It’s hard to really “get away” these days. On a recent girls’ weekend, I found it difficult to turn off from my other life as a mum, worker, partner and finder of all things unfindable! Damn you technology. I love and hate you all at once! I don’t know about you, but I struggle to ignore the phone when it beeps, signalling a facebook post, instagram pic, tweet, text, email, etc. “Just turn off the phone,” my husband (and anti-social media campaigner) says. “Yeah right,” I say. “That’s not going to work with my FOMA (fear of missing out) complex.” “Well stop complaining that you never get any peace,” he says. I hate it when he makes sense!
On our recent Tasmanian Wilderness Experience this all changed. In the world heritage listed forests of south-west Tasmania, there is no mobile phone coverage, no WIFI, not even a television (well not at our Lodge anyway). We were essentially cut off and guess what? I loved it – well eventually! Day one withdrawal was difficult. I kept hearing the phone beep – I was sure. I’d scrounge around in my backpack and pull it out – but there was nothing. I actually had Phantom Ringing Syndrome (yes, it’s a thing, look it up). Once I was able to admit it, I was able to move on. By day four I didn’t want to turn the phone back on.
I felt like I had stepped back in time, to a slower, easier, simpler life. Families at our Lodge were reading books, playing board games, talking to each other (except the teenagers who were still moody and uncommunicative – but at least they weren’t hunched over their phones), listening to live music and chatting to others around them. There were no devices and no loud mobile talkers at the next table! In this truly spectacular part of the world, we had time to really live in the moment, not be madly taking photos and then filtering and posting immediately. It gave us time for leisurely conversations, wine and song with no interruptions – where are my googles? I have no clean undies! Where’s the peanut butter (yes,seriously my son was in our house in Queensland and I was in Melbourne at the time). As we drove out of the forest on that last day and into mobile range, my anxiety rose with every phone beep and I knew this brief, old school, carefree encounter was over and that perhaps I needed to do something about my phone addiction.
One of my favourite things when I got home was sitting around telling stories about my experience and listening to what my family had been up to. Everyone’s usually seen the photos and commentary via social media before I get back, so there’s not much to tell and they’ve usually been in contact numerous times, so I know all their stories as well. I think they missed me a little more, and I missed them. My ten year old, who is not “too cool” to hug me in public yet, couldn’t sit close enough. I might have overdone it with the endless pictures of mountains, waterfalls and lakes, but to their credit they sat through it!
I know social media, texting, email and the like are here to stay, but every now and then I think it is good for the soul to get away from all of it. Remember what is was like to leave work at work, let your kids/partner/friends work things out without you, and just live and be in the moment – reading the paper, having a coffee, going for a walk, admiring the wilderness of Tasmania, whatever your “me time”. You’ll love it – eventually!
I was working at my son’s AFL sausage sizzle the other night during his training. It’s a happy place – kid’s kicking footys, parents chatting as they watch their kids on the field, the warmth of the BBQ and the smell of onion and sausage drawing the crowds on this wintery August evening.
Young kids practising their good manners and addition skills. “Two sausages on bread with sauce please. Is that enough money? Oh, I get change, um can I have a drink too? Is that enough money?” You get the picture!For the littlies it’s all about trying to put the sauce on the sausage themselves and undoubtedly spilling it all over themselves, the table, the kid next to them, anywhere really except the sausage, then biting into said sausage and repeating the above exercise. “Oh well,” say the parents. This is dinner tonight, no cooking and cleaning up, so what’s a little sauce on a shirt.”“Yeah,”say the kids, this is my favourite dinner for the week and not a vegetable in sight,” – they rarely choose the onion option. So why do I love it? Because there is a real sense of connectedness, community. We all love footy, or at least we love that our kids love footy, we’re talking not texting, everyone jumps in to help out, it’s a school night and we’re out late and it feels a bit naughty. Even though training is finished and the kids have gobbled down their sausages, they’re still kicking the footy. And we don’t stop them. We stand at our cars chatting as we put the sausage sizzle gear in out boots, knowing that once we get in, it’s back to that “other life” – the homework, the chores, the everyday. Until next week anyway or the game on Saturday when this little community comes to life again. I feel a bit spoilt on these Wednesday nights as I leave this community and head to one of my other happy places (taking the onion and sausage smell with me) – choir! Have you found your community/happy place, where you get to share what you love with a group that gets it? There’s nothing quite like it to make the heart and soul sizzle (pun intended).
