46 Reflections

It was my birthday a few days ago. I turned 47.

As is customary around my birthday, I let people know that it’s coming – I mean, I wouldn’t want to deprive them of an opportunity to wish me well, write me a card or send me a gift. I was raised better than that! (Utterly untrue, my mother would be horrified by my behaviour. Living life my way – check.)

So my birthday came and went and I had a lovely day. I made myself pancakes, and got loads of lovely messages on Facebook and Instagram. I received cards and a few gifts and I was a happy birthday camper. There was snail mail and a bunch of flowers.

The cranks of defining ourselves by a number turned, the gears whirred and here I am, 47. Age has never meant much to me, I don’t recall ever longing to be an age that I wasn’t, whether that was enticingly older, as some younguns probably do, or younger, as seems to be the focus for too many adults. The good old days, the best is yet to come, I don’t really buy into that. Whether it’s the best of times and/0r the worst of times, those seasons befall us all, regardless of age.

On my day off this week, when I was still 46, I decided to go on a little day trip. I love to jump in the car and just go, without much of an idea what will unfold. I packed a little bag with my watercolours, brushes and paper, a book to read, some birthday biscuits my sister made me (yum!) and I tossed a proverbial coin between heading for the Yarra Valley, or the Mornington Peninsula.

And the winner was….

Day Tripper
Day Tripper

This is one of my favourite parts of the world. I love the colours, the way the wind whips through your hair at the beach, there’s so much of my childhood that’s connected with the Mornington Peninsula. I don’t wish those days were back again, but I love my connection to this place.

As I drove down to the beach, I got to pondering about the year that was just about to be over, the year of 46. I asked myself what I’ve learned, and wondered about what’s the same, what’s different, reflecting on what shaped the year… and right in the midst of those reflections, the notion of being better (or not) than 45 year old me popped up.

Poppycock to that!

It seems to me that it is very popular, particularly in this age of ‘inspo’ everything, to get fixated on bettering ourselves.
Yet, bizarrely, looking back is off the menu – hell no, you’re not supposed to do that. Just spend a little time on Instagram or Twitter and you’re sure to see some inspo meme about never looking back, about every day having to be better than the last, about only competing with yourself. At times, it comes across as an almost religious enslavement to self-improvement.

Once more, for the cheap seats in the back, POPPYCOCK!!

I’m for being what most of us would generally think of as ‘good people’. I’m for kindness and compassion and being welcoming and polite, and for spelling things properly. I’m for remembering to smile and for not talking on your phone when someone is serving you. I’m for offering your seat to someone, and paying for a stranger’s coffee occasionally, and waving when someone lets you into a stream of traffic. I’m for all of that.

Do I need inspo-y memes for those things? I sure hope not.

So, aside from not wanting to become an amoral asshat, what’s behind all this ‘every day in every way, I’m getting better and better’ self-improvement malarky?

Here’s (some of) what I think is behind it.

I think sometimes people don’t like themselves very much, which is heartbreaking.

Perhaps these feelings lead them to go on a quest to be a more acceptable version of themselves. But are they on that quest for themselves, or for someone who has said horrible, hurtful, insensitive words to them somewhere along the line?

Are they trying to be ‘more’ because they see themselves with clarity and want to work more kindness or compassion or discipline into the mix, or do they beat themselves up about things that simply aren’t true.

Are they (we) running towards something or from something? A lot of us are wounded by the echoes of words spoken in the past. Words are very, very powerful. And their legacy can be devastating.

I think people run from their past, from themselves, from really pondering where they’ve been and come from, because sometimes, for some people, that kind of reflection scares the shit out of them. Things seem too big to overcome, too scary to face. I have felt those things. I have known that fear.

Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know ‘then’. People carry deep wounds. People go through things you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Ever. I know that, because I am one of the wounded, and I ran for a long time.

What I can’t come to grips with is how you’re supposed to ‘better’ yourself without paying heed to anything that’s in the rear vision mirror. You have to do that, to some degree. You simply have to. Okay, you don’t have to, because who the hell am I to tell you anything, but I had to. I had to stop running, which was pretty full-on, and then I had to do something that required more courage than I thought I had, I had to look at what I was running from.

Am I ‘there’ now? Am I in the fabled land of personal perfection? Fuck no. But I am not held back by as many of those tight, suffocating bindings that previously kept me down. It was like those ropes were alive, and if I dared to struggle against them, they tightened their grip on me until I couldn’t stand the pain.

