Weird days ahead so BYO weird

Don’t be absurd” I said, but then look what happened! That was a strange lesson in things getting a whole lot stranger than you thought possible. I’m alluding vaguely to politics and violence in the world sphere. The weather has been weird where we are – storms like tantrums that thrash and destroy and suddenly weep themselves out. I’m always looking for a sign in the world, it just seems to be that every single one says the same thing – weird days ahead.

Not the new normal

This isn’t a prediction about what might be the ‘new normal’ (sorry – no answers!) or how there’s some magical reset anywhere in sight to take away the weird and give us back our global sanity. Nope. The news is that being rational and reasonable is going to take more work. Each of us will have to make a choice each day on how to deal with what happens.

We won’t know what to expect. The increasing pace of random attacks, weird anti-truth-ness and agonising political hypocrisy are escalating.  All we really have in our control is the decision on how we will act. How we might embody our values person by person. How can we be kind, tolerant, assertive, truthful?

When did the truth become an enemy?

I work in marketing, I’m no stranger to influencing audiences and the ‘massaging’ of facts by our cousins in advertising, but the truth used to be a bedrock, not a moving target.

In the past six months it has seemed as though the political mainstream in the western world has been gaslighting us all so that we get used to anyone asking for ‘honesty’ on issues is considered weird. That’s not helpful. That’s not working towards equality or freedom or happiness. Actually it is verging on taking absurdity and weird right on into the realm of madness.

This is not a great topic. I don’t like that it is going on, but I feel powerless to address it in any way except through personal action. I feel like I am teetering on the edge of madness, and depression. It has put me off writing and blogging, it has weighed on me when I make plans for my future and it drains my sense of value.

Weird inspiration

So what I’m thinking here is that the normal stuff – all the skills and expectations I have from the past few decades – are not that useful anymore. I need to engage with the new weird world on a new level. Isn’t it obvious – I must bring my own weird. That’s right, one sometimes must fight fire with fire. This is not the same as ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ that way is utter chaos in this instance. No. I will allow my weird free, I will bring whatever I can to our table to protect and defend the forces of good. If you want to join the rebellion in support of honesty and goodwill, please do. Tea and biscuits supplied, BYO weird.

Don’t be absurd – 3 tips to practical sanity

absurd medieval rabbits torture a manThere’s a wild streak of absurdity running feral in the world. The public sphere of debate, politics and planning have blurred into ranting, clownish blurts of the absurd. Perhaps this isn’t new – perhaps there is a tide of the absurd that washes in and out of human communities periodically. If so, it is high tide because (for an example) at the moment it seems that the idea that anyone in any media can be assumed to be telling the truth is now an outmoded, dowdy joke. Not a funny joke, more a disparaging snort of derision. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like that.

I think that having fundamental expectations be absurd undermines our sense of connection to each other and creates an environment in which anything goes, because nothing is ‘true’ any more.

So in an absurd world how do we stay realistic without going mad or becoming overburdened with cynicism? We remember what is always true. Here are three truthful tips to help you stay sane in a flood of absurdity.

Happiness is never absurd

Your happiness and wellbeing matter. Primarily to you and those closest to you, of course, but this is always true. You can hold onto this. That’s not an invitation to become an egomaniac, but a simple reminder that in the face of bureaucratic coldness and structural stupidity you still have value as a sentient being. That is not a grand statement but it is a truth. Well it is a truth I invite you to make the choice to believe in.

Nature is never absurd

Strange, wondrous and amazing the natural world can give you almost infinite pleasure. If you interact with it and let it interact with you then there is a stable and meaningful continuity to that relationship which offers a counterbalance to the absurd in human endeavours.  The endless repeating of patterns in nature are true. They are the language we turned into mathematics. Nature is our alpha and our omega.

Even those who might dream of taking humans to far-off planets must think hard about how to bring nature along for the ride or gamble all on finding it there and welcoming at the destination. Let the natural world be a truth in your reckoning.

Love is a verb

The advanced idea that ‘love is a verb’ is an antidote to the absurd because it puts an active involvement at the centre of choices. It puts a rudder in the waters of chaos and brings the first two ideas into your choice in the now. How will you chose your next action in the context of valuing your wellbeing, and staying connected with the fundamental truth of nature? From those two truths you can triangulate more easily to love in the world and towards your own path of truth.

