memoir, Uncategorized, writing

Rock, Stars & Signs

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Photo by David Calderón on Unsplash

“I’m part of you

You’re part of me

There’s nothing said

That cannot be undone”

– Lyrics from I’m Just a Man.

Songwriters: Michael Hutchence, Andrew Farriss

Michael Hutchence. In my opinion, he was one of the greatest rock stars of all time. Indeed, he was among the last true rock stars of his era, right up there with Bono, Billy Idol, Axel Rose and Mick Jagger. He possessed the right amount of magnetism, mystique and recklessness, and his stage presence was unbelievably dynamic. When he strutted out on that stage, the world became a faded memory, swallowed by the charismatic guy crooning a tune and seducing the crowd with the deliberate grind of his hips.

Qualities of a rock star.

Some say Michael was sex-on-a-stick. I couldn’t agree more. Somehow, that man had more sex appeal entwined around his little finger than Brad Pitt starring in Legends of the Fall.

Hold on a second, I’m recalling the female sighs drifting above the cinema during a screening of that flick and I’m thinking that might be a slight exaggeration. Regardless, the man wasn’t ashamed of his sexuality. He owned it and flaunted it accordingly.

Sigh.

He was definitely no prude. I think he must have appreciated the yin and yang between the sexes because let’s face it, he was never short on “yin” company, and he was probably smart enough to nurture those precious connections too.

Yin: the divine female principle of the universe.

Do you ever notice the signs the universe throws your way? Sometimes those signs can be subtle little hints to let you know you are on the right path. Other times, they’re like a freight train smacking you in the face till you laugh like a crazy person and yell at the cosmos to “just stop already”.

Recently, I drove my daughter to her boyfriend’s house before picking up some lunch at the local fish & chip shop. I was literally on the road for about twenty-five minutes during which time I saw “yin” five times.

Five times. What is that?

Maybe its some kind of cosmic prank. Either that, or I think there might be a sudden influx of “yin” infecting car number plates around here. Gets even better. I arrived home to find my other daughter had sketched a picture for me, and low and behold it was the Yin-Yang symbol.

I literally gasped when she waved in front of me.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“Uh-yeah. It’s beautiful, pussycat.” Slight pause, then: “Why did you draw that?”

Eyes the color of the earth blink up at me with a shrug.

“Because I like it and I wanted to.”

Duh. 

“Do you know what it means?”

Nose crinkle. Cherry lips twist. Eyes narrow over me.

“Nah. I just saw it on some paper in Ashy’s room and I liked it.”

Double duh.

Freight train effect going wild. Go figure. Perhaps Michael is in a position to better understand the motives of divine forces from the realm he currently occupies.

Hmm.

Besides Yin, Yang and all matters strange, whatever that X-factor quality is, Michael Hutchence had it nailed, and it wasn’t because of the way he looked either. It was much, much more than that.

I was fortunate enough to have met Michael after attending one of his shows one night. Before that evening, I’d spent the better part of my teenage years plastering the man over my walls and collecting every piece of media I could get my hands on to add to a chunky scrapbook I’d lovingly created.

michael-hutchence

Dreamy Sigh.

Yes, I was the hardcore fan, following him to every event I could, and cursing every woman he dated, Helena Christensen being the exception (Sorry Kylie!). During those hardcore years, I’d even managed a few phone conversations with him along the way.

But when the universe had finally decided it was time for our paths to collide in person, I was past the buckle-at-the-knees fangirl phase and had matured into a young woman who didn’t blink twice when brushing shoulders with celebrities (Clears throat and keeps writing). Or so I had thought. In my defence, the thoughts were valid because I wasn’t a stranger to spotting the odd celeb partying the night away in some VIP area of an Oxford Street Sydney club.

To make a short story even shorter, I completely caved when the moment of truth arrived and I was confronted by him. I could barely manage an audible hello much less answer his questions with anything remotely intelligent. Yep, I was suddenly drowning in a bad case of “fangirl syndrome”, and totally tongue-tied.

Erm. Awkward.

That’s a kind way of expressing those moments, but I do commend Michael for his efforts in lingering around, watching me with amusement and trying to engage me in some kind of rational conversation. It was just an epic fail, is all. The fact that he was trailed closely by a group of protective women frowning my way didn’t help the situation either. If looks could kill, I feel sure I wouldn’t have survived that night.

In any case, he was soon piled into the back of a minivan and whisked away with said women in tow, a victorious smile playing on each of their lips as they sashayed into the van after him. Eye roll. Heart plummet. I followed with a barrage of four-letter words as I watched the love of my teenage life slip into the night and vanish without so much as an autograph to my name.

