Published in The Daily Telegraph & The Courier Mail
Dawn broke over Lake Bled and, thanks to my jetlag, I was awake to see it. I could see Bled’s jewel of an island in the middle of the glacial lake straight through the open balcony doors. I crawled out of bed to take a closer look and for the first time saw the view in the other direction. Yesterday the whole area had been shrouded in cloud; this morning the majestic Karavanke Alps loomed over me. In over twenty years of travel I have never witnessed such a breathtaking sunrise.
My sons are in Tokyo at the moment, which got me thinking about my years in Japan. I adore the place. Here’s a piece I wrote during my time there…
I look like Marlene Deitrich and Jodie Foster…sometimes one, sometimes the other…or perhaps a cross of both. I know I look like these two Hollywood stars because I have been told so. Constantly. So many times over the course of five years in Japan that I was tempted to start working as a celebrity double. Fortunately two factors stop me from completely believing my own press: I have eyes and I own a mirror. While I would love to resemble either of these great beauties (especially Marlene and preferably before she died) I don’t. I know I don’t. Not even on a good day, or when I’m roaring drunk. I simply understand that the Japanese need to connect you in some way to a Hollywood star.
For those of you who’ve read all my books you’ll know that Vienna is a recurring theme. Chunks of my novel, Trouble Brewing take place in Vienna. One of the chapters in The Happy Endings Book Club is set there.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Vienna… It’s a city where I’ve faced a lot of my own personal issues, been incredibly happy, and overwhelmingly miserable. It’s a place that has changed shape and form in my eyes so many times. I have hated it. I have loved it. I have certainly been challenged by it.
I’ve just finished reading 360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World, about the Higham family’s one-year travel journey.
There was a brief moment at the start of the book where I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it. John Higham, his wife, September, and their two kids, Katrina (11) and Jordan (8) had been planning and saving for this trip for years. The family of four started out on tandem bikes: one parent on front, one kid peddling behind. And while I absolutely admired them for doing so, I quickly decided the book might not be for me. Cycling just doesn’t reel me in.
But then (*SPOILER ALERT*)…
Did you see us in The Australian last weekend? Here’s the link.
I’m so much happier since I embraced this life of experiences over things, and I’m passionate about sharing that with other families. This piece in The Australian is the first of a articles about me over the next month. I’ll keep sharing as they come out.
And so I’m 46. I celebrated my recent birthday with style, love and incredible acceptance. I finally got the hang of the 40s and my goddess it’s amazing.
For those of you who read this blog here, which I’d originally posted as I turned 40, you’d know how pumped I was. Pumped is the perfect word for it. You’ve all seen those personal development gurus working a room full of devotees and they get them all pumped. You can, you will, you are fabulous. And everyone cheers, and believes the hype and then they all go back to their real lives and realize they’re still miserable. Turning 40 was like that for me.
I was pumped! I’d listened to the hype about turning 40. Being a naturally positive person, I believed it. 40s is the new 30s. You go girl!
What no one warned me about was the fact that I would die a spiritual death in my 40s. That I had to… because that’s the point.
Let’s be clear about something. The 40s are not the new 30s. In fact, that completely diminishes the powerful lessons the 40s bring with them. We often start our families later so are juggling the same busy parenting schedules as women in their 30s, but that doesn’t make us 30. There are things I experienced in my early 40s that I know are exclusive to women in this age group. I know I’m not alone because it’s a conversation I’ve had countless times with many different women over the past few years. While my own personal journey had been intense, the collective journey of women of this age group fascinates me.
Firstly, there’s no denying it, we’ve hit middle age. I realise “young” is a matter of perception. One of my dearest friends, who I grew up with, picked me up in a convertible and whizzed me off to lunch on my birthday. “Fuck we’re getting old,” he declared.
I didn’t miss a beat. “When we’re 90 we’ll be talking about the day we were really young and you picked me up in this car.”
