How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

How to Love Time with Every Passing Birthday

We’re all just walking each other home.

– Ram Dass

 

It’s funny how much we fret about nonsense in the light of Ram Dass’s insight, isn’t it? How different would we behave if we lived each day with that as our premise?

So when the 31st August comes around, I don’t sigh, ‘Oh God, another year…’ and get all coy when people ask me my age.

Let me tell you, I’m happy to eat cake once a year, blow out a gazillion candles and get fussed over by family and friends.

Of course, it’s the job of birthdays to remind us of that ‘cottage of darkness’ (to quote Mary Oliver) that we’re all heading towards. But I’m tired of bemoaning the relentless ticking over of the clock, scheduling of calendars, passing of weeks, months and years and becoming bitchy and depressed about the bodily decrepitude that accompanies it. Sequential time (or ‘chronos‘) is only one limited way of Hourglassunderstanding our lives.

There’s another (far more upbeat) way to think about time – ‘kairos.’ It’s an Ancient Greek word meaning ‘the right, critical or opportune moment.’ It celebrates time vertically as opposed to horizontally. You know those moments – the ones that resonate beyond the period they occupy, the ones that ‘stay’ in and with us, even as days move relentlessly through us (that first kiss in the rain; when you heard your daughter sing for the first time; the time he held the moon in his hand for you; the moment you realised, ‘he loves me…’)

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Birthdays can be tiresome expressions of more time passing, or we can tune into them as timeless, blessed outposts marking our journey home. The best way I know how is to ritualize these days by waking to see the sun rise, dunking my shivery bones in the ocean and giving money to causes I care about. I drop all work. I let the day have me all to itself.

Birthdays pull me into the confessional of big soul questions like: Is my life meaningful? Am I happy? Are my relationships fulfilling? Why am I doing what I’m doing? And, if I died now, would my basket of regrets be empty or full? (If we don’t ask them on our birthdays, when do we ask them?)

Sunrise

This year’s birthday prep (which involved a vision board, journalling and a life-scan) clarified for me that I want to:

  • stop buying stuff
  • lie still and flirt with the sky (both the clouds and stars)
  • make love more often, maybe even every day
  • remember what my heart is for and let it do its thing
  • listen to what is calling to me through the noise of email and to-do lists
  • love my body more and more and more, blessed jiggle of flesh
  • do silly things – jigsaw puzzles, indoor rock climbing, vegetable pickling, aerial yoga, kayaking, dancing in my socks and singing One Republic’s ‘I Lived’ as if I were onstage
  • write, and write and write and write (at least one beautiful sentence each day).

Kazantzakis wrote: ‘leave nothing for death to take, nothing but a few bones.’ I love that. We’re here to ‘own every second that this world could give,’ (that’s from ‘I Lived’). As we do this big walk together, let’s try to skid more slowly from hour to hour, to be patient with the surprise we are becoming as we sink more deeply into the discovery of who we’re here to be.

Here’s a little writing exercise if you’re up for it – to nudge you into a bit of a love affair with ‘kairos.’

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Nobody Walks This Earth Alone

Nobody Walks This Earth Alone

Nobody walks this earth alone.

TS Eliot wrote, ‘April is the cruellest month,’ but he got that wrong. It is June.

Yeesh, it was a bad month.

My work threw up one hardcore challenge after the other. I barely had a chance to catch my breath before the next one hit. There were moments when I questioned why I’m doing what I’m doing. It was that bad.

And just when my skin was at its thinnest, my darling cat Tanaka died in my arms after a friendship long, loyal and loving. Letting her go has hurt hard.

Joanne and Tanaka

It’s been every shade of sorrow and adversity. Which makes it sound personal. Of course, nothing is ever personal, unless we make it so. The universe offers us a mirror. Whether we want to look into it, is our choice.

Mary Oliver reminds us that ‘all things are inventions of holiness, some more rascally than others.’ I need this tattooed somewhere visible. Maybe my palm.

I’ve spent the past few weeks doing a soul inventory. Managing our grief requires both discipline and surrender. To see past our own blind spots can cause whiplash. We need strong self-love in the first place to undertake a journey of self-improvement and take responsibility for everything that’s showing up in our lives even when it feels like someone else’s fault. It relies on the bedrock of faith that we are strong enough to walk away from something that ‘doesn’t feel right,’ or acknowledge when we’ve been jerks. It rests on the belief that people will forgive and love us even when we make mistakes.

At times like this, we need help. We need others. We need to know that when we call out ‘I’m drowning, throw ropes, send oxygen, make soup,’ that others are listening and will act.

Sometimes, we need to be rescued.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

I was resuscitated by family (daughters who bought flowers and teenage sons who offered ‘Let me cook dinner tonight’); friendships, team members and the community of writers I work with.

We’ve all just witnessed the miraculous rescue of thirteen people from what seemed like inevitable death in flooded caves in Thailand by an international team of expert divers, Navy Seals and doctors. Don’t know about you, but I’m a weepy mess, overcome by this show of solidarity and collective genius. There is literally nothing we cannot achieve as a human race if we pull together.