Ah, the things we do. Or not do.

Michael Hutchence was a piece of gold. I learned he was special because although he possessed the above-mentioned rock star qualities, he was also very authentic. There were no airs and graces about him when he was faced with “fangirl fail” me, no traces of arrogance to his nature. In fact, every interaction I’d experienced with him was easy and real – even when I fell short in his presence. That’s what made this man so unique.

I’ll always be grateful for the major part Michael played during my teenage years. He and his band, INXS, provided the backdrop to many adventures, fuzzy fantasies and beautiful moments with treasured friends. I’d listen to him when the world fell from beneath my feet. I’d plug him in my Walkman and sing with him at the beach. He was there when I danced like crazy, and there during the awakening of love in my life. He was so much more than a rock star. He was a way of life, and he was some kind of special.

I write most of this post today, on January 22, 2019, on what would have been Michael’s fifty-ninth birthday. I’d always taken comfort knowing he was out there, walking the earth and doing his thing. Somehow, I’d formed an invisible connection with him that I’d cherished – along with thousands of other women (but who’s counting?). It was a sad day when the world lost him. My heart ached and I cried. He was the kind of man that isn’t easily forgotten. He was the kind that come here to make a difference in the world. Just listen to some of his lyrics and you’ll understand what I mean.

Every now and then, I still miss him. I find the times when I’m falling short, and feeling low are the moments I reach for my earbuds, switch on one of his songs, and submerge myself in his voice. It’s almost twenty-two years after his death and he still has the ability to comfort me.

Michael Hutchence was more than “Just a Man”, he was revolutionary, and the world could use more like him.

Life is fleeting and precious. Embrace your inner rock god and walk the earth with love while you can, and while you’re at it you’d do well to remember that life is not complete without seeing Dogs in Space.

Grin.

Do you have any memorable celebrity encounters or weird signs from the universe you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading!

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memoir, writing

Finding Keepers

People. Unless you’ve shunned society altogether and have carved out a piece of land for yourself someplace at the end of the earth, you cannot escape them. If, for one hypothetical moment, we agree to engage in the notion of a solitary existence, the likelihood of avoiding human beings altogether during your self-imposed isolation is still quite improbable. Let’s face it, most of us will not be the outlier who chooses to embrace a Bear Grylls persona and charge off into the wilderness to live indefinitely in a log cabin in the woods.

It’s a fact that people need other people. It’s also fair to say that without interacting and forming relationships with other humans, our own abilities to love and evolve, and develop interpersonal skills such as empathy and compassion would eventually stifle before heading on a downward spiral toward emotional immaturity. You see, relationships are vital to personal, spiritual and emotional growth, and critical in fuelling the embers of love from which we are born; the same realm which we will someday return.

People do need other people. Solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment within our prison systems for hundreds of years. Isolating and stripping a human being from contact with others has a profound psychological effect. Despite its “time to reflect and connect to God” origins, there is no evidence to suggest any positive effects on inmates from time spent in solitude. In fact, the opposite is true. Solitary confinement has received severe criticism for having “detrimental psychological effects, causing trauma and an array of mental disorders, and in some cases, constituting torture”.

So, for the one who concludes his existence rests on the provision of food, water and shelter and proclaims love is not vital for life and survival, I respectfully disagree. All the food and water in the world cannot fill you enough to nourish your soul or cultivate your heart. You might eat and drink, and you might find warmth beneath shelter, but if you are starved of the one true thing your heart and soul crave in order to grow and thrive, eventually you’ll start talking to coconuts while you shrivel from the inside out and lose your mind.

The world is full of people. They are here, and they are there. Some are good, and others are not. We need each other, but do I need you?

People cross our paths all the time, whether it be through social meetings and mutual acquaintances, work opportunities, meeting someone by chance at an event or some other scenario. They come and go, and for the most part they drift into the background of your past and barely summon enough effort to be thought of again.

So, how is it that we know when someone is a keeper? How do we push past the screen and the superficial courtesies that often accompany our encounters long enough to know when a connection feels right? And when do we allow our precious hearts to become vulnerable?

In 2008 I met a man during a night out with my friends at a local bar. We’d gone out to watch a band and celebrate my divorce – yes, it was an essential moment etched along the string of my life-path and warranted the celebratory occasion. I called the evening “the D-party”; I know, it’s not so creative, but then again, the “D” didn’t necessarily stand for divorce.

A bunch of my friends, my brother and I pulled on some threads and hit the small town of Springwood to welcome in my new life of freedom. New beginnings. I remember the evening well because it was early-July, the mountain night air was icy cold, and well, it was a great night. It wasn’t often that my brother would drag himself up those mountains from Sydney to come see me, and I was delighted to spend some time with him.

