Only crazy people renovate!

Renovating couple

My gorgeous boyfriend and I are renovating a house at the Sunshine Coast. At the moment it is — shall we say — “a renovator’s dream”. By which I mean that it is a glorified shell of a beach shack. But oh how we hold such big hopes for the wee one! We’ve spent the past few months tearing things down and stripping things back, and then a couple of weeks ago, we got to actually start constructing  (which feels waaaay better than destructing, like we’re actually — finally — getting somewhere!).

It’s quite primitive living at the moment. We have no internal walls, but most of our external ones (woo!). We jokingly refer to the lack of internal walls as a ‘new concept in open plan living’. It definitely makes going to the toilet a whole lotta fun! Adam will just pee whenever (boys!) but I’m constantly having to ask him to go to the other end of the house so I can pee (I drink a lot of water and have a bladder the size of a freaking walnut, so this happens all the time!) and whenever either of us needs to do twosies… Well, let’s just say that last week there was an ‘incident’ when Adam re-entered the house before I was ready and couldn’t understand why his happy-shiny-lovely girlfriend suddenly became a shrieking banshee (boys!!!).

Anyway!

We also don’t really have a shower or laundry or hand basin or kitchen sink. Instead, we have a room that will one day be our en-suite, but for now, serves as our multipurpose room for all the aforementioned purposes. Adam positioned the shower tray from the old bathroom over the new drain in the floor, dangled a shower hose from the roof and — ta dah! — we now have a multipurpose room for all things requiring water! (It’s currently this awesome shade of tree-frog green, due to the layer of water-proofing stuff. I have entered a formal request for this colour to remain our official bathroom colour theme — you guys, it’s so HAPPY and GREEN! — but have been overruled. I intend to revolt later down the track in the form of crafty projects, excessive numbers of candles and plenty of bunting!)

Our kitchen is a barbecue in what will be our lounge room. Where our bed is at the moment will soon be our kitchen. And my ‘office’ is wherever I can find a clean place to plonk, preferably next to a highly-sought-after power-point (old houses have so few power outlets! How did they all charge their smart phones?!!)

All of this may sound slightly crazy and haphazard — and indeed at times, it is! — but we are both loving the process, and are both so excited about what our little house will become.

(Which hopefully — sooner rather than later — will be a little house with a toilet that has walls and a door. A girl’s allowed to dream, isn’t she?!!)

I thought I’d give you a little photo-update of our progress!

xo

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And that view makes it all worth it!

Why peeing this morning was so freaking awesome

peeing-rainbows

My car died on the weekend. And when I say ‘died’, I mean flat-out kaput, never to cruise the sunny roads of Brisbane again. Margeurite, my sort-of trusty Toyota Camry, is gone.

Her untimely demise happened when I was in the middle of the Pacific Motorway — a busy eight lane freeway — about an hour from my home. She had been a little funny that day already, which is unusual — normally she’s totally reliable — and all of a sudden, I noticed that the temperature gauge had gone through the roof, so I pulled over onto the shoulder of the road.

With cars speeding past at 110km per hour, it was not the best place for my car to break down. (The tow-truck man would later tell me that in his business, that particular stretch of road is called ‘Death Gully’, because of the number of people who have died in car accidents there, inlcuding five young people in the one accident about a year ago. A high speed limit combined with not-that-great visibility is not the best mix.) I clambered out and went to look under the bonnet.

Now, I know very little about cars. I can check oil and coolant, and that’s about it. (I can also pump up my tyres, but I prefer my boyfriend to do all of the above for me anyway!) So when I popped the bonnet, it was not really with the expectation that I would actually be able to do anything to my car. Perhaps I was hoping for something ridiculously-and-glaringly obvious — you know, like a bright red arrow pointing to a loose cap that I could screw back on and be done. Alas, no such luck. What I did see was red coolant everywhere. Splashed all over the place, sizzled and boiled dry. Probs not a great sign, my inner mechanic told me.

