Rooms for the Memory – What’s it Really About Anyway?


Rooms For the Memory – What’s it Really About Anyway?
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I will never forget the final months of my step-father’s life, nor the day I got the call summoning my presence because there was something urgent that he and my mother needed to tell me. I didn’t hesitate that day. Instead, I blew off the words of the project I’d been working on and drove the short distance to my folk’s place who live in the next town. All the while, my stomach churned and my nerves fluttered. Somehow, I knew before I arrived that it was cancer.

We hear about it all the time, people dying of cancer. In Australia, cancer is the leading cause of death. Still, nothing can prepare you when it reaches so close to home. I had lost a beloved uncle to cancer years before, but I wasn’t around to witness those horrendous end days. I got the call to come and say goodbye that final day, but by the time I had arrived at the hospital he was gone. I’d missed him by fifteen minutes and it tore me apart on the inside.

It was different with my dad. I was closer to him and it was me that he sought when he wanted to talk about death. For all the beliefs and spiritual teachings I had devoured and practiced over the years, I found myself struggling for the right words to say to him. What do you say when someone you love is dying? What words can you offer without sounding like a Taoist scroll banner?

What did I really know about death anyway?

My mother is the eternal optimist. She couldn’t or wouldn’t allow herself to accept that he was dying – right up until the day I told her that it was time to call my sister, my aunt and cousin to say their goodbyes. I remember the expression on her face when she heard me say those words; the shock as realization dawned. In those moments, the tables had turned. I had become her rock and her carer. There was no return. The fight was almost over, and I knew she had one foot in reality and the other in disbelief.   

It was Friday afternoon, he was incoherent, dazed, and he couldn’t walk unassisted. Their home had been transformed into something that resembled a medical centre. He hadn’t wanted to spend his last days in a hospital, palliative care turned up every few hours to administer morphine and check in on him and my mother.

By that time, there were no more words to tell him except ones of love and surrender. Those last hours were like a living nightmare. Nobody tells you what its like at the end of a cancer battle. Nobody tells you how watching someone you love writhe and grasp onto the final threads of life kills you on the inside. Stubborn man. Right up till the end, and it was his love for my mother that kept him hanging on. He’d been so worried about her life after his death that he tried so hard to stay for her. For her. Even though he was no longer afraid of death.

I’d whispered in his ear and told him that she would be okay, that we would all look after her, that it was okay for him leave now. We all told him.

From Friday afternoon, he fought as hard as I’d ever seen anyone fight. He fought for love. I couldn’t stay with him and my mother the entire time, but my sister and her husband did. I tag-teamed with my husband because we have young children, but even from my home a few miles away, his presence was all around me.

February 18th, 2018 was a beautiful summer Sunday morning. I’d been with them till late the night before, and my husband wanted to be there too. So, I turned to my writing to fill in my mind as I impatiently waited for him to return so I could get back over there. I was working on Rebellion when the call came. He’d gone without me. He wasn’t supposed to leave without me there. But he did, and I didn’t get to hear him take another breath, or whisper in his ear one last time.

He left and the day was gloriously blue and hollow.

He left and my life has never been the same. It’s when the profound moments arrive that we realise life stops for nothing and no one. The same moments when we know our human mortality in its truest form and acknowledge how fleeting our life on this earth really is, and how final death seems when you can no longer pick up the phone and call your dad.

My mother had wanted to dress him before the funeral. She wanted nobody else but me to accompany her. I watched as she shaved him, spoke softly to him while stroking his face and kissing him as she placed his favourite beanie on his head and fixed his shirt. I stood in the corner of the room fidgeting and feeling numb. He didn’t seem real to me anymore – he was empty and frozen, and he was just gone. I couldn’t relate to him in that way because it was no longer him.

I’d felt the distinct difference of his soul no longer occupying his body. His body was just that; a soulless carcass that no longer represented my father. I knew I could get closer to him in other ways because I felt him all around us. Those feelings made me feel awkward during the dressing, I was relieved when it was over and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough.

A few years ago, my step-father and mother stayed with us for a few days. Those were the days when they’d lived interstate and travelled around Australia a lot of the time. One evening, we sat beneath the stars after dinner and chatted over a few drinks and music. That night he’d told me that a day will come in the future when he was dead and gone that I would remember that night with fond memories and a smile. That I would think of the wise words he so readily bestowed on me and remember him.

