Have to believe we are magic…

That buzzy feeling when you finish a great book is upon me. The feeling that there’s magic in the air. That anything’s possible.

I want to run instantly to a book club meeting where I can discuss all the nuances and share the ‘me too!’ light bulb moments with other readers.

I’m not in a book club at the moment, so I’ve run here to my blog to share my thoughts, not only on this particularly fabulous book, but on some of the themes I see in it as they relate to being creative, and more broadly, as they relate to living a full, satisfying life.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is the book I’ve just closed, and it’s left me with plenty to ponder. I laughed out loud, agreed out loud, and I was surprised and delighted by what I read. I recognised myself in Liz’s words and that gives me such hope. I am living a creative life. And I even stopped myself from writing ‘perhaps’ at the start of that sentence. Victory is mine!

Liz writes about creativity in such a refreshingly down to earth way, while acknowledging the mysteriously otherworldly aspect of being a creative person. She acknowledges that creating is a task that requires work; it’s not like finished paintings, books, songs, sculptures just fall out of the sky. Creating is a cooperative process.

This got me thinking about the internal forces that are at work when we try to create, or even just get through the day; not leaving ourselves last on the list, or worse still, not even putting ourselves on the list of people, things and tasks that require our attention and love.

Why is it so ingrained in us, that self-care is selfish?

Seriously, I want you to think about that for a minute. It’s something I think about often.

What a ridiculous, not to mention debilitating double standard, especially for women, and especially it seems, for mothers, that the job description can seem nothing more than loving slave to the needs of others. I’m not denigrating the acts of service that mothers, and women generally perform, but I think it’s high time to question this notion that everybody else in your immediate reach is more deserving of your time, love and many skills and gifts than you are.

This discussion could go in a million different directions right now, but the one that seems to be waving its arms at me most is the notion of needing permission.

We seem to have become trapped by the idea that we require permission from someone else, whether that’s from society, or our husbands, or something we read, or our best friend, or a book or a blog post, or a pithy meme on Instagram, just somewhere, anywhere, other than within our own minds and hearts, to proclaim: Hear ye, hear ye, I grant thee permission not to think more lowly of thyself than any other living creature.

That permission might relate to making taking time to catch up with a friend for coffee regularly, or take a painting class, or go to the gym, or simply say no to doing every single thing that needs doing around the house, as if nobody else has any capacity to pick up a towel or unpack a dishwasher or help with dinner, or even, dare I even suggest it, just to do NOTHING AT ALL for a few hours on a weekend.

Why is that?

Why do we struggle to give ourselves permission to simply be or to do something that feeds our souls rather than our schedules?

It may not be something I can sum up with four bullet points at the end of a blog post, in fact, I know it isn’t, but it is a topic that I really want to start a conversation around. This pervasive, false idea that we have to wait for someone else, someone out there, someone that isn’t us, to grant us permission to do, well heck, anything… it’s poisonous.

Any of this ringing any bells with anyone?

I could be off on a loopy solo expedition here, and that’s okay, but I don’t think I am. I see and hear people struggling with this, all too often.

To mangle a well known saying, who died and made someone else the captain of your soul?

It’s YOUR soul, and it’s a treasure you should protect and nurture with equal, if not surpassing ferocity, to the ways you nurture those around you.

If this were a four bullet point kind of post, which isn’t my thing, I’d be listing some points right now.

The first would be that I know, from my own experience that turning off the messages that tell us that self-care is selfish isn’t a simple thing. Not at all.

What permissions am I alluding to here? All of them.

Permission to challenge ideas you’ve held on to since childhood about who you are, what you’re worth and how you allow people to treat you, they’ve got to face the music.

Permission not to question your choices or downplay your smarts. Who does that serve? Certainly not you.

Permission to define yourself as more than who you are in relation to others – whether that’s as someone’s partner, mother, sister, friend, daughter, even as a great {insert career choice here}. And before you send any angry emails, I am not denigrating any of those roles. They are all important and worthwhile, but they are not who you are.

You are YOU.

Can you describe yourself without those relational ties? (Again, it’s not that those ties aren’t important, I’m absolutely not saying that here.)

Try it. Go on, you know you want to! Or maybe you don’t and it feels icky.  To me, that’s even more reason to give it a go.