My boys are cricket mad – the big boy and my two sons. As a consequence, we spent a lot of the Christmas holidays watching, attending and playing cricket. At the beach, at the nets, at the park, in the backyard. My husband even mowed a pitch into our lawn! Yes they are committed. Me – not so much. But I have to love their enthusiasm. My favourite part of the summer of cricket is listening to their conversations around cricket and my sons’ absolute belief that one day they will make the Australian cricket team. Tom’s a bowler – the next Mitchell Johnson and Jack’s a batter – similar style to Shane Watson apparently. There’s a five year age gap between my boys, so they’re not sure they’ll be in the Australian team at the same time, but Jack says he’ll put in a good word (or not depending on the day) for Tom. “They earn a lot of money too mum”, says Tom, “so I can buy you a beautiful house at the beach and my Ferrari can be parked downstairs.” Bless him!
I love that at this point in their lives they are full of dreams they believe will come true. And why not? When and why do we stop believing that anything is possible? Because we didn’t make the A team at school? We’re told it’s not “reality” to think like that? We’re encouraged to make sensible choices around career – follow our head, not our hearts? My personal favourite – better to recognise your limited talent and give up now to save heartache in the long run! Sure, at some point you may need to move on, but what about living in the right now. I wanted to be a professional singer, but one too many rejections knocked me out!!
So we put away our passions and childish dreams and we lead our life – not a bad life. It can be filled with love, joy, excitement and everything in between. But sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I taken the road less travelled? I will certainly be encouraging my boys to follow their dreams. Give it all they’ve got and see where it takes them. Yes, that makes me nervous. I don’t want to see them heartbroken or struggling for work (they may end up living with me forever!!), but if they’re following their passion, that has to be a good start. Who knows where it will lead – maybe to the Australian cricket team or something else along the way. Fear of rejection is never a good reason not to do something – life lesson 101 in our house! 102 is resilience, but that’s a whole other blog. As I turn 50 this year I have made a promise to myself to reintroduce those passions in to my life that have taken a back seat to having a family, working etc, etc – I already sing with a gorgeous choir, Cheep Trill, but I’d like to add a few more singing engagements to my calendar. I start guitar lessons next week (excited) and I’m looking in to musical theatre. Who knows, it could be the beginning of something exciting (as long as I can live with the occasional rejection – I didn’t say I’d mastered this life lesson). I’ll keep you posted!
So my family auditioned for Family Feud (FF) this week. I really didn’t want to do it. My sister put our name down two years ago and at that time I actually said no, but she ignored me and did it anyway. As the months passed by I assumed they didn’t want us and forgot all about it. Then six weeks ago we got the call up. Once again I said no, but it fell on deaf ears. My sister wooed me with talk of wine and great restaurants and a gorgeous apartment in the centre of Melbourne and bonding time with my two sisters and brother – she’d already said yes to the FF producer so it was all a bit of a ruse – but I fell for it!
The thing is, the thought of it actually sounded quite fun, the problem was it was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t focus on the fun element! Why am I so frightened of trying the unknown? The list is endless – rejection, being laughed at, not smart enough, good enough, pretty enough, talented enough………Why do I always go to the “dark” side instead of looking at the positives which are also endless – having fun, meeting new people, learning something new, laughing, letting go and seeing what happens. It was FF for god sake, not a broadway audition (or was it? more on this later).
So we dressed to impress (FF words) and headed to the studio. We had a bit of a wobbly start when we realised that everyone had arrived with a clipboard and a wad of notes! My sister, the team leader, but not a detail person, had failed to download an attachment indicating what to bring! A clipboard, no open toed shoes and elevator stories about your life (funny, interesting, to the point, hence the term elevator). So there was not a clipboard between us, we three sisters all had beautifully painted nails on show for the world to see and no prepared speeches. My anxiety levels went through the roof. I was actually hoping they’d take one look at our strappy sandals and kick us off set, but no luck there! They had clipboards and pens to hand out (they’d done this before), our shoes were overlooked and there was plenty of time to write down funny or interesting life stories.