We didn’t always see things the same way. We disagreed quite often. He was a fatherless man that strived and struggled to provide the guidance of a father, and he was interested in my work and life as a writer. He’d written and published a book himself. Watching me do my writing thing made him proud.

Although I’d pushed his words aside that night, it turns out that he was right – I do recall that night with a smile in my heart, and not because of the guidance he tried to provide, but because of the love he had always shown me.

I have realized that even in death, he has continued to teach me. Nothing ever before has had such an impact on my life. In death, he has taught me that love is eternal; that it really does transcend time and space, and that the way we love in this lifetime matters.

There are a few people in this world who I love but are not currently in my life. People that I have shared time with, loved from the moment we met and haven’t stopped loving them since. If this is it – if this is all I have to let them know that I still care, then every one of these words matters as much as the love that exists within me.

If this moment is all we have, I’ll bubble it with precious love and push it out into the universe and hope they receive it because the way we love matters. And whether those people realize it or not, my love matters too.        


Changing Life Chapters – it’s Easy to Resist Change.

“Love is friendship set on fire.”

~ Jeremy Taylor

What lights you up inside?

Have you ever looked back and imagined your entire life as chapters of a book? And that each chapter began with an inciting incident that eventually led to a critical point that became that one moment when you stood at a crossroads? You remember that one – the time when you knew your decision would determine the way your life would unfold over the months and years to follow.

Of course, we experience more than one of those pivotal moments during a lifetime. It’s how it’s meant to be; how we grow and evolve as individuals and as a species. Besides, life would fast become mundane if we were not periodically presented with new possibilities. It’s as if the universe peels back to reveal a crack every now and then – a sliver wide enough to illuminate a path brimming with alternative prospects of a different life.

Our bellies may flutter as we peek through the doors of a mysterious future. We might slide on our dark shades to peer into the uncharted hours of a life spreading before us like the light of the moon trailing across the ocean’s surface. Thinking … pondering … mulling over the would-be path while we analyse and sift through the possibilities until we decide whether to embrace something different or stay put and play it safe.

Sometimes, it might be a work opportunity or a crazy idea that entails a certain amount of risk. Other times, it might be more personal life choices like love and relationships where the stakes are raised high enough to warrant a vault pole if we decide to take a leap of faith. Whatever the moment is, one thing you can count on is that it will usually show up when you least expect it.

It’s easy to resist change. After all, the future is unpredictable and uncertain. No one can really foretell what the future holds; freewill takes care of that. Gifted psychics and mediums can only take you so far. Their visions are always confined by a higher order. In other words, those intelligent beings existing in the higher realms looking out for you will only allow you to uncover so much about the future. The rest is left solely to your own discovery in order to strengthen your personal growth and life lessons.

Makes sense. If we knew without a doubt the events yet to unfold, how would we really be able to relish those moments as we experience them? We wouldn’t, and that’s the beautiful mystery of life – to be present and participate fully; to feel and resonate with our emotions as our paths wind through rocky waters and soar at wonderous heights, and to anchor ourselves in the present while keeping a firm vision of our ambitions and desires in our mind’s eye.

And this is why the present is all-powerful, because the present is all we have to ground our feet in deep and practice assuming that our desires are fulfilled before we leap into the future. Does this not excite you as it does me? That your dreams and aspirations, desires and hunger to create are as real as you want them to be; as real as the power you decide to extend to them. The energy will always go where it is directed so direct it wisely.

I love the way Neville Goddard expresses this notion in his book The Power of Awareness when he states, “All transformation begins with an intense burning desire to be transformed. You must want to be different before you can begin to change yourself. Then you must make your future dream a present fact. You do this by assuming the feeling of your wish fulfilled.”

We can’t stop change from happening. Even when we think nothing is changing, it always is. The invisible wheels are always shifting in the background of our lives. We change even when we don’t want to change – physically and emotionally, our circumstances, environment and relationships. So, if our lives are always changing, why not embrace the all-powerful present to manipulate your future into your most burning desires?

If we’re being honest here, it is through our relationships that offer us the most value on the everchanging wheel-deal. This is where things can get tricky when thinking about our future, but without those rich and transformative experiences relationships provide, we cannot reach our full emotional potential as evolving human beings.

We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends and lovers. We wear many hats for many different people. Each relationship has its own authentic current pertaining to the two individuals involved; each provides layers and experiences that enrich our lives in some way, even when we are confronted by conflict within those connections. Yet, of all the relationships we experience, it is through the ones we connect with at the heart that really shape and cultivate our lives – the ones that burn like an exquisite flame to light us up on the inside.

