clear. The problems of the world, society or our immediate community, unless we live in conditions of considerable duress or oppression such as in detention or forced isolation, or subject to violence, are unlikely to make us suicidal.

Generally speaking, people in the Western world are not suffering from depression and wanting to harm themselves because life is hard and the world is or seems awful. They want to leave the world because that seems like a way of helping everyone else.

People say suicide is selfish. From my experience, when you’re having the thoughts, it seems like the most selfless thing in the world. It seems like the thing which will most better the lives of the people you care about. It’s the only way you can think of to give them relief from the fucked up waste of space that is you and all the shit that comes with you.

Depressed persons don’t end their lives because they are bored of their spoiled lives and success, or because they feel the world is awful and they want to leave. They do it because it seems like the most logical way to break through the dead end we reach every day, trying to come up with a solution for the way we think and feel about things, and about ourselves. It’s being unable to step outside ourselves and our thoughts any more, and becoming completely identified with our perceptions and responses. It’s being tired of waking up and thinking, I don’t think I can go around in this circle in my head again. I just can’t do it.

Ending ones own life is certainly a tragedy. It hurts others, which is not ever the intention of the one leaving. However, I want that we also honor the choice to leave. It took courage, and the best interests of those of us left behind were without doubt in mind. They did not believe there was any other option, and for that we may in time forgive them. As one who has felt those feelings and thought those thoughts, I can say it was the thought of what my actions would bring upon my family, and realizing I did in fact believe they loved me and would suffer loss, that gave me faith enough to wait it out. But I do not judge those who decide not to. We will all be together again in time.

Nothing that is loved ever dies.
Respectfully,
Jo xxx

08 Jun

Speak Of The Darkness, Live In The Light

WE MUST BEGIN TO TALK ABOUT THE DARKNESS IN OURSELVES, AS MUCH AS WE TALK ABOUT LIVING IN THE LIGHT.

Success does not cure the shadows. Money will not buy away the hopelessness. Moving to Bali to work from a laptop on the beach will not stop the thoughts of helplessness or self loathing or shame. I am broken hearted by this news. I truly was inspired by this man and his passion for his field. I call for more open, safe and authentic spaces where we can support one another to be as broken as we are awesome.

Oh, my heart. Thoughts with his family and friends.

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.

21 May

The Silver Thread

THREE years ago, I was so mentally and psychologically unwell, I had self-harming thoughts every day. I excluded myself from literally every social contact except the completely necessary. I suffered from paralysing anxiety and depression which had me convinced my life was not worth living. I existed in a waking nightmare. My doctor and I worked together on a mental health plan which included medication and therapy. I could not work. I could not leave my postcode, often, the shops was as far as I could go. So I worked with that.

Every couple of days, then eventually every day, I would go to the shops. But not just any shops. Op Shops. You see, I LOVE op shops. I’m a collector, a bower bird. My mum calls it hoarding. She’s probably right. But this collecting of second hand things is inexplicably joy-filled to me. While browsing through op shops, the thoughts and feelings of anxiety, self-loathing and depression disappeared. Desperate for relief, several days a week I tracked around local op shops. Then I found some in Sydney, so I drove the hour and a half to visit those too, perhaps spending all day driving and shopping, gathering and hunting. And slowly, the number of days spent at home with anxiety were replaced with days out feeling happy, excited, and rewarded with bags of inexpensive joy.

It didn’t take long for my thoughts to turn to wondering what I could do with my treasures. I found a little community of buyers and sellers on Instagram, and I began a little money spinning hobby. I was having fun. I found the end of the silver thread. I saw some pendants on Pinterest I loved, and thought I could probably make something similar, so I looked up YouTube videos on jewellery making. I sold some. Then I wondered if I could upcycle some op shop clothes to go with my jewelry pieces. After a few months selling online, I booked a market stall.

Next minute, I have a shop. I have recovery. I have reconciliation to my peace, my joy, my mental health, my spiritual gifts and equilibrium. I am studying again. I haven’t experienced anxiety such as I was in some time now. Every day, I wake and look for the glimmer of the silver thread, leading me forward to the next thing. I have learned not to overthink, to live in the moment, to be grateful, to embrace change and all the souls who enter my life now because of what I do. I love my life.