It may well be high tide for the absurd right now, but this too shall pass.

Over scheduled and too busy to worry

over scheduledDo you have the over-scheduled virus? It is a type of modern flu that has all the symptoms you’re sadly familiar with: fatigue, poor sleep, low level physical ailments (sniffles! That half cough!), a constant sense of not quite being ‘all there’ (because you’re keeping at least one eye on the clock to make sure you get to your next appointment on time), and perhaps worst of all is the gnawing doubt that a helluva lot of what is taking up all that time is not actually important. You know, proper important. Especially compared to the things you’re too tired for at the end of the day, like conversation.

I remember conversation, it is when you talk about something other than the logistics of the next day or who will do which chores. I’m sure I’m still capable of it, if only I had the time. Of course any spare time gets soaked up quickly by the ever-present “should do” list or sleep but presumably there’s a possible future in which I’m caught up on all those things and so is someone I know and we could have a conversation. Hahaha When did that become an almost outlandish fantasy?! Even people I know who are retired from work are busy busy busy. Strange days.

Why you stay over scheduled

But you know, there’s a payoff to this behaviour too, a hidden lining that creates comfort. You wouldn’t think so but there’s plenty worse your brain could be doing and keeping you busy today and tomorrow is really quite clever because when we slow down our habit is not to stay in the now. Oh no, we send our giant brains out into the days beyond and into what might happen. Dangerous ground indeed for this is the hunting grounds for anxiety. Dwell briefly in the future and make a decision about the suitable path and all is well, one can navigate through events and respond when challenges arise. Lingering in the permutations of what might be is necessary for great work but demands huge capacity to defend and define one’s limits and scope. Otherwise the clever early-mammal part of your brain is lured into a hamster wheel of what ifs and becomes trapped in the momentum of its own spinning. Anxiety feeds on you again. There’s a nascent part of our (perhaps higher) self working hard to explain these traps and warn us of the dangers. We tend not to listen.

The ego believes passionately that we’re above such silly situations. The compromise is our over-scheduling. It appeases the puff of the ego and perilously protects the vulnerable brain from too much anxiety. It would be funny if it wasn’t so personal! So the payoffs are always there in our behaviours. You could call it the comfort of complaining. These habits can be so hard to acknowledge without someone to talk things over with and that time in which to reflect on our own patterns or those of our friends (actually I’m a lot wiser when it comes to other people than I am about myself). I’m also lucky to have some very wise friends! So although I’m over-scheduled I’m cautious about just stopping and so making a gap. Even if I could completely stop work and all my commitments and responsibilities that comes with a different risk. We all know that nature abhors a vacuum and in the past it has been another extreme – anxiety – that filled it. I’d like to do it differently this time. I’d like to find a middle way.

Have you ever tried a self-development course and come across a facile question like “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding?! But I tried, I tried so hard to soar with eagles and do better and be better and unleash the giant within and all that stuff. But what I’ve learned is a hard lesson to share, and it is that pretending you can’t fail is unfalteringly useless and here’s why.

Making a friend of failure

Of course you could fail. Most of us actually live from a primary identity of failure. That’s a constant in our lives. From the moment we fell over learning to walk we have implicitly understood that failure is part of the human condition. Even as a mind game to expand our comfort zone it is really really the wrong question to be asking.

Here’s a question to try on. “What is so important to you that you will do it anyway, knowing that you will fail in part?” It is likely that you will fail to meet your fullest dreams, on the other hand there are amazing discoveries promised if unknown at the outset. How might you answer that question? Take a minute now if you like to roll it around and see what you come up with.

This choice, this engagement with your own private calling, does not ignore or diminish the idea of failure and instead embraces it. It is not some light optimism that evades the shadows or distorts the reality of challenge, but instead a serious call to us to face the source of meaning and value in our lives. It is a middle path that expects courage and offers a radical hope. I’m not quite proud of my failures yet, but I am ready to expand them. Are you? Share your proud failures or your middle path in the comments.

When love let me down

loveWhere is the love?