I am…. now think of a few things about yourself and rattle them off in your head. Were they about who you are, on the inside, or were they about functions you perform? It’s okay, it takes practice.

I am…

Here’s what comes to my mind:

I am creative.

I am fiercely anti-authoritarian.

I am making my own way in the world.

I am smart.

I am funny.

I am stubborn.

I am listing too many things!

Did I always have a list like this on the tip of my tongue? No, I did not.

But somewhere along the way, in increments so small you could hardly measure them, I began to give myself permission to explore things I believed were set in stone, things I believed about myself, about my place in the world, things I had told myself and felt had been reinforced about who I was, at the very core of my personhood… and then shazam, just like that, I fell deeply in love with myself, all my problems disappeared and I got swept up by a dashing prince and lived happily ever after.

Um. No, not quite. Let’s try that again.

… and then I cried so hard, from such a deep well within myself, that I thought I might break in two.

I can still feel that moment in time. It is beyond description. I know some of you know that place too.

And then I ran away from it. Over and over and over again.

But the idea that I could be wrong, about things I believed were as certain as gravity, lured me back. That curiosity began what I believe will be a lifelong practice of thinking, pondering, wrestling, changing, creating new boundaries, speaking up instead of staying silent, and of appreciating, liking and yes, loving, who I am. Just me. As I am, right now.

Not when I lose 5 (or *cough* 30) kilos, not when I find a man, or have a cushy bank balance, not once I have the ‘dream job’ or ferret out and rid myself of the dark places in my soul, not when someone else tells me I’m ‘there’… just as I am, right now. Typing this in my pjs.

This is my Big Magic. This is the magic that I wish, above all other things that I could actually, literally sprinkle on your soul.

But I can’t, because if I did I’d be just another external voice granting ‘permission’, so I bash out words on this laptop and I put my trust in forces greater than myself, that someone, maybe just a handful of you, maybe only YOU, are the person who needs to read these incomplete thoughts today, or when you find this blog post a week from now, or five years from now.

And even though I want this for you so, so, so, so much, I don’t (I can’t) write with the hope of changing or saving anyone, I write for my own heart, to celebrate the freedom I have now, that I once didn’t have. It’s the most precious thing in my life.

This is unfurling itself as my life’s passion I think… more and more I see it in my conversations with people, in my interactions when I’m out here online, we are people whose hearts are maybe a little bruised, or smooshed, or boarded up in an attempt to protect them, and we are people who are on the road to freedom, hearts filling up, shining and sharing our light with others.

And that’s why I chose to title this post a line from a cheesy ONJ song, because I do believe we are magic. I am, and you are.

So, sister-traveller, grant yourself permission. You’ve had the power within you all along.

Big, big love,

Annette xxx


I’d love to hear from you on this topic… please keep the conversation going in the comments, or send me an email.

Taking Stock – October 2015

Howdy readers!

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon, and I’m sucking down free wifi at the library. Thank you council!

Spring has really hit its stride, now that we’re in daylight savings again (yay!), so it feels like a good time for a bit of reflection and taking stock. I love this exercise of Pip’s, it always makes me stop and think about what’s happening in my life.

Here we go!

Making: a lot of noise in the echo chamber that is the foyer outside the library, I’ve suddenly got a frog in my throat.

Cooking: chicken, bacon and new potatoes, which I shred and smash, then mix with crunchy celery and creamy mayo for an easy weekend dinner, the eat again for lunch. I love cooking that stretches across a couple of days of eating.

Drinking: Soda water and lemon cordial. So refreshing. It’s been almost a year since I gave soft drink the flick, though lately I’ve have the occasional can of fizzy stuff.

Reading: The Anti Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland. What a book! Rosie’s writing is sublime, and her honesty about what her life has been to this point really moved me. I’m almost finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ll definitely be going back to the start with my highlighter in hand, there’s so much good stuff in that book. And FYI, Elizabeth Gilbert thinks I’m gorgeous! Here’s the proof.

Thank you Liz!
Thank you Liz!

Wanting: more inspiration in my painting, I often want to grab the brushes but sometimes I lack focus and don’t know what to paint. Got any tips for me?

Looking: Up. Often. All that spring sky. It’s so good for my heart.

