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.

The Proudman Bunch

This morning some of us probably woke up thinking, no it can’t be the end, not yet, we’re not ready, we want to see Zoe walking and talking, and going off to kinder. We need to know if Neens and Leo will make a go of their relationship and if Zara will be able to juggle med school and family life. Will Jimmy’s taco empire keep growing? Will Darcy and Cherie and Clegg & Co. find neighbouring houses for their not-quite-commune? And Billie, will she be okay? So many things still to explore, yet it is quite possible that Offspring left us last night, for the final time.

I am an unabashed fan of Offspring, and I know I’m not the only one. The exploits of the Proudman clan have entertained, amused and devastated viewers for five seasons. We have loved Nina and the crazy goings on at the hospital, Nina and the fashion, Nina and those boots – which would NEVER survive a shift delivering babies, Nina’s love life, Nina and Billie, Nina and Patrick, oh Patrick, and Nina as a mum. So much to love. Le sigh.

After the brilliant season finale last night – which was badly disrespected by that stupid Wonderland promo between the final scene and the credits – sorry Wonderland, but Offspring fans aren’t going to fall into bed with you just because of your funky setting and relentlessly ‘saucy’ promos… I’d almost rather watch The Bachelor – okay, I wouldn’t rather watch that shite, but you get the drift, I got to thinking about why I love shows like Offspring so much. (Side note, that could be the longest run-on sentence I’ve ever written, but look it’s an emotional subject, so let’s just roll with it. Oops I did it again.)

So, my thinking went like this… I love Offspring, therefore, Enid Blyton. See, yep, you get it.

No? Okay, let me explain.

When I was a kid, I loved reading. LOVED it. I remember excursions to the local book store to add another Enid Blyton title to my collection. I was obsessed with the Famous Five, and the tales of adventure that Julian, Dick and Anne, George and Timmy the dog had on Kirrin Island. The language in those books evokes such feel-good memories for me – lashings of ginger beer, jolly good, and the smell of the hard backs that belonged to my aunt and are now mine… heaven.


Whether it was the Famous Five scampering about Kirrin Island, or eating picnic lunches featuring tongue sandwiches, or the girls of Mallory Towers indulging in midnight feasts or dormitory shenanigans, there was one constant – they were in it together, they were a family, a team, and the sun always came up the next day. I still adore these stories, though I feel a bit ripped off for poor Anne who was often relegated to the role of dutiful housekeeper because she wasn’t a boy like her brothers, or a tomboy like cousin George.

The books spoke to something I longed for (even if I couldn’t articulate it at the time) – a sense of family, togetherness, the thrill of it being us against the world. When I think about the TV shows I’ve loved, as a kid and an adult, those themes shine through, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes more subtly. These shows include The Brady Bunch where even when things got fractious, boys against girls, or the Marcia, Marcia, Marcia moments, when push came to shove they were united – the family that sings and dances together, and stars in laundry powder commercials together, and ends up in jail together, stays together!

Then there was Friends, which when I look back on now, I don’t really see in the same light, but at the time, it was the Offspring of its day. We went gaga for those six crazy kids living in NYC – the romances, the tensions and triumphs, the marrying, divorcing, marrying, divorcing (sorry Ross), naked guy, Central Perk, Gunther’s undying unrequited love for Rachel. Even as the series came to an end and they went their separate ways, you knew they were a family. I read somewhere recently that Monica and Chandler’s twins would be university aged by now, say it isn’t so!!

Here comes the unexpected show in the mix, Star Trek Voyager. I know, right! Blame/credit an old boyfriend, who played a mean bass guitar and got me hooked on that show, like a baby on gin soaked rusks. That show had all the things I love, just set in space – camaraderie, teamwork, a sense of purpose, the sexual tension between Captain Kathryn Janeway (she of the unmoving hair and limited facial expressions) and her tattooed Commander Chakotay. I loved it, I love it still. Not quite a Trekkie, but hello, have you seen Seven of Nine?? Hawt!!

Seven of Nine

The Famous Five, Mallory Towers… The Brady Bunch, Friends, Star Trek Voyager – and then there was, The West Wing.

I could wax lyrical about my love for The West Wing until the internet is a forgotten dinosaur. I’m not joking. The genius of Aaron Sorkin’s writing, the fact the show was pitched at a meeting he wasn’t even prepared for and then became such a hit, a show about politics, the cast…. oh, sweet Lord, Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn. Bam! That’s what I’m talking about.

Seriously, I’m getting flustered, I can’t sound like anything but a raving fan because that is what I am. Sure, season 5 went a bit wonky, but they got that train back on the track and President Bartlet still gets my vote every time. And can we talk about Allison Janney’s BRILLIANCE as Press Secretary then Chief of Staff CJ Cregg for a minute? Or the stellar Martin Sheen, or the late, great John Spencer. That show happened at just the right time to get the cast of a lifetime together.

Here’s what it is in a nutshell:

President Bartlet (promoting Will to the inner circle of West Wing staff): There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Do you know why?

Will Bailey: Because it’s the only thing that ever has.

And the episode that Sorkin wrote in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was utterly brilliant. A one-act play that spoke to the shock, anger and brokenness that America was feeling at the time. Nuanced, human, complex – it set the tone for a season where terrorism was an ever-present menace, a threat which tested the Bartlet administration’s idealism against the realities of the world we live in.

Somehow, out of his imagination, Aaron Sorkin crafted these idealistic yet deeply flawed, passionate, me on my best day characters – people who were willing to work day and night, year after year, towards an amazing goal – literally changing the course of history. I’ve never had a job where the future of the free world was at stake. Have you?

Which brings me back to Offspring.

Nina wasn’t changing the course of history, but she was definitely forging a path through life, in all its beauty and sorrow.

Sometimes she got it so, so right, sometimes not, just like us. That’s the power of the brilliant writers behind the show. To them I say a heartfelt thank you.

Whether Nina and the Proudman clan return to our TV screens or not, they’ve certainly won a place in the hearts of the people who send Twitter into a meltdown with every plot twist and stolen moment on what I’m now dubbing ‘the balcony of truth‘.

balcony of truth

We might not share Nina’s boho style and love of scarves, or have a family quite as raucous and entangled as the Proudmans, but I think the success of the show rests on the way it speaks to our deepest human need – connectedness, and unconditional love, with a massive dash of shenanigans thrown in for good measure.

I love you, you crazy Proudmans. I’ll miss you.

Good luck Neens.


Annette x