What a mixed bag of families we were – there were sisters from Chile (gentle, beautiful souls –my favourites), a group of brothers who had no idea but had us all in stiches, a family of Irish dancers, and another group who performed the cup song from Pitch Perfect (yes it was FF not Australia’s Got Talent, but everyone brought their A game). There was even a group of mates who hadn’t got the concept that you had to be family. They had to leave – clipboard, closed shoes and all.
So what did we bring to the FF table? Should we have thrown together a quick broadway number? In the end we just tried to be ourselves (well as much as we could be with stage fright and a few overzealous high fives – first time ever I think I’ve high-fived my brother!) Was it enough? We’re not sure? We’ll find out in the next few months. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I got out of my comfort zone, laughed all day, learnt something about myself (question time with the producer was like a family counselling session), spent time with some of my favourite people in the world and a great group of contestants who were so warm and encouraging despite being our competitors. We bonded over coffee and our excitement and nervousness. By the end of the day we were exchanging business cards and finding dates for our brother!
The rest of the weekend (as promised) was spent eating, drinking and regaling the details of our experience. So my weekend of dread turned into an amazing time. I’m so pleased I did it. I’m even sort of proud of myself for not letting the negative talk stop me (as I can be prone to do). Thanks to my sister for pushing me in to it. And thanks to me for doing it! Pauline
PS – As I’m posting this, we got the call up. Filming February 2016. Breathe Pauline, Breathe!!
I love what I do. Does it have to end? Writing, laughing, eating, drinking and storytelling with extraordinary women who four days ago were strangers.
I’m in my happy place. Doing what I love. Bringing people together to have some “me time” to fill their hearts, minds and souls. Sharing stories around the cosy table in the Red Feather Inn, sipping bubbly under the willow tree while eating the freshest local, beautifully prepared food. These women are no longer strangers. They are new found friends.
I love what I do. Does it have to end?
So I’m not much of a writer. I’m more of a talker – just ask my family and friends. But the thing is, I want to be a writer. I have great ideas in my head – pearls of wisdom I’m sure will change the world (well my world anyway), but when I go to write it comes out like – um yeah, you’re great um, good on you! I think my son inherited my skills for the written word. He came out of his room to read his assignment to myself and his father the other night. I was all ready to heap praise on his valiant efforts, but all I could muster was – that’s shit Riley!! Mother of the year – I know!! What happened? I know he, like me, has great ideas. We’d talked about what he was doing and it sounded good. Unfortunately, just not on paper!
While I know some people really do have a way with words, and we can’t all beHemingway or Jane Austen, I believe that we can all write somewhat – it’s just that we’ve never really been shown how. At school we learnt to incorporate an introduction, a middle and a conclusion. It was more about the structure of writing rather than the content. There was no romance in it. I, like my son get so caught up in the structure, finding the perfect word or worried where the full stop goes (mind you, this is not my son’s problem, he as an aversion to all punctuation!), that I struggle to get beyond the first few lines.
The light bulb moment came for me when I met author Maggie MacKellar and did her writing retreat. She gave me permission to just write from the heart – get it all down. The shitty first draft she called it –a phrase coined by author Anne Lamott. What a liberating experience and what came out was not too bad. The thing is, you get all your ideas out and then you can move them around later to make it more interesting or impactful. My last point became my first, my second my fourth etc., but everything I needed to work with was there. So now I feel a bit braver with my writing. No it’s not perfect and sometimes I still find it hard to get started, but at least I have a way forward.
I think Riley is on the right path as well (for this week anyway – he is 13 and that’s a whole other blog). After apologising profusely for my initial remarks, we spent some time helping him to get organised and believe in himself and his ideas. If you’re feeling a little stuck with your writing and need a push to be a bit bolder, braver, better with your writing, then join us and other participants on the same journey for one of our Writers’ Retreats with Maggie MacKellar. I guarantee you will love the experience and where it will lead.
