Nobody Can Do This, But Me

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

When I was younger, I believed I needed rescuing.

One day, sitting at an airport, I realised I didn’t want to be that person. I was homeward bound, after galivanting with no purpose, when I suddenly recognised that I could take responsibility for myself, and that I didn’t need to sit around waiting for someone to do it for me. That was the day I began to grow. I took charge of me. I decided to hold myself accountable for the unfolding of my life.  And since that moment, I have grown and evolved into the person I am today. Once I was a lost, lonely girl waiting to be saved.  But now when I look into my past, and see the me I have become, I am in awe of what I have achieved, especially because back then I didn’t know I could.

I run my own Pilates studio now.  And at the beginning of last year I realized I was at another crossroads. I was tired. Tired of being beholden to ideas and thoughts that were not my own, of trying to make everybody happy, and of not sticking to my boundaries. I took a month sabbatical, and the time away helped me see things from a different vantage point. I became clear on what I liked about my profession (and what I liked about myself), why I wanted to teach, and what my boundaries were. I asked myself, ‘What did I want to impart’, ‘Who was I willing to work with (and who was I not)’, and ‘What was important to me?’ I worked on channelling my energy from ‘have to do’s’ to ‘want to do’s.’ I rediscovered my joy of teaching. I remembered what I wanted people to feel when they were in my communal space, and what I wanted to give back to those who trusted me to move them.

I began to see who I was again. I had never been one to put down roots, for years being a restless wanderer, but over the years this changed. I brought my energy, my trust, my process of belonging in my own body – of falling into my skin – to others who needed a safe place to learn to do the same. My sabbatical happened to coincide with an imminent house and studio move, and I realised I would be able to create a studio space to encompass these insights.

About  Robyn

Robyn Spacey is a born and bred Capetonian. Though she hasn’t travelled extensively,  with a mountain, beach and city on her doorstep, she believes she lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Robyn is an avid reader, a movement teacher, andmother to a young girl. In her work, she uses words to impart ideas to clients to visualise the unseen spaces under their skins. This trusting of words to bodies has translated into the belief in the power of her own story, the confidence to pen them onto the page, and a deepening into the process of writing her book. She is, has always been, and will continue to be a writer.

Get more of Robyn at www.movementsanctuary.co.za or www.thebookclubblog.co.za

With physical renovations being necessary, I also decided to rebrand my business. Both processes needed consideration and choices in different aspects. One asked questions of my external vision, and one of my internal. Now, my decision making process can be haphazard, leaning either to a firm no nonsense approach, or the complete opposite where I don’t know ANYTHING. (I blame the effect of the moon for this…) But, I persisted. I answered questions, visualised, stretched, and transformed. Finally, with a little help from a designer who managed to climb into my head, I now have a new logo, a new name, and a new space.

I did it. I made it happen because I am no longer waiting for someone to save me. I realized a dream because I believed in myself, and in taking that next step.

For me, 2018 was the year of change, and so while all of this was happening (renovating takes time), I was also writing the first draft of my book. And I realised writing is a lot like rebranding. It is a vision only I can see. A dream only I can feel.

My book lives only inside of me. Inside my soul. There are characters who slowly reveal themselves to me as I begin to trust my vision, my words. But this book requires tenacity, effort and persistence. Bravery. It requires that I put in the work. It demands belief in myself and what I have to say. It needs rescuing from the very heart of me, by me.

No one else is going to do the work. Only I can let the words out, one after another, to trap them onto the pages of reality, to become tangible. To be a reflection of what I can achieve, of who else I am becoming. It takes time and trust. Belief, even in my darkest moments of doubt. It takes re-writing as many times as I need to. It takes asking the right questions, visualising, stretching the mind, and confidence in the transformation so eventually, with a little help from my mentor, I will manifest my book into reality.

One word at a time.

Right Turn

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The Write Time

The Write Time

When is the right time to write? Or do anything for that matter?

There are proverbs, quotes, and metaphors galore, to justify time management – be it an excuse to procrastinate, or a drive to be productive.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3.1

The trouble is, you think you have time. – Buddha

Almost everything will work again if you unplug for a few minutes. Including you. – Anne Lamott

Let’s start by taking a smallish nap or two. – Winnie the Pooh

Sometimes it’s perfectly okay, and absolutely necessary, to shut down, kick back, and do nothing. – Lori Deschene

(In the interests of complete transparency, I spent three hours procrastinating by searching for quotes on procrastination.)

