A new road to travel…

I’ve been thinking a huge amount this year about my own career, my skills and my networks. I think perhaps it is the age of my children, now in late primary school and so much more independent than they were before.

Getting the kids ready in the morning now involves me yelling “Time to get ready” a billion times, rather than actually putting clothes on wriggling octopuses.  I can say “you can make your own breakfast, it’s a good lesson to learn” when they complain about being hungry.  I can even walk around the block sometimes without them in tow.

(Of course, there are plenty of negatives about this age too…the arguments and bickering are like small blunt toothpicks being shoved into my eyes and ears, but that’s a story for another day)

It has a left a little more space to reflect about “what’s next” for me (actually I totally don’t have any more “space” but I think I’m in denial on that, so lets just run with it) and where I want to possibly go with this blog.

I’m getting excited and passionate again about all things leadership, communications and workplace empowering.  I’m excited to be volunteering my time this year for the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) in Canberra, as Director of Professional Development and Recognition and absorbing all the industry updates and expert insights.

So, you might start hearing me talking more about these kinds of topics on this here little ole’ blog. There are so many things buzzing around in my brain that it helps to throw them all out into the universe.

I’m sure I will still talk about my juggles with work life harmony (it’s totally uncool now to say “balance” by the way…because we all know that balance is unrealistic, it is never balanced, it is constantly swaying in one direction or another. But harmony, defined by the Collins Dictionary as “The harmony of something is the way in which its parts are combined into a  pleasant arrangement” soo…now I’m shooting for “pleasant arrangements” ) but I might also slip in some reflections on communications at work, what it takes to be an authentic leader and how workplaces can help employees to truly show up and shine.  My gosh, maybe I’ll even throw in some commentary about marketing and what it takes to create great content…who knows.

Saying that here means now I’m going to have to deliver on it! A pre-new year resolution perhaps?

Oh my goodness, that means it is nearly Christmas and this year I am sooo disorganised…less blog writing and more online shopping…ekkk gotta go.

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Weekend bliss? – #MindfulChallenge

The trouble with writing about your meditation experience, is that your mind has a tendency to start thinking about what you are going to write, about how hard it is to stop thinking…which, of course, means I’m thinking..it’s quite a mind numbing circle.
It’s the weekend and I’m curled up in bed. The kids are all safely tucked away around the house on various devices. So it’s seems opportune to take my daily time out.

The knot it my stomach, is still there, it always is. About what…I couldn’t tell you. I wish it would go away but calm patient meditation man is telling me that I should be trying not to resist or wish for things to be different than they are. Just notice them.

So ..Ok….listen to my breath. My mind is going bonkers as usual, time and time again I keep suddenly remembering about my breath.  What we having for dinner tonight?….oh yes, breath….What shall i do with my life? …woops….breath….I wonder what the children are doing?…blow that thought away…breath…was that a car driving in the driveway?…refocus on the breath….

Kelly Exeter posted a great article about her challenges with meditation “Why meditation isn’t ‘working’ for you” and I think she makes some two really good points about the expectations that people have when they meditate.  Essentially, 1) That when you are “good at it”, you will have no thoughts and 2) You will feel amazing in the moment.

This is really true for me, I imagine that when I “get good” at meditating, it will feel like levitating, and my mind will be calm and still …like a pond. But really, that’s not the point. Meditation is actually practicing, like practicing an instrument, to be able to keep bringing your mind back to one focus point…over and over and over….

It is reminding me of bed time training with the kids. My daughter never liked going to bed (still doesn’t).  I was told that the best thing to do is to not “engage”, simple get up…take them back to bed, and walk off again. One night I took her back to bed 35 times. It is a huge mental challenge not to go bananas.

And if I think about it in that context, I realise that I am actually starting to progress on this. I think I’m better at putting my naughty children thoughts back to bed. I’m less concerned about how many thoughts are coming. Because the point isn’t to not have the thoughts, but the game is being able to calmly put them back to bed. I have also noticed that I have started to catch myself when I am unfocused and thinking about other things at other random moments in the day. When I’m driving. Brushing my teeth. Trying to get a peice of work done. I suddenly think…oh…your distracted and thinking about something else…bring your mind back. I’m by no means anywhere near a quiet mind but I’m starting to feel like I’m moving forward.