I love the word “joy”. It’s so simple, yet sums up perfectly for me the feeling of great happiness, satisfaction, and a sense that all is right with the world. How often do we really feel this? Let ourselves live in the moment and bask in the joy of what or who’s around us. Last week I found the joy with 13 other amazing individuals. I knew I was going to have fun at the singing retreat, but I wasn’t really expecting the sense of absolute joy that kept washing over me as we moved from being 14 individuals to a tight little group of singers and dare I say, friends. Our task wasn’t easy.We participated in a two day workshop with the amazingly talented Emma Dean and Tony Dean, where we learnt four challenging vocal arrangements and then had to be performance ready to sing at the Festival of Voices for the following two days. We worked hard, a few people had the flu, another nearly lost his voice, and we were tired and concerned about our first performance as we headed from our lovely retreat at Stewarts Bay back to Hobart. But despite this, and through it all, we laughed – together and at each other – and talked and laughed some more, and we bonded over our shared love of singing, music, food, wine and whiskey! We ranged in age from 28 to 65, but we all found a connection – an in person one! We arrived at the Singers’ Lounge for our first performance, only to discover we were following the Exaudi Youth Choir – one of Australia’s most highly regarded vocal groups. They were amazing, and as I looked around at our group, mouths went dry and hands clung a little tighter to music folders. We got up on stage. They called us the wrong name, told the incorrect story about us and we got the giggles. It lightened the mood. Our fearless leader and conductor Emma gave us her gorgeous smile and we started. One of my favourite things about singing is watching peoples’ reactions to the music. We weren’t Exaudi, that’s for sure, but what we were was different, colourful, energetic, enthusiastic and yeah, we could sing! Our music was unexpected – a 90’s mash up, then an arrangement featuring Nirvana and Ave Maria. Before long the crowd was smiling and toe tapping. Joy was there for the taking. My fellow alto singer gave me a hand squeeze (a little ritual now) and I knew she felt the same way I did. Each performance over the next two days got stronger, better, more relaxed and more fun. As I stood atop a double decker bus (one of our more interesting performance venues), I wondered how I could bottle this feeling. Bring it more in to my everyday life. Share it with those who haven’t been able to find joy in their lives. My best advice is to find people who “get you”, who share your love of whatever it is that you love and spend time doing that with them.Thank you to my singing retreat buddies for bringing the joy – it wasn’t what I expected, but it was what I needed!
PS – A special thank you to Jane and Marg from the Festival of Voices Tasmania who did an outstanding job in organising our events and singing (pun intended) our praises whatever our name was – Cheap Thrill, Cheep Trills, Me Time Experience Choir, Cheep Trill (yeah that’s it!). We’ll be back!
This came to me while I was with Maggie MacKellar and six other extraordinary women on our Writers’ Retreat at Brockley Heritage Homestead in Tasmania from May 22 to 25.
The voice in my head, who or whatever that is, said “trust the universe” .I recall sitting and sweating under the noisy but cooling air-conditioner, looking out to the ever so blue skies on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, turning to Pauline and saying, “let’s do this”.
Like-minded people coming together around a common passion – how hard can that be? Yes we can, no we can’t, do we really want to, of course we do, are we sure, yes we are, are we really sure? And that voice in my head said “I told you, just do it”.
The shiny, glossy flyer landed on my desk – Writers’ Retreat with Maggie MacKellar. I picked it up, let out a little scream and a tear. I was so proud and excited! Our vision and conversations had come to life. I laughed as that voice in my head said, “I told you, trust the universe”.
Seven not ordinary but extraordinary women – because I do not do ordinary and that is what the universe delivered – attended the retreat and took us on a journey that warmed our hearts, played with our minds and replenished our souls. All above and beyond my expectations.
Thank you to these beautiful women for being brave, open and sharing their stories, talents and craft and joining us on this very special Me Time Experience. And to Maggie, without whom none of this would be possible, thank you for sharing your incredible gift with us.
I look forward to following each individual journey, wherever and whatever that may be……..
What a wonderful journey 2015 is going to be as Me Time Experiences launches two exciting new events – a writing workshop and a choir retreat. School friendships and stepping out on a limb into the unknown world of choirs saw Sharon and I meet two amazing women – author Maggie MacKellar and singer/songwriter Emma Dean.
Both inspiring in their own ways, Sharon and I wanted to find a way to share the joy and insight they have brought to our lives. Ideas, timetables and ultimately the stars all aligned and the Choir Retreat and Festival of Voices with Emma Dean and Writers’ Retreat with Maggie MacKellar were born.
We are excited about our new babies and we know you will love them too. Come and join us on these journeys for the heart, mind and soul and see where they lead.
Pauline and Sharon