When the tow truck man arrived to rescue me from my roadside misery, we quickly established that it was quite serious. Like, not a roadside fix. So I decided to get my car towed straight to my mechanic (an hour away, and despite the hideous cost, actually the most cost-effective solution of all the options).

Broken down car

As we were driving, I was sinking into that melancholy particular to anticipated financial pain. The tow truck man could sense my distress (don’t know what could have possibly given it away — my near-hysterical voice on the phone? My red-and-flustered face when he found me on the freeway after an hour of waiting? Can’t be sure!) and took it upon himself to cheer me up. To distract me. Bless.

We discussed our families — he had six kids total, a motley Brady-Bunch-style blended family; our work — he was about to head up to the mines; and his parenting philosophy — any old asshole can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad. Despite being entirely not in the mood to engage, I found myself drawn into the conversation, and forgetting where I was for tiny little stretches at a time.

When we finally arrived at my mechanic’s garage, and he had unloaded my car, he walked around to me and said ‘what did you learn from our trip together?’ and I mumbled something about silver linings, and the people we love being important, not the money (or cars) that we have.

He said “Look, there’s one more thing I want to tell you. My sister was born with spina bifida. So ever since she was a baby, she’s been deformed, and life has been a fight. It takes her hours to do everything, even the simplest things that I do without thinking. So every morning, when I wake up, and go into the toilet to take a piss, I think to myself ‘I’m standing and I’m pissing’ and I know it’s a good day. If you can stand, and you can piss, you know it’s a good day. Hell, you know it’s a good life.”

And with those words from my scruffy, smiley tow truck man, the door in my mind crept open and perspective crept in. Not to say I was ‘happy’ with the situation — that night, I still went home and had myself a private pity party (the only invitees were myself and a giant bag of M&Ms). I still got slightly teary on the phone to my boyfriend when I told him how much it would likely cost. But there was space and peace around those acute emotions. There was the beginning of an inner knowing that none of it mattered and it was all gonna be alright.

It’s so easy to let events like a dead-car-at-a-financially-inconvenient-time to derail us from living life wholeheartedly, with gratitude. Events like this seem to give us a free pass to spend the day (week?!!) in a shitty mood, and to eat junk food, and to whinge and moan to anyone who will listen about how hardly-done-by we are by the Universe. But with just a dash of perspective, we can connect with the truth of the situation.

So when I go the confirmation phone call this morning from my mechanic –”Jess, the car’s done. She’s dead. It’s not even worth fixing,” — there was space and peace and okay-ness around that. Because this morning, I stood up, and I went and peed. And that means that I’m having a good day. Hell, it means I’m having a good life.

In fact, I got out of my warm bed, in my warm house, and stood on my two walk-for-miles gorgeous legs, and peed in my toilet. Then I wrapped myself in my favourite fluffy bathrobe and spoke to my gorgeous-loving boyfriend on the phone. Then spoke to my gorgeous-loving mum and gorgeous-loving sister. Then I sat and ate a delicious healthy breakfast in the sun. There is no way — car or no car — that I’m not living a massively blessed life.

All it took was the loss of a $5 000 car to hammer the lesson home. I hope it sticks this time. Really, it would be cheap at twice the price.

What are you grateful for today? xx

Life is good

 

Confessions of a small business owner

Owning a small business

Since starting my own business, there are a few things that have crept up on me and shocked me. Like how busy I would be (don’t laugh, but I kinda thought I would be no busier than when I was back at my old nine-to-fiver job). Like how long everything would take (don’t laugh, but I kinda thought I would be able to set up my website in two days, maybe three max). Like how exhausting creative work can be (don’t laugh, but I kinda thought that I’d be joyfully banging on the keyboard for, like, eight hours a day producing all this glorious content that everybody – including me – loved).

The reality is somewhat different.

I am super-crazy busy. It can be overwhelming, but it is also awesomely gratifying when you realise that everything you are putting in, you are actually getting out (which I definitely did not feel at my old job).

I don’t get half as much done as I would like. Most days see me finishing up with a laugh at myself (umm, or a frustrated eye roll) at how much my to-do list held and how much I actually got done.