When the terrorist attacks in Paris happened last year I realised that I did not really believe in love. If “love is all you need” then how can people possibly shoot each other as a political process? If love is the greatest power why do we yearn for retribution in our justice, or worse, for revenge? If love is the ultimate force, then why was I trapped inside fear? It was a dark realisation and humbling. I couldn’t find a way forward. Peace eluded me. Love let me down.

At that time it was easy to notice a retreat into established, shared stories. The escapist movies released after that time in the lead up to the end of the year did particularly well because people sought a retreat from a complicated world. In blockbuster movies bad guys are easy to hate and the violence of the good guys is excused because the ends justify it. When you’re fearful, even kindness feels like a vulnerability. No wonder we draw back from love, it is too much to give! We can barely find love in our hearts for ourselves, families, neighbours or work mates. Why should we give when everyone else is taking?

So love as an ideal was tarnished. Love had not been a possible answer to terrorism.

Love is all we have

But. And yet. Nothing else could answer the question. “What would make the world the best possible place?” Telling people, forcing people, arguing shrilly and judging – none of those things work at any level, in any place, to create a more peaceful and harmonious society.

Love is the only answer that makes sense. Most of the time we think about romantic love and that confuses us. Romantic love is tied to personal intimacy, lust, sex, privacy. Then there’s parental love and so on. None of those are quite right either.

Asking to be healed

I’ve been sick and depressed in life and it isn’t fun, it doesn’t make for a peaceful outlook. I wanted to be better, so be well, to be healed, to be happy. I learnt that the first principle of healing is to participate. That means to ask for it. Ask who? Start with yourself. One of the first healers I ever spoke to said one transformative sentence to me: “What are you willing to give up in order to be well?” Not ‘what would I give’ but ‘what would I release’? In many ways that one sentence lead to all the posts here on this blog, all the ways of reframing worry and debt and embracing choice and the freedom of self knowledge. As I asked to be well over the months and years I was shown my patterns, my behaviours, the choices I was making. It was a process that gave lots of opportunities for experimenting with different ways, with different approaches and experiencing radical changes. We’ve talked around those topics in the last two years in a general way/

In the posts to come I’ll share what I’ve learnt in those experiences from a different perspective in the hope that they help you in your journey. Love didn’t let me down after all, it was there waiting for me, as it is waiting even now for you. We’re going to look at life’s challenges together from inside love. I hope we’re all up to it.

Celebrating Beltane down under

Gundestrup Cauldron, showing Celtic horned god Cernunnos with torc, Denmark, c100 BC. (Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Gundestrup Cauldron, showing Celtic horned god Cernunnos with torc, Denmark, c100 BC. (Photo by CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images)

It is Beltane here in the Southern Hemisphere and sometimes it is hard to see how Australians celebrate this wild time of exploding fertility and the fullness of spring, but we do. You won’t see may poles in many places (unless it is a re-enactment group), and you won’t see Beltane mentioned openly or officially, but we celebrate it. You can’t help but feel the sap rise inside you at this time of year, the urge to connect, renew and (if you still have it in you) ‘fertilise your fields’. Yes, I’m being a little coy about sex there, you’ll see why in a little bit.

Beltane is a sexy time of year. We don’t really go in for dancing naked around a fire – we’re a bit too “occupational safety” minded for that kind of thing, plus we’re touchy about setting off fires, but the partying and fertility rites are here to stay and well out in the open.

Increasingly Australians are deciding to celebrate Halloween. It can be confusing to those of us who honour the wheel of the year and downright frustrating too. However, I’ve realised that there’s a nuance that I’ve been missing. Aussies don’t have many shared rituals – as a multicultural nation of people with diverse and or largely (officially) secular backgrounds, we have a magpie habit of comfortably picking only what we like from things and using it to suit our needs. I think the reason we’re appropriating Halloween is simply because it is a well timed excuse for a dress-up party, right at that time of year when we feel like getting sexy. It is also popular because it is suitable for kids to participate, unlike our major, national event, The Melbourne Cup.