It was great – the conversations were awesome, the drinks flowed and the cover band played the usual rock classics. We danced and laughed; the “D-party” was getting down and rocking it. I was totally in the moment, enjoying myself and sitting at a table with my friends when suddenly my attention was drawn to him. Like a beautiful, buff blonde vision, Mr Confident emerged from the parting crowd with me firmly in his blue-jeweled sight.

You know how it goes; heart temporarily seizes, pulse ramps up a notch and all of a sudden, you’re feeling a little more than heady. I mean this guy was close to perfect. So perfect, I almost felt pale in comparison. When his lips spread into a wide grin and he greeted me as he took the chair beside me, it took all I had not to focus on the dropping jaws of my girlfriends as they ogled him.

As it turned out, he was an athlete and had mutual acquaintances with my friend’s husband in the professional sporting arena. He was friendly and charming; charisma oozed from each deliberate remark and gesture as he set about making me the center of his universe. And when he realized the big guy in the corner chair was my brother, he put out all the stops to impress.

Mr nice-guy. Mr cool-cat. Mr can-I-take-you-out-for-dinner-next-week-when-you’re-all-alone-guy.

Of course, I agreed. Why wouldn’t I? It was a no-brainer. The man was hot, and I was available. There were no rings on my fingers, and I thought it might be about time to dip my toes into the perilous depths of the dating game. My friends thought he was awesome, and my brother gave his nod of approval too. I had nothing to lose.

Or so I thought.

There’s that thing about me, the part that believes the good in everyone and takes people at face value. I assume the best in people’s intentions. I never intentionally set out to hurt people, so why would they want to hurt me?

In hindsight, the signs were there. Had I paid closer attention to a few of his mannerisms the night I met him, I might have avoided the date night. Had I listened to the way my incessant nerves tortured me right up till the moment he knocked on my door to take me out, I might have avoided him forcing himself on me. I might have avoided the breach of my personal safety and the ordeal of being violated, but I didn’t.

It’s not that I dislike sex. On the contrary, I’m quite partial to the steamy activity. No other act can fuse two people together so deeply, so intimately. When two people are in love their connection and hunger for each other expands, flows and thrives as they merge themselves completely through love-making. This is fusion in all its wondrous glory; physically, mentally, soulfully. It is the kind of stuff we live for and crave above all else; the ultimate expression of love that transports us to higher realms. Exquisite realms.

Of course, not all sex is like that. Sometimes, we just need to be close to another human. Sometimes, we just want to have fun. All good, as long we all understand each other.

I saw a man once. I met him during a trip to Canada. He was seven years younger than me, eager as a bucking bull on rodeo night, and packed just like one, if you know what I mean. He boarded a plane and travelled to Australia to spend some quality time with me. Twice. He happened to arrive in my life when it was exactly the kind of quality time I was looking for. Right on time. I did things with that guy I hadn’t ever done before. Or since. We understood each other.

Until his possessive tendencies kicked in and he didn’t want to leave.

The point is, mutually agreed upon sex is an awesome part of being human. I enjoy sex. More than likely, you do too. But if I’m not feeling it, then I’m not feeling it and it’s not on – period.

Mr Horny-cool-cat had other ideas.

There’s that the thing about some people – you know, the ones that have trouble understanding that part about sex. They are the same kind of people that play games and reel you in, the ones that get off on power tripping and saying the right things at the right times to gain the trust they don’t deserve. They show you what they want you to see in order to get what they want from you. Those kinds of people are dangerous because their truth is probably false, even to themselves.

Want to hear the real kicker? He called me the following week to ask me out on another date. When I ignored his calls, he pinged me with a text. I mean, really? I’m not sure if he was clueless or cunning as a rat’s ass. Either way, seeing his number appear on my phone sparked the anxiety attack that had landed me in the emergency room the day following our first date.

We can never really know what lies beneath the exterior that a person chooses to present to the world. Hell, even Mr Gorgeous had my usually doubtful brother fooled – and that’s saying something. Not to mention my over-protective friends. It was the clean-cut, white-toothed, good-guy image he had going for him, and it worked a treat. I can only imagine how many victims he has tallied up on his date-rape quest, and I can only hope that he eventually encountered more than he bargained for.

I know that Mr Confident became my experience because he was the final thread that released me from men like him infecting my life. He was the catalyst in reminding me what I didn’t want and what I refused to settle for – bullies and men who didn’t respect women. In the end, though, without taking the time to look beyond our initial encounters and getting to know someone who captures our attention, how would we know the keepers from the rubble? How would we harness and nurture the important connections destined to cross our paths?