Better to just accept that I would always be broken, that I could never be anything but broken. Better to just stuff those feelings down. Some of us do that with sex, with food, with zealous religious belief, with aggression, or withdrawal and isolation, or alcohol. Ahh, that feels much better. No it doesn’t. Not for more than a moment.

I don’t have a ‘3 simple steps to freedom’ ending to this post. If anyone tells you they do, it’s bullshit.

In fact, I don’t really know how to end this post, as I cannot possibly wrap up this topic neatly. So here’s what I’ll do.

I will use my very powerful imagination, and look you in the eye right now.

Every one of you.

And with tears in my eyes (they are real, not imaginary), I want you to hear me say this – you are not irretrievably broken.

You’re not.

You’re not wrong, or stupid, or too much of anything, or too little of anything, you’re not ________.

You’re not. It’s not true.

They don’t get to do that. That’s not how we’re supposed to use our words, to break people’s spirits.

You may be wounded. From the place that I live, wounded is okay, in fact it’s good. As I’ve walked through dark places, the word ‘wounded’ has become a life-alteringly different descriptor than ‘broken’. Wounded meant I could heal. I have healed. I am healing. (I am aware that wounded won’t sit well with everyone, it is what sits well with me. This is not prescriptive, it’s personal.)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could click a link and download something that would bring you through? It’s certainly the way we live now, click and ye shall receive. But I don’t think it works. What works takes a lot more time, and couarage, than that.

I could make those things I just said to you into a bright, shiny Instagram ready poster, sure. I won’t though.

You deserve so much more than a meme.

So much.

With love,

Annette x








Do you know what I think is really important about being online? 

Being myself. 

It’s so rad for me that I get to write this blog and then, somehow, magically, that my words connect with people. 

When people – that’s some of YOU – take the time to comment here or over on Facebook or Instagram, it is such a thrill, and I have to say, it makes me feel ace. When you share your stories with me, I am gobsmacked and humbled. 

What I don’t want, what I hope I’m not doing here, is painting a one dimensionally shiny, happy portrait of my life. 

Life can be shiny, and is often beautiful, but as we all know, life can also… how shall I put this delicately… well, some days just suck shit. 

Those days may not inspire blog posts, or they might, but I won’t hide the less than shiny days from you or pretend I’m never the one standing under the big arrow in the sky that says DICKHEAD. That would be utterly disingenuous. Not what The Verbs is about. 

So, let’s yin and yang this thang! 

I’m kind. 

I am cranky. 

I’m clever. 

I am judgey-wudgey. 

I love to encourage people. 

Some days, I kind of want to throttle the peeps. 

I’m a great listener. 


The days where my inherent strengths surface are usually easy, shiny days, but there are some days, where just like Melbourne’s weather, or a woman of a certain *ahem* age, I can run the gamut from beatific to bitch in 0.06 seconds.  

I’m hoping there’s no great shock in this for you, as I think most of us live in the real world, coping with our less than glorious moments on a regular basis. 

Did you notice that I didn’t fall into beating myself up over my weaknesses? That’s not the way to go, in my book. 

I do my best to brush myself off when I catch myself sucking, and to get back to being open, positive, encouraging – the me I want most to be. 

Being honest about my faults doesn’t mean I can’t still like myself. I may feel disappointed in myself, I might need to apologise or think something through so I don’t fall into sucking so often, but it’s not a matter of being Little Miss Perfect or being a hopeless wretch. 

A while ago, I coined this simple action plan, suitable for every day use, but especially important on less than shiny days:


BRUSH. You can do this while you’re brushing your teeth or your hair. Easy peasy! 

WINK. Yep, look at yourself in the mirror, with kindness, and give yourself a wink. 

SMILE. Grin like a fool/charmer at your sleepy, tired, happy, reflection. 

REPEAT. Daily. 

So tell me, how do you cope with your less than shiny stuff? 

How are your brushing yourself off skills? 

Are you on the B.W.S.R. bandwagon? 

Yours in occasional eye-rolling, 


Because I’m happy…

Hello, my name is Annette and I’m happy.

I’m usually a pretty happy soul, but something about today has me feeling extra happy.

I did wake up with utterly awesome bed hair this morning. That started my day off with a chuckle. So much so that I did an impromptu photo shoot of my rockabilly quiff and recorded a silly little video which I posted on social media.

Rockin’ the Rockabilly


Can I tell you something?