And, I cannot write all day every day. Now, this one might seem like a giant DUH to some of you, but I never realised how exhausting prolonged creative work is. It’s a little like squeezing the juice out of your citrus-fruit-self hour after hour. Until the ruby-red grapefruit is all pithy and smooshy, but then you keep juicing some more.

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This is not to say that I am not enjoying myself, or that I am not liking what I am doing. In a few blissful moments every week, I am smacked straight in the face with the delightful knowledge that I am finally on the right path. I am finally doing what my heart wants to be doing. I am finally creating something that I am proud of. Those little moments are AWESOME!

But, in between, there is a lot of struggle. There is a massive to-do list. There is comparing myself to others who seem to have it all together while I seem to very much not.

I write all of this not to complain, but to share. I feel like so many people with online businesses make such a show of being all shiny and happy all the time, and making oodles of money with very few hours of work (Tim Ferriss, you have ruined us! How are people being set up to think that anything over four hours of work a day is a failure? Ludicrous!)

I feel like it is important to put out there that I am currently the busiest I have ever been in my life, I am not (yet?!) earning as much as I was in the corporate job I left behind, and there are days where I don’t make it out of my pajamas til noon. (Hmmm, it seems like this description could also apply to mothers of young children? Thank goodness my business doesn’t involve changing nappies and spit-up and [not that many] tantrums!)

Keep calm and write on

So if this is what your version of working for yourself looks like too, then please know that you are not alone. Please know that there is another pajama-clad lady out there who is also tearing her hair out as she tries to figure out how the hell SEO works and how to find the time to post on her blog and who also reads the glowing success stories she sees on facebook with either grains of salt or buckets of envy.

This lady right here is just trying to keep going, one sentence at a time. Bird by bird, she is getting her writing done and her business moving.

Step by step, sentence by sentence, bird by bird. It’s the only way anyone’s ever done anything.

How are you?
xo

Truly at peace_2

What I learned about life from making garlic ice cream

Stepford housewife

I love getting all ‘sperimental in the kitchen. (My boyfriend would emphasize the ‘mental’ part of experimental! ) Cooking has always been something that has come very naturally to me, and I’m pretty good at my particular style of culinary creation. I’ve never been one to really follow recipes. I’m kinda your ‘have-a-crack’ cook. I’ll see or taste or think of something, and just decide to have a go at making my version of it. Even if I do happen to follow a recipe, I never *follow* it. I’m always exchanging or mixing up or adding or merging two recipes into one.

This has resulted in some amazing culinary productions. I make this amazing quinoa, chicken, kale and avocado dish. I ‘invented’ this amazing green thai chicken risotto. And my boyfriend loves all the cookies and biscuits I randomly come up with (cranberry and white chocolate were a particular hit).

Just as often, it has also resulted in some spectacular culinary failures.

And I mean truly spectacular.

Three of note that are worth sharing:

#1. About five years ago, I was having a dinner party for my birthday, and I wanted to make something truly original and awesome and creative. I’d been watching a bit of Jamie Oliver, and loved how he would talk about the ways flavours matched and connected with each other (oh sweet ‘art, the orange and the fennel, it’s bloody good together, yeah? Just lovely-jubbly). And I wanted to come up with my own Magnificent Flavour Combination.

What I came up with, was garlic ice cream.

Hold on, stay with me!

You know how when you roast garlic, it caramelizes and is so delicious and sweet and amazing?

And you know how real vanilla-bean ice cream also has a caramelized flavour to it, and is also delicious and sweet and amazing?

Yeah? Well, why not mix them both together, says young-and-foolish Jess.

So she did.

Thankfully, I tested this out before my actual dinner party (small blessings). It was a high-holy disaster. The flavours did not bond and sing and transcend into otherworldliness. No. It just tasted like garlic. In ice cream. It tasted like a dreadful indecisive sweet-savoury-smoosh accident.