We wouldn’t. Yet, I know now to pay more attention to my internal warning system and give it the trust it deserves. People need other people. Sometimes, we do have to take a chance and put ourselves out there, because if we don’t, we might end up talking to coconuts and dancing naked with a broomstick to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. Or worse, we might miss the greatest love of our lives.

I’ve learned by honoring and loving myself first, that I will attract those with the best intentions in all arenas of my life. They are the diamonds in the rough; those special ones that are sent here to shine over you and touch your life in a magical way. You can’t miss them – they are the ones that make the little moments special; the ones unafraid to love.

Treasure your diamonds for not only are they rare, they form the groundwork beating your heart with love.  

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Me and my “blurred out” girlfriend on the “D-party” night. 

 

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Tribes – An Introvert’s Perspective

I’d never been the outgoing, make-friends-easy type. I have been shy around new people for as long as I can remember. I was the little kid hiding behind my mother’s skirt if a stranger dared smile my way. Should an adult so much as utter a word to me back then, all kinds of inner turmoil would ensue. I would clam up, be tongue-tied and nervous while trying to figure out how to speak without sounding like an idiot. I would later discover my Myer Briggs personality type, which happened to explain a lot.

The Myer Briggs personality type indicator was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, and is based on the conceptual theory proposed by Carl Jung.

Turns out, I’m an introverted personality type, a rare INTP to be exact. And surprise, surprise, it’s normal for INTPs to feel odd, because underneath all that cool exterior, we are oddballs at heart and so easily misunderstood. Now I know why most people just don’t get my dark sense of humour. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it 😉

Not only did I have an introverted personality to contend with, I also had a torrent of self-esteem/confidence issues deeply ingrained in my psyche ever since I can remember. In short, the self-confidence was lacking somewhere beyond my feet. It would take me many years to yank it back where it belonged – and even then, the struggles are ongoing. Perhaps it is because I come from a long line of introverts (father’s side of the family).

My father must be the most introverted person I’ve ever known. You want reserved, quiet, non-speaking individuals? I’ve got plenty lined up around here. Let’s just say dinner conversation wasn’t a big thing in my childhood. Nevertheless, exploring what it means to be an introvert is a whole other subject to dive into in the future. For now, we’re hitting the tribe topic – friends.

Despite my shortcomings in the making-friends department, by the time I reached sixteen years of age, I managed to eventually surround myself with a handful of gems. Genuine people I will never forget. I guess being an introvert, you’re able to sift along the sidelines, scraping through the constant noise and chaos in the world and eventually attract the stickers – the diamonds in the rough, the real deal. In case you didn’t get it, I’m talking about the bona fide sincere folks who live with integrity in their hearts and breathe the air of loyalty.

I found them. Or they found me. Either way, the tribe was established and we were in it together through thick and thin. Apart from two close school friends, the members in my tribe were about three to four years older than me. Looking back, I think the age difference made all the difference – they had cars (yippee!). No, seriously, the difference in age reflected in their take on the world. These guys and gals were thoughtful visionaries, penetrating the future with a contemplative flare I admired.

Every weekend, we’d grab our gear before we’d all pile into those cars and head west towards the Hawkesbury River – a 120 kilometre stretch of water that eventually flows into the Tasman Sea. Once there, we’d find our little weekend hub in the form of a camp ground by the river – a quiet spread of countryside nestled in the green valleys of Lower Portland. I can tell you, though, that the rolling, serene landscape was no longer serene following the arrival of our tribe. Especially come night.

By day we were slaves to the river. The speed boats were lowered carefully down the eroded ramps and into the water. The flashy wetsuits were adorned, the water skis dusted off for another run, and we’d hit that water like tomorrow might never come. Then, the sun would begin to shift over the horizon, giving way to a more chilled vibe involving camp fires, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. You can fill in the rest for yourself.

Good times. We’ve all had them – memories that impress somewhere in your brain matter and lend you that nostalgic smile every now and then. Recalling the good stuff is like the sweetest candy for your soul, and I am grateful for every single piece that indulges me. Those are memories I’ll cherish for all of time. Even the ones that were born from horror. You see, hanging out with people and enjoying great experiences is awesome, but it isn’t until the shit hits the fan that you realise the strong bonds you have formed with the people in your life. That’s when friends transcend beyond the standard friendship. That’s when you realise the love that exists between you.

It was New Year’s eve 1991 and I was seventeen years old with no parents in sight (Helloooo freedom). It was those weird-ass summer months in Australia, you know, those strange days that begin around Christmas and last until the school year resumes. I was staying on my own in my home with my boyfriend and my little brother.

