Buddhists say 'Life is suffering' but, and I'm just making this up, I suspect you never see a Buddhist in pain because they don't actually see the ebb and flow of life as either positive or negative - just as you never see a tree die when one of its branches falls off, or a herd of deer become depressed when one of them gets picked off by a predator, gun or vehicle.
In other words, like nature, shit happens but it's our reaction to it that causes us suffering, or not.
I was walking to WINZ this morning and thinking about the events of the past week. I've had my faith, commitment to my path and close relationships challenged but, while it's been stressful, I've bounced back not only unscathed but feeling even stronger than before.
This has been a revelation to me.
Even though my living circumstances aren't ideal at the moment, I essentially live in a cocoon where I avoid conflict or external challenges. And even though I'm in pain most days and struggling financially, I'm not getting any further into debt so, really, I'm living the easy life. But that's because that's how I choose to see it. As I've said before, the way my mind worked in the past I probably would have been admitted to a psyche ward by now.
This then lead me on to wondering about a friend of mine who's suffering. They're unhappy with both their professional and private lives and feel unable to do anything about either.
Suddenly I realised how lucky I am!
My friend whose pain is caused by things they're not passionate about, is just digging a one way hole deeper into a cave that's only taking them further away from their self. Whereas my suffering is about things I care passionately about so my pain is merely a tunnel that might get dark for a while but I'm lucky enough to come out the other side where I'm rewarded with the warmth of feeling closer and even more passionate about the things that mean so much to me.
Through leaving my children, a saying came to me that's in Little Peaces - When you do what's right for you, you're doing what's right for everyone around you. As painful as it was for my family when I left them, it was the right thing to do and later, in his own way, my ex-husband thanked me. And this is the pattern I've noticed since - that when you do do the right thing, things get better, never worse. You're rewarded for the courage it takes to make a stand on behalf of your self.
When I was tending my wounds a few nights ago and wondering what to do next, I looked back over the progress I'd made over these past few months, especially the realisation that I was 'finally 100%', and there was no way I could go back on that, on my self. So I did what was right for me and I feel humbled with the even deeper level of strength and support. But the real reward has been seeing for myself the value of embracing the scary and potentially painful places.
I've already learnt that laying solid foundations takes time and patience. But I'm now being shown that building something of value on top of them requires leaning into the risks and maybe the fact that I've been wearing my steel cap boots everywhere these past few months could be seen as a metaphor that I've been in the construction phase for a while now without even knowing it...
I haven't written for a few days.
I'm sure you're as bored as I am by my woes so I'll spare you the violin concerto of the 'whys' and just admit to having a crisis of faith as the 'what'.
I'd always actively disbelieved in God but over fifteen years ago, while surviving in a caravan park I had a dream. The sort I call a Telling Dream because it felt so real and significant...
The first night I met you I had no idea who you were. I climbed my way through the house, through the people, around the plants only to find I had to turn around and go back.
As I walked, bewildered, back down the hall, I saw you leaning casually, waiting for me.
Then as I came closer to you, you looked me in the eye and said something I will never forget.
“I’ve been watching you. I love you. I have something to tell you. You need to stick to the Path.”
I was overwhelmed by the love I could feel coming from you and I knew, without a doubt, that I would never meet anyone who would love me as much, and as unconditionally, as you did at that moment.
I knew this was God.
The Christians around me at the time explained that if I wanted to be in a relationship with him, I just needed to ask him into my heart, which I did, albeit petulantly. I then tried different religions but I couldn't align myself with them, the teachings, or the followers but God reassured me that he would be enough.
Ever since then, I've felt like I had a best friend with me constantly. Someone who's had my back as he held my hand, leading me gently out of the darkness. This relationship with God has been so intimate yet so private that even those closest to me will be surprised by it. It was him I begged for help and him I thanked when I got it and I'm sure that's why I've been single for so long - because his love was always been more than enough.
But over the past week I've become bone weary from the relentless struggle of the past 10 months.
Don't get me wrong - even when I'm lost, I'm still happy so this is not a 'cry for help', it's just a review of my belief system and whether I still feel supported by it. I'll never forget the food and funds generously donated by the caring people around me, and one or two have read these posts but essentially, I've felt like I'm on my own. That I need to move on and forget about my dreams of writing, speaking and helping people and just get a 'real job'. But worst of all, facing the possibility that maybe God was done with helping me. That even he had run out of resources and patience.
So over the weekend I moped around wondering how it would feel to separate from God and go it alone. Not consulting him in everything I did. Not chatting to him at night or in the shower and even getting rid of our playlists and favourite movies and books.
Then waking up this morning I never felt so alone as I wandered morosely into the kitchen to make my morning porridge and cup of tea before setting about fighting the days fires.
After getting off the phone with my kind ACC man who had launched into a new round of humbling helpfulness, I rang the bank to find out when my credit card payments would resume and sat slumped over, staring vacantly at my computer monitor while waiting to be connected to someone in the collections team. Then as I was put on hold, I was suddenly jolted back to reality when I realised that God was crooning reassuringly into my ear that everything was going to be alright and that he'd be there for me.
