Things I love

  • It is time to love your body

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    Oh yes, once again it is my favourite time of the year. When all the magazines pop the Kardashian’s away for a couple of weeks and excitedly reveal their best celebrity bikini body makeover stories for 2016 (actually forget that,  there is probably a Kardashian in there somewhere!)

    Yes, after a few weeks of eating cheese, Christmas pudding, pavlova, and more cheese, I can’t wait to scan the supermarket shelves and indulge in a bit of body self loathing as taut bikini bodied celebrities tell me how I too can be happy and successful, if only I was ‘half my size!’ Hmmm, if I was actually half my size, then I would spend my Summer in hospital, but don’t let that get in the way of a good story!

    Well, I am sorry ‘Woman’s Who New Weekly Idea Day Magazine’ I won’t be joining in your ‘fun’ and berating myself for not looking like Elle MacPherson, I’ll be too busy actually enjoying my life.  Because guess what? She’s got her genes (tall, long limbed, lean and tanned) and I’ve got mine (tallish, medium limbed, pear shaped and white as a lily). She makes her dietary choices and I make mine (mine would probably involve more carbs I’d hazard a guess). She has her exercise routine and I have mine (or I will do when I actually get moving for the year).  I’m also reasonably sure that even if I follow Elle’s 4 week diet plan that I saw on a recent magazine cover, I will still look a lot like me (albeit a little more miserable from depriving myself of pasta).

    My body is that of a woman in her mid forties who has given birth to three children and god damn I am proud of it. Here are but a few reasons why:

    • I can still wrestle and pin down my 13 year old son to land a kiss on him (although this is getting admittedly harder)
    • I can still jump and bounce on a trampoline with my daughters (providing I have been to the toilet first)
    • I can still dance the night away like I am 20 (although unfortunately I can no longer ‘drop it like it’s hot’)
    • I can still comfortably walk, hike, jump, and even run short distances if need be (but not skip: I never have been able to skip for some reason)

    In other words, my body works pretty darn well: I certainly have a few aches and pains brought on with middle age, but on the whole what a blessing this body of mine that gives me life is.

    So why would I care if my tummy isn’t perfectly flat, my thighs have a bit of jiggle, and my bum is of the biggish variety: I am ok with that. My husband is ok with that. My kids are ok with that. I’m pretty sure my friends are ok with that. I’m guessing what they wouldn’t be happy with is a wife, mum, and friend who hated the way she looked, who sat on the sidelines of life because she cared what others might think of her. Who won’t ever get in her bathers in case someone sees those jiggly white thighs of hers. Fuck that for a joke. Life is for living, for having fun, for diving into the ocean…and for eating cheese.

    Except, for one thing. The media tells me I shouldn’t be ok with that. Instagram tells me I should be thinner to feel good, people on Facebook fat shame normal sized women all the time, and those god damn magazines tell me that the celebrity bikini lifestyle is what I crave,

    But I know one thing they don’t know: I know myself. I am Melissa, I am on the other side of forty and I choose not to give a shit what anyone I don’t love thinks about me.

    So here I am at the beginning of 2016, I’ve got my mum bathers on and I’m whooping and dive bombing into my swimming pool with my kids. You may not see a photo of it on Instagram: but that’s ok, I’m having too much fun to get my phone out anyway!

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    P.S. When I first saw this photo of me from my holiday to Greece (which is now one of my favourites of myself) my immediate thought was how my billowing top made me look so huge. Is this the first thing you noticed? I’m guessing you saw the beautiful scenery and a woman who is loving her life. If I had listened to that little voice, this photo would have never seen the light of day. Remember we always have a choice in whether to listen to those negative stories we tell ourselves, x

     

     

  • When did you stop being creative?

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    If you’re alive, you’re a creative person ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

    There is a faded water stained picture I have in my possession that I drew in 1978 (and yes I feel old when I realise that was 37 years ago!) It is of a group of women at the hairdresser…and I love it.  I love the the smiles on their faces, the detail of the salon, including some spiffy wigs for sale…just looking at it transports me back to being 8 years old and the feeling of joy and quiet satisfaction I felt when engaged in doing something I loved.