I used to talk endlessly about exercise. I thought about it often. But my kids were young, I was working, and I had a house to run, so there wasn’t enough time. Consequently, I didn’t have a healthy body or a healthy relationship with the hill outside my house. One morning I put my walking shoes on in the hope I might exercise later that day. While they were on, I figured I’d walk to the letterbox and back – after all, every little bit counts. Once I got to the letterbox, I kept going. I walked for an hour – including up the hill outside my house, and a whole pile of other inclines and declines of various degrees. All it required was the decision to start, and I was rewarded with the smell of the eucalyptus along the cliffs, and the salty wind in my hair and on my cheeks as I walked along the beach.

There’s no right time for most things – there’s only now. It’s easy to find a reason to procrastinate – I can name ten things I’m procrastinating on right now (including getting out of bed and having a shower).

Procrastination means something else has prioritised our time.

We all have the same number of hours in the day, but if writing is important enough, I’ll procrastinate on something else (having a shower) and attack the keyboard instead. If it’s not important enough, I’ll have my shower, drink a cup of tea, walk up the hill, and vacuum the floor. Sure, I’ll have a nice clean floor, but is that all I want to achieve in my day?

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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

Penning words is an incredibly important part of my life. When I write, I feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment, my mind feels clearer and more peaceful, and ironically, I become more productive with other aspects of my life (like showering and walking up hills). When I let the habit slip, my mental health declines, I procrastinate on everything else anyway, and I feel a sense of guilt for not having done the one thing I want to do.

I don’t need to write a book every day – every little bit of writing counts. I just need to make the decision to sit at the keyboard and start.

The right time to write is the same as the right time to do anything important or valuable in life – right now.

Whenever possible. I can’t wait until the perfect allotted time frame arrives – because that never happens. Maybe I only have fifteen minutes. Perhaps there are distractions everywhere. It could be there are twenty things I should be doing, and I have to choose. There is never a perfect time to exercise, eat well, have babies, start a business, or write a book. There is simply a choice about how to use the time we have. If the only available time in the day is early mornings, so be it. Or late at night? Okay.

Exercise was important to me, so I created time and space. For six years I’ve exercised regularly, and my body is grateful. 

Writing is important to me, so I create time and space for it. I sometimes lose the habit, but when I do get my thoughts on paper, my heart, mind and soul are all incredibly grateful.

And the more often I do it, the more writing becomes a part of my daily routine and a true priority.

To quote the wisdom of Gandalf the Grey, “All we have to decide, is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event (18-22 March) in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Artist-in-Reticence

Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was there as well, with a scratchy voice in my inner ear like Gollum’s. “This is mine,” it muttered desperately and with uncharacteristic arrogance.

I was so disquieted by this side of myself that I quickly began turning inward. I started to question why I had applied for the residency and whether I deserved it. Who was I to represent an entire movement, shaking free from the societal norms of silence regarding infertility? What was I doing masquerading as a writer with ideas and skills to pass onto others? How could I have thought that my proposed programs would even appeal to the public, let alone connect them in any meaningful way to their own writing? Where had I found the audacity to even apply?

I spiraled. I sunk rapidly into self-doubt, and the inner critic I have spent the last year learning to dismiss crept up behind me, sunk her fingers into the flesh of my upper arms, and held on, hissing countless shortcomings against the back of my neck.

I spent the next three weeks flip-flopping. Some days I found myself grateful and looking forward to the residency. Other times, I couldn’t find reprieve from tension headaches and aching shoulders. I carefully programmed and diligently carried out preparations. I interrogated my motives and challenged my integrity.

The one thing I didn’t do was write.

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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, regularly reads at literary events, co-runs a writing group, and actively pursues educational opportunities to further develop her craft.  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 two board books for her son.

You can follow Jennifer on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and/or Pinterest.

I had allowed the denigrator inside to stay my hand – to leave my pen capped upon the table, my laptop still beneath a pile of disheveled papers. I was disappointed in my paralyzed state and worried of what it could mean for my forthcoming residency. So when a friend pointed out an opportunity to craft a story for a contest with a quickly approaching deadline, I chose to dismiss the snicker within and to embrace my competency and creativity.

I wrote. I edited. I reworked and polished. By the time I was done, I was proud of the piece I submitted, and – more importantly – I had reconnected to my belief in myself and in what I know I can accomplish as a writer. More to the point, I had gotten out of my own way.

There is a danger in too much analysis. Being someone who has elected to pursue a passion founded in looking and thinking deeply, I recognize the irony in these words. But if all we do is examine, prod and second-guess, we will never get to the work. Silencing the voices – be they unabashedly prideful or shriveling in their timidity – allows us to get what we must onto the page.

