It all started in the early hours of New Year’s Day when a very tall and very wide bloke (you could say he was built like a brick shi!house) decided he give out free hugs in the nightclub. He said he’d had to bulk up so he could “keep up with the boys back home”. Then he proceeded, in his rather inebriated state, to lean all his bulk into me while he hugged me. My spine curved into a C-shape backwards and I felt a tugging sensation in my lower back. My stilettoes were more than three inches high and didn’t give me a solid base. Later, as I stood in the inevitable line waiting for a cab, my back felt a little sore.
Over the next few weeks, I had a bit of physiotherapy and then continued on with my life as normal. I was in a full-on, senior role in a high-pressure work environment and had a frenetic social life that matched a single woman in her 30s who loved to meet people, dance and have a good time.
Then, somewhere between ANZAC Day and Easter, I bent over in the shower and felt a sudden, sharp and very painful feeling in my lower back. I could barely stand back up again and can remember feeling fearful and panicky. Aside from my much-loved cat, Super Puss, I lived alone. I called in sick and somehow managed to lever myself into the car to drive to see my physiotherapist, Anne. I remember the look on her face when she came into the waiting area to greet me – she knew something was very, very wrong. I was in so much pain.
It turned out I had a desiccated disc in my lower back. As someone with hyper-flexible hips who danced Latin but didn’t have much core strength, my back didn’t have enough support. I was also highly stressed. That guy and his hug had triggered a weakness and begun a trajectory that led me to Anne’s office.
Ironically, I’d never really understood when people said they had back pain. I mean, I was compassionate to a point but a small part of me always thought maybe it wasn’t really that bad. Ha! Turns out I was definitely wrong – thanks Universe for that lesson.
I had to give up all the things I wanted and valued – my yoga, my dancing, socialising, my stilettoes (going to work in sandshoes everyday felt humiliating by my standards). I went to work, came home, went to physio, came home and that was about it. Most movement was painful most of the time. Getting out of bed was a challenge that required strategic thought and concentrated coordination. Anne was incredibly supportive during this time – every step of the way, she encouraged me, propped me up and was firm when needed. She was a godsend.
However, I wasn’t always gracious and accepting of my situation. It’s incredibly hard when your body decides to do something you don’t want it to do. There were times when I felt so resentful and frustrated. I can remember being halfway through a rehabilitation Pilates class for people with back issues and thinking, “I don’t belong here with these back problem losers!”. I felt so full of anger that I started to cry. I got up (slowly) and left. My exit was a concern to Anne and later, when I told her what was going on in my head at the time, she didn’t say a lot but she didn’t recoil from me either. It wasn’t my finest moment but I guess she’d seen people caught in the lows of the healing process before. It sucked.
But while I was in all this pain, stuck mostly at home, feeling, resentful, lonely and wondering if I would ever get back to where I wanted to be, something interesting happened.
For years I’d been talking about writing a book. I’d written ideas and anecdotes on random, scrappy pieces of paper, post-it notes and in notebooks. They were shoved them into a box in my office and left there. Then were also notes in journals and on my computer. I was going to write a book…someday. People told me I should definitely write a book. But it never quite happened.
Suddenly being forced to stop, be still and stuck at home with nothing else to do, I found myself wanting to pull all those notes together. At the very least, I could compile everything into a single Word document.
Over the following weeks and months, Super Puss and I spent a lot of quality time together as I sifted through all those random thoughts and typed them into the computer. But hey, it’s not as if I had somewhere else to go. Being stuck meant I had nothing else to do – so I moved on something long overdue.
Eventually it was all in one document and eventually too, my body started to heal and I was on the road to recovery. Dancing still wasn’t really on the cards but my sexy stilettoes were back on my feet.
A year or so after that awful day in the shower, I was fortunate enough to obtain a lucrative voluntary redundancy. I could be self-funded for a year and in my mind were two things – I could finally tutor at the university part-time and write my book. I did teach at the university and completed the first draft of my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, just after my birthday in October that year.
Why am I sharing this story now? Honestly, I’ve been feeling very resentful and irritated. I am here in Brisvegas when I had planned to relocate to Italy by now. By 30th June I would have obtained my 12-month student visa to study Italian and would be moving into my apartment in Florence. But due to Covid-19, I am not doing these things and instead, I feel stuck. Freaking incredibly and frustratingly stuck.
I’m in the process of accepting that I won’t be moving there for at least 12 months. Of course, I am grateful to be in this country, safe and with all the bounty we have here. And I know a lot of people are in far more desperate situations than I am. I recognise that I am lucky, so very lucky. But I am fighting an internal rebellion with my Soul – she longs to be in Italy and is always called back there. Unfortunately, 2020 has a plan and an energy of its own that, let’s face it, is turning everything we all planned and hoped for, on its head.