Caroline Myss in The Anatomy of Your Health, reminds us to stay connected to a life ecosystem: ‘Be part of a group whose collective soul you care about, and with people who notice when you are missing. Nobody walks this earth alone. Find the people you want to grow with – and let them know, “you can count on me.” This is how a human being’s health thrives.’

If you are reading this, I want you to know that you are a huge part of what sustains me.

As a huge thank you, I’m going to be sending a specially designed gift in every monthly newsletter – it will either be a free chapter of a new book; an inspirational infographic; or some other love-attachment to bring you joy.

1

I was recently asked by The Excellence Reporter to share my thoughts on what the meaning of life is (you know, that little question). Here’s the short video I recorded in response:

In the coming months, Joanne Fedler Media will be publishing four books – we are SO excited to bring you some brand new authors and share the work of their hearts and lives with you. Soon.

 

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I write.

I use words to weave a cloak of self-care. I let the stream of consciousness burn through my fingers. I blog. I share with trusted friends. Write journals. Make notes on my phone. I write anywhere I can. And when I’m done writing, my spirit is a little softer and my heart a little calmer.

Almost half the population of Australia will have a mental health issue (depression, anxiety, substance abuse – to name a few) at some point in their lives. Fifty per cent of us. If you know another human, then statistically speaking, one of you is it. Inner mental turmoil can turn molehills into mountains, and when that happens our emotions and fear can overwhelm while destructive behaviours waltz in to calm the mental disquiet.

But writing out chaos gives it a name – acknowledges the pain. Writing needs no rules, no judgment, no audience. It matters not if you’re a “good” writer. Regurgitating words is an outlet for the whirlpool of noise and once out, there is a lessening of burden. A burden shared is indeed a burden halved.

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About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

We live in a world where connection to meaningful relationships and pastimes can be superficial. Social media and online activities bring communities and individuals together in the most wonderful of ways, yet we still need connection in the “real” world. We need someone to hear our personal story in all its uncensored glory. Without real connections it’s easy to isolate, and isolation is rarely helpful for mental health issues.

Fortunately, there is a plethora of tools to support us, and we can all find different ways to work through distress. Writing is free, needs few resources, no training, and is available anywhere, anytime. Writing clutches your worst fears – all the problems that haven’t even happened – and puts them down in black and white. Or any colour you choose. It can offer perspective and validation. It gives words to unexplained feelings, unexpressed pain and paralysing fear. Writing clears a little space for the voice of reason to step in and whisper in your ear.

I started writing in a journal as part of my professional support therapies. Some days were so dark I couldn’t form full sentences – I just seeped the anguish through my fingers and let it rest. I read it back later and felt compassion for the girl silently screaming in my mind. That was three years ago. Since then I have written prodigiously. When full sentences can be found, I put my inclination to perfectionism to work, cleaning up text to publish in my blog. Sharing my story sheds the shame. It allows me to tell my deepest, darkest secrets and fears to professional and personal supports without speaking out loud. When my voice has no words, I give it one through writing. Publicly sharing my story brings me a stronger sense of connection to communities of people who understand when I’m suffering. They’ve been there, done that, felt it. They hear my words and feel them too.

I recently experienced a rapid spiral into depression and forgot to write. Chaos swirled. At 3am one morning, I wrote a thousand words of turmoil in a message to a trusted friend. She checked on me, kept me safe, and since then I’ve resumed my writing and the turmoil is settling. Rational thoughts are returning and perspective is coming back. My early morning stream of consciousness was a catharsis of emotional pain. My physical world remains cloudy, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, I am clearer. I see hope and light.  And I owe that to writing.

 

*If you are experiencing mental health issues and need assistance or someone to talk to, please seek support services in your area. You are not alone and there is help available.*

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I imagined my writing voice as this mystical, elusive, willful creature that I somehow needed to persuade to come and work for me. I believed once I had secured its services all my troubles would be over, writing would become effortless, miracles would rain from the heavens, doors would open and I’d be showered with success. Yet my quest for the writer’s “Holy Grail,” my very own writer’s voice, felt hopeless. I wondered where to turn next. Perhaps I could try someone else’s on for size: “Writing Voice Wanted. Please Apply Within.”

It was in those simple words I’d finally unearthed my answer: apply within. I wasn’t going to find it racing around, asking others for help. It wasn’t lurking out there somewhere, hoping to be noticed. It was inside me waiting to be rediscovered.

It wasn’t even lost – it had just been hiding. Hiding behind all those old fears and doubts that I’d been carrying around. It had disappeared behind that rock I’d stuck in my own way that said, “I have nothing to say that anyone would want to hear.” It shrank to a whisper each time I’d thought, “They know more than I do,” “they are more interesting than I am,” “more qualified,” perhaps even “more important.”