I know the cacophony of conflicting thoughts will return. Again and again, I will have to face the introspective noise of my mind. It is inevitable. However, I chose how finely I tune into the din and how I counter its effect. This time, I was able to prevail because of a deadline. Now and then, it takes breaking down my goals. It could involve the skills of a good listener or the bend in a familiar forest path. It may require the soft, arching back of a cat beneath my hand, the scent of Nag Champa as I meditate, or the sweetened bitterness of a caramel latte. The key could be space or perspective or focus.

Mostly, it is simply about getting myself into the chair, in front of my screen or notebook, fingers poised.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event (18-22 March) in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn’t come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.
Anne Herbert

My son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all intents and purposes, he is a man. And that is not an easy identity these days. I have fought all my life for the rights of women in the face of what we used to call ‘the patriarchy’ and now goes by the name of ‘toxic masculinity’. And while it does a great job of identifying the impervious pollution of unconscious sexism and misogyny, I wonder what the impact on young men is, being thought of as part of a poisonous environment.

A while back, I was chatting with my son about one of his friends whose father left his wife after an affair.

‘It’s common,’ I said. ‘Lots of men cheat on their wives.’

‘Yeah, not real men,’ he said.

I like that about him – his clarity about what it means to be a man.

It’s an identity he’s been slowly forming through his teen years which has included him speaking up against racist comments (and taking a hit to the head for it) and becoming a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to cause suffering to animals. He’s been teased for his choices by his basketball team-mates, and still orders the falafel when everyone else is eating hamburgers. I find this ridiculously endearing because I know how much he used to love a good hamburger, and no-one would choose the falafel over the burger unless they are driven by something larger than appetite, more meaningful than instant gratification and sturdier than peer approval.

When my son shows signs of not being an asshole, I am proud. I don’t know if telling him this is patronizing, but it probably is. My feminist daughter thinks men get way too much praise for just being decent human beings, which is why the average guy generally thinks much more of himself than the average woman does. Of course, she’s right. She sees the world horizontally right now, but as a mother, I also see it vertically, and at times, even aerially. It’s a function of midlife – we get fly-vision.

I see the ‘and’ rather than the ‘or,’ and it’s with this perspective that I want to build a conversation around what it’s like for young men these days in the #metoo era. I’m talking about those who are outraged by violence, who would never, ever think about hitting or assaulting anyone (let alone a woman) and yet who are loaded with testosterone. I want to hear how it feels to be huge and hairy and sweaty and yet suffused with mindfulness and kindness (words that would make the average guy grimace given how enfeebling they sound).

I’m not making this a competition about who’s got it harder (we know women do), but I do want to speak for our sons, because no self-aware young man these days feels he has a right to have an opinion about anything anymore. I want to speak up for good men because there are many, and women need to remember our fight for safety and equality is not a fight against men.

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About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

I know half the folk who’re reading this will get pissed off, because everyone’s ready with their particular form of ‘offence-taking’ and opinion, and because these days social media lets us. And here’s the problem – offence-taking is a binary notion, where you’re right, so I must be wrong. But I’m a bit over all that, and I’d much rather we both just listen without anyone having to claim a victory. Rumi reminded us of the field beyond notions of wrongdoing and right doing, and that’s the venue for this dialogue.

Raising a son has given me a passport to a world I would never have had access to otherwise. I grew up with sisters, with an artist for a father. Until my son, I’d never watched a boy-sprout grow into a teen-wolf and then into man-form. I’ve been so committed to working for women’s voices that I have, at times, tuned out from understanding the harmonies that are necessary for us all to sing together.

No matter the righteousness of our intentions in one direction, we will always create collateral failures. This is the nature of all human endeavour, which ought to be the antidote to our hubris, and give us permission to change our minds. Our opinions, enthusiasms and devotions should shift as we grow in consciousness. This is what it means to become a true adult, something Toni Morrison calls a ‘difficult beauty.’

With my eye fixed on the longing to end all violence and to create a world where no one has a #metoo story, I also want to open up the dialogue, so we stop generalizing about ‘men’ and ‘women.’ We’re smarter than that and life is more complex than these blunt stereotypes. I want my understanding of suffering to include the quiet agony of young men who have committed suicide before anyone ever knew that macho-heart was breaking.