I write all this my dear friends not to boast about my success, but to tell you with all my heart THERE IS HOPE. There is a silver thread. It may not look or feel like you expect, but there is a way forward. I did not want to break down. I did not want to even go on living. It was a dark, dark place. And it’s not the first time I’ve survived such a fall into darkness. Depression, cancer, and other physical and mental challenges have dragged me down holes I thought led to hell at best. But I am here. The silver thread is clear to me now, but I know there may come a time when my sight grows cloudy again. My task is to do my healing work while I can, to be thankful for the moment, and to appreciate all the souls on this path, here and now. One thing I know now beyond doubt – there is a conspiracy for our good going on all around us. This is the silver thread. If we look for the glimmer, and follow it, we will find ways and paths forward. Sometimes there is no “cure”, no escape. I am not cured of mental illness. But I am empowered in my path of healing. Each day I know what to do to be well. And I do that, because I know that’s all I can do.

Be well, dear friends. I pray you can find the silver thread today in amongst the melee and the mess and find yourself able to fashion it into something marvellous, to follow it through to a clear path, an open way. There is a conspiracy for your joy in the workings of all things. Close your eyes. Listen for the voice of support, encouragement, love. There it is. Now step forward, just one step. There is hope. There is hope.

Love, Sister Jo.
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***If you or someone you love feel you need help or support for thoughts of anxiety, depression or self-harm, please seek professional support from a qualified health professional.

20 Jul

Sister Jo Bangles story is my story.

Sister Jo Bangles has a story. And her story is my story.

Just over two years ago, I suffered an emotional and mental crisis. A breakdown, followed by months of debilitating depression. I quit my job. I stopped writing. In fact, at the time I became unwell, I had a book released by a publisher after years of trying to be published, and I found myself barely able to tell people about it, let alone promote it. We moved back with my parents so we could cope financially on one income. I felt ashamed, crippled and helpless. All I wanted to do was hide in a hole or sleep. Thank God good friends and family encouraged me to seek out quality mental health support. It saved my life.

As I began to recover, I realized it was important I didn’t develop a habit of staying away from people and places. I needed also to avoid being with and believing the depression, which told me there was nothing worthwhile in the world, and I was finished as a person, and as a creator. I decided I’d get up, and get out of the house as often as I could. I started getting in the habit of visiting op-shops, a past time I’d always loved and which gave me joy. While browsing through the shelves looking for bargains, I didn’t think depressing thoughts. Whenever I was out and about on the op shop trail, I was happy, and my heart was light.

I brought home a ton of crap in those few months.

I found a small community of folks doing what I was doing, and trading their goodies through social media. I began to grow a little pocket money making venture – more op shop money, woohoo!

An unstoppable creative, I remembered some jewelry pieces I’d seen on Pinterest, and I thought I could make the kind of jewelry I liked from the bits I was finding in my explorations. I looked at a few videos online on how to make jewelry. And I was away.

Before long, I decided to get my sewing machine out and make a few pieces from op shop finds. I had never been one for buying new clothes anyway, and I saw so much inspiration on Pinterest I knew I could never run out of ideas!

What I love most still about creating these pieces is the feeling I get having gathered something which was considered no longer useful or beautiful, and giving it new life. It gives me so much bliss to resurrect the torn, the broken and the thrown away things of this world, to be a force against our disposable culture and throwaway mentality.

What really continues to inspire me is knowing Sister Jo Bangles has at her heart a culture of embracing, rather than hiding imperfection, of celebrating vulnerability rather than rejecting it, and of allowing the loose threads and ragged seams be seen, and seen as beautiful and worthy.

I know that in my own vulnerability, in my imperfection and brokenness, I am worthy and beautiful. Society may see me as an aging woman with mental health issues, unemployable perhaps, overweight (whatever that is), scarred and broken in places, not rich, without all the trappings to show for a “successful” life, but that’s not who or what I am. I am creative, bold, vulnerable, beautiful, strong, worthy and courageous. I’m a survivor. I have so much living left to do.

Just like all my Sister Jo Bangles creations.

I trust they bring you as much joy as they do me.

Love, Jo xxx

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