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About Fiona

Fiona MacKay is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer who enjoys sharing her passions for creativity, travel, environmental issues, holistic lifestyles, complementary therapies and wildlife photography through the written word. She is a propagator of trees, flowers, thoughts and ideas and is currently writing her first book – a guide to the palliative care of animals under the guidance of Joanne Fedler.

www.FionaMacKayPhotography.com

Finding your writing voice does require a quest. Not the comical searching down the back of the couch kind, but rather one of quiet internal reflection. Armed with the courage to be vulnerable and the confidence to value yourself and your life, you need to look lovingly and with self-compassion in the mirror. Not giving just a quick glance, but a long hard look.

Your voice is waiting amongst the scars of the life you’ve led. It resonates with all the memories you’ve created, the places you’ve seen, the things and people you’ve loved, and lost, all the pain you’ve survived, every time you’ve laughed or cried and every ounce of wisdom you have accumulated. It vibrates to the unique tone, pitch and harmony of every thought, emotion, memory and experience you’ve ever had.

It is simply you on the page. Not trying to be anyone else. Not trying to impress anybody. Just you, unfettered, unadulterated, free and true.

You need to give yourself permission to use it. Not the voice that whispers what you think people want to hear. The voice that rises from your heart imbued with the passionate imprint of your life, carrying the echo of all your pain and all your love.

It’s time for you to own your life and your very own beautiful, powerful voice.

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Writing About Writing About Writing

I have recommitted to writing. This is the anthem I have been singing for the last two-thirds of a year—a requiem for wasted time, claimed during the approach of my son’s first birthday. I was in a place of relative peace as this promise to myself was made, and I quickly rediscovered both the freedom and passion offered by the craft, yet there was a needling at the back of my skull, a heaviness which rolling my shoulders and repeatedly pivoting my neck could not dislodge. I have sung this song before, but whenever my life has become busy, or other priorities have demoted my aspirations, those notes have inevitably faded into silence.

How many times must we restart something before we get it “right”?

The thought that I will lose momentum again is an avatar of fear. She stacks plates in the cupboard while I wash dishes that can wait, she sulks beside me when I sink into the couch to watch television, and she lurks over me, analyzing every word I scrawl or type. She has been with me almost my whole life and I know she isn’t going anywhere. She has always been the bully who will knock over the tower of blocks only I have the vision and dedication to build.

But blocks can be restacked. The pieces can be picked up as many times as is necessary and reconfigured to create more inventive and sustainable structures.

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About Jennifer

Jennifer wrote her first poem at the age of six, and she has been involved in the world of words as an editor, a blogger, and an article writer. She is published in and shortlisted for a growing number of local, national, and international electronic and print publications.Most recently she had an essay, titled Bairnlorn, appear in the Globe & Mail, placed first in the My City, My Words poetry contest, and wrote and handcrafted a board book for her son.

She also tells terrible jokes.

While doubt will probably always threaten to topple my undertakings, I have discovered an interesting way to stand against this shadow-self. I write about her. I have started to compose pieces that delve into my feelings about the act of writing itself, and it has opened up a path into my own process that I could never have discovered without the unwanted companionship of disquiet.

I have begun to view her as a character.

In engaging my own sense of levity and curiosity about my fear, I have made her less powerful. I see her now as flawed and complex, a composition of erroneous assumptions and misguided efforts to protect. It doesn’t mean that when she flattens my work that it doesn’t hurt, but I better understand her attempts to intimidate and support inactivity. I can turn my back on her and walk away when she is being belligerent or enabling. And I can be empathetic of her struggle… while simultaneously plotting to kill her off in the sequel.

Realizing that I have an actual relationship with my craft, and that I can identify my anxieties, confidences, and quirks as the cast of a story, has created a new space into which I can write. I no longer feel outside of what I am doing, but rather I participate actively in all the arguments, harmonies, and silences that surround my work.

It turns out that I am not singing some precarious melody. I am the anthem. I am the story.

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The Birth of Your Story

The Birth of Your Story

I wrote a little poem for you.

The Birth of Your Story

Avid reader
book lover
writer at heart
had your family
or let that ship pass by
called ‘smart’ from the start
rescued and raised others
done your duty
left when you needed to
stayed too long
in ‘maybe’ and ‘someday.’
One breast less
three kids gone
hubby at the footy
with his new wife
or tombstoned too soon.
Hubby? You always did prefer girls
– not in that way, but mind you…
Said enough goodbyes
to a uterus
a pregnancy
a mother
(don’t get you started on
friends losing fights to this and that).
A woman of letters
you always loved words
something there, you thought
but there was no rent in writing
and what would you write about?
– such an unremarkable life of sacrifice –
and who would care?
Read some good books lately
wanted to travel
thought you would someday
dreamed of more
but not ‘stuff‘ – you’re done with all that.
Pants getting tighter
– that’s what happens over forty –
your heart’s feeling lighter
you linger a little longer
in ‘maybe it’s not too late.’
You put on what you’ve put off
spend what you’ve been saving
for that rainy day
because
it’s time
and you can
and the wait for
whatever it was you were hoping for
is done.

There are only so many days left of this life. Only so many hours. If this poem was written for you, you know what you have to do. I am standing by to help you do it.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

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