    Now, I am under no illusions about my talents for drawing, and my woeful colouring in in this picture confirms my distinct lack of skills in this area. However, I love this drawing because it was probably the last time I created a piece of art and felt it was good enough. You see in my family (for better or worse), my younger sister was known as the ‘arty’ one, and I was considered the ‘brainy’ one. This may have been purely because I wore chunky tortoiseshell rimmed glasses as a kid in the seventies (before hipsters made them cool may I add) but regardless, these labels stuck for us both. I started to value my worth around being good academically at school, and viewed creativity and art as something my sister was good at and I was hopeless at.

    And guess what? These self imposed labels stuck for YEARS. I completely stopped drawing (even though I used to love it) because I felt I was no good at it.

    The amazing Elizabeth Gilbert (my literary girl crush) spoke about this recently, and shared the following, “All children naturally love to draw, but as time goes by, the talented and the gifted are singled out for specialness, and the rest of us put down our pencils, watercolors, and crayons forever — thereby losing a vital and exciting part of our creative interior lives.”

    In other words, most of us stop drawing at a very specific point in our lives: the moment we were told (or decided for ourselves) that we weren’t good at it.

    This was certainly true for me, and I can honestly say that I never attempted to draw again until a couple of years ago, when on the other side of forty, I started tentatively looking for the creative being I knew lurked deep within me. On a whim, I decided to enter an art supplies store (all the while feeling like a complete fraud) and hastily bought a sketchbook and drawing pencils. I left feeling strangely exhilarated, and as I hesitantly put my pencil to paper for the first time in so many years, I felt time stand still and once again entered that magical state known as creative flow.

    Now, I’d love to say that I immediately created some amazing art (it was pretty crap actually!) but I didn’t care, I felt a long stifled feeling of creative life-force reappear, much like when I started writing again, or when I dance without abandon around my living room. These are feelings we must treasure throughout our lives, and not abandon to our long ago youth.

    For as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently says in her latest book ‘Big Magic’, “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner-continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you-is a fine art, in and of itself.”

    I for one want to live my life like this, how about you?

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    bigmagic_gilbertI loved the book Big Magic so much, that I would love to GIVEAWAY a copy as it is truly a life changing read. Simply make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter (sign up in the green box above if you have not already), and comment below about your creative journey: Do you see yourself as creative? Did you give up being creative as a kid? How do you express yourself creatively? 

    I will randomly choose a winner and announce on Facebook, Instagram, and my newsletter by Wednesday 18 November. GOOD LUCK!

  • Getting back to Nature

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    “You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day. Unless you are busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” old Zen saying

    Ever since my children were little, we have been taking ourselves to a wonderful part of the world called Wilson’s Prom once a year. As soon as we drive over the cattle grid and into the national park, I feel my shoulders start to loosen and my mind start to wind down. I consider it a well needed chance to stop, pause and reflect on what has been, before marching headlong towards the inevitably busy remainder of the year.

    Now if you know me personally, you will also know that I am not a ‘roughing it’ type of gal, so even though I have camped in the past and will probably (if I’m made to) do it again, it is not my ideal way of getting back to nature. At Wilsons Prom they have some great little cabins you can rent, so I can immerse myself in nature all day, and then retreat to a comfy bed (and a bottle of chilled Pinot Gris) at the end of the day #glampingforthewin

    There are many reasons we keep coming back here year after year, and they can easily be applied to any beautiful natural setting that you spend time in. So without further ado, here are my top 4 reasons for getting back to nature with your loved ones:

    • Connectedness. It is an ironic fact that in this day and age you have to disconnect to reconnect. Devices are not an option on this holiday (well except for the odd sneaky Instagram photo by moi) and this certainly makes a big difference to my families level of interactiveness. We play cards, we hike, we go on night walks, and the bonus of this is that you actually converse with each other, in that old school IRL F2F way. #foreal
    • Mindfulness. A holiday in nature means slowing down and noticing what it is that you are doing. Whether it was sharing a drink with my husband at the end of the day while the kids played outside, or colouring in mandalas with my daughters (even my husband and teenage son joined in for half an hour: I consider that a win for the ages!) We were in the moment, living and appreciating the here and now, which is what life is all about really.
    • Pushing yourself physically. I push myself out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways on the other side of forty, but not so much in a physical sense. Spending days hiking up mountains (well, small ones anyway) and following my mad rock hopping husband and son around, not only made me hope we had good ambulance cover, but also made me challenge and surprise myself with what I could do. I know my less physical middle child felt the same way. A feeling of pride in achieving what you thought you couldn’t do: a great lesson, whether you are young or old.
    • Appreciation. Noticing the small details around you and really appreciating them, is something we don’t often do in our busy day to day lives. Yet when you spend some time in nature, you notice the most wondrous things. We listened to the screeching sounds of a flock of cockatoos as they danced around the sky, saw  tiny blue fairy wrens hopping from branch to branch, and even a few lumbering wombats wandering around impervious to our delight. Truly wonderful memories to keep forever.

     

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    As I sat high atop the large rocky outcrop in this photo looking over at my husband and children in this beautiful setting, I gave thanks for the abundance and the wonder of our natural world. I was able to pause and feel true gratitude and deep love for my family. Yes, getting back to nature is so much more than it seems.*

     

     

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    *Now I am not naive, some of these feelings tend to dissipate upon our return to civilisation (the three hour car trip with 3 tired cranky children will do that, not to mention the mountainous loads of washing that need to be tackled). But I wouldn’t swap my annual week getting back to nature for the glitziest of 5 star resorts (and trust me I like those too!)

     

     

  • On the other side of forty…I take myself on a date

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    ‘The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself’

    While I love (and absolutely need) time by myself to recharge and practice self care, I am also a classic extrovert in that I gain energy and inspiration from being around other people.

    One of the benefits of being on the other side of forty is that I know what works for me and what doesn’t: Exercise? I may have all the best intentions in the world to walk by myself, but it is only when I have a friend to walk and chat with that I actually do it. And while it may be some peoples idea of hell, I love to shake my groove thing with a bunch of other women in a fun Zumba class.

    If you are my friend (and I expect you to be reading this if you are!) then you know I am the one who enjoys organising social activities such as book club, movie nights, and drinks with the girls. Basically I like having uplifting people around me, it makes me feel happy, vibrant, and connected (and I certainly like feeling that way).

    But one of the downsides of being on the other side of forty, is that sometimes I get a little too stuck in my comfort zone, and can revert to what is easy and doesn’t challenge me. Hence it was that I recently realised I NEVER go out by myself.*

    Now of course I go grocery shopping (or we would starve) and I am happy to wander around my local shopping mall for a couple of hours, (or I would have no clothes) BUT I do not and have never taken myself out for lunch, or gone and seen a movie I wanted to but no one else was interested in. Why is this? I think in the past I assumed I would feel judged as a ‘Scott Nomates’ if I engaged in solitary activities, which of course sounds as daft as it is, even as I type those words.

    So when the opportunity arose for me to have a solitary weekend in Sydney recently, I took up the challenge to take myself on a date for the day and this is what I discovered (apart from the fact that I am not cheap, lol!)

    • Sitting having breakfast by myself in a cafe in The Rocks after a big night out dancing with some lovely life coaches nearly half my age, meant I could engage in two of my favourite pastimes: 1. making up scenarios in my head for all the people wandering around the markets in front of me; and 2. eating my bodyweight in bacon & eggs to get over my sore head and feet following the reality that I am nearly double the age of the lovely life coaches I was out with last night!
    • Sightseeing by yourself (particularly without kids) is enjoyable and E.A.S.Y. No playgrounds, no whining, no ice cream bribes: I spontaneously decided to wander over to the Sydney Opera House to marvel at its glorious architecture, and contemplated buying myself a ticket to the opera (although the eye watering price made me spontaneously leave). But I liked the fact that if I had wanted to, I could have, there was no one to answer to but me!
    • After a good mosey around the shops, including the magnificent QV Building, it was getting late, and an early dinner was on my horizon. This was my big test, yet I’m happy to say I passed with flying colours (although it certainly helps to have a phone to play with!) Even better, I ordered exactly what I felt like and never normally eat (spaghetti carbonara) and ate it with gusto and without guilt.
    • For the final leg of my date, I retreated back to my room for some quality alone time (a face mask, a chocolate bar, a cup of tea, and a good book). Now if that’s not the ideal way to finish off a perfect date, then you have clearly been married for a lot less years than me!

    But in all seriousness, I came away from my weekend away by myself feeling happy, content, confident, and filled with gratitude for the opportunity to have that precious time to spend getting to know myself a little better. Next on my list is a trip to the movies: I’d invite you, but I think I have a date with a choc top instead!

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    modernfam*No, I am not talking about getting all dressed up and sitting in a seedy bar waiting for Clive Bixby to come and hit on me…(although I do think that would be hilarious, I love that episode of Modern Family so much!)

     

     

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