We’d decided to attend a party at a nearby beach pub beer garden – minus the little brother, of course. The usual players came along – my beloved tribe, as well as a whole lot of other people I didn’t know. The night passed in the standard New Year celebratory fashion. The bourbons went down faster than you could say “I want another drink”. The music caused some hips to swing, and the conversations were intense – in a good way, I think. I could say we saw the New Year in gracefully, but I’d be lying.

By the time the hours grew thin and we made the move to go home, things got a little out of whack. There’s that threshold with booze – the moment when it all seems to flood your system at once and control becomes a faded inkling beyond your grasp. Before you jump to conclusions, I’m not actually talking about myself. It was the boyfriend – way too much beer and whatever else might have found its way down his cake hole that night, and things got bad fast.

I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of it all, but the scene ended with lost car/house keys, broken glass and vanished precious jewellery, an enormous amount of blood, emergency surgery and tears – buckets of them. By the night’s end, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for the doctors to bring news of my boyfriend’s microsurgery and watching the sun rise.

Meh. Shit happens.

Actually, at the time, it was pretty traumatic shit and the experience left me feeling numb, lost and alone, and totally out of my depth. There were no parents around to mop up the mess. Nobody to take the lead and make it all right. I was seventeen and going home to an empty apartment stained with gallons of blood and shattered glass. With no keys to unlock the front door, no less.

As it turned out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Remember those friends I was rambling on about earlier?

Yeah. Hell. Yeah.

They swept in beneath me like the feathers of angel wings, cocooning all around me. They had all the keys replaced; they picked me up and took me to the hospital every day; they cleaned out the apartment and took me to the location to painstakingly search for the gold chain and pendants that were so sentimental to me. They made sure I was okay each moment of every day until the ordeal passed.

As I write these words, I can’t help but feel the warmth trickling through my being. I will always love those people. They are my people, even when the years stretch between us. The power of true friendship is an all-encompassing journey not to be taken for granted. Treasure those that honour you and appreciate the layers they bring to your life. For in a world filled with superficial encounters and nameless strangers, it is rare to find authentic connections. Sweet soul candy can never be underestimated.

And yes, with the help of my friends, we found each and every little gold charm that’d I’d lost on a shadowy street when the world darkened, and sanity was temporarily misplaced. I still have them.

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Greenhorn; beliefs and opinions

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.”

~ Dirty Harry.

The first time I heard those words spoken wasn’t during a screening of a Clint Eastwood flick. No blue-eyed, hard-nosed, convention defying Harry Callahan strutting with his Smith & Wesson revolver lit up my screen and branded my ears with that sentence for the first time. Far from it. I was twenty and it had been during a showing of the Nazi symbol firmly tattooed on the brawny arm of a bikie greenhorn.

Maybe I’d had one too many bourbons that night, or maybe I’d grown comfortable enough around these new friends to finally express myself a little. But then again, perhaps it was just when I was confronted by a symbol that to me represented fascism, dictatorship and the murder of around six million people that I had trouble taming the instant revulsion swirling in my belly. And there it was, flung out in the open before I could catch it – my opinion.

The words started to roll over my tongue, and at each unsatisfactory answer, I probed even more. Suddenly, I wanted to know why the bikie beefcake wore that symbol on his arm as if it were a prized medal, and more importantly, I wanted to know how he could choose to believe in such an atrocity.

And he wanted me to “shut the f**k up”.

I have an asshole, you see.

Those were the days when I was introduced to a new world of long whiskers, leather jackets and hot motorbikes. I know what you’re thinking, but before romanticised visions of Sons of Anarchy flood your mind, I’ll stop you right there. There were no super-hot males swaggering around in tight jeans and fitted shirts. And certainly, no Jax Teller straddling a shiny Harley-Davidson and beckoning me to cosy up behind him before whisking me off into the sunset.

Uh-uh. Not even close.

But that’s not why that scene fast became a fleeting memory for me. I stuck it out for a few months because my boyfriend had decided they were his new tribe. To be fair, some of them were his childhood friends. But in the end, I discovered it was a world in which I didn’t belong.

It wasn’t that they were bad people. Although none of them remotely resembled Jax from the above-mentioned notorious biker series, for the most part, they were fun to hang out with and quite accommodating. There were no qualms when it came to sharing, and I have to admit, they knew how to party. And party hard they did. I’d even made a friend among them. She was one of the girlfriends. She was blonde and nice, in a rough-around-the-edges kind of way, and she took a liking to me.

After a while, though, she was banished from her biker-girlfriend position, and cast aside for the next in line. She piled her belongings into her car and to my surprise, stopped by my house on the way out of town to give me my first dreamcatcher because she said I was the nicest person she’d met in Sydney. Another surprise. I mean, I knew she liked me but to be the nicest person she’d met in Sydney? I was honoured.

Then I remembered her choice of company.

Wait – was that another opinion flung out across my keyboard?

Well, I do have an asshole remember, and I’m betting the last time you checked, you do too. In all seriousness, I didn’t think more or less of that particular group of people. They were no different to me, and free to express their opinions and beliefs as much as the next person, even if the Nazi symbol had offended me at the time.

Actually, the part that had upset me the most during that interaction was when the bikie greenhorn responded with the phrase so famously spoken by Clint Eastwood in the movie The Dead Pool. I remember blushing and feeling embarrassed. I had no idea how to react, and suddenly felt self-conscious. I guess he had accomplished his intention, because yeah, I shut up pretty fast following that remark. And something else occurred to me – not everyone wanted to hear my opinion, and nor was it necessary for me to share it.

Opinions. Unless you’re a Buddhist monk, most of us can’t get through life without forming them, believing in them and living according to them. Hell, even Buddhist monks live according to their beliefs, right?

They are the threads of thoughts drawn from our experiences, our cultural, societal and academic backgrounds, and family heritage, and are strung together to eventually inform our belief systems.

We have all kinds of belief systems, too – religious and spiritual beliefs, political beliefs, philosophical and ideological, and the list goes on to eventually settle in the core of your being after you have sifted through it all and decided to adhere to a set of beliefs that feel right to you.

But what are beliefs and opinions really?

Practised thoughts. Practise a thought enough and it will become your reality. I could say I believed the sight of that Nazi tattoo offended me – until it didn’t. Until I realised that by allowing the outer conditions of my world to influence my reactions and feelings, that I was really giving power to circumstances and conditions outside of myself.

I’m not saying I had a complete about-face and now advocate the heinous actions of the Nazis and what would result as the holocaust. Quite the contrary. But I am saying that you can never escape the opinions and beliefs of others, and you’re not always going to agree or like what you see or hear. You can, however, choose how you react to those situations, and you can choose not to allow the opinions of others influence your self-esteem and self-worth.

Do I always get this right?

Hell no.

I still get hurt and feel emotional pain, and sometimes have fleeting moments of loss of control. Only now, it is the people that I love that can stir my most inner emotions. I don’t give that power away too easily these days, and even then, it has its limitations because I remind myself that I cannot pin my happiness, the outcome of my life, or my self-worth on anyone other than myself.

People will always have opinions, feel the need to share them and judge. You can’t stop it – even in yourself at times. But when I hear someone judging another person or impressing their opinions about them, or even when I feel the urge to pass judgement on another myself, I recall the words of Matt Kahn when he said, “May the person judging be the next in line for love.”

At the end of the day, that’s all we can do – qualify judgement with love and move on.

Move on with love.

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Kiss Bombs

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“Oh, how she wanted to kiss those lips! Her quickened pulse felt like fire in her veins – she wanted to feel him now. Her eyes locked onto his as she closed the space between them, circling her hands around his neck and tangling her fingers in his hair as she crushed her lips against his.”

~ excerpt from Wildflower, Kim Petersen

Okay, let’s clear this up from the start – kissing is fun. No, more than that, kissing is bliss. Lips touch and tongues entwine in a beautiful language all of their own. You’re drawn into a secret world known only to the two of you, and as the kiss deepens, you’re pretty sure you could stay there forever. You might too, if you didn’t need air.

Kissing. The world spins high, your pulse is a cackle of exquisite explosions, and the inducing body rush is enough to weaken your knees. Pleasurable chemicals are released – dopamine and adrenaline flood your being, and voila, you’re in heaven, baby!

Kissing is probably underrated for the most part – the lingering looks and deep kisses wear off too quickly among couples that have been together for an extended period. It’s a shame, a damned shame, because it’s a proven fact that kissing is a de-stressor. Negative emotions shut down as the bonding hormone oxytocin is released, and kissing is found to decrease serum cholesterol. And let’s not discount the physical benefit – we use around 30 muscles when kissing. That is toning, my friends! (So long Botox!)

I look over my kissing history with fond memories and cheesy grins. My lip trail began during those early school days playing kiss and catch with the boys. I learned how to run exceptionally fast back then. Oh yes, no way was I going to let a boy catch me. When my little legs failed and my heart was about to explode, I’d cheat and hide out in the school library, only to be sprung by my pursuers with nowhere to escape. Hiding behind teachers then became my game.