As a radical feminist in my youth, I want to say that I can’t imagine I was an easy mother for a boy to have. I was vehemently anti-violence which meant ‘no toy guns’ and ‘no violent video games.’ I had strict rules about how boys should behave, and my son stress-tested all of them. I read every book on parenting and then threw them all away. I regularly accepted my abject failure as a parent and resorted to praying when my strategies crumbled. It was only when I saw a therapist who told me to ‘untangle my story from my son’s story,’ that I began to understand that my form of parenting was a form of bullying itself, a way of castrating potential (anticipated) violence. This is a form of toxic expectation, just as bad as expecting our children to be gifted, heterosexual, religious or some other projection of our own unlived life or congested consciousness.

I want to take responsibility for my role in the world we have, to stop blaming others, and to unhook from my own tendency to slip into the victim-role when things are not going my way. I hope I can model this for my children so that they can both move forward in their lives looking for the ‘and’ rather than waving slogans.

I want the chance to speak to people who want to listen to what I know. And I want long conversations with people who know things I need to learn.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”

I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father verbally abuse my mother for eighteen years and had myself been pushed down onto the pavement, my elbow crashing against the cement. Berated. Humiliated. Shamed. But the spoken words – the admission – were surprisingly new to me.

I sat and listened to her story. It was 1988, in northwest Bangladesh. Aayana was our laundry woman. Twice a week she gathered our dirty laundry and hand-washed all our clothes and ironed everything. She liked to chat while she waited for the sun to do its magic. Her favorite topics were knitting and her daughter, Rehana, and granddaughter, an uncommon affection usually reserved for sons and grandsons. Aayana’s family lived in close quarters in a compound of one-room bamboo households that shared pour-flush latrines, a tube well-water supply, a smoky kitchen with two clay burners rising from the floor, and a bathing area in a corner by the well, protected from view by hanging jute sheets.

Her husband had come home late from a night of drinking tea with friends. Perhaps his dinner had grown cold by the time he arrived or he was irritated by something he had heard at the tea stall. Maybe the sales at his tiny market shop were poor. He was unhappy with himself, his life.

The neighbors heard and saw. Still, he hit her. But she found her resolve. She gathered her battered self and made him leave. From that day on, he slept in his cramped stuffy market stall; he would not touch her again, in intimacy of body or soul or physical violence.

Nearly thirty years later I was in the office of an organization in Myanmar that empowers women’s lives through community organizing and savings groups. We had just concluded a two-day trauma awareness training for a group of twenty-two women of diverse ethnic groups from villages in the violence-infested Rakhine state and informal housing settlements in Rangoon. We had shared stories of trauma: domestic violence, disaster events, sons arrested and jailed.  The director and training translator, Van Lizar, approached me. Listening to her story I recalled Aayana, and my own reveal from eight years earlier. The patterns were matching, like the cards of a child’s memory game. Across thousands of miles and three decades, three voices and three stories – the pain, emotional scars and wounds could be interchanged.

 

.About Sandra

Sandra hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drawn to international living and the non-profit sector by faith, others’ stories and curiosity, she has been a management professional in the sector for twenty years, most recently in Myanmar. She is the proud mother of two: a 5’2” Amazon daughter who is fierce, courageous, and has a wildly open and accepting heart and a son who is a young man of great strength who cultivates a deeply open, gentle and kind spirit. Having raised these two while living abundantly around the world, it is now time to write her first book.

There too was the shame that we had let this happen. The anxiety. The fear and self-doubt. An identical fallout was imprinted on Van Lizar, the Director of an organization leading thousands of village women towards self-empowerment; a woman trained in Law in Ireland. Myself, a holder of a Master’s degree and undergraduate cum laude. And Aayana, semi-literate, semi-fluent in three languages and poor by any standard.

But I also saw fire in the eyes and heard the laughter when we felt our own power, when we finished each other’s sentences. Our love for our sons and daughters was fierce. I witnessed the recognition of how far we had come since the day we said, “No more,” when we claimed for ourselves what we had facilitated in others.

Months later we talk about survival. We speak with a voice of courage, not fear. We have forgiven ourselves and him. We have not forgotten. We confess to having good memories of intimacy, of sex, of secret late-night talks and shared meals. We have supportive friends. We are less judgmental. We are becoming more disciplined in our lives. We fearlessly bear witness to nameless victims’ stories. Our spirituality, our faith and our understanding of our connection to a suffering world grows deeper.

I imagine seeing Aayana again and hearing that her story and journey has been the same. I want to tell her that my daughter’s name is Rehana, a chosen reminder of Ayana’s love for her own daughter and to teach mine to be self-empowered.

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Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

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Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

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