Have you ever felt your breath thin and your heart explode when confronted by that special someone? Or told someone that they were the best part of your day and meant every word?

Love. Messy, scary, exciting, beautiful love. Everyone experiences it differently, and each time it happens, it is never the same as the time before. Anyone that has experienced it knows it is the best feeling ever. Love is like a rainbow; even when it’s not returned, it is still filled with glorious colors that shade your heart with beauty. Love is never wrong. Never. But the thing about love is that it is subjective and intangible, and it’s different for us all.

It can grow and flourish, making us feel smitten, crazy happy and utterly delirious with all things wonderful. And sometimes, it can take a turn and produce the opposite effects – it can sour and hinder your happiness, clip your wings and make you sad. Sometimes, love just runs its course for the length it takes for that relationship to reach its full potential. This is when the two in question become passive within the connection; when they no longer challenge and fuel one another at the deep levels required in order to continue evolving and learning from the union.

I know this situation well. We probably all have at some point or another. Remember earlier when I mentioned imagining the everchanging sections of our lives like chapters of a book? Here’s the super-short version of one long chapter in my life, and it all started with a guy…

Love was the inciting incident. I fell in love with a guy I had known during my childhood years. He reappeared into my life like a lovely blonde vision with a cute smile and a gentle demeanor, and every part of me succumbed to his blue-eyed, boyish charm. Yep, I totally melted while my heart sang and other parts went wildly crazy. It wasn’t long before he took me to the beach, produced a diamond and asked for my hand in marriage. Truth be told, it scared the bejesus out of me. I was 21 years old with plans to travel and see the world before thinking about marriage. But he was so damned vulnerable and sincere in that moment that I couldn’t bear the thought of turning him down.

My bad.

The usual entailed; we set out to make a life together. We moved around a bit until eventually buying a house, cars and furniture; a cat came along … then children. Travel emerged too. We cruised the south Pacific, visiting cool places like Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia. We flew to New Zealand to spend time with his Kiwi family, and he bought me stuff – lots of stuff. I was buried beneath so much stuff, I didn’t know what to do with it.

Hmm.

Progressive complications are … well … complicated. Not all things are what they appear to be. Come to think of it, most things aren’t what they appear to be. On the outside we appeared to be the perfect family. Lots of stuff and travel makes for a convincing veil. Yet there is truth to that old saying about what happens behind closed doors. You know those kinds of people that don’t possess the ability to recognize their own toxic behavior and the effects it has on others? They are the worst kinds of bullies because you cannot reason with them no matter how much you try.

I tried hard.

For many years I over-stayed my welcome in a marriage with thoughts of making it work. I was really kidding myself, but we’re all pretty good at that, right? The idea of change was terrifying. There was our jointly owned home to consider, combined assets and finances, and of course, the cat and the children.

Life happens…

The months turned into years and more years, and I knew in my core that that relationship could no longer serve me in the ways I yearned to be served. The connection had faltered, waned and had become a shadow of the beginning. I longed to be able to connect at a meaningful level; needed to relate and expand in ways that he was unable to reach – through soul, spirit, intellect. Which naturally spills over into producing the ultimate bedroom experiences, by the way.

Sigh.

We all do the best with what we have and what we are capable of in the moment. It took me a while to realize that he wasn’t capable of taking a hard look at himself and readjusting accordingly at that time in his life. But these were my lessons too, and I strongly believe that we never get more than what we can take.

I took a lot, and lots of stuff doesn’t come close to filling the void within.

This really was nobody’s fault. He was physically and emotionally abusive, controlling, and extremely difficult to live with. Yet, that was his hang up; his own demons that would become his undoing. In the early years before we had children, there were times when he would lock me in our apartment before he’d go to work his night shift. He would lock me in there with no way out, only to return home and demand to inspect my nether region.

Was it fresh, plump and pink this day? Or had it taken a serving?

God forbid had I decided to serve myself while the cat was away. Have you ever been subjected to that line of questioning as someone has their nose buried between your legs with a microscope in hand?

“Uh-hum, it appears you are somewhat swollen.” Dark frown raises with suspicion. “Who’s been here?”

“Huh? Are you out of your mind?”

Yeah, someone was losing it and I’m certain it was me. He actually didn’t have a microscope, but considering the amount of effort he put into these inspections, he may as well have. Besides feeling utterly violated at such a derogatory treatment, I had no idea how he thought another man could get in. Too bad if the building caught fire too. I would’ve been toast.