Crap..I’ve forgotton about my breath again… see!!! Arghh

Times up. Oh well, there will be more practice tomorrow…

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Day 5 – #mindful challenge

I’m in a tiny little meeting room in the office. It has one wall which is a window, so I have to turn my back to it…and i have a pen in my hand and my phone and notepad on the table, so from behind I look like I’m working. But I’m not, I’m sneaking in my 15min meditation.

The last couple of days I’ve done it outside after lunch. And it has been rather lovely, the sun is starting to appear and there are blossoms on the trees. The wind blows my hair while I listen to my breath. So even though the thoughts are still going crazy in my head, I’m feeling peaceful.

But not so much in here. I have a burning ball of anxiety in my stomach. Every time I hear a noise, a shot of adrenalin curses through my body like a murderer is about to enter. I keep reminding myself that the worse thing that could happen is someone might actually open the door and say something along the lines of “what are you doing?”…or simply “err..we have this room booked”…and even the likelihood of that is very very low. Yet, my brain seems to think it needs to be on high alert anyway… and …oh yes…I’m thinking…back to the breath…back to the breath.

I’m still not sure this is helping, but I’m still doing it. I made it through without anyone interrupting me. I’m pretty confident I’m not doing this right.

But I’m doing it. Points for trying. Right?

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Day 1 – #MindfulChallenge

OK step one of the mindful challenge. Start a daily meditation practice.

I’m going to do a Headspace mediation every day. I’ve had the app for about two years and throughout that time I have racked up an impressive (??) 30 meditations #winning,  so I’m thinking that I may need to be a little more consistent.

My challenge is that the meditation that is supposed to make me feel less anxious…well…makes me anxious.

My brain is very active, this morning whilst trying to focus on my breath, my brain was having its own party. Woot woot…she’s just sitting, lets go banana’s. Thoughts were popping up about things that happened in the past or plans for the future. I was thinking about all the things on my to do list, “what are the kids having for lunch today?”, “when are the school photos?”, “do I need to put my washing on?”.

But I know the drill, each time they pop up, I just acknowledge and go back to the breath. So then my brain starts being a bit crazy, at one point…it was singing songs. And there’s this “commentator”, who seems to take pleasure in doing like a voice-over for everything that is happening… and I’m a little embarrassed to say that most of this blog post was written in my head while I was trying to focus on my breath, it just kept popping up and wouldn’t go away. I tried to imagine putting my ideas in a box (I think my brain was worried about forgetting them), or imagine it as clouds in a blue sky blowing slowly away (but then my brain started singing “blue sky…nothing but blue sky..”).

And then there’s the feelings, my body hits the adrenalin response…not exactly helpful when you are trying to be calm. My stomach starts knotting. And this morning I also felt sad. Then bored. Then frustrated.

15 minute meditation complete and I’m feeling, exhausted. Pretty sure that’s not how it was meant to play out.

I know I know I know…this is exactly why I NEED to practice, why this is exactly what I should be doing. Right now it isn’t a very pleasant experience though. I’m not exactly inspired to continue.

But it’s day 1 …right… they say nothing worth doing is easy (my husbands favourite quote whenever I complain about anything..yes…yes, it is annoying).

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Mindfulness…let the journey begin

I’m on a new quest. A new journey of discovery and I’m going to publicly commit myself so that I feel compelled to continue (eeek..just writing that makes me freak out).

It’s been a while since I have written I know. At first it was a happy conscious decision because I wanted to have less on my plate and focus more on work. You know, I’m all about boundaries and juggling different aspects of my life at different points in time.  But then, time just slipped through my fingers and next thing I know it has been months since I wrote properly.

Because really, there is no such thing as “balance” per say, which implies there is this perfect point where you have just the right amount of work, just the right amount of personal stuff etc etc.  But life doesn’t work like that. Life throws you curveballs all the time or doesn’t throw you curveballs and that can be just as disconcerting. So you have to be constantly readjusting, adapting, evolving.

Right now, what I have realized I need in my life is less noise in my head and more focused mindfulness.

Present over perfect.

