18 Nov

Stay In Your Canoe.

A few years ago, I saw someone demonstrate how young girls (and boys) could understand what boundaries – physical, emotional and sexual – looked like. They took their arms and made a canoe which reached from the point their hands could touch out front, around and behind them. It created a canoe shape in which they sat right in the middle. I’ve never forgotten this, and I wish I’d learned this earlier. I’ve never found a more effective way to imagine around myself a space in which I healthily and sanely situate myself, safe from those I don’t wish to share myself with, or whom try to cross my boundaries. I can share my canoe with others if I choose, but in my canoe, what I say goes. It’s a no shame, no guilt, no violation space, and I maintain it carefully.

Sometimes my canoe is as big as the physical space I inhabit – my house, car, group, shop for example. Sometimes it’s skin thin. Sometimes i step out and into someone’s else’s, or they into mine. But canoes are my standard and I don’t break that standard. Nobody and nothing gets into my canoe unless I will it to be so, and I do not apologize for it. It’s a place of safety, security, well being, and it is mine to police and share as I see fit.

Christmas is a time when women especially are expected to load a heap of shit into their canoes. We get out of our guilt free zone and walk around surrounded by pressure to spend, buy and bring people together for the sake of some invented holiday where everyone is supposed to feel happy and connected. We are supposed to allow people we would never let near us any other time to disregard our canoe. We also feel it’s okay to pile up our own feelings of loneliness, lack, guilt, shame, pain and circumstance on others because we feel them so intensely this time of year. We get out of our canoe and look around and feel others are more, have more, do more, get more, and rather than dealing with it, or seeing things as they are, we begin to try and get in others canoes and get them to deal with it for us. But none of this shit is real.

Nobody has less shit to deal with. We all have ours, and it’s all magnified, triggered and exacerbated at times like these. We all hurt for the ones lost or absent, we all feel shame for things unsaid, we all wish those ties could be mended or smoothed or healed right now, even if just for a time. Yes, some have nothing and no one at Christmas, and our time to think of them is all year round, not just now. And our time to ask for help and support in our own loneliness and isolation is not just now, but all year round as well.

Just because Christmas looms, our triggers are not others emergencies. The toxic actions of family members or friends are not our job to accommodate just because a teeny baby was born two thousand years ago and religious people decided that was December 25th and a Coke commercial stole a European tradition introducing a fat white man who visits little kids at night to bestow on them the result of our over extended credit cards.

Argh, I’m getting back in my canoe.

Things are about to get crazy around here. There will be pressure, and spending, and traffic, and no parking spots, and expensive seafood, and family coming, or family absent, and unanswered phone calls, and long working hours, and unreasonable expectations, and reasonable expectations unmet.

Darling, take my advice. Don’t be tempted to get out of your canoe. Don’t expect to be rescued when you do. Deal with your shit. Stay firmly put and don’t get out to rescue anyone else. Women especially are expected to lower their boundaries, forgive the unforgivable, counsel everyone else’s pain, overfeed the already satiated, and comfort the comfortable, at this time of year. Get in your fucking canoe and push off the pier. Wave sweetly at them as they watch confused from the shore. Let them find their own canoe and paddle where their own thoughts and troubles will be their work, not yours. Don’t try to heal people or conflict or the wrongness that’s comes with facilitating peace between people who ought not be in proximity any other time with your time, money or energy. It’s time for a canoe journey, sweetheart. It will be time to return probably about February.

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.

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.

20 Feb

It’s Okay To Be A Woman Who Doesn’t Enjoy Going To Women’s Gatherings And Events

What happens when you like the company and support of other women, but you’re not interested in joining a “circle” or being part of a group?

Nothing happens.

Look, I know there are times we women crave the support and connection we can only receive from other women. There’s nothing like it when you’re feeling isolated or perhaps even victimized by circumstances or situations. When you have young children, for example, or in abuse situations. Finding others who share similar experiences to us can be so valuable for our social, emotional and mental health, even our physical safety.

We chicks need to stick together.

But as a fifty year old woman, personally I’m growing more comfortable with my own company as I grow older. Combine this with some frankly horrible experiences in the past, and I’m now quite selfish with my private time, and find less and less I need the company or community of other women in a concentrated social situation.

My closest friends know this about me. I like it when we can just hang out and talk about real stuff. I don’t like small talk. Funny how most of us don’t, or say we don’t, and yet we willingly perpetuate these situations where the conversation is stunted and will never move beyond the level of surface chatter.