I like myself. I truly enjoy the person I see in the mirror each morning.

More days than not, I’ll give myself a wink and a smile as I’m brushing my teeth.

I like my emotional smarts, my intelligence, my ability to make other people smile by engaging in a bit of silliness. I like my face. I like my choices. Most of all, I like liking myself, just as I am.

It’s so good to like yourself, and it seems that a lot of people struggle with this.

Perhaps, and I’m just reflecting on what I see, hear and think here, somewhere along the line, messages about liking ourselves have gotten entangled with liking our physical attributes.

So, to the physical – I have great boobs (particularly when they’re well supported!). I have shazamy blue eyes. I have a great laugh. I like my height, my hands and my short haircut. And I am overweight. Being overweight doesn’t make me like my eyes less or worse yet, hate myself. My knees would probably like me more if I weighed less, it’s true, but when I was a ‘normal’ sized teenager and young woman, I didn’t think more of my slimmer body. In fact, I didn’t really think of it at all. I never have.

I haven’t worked out if that’s a 1 in 100,000 anomaly or a deeper disconnected from the body thing – which is quite common in adoptees – but either way, this skin I’m in has never determined my happiness, or lack thereof.

I am not my body.

You are not your body either.

I’m willing to bet, sadly, that some of you reading this can pretty easily rattle off a litany of supposed faults you see in the mirror – you may not like your thighs, or your nose, or some aspect of your face… and I have to tell you, that breaks my heart.

Where did we, particularly as women, decide to measure ourselves in this way? Who tricked us into buying into the absolute power of this external measuring stick?

Why are we sometimes so viciously hard on ourselves?

And what is this teaching the girls in our lives?

I was out shopping with my sister and my niece, maybe a year or so ago, and Little Miss Five wanted to hang in the change rooms with me. I was fine with that, and as I took my tee off to try on some tops, she made a comment about my size – her mother and I have vastly different physiques – and I knew it was an opportunity to show her that I accepted myself and was not embarrassed for her to see me in my bra and jeans. I can’t remember what I said, something to the effect that we all come in different shapes, but I do remember thinking of that moment as a small victory. I didn’t push her out of the room or hide my ‘fat’ body from her. I didn’t feel ashamed of myself. I was hanging out with a little girl I adore. A girl I desperately hope will not fall victim to the incredibly narrow, judgemental messages young girls are bombarded with about beauty and self-worth.

Don’t worry though – I won’t be lighting up Instagram with any half dressed images of myself! I like myself, but I’m still vain. I’ll still crop a photo if I catch myself at an angle that highlights my chins, but I don’t hate myself because of them.

This may seem a strange path for a post that started out about happiness, but for me, the way that I like myself, and CELEBRATE myself, is a fundamental aspect of my happiness.

I have climbed out of some deep, deep places of feeling worthless and broken, of being convinced I was unloved and unloveable, but those places of pain were never about my weight or skin or freckles or thighs. I spent so many years in a head space that was anything but loving and accepting of the girl in the mirror. Years and years. I’m sad it took so long, but it did.

I have some long time friends who could tell you about the tears and anguish along the way. So many tears. So much doubt and anger and fear and rejection.

I had to go through the fire. It was an excruciatingly slow burn at times, but I made it.

What the long road away from those destructive places has taught me is that I’m the only me I’ve got. I’m responsible for my happiness, for the tone of my inner dialogue. I do have power over the inner critic, and I can, and have, learned how to shut that voice down. Does it still pipe up every now and then? Yep. Particularly when I’m learning new things or am out of my comfort zone, BUT I can talk myself off the ledge pretty quickly. I often speak to myself, kindly and logically, and recalibrate my expectations to a more reasonable scale.

Wherever you are at with what I’ve described as the furnace of coming into genuine self-acceptance, I want to tell you two things from the depth of my soul:

you can look at yourself in the mirror with love, and

coming to that place is an inside job.


The only detox we really need is from is the poison we allow ourselves to believe about the things that stand between us and “I like myself”.

There’s no magical quick fix formula, but I reckon a really good place to start is tonight when you’re brushing your teeth.

Hold your own gaze.

Hold it with compassion, and kindness. Hold it without critiquing what you see.

Do that again in the morning, and tomorrow night, and the next morning. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

My deepest wish for you is that one day, you’ll give that girl in the mirror a wink and a smile.

I do, and when she smiles back… there’s nothing better.

With love,

Annette xx