That’s right, “The race that stops a nation” is confusing as a national ritual until you realise that it a default, secular, authorised outlet for Beltane celebrations and energy. All around the country, on a single day, all the normal rules are off. You’re expected to gamble, you’re allowed/ encouraged to drink booze (even at work!), you’re expected to leave your normal inhibitions at home in a box for the day. Punters and partiers dress up and then get really drunk on enormous amounts of alcohol. They have a great time. Loads of people have fun. The horses, not so much. There’s plenty of passed out people, or staggering, puking people and (here’s why I was being coy earlier) eyewitness reports of couples ‘fertilising their fields’ on the track and in the car park by the end of the day. Of course, none of this is mandatory. Some people are able just to enjoy a special lunch. My point is not *gasp* people getting messy, it is that this is a normal working day. A Tuesday.

There is nothing special about this race compared to any of the other major race days throughout the spring carnival. Over time, it was this race that grew, that got a little momentum and here we are with something to hang our Beltane on. Don’t go in for horse racing? No worries, hook into the “Halloween” excuse for a party. Don’t like monsters? Have a BBQ, celebrate your wedding anniversary or one of your friend’s birthdays (November is so conveniently located months after the Australia Day and Valentine’s Day rituals to supply an endless number of birthdays to enjoy.

How ever you prefer it, enjoy your Beltane this weekend.

You just being is awesome

being open your hands RUMIYou, just being here, you’re awesome. You don’t need to “do” anything to be valuable, or worthwhile or precious. You are a wonderful human being. Sure, you’ve got some flaws, everyone does, but you know what? You just being is awesome. That goes for every single sentient being in the world. Imagine how many wonderful people there are behind all those faces that blur past you in the streets or on trains or television. Every one of them is a soul in a body.

So, What do you do for a living?

Mostly we get caught up in what we do. What we do for work. Our culture is very worky worky. Work is, by definition, both a noun and a verb. What we do is called work and when we are doing it we are working. That’s obvious enough. But it pushes just being out of the picture. There’s “working” and then “not-working”.  We don’t remind ourselves that it is useful to just be. Be yourself. Be quiet, be unfunny or a bit sad or thoughtful, be filled with hope, wonder, or just contentment. When you’re worried, anxious or down, that’s who you are too. It is not the job you do for a living that matters it is the being you express by your living.

What people love about you is your being, not your resume

Think about someone you love. Think about what it is about them that you love … I bet it wasn’t that last project they worked on in the office, or their resume, or any of that worky worky stuff. It is in the way their soul shines through and speaks to your soul. You know, that “somehow you make me the better version of myself I like to be” feeling. Maybe you or your beloved is one of those amazing, inspirational people who manage to express their soul in their work day as well. Fantastic and congratulations! Long may you prosper. Ask yourself, if that company crumbled or the economy faltered, and somehow the work was gone would your love for that person vanish too? No.

Connect with being

Maybe put your ‘to-do’ lists aside for a day or two and let yourself rest in being. Let’s be adults, if this is the weekend you’re moving house or catching a plane go ahead and do the things you need to do. But once you’ve done what is needed, stop. Let it be enough. Your purpose is to be here, now, mindful in each moment. Decide moment to moment to do what is needed, or just be. If you can think of something to do that is awesome and expresses your soul into the world, then by all means do it and live long and prosper doing so. If not, you, just being, that’s awesome too.

I love and hate a sunburnt country

Dorothea MacKellarI have been lucky enough to travel to the other side of the world and visit the ‘home country’ (as it was still being called when I was little). I’d always aspired to this cultural ‘homecoming’  in an unconscious way due to a steady childhood diet of English culture, books, stories, myths, music and television. Badges, foxes and the Queen imbued the world that was valued, but not the world that I inhabited. The world I lived in had bushfires, snakes and Christmas in summers so hot you could burst your skin if you got badly sunburnt. It was confusing.
So I went to England to see the Queen, her Tower, and the Thames. I went to Bath and Stonehenge too as well as Stratford on Avon. It was gorgeous and charming. Every day I was excited to see visit and touch another sacred idea of home. The more I saw, the more I wanted to consume. Tintagel, Cornwall, the Lakes District, Portsmouth, Sussex, Sherwood Forrest all the places and names and stories, I wanted to bring them all to life inside of me, and yet … I was homesick.

I didn’t understand the food, the humour, even the greetings. Oak trees were a revelation to me, but the colours all looked too bright and even soft. It was only in England that I began to truly understand what it is to be Australian, to yearn for a big sky. As is so often the case, a writer had been there before me, and put my feelings so well into their own words.