I was musing on my frustration and feelings of stuckness this morning and then recalled that time when I hurt my back. That injury led me to take my writing and my book seriously. If that bloke hadn’t pushed all his weight onto me, I may never have written my book at all. One thing leads to another and another but it doesn’t always lead to what you plan for or necessarily want at the time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels stuck right now. We’ve all got things that we want and can’t have at the moment. Sometimes I feel like a bird locked up in a cage – all I want to do is fly.
But when I recall how my first book came together, I’m reminded that the Universe will often force us to pause when we don’t choose to do it for ourselves. In these times, the Universe is saying, “Wait. Now is the time to focus on all the things you’ve delayed because you were too ‘busy’ before. Wait. There are more things that need to shift first before that other thing can occur. Wait. Be patient. Focus. Just wait.”
I’ve got books to finish and a business to keep building. I will get to Italy, just not when I planned to. This breaks my heart. But I realise there is always a reason for the unplanned and unwanted delays we experience.
We just have to be patient and wait for the Universe to reveal the answers when she’s ready.
You can get your copy of The Men I’ve Almost Dated at all good online bookstores or via Lucretia’s Book Store.
A friend of mine is a beautiful writer. As yet unpublished, she finds herself compelled to blog about her life and her experiences. Increasingly this involves writing about loving men, toxic masculinity and the changes that are needed.
Tonight she asked me if there was any point. She is but one woman, sitting alone in her home, writing about some lofty aspiration she would like to see realised. What could sharing her thoughts possibly change?
My response was, “Did Shakespeare change the world?”
Whether you love Shakespeare (like I do) or loathe him, there is no doubt his stories changed the world. His plays were artfully composed commentaries on daily life. His words shone a light on the tragedy and comedy of the human experience.
I daresay Shakespeare doubted the power of his work. What could one playwright change in the world? I’m sure he changed quite a lot.
Our words are powerful when they reach the right people. But we can’t always know who the right people are because so many of us hide our true struggles behind a nicely-presented and socially acceptable façade.
If you feel compelled to share your stories, your perspectives and your passions about how we can make this world a better place, then don’t hesitate.
If you feel compelled to share stories that will entertain, explore or challenge, then share those too.
My friend feels compelled to share her stories because they are meaningful and reflect her experience. You can be sure they will resonate with others too.
Real stories are like that. They reach the right people who need to hear them at the right time. But, as storytellers, we may never know those details. We can only assume that when we feel called to share our story, someone out there needs to hear it.
If you are hesitating to share your story and speak the truths that others need to hear, reach out and let’s talk. This is one of thethings I specialise in – helping Anonymous Storytellers to share their stories with the world.
I’m not a very consistent writer. I never have been. To sit down and write at the same time every day doesn’t come naturally to me. Whether I’m working on a book, drafting a blog or creating copy for a client, there are times when the words will not come no matter how long I stare at the computer screen. I can find myself writing, then rewriting the same sentence to no avail. It will still be crap until I finally abandon the exercise and stomp off to another part of the house, muttering with frustration.
But there will be times when the ideas simply flow through me and onto the pages so quickly there is almost a word pile-up as my fingers struggle to keep up. That’s when I am thankful for the strict edicts of my year 10 typing teacher Miss Dunn who taught me to touch-type on an electric typewriter back in the 80s – yes, I am that old.
Those times of natural creative flow are so effortless and when it’s done, I always know it is good. Or at least, it meets my own exacting standards of good.
My Muse is annoyingly elusive though and can disappear for hours, days or weeks. But she has vehemently demanded my attention when I’ve been in the throes of abject misery – recovering from heartbreak or struggling with anxiety and despair. She often thrives in those environments of emotional turmoil and my creativity can feel almost uncontrollable. I once felt her call every night for a few short months. More than 200 poems, some several pages long, were the result.
A colleague once showed me pictures of the huge, beautiful canvasses she would paint when depressed. “When I’m happy, I can’t paint a thing,” she said. A lot of artists will tell you their creativity thrives when they are in emotional pain. Perhaps that is the Universe’s way of giving us a helping hand in difficult times – giving us something to cling to as we ride the glutenous seas around us and try desperately not to drown in the darkness.
Pain has certainly sparked my creativity many times but living a life that is inspiring has done the same. I can remember years ago, leaving my Monday night university class where I taught a bunch of smart, eager students who couldn’t wait to learn, travelling home, walking in my front door, grabbing my laptop then hurrying out to my back deck where I would write a blog in 20 minutes or less. The energy of my students was so inspiring that my Muse was jumping with joy.
Over the last few weeks I have started to hear the whisper of the Muse in my ear once again. I was afraid she had died or disappeared forever. I’m thankful she has not.
Half-formed ideas now occasionally bob to the surface of my consciousness before disappearing once more. But knowing they are there, is enough to make me feel hopeful that the creative tap is beginning to drip.
