Embrace the Phase

Embrace the phase

(If you prefer video, scroll down!)

one of the things i miss most about hong kong are my girlfriends.

I miss our giggly coffees and philosophical chats, and that feeling of being able to be all the parts of me at once, from the super silly to the super serious.

Well, I finally got a much-needed dose of girly goodness last week - one of my all time favourite girlfriends, Sara, came to visit us from Hong Kong! AND she brought me 3 jars of my beloved Chiu Chow Chilli oil! You have no idea...

On her first night here, we had one of our typical marathon chats into the wee hours of the morning. We talked about how different life is compared to 9 months ago, the things we love about our new lives, and the stuff we miss about our old.

I was telling her how it hasn't been entirely easy adjusting to the life of a stay-at-home-mum, that while I love spending this time with Bailey and know that it is so very, very precious, I miss being busy with my therapy practice and psychology teaching and social life.

I told her what's kept me 'sane' is having wise women talk to me all day long, through the countless podcasts and audios and TED talks that I've been tuning in to. I told her that, ironically, I'm feeling more inspired and juiced up than I did when I was seeing clients every day. I'm overflowing with love and inspiration but don't have any coachees to give it to! (I've actually had a little breakthrough recently on how I can do my heart-work virtually, more on that soon...!)

Sara, looked at me and said, "You know, I would LOVE to have some of that! I would love to have time to soak up inspiration, and dream, and learn, and chase ideas down rabbit holes. But by the time I'm done with work, I don't have the headspace or energy to do any of that!"

And then she said it, 3 little words that we ALL need to hear:

Embrace the phase

It was a total 'aha' for me. What felt like a compromise to me was an 'if-only' for someone else.

Here's the thing. No matter what phase you're in right now, when you get to where you want to be, there'll probably be something about this phase that you'll really miss.

Whether you're single and wish you had someone to snuggle up with at night; or you're in a relationship and wish you had more freedom.

Or you feel like you won't be complete until you have a baby; or you're a mum desperate for some quiet time for yourself.

Or you're at the start of a new venture, and things are moving slower than you'd like, and all you want it to be busy and productive. Or you're at the opposite end, up to your eyeballs with work and success, but you just wish you could shed all this responsibility, bum around, and answer to nobody but yourself.

Is that not the ultimate secret to happiness? To not need hindsight to know how good we have it right now?

happiness hindsight

So, here's my question for you:

what are 3 things about your current phase in life that the future you will likely miss?

3 things you'll miss

Tell me in the comments below!! And hold these 3 things close to you heart, love. There's no greater tragedy than not enjoying the tiny blessings we have right here, right now. Because nearly everything in life is 'just a phase'. 

How to Fail Well

how to fail well

Sooo... last Thursday, I had an epic fail. EPIC.
 
It was embarrassing, it was frustrating, and I don’t think I’ve ever cursed so much in my life.
 
Here’s what happened…
 
Rob (hub), Bailey (bub) and I went on a little skiing trip to Squaw Valley, California. It was my second time skiing ever, and I decided to join 3 other ladies for a beginners’ class.

"Remember, if you're not falling, you're not trying!" says Rob, as he sends me on my way.

Well, let's just say, I tried REALLY hard.

I don't remember being this bad the first time round. While the other ladies were starting to practice turning, I was still having trouble stopping. They'd be gracefully sashaying their way to the bottom of the slope, while I'd still be fumbling and bumbling (and tumbling) at the top of the slope.

I’ve always considered myself a reasonably athletic, well-coordinated person (I was on the athletics team and went to dance school for crumbs sake!), so this was all rather baffling to me. I could feel myself starting to get stroppy, so I tried to coach myself out of it:

"Come on, Christina, it's all about FAILING WELL." This is Rob's all-time favourite motto as an educator, and I am ALL for it. But on this particular occasion, I was finding it exceptionally difficult to put into practice.

The more bruised my bum (and ego) got, the more badly I failed.

I could feel my head closing in. I started to tune the instructor out. I was getting seriously suspicious that there was something wrong with my skis. I was convinced that everybody thought I was an absolute idiot, and I was coming to the firm conclusion that skiing clearly wasn't for me and that I'd probably never ski again.

"WHY DO I KEEP SLIDING?!!" I cried out in exasperation at one point. "Well, sliding is part of skiing," replies Dave, the instructor. Mmm. I thought that was quite profound…

Anyhoo, lunch finally comes around, and I get a much needed breather. Right! I thought. Shake the morning off, take a break, make some friends, enjoy the view, and SHOW THIS SNOW WHO'S BOSS!!!

Well, within 30 seconds of being on the snow again, I was back on my bum, hurtling at an alarming speed towards the edge of a snow ledge, narrowly escaping the 2m drop by crashing into a ski rack.
 

squaw valley

By this point, it’s clear to Dave that I’m severely gravitationally challenged, so he holds his poles horizontally in front of me and tells me to grab on as he guides me down the slope, backwards, to the ski lift. It was actually very helpful, and I finally seemed to be getting the hang of it, until he let go and I went crashing into a barricade… #sigh…

It gets worse.

As we get to the ski lift, Dave explains how we must jump on and off the chair as it comes round. "Um, Christina, you sit next to me (since I clearly cannot be trusted). Tell me, what are we going to do when we get to the end?"

In as chirpy a voice as I can muster, I repeat his exact instructions: "Place skis in parallel position, tilt them upwards slightly, then as they reach the ground, rock forwards, push off the chair and stand all the way up."