I’ve said before that I don’t consider myself a perfectionist and I still struggle with the term. Because I’m not perfect, I’m soooo sooo far from perfect that the term doesn’t ring true. And yet, i do have a sense that I need to do everything well. That I need to hustle, keep striving, push forward…prove prove prove myself. Prove myself to whom I’m not exactly sure? To them? To the world? And that striving and pushing keeps me in a whirlwind which mostly I don’t even notice I am in.

My mind is a swirling wind of thoughts, I’m checking myself at every corner, examining every thing I say, every action I have taken. Was that the right thing? The best thing? Am I happy? Am I leaving with purpose? Should I be making different choices?

Oh? Sorry…kids…did you say something??

That’s the bit that I don’t like the most. When I can’t quieten my mind enough to focus on the kids when I am with them. Because when I think about it, it feels like I spend plenty of physical time with the kids…which is great, but perhaps my mind isn’t always joining us. It is off having a party of its own, wondering what I need to get out for dinner tomorrow, whether the socks have been washed, whether I finished all the projects at work…infact, am I even making the right choices at work.  Wait…sorry..that’s right…we’re reading…

So..this is it. The next 6mths I’m jumping on the meditation wagon. Properly. For real. I’m going to become one of those people who gets up at 5am and sits cross legged for an hour by the candlelight with a cushion. Ok, I’m not going to do that. But I am going to try to do my 15min of breathing and quiet reflection for as many days in a row as I can manage. If I miss a day, I’ll get right back on the horse.

Who knows what will work for me, but lets give it a shot and see how we go. Got any tips?

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The joy in the simple pleasures after an epic journey

IMG_3348Recently I had to travel for work and I was totally dreading it.   It involved a long haul flight, long days and little down time.  Ever since I have had kids, sleep has become such a precious commodity that I do everything I can to ensure I get as much as I can.   Gone are the days of waking up all hours of the night, the kids rarely wake up these days, but my sense of scarcity, I simply haven’t been able to shake.

So all I could think about this trip, was how tired I was going to feel.  How draining it would be. I whinged, complained and worried about it in the week leading up.

And, it really was atrocious.  31 hrs of straight travel in one stint, it literally included planes, trains and automobiles.  I had barely any sleep and yet, had to function at work on a different time zone  and from 7.30 in the morning until after dinner.

But you know what.  I was ok.  Actually, I was more than OK. I was good. I had spare seats next to me on the planes so I managed to stretch out my legs. I was traveling with colleagues and we laughed till we nearly cried, taking photos of ourselves looking terrible and bedraggled. We regaled stories to our colleagues about our epic journey.

On our final day, I had a few precious hours to myself in the morning and was fortunate enough to be in amazing hotel room with a huge snuggly comfortable bed.  I couldn’t sleep but I so enjoyed just lying horizontal and appreciating that I had nowhere I needed to be, nothing I needed to do. I bought a huge Starbucks tea and had what was perhaps the greatest bubble bath I have had in my life.

So, actually, it wasn’t all bad at all and it was a great reminder for two important reasons..

  1. Really, if this is my biggest issue, I’m doing good.  Perspective is everything.
  2. You need some suffering in life to also experience joy. Sure, sitting for hours straight on a plane may not exactly be suffering greatly, but that time of discomfort and strain, made me appreciate that bath and bed with so much more pleasure that would have been the case if I had simply gone straight to the hotel. Mark Mason writes about this concept in his book “The subtle art of not giving a F*&^” (which I happened to be reading on the plane), I know, provocative title but he has some really valid points to make about how we approach our lives and what we choose to care about.

It also made me realise that maybe I am putting too much pressure on myself to always achieve a perfect nights sleep and to avoid anything that might make me more tired. There seems to be lots of advice around, driving it home about how we should be eating, drinking, exercising and getting that all important good nights sleep. Which is totally true. But also, every now and again, it’s not the end of the world to miss a bit of sleep and go on a big adventure instead.

Is there something you are avoiding that might actually make you appreciate the small things?

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Wise v’s Smart

I am not the smartest kid on the block…as my friends and family will surely attest. My general knowledge is appalling.  I’m a Trivial Pursuit failure.  I have nightmares about that moment when someone says “Oh, not fair, such an easy question, EVERYONE knows that”, because inevitably, I don’t. I am not the one that can answer the children’s many questions about the universe, animals or history.