You can imagine the sense the nice lady got out of me when she finally answered!
And that's what real love is.
Even when you feel so destitute that you try to push those closest to you away, they don't budge.
They hold their ground with kindness, love and compassion and remind you, yet again, that nothing and no-one, not even you, can change how they feel about you.
Gods love for me is independent of me.
He doesn't need me to love or care for him, or even myself, in order to love and care for me.
He does it regardless - unconditionally and endlessly.
God's love is rogue and thankfully I have no control over it...
You'll very rarely see the words Warm and Character Home in the same sentence so, sitting around my character apartment all day every day writing, I really feel the cold and if anyone were to visit unannounced, I would probably answer the door wearing my old green bathrobe with a hot water bottle shoved down the front. (What's under the bathrobe will depend on whether the visit is to the left or right of midday). So today I got my brave on and texted the owner of the building to see if he would consider putting in a heat pump. Because his offices are right behind my apartment, and because he's so responsive and, in the past, has knocked on my door rather than text me back, I kept my bathrobe on but I did tidy up my hair, just in case.
Fortunately (for him) he called instead. As I anticipated, even though he agreed the place would benefit from a heat pump, it would need to wait till he won Lotto.
It took me a year of scouring the To Let ads daily to find this place. It's one of the pleasures that makes being unemployable enjoyable but it's not just the space, it's the people. The landlady runs a store downstairs and I sublet the upstairs apartment from her. Between her and the building owner, I couldn't have two more laid back yet respectful and thoughtful people who also work on either side of me so that I feel not only safe but it makes it impossible to become a complete hermit.
The building owner, as he always does, asked if I had found work. I admitted that I hadn't, because I couldn't do my usual work due to my sore arm, but that I was writing and had submitted a book of quotes to publishers. Naturally he asked what I write about and for want of a better explanation, and suspecting that the longer, more accurate answer wouldn't go with his morning coffee, I said that I would loosely call it 'philosophy'.
Earlier I'd been injecting myself with my daily dose of TED and stumbled on this fascinating talk on How To Spot A Liar. Now, brand E is about integrity and truth and I like to think that I'm one of the most honest people you'd ever meet, often to my detriment, but after watching the talk, I wandered around analysing myself to see how accurate that view was.
Being honest about my day to day ins and outs, feelings and emotions, history etc is really easy for me. It's one of the first skills I had to teach myself in order to be my own therapist all those years ago when I started peace negotiations with the depression that held me prisoner. I even have a see-through hand bag - that's how transparent I like to be.
But after my conversation with the building owner, I felt like I'd lied. Granted, it wasn't the time or medium, and I don't know him well enough to confess that I process overcoming mental illness and addictions etc, but it did make me realise that I'm going to need to develop a clear description for the next time, because it's not the first time in the past few weeks that I've been asked that question.
As a creative, I won't even lie eloquently, but I realised that I use my way with words to make the truth more comfortable for people to be in the same room with it so, according to Steve Jobs Seven Secrets To Success I just need to define my dream, write a twitter post sized job description, master that message then sell it as an insanely great experience.
I could be a while...
I had written till 1am so, although I can't get enough of writing, today I decided to have a different kind of fun. I have five planets in Virgo so I should warn you that 'fun' usually means getting some sort of order somewhere. Last month's fun was cleaning my whole house from top to bottom - literally - including all the beams and high up windowsills.
Earlier this week my internet service provider rang to find out how I was enjoying the United Arab Emirates because that's where I was apparently sending a lot of emails from ie: my account had been hacked, so, taking this as a warning, today's fun was changing every online password and updating my excel spreadsheet list of these logins.
You'd already worked out that I was a weirdo right?!
And because I'd written till 1am, the days excitement left me exhausted so I went for a nap.
As I was lying there tingling with the thrill of being alive and, more importantly, tidy, my mind turned to this weeks rent payment. Had I covered the weeks $90 shortfall between what I get for my benefit and the amount of my rent? I'd done some sewing for my wonderful landlady so I only had to find $15. And I had enough food for three days and an allocation of $50 food grant that I could get at the end of the week so the weekends food was covered too. Having worked this all out in my mind and feeling very taken care of, I started winding down but just as I was about to drift off, with a sudden intake of breath, my eyes flew open and my stomach lurched.
Exactly a year ago I was still working on The Hobbit and my children and I were about to leave for their graduation presents of a trip to the States and the Electronic Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. It was one of those trips where anything that could go wrong, did, horribly, almost comically, and what was meant to cost $4k hemorrhaged out to $7k. I'd been debt free for years and even though I had the cash in my bank, I reluctantly had to get a credit card to pay for the airfares online but I admit that it ended up being the saviour that finally got us home.
Fortunately, when the doodahs hit the fan earlier in the year, the bank was generous enough to put me on a minimum payment plan of $20 a week for 6 months before the full payments would resume.