I may seem like the kind of person who would enjoy going to events and being part of women’s circles and groups. But I’m going to be brave here and admit I don’t. I was involved for over thirty years in various spiritual communities of different sizes in many places, including online, and I’ve seen and been through enough. I am the kind of person who can’t simply “attend” – and inevitably I end up as that person who is “too much”. Too intense, too overbearing, too wanting to be involved, help, make it better, bring my thing and be part of it. And sometimes my “too much” was welcomed, engaged with, rostered on and given all the avenues it so deeply desired to run down, because that’s how creativity works, right? But I understand now that the particular requirements of the paradigm I chose do not honor artists, because artists are free-thinkers, explorers and wilderness dwellers. So I broke up my long term relationship with evangelical Christianity, and followed my heart out beyond the walls.

I spent a little while gathering up the lost and lonely disenfranchised before realizing the adage of being healed from what truly hurt us lest we bleed on those who didn’t cut us is so very and sadly true. Trying to convince the deeply institutionalized they can survive independently without being all clumped up together under the banner of being “like-minded” was like trying to cut my own head off with a bread knife – pointless, and painful. So I stopped rescuing people from group-think and went my way, demonized, resentful and happy to be the bad guy if it meant I got to spend more time by myself.

By this time, I’d learned it was okay to be alone, to be thought of poorly, to not have a group of like-minded people around me, and to pick and choose when, where and how I engaged with “community”. Which turns out to be infrequently, wherever I like and however I like. I don’t go everywhere I’m invited, and never, ever do I go where someone tells me “God needs you and what you have to offer, Jo.”

God does not “need” me, or what I have, and I’m not “robbing” God of either by staying in one place and not arriving at another. That’s pretty sick spiritual codependency bull crap right there.

But I digress.

It’s okay to not want to be involved in social huddles or special events carefully thought out to appeal to you, even if they really, really do. It’s all right to not want to form new ties with different people and incite in oneself new feelings of belonging or longing, or obligation. It’s okay to not want to join a circle, go to a group, network, or give your energy to new and different things. It’s all right to like your own company, mind your own business, and not turn up to things. Beware of FOMO* – it’s a real thing.

*(fear of missing out)

I say all this because there are so many events on we could all get along to, events designed to enrich, inform and enlighten us, and they absolutely could, should we decide to go there. But you know what? Also, no. You don’t have to. You’re not “needed” by God or anyone else to fill a gap or take a position. Does that concern or upset you? Maybe that’s a bit of work to take on right now. There is no lack in the bigger scheme, all is in balance, you are enough. Go, if you like, don’t, if you will. The you who decides to become part of that business, spiritual or social community is a whole person going in, and won’t be more whole coming out. You’re okay, and it’s okay to like your own company.

Cheers,

JO x

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.

 

08 Feb

My Darling, Your Arms Look Fine :)

I’m baffled by the practically universal belief of women that the top six inches of their arms, if exposed, will stop traffic, cause tsunamis, bring Satan screaming up from Hades or at the very least, elicit inevitable horror, judgement and disapproval from fellow human beings. Despite my honest and enthusiastic appraisal and encouragement, it seems impossible to convince many women their upper arms are anything less than hideous and they owe it to society to keep them hidden from sight.

I call bullshit.

Firstly, your arms look like arms. Everyone’s arms are different. Yours look like yours.

Secondly, what the hell is it with “flabby arms”? Why are these a problem? Why do women feel they owe society upper arms that don’t jiggle? I don’t get it.

Thirdly, nobody is looking at your upper arms. If you’re looking at other peoples upper arms and disapproving, that says everything about you and nothing about them. And vice versa. No one actually cares about your arms. No one.

Finally, arms are not decoration. They are for waving around when we talk and grabbing our kids and grandkids with so we can hug them, for wrapping around our lovers and swinging in the air when we dance. They are connected to our hands and those suckers are pretty much the most useful appendage we have. The tops of our arms are just below our shoulders, where we have carried every burden and concern and sorrow we’ve ever had, and where our children have sat and seen the big wide world ahead. Damn, girl, you need to be loving your arms, all of them. Your upper arms are wonderful, delicious, gorgeous and strong. Give them some sugar and don’t be ashamed of them. Wear less sleeves and show the world you are proud of your body and all its capable of. Here’s to upper arm love!!!!
????????????❤️??? #upperarms #flabbyarms #getyourarmsout #loveyourbody

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.

27 Jan

Steal Like An Artist, Give Like A Goddess

From time to time when I am holding a market stall, I will overhear two folks chatting and one will say to the other something like “Oh, you know, I could make one like that for you. Don’t waste your money.” I smile. I offer to help them do it, if they’d like.