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

Those are the words of Dorothea Mackellar OBE, the opening stanza of her famous poem. Like me, she was a third generation Australian, grown up with stories of the “home countries” and indeed she wrote this poem while visiting England and feeling homesick (source).

I didn’t know this stanza at the time, but I have often reflected on it since. There are in fact six stunning stanzas to this beautiful poem, which it is not currently in vogue to love, as I unashamedly do. But I also hate it, as I sometimes hate the way our country is so very hard to live with. I’m watching the footage on the television of the State of Victoria burning, and I’m feeling terror flood my body. I can hear the popping of the oils in the gums and smell the heavy smoke rushing ahead of the roaring fire front. I feel for the people fleeing their houses, with pets and livestock if they have the time, treasured photos and documents, or just their lives if the wind makes an unexpected push. Next week it could be our neighbours, or Queensland. People wonder at our humour when the farmers of the west can say, “Not much here to burn since the four years of drought.”

I can’t laugh. Grief overtakes me. Floods may come soon after, or the rains may not come for years yet, as El Nino grows in strength here and sends La Nina to Argentina.

Sometimes I hear city people say “Why do they live there if they know it is a bushfire zone?” and it is a reasonable question for all those millions of Australians who’ve always lived in suburbs or the cities. But not for those who love those ‘far horizons’ that you get in the bush. If you’ve lived in the country, then the odds are that the country lives on in you. We’ve made these nests of humans along the coasts where cyclones and storms might be the seasonal threats and when they pass through the locals shrug and say “It is just part of life, part of living here.” They would never leave either. They love the ‘jewel-sea’. Why does this love hurt? It is love, we all chose to stay – far though we may roam.

Sunburnt and happy

Australians like to travel, we all have stories to flesh out and names to bring to life in the far distant lands. We are the long-haul hard-core travellers. It is long hours to even our nearest neighbours. Nearly all of us come back here, gratefully, to this place with the contradictions that form us and the skies we miss and the beaches for endless holidays. We boast of our sunburn and deadly animals, much as we work hard to avoid them all at any cost. Sometimes I think the bush ballads are too honest now for our desire to be sophisticated and urbane. I am torn between the unendurable summers and their suffering and the longing I have when I’m gone. I envy Dorothea the clarity of her vision, and the resilience of her spirit in facing a lifetime without air-conditioning!

I’m a long way from resolving my passionate confusion over this country and even my relationship with this poem. I will grieve for our brothers and sisters in Victoria who face such hardship this week, and support them when the times comes to rebuild as we all know and trust that we will do for each other here. Because one thing is always true in Australia, this is not a land tamed by humans, it is not domesticated. Slowly, every generation, it seeps into our souls ever further and we are trained to live with it, we are the ones who must learn her long and secret ways. We are stubborn, but she is eternal. I may well spend many years trying to hear that gum-soft whisperof her love. For now we shall leave the last words to Dorothea (listen to her recite the poem).

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
Image source.

Living with depression

can't even adultA bout in the ring with the black dog this week. There’s never a winner so sport metaphors are fundamentally flawed but it does feel like a fight rather than a dance. In reflecting on what it is like to live with depression from inside it, I will use the first person. I don’t know what it is like for anyone else and indeed this illness is fundamentally isolating, so it is doubly hard to create any sense of connection at all from within it, let alone with my fellow travelers. Also, I chose first person to remind us both that this is a moment in time that I want to share with you as honestly as I can – not a story ‘about a friend’ or as an academic survey or a summary of therapy and help options. All these things already exist elsewhere and by people better qualified than me, I’m just someone living with depression who this week can think of nothing more useful or honest than describing what that is like.

I’m crazy to tell you I have depression

By the way this is not sympathy fishing or for pity or some kind of release for me. After all I’d be crazy to tell the world I have depression. Who’d hire someone like that or be friends with them!?  Well apart from that, from inside this place, those are not emotional states or exchanges I require. They don’t make any sense in here. I’m motivated because I know other people are curious about what it is like and generally they’re too polite or thoughtful to ask (or of course they have their own journey in these lands). In this place I am not verbally capable of answering and generally I work hard to hide this experience. This time I am doing something different. I’m telling the truth as gently and carefully as possible, but the truth nonetheless. If you’re uninterested in reading, I understand completely. I’m uninterested in continuing to experience this, so you have my sympathy.

