I’m in The Australian newspaper

I’m in The Australian newspaper

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.

 

What I’ve discovered in my 40s

What I’ve discovered in my 40s

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.

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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.

Peace.

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.

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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).

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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.

 

 

VINTAGE BLOG: Thanks thirties… and goodbye!

VINTAGE BLOG: Thanks thirties… and goodbye!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Gratitude for dinner–a healthy meal for kids

Gratitude for dinner–a healthy meal for kids

Dinner is a big event in our home. Not because of the meal itself—I hate cooking and am the first to admit that what I serve up often doesn’t actually have a name. In fact, I’m thinking I might publish the Dunno Cookbook. Recipes like Dunno Pasta, Dunno Curry, Dunno Pie… so named because I dunno what’s in them…

But I digress…

So the food itself isn’t important to me. It’s healthy. They eat it. Case closed.

The reason dinner is a big event is because we all sit together every night and talk.

With four sons that talk often turns to penises, bodily functions and FIFA15. So I guide the conversation. Every night I ask the same two questions, and then we go around the table while they answer.

  1. What was the highlight of your day?
  2. What’s something you’re grateful for today?

They all roll their eyes… but they join in, probably out of habit more than any genuine enthusiasm. But that’s the key isn’t it? Habit. Do something for long enough… it becomes a habit, and we rarely question our habits.

Make those habits positive and beneficial, and there’s no need to question them.

I started this dinner question time years ago. We’re a blended family, and this dinner routine created cohesiveness. Also, we were in a situation where my partner’s children were arriving with new things every week. Expensive gifts. Huge Lego sets, toys, electronic devices. I’d always taught my own children that things had no meaning… that experiences were more valuable. We had two sets of kids under one roof, both being taught very different lessons. How did we deal with that?

Gratitude.

Both sets of kids had to learn to be grateful for what they had. And for very different reasons.

I started the dinner conversations about gratitude and week after week, after month, after year some interesting changes have taken place.

Firstly, my own kids very quickly stopped questioning the things the other boys brought home. They valued the experiences that they had. They were grateful that they had other opportunities and family dynamics that their stepbrothers didn’t have.

Next, my stepsons began to say thank you, and appreciate things in a way they hadn’t before. They stopped expecting, and started thanking. They started acknowledging small things as well as the big things.

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Then leading up to my younger son’s 9th birthday, we had this conversation:

HIM: “Mummy, for my birthday… I don’t want a “thing”… I have enough things…Can I have an experience instead?”

ME: “Sure honey, that’s an awesome idea.”

HIM: “Just not parachuting. I don’t want to skydive…”

ME: “Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.”

(You can read what I got him here.)

(And another blog about experiences not things here.)

The following year, all four boys asked for experiences rather than things.

My stepsons went from being completely confused by the concept of gratitude (during our first dinner conversation) to being thoughtful in their responses. They stopped asking for things all the time…

If I ever missed asking the questions at the dinner table, the youngest of the four boys reminded me.

Gratitude does get in!

Last Christmas our four sons woke to nothing… well no things. They had a box that they opened together… and in that box were details about an experience we will have as a family. In June we’re going to Angkor Watt in Cambodia. We’re doing it rough… and the boys were told they are expected to pitch in and work towards it. Six months is a long time for a child to wait for a Christmas present… but all four boys were so excited by the promise of this experience that they didn’t think twice about not opening the latest toy from China.

Consistently asking them to focus on gratitude has shaped them all. It has shaped us as a family, and defined what is important to us in our home. It has brought us stability as a unit, and that is especially important for blended families.

Daily gratitude is a very simple and effective tool for any family.

What are you having for dinner tonight?