So I’m not old. But yes I’m getting older. And I’m getting older in a society obsessed with youth.
When I hit 40 the mirror became my enemy. Lines appeared from nowhere. The slow march of age wasn’t a march any more but a fast run in that first year. I could see the changed to skin tone. And I despised it.
My partner and I started a business. Running that, a house with four kids and trying to write novels took its toll. I didn’t have time for my yoga. I put on weight. I hated that too.
But that was just the external stuff. Internally I was in turmoil. I wasn’t happy. Each month I would be slammed with sadness. Crying jags and insecurity. I said to my best friend, “I don’t know if I’m hormonal or just really messed up.”
“Both,” she said. “And I’m the same.”
The first couple of years of my 40s were such an intense energetic shift for me. I felt like I was disappearing. I was invisible.
Around me girlfriends began erasing their age from their faces. But the results frightened me. I felt like we were missing the point of everything by clutching to our youth. I didn’t want to let go of that either, but I also knew there was something waiting for me just beyond the wrinkles. Just beyond the self-judgement and fear. There was something important… I just had to work out how to grasp it.
I just had to let go.
I went on a Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat. It was a version of hell for me but so profoundly beneficial. But even there, I struggled to let go. I spent a lot of my free time packing and repacking my bag while my mind screamed at me. I feel like I was unravelling mentally. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. But on the sixth day I woke up and felt something I’ve never felt before.
I was in the moment.
Sounds were clearer, colour brighter, everything more vivid. In that moment I understood the concept of annica: impermanence. Everything changes. So having any attachment simply brings misery.
Naturally, that moment passed, and I was in hell again. But I’d glimpsed something profound. I didn’t just intellectually understand something. I had lived it.
I left that retreat with a tool for life, but I still didn’t know how to truly reach into the guts of my issues.
So as is the case with many women my age… the universe provided the perfect opportunity.
“I’m afraid you’re going blind. We’ll get the Royal Blind Society around to your house to teach you how to move around.”
It was the week of my 43rd birthday that I heard this. Many of you already know this story, and the outcome. I’ve blogged about this in detail here.
Turns out I’d been misdiagnosed, but I had to wait three months to hear that. For those three months I lived with the possibility of losing my sight. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke, the last thing I thought about as I went to sleep. I researched and studied and found amazing people doing incredible things with “sight.”
There were many powerful changes for me during that time. I learnt a lot the mind’s eye and sight and light. I certainly learnt about control. I had a complete overhaul in how I perceived myself and the world around me. What is happiness but just a shift in perception?
It’s not getting what you want, or getting rid of what you don’t want, but seeing things differently, as they are right now.
It’s about changing the way you see your world.
The threat of going blind also changed the way I viewed myself when I looked in the mirror. My foe became my friend. I realised I really wanted to see myself age. That realisation was a gift. By the time I turned 45, I was here.
I no longer criticize what I see in the mirror now. I simply don’t. I’m grateful. I don’t give a shit about my lines. I’m happy to see them. I believe one of the most rebellious things a woman can do is grow old gracefully and naturally.
By my mid-forties, things were unfolding for me internally. I was practising what I’ve now developed into my Travel Light Self Development Program. I wrote my novel The Happy Endings Book Club, which is a book about how seven women find happiness through discovering how to have a shift in perception.
What does it mean to see?
I turned 46 last week and I realised I see myself more clearly than I ever have before. There is an inner calm and acceptance that I feel and I’m proud of.
My friendships and relationships are deeper. My partner and I are stronger than ever. I find more joy in my kids. Sex is freaking awesome (oh yeah, come on, it totally gets better with age!)
And I really care about myself. And I use the word “care” rather than love. It’s important to take care of yourself.
I’ve stilled my mind with meditation, strengthened my body with yoga, and balanced my hormones through completely eliminating sugar from my diet, and with the help of a Chiropractor and natural bio-identical progesterone (a miracle in a jar).