I have people tell me my garments are made from tablecloths and old jeans, as if I didn’t realise it. I laugh and smile.

I know full well there are people out there who see what I’m doing, who are biding their time, waiting to see if there is money in it, people who can sew way better than I can, who will wait until I’ve made my mistakes and paved a way in the market before they step up and take their own risks and start up doing something very similar. People who will look at my photos and try work out how something is done, who will struggle to come up with different aspects of their enterprise, so will subtly borrow from aspects of mine.

I know this, because I have done it. I do it now.

And here’s a secret. All smart businesspeople and artisans will do it.

When you begin to break your ground as a woman in business or in your chosen field, those who would like to do the same, are perhaps planning to, or who are on a parallel path will be watching. And it’s hard when you’ve done a massive amount of work and it seems like someone else is trying to ride your coattails, copy your model or short cut to success using ideas or concepts you created. I know.

I’ve had people – not strangers, friends – consult with me covertly as if they were a potential client, then the very next week turn around and set up a business providing the exact same service to the exact same market. It’s confusing, hurtful, angering even.

Then, I have also had people, close friends, people I have helped and supported and given willingly of my knowledge and creativity, accuse me of stealing their ideas and clients and opportunities, when this was in no way way my intent. That is no less and hurtful.

But you know what? All that looking around us in suspicion and worry is a waste of energy and time.

And the fact is I spend a lot of my time looking at Pinterest and Instagram, getting inspiration and ideas for what I do, gleaning info on what’s hot and what’s not. Sourcing ways of putting things together and looking at photos of others creations.

And I put my stuff out there too, hoping to inspire others.

Of course, I don’t expect others to give me their business information, Dress patterns, client databases. I don’t ask, and I would not respond to those who want this stuff from me. But I would help another woman who was afraid to take the last few steps into her success when her journey is so clear and her capacity so strong it’s thumping her in the face.

I no longer care if people think they can do what I do. I’m sure they can. I look at what others create and I am arrogant enough to believe I can do what they do.

In fact, the only difference between me and the folks who say they could easily do what I do, is that went and I did it and they did not.

There is no copying, there is no stealing when it comes to what I do. Others do not have the relationships and the fun with my clients that I share with them. My creations give my clients joy and laughter and confidence. Others can copy my clothes, undercut my prices, market to my customers, but they cannot be there in that moment when my client and I share a connection through my pieces.

There are more ideas than there are grains of sand on the beach. The important thing is the experience which transpires between the creator, and the one who is moved by the creation. I want my pieces to help my clients realise their inner suspicion they are creative, they are not invisible, they are right to be confident, and they can have fun. My desire of that my creations give women permission to bring out the best parts of themselves. I want to join with them in agreeing they are beautiful, and need not be afraid to draw attention to themselves. I long to help women feel they can dress themselves the way they feel; with colour, creativity and fun.

Please, please copy me, but only if this is your mission too, because in the end, for me, it’s not just about fashion. It’s about spirit, heart and soul.

So if someone messages you asking for your commercial recipe, your special formula, your unique pattern, thank them for taking the time to notice what you’re doing. Remember, they believe you have something they don’t, and this is the only way they know how to get what they think is missing from their business. But you and I know different. They have everything available to them to make their enterprise a success, because it won’t be a special ingredient or the way a dress is cut that does it. It will be the way they make their client feel. It will be the experience people have when transacting with them. It will be because of the beliefs they affirm for them, and the creativity they inspire in them. Remind your new friend they need to believe they have everything they need to do this for their clients, and if they don’t, they’re looking in the wrong place. Then blow them a virtual kiss, wish them well, and go back to trawling Pinterest for your own inspiration. Joking. Not joking.

In the end, selling and buying, trade, is about people. And people are full of insecurities, fears and foibles. In business, we will get hurt and we will offend others, just as we will in our personal lives. And when I say commerce is about people, I do not mean we cannot be what we’ve come to know as “professional” – run our enterprise profitably and with integrity. However, let’s not lose sight of the end game. When we are all sitting together in the nursing home, or on the beach in Bali, or whatever, it’s not going to matter whether we both published books about rare beetles in Africa, or both made face creams sold wrapped in bamboo leaves picked by barefoot eunuchs in a secret rainforest. Let’s all just have fun. Let’s all just make a living doing what we love. And let’s all remember, there are plenty of ideas and customers and money to go around. Stay in your lane. Smile for your competitors. Keep your cool. And for goodness sake, remember we are all in this together.

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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