Garlic ice creamApparently I’m not the only one. Also: there’s a reason why it’s free…

#2. At the start of this year — in fact, at my ‘good bye morning tea’ at work — I decided to make ‘compost cookies‘. My teammates and I had long discussed the merits of compost cookies, after one of us had randomly stumbled onto the recipe. Basically, a compost cookie is like a normal chocolate chip cookie, with crushed potato chips and pretzels in it. (So, you know, super healthy!). And on my last day at work, I decided I wanted to make them for this little group of people whom I loved so much. But did I follow a recipe? Ummm, no. Being gung-ho and headstrong, I just kind of put everything together that I thought should go into it. (As a side-note, my boyfriend and his parents thought it was high-LAR-ious watching me struggle to slowly add potato chips into the food mixer. Smith’s Lightly Salteds went flying everywhere!).

The end result of my experimentation was a big tray of biscuit. Yes, singular. Each of my carefully shaped little gob-lets of cookie dough spread out and morphed into one super biscuit. With potato chips and pretzels sticking out of the top. I was in HYSTERICS. (Probably a massive sugar high, too, cos this type of no-recipe cooking means you have to taste a lot.) I was literally lying on the floor laughing, while my boyfriend made packet-mix brownies (which were meant to be the back-up plan in case my cookies didn’t work out [what could possible go wrong?] and which instead turned into the star of my morning tea show!). So I broke my giant tray-shaped biscuit into normal portion sizes, took it to work, and we ate then anyway. At least these guys still tasted good!

Proper compost cookies Mine did not look at all like this…

#3. And then last week. I decided to try to make a sweet potato ice cream. Paleo style. Why? Just because. Because I like eating paleo style. Because my sister was coming over for dinner and I wanted to do something a little different. Because I’m crazy like that. In my head, it seemed awesome – roasted sweet potato, blended with coconut cream, raw cacao powder, orange zest, honey, dates, cinnamon, cardamom and all-spice. Then chucked in the ice cream-maker to freeze. (It should be notes that my dinner guests were less than enthused when I explained what was to come after the main!)

Unfortunately, my Big Ice Cream Idea hadn’t set in time for dessert, so we ended up having it drizzled on top of my little paleo pumpkin spice muffins as a sauce, instead of the delicate scoop (or quinelle, for you  Masterchef fans) that I had imagined. It actually just tasted like a rich choc-orange sauce, and went quite nicely with the little cakes. But still not what I’d call, you know, a raging success. And definitely not what I’d envisaged in the first place.

Where is all this leading to? Well. I am fearless in the kitchen. I have so much fun breaking the rules. When things work, they can be an absolute triumph. When things don’t, I don’t mind playing the role of the class clown whom everyone can laugh at while eating their root-vegetable-based dessert. Or hell, even throwing the lot out and starting from scratch. (Or ordering take-out!)

And I will have a go at absolutely anything. Guava snow balls? Peking duck pancakes? Raw cashew cheesecake? Hells-to-the-yeah, bring it on!

It would be awesome to feel this fearless and free in other areas of my creative life. With writing, I can feel so stilted by what other people will think — oh my goodness, so-and-so won’t like this, everyone’ll think I’m an idiot, this is so stupid, it’ll never work, it’s not how you do it, you sound so dumb, what will people say about you? Yet with food, I find it so easy to say ‘Well, if Liesl doesn’t like it, she just won’t eat it, it’s fine! She can just have a cup of tea and a piece of fruit instead’. No problems. Detachment from the outcome and its reception. Which actually results in a crazy amount of creative freedom.

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The act of creating can be very exposing, leaving us vulnerable. Putting ourselves out there for the consumption of others can be daunting. And inevitably some will like it (well, unless it’s garlic ice cream), and just as inevitably, some will LOATHE it. Some will even loathe you. Yet if we limit our creations to what we think others will like, we run the risk of watering down our creativity until it resembles nothing more than luke-warm French Onion Soup – tasty in a generic way, but lacking any sort of oomph. Or personality. Or creative inspiration.