And beyond all that, in a deeper Space, I’ve found a powerful new version of myself that wasn’t there in my thirties. Couldn’t possibly be there in my thirties. Because you have to be consumed first by your forties, and the loss of your youthful self before you can even fathom who you’ll become next.
Women in their 40s experience a spiritual death that they must face. If they don’t, they’re doing their 40s all wrong. I’m not done with it yet, but I’m happy to be here embracing instead of battling this decade of my life.
It makes me wonder what excitement the 50s will bring.
I’ve just cracked an old blog of mine and am saving some of my favourite blog posts. It’s a bittersweet experience… many of these blogs were written in the lead-up to when I turned 40. Tomorrow is my birthday and I turn 46. My sons who I write about below are now 16 and nearly 11. Time flies.
I’ve learnt a lot in the past 6 years, which I’ll share in a post tomorrow. But today, here are some vintage blogs that give an insight to how I felt about turning 40.
My thirties began:
Holding my newborn son, Buster… He was two weeks old, yet his stare was ancient. He seemed to say, “Not how you expected to celebrate thirty, aye!”
Buster turned ten two weeks ago.
This pixie-like boy defined my thirties. He is my mirror, my teacher, my greatest worry, an infinite love, my sidekick. I often look at him and wonder how something so magnificent came from me.
Together we navigated my early thirties:
Five years of wandering through airports together, hands held tight. New countries, new adventures. Trudging through snow in New York to get him to school, running through forests in Europe, blessings in Japan. Our flat in Sydney, our beach house near Byron Bay, him in a kiddie seat on the back of my bike. The curve of his neck, the shape of his bottom, the freckle on his lip, the secret signals we have that silently declare our love to each other, our songs… He introduced me to Demeter within. Sometimes I struggle with her, usually I embrace her… occasionally I resent her deeply.
There were tours and plays, Buster sitting at the sidelines, his little legs swinging. I miss the theatre, the smell, the camaraderie, the late nights, the highs. Theatre was my first love. We broke up a few years ago. We’ll get back together soon.
I was halfway through my thirties when…
Vesuvius entered my life with a roar. Oh how I worship this child with his free spirit and curly mop, his fearsome temper and eccentric outlook. While Buster has lived a million times before and carries the weight of those lives around with him, Vesuvius is new here… He has no shackles, no cares… no real empathy for the human condition because for him it’s just a game. He is the most outrageous creature. I watch him and I’m in awe at his complete lust for life.
Twelve years of wandering the world came to a standstill when he was born. I returned home to live, although it took some time to call it home. I was more relaxed, less obsessed, willing to embrace free-range parenting, often through sheer selfishness, but mostly because it’s what he needs.
I spent all of my thirties writing. Obsessively.
Four years of my thirties were spent breastfeeding. 2 x 2.
Two years were spent as a stranger in my own country… wondering where I’d go next… and then:
I fell in love… with Sydney.
I separated from my husband, and discovered that he is the greatest man I’ve ever met. He treats me like gold, which teaches our sons to do the same. The bar is high for future lovers. So far, no one has come close.
My friendships have become more significant, more profound, more necessary. I love my motley crew of friends deeply… My family means more to me than ever. My family has expanded in the most unique ways. Finn was born… what a journey for us all, this child not of my blood, but of my soul.
My plays, awards, children’s books, published pieces, it all started to happen. Every spare second I had… I wrote. My first novel was published… finally!!!! I give gratitude for my amazing managers in LA, who encouraged and guided me.
I am healthy. I am happy. It’s rare that I’m not. I’m positive, hopeful and grateful. I’m relentless in my quest for me. Focussed on my inner journey. I make no apologies for who I am. What other people think of me is not my business. I refuse to be chained, caged or suppressed by society or individuals… or myself. I embrace my wildness. I give free reign to my personal power. I am in an excellent place.
Thanks to my thirties.
I am now ready for my forties, and all the wonder the decade will hold.
What has this decade held so far? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog.