Viva La Difference

Like a lot of people, in the past week or so I’ve watched Nanette on Netflix. 

Ostensibly it’s a stand-up comedy gig by “Our” Hannah Gadsby (we Aussies love to claim our successes), but it is SO much more than that… I urge you to watch it if you haven’t yet, and to re-watch and share it with friends if you have. 

The lines that struck me most (on my first viewing) have been rolling around in my brain for days. Words that Hannah no doubt honed in draft after draft, and has performed around the world.

I wonder if the thing that struck me landed with others in a big way. These words aren’t from one of her jokes, beautifully, tensely crafted though they were. 

What struck me most came towards the end of her performance. 

Hannah was talking about being different, about some of her experiences of being, and being responded to as, a lesbian, and the vitriol and violence that she’s endured. And she said this: 

Boom. Four words. 

Difference is a teacher. 

She is so right. 

When I think about my life, and the people who have taught me the most, the common trait they share is their difference – from me, and from each other. 

I’ve been taught by enthusiastic life guards, school teachers, artists, relatives, strangers, authors, musicians, work colleagues, fictional characters, “mummy bloggers”, crafters, librarians and comedians. 

I’ve been taught by Americans, South Africans, Brits, dead Jewish poets, television talk show hosts, and athletes. 

Women have taught me. Men have taught me. 

Creative souls have taught me. Conservatives and radicals too.  

Straight and gay people have taught me. Addicts and abstainers have schooled me in life.

The life guard didn’t teach me to swim, he taught me about acceptance and joy. He was one of my youth group leaders. Thanks Ayman/Eamon (hey it’s been 35+ years), the night I met you genuinely changed my life. 

The South Africans taught me about injustice and reconciliation, dealing with deep heart issues and coming into the light. 

My uncle and aunt, Trevor and Lea, taught me, as a child, that being different wasn’t something to fear, but something to embrace, even to strive for. 

Lessons big and small have come from the unlikeliest of teachers. Some I didn’t recognise, I’m sure. 

Difference is a teacher. 

In a world drowning in Instagram feeds that are nothing but the regurgitation, sorry, reposts, of other people’s soulless, whoops, stylishly curated photos of blush pink and copper Kmart crap and flat lays of books never read and blankets that have never had crumbs shaken from them after a movie night – lord I’m breaking every rule of sentence length known to man – difference is a blessed relief. 

Difference is our teacher, and it’s our gift. 

It is a gift I need to reclaim. 

I am different, therefore according to Our Hannah, I am a teacher. 

And I feel different from other people, so I am also a student. 

I have something to offer, and something to learn. Many somethings. 

Blogging is pretty hard going when you feel like you’ve got nothing to offer. Lately, I’ve struggled heaps with this feeling, so blogging has dwindled off into “nothing new to read here” territory. It’s bummed me out. Majorly. 

I’m a 50 year old with a part-time administrative job and a heart condition.

I’m a single, introverted, medicated, West Wing loving, weekend hermit kinda gal. 

And I’m a teacher. Hannah says so. 

I’m an adoptee, a refugee from Christian fundamentalism, a deliberately barren, mistrustful of authority, convention mocking, short haired, library card carrying liberal (the small L is essential!).  

I’m a teacher, and I’ve lost my lesson plan. 

I’m a student who can’t find her class schedule. 

But I wrote this blog post. I hope someone reads it. 

What do you have to offer? To learn? 

Have you seen my lesson plan or class schedule? 


Not quite Nanette, 

Annette x 


Step aside Half-Pint

Were you a Little House on the Prarie fan? I was. I loved that TV show. 

Half-Pint was the super sweet nickname that Pa gave to Laura, which is the perfect segue into today’s blog post. 


What’s yours? 

Capacity is not a one size fits all deal, yet I’d venture that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people try to live as though it were. 

And the funny/strange/sad thing about that it is people tend to relentlessly push themselves to match the capacity of whoever they perceive is the equivalent of their Sydney Harbour. BIG capacity. Huge. And for 99.8% of us, utterly impossible to match. 

Why do we do this to ourselves? 

Why the relentless sense that we MUST compete? And win. 

Are we born with an internal soundtrack? “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.”

No you can’t. 


And that’s perfectly okay. 

I am about to fly in the face of a great deal of popular thought here, brace yourselves. 

Life is not a competitive sport. 

It’s just not. 

Not to me, and when I look around at the people I know who are grounded, happy, creative, giving, it doesn’t seem to be to them either. 

Capacity, or more precisely knowning your capacity, is where it’s at. 

Me, I’m a Quarter Cup. 

That’s me, bottom left!


I know my limits, and I live within them. 

Becoming aware of my capacity, then changing my lifestyle to reflect that knowledge, was a completely life-changing realisation. 

I have no desire to push myself to keep up with the 2.4 litre people out there. That’s their capacity, not mine. 

Quarter of a cup. That’s me. The smallest cup in the stack under my sink. 

“Capacity for what?” I hear you wondering. Let me explain the metaphor. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about the college professor and his jar of rocks – he puts a jar in front of his class then fills it with various sized rocks and asks if it’s full. Some say yes, some see room for smaller pebbles, so pebbles are added and the once “full” jar becomes fuller. This continues until no more rocks or pebbles will fit in the jar. Professor Clever Nuts then adds water, showing the class that the jar wasn’t actually at capacity, but it is now. 

I think this story is usually used to communicate the exact opposite of what I mean when I talk about capacity. It’s about pushing, finding every available crevice and filling it to the point of bursting. 

Who wants to live like that? On the brink of breaching, like the Hoover Dam? 


I didn’t think so. 

Capacity is physical, mental, emotional, and social. Capacity is what you need and what you can manage, not what you imagine you should be able to manage, or what your boss/parents/friends/partner/inner critic expects from you. 

How much socialising keeps you feeling connected to others? 

How much time alone helps you to feel ready to jump back into the fray? 

How much sleep do you need? This one is huge. Huge! 

What is your most productive time of day/night? 

Are you a morning person or a night owl? 

How do you know when you’re running on empty? 

What do you do to refuel? 

These, and many more, are the kind of questions that will help you to recognise and honour your capacity. 

There are no prizes for living according to someone else’s expectations or capacity. 

Unless exhaustion and a nagging sense that you’re never doing enough are considered prizes. 

I wonder if thinking about capacity, rather than thinking competitively, might be a lightbulb moment for you. 

Could it be that reflecting on your unique needs and make-up could help you understand your capacity? 

I wonder. 

For those of you scoffing at this idea, running through the long list of responsibilities of your life and rolling your eyes, I want to say this; I don’t believe capacity is fixed and finite, we each have seasons where we can stretch and hold more, or where our capacity is diminished. Trouble comes when we attempt to do and hold more for too long, when we push and push and push without considering our capacity.  

There’s wiggle room, that’s the good news. On the flip side, capacity doesn’t simply yield to our to-do lists forever. We can’t blithely operate outside of our capacity year after year and think there won’t be natural consequences to that. 

This isn’t a one blog post idea. Clearly! 

All I can tell you for sure is that knowing my capacity frees me to spend zero time fretting about whether I’m doing enough, being enough, whatever-ing enough. I am not required to live life comparing myself to the 44 gallon drum folks. 

Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?

A teensy quarter of a cup trying to pretend they can hold gallons and gallons of liquid! 

All that would result in is a mighty flood, and most likely a drowning. How tragic that would be. 

I know when I’m able to stretch, and when I need to fill my near-empty cup. I know when the water line is too high, and it’s time to put my hand up and call in reinforcements. I can only give from what I’ve got. 

Do you know your capacity? I’d love to hear about how you came to that understanding.

Whether you’re like me, a Quarter Cup, or you’re 2.4 litres or a 44 gallon drum person, I urge you to honour your capacity and ditch the comparisons. 

With love, 

Annette x 


PS Have you noticed that I haven’t been posting daily like I said I would? Capacity strikes. I am working loads of extra hours at the moment, and I know I can’t do it all. That’s what knowing your capacity is all about. You’ll also notice that I haven’t apologised or berated myself for the change in plans. Capacity breeds confidence. 


It happened in the dark

When I was in my 20s, I had one of those life defining experiences that people often share on YouTube, except that back then, YouTube didn’t exist. I was still six years away from owning my first mobile phone. Anyway, back to my story.

I was 24 or 25, I really can’t remember, and my boyfriend and I were going to a friend’s place after a big, flashy christian concert. (So much to unpack there, but I can’t cover it all at once.) We got out of the car and walked towards the driveway, when he stopped me and utterly out of the blue, I mean UTTERLY out of the blue, and in the dark, he asked me to marry him.

I was dumbstruck.

And then like any girl with ideas of true love mingled with rescuing someone, I said yes.

Ai, ai, ai! What a crazy ride.

Let’s back up a little and explore our relationship. I think for the purposes of working with the exhibition theme, this post would be a 3D sculpture. Something people could walk around and ponder. Something that looked like one thing when you first saw it, but as you looked more closely and then moved around the sculpture, you noticed it isn’t how it first appeared at all. Nothing ever is really.

Let’s call this young man full of passion and potential Diesel, in honour of one of his favourite musicians.

Diesel was, if I remember correctly, a few years younger than me – nothing unusual there, like Kate Cerebrano, young boys are my weakness.

I met Diesel at church, which was basically the epicentre of my existence at that time. He was handsome, slightly offbeat, and determined to become a rockstar. He was also deeply desirous of being someone’s rock.

We gravitated towards each other, drawn together by our mutual feelings of young love, with an undercurrent of feeling not quite good enough and needing to show the world that we didn’t care about that at all.

We did though. Oh, we really did.

Diesel and I were a little bit cute together really. He was a good guy not yet grown into a good man. I was looking for someone to validate and save me, and I needed a project to project onto. We were a perfect match!

Somewhere in a box in my storage room, there’s a photo of us together, which always elicits a combination of great, and awful, memories. I think he’s wearing a tie-dye shirt and I’m wearing a long flowy floral skirt. We look so happy. There’s also a photo of my engagement ring in that box. It was a beauty. Sigh.

Being young and in love wasn’t all sunshine and rose petals – we had our issues and our togetherness made them spark and crackle. He was trying so hard to prove himself to the world, and I was determined to rescue him from that burden. We were doomed from the get-go.

I could write so much about the specifics, but time and growing up means that I don’t need to share every story and lay it all out so that you can see that I was the ‘better’ of the two of us. There’s no better, just the experience that it was. It hurt a lot, and it gave us a lot of joy, I remember that.

We broke up only a matter of weeks after we got engaged, and it was rough. Really rough. He quickly moved on, and I quickly took on the role of brokenhearted but stoic in my faith ex-fiance. We played our parts well.

I felt the wind knocked out of my sails for a long time after that relationship collapsed. I was angry that I’d given my heart to someone who ended up not being trustworthy, and still, I cared about him and worried about his future.

When he got engaged to someone else soon thereafter, I remember having a conversation with a mentor in which he tried to reassure me that he, my Diesel, was going to be alright. I hope he was, and is.

I also remember that on the morning of his wedding day, I spent time with a sensational lady from church who let me feel what I was feeling, while gently, lovingly nudging me towards laying the whole thing down.

I remember that it was a beautiful sunny day, and the quietness of her backyard was a perfect tonic for my wounded heart.

I remember it all, and I see both of us now through the eyes of someone much older, and dare I say wiser, someone who loves herself and knows now that the only person she was ever meant to rescue is the one typing this blog post.

Half a lifetime ago…. I remember it all.


Annette: a retrospective (1968 – 2018)

When I opened my laptop today, I had no idea that I’d be writing my 200th blog post. I like the symmetry of a ‘milestone’ post being the first in Annette: a retrospective (1968 – 2018).


Self portrait in dappled light, 2018


I can’t believe that I’ve written 199 other posts here, sent each of them out into the ether… and they’ve all been responded to in one way or another. That’s something… and it seems fortuitous timing to start this retrospective at this stage in my blog’s lifespan.

Here’s the gist of it: I turn 50 in 15 days. Half a century on this little blue ball in space. That’s kinda cool.

In the course of those 50 years, life has served me a smorgasbord of experiences. Some wonderful, some mediocre, some long forgotten, some painful… nothing unique about that, right? We all share the same joys and burdens in that respect.

What I’ve been pondering, as my blog slowly atrophies and loses readership and engagement, is that while I might *feel* like my life is boring and I’ve got nothing much to say, that’s not actually true.

I might not be having a magnificent adventure or be in the midst of a deeply life altering season right this minute (or I could be but I just don’t know it yet), but I’ve had them, and they’ve shaped the person I am.

Really, I’m a baby valley; apt given that my middle name is Dale. The seasons of life have changed me, I’m worn smooth in some places, and there’s definitely sediment and settling happening! I’m made up of layers. I am an archaeological dig, waiting to happen.

What I’d like to embark on next is the blogging equivalent of a non-exhaustive, on-the-fly retrospective of Annette. Not a highlights reel. Nope. If you want pretty, curated and sterile, head over to Instagram and follow someone you’ll never know anything about except that they can create an on-trend flatlay.

What I’m hoping for is that as I think about my life and the things that have shaped me, I might find 14 more things to write about that are interesting, thought provoking, revealing and perhaps contain some of the kernels of what it is that make me who I am. It’s the ultimate blogging exercise –  a series all about me – huzzah for narcissism!

The thing is, I don’t think it will be that, and if it is, I apologise in advance. Yet, even if it is does turn out to be what women particularly have been told is the ultimate self-indulgence (thinking not of how we can first be of service to others is the ultimate lady crime, right?), really is that such a bad thing?

If I write 15 posts about knowing myself, about how I got to be the person I think I am today, and within those ‘mirror, mirror, on the wall…’ ramblings, there’s something transferrable or that makes one person reading this blog feel like they’re not alone in their own valley, then fuck it, I’m going to write like my story is the most important story in the world. Just for a fortnight.

To kick things off, here’s a list of 15 Annette factoids which may or may not come up over the next two weeks:

  1. I love colour.
  2. I am a shouty driver.
  3. Home is my favourite place in the world.
  4. I’m not inclined to be a follower. Not anymore.
  5. I do not have a passport, see item 3.
  6. Ambition and I are not well-acquainted.
  7. I love hugs.
  8. I taught myself to be compassionate.
  9. Going to youth group, at my local church, shaped me profoundly.
  10. I have no childhood memories of ever dreaming of getting married.
  11. I like my face. It doesn’t need to be dressed up for anyone.
  12. Once I believed I was irreversibly broken; I was wrong. See item 8.
  13. I am adopted. See item 8 again.
  14. Words are my gateway to the world.
  15. My words are worth reading.

I invite you to join me as I wander through the past 50 years. Maybe you’ll recognise some milestones and markers along the way. Perhaps as I ponder my past, it will light the way into the future. Let’s find out together.

With love,

Annette x