By trying to cater to everyone, we end up appealing to no one.
By being scared of how something will be received, we stunt our own creative process and flow.
And by worrying about what the people who consume our creations will think, we lose sight of why we create art in the first place.

So, now when I write, I am aiming to embody the garlic ice cream spirit. Fearless, vulnerable, and free from constraints. It’s the best way to create.

Care to join me?

XX

Afternoon tea time (with paleo recipes!)

When I was traveling through Spain, there were orange trees everywhere. I got a little obsessed, and loved eating them. Especially straight off the tree – what could be healthier than picking and eating your own produce? And in the middle of city streets, no less. This health-plus-tree-climbing combination excited me.

Orange trees are taller than I am, so sometimes I would have to exercise creative climbing techniques in order to reach the fruit. Upon my successful stealing appropriation of the fruit, I took such pleasure in walking along peeling the fruit, juice dripping everywhere, tasty goodness filling my mouth and belly.

When there were no trees around to steal appropriate from, I loved going to the La Boqueria markets on La Ramblas each day to get my fruit-and-veg fix. I would by a stalk of broccoli and some oranges, and those were my snacks for the day (along with the packets of nuts always safely stowed in my handbag). (This is one of my top staying-healthy-whilst-travelling tips: Find the local markets–usually very easy in European cities–and get your hands on some fresh produce every day. Markets are a traveller’s friend!)

So when the kind people at Citrus Australia contacted me about their ‘ten oranges in ten days’ challenge, and offered to send me a crate of hand-picked organic Australian oranges, I jumped at the chance to join in.

As we have all been taught since childhood, oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, but they are also jam packed with tons of other nutrients (such as folate and antioxidants) that help keep our bodies happy and healthy.

So I’ve got two zesty recipes to share with you today. The weather in Brisbane at the moment is chilly but gorgeous – the sort of weather that makes you want to curl up in a patch of sunlight and eat some warming comfort food. So today’s recipes are perfect for afternoon tea in the sun… Enjoy!

Zesty Orange Paleo Mug-Muffin

My mum and I have both been loving our paleo mug muffins this winter! They are like a little warm pudding-hug for your innards, but unlike traditional winter warmers, they’re not filled with processed crap. Oh yeah, and they take about three minutes to make. Bring on afternoon tea!

Ingredients:

1 heaped tablespoon coconut flour (and I mean heaped!)
1 egg
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of half an orange
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon currants

Place all ingredients except currants in a mug and stir well–coconut flour can be a little lumpy! Once smooth, stir through the currants. Place mug in microwave and cook on high for a minute and a half to two minutes. Once it’s cooked, Robert is your mother’s brother. Enjoy straight from the mug for some warm, pudding deliciousness. Here’s what mine looked like:

 

Orange Afternoon Tea Salad

This is totally tasty and beautiful to look at, but really easy. Simply get your orange, chop off the skin and cut into pieces. Arrange on a plate. Tear some fresh mint leaves over the top, then drizzle with two teaspoons of your favourite nut oil (I used macadamia oil, but almond oil is also delicious).

Look at it all shiny and happy on the plate!

All together now: a zesty afternoon tea in the winter sunshine. Mmmmmmm!

Do you have any current afternoon tea favourites?

Trees and Pumpkins and Paleo, Oh My! (Guest Post)

The lovely Carlee from Being the Tree of Life is all about healthy living, holistic integration and oneness. All things I most definitely believe in and try to implement in my own life. So I was thrilled when she asked me to come up with a recipe and answer a few questions about my own lifestyle and wellness philosophy. These Pumpkin-spice Paleo muffins are so tasty that younger brothers and unknowing boyfriends won’t even realize they’re eating something that’s good for them. Ha!!!

Link Lovin’

Hola, lover!

This week has been crazy-but-good, frustrating-but-mind-opening. The process of launching my business is still in full swing, and I am slowly, slowly, step-by-step getting to where I want to be. In general, over the past seven days, I have had assumptions challenged, I have had spectacular  failures in the kitchen (ummm, there’ll be a post coming soon about my sweet potato ice-cream) and I have continued to learn more about myself than ever before. So all in all – life is good. I feel like I am where I should be. I feel like I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And I’m getting better at accepting that the Universe’s time frame may be slightly different to my own!