Living through a depression is for me an experience of involuntary retreat. I can see my normal self at a distance. I have some limited access to the positive emotions of that person however not very much to the positive ones. I know I’m eating delicious food and it is a beautiful day but there is no connection to the sensation of pleasure or the emotion of joy. The bright colours of my clothes feel grey. They are part of my camouflage to try and act normal, to get by in the normal world.

A hollow world

My world today is hollow, grey and has no taste. I am become a meaningless burden on society and the earth. My body is sorrow and I am dissolved into nothing. Through that umbilical thread that connects me to my normal self, I can see that this hurts those who love me and that they’re reaching out, trying and wanting to help me. My normal self feels guilt for their pain and shame at this involuntary weakness. From where I am now, I brush it off. I smile (yes, I know it looks fake but I’m trying ok) and say ‘it is ok, I’m sure it will pass soon’ or some such distraction. It is a white lie that makes my normal self feel a little better about the cleanup she’ll have to do when it is all over and she hopes to still have friends. She’s aghast that I’ve decided to write this today but respects my decision and reasons to do so. She’s given her commitment to stand by it later, but I know that she’s worried about it. Selfish cow. As I like to remind her – we’re all in this together.

I am one, I am many

Does it make you uncomfortable that I’m speaking about parts of myself in the third person? It is something that helps me remember that the hollow lands of depression are not the only place I am a citizen. There are times when this me who survives these times of annihilation is just a memory too. When I didn’t have this technique, thoughts of suicide were common inside this place. After all the normal me was completely lost then in the maze. When no joys can be felt or even remembered, the hollowness that stretches out is unbearable.

Compartmentalising things is useful and so is keeping chunks of time in short bursts. There can be no far horizons in this place. Keep to just now as much as possible. For me this means the routines of life need to be honoured. Gentle exercise, scheduled tasks, as many as possible of the responsibilities of normal life need to be maintained. My normal self knows that these all contribute to alleviating the length and severity of the bout overall. They also help in hiding what is going on for such useful purposes as staying employed. I do all these things and it is an autopilot setting. It is not infallible. It feels stupid, but normal me knows it helps. I’m no brave little soldier, I need my time under a blanket too, but just as easily I can stop and sit and the day will pass unheeded around me.

So many days gone by

That’s what I used to do before I understood what this was and what was happening to me. When I was little it was seen as “being moody” and not simply snapping out of it was considered a belligerent act of rebellion. I can’t begin to unpack that right now, irony is also too subtle for this state. It was a long time ago, so it doesn’t really matter, but in hindsight there were so many days where I was lost in the hollow lands. I wish I’d had some help sooner, but I had no way of asking for it, nor of accepting it had it come.

Help did eventually come in the unusual shape of the suggestion in my normal life to help others whenever possible. This simple thing ended up creating a radical shift. We could summarise it as ‘learning how to be nice’. One of the life-altering outcomes of this that effortlessly translates from normal life over into the hollow lands is that I got a dog. I wanted someone to love and care for that wouldn’t be too harsh about my failings as a human and I had no idea that I would forever after be the greater recipient. Even in the hollow lands, that little dog fearlessly and lovingly trots next no me, happy to walk if I walk and happy to nap under the blanket too.

I’m trying to find a silver lining in the dark grey cloud, and it would be that little dog. His love built the bridge that I use to travel back to normal land. He taught me that love can survive even in the hollow lands and there could have been no greater gift for me. It lead me into a happy future, where this is a place I only visit, not live.

Boldly go in your direction

keep-calm-and-boldly-goWe’ve talked about starting over and it is worth touching on that idea again, because the pressure is often to do Big Things. You know, Those Boldly go where no man has gone before expectations*. That’s fun for a while if you are an intergalactic adventurer, or a woman. (I mean I even got to make a pennyfarthing where no wo-man had gone before) but at a certain point, most of us just want some help with the basic “boldly go” part.  Those first steps or stumble in a new (for us) journey are their own bold adventure. It could be asking for help to plan an overseas holiday when you’ve never left the city but everyone around you is infecting you with their itchy feet.

Taking action in alignment with your own values put you back into the driver seat of your own life. Freedom is in being bold on your own terms. Maybe committing to a slow shift in your eating habits, or starting to go for walks again or maybe a gym session or saving money. Whatever it is for you, where you’ve had a hint of fear, or worry about what other people are going to say, or if you’ll look silly, or fail, or or or … well, that’s an opportunity for some bold baby stepping.

Boldly go (but in bitty bubby steps)

We yearn for big wins and particularly successful people who are used to achievement forget that starting over is all about starting small. By small, we mean really small. Simple. Two minute tasks, being mindful, remembering to make a choice rather than react. These are the baby-what’s the next thing I could do that takes me towards what I want? Take a little action, bitty bubby ones but bold, feel bold. You’re courageous! You’re brave! You can totally do this!

Be bold baby!

By the way, it doesn’t even have to be about fulfilling your dreams, maybe just do the things that are bugging you and that let you simplify that endless to-do list.

Sometimes being bold is saying “no, thanks.”

No to more commitments, things that serve other people, or things that aren’t helping you get your own stuff sorted. Maybe being bold for you is asking for some help (maybe from all those people you’ve already been helping all this time?) or be bold and be brutally honest with yourself about what is really important to you.

So muddle onwards in your own direction and boldly be yourself. There honestly is no one better suited to it than you.

*Like discovering new galaxies or intelligent alien life. No pressure, right?

Frozen in fear

Rabbit medicine image by Angela C WernekeHave you ever done something so weird and against your own self-interests that your best friend says to you “That was self-sabotage.” And you can’t help but miserably nod your head and mumble “I don’t know what came over me.” It was fear that came over you.

Fear that was stealthy, sneaky, predatory. Fear knows how to trick you and catch you and then let you be the agent of your own downfall. If you’ve felt self-sabotage, it is a particularly horrible feeling. Sometimes, despite our rational intentions, we act like the natural prey of the thing we’re most afraid of – a rabbit covering under the screamingly fast approach of the eagle’s outstretched shadow. In that cramped crouch we are calling ruin upon us.

Snuggle down little bunnies and breathe deeply here in the safety of our burrow, we will learn a different relationship to fear. We currently have a curse on us, we turned away from something big one day and when we glanced back we’d lost sight of that strength and sense of personal power that gives us confidence in normal living.  Perhaps you didn’t know how to stand up to a verbal bully, or you took a fall of some kind, it doesn’t matter you got left behind in something important. Fear has found your signal now and you’re the hunted.

The fear and danger of beginning

One of the richest hunting grounds for fear is in beginnings. Rabbits make a great symbol for beginnings – so fertile, so closely associated with spring. They’re good eating too and mostly without weapons or armour. So when we begin something new, there’s a tendency to dwell on all the ways we’re vulnerable and at risk. How do you approach being at risk? Lots of times it makes sense to do research on the risks and plan how to avoid or respond to them doesn’t it? A lot of times, too, our friends or mentors suggest that we “face fears head on!” Ah. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Sounds brave and tough and more likely to be successful than cowering. Well maybe that works for some people but if this doesn’t work for you here’s something else to try.

Not everything needs a fight with fear

Most of learning something new, or making a new beginning isn’t about fighting, it’s about accepting. A beginning means something is going to be different and any fear that shows up at that time is a great invitation to expand. If you’re busy fighting it, it can use the distraction to send a flanking movement around to sneak up on you, all that energy you’re putting out is going in the wrong direction. Perhaps instead you could invite it over for tea and cake and once it has settled in, let it tell you what’s going on for it. Your fear is, after all, the shadow of your dreams. Let fear join your team, let it have a place at the table to discuss strategies and ideas it has seen further than you have right now down the path you desire and if you’re not fighting you have a chance of growing together and becoming more than the sum of your parts.

Fear might be uncomfortable to have around regularly, but much better there in your lounge room where you can get hot under the collar together and work things through than behind you with a knife in your frozen back.

Image credit: “Rabbit medicine” by Angela C Werneke in ‘Medicine Cards’ by Sams and Carson (1988).