The Crisis eventually arrived in the form of suffocation. Over the years our relationship had disintegrated to the point of disparity and existed for the sake of familiarity, the vows we had taken and the children we had created. Discordance dominated the connection; the pages in our book were verging on an entirely different series. Emptiness replaced the meaningful exchanges and delicious intimacy we had once thrived on – and yes, that was there in the beginning. But intimacy and connecting had become something of the past and I needed more for myself, and yet, I buried that internal need to grow for the longest of times.

The universe offered a crack. I had a choice.

If I continued to play it safe, I would be better off financially and the children would not have to endure the reality of a broken home. Stay and I wouldn’t have to endure hardship or raise three children alone; stay and I would remain miserable and oppressed, and in doing so, I would inevitably deny myself of my own truth.

Climaxes are not always earth-shatteringly exquisite, but they always bring change. I’m not certain what finally broke the final piece of resistance, but suddenly, something clicked inside of me – I couldn’t deny what I needed and craved in order to nourish my soul. It was then that I began the change by anchoring myself in the present and daring to see my life differently; a life that he had spent years trying to convince me that I was too weak to create.

 So, one day when he was condemning and criticizing me, I looked him in the eye and told him that he could try as hard as he liked but he would NEVER break me. Then I did it – I made the first moves to make a change that I had thought was nearly impossible.

He wasn’t an easy man to escape. Those who thrive on controlling women never are. He even threw things at me as I held my terrified two-year-old and stuffed my belongings in boxes as I prepared to shift myself and my children out of there.

Resolutions are like a breath of fresh air asthe new normal settles in your bones. I had resisted change because I was afraid of the unknown, but it was when I peeked through the crack the universe had provided for long enough that I believed that I was able to place my faith in an uncharted future. It was either that or continue on the same path that wasn’t lighting me up on the inside. And that is what it comes down to – knowing when to embrace the mysteries of an unmapped future and when to play it safe.

The future is there regardless. Playing it safe and hiding from exciting opportunities or unbridled passion, or just a change for the better might be terrifying, but it won’t enrich your life in the same ways that owning your truth will. We are here to carve our notch on the surface of time. If we don’t write our chapters with our authentic selves, then we cheat ourselves more than anyone.

It’s like being faced with a field of blooming daisies and the universe cracks open to present you a rare wildflower. Picking the wildflower could be risky and exhilarating, but it could mean the beginning of the next chapter in your life if you are but game and brave enough to pluck the stem from the universe and step into the uncharted future.

The Girl Can Shine

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“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield

I used to be afraid of so many things. When I was a child, I was scared of growing up and facing a life without my parents. I was afraid of the Easter Bunny and the milkman, and the thought of death had my head spinning in a thousand directions. Most of all, I was afraid of being myself. I never knew who I really was beneath the fleshy exterior and the questionable outfits my mother dressed me in. I was super self-conscious, and I couldn’t quite figure out my place in the world. The only place I felt comfortable was in the inner sanctuary of my mind.

Insecurity is a strange thing to ponder. Where does it spring from? How does it cultivate and flourish even under pleasant living conditions? My early childhood home was a safe and loving environment. Both of my parents are wonderful people, and my mother worked on strengthening my self-perception. Yet, no matter what she did or said, there was a constant underlying feeling of inadequacy shadowing my every waking moment. I felt awkward and self-conscious almost all the time – to the point that I was crippled on the inside. I had allowed those self-deprecating emotions to squander many opportunities throughout my early adulthood, which played a massive role in accepting the mistreatment of others.

I was around seven years old when my parents took me and my little brother one weekend to visit family friends who lived in Sydney’s north shores. If you’re familiar with Sydney, you’ll know those beautiful northern beaches and suburbs are populated with the spectacular homes reserved for the wealthy and famous. As it happened, one of my mother’s girlfriends had recently married a lovely man with ready-made kids, a seriously humongous mansion on the north shore, and a rather well-oiled, erratic mental disorder – and we, the nuclear family from the southern burbs, were lugging up for a weekend to experience how the other half lived.

I must be honest here, I was pumped. I mean, the moment I laid eyes on that outrageously big home, my breath caught somewhere in my lungs and my heart thundered in wonder. I know when you’re that age everything seems bigger than what it really is, but I can tell you that that home was set back among lofty trees and overlooked a lush valley leading to the water, and it was the most beautiful home I’d ever seen.