I am not struggling with despair but I am consciously seeking out the inspirations of books and art and passionate conversations. Perhaps this shift has heralded the Muse’s return? Only time will tell.
Yikes! After such a long period of time, I can hardly believe it.
What if people hate it? What if they love it? What if they don’t care? The thoughts scurry through my brain before I come back, for a moment, to a place of inner calm because it’s done now. It’s born. All I can do is tell people about it.
So here’s the summary. The Men I’ve Almost Dated is about my life in my 30s, the men I dated (or almost dated), sex, dubious decision-making, divorce and men behaving badly. It’s not a ‘how-to guide’ on getting it right when it comes to men and dating. However, it may be a ‘how-to guide’ on how to get it atrociously wrong. I’ll let you be the judge.
Over the coming days and weeks I’ll be sharing more about my book on this blog and my social media channels – so keep your eyes peeled. But for now, if you’d like to grab yourself a copy, head over to my webpage for all the details. You can buy the eBook version today and the print version will be available in coming weeks.
Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘This is so true. I have to recommend it to everyone I know!’
Well I’ve been doing exactly that about a recent purchase called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight. My book purchase couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d had an incredibly frustrating day full of disrespectful people and challenging situations when, there on the news agency shelf, I saw the book title and just knew I had to buy it. And it has definitely delivered! Now, if you’re offended by the F-word then this clearly isn’t the book for you. However, if you are okay with it then this may be the text that changes your life or at least gets you to reassess the obligations, duties and things you currently believe you have to care about.
Because it’s true many of us can spend a lot of time trying to do the ‘right thing’/give a f**k about things we don’t really care about and this sucks away our energy, time and money. Often the ‘right thing’ doesn’t align with what we want to do, who we want to be, how we want to spend our time or what we’re interested in. Yet we say yes and are drawn into the ‘vortex of should’ when really we just don’t want to do those things at all.
Knight takes a very irreverent (seriously, I laugh aloud when I read this book) approach to looking at the things we think we should do/give a f**k about and challenges every single one of them. From friends to work to family, she casts a glaring spotlight on all those parts of our lives where we feel obligations, guilt and shame and asks us to look at them a differently. Even more importantly, she challenges the reader to begin living more in alignment with what will make them happy rather than trying to make everyone else happy all the time (which we all know is a fool’s errand anyway!). Even more fabulously, Knight provides polite strategies and techniques to help you manage all those important relationships in your life while still saying ‘no’ in a way that helps you ‘stop giving a f**k’ about the things that really add no value to your life.
For example, in her section on boundaries and maintaining friendships Knight offers the following (p.77):
p. Anecdotes and analogies like this are sprinkled throughout the book like hundreds and thousands on party bread and if you don’t laugh several times then I’ll be very, very surprised.
I’m only about two-thirds in but, as I mentioned it to yet another friend this afternoon, I felt I just had to write about it now. Forthright, practical and hilarious, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight is a great book and I wholeheartedly recommend it.
We can all have those times when things grind to a standstill. We will have plans that aren’t coming to fruition, hopes that aren’t being realised, our creativity will have crashed and burned, and we’re running but making no forward progress at all. It will feel like nothing is working.
It can be really challenging to keep up your motivation and I’ve uncovered a few tricks to help me in these times of need so I thought I’d share them with you today.
Go outside and move your body. Sitting at your desk and glaring at your computer screen with frustration will not force your creativity to appear. Instead your creativity will wander off on its own to have a cup of tea elsewhere. Feeling the sun on your face will remind you how wonderful the natural world is and moving your body will get you out of your head (where over-thinking reigns supreme).
Help someone else. When you feel like your stuff isn’t working, no matter how you try, it’s probably a good time to help someone else. It’s a true maxim that what you get is what you give in this world. So go out there and give just because you can. You’ll make someone else’s life easier and helping someone is a reward in itself.
Take a different perspective. If things are stagnating then maybe you’re just doing it wrong. Take the time to step back and look at your situation from a different perspective. Consider if there is a completely new approach you could take. Ask someone else for their opinion if you think it will help. It could be your roadblock is actually forcing you to get on the right track in another direction.
Take a creativity break and fill up your well. We all have activities that fill us up and make our souls sing. For me, I can walk into an art gallery, read a good book or wander through a library and instantly feel more centred, peaceful and happy. These things don’t cost me a cent either! So if you’re stuck, stop hitting your head against the brick wall (you’re just going to hurt yourself) and do something that fills your soul. Gift yourself an hour or an entire day to do that thing. I guarantee you will come back feeling refreshed and a lot calmer about the situation.
The timing is wrong. Sometimes we’ll really want something to happen but the timing will just be wrong. And it won’t matter what you do, it just won’t happen when you want it to. So, if you’ve done everything you can and it’s still not happening, let it sit. Go and do something else for a while. Things happen when they’re supposed to.