In the meantime, here are some awesome links to fill your daily quote of internet procrastination!

1. I love this open letter from a daughter to her Mumsy. As someone who has had a very… interesting… weight and body image journey my entire freaking life, this letter smacked of truth. Not because my mum ever passed on bad body images issues to me (in fact, quite the opposite), but because I am so aware of the fact that I never want to pass on my issues to my future daughter.

 

2. I am still in a slight post-travels funk. Meaning, at least a few times a day, I will be transported back to that time I was wandering through the twilight markets in the Marais in Paris. Or that time we were all at that crazy-awesome rooftop bar in Florence. Or that time when we were hanging out with my best friend and her husband drinking Aperols in Austria. And I’ll get a pang of longing to go back. Like, rightthisverysecond. Anyway, I am assuaging my longing for wandering by reading travel stories online. And this one by Kate Northrup, about what she learned while visiting Paris, hit the spot – WTF America?!!

 

3. I used to be a massive Buffy fan. So when I saw that Joss Whedon (creator of the best show in the Universe!) had delivered a commencement speech to a bunch of graduating students, I knew I had to watch it. In typical Joss-fashion, this is funny and relaxed AND profound. I’m sure it ain’t what the kidlets were expecting (“You are all going to die.”), but I’m sure that they walked away from it with their minds just that little bit more cracked open.

Speaking of the “contradiction” between the body and the mind, my man Joss said:

It never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.

Check out the full video below. There’s more goodness within!

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Have a great weekend! XX

 

Baby-freaking-steps

I am in the midst of setting up my business. In my (very naive, very optimistic) head, I thought I’d be able to get my website up-and-running in, you know, a day or two. Maybe three.

Try five days, and it’s still not done! I have had to revise my self-imposed launch date a bunch of times already.

I’m really happy with what I’ve done (and I can’t wait to show it to you when it’s finally ready!), but my brain is being… Well, kinda stupid.

You know that saying ‘shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll be amongst the stars’? Well, turns out, my mind’s natural instinct is not to admire the view of Alpha Centauri as I sail past. Instead, my mind likes to berate me for taking forever and not meeting self-imposed deadlines and just generally for not being good enough.

In the past, this perfectionism has meant that I struggled to get things done. ‘If I can’t do it perfectly, why the hell bother at all?’

Which is just the most ridiculous thing to think, it makes me laugh. And cringe. And sometimes cry out in frustration at myself.

As if it’s not better to have a shitty first draft done than nothing at all.
As if it’s not better to have a perfectly passable website than none at all.
As if it’s not better to bloody well better to start somewhere than never start at all!

But!

As I wrote last week, This Time It’s All Going To Be Different.

In accordance with the manifesto I wrote, one tenet I am striving to apply is ‘I will aim to get things done, not get things perfect’. (Oh, and there’s a bunch of other stuff about being kind to myself and not getting frustrated when things take longer than expected and other such twaddle. But baby-freaking-steps! I’m just focusing on the ‘done, not perfect’ one for today!)

All this perfectionism ain’t doing us–me–any favours.

One of my favourite writers, Brene Brown, writes a lot about how perfectionism is the enemy to getting things done. And to feeling good about yourself. And to embracing vulnerability, being creative, and living a wholehearted life. (And that’s just for starters!)

‘Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.’

Furthermore, she says, perfectionism is about trying to earn approval: ‘most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.’

Oh how this is me.

As well as in the work/career context, the other area where I experience a whole lot of Perfection Paralysis is regarding health and wellness. And I don’t think I’m alone. How many times do things run through your head like ‘well if I can’t walk/ride/get to the gym for at least an hour, then it’s not worth it’. Or ‘there’s no point even trying this week, because I’ve got a wedding/event/cousin’s dog’s birthday on Friday night’. Or my personal favourite, ‘well if I’ve eaten four chocolate biscuits, I may as well eat the whole packet. And the rest of the day is ruined. Just eat whatever today, and I’ll start [trying to be perfect] again tomorrow.’