However, I have, on a few rare occasions, been called “wise”. Which has been the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon me.

I love the idea of being wise. I love the idea of people coming to me for advice and guidance.  To get my opinion or thoughts on something.

Clearly, I am not wise about everything.  But what age has taught me, is that you don’t have to be smart at everything to be wise about some things. And being wise is not just about having knowledge, it is about being able to combine knowledge together with experience and some level of common sense.

For me, the path to being wise, is to start by being curious. Being eager to learn. To investigate. To read. To listen to others who have experience.

Whether it is at work, or at home with the family, when I feel unsure, I know if I open myself up to being curious, the answers usually come. And, in fact, it helps to consider yourself not very smart, because that is the key that makes you willing to learn more and open you up to other people’s opinions or ideas.

Sure, you probably don’t want me on your table at the parent trivia night at the school, but I hope that my colleagues and family will sometimes value my insightful views about life, work and how we can all bring the best of ourselves to the table.

Which is why being “Curious and Wise”, just got added to my vision board, is it on yours?

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Dance like everyone is watching

I was watching my daughter at the weekend,  dancing and singing with abandon.   She is eight.  She was putting her whole heart out there,  singing, miming, doing hand gestures,  kicking, spinning…she was doing it all.

They say dance like no one is watching, but she didn’t care that I was watching…in fact,  the audience made her push harder,  throw herself more energetically into the performance.

It made my heart lift, watching her… she wasn’t self-conscious at all,  enjoying herself so much in the moment,  not caring what others think because clearly she is thinking she looks fabulous,  (after all…that  is how she is feeling on the inside)

And it made me feel nostalgic,  because I remember feeling the same way.   So many hours spent in my bedroom,  spinning and kicking.  Imagining myself on the stage.   It was so much fun.  It was awesome.

Except, then I started to feel sad.

Because where has that girl gone?   She has been replaced.   By someone who is always a little bit anxious.  Worrying a lot about what others think.    Scared she is not doing things “right”.   Someone who is held back by the knowledge that she is really not actually an amazing dancer.

Don’t get me wrong,  I am conscious of having fun in my life. But what is missing, is the reckless abandon.  Doing things that I’m not very good at, just for the joy of doing them.

It reminds me of a conversation that they were having on the MamaMia podcast the other week,  about doing things you know that you know you are not good at on purpose…because as adults, sometimes we miss the point.  That the fun is the creating,  not the output.

So,  I took some inspo from my little person and when I was feeling flat before work this morning…you guessed it…

I put on some tunes, turned it up WAY loud and I rocked it in the lounge room.   I imagined I was on the stage and everyone was loving it.

I tell you, it is near impossible to feel bad whilst dancing and singing.  It pumps through you like electricity.  And I am reminded that even though I’m a very serious and responsible adult,  I don’t always have to act like it….( I just better not tell my physio … but she didn’t specifically say no pirouettes, did she!?)

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Breakfast, lunch, dinner…repeat…

Yet again, I found myself spending my weekend drowning in a sea of recipe books.

I used to like planning meals, Hell, i used to ENJOY going to the supermarket.

But, people, those days are gone…long gone.  Planning meals is getting harder and harder by the day.  I buy food, and the kids…well…eat it.  So, then I have to buy more food.  And more food.  And more food.

And I’m not a totally organic-straight-from-the-source-of-nature kind of mum, but I do prefer home cooked meals and I am really conscious of how much fruit and veggies the kids are eating.   I find myself pondering over lunch boxes trying to calculate the protein, carbohydrate and vegetable portions that each person in the family has eaten.  Not too much sugar, too much salt, too much wheat.

And…we haven’t even got started on dinner yet.  Have we had red meat this week, fish too many times?  When will the kids have afternoon activities,  impacting what time we can eat?  When will we be home from work, will there be time to cook?  What have we got in the freezer?

Did I miss the deadline to do an online shop, yet?

This is one of those things that i just KNOW I have to get organised, otherwise it becomes a thorn in my side and an unnecessary decision that has to be made each day (apparantly there are only so many decisions you can make in a day, so you want to save it for the good stuff!).  I am so happy when my weekly meal plan is posted and we have a fully stocked fridge.