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Playing: David Bowie’s Greatest Hits

Wishing: That Auckland was a titch closer. I’d love to be able to pop over to my friend Rachel’s with a bottle of wine on a Friday night.

Enjoying: that hands-on creativity has become part of who I am. I draw or paint almost every day and it brings me so much quiet happiness.

My very own girl gang.
My very own girl gang.

Liking: My Ruby & Lilli – Inspired Life Tee. It was a present from my friend Rach, and I adore it.

Loving: knowing people online who genuinely support and encourage each other. I’m grateful to have found a happy crew to hang with, and be inspired by. Step away from your keyboard if you’re cranky, those are real people you’re firing your missives at. Just stop it.

Pondering: why some people refuse to see a link between the number of guns in the US and the insane frequency of mass shootings there. I will never understand this notion that ‘freedom’ equals a carrying deadly weapon. And the paranoia and illogical arguments around the issue – so infuriating!

Considering: moving to bigger canvases in my painting adventures. All that white space, hmmm, maybe not quite yet.

Buying: avocados, bacon, soda water, Lurpak butter, chocolate. Just the necessities of life.

Watching: Blue Bloods, Nashville, Rock The Boat, House of Cards, and Gilmore Girls. I’m nothing if not eclectic in my viewing tastes.

Hoping: that this summer won’t be crazily hot. I just cannot deal with those icky overnight ‘lows’ in the mid-20s.

Marvelling: at the way some people face adversity and then fashion it into a crown. I’m looking at you Styling Curvy. You are creating something beautiful with your life.

Needing: nothing really. I could list off some wants, but couldn’t we all. Satisfaction is a practiced habit.

Questioning: what’s next, not in a major way, but I wonder what 2016 might have in store.

Smelling: flowers in bloom. I noticed as I was walking down the street after work the other day, that the air was heady with spring fragrance.

Wearing: one of my new Ruby & Lilly tees – coffee rings! So hot right now.

Following: Blogs that inspire me and make me smile. I loved being along for the ride on Baby Mac’s recent Italian adventure, and there are always nice happenings on fellow Melbourne gals Bird & Fox and Iris and Edie‘s blogs.

Noticing: clouds, sunsets and light. Every day, I see beautiful shapes, colours and tones in the sky

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Knowing: my youngest sister’s life is about to change forever. Baby’s coming soon!

Thinking: about ways I can support her once ‘Barry’ arrives. Already, there are so many opinions! I want to be a big sister who helps her trust herself as she becomes a mum.

Admiring: so many ladies I’ve met via the keyboard. Ladies who create, who write, who cook, who build others up, who tell it like it is and most of all, ladies who use their platform to champion others. There’s no shortage of them, I guarantee you.

Getting: to the point where I really need to vacuum my house. I hate vacuuming!

Bookmarking: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page. This lady is wise and funny and all about inspiring others. I’ll have what she’s having. The fact that she thinks I’m gorgeous has nothing to do with it, I swear!

Coveting: creative inspiration. The desire is there, but I’d like to channel it into a project of some kind.

Disliking: Internet trolls and cranks. Go and do something positive with your life. Why waste the days you’ve been given destroying another person? You were made for more than that. So much more.

Opening: too many emails I don’t care about, must be time to get my unsubscribe on.

Laughing: with my hairdresser. We have such strange, funny conversations when I’m in the chair.
Feeling: good, but slightly restless.

Snacking: did someone say salt & vinegar chips? Yum!

Helping: by being a sounding board, just recently it’s been great to do more encouraging murmuring than instructional speaking, and it works. People get there in their own time.

Hearing/sensing: that people need encouragement. The end of the year is coming, people are tired. To you I say, you can do it! And if there’s someone you can ask to help you carry the load, do that too, please.

So that’s what is going on with me.

If you’d like to get on the Taking Stock bandwagon, head over to the original source of inspiration (credit where credit’s due, it’s easy and nice to do!). Just copy and paste the list at the bottom of Pip’s post and away you go. It’s a great exercise for your journal, blog, Facebook wall, Instagram feed or even as a family activity.

Stay grateful friends. Tell me what’s going on with you? What is catching your eye and making you smile?

Big love,

Annette x