All of these destructive thought patterns stem from feeling the need to be perfect. They’ve got failure built-in to them, and they encourage procrastination. And boy, do they not serve us.

I love these words from Gretchen Rubin:

‘”Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” (Cribbed from Voltaire.) A twenty-minute walk that I do is better than the four-mile run I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better that the perfect book that never leaves my computer. The dinner party of take-out Chinese food is better than the elegant dinner I never host.’

So. Very. True.

So… As a recovering perfectionist and aspiring good-enough-ist, my new business and website are coming along nicely. Not perfectly, but good enough. Stuff is getting done, and that is the thing.

Swallowing for love

Despite what Hollywood may have us believe, a relationship is not built on grandiose gestures of love. It’s not even built on medium-sized ones. My experience is that it’s built on the tiny but cumulative acts of daily existence – picking up the bath mat after the shower, ‘cos he knows that I appreciate it. Cleaning the sink after straightening my hair, ‘cos I know that he likes a clean sink. Always making sure the other has a glass of water next to the bed, ‘cos we both appreciate that.

The older I get (& hopefully, the wiser I get) the more these little things mean to me. If you had asked me at age 21 whether these sorts of things mattered in a relationship, I would have said no. I would have been much more enamoured of the amore who brought me bunches of flowers or took me out to a fancy restaurant, or who proclaimed his love loudly and publicly (perhaps with a boom box outside my bedroom window. In the rain. Damn you, 80s teen movies!)

Not anymore. Now it is the little things, that combined, make up a life of days. The little acts of love are the important ones.

The flipside of this is also true. I believe that the tiny words of annoyance and frustration we sling at our partners may be the most damaging. Perhaps it is not the big fights, but the low level bickering that hurts us the most.

This leads me to my revelation: the tiny barbs we swallow in the name of the bigger picture, may just be the grandest gestures of love we have.

All of us have moments of frustration, annoyance, anger even. And I have always been one to wear my emotions on my sleeve – I believe it is both my absolute best feature and my very worst downfall. If I love you, you will know it with every fibre of your being, because there is no hiding the wellspring within me. The flipside of this, of course, is that flashes of annoyance over something like a trivial, trifling misunderstanding, are also entirely evident. This is less than great.

But, these little moments can be key to massive growth. Both on a personal level, and within the relationship.

We all know that it is those we are closest to whom we are most likely to let out our frustration on – we have nothing to hide from them, we know that they’ll stick around even if we are a Right Royal Bitch for a moment or two. We also know that we would never treat others that way. It’s like that tactic some people use to ensure a harmonious Christmas – invite a person who’s outside your immediate circle of family or friends, because no one wants to misbehave in front of them. We reserve our frustrations and annoyances for those who are the closest to us, a perverse but strangely understandable reality.

So, during my times of keenest frustration, when I am most likely to lash out at my partner, I am trying to cultivate… politeness. Yes, politeness.

If we can identify those moments when we are feeling the chafing inside us, and instead of just letting it out (which is my natural tendency in such moments) we can swallow it, let it go, and focus on just being polite to the other person… Well, these may be the biggest acts of love we can do for our significant other.

We all know how easy it is for a brilliant happy moment to be destroyed by one cross word. And the time to rebuild that good feeling can sometimes feel frustratingly lengthy and disproportionate to the quick flash in which it was torn down.

These little acts of swallowing might bring us closer to the peace we crave, at very little cost. Please note that in no way am I advocating not being honest and open with your partner, and I am a supreme believer in airing all issues of importance. It’s the trifles I’m talking about here. The annoyances. The frustrations. The tiny little bees in our petty little bonnets. The things that we look back on a mere hour or two later and wonder what the hell was wrong with us.