The kisses resulting upon capture in that childhood game were harmless little pecks. I’m not so sure what I was worried about. Maybe it was the prospect of being too close to sweaty boys. Arms would ensnare and hands grip my head like a vice before the incoming peck slammed against the cheek like a victorious stamp.

I changed schools during the 4th grade and graduated to more mature levels of kissing. Like, not. In that school, it was all about suggestive innuendo where the boys would say stuff like “I want to see your dictionary” and “I love eucalyptus”. Or just stare until the blush crept up like raw beetroot. I mean – c’mon?

Seriously though, I’m no kissing expert, but I’ve experienced my fair share – from the downright WTF was that kind of kiss, to the soft romantic variety, to the euphoric depths of passion where too much is never enough. I’ve kissed boys, I’ve kissed men, and I’ve experienced the seductive lips of women. Believe me when I say, I understand why it’s sooo nice to kiss women. But what about the first real kiss?

I’ll tell you there were no stars soaring across the sky that night – no chemical rush to support the hype surrounding the art of the kiss. My pulse was flat and my stomach curled. I almost gave up on the notion of kissing then and there on that dark crowded dance floor during a Blue Light disco.

His name was Brandon. He was tall and solid, a whole lot of awkward and a whole lot of ginger. To be fair, it wasn’t Brandon; it was his first kiss too, and he really was a sweetheart. I was fourteen and the thing was, all my friends were experts at the kissing game – all except me.

Every couple of months the NSW police department would organise a disco for the local teens. They’d set up a huge screen and feature video clips (MTV days). The music blasted, and the smoke machine worked overtime. Sometimes, they’d even have bands playing. It was awesome and we came in droves.

It was supposed to be a clean affair – no booze, no weed, no anything else. Naturally, we’d all figure our way around this little hiccup. Sneaky teens do rebel, and everyone would look forward to the next Blue Light disco. In its time, it was the place to be.

The problem?  I was shy, but my friends thought it was about time I let someone plant a proper kiss on my inexperienced lips. And damn it, they were going to make it happen.

Poor Brandon. Poor me. It was a slobbery exchange of stiff lips and graceless tongues, and it lasted a few short moments before I excused myself and hid in a corner somewhere until I felt safe to face him again. We both decided we weren’t into forced kissing. Well, I thought it was mutual decision and that was good enough for me.

The next time I summoned enough courage to press my lips against another’s, it was my choice and my choosing. Thankfully, the path of getting down and saucy with cute boys, lips and tongues improved to hot exchanges that quickly backed up the whole kissing hype, and once mastered, I never looked back.

Whether it’s something as simple as kissing, it’s important to realise the need to trust our inner selves and take our cues from that voice within. I wasn’t ready to kiss that boy that night. The act was forced and the result was disappointing, and I’d felt like I’d somehow failed. But when I was ready to kiss someone, it felt good and natural, and the experience unfolded as it should have, and I was left feeling positive.

You will never lead yourself astray if you take guidance from your inner-being and listen to your instincts. Now, what are you waiting for? Go pucker up and de-stress!

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memoir, writing

Abuse Me, Abuse Me Not


“Everything depends on your attitude towards yourself. That which you will not affirm to be true of yourself can never be realised by you, for that attitude alone is the necessary condition by which you realise your goal.” ~ Neville Goddard.

I tend to never think about the past. For me, the past has served its purpose, and I know I will accomplish nothing if I choose to dwell over it. I’d rather look forward, focus on how I want life to be – not just only at the micro level, but at the macro level too. Yes, I want to see change in the world, in humanity. I want to see a shift towards world peace, and I want to see every person act out of love and not fear. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am one of those dreamers John Lennon so famously sang about in his classic song, Imagine.

I am a dreamer. I have always been a dreamer. Even the darkest moments couldn’t quite diminish the spark deep inside of me, and like many of us, I’ve lived through some dark times.

Relationships are a beautiful and necessary part of life. It is through our relationships and interactions with others that we learn so much about ourselves and the world. We learn great things like love, respect, empathy and consideration. We learn how to relate with others and the art of compromise. We fall in and out love, hearts break and we grow and evolve, and we realise what we do and don’t want for ourselves.

Sometimes, those lessons are tough. Well, let’s be honest, our biggest lessons are always the toughest to learn. The worst thing is when we get caught in a revolving-lesson door – the cycle drill that won’t quit till you make a change in yourself. That was me. I was on repeat – a lesson that began when I was sixteen years old and lasted until I finally kicked it in the butt when I reached thirty-four. That’s right, almost twenty years of enduring one lesson through three relationships – abuse.