The sudden rise of my heart rate was when I realised that that 6 months was almost up and that I was going to have to find $300 a month when the payments started again!
That was the abrupt end to any fantasies of a nano nap so I got up to start working out what I could do.
I'd already manifested every available cent from places I didn't even know existed just to get through the past 9 months and ACC had rung me yesterday to inform me they were turning down my claim so there was nothing to work out. I had zero options left.
Then, just as I was absorbing this, I got a rejection email from the second publisher.
I remember a time when this right here would have had me writhing on the floor in foetal position and wondering if I had enough pills to abort this life that clearly didn't want me. But back then I had suicidal depression, addictions, debt, nowhere to live, no-one to love and, worst of all, no belief in myself. I'd written a quote that's now in Little Peaces "It's disheartening to not believe in something and soul destroying when that something is you".
So today, rather than focus on what I owed the bank, I couldn't help but reflect on what I owed to God, the Universe and my family and friends who love me I'm-still-not-sure-why for how far I've come since then. After what I've been through, and survived, this is a mere stub of the toe and I can't explain the feeling of surreal calm. I've cleaned up my backyard. I've taken care of business. And I finally believe in myself. I've never felt more sure about my mission and will gladly pick the gravel out of my hands and knees each night if crawling on them is what it takes to get to the people I feel so driven to help.
You are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we will hold your hand
Hold your hand
Mumford & Sons
In 2002 I became a clairvoyant (that is another book!).
I wasn't looking to be one, it was thrust upon me.
I was in Queenstown at the time so I hitch-hiked back to Wellington to start giving readings. I still wasn't 100% sure whether I had what it took so I rang a clairvoyant.
I cut straight to the chase, told her what had happened and asked if she could give me any insight.
She said to me "There are so many spirits on the other side who have information to share that they're always thrilled when someone puts up their hand and says I'll be your channel". That was all I needed to hear so I created a free call 0800 number and put it in the Yellow Pages.
Because years earlier when I was rolling around in a grimey slippery slick of depression, out of desperation I rang a number for a councillor from the Service ads of the newspaper. When I told her I didn't have any money right then, she refused to speak to me and I always said that if I was in that position, I would never turn anyone away.
One night I was rearranging the furniture between rooms when the phone rang. I was prepared for it to be a wrong number or telemarketer but I scrabbled around to find the phone and answered it anyway. Nervously, the woman asked if I could give her a reading. It had been weeks since I put the ad in the phonebook so it took me a second to even realise what she was asking me. I'm sure she would have been able to hear the surprise in my voice as I said "Oh! I'd love to!" then frantically set about finding The Tablet (which I did the readings on) and clearing a surface to sit on.
I admitted that it was one of my first readings and that she might need to help me out a bit but the reading flowed easily and afterward she shared how significant it had been. As she was saying goodbye she said that she was going to tell all her friends.
Within seconds the phone rang again and it didn't stop for months. In fact, I had to set it to go straight to answerphone. I ended up with over 300 clients, some of them quite high profile and from overseas and doing about 10 readings a day. I did over a thousand before my phone bill brought me to my knees and I had to shut down and move out of the flat or file for bankruptcy.
I've always called that my 0800-Give-It-Away period.
The same thing happened when, after a few years of posting graffiti images to what felt like a black hole, one very connected person stumbled on it then shared the link to the site and it went on to win an award. I've since learnt that, in business terms, these people are called Early Adopters and if they like something, they're not shy at saying so.
The other night my dear friend Vikashni rang to check up on me.
Because V's family has a knack for attracting miracles, she's always wanting to spread the love and help others too but I kept reassuring her that I was happy and, with the help of friends and food grants, fed so I didn't need anything and to give to someone who needed it more than me. I had only told my two children and mother about 'Little Peaces' and I knew from the traffic stats and lack of comments that nobody read the website so I felt safe admitting that I had submitted a book - mainly to help her understand that I was really truly doing OK, then, so that she could see for herself, I gave her the website address and we said goodbye.
Now you can imagine my sense of deja vu when she rang the next day to say that she was really moved and had texted the address out to all her friends. I couldn't help laughing as I thanked her and knowing that she has a lot of wonderful, switched on friends, I checked the website stats and sure enough, where it usually gets around an average of 50 a day, probably mostly from crawlers and bots, it had skyrocketed to 125 in a few hours, peaking at 220 today.
Then last night I got my first response from one of the NZ publishers which was both warm and encouraging. At the end he said "It potentially has a world-wide market, and it deserves the best start possible, better than what we, with our meagre and fast-diminishing resources, could give it" then went on to make a helpful suggestion.
One of the aspects I had to come to terms with a few months ago is that whatever the next phase was, I would have to allow people to help me. Using sandpaper as a flannel to clean my face would have been preferable in the past but if this is the sort of help I'm being sent, then I welcome it humbly with a wide open and optimistic heart...
Pimp My Attitude
This is where I think out loud as I transform my appearance, thought processes and most of all, attitude - no matter how unpretty.