It is these that I am trying to swallow. It is these that I am trying to cultivate awareness of, so that instead of giving in to my first instinct – the monkey mind who wants to swipe at the nearest branch on her way down – I can instead, counter-intuitively, align with what I know I actually want, in the bigger picture.

And sometimes in those moments, it is difficult to evaluate and articulate.

And decision making is not easy or advised.

And a clear assessment ain’t happening.

But I can do polite. In that moment, I can be careful with what comes out of my mouth. I can be polite.

It is such a simple criterion to employ, which actually gives me far more hope for its success than if it were a complex philosophical theory requiring actual brain power. These simple little acts of swallowing might just lead to a whole lot more growth for my relationship. And for me.

What do you think about being polite to your partner and swallowing the tiny barbs?

 ♥

Happiness and Grabbiness

[I wrote this in Paris, however it has languished in the digital depths of my iPad until now!]

The first time it happened, I was in Paris. I was sitting in this gorgeous little ‘tea house’ in a square next to the George Pompidou Centre. Having failed miserably in my attempt at appreciating modern art, I had left the strange, space-age Pompidou building for the piazza-square off to the side. This square has the most bizarre water feature in its centre – a large, waist-height pool made of marble, with bizarre graffiti-like art statues sticking out of it – bright red lips, a large treble clef, a rainbow skull. A very Parisian street-cool feel.

The square was brimming with people. School had just let out, so there were childish yells and giggles and games going on everywhere. A street artist was drawing Charlie Chaplin in chalk on the pavement. Another was playing piano accordion, which perhaps the locals think of as cheesy, but which I love because it so strongly says you are in France, you are in France.

I was at my tea-house table, overlooking this tableaux, sipping my latte, eating a croissant and writing in my journal. I had been on a little roll with the writing (aren’t those glorious? When you can just feel the goodness flow from you without effort into the pages? All the more delicious when it’s written by hand in a gorgeous leather-bound journal!)

And then it hit me.

Smacked me in the face.

The realisation that This is it. This is your dream, Jessica. This is what you have dreamed of and longed for and wished for for so very long – sitting in a Parisian cafe, writing. You are doing it. Right now. You are living your dream.

And then, of course, following this moment of self conscious awareness, this happened:

Quick, quick, concentrate. Soak all this in. Make the most of this. This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for. Concentrate! Do not let this moment get away!

The very moment!

I’ve had this a few times over the past few months – the very sudden, smack-you-in-the-face realisation that I am ‘living my dream’. Usually, it will be in moments while I am sitting in a cafe over a coffee and a croissant, writing. All of a sudden I would be struck by the knowledge that this is *exactly* what I have wanted for so long, I am living it right now. And then I am filled with a slight panic, followed by determination to hold on to the moment as long as I can, lest it slip away. And of course, as soon as that happens, all the magic of the moment is lost.

It can be a very scary thing, to fulfill your goals or achieve your dreams. Or to find yourself doing what it is that you have been dreaming of for years. In my reckoning, the reasons are twofold. First of all, you now have something to lose. And we humans are programmed to be terrified of losing anything. We will go out of our way to avoid loss and the anticipated pain and suffering which accompanies it (hell, the entire advertising industry is based on this tenet). Happiness must mean you have something to lose, right?

And secondly, the other reason, is that you realise that you’re still exactly the same person. Warts and hurts and all. So very often, we think to ourselves ‘I will be happy when…’ (I lose the weight, I get the book deal, I get to Europe). So what happens when you finally get to Europe? Or lose weight? Or sign a multimillion dollar book deal? Without fail, you will find that you are still you. The old truism ‘wherever you go, there you are’ also applies to this situation. Whatever you achieve, you’re still you. Unless you have been working to iron out the kinks of your human blueprint along the way, you are still going to have the same muck under the surface, even if you do now have the multimillion dollar contract or the size eight ass or the European holiday.

So in these moments where I become happy and then scared and then grabby, I am trying to be kind to myself. To tell myself to take deep breaths, aiming for re-immersion in the moment. Deep breaths, because all there is is the moment. Just deep breaths.

And that’s all I’ve got. But it’s helping…

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