I am not a trained psychologist, nor have I earned any qualifications in social welfare. I have studied towards a Bachelor of Social Studies (psychology), earning two years of transcripts before I went on hiatus and began writing fiction books. It was through study that I rediscovered my love of writing. I loved writing the essays for my modules, yet each of my lecturers had at some point mentioned the same thing upon reading my assignments – I wrote too creatively and needed to be more scientific, but hey, I wanted my work to be interesting, even when including the principles of clinical jargon and conventions. I loved writing books so much; the rest is history (excuse the cliché).

The point is, I don’t traditionally qualify as a trained person to guide others going through abuse. But I do qualify as a domestic abuse survivor. I have experienced verbal and emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse. Image abuse, and stalking. I know how it feels to be that person – the one that lives behind closed doors in a world of shame; the one that beats herself up every day for her weakness; the person that can barely stand looking in the mirror because she failed herself and her children, and can’t find a glimmer of light in a world of shadows.

For a long time, that was me. The worst thing about being a victim of abuse is the guilt that comes along with it. Guilt becomes a constant companion in a fake, plastic world. It’s there when you wake up every morning, and it’s there every second of pretending everything is okay.

There are all kinds of guilt – guilt for betraying your own convictions; guilt for convincing yourself it will never happen again while knowing full well it will, and finally, the guilt that eats you from the inside out – not protecting your beautiful children from the ridicule and violence.

Looking back, I guess I thought I didn’t deserve any better. Sometimes, all it takes is one life-changing incident to set off a chain of events that can last a lifetime. I did it for almost twenty years. I lived on my nerves and walked on eggshells, and every now and then I’d let loose and face the demons with a defiance I couldn’t ignore – that spark deep inside of me flared to the surface and desperately screamed for justice, dignity and self-worth.

I know how it feels to have your life threatened. My first husband used to tell me that he would gladly do jail-time for my murder. Words enough to send a chill down my spine even recalling them.

I know how it feels to see the fault in yourself. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I do anything right? I’m a loser. I’m nothing.

And I know how it feels to see no way out of a black tunnel – “You couldn’t survive without me, you wouldn’t make it.” “Nobody would want you, you’re used goods.” “You’re useless, dumb, stupid, fat, ugly.” “I’ll use you up till there’s nothing left.”

Hear some things enough and you start to believe them.

So, what changed?

Me.

I’d had two little boys with my first husband, but it wasn’t until we had a little girl that something really shifted in me. My little fair angel was the catalyst in a world of darkness. Maybe it was because of the time when my then husband pegged a TV remote controller at me when I was breastfeeding my newborn. He missed me but he didn’t miss her. Or perhaps it was how he’d ridicule me for not producing enough breast milk and our baby girl began to lose weight fast – my fault. Or maybe it was the times when he came home late at night drunk and woke me just to terrorise me.

Whatever it was, I knew I could no longer live that life. I knew there was more, much more, and that life was supposed to be happy. I could find happiness. I could. I wanted more for my children. I wanted peace for them. I wanted to see them laugh more and make a mess if they wanted. I wanted them to feel confident and to know a better existence.

I remember one night I went outside and gazed at the stars. I looked and looked until I believed in something higher than myself. I asked for strength, guidance and courage, and I knew if my life was going to change it would be up to me to make the change. No one would do it for me. No one.

So, I did it. I took a breath and summoned my courage. I got a house and packed our stuff and with the help of some beautiful friends, I moved myself and my children out of that situation and I never looked back. Not once – even when he begged me to come home, or when things got tough and he made life difficult. Control is not something people easily relinquish. I was out and it was the best thing I’d ever done.

The thing is, I chose myself. I chose my children. And I chose to believe in those stars. Somehow, I knew everything would be okay. I took a leap of faith, and even though it wasn’t always easy going, I still chose to believe. It would take another five or more years for me and my children to sift through the emotional scars that that environment left on us. There were challenging times dealing with adolescents with major anger issues; there was heartache and tears, feelings of hopelessness and working through the guilt. But we got through it together, and my children were my salvation and I was theirs.

I still gaze at the stars and I still believe in them. I know for a fact the abilities I possess to initiate the changes I desire in my life because I’ve done it, and I know that the power comes from within, and not from outside of myself. It’s in all of us. If you want change, only you can make it happen. And if you don’t want to get stuck in the revolving-lesson door, you need to adjust the way you think regarding the specific subject. One of my favourite Wayne Dyer quotes is when he said, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”

Those words resonate with me so much, I wrote them down and stuck it on the wall next to my bed to remind me that no situation is immovable, no matter how static or impossible it seems.

Choose happy. Choose yourself. And please don’t focus too much on those dark times you experienced in the past – give power to the future you desire and be a dreamer like John Lennon. Imagine.

 


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