The interior of the manor was four levels of wonderment. The plush piled rooms were spacious, the kitchen and bathrooms were shiny and modern, and the Barbie-lookalike girl of the house slept beneath an elaborate weave of lace on the biggest bed I’d ever seen. Well, for a child’s standards anyhow.

She looked like a character straight out of one of my Golden Books, and even had a romantic name – Krystal – and I swear, when she clasped her delicate fingers around mine and rushed me toward her bedroom, I froze at the threshold and blinked – had I suddenly been pulled through a rabbit hole and emerged between the pages of a Golden Book?

As I gazed around the candy-colored room brimming with the latest gadgets, a huge doll house and all the toys under the rainbow, I decided I had. I wasn’t aware that other little girls slept beneath draping sheer fabric other than in the movies and my books. I had to be in a fairy tale – there was no other explanation.

Considering that up until that moment I had shared a rather small room with my little brother, you can understand how that possibility was a viable option for me.

After I managed to pull myself from the initial reaction to Krystal’s room, I allowed her to entice me further into her lair. She was excited to show me all her wonderful things, and I was eager to see them. Yet as she moved around the vast pink room with her chest puffed, her golden hair flowing down her back and her baby blues peering from a china-doll face, something else began to happen – me.

This stunning little creature with cherry-colored rosettes for lips and the glossiest blonde hair I’d seen outside of my Barbie doll collection had me enthralled. The thick carpet beneath my feet seemed to suck me further into its twisted pile and my entire body shifted into something extremely awkward as it dawned on me that this was a fairy tale and she was a real-life princess.

So, what did that make me?

Erm. Well, I’m going with the ugly duckling analogy here because that’s exactly how I felt. Better that than the wicked stepmother.

This lovely princess was confident and pretty, and she didn’t seem to second guess herself. She didn’t have to as this was a girl who appeared to have it all. She glided around the carpet like a swan skimming the calm blue ocean, gracefully flicking her hair when she laughed. And she laughed a lot. Turned out, she was a killer on the dance floor too – I know this because our parents took us out for dinner to a club that had a dance competition on the Saturday night and forced us kids to get on stage and boogie.

She won, by the way. Surprise, surprise.

The point is that this china-doll was everything I was not. She was perfect. I spent most of the weekend shrinking on the inside while my insecurities burned like a wildfire. If I could tell my younger self anything, I would remind her to love herself just a bit more than what she did, and I would tell her not to be afraid to shine. Because, at the end the day, that’s what insecurities boil down to – lack of self-love and self-belief.

I keep banners around my house. These are wonderful wise snippets shared from the likes of the Dalai Lama, native American beliefs and other ancient spiritual teachings. They’re everywhere. They’re in the kitchen, my office, the loo, my bedroom … I even have one hanging in my closet. I am someone that needs to constantly remind myself of the bigger picture, as I can become overwhelmed with life at times, and I know how easy it can be to slip back into old thinking patterns – those childhood feelings of inadequacy are never really that far below the surface.

One of my favorites is from Nelson Mandela when he talks about fear. Part of the quote is as follows:

“It is our light not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are we not to be?”        

I love these words, and I realize now that playing small doesn’t serve the world, and that shrinking into the darkness and dimming my light doesn’t benefit me and won’t enrich my life. I won’t grow and flourish by continuing to doubt myself and think small.

I have come a long way since that little “ugly duckling” plagued with insecurities, and it didn’t come easy to reach the point where I am now. I had to deliberately set out to adjust my inner-perspectives and practice a bucket load of intentional change in my thought patterns, but over the years I’ve been able to tame the self-doubts and insecurities to something manageable.

Do I always get it right? Nope. But each time I feel that wobble, the one that says, “Who do you think you are to be doing what you’re doing?”, I take a few breaths and remind myself that a life lived in fear is a life half lived, and then I keep going, pushing myself to take the chances; putting myself out there in ways I could never have imagined, telling people how I really feel and baring my soul to the world. I do this because I am here to experience, expand, evolve and love like crazy. Why hold back when time is not on your side?

We are born on the leading edge of creation. We are born to shine. No matter how deep I must dig to find the courage to keep reaching for more, I’ll do it, because I am no longer that “ugly duckling” shrinking with insecurities and succumbing to the fear; I am the swan skimming over the surface of the calm, blue ocean.

So, the next time you feel that fear-wobble circling down your spine and threatening to overcome you, remember that everything you want is on the other side of fear, and consider these words from Nelson Mandela: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

You too are a magnificent swan – and the ocean is your playground. Play with me.