However..it has somehow become MY job, when it used to be shared with my husband.  But because I didn’t mind it, it became mine, and somehow I have ended up being the planner, the shopper and the cook.

I used to have a spreadsheet of weekly meal plans, with corresponding grocery lists.  Yep. I was one of those people.  Those spreadsheets gave me goose bumps of satisfaction. But they all needed re-doing with a family of four now in mind.  Plus I need breakfasts, lunches and dinners all to be included.  I’m exhausted.

So, I started scouring the internet for ideas to help me and , not surprisingly, there are websites that you can subscribe to that send you meal plans and shopping lists (although a lot of them are in the US…which is fine but then you have the seasons all backwards for what fresh food is available).

And then I decided to try Hello Fresh (no, this is not a paid commercial…ha ha…although, Hello Fresh team, please feel free to send me free boxes).   They deliver a box each week with a list of recipes and ingredients to cook them.   Two things ticked off at once, but still a home cooked meal.  Awesome sauce.  At least that is dinner sorted.  PLUS, the recipe cards make it easy for ANYONE (yep, that’s you husband and kids) to step in and cook.

But here’s the thing.  Now I feel guilty about it!!  Yep,  bloody guilt!  Is this being lazy? is this wasteful?  another ridiculous concept in the modern age?  First world luxury?  And, should I be ashamed of myself  that I can’t find the time to pop down the shops to feed my family?

Sigh…well, I’m just going to have to shake that off, because, frankly, guilt is a waste of my brain space.   Outsourcing things is smart, not wasteful.   And maybe some time in the near future,  I will find the space and time to enjoy planning and cooking meals again.  In the meantime, I can just bake slice with the children at the weekend instead.

On that note, I’m hungry…what’s for lunch?

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Seriously, my career does NOT make me a bad mother…

Sorry peeps but I have to get onto my soap box for a small moment this week.

Miranda Devine published this short article “Don’t let your career make you a bad mother” the other week, and not surprisingly…it has caused a bit of a stir among the media.

Admittedly, when I first heard this article being discussed (on the Mamma Mia webcast), I immediately went into battle mode.  WHAT THE?  This is OUTRAGEOUS!  As they debated it out on the webcast, I found myself yelling at the radio … how dare you imply that I am a bad mother simply because I choose to go to work.

Feeling a tad defensive Claire?  Ahh…yes… possibly.

The thing is, I am a little bit sick of these silly arguments and inflammatory articles (which, mind you,  I’m sure was designed to do exactly what it has done).   Because when you break it down,  the whole argument is completely flawed by the fact that the analogy she is basing her assumptions on in the article…was, infact,  a woman who was both a mother AND a doctor…and by all accounts it appears that she managed to do both these things successfully.

Because actually,  the reality is not the either/ or debate it is made out to be.

It is not simply a choice between being a crazed career woman who palms her children off to nanny’s while she selfishly talks on her mobile phone (have you seen the movie Storks? Please reference for classic stereotypical example of career parents) OR  an obsessive stay at home mother, who spends all her time at the school canteen and frowns on mothers who dare to bring anything but sugar free home baked cookies to the Fete Bake stall.    Sure…there would be some people who sit at these exaggerated ends of the spectrum but most of us normal people would sit somewhere in the middle.

Our prioritization of our jobs and our kids may change from year to year, month to month, day to day even.   And there are so many other facets of our lives that define us. If I wasn’t a mother, I would not cease to exist or add no value.  But I am a mother and yes…I do work.  I am also a wife.  I am a friend. I am a blogger.  I am a really bad but enthusiastic dancer.

When I choose to “prioritise” dancing around the lounge room instead of doing homework with my kids,  does that make me a bad mum in that moment.  Hell no.  It makes me really hilarious and cool (just for the record)…and it makes my kids roll their eyes and laugh.

So PLEASE can we stop having this conversation.   We do not just have Option A and Option B on the table.   We have a plethora of choices,  and we need to stop judging people for the choices they have made.

At my funeral,  I hope my children talk about what a wonderful, caring Mum that I was.  My colleagues talk about my passion for my work.  My friends and husband talk about my general awesomeness.  Then they all do some daggy dancing at the wake.

Rant over.

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