Yup, you guessed it. I somehow manage to end up on the ground, skis flailing, completely discombobulated, trying to crawl out of the way so that the ski lift behind us wouldn't whack me in the head.

It was like Bridget Jones herself had taken over my body.

I'm now seriously holding the rest of the class up, so dear Dave tells me to stay put, practice some turns ‘in this nice, flat area’, and he'd be straight back once he'd led the other very competent, very confident beginners to their next slope. 

By this point, I'm so exhausted and kerfuffled that staying vertical is completely beyond me, and after 10 whole minutes of trying to get my foot back in its ski, I GIVE UP. Yup. I yank my other ski off, surrender to this beautiful monster of a mountain, and start to (shhhhhh) cry!

"I think you're done skiing for the day," says Dave, when he finally returns.

“Mm-hmmm!” I sniffle. Thank goodness for the big ski googles covering my face.

“Now, don’t let this discourage you from skiing again! When you weren’t falling, you were actually turning really well!” says Dave, as he sends me on my way back down the mountain.

“Mm-hmmmmm…”

fail in the right direction positively psyched

so what's a girl to do when things go tits-up?

1. Have a good mope if you need one (I certainly did), which typically makes it easier (if appropriate) to…

2. Have a giggle about the ridiculous / awkward / embarrassing things that happened (I continued to have flashback fits several days after the event!) and then, most importantly…

3. List the things that DID go well, because I'm SURE something did, however teeny-tiny, and…. 

4. List the things you learnt. I know its tempting to just block the whole thing from our memories. But if we don't do this step properly, we run the risk of 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results', and that, according to Mr Einstein, is the definition of insanity.
 
5. And finally, ask yourself if the end-game matters enough for you to keep trying. Because honestly, if getting good at what you’re doing doesn’t ultimately bring you joy or reward, it probably isn’t worth torturing yourself for the heck of it.

I still think it would be freakin’ amazing to be able to fly down one of those mountains with Rob and Bailey, so I’m going to suck up being a bumbling beginner for the next 10 years, and trust that I'll get there some day.

Positively Psyched Christina Paul Squaw Valley

Now, we all know what it means to fail well. We know that failure is simply the opportunity to do better next time. We know that the Oprah Winfreys and Walt Disneys and Steve Jobs of this world all ‘failed their way to success’.

But when it comes down to it, do we actually go through the steps to cash-in on that screw-up? Or do we let it turn us off, keep us down, and leave a bitter taste in our mouths?

IF THERE’S A SCREW-UP OR LET-DOWN THAT YOU’RE STILL FEELING SORE ABOUT, I’VE MADE A LITTLE ‘FAIL WELL’ FUNSHEET FOR YOU. 

Just 5 questions to help you turn that fail into your fuel, and keep slipping and sliding towards success.

How are you playing small in life?

playing small in life

We just got back from an incredible weekend in Kaua'i.

We drove through breathtaking lusciousness. We chased waterfalls. We ate where George Clooney ate in The Descendants... And best of all, we got a private plane tour of the Garden Island. Our little 1964 Cessner flew us over the Waimea Canyon and along the majestic cathedral-like cliffs of the Na Pali. It showed us whales, the sites of Gilligan's Island and Jurassic Park, and even a glimpse of the mysterious Forbidden Island, Niihau, secluded and untouched, home to a tribe of Hawaiians that still live like their ancestors of centuries past.

It was all rather magical.

Love how the headset matches my dusty pastel colour palette.... 

Love how the headset matches my dusty pastel colour palette.... 

Like most of the exciting, slightly extravagant things that we do, the plane ride was Rob's idea. I'd actually been feeling a little uncomfortable about it. What are humble folk like us doing on a private plane? Who are we to splash out on something as dreamy as this?

But as I sat in that plane in total awe of the paradise sprawling beneath us, a little switch in me flipped. Hold on. Who are we NOT to do this?! Who are we NOT to live our lives in full and mind-blowing and spectacular ways?? 

By the time my feet met the ground again, I was an expanded version of myself. Not just because of what I'd seen and felt, but because I decided it was time to STOP PLAYING SMALL in life.

This is not about spending money recklessly and living beyond our means (the amazing plane ride was US$100 a head for flips sake!), it's about not tip-toeing around my ambitions, not shying away from success, not being sheepish about my very superficial, very sacred desires. 

It reminded me of one of my favourite Marianne Williamson poems:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?...

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine... We were born to make manifest the glory...that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

how are you playing small in life

So, how are you playing small in your life, love? What are you not doing or saying or chasing or unleashing, because you don't think you're _______ enough? Because you don't want to overstep, or you don't think it's your place? 

And who are you serving by doing that?

Less politeness, more audacity, please. 

What to say when someone you love is hurting

what to say when someone you love is hurting

When I was in high school, a close friend's father died.

I was young and the whole death-thing felt very scary. And so I hid. I didn't know what to say and so I said nothing. I couldn't go to the funeral because of exams, and she went off to university in London shortly after, and so that was that. I was completely absent from that awful chapter of her life. 

She wrote me a letter a few months later, telling me how much she missed her father. I did write back. I confessed to being a terrible friend. I said it was selfish and cowardly of me to choose being 'comfortable' over being supportive. 

Over the years, I've gotten better at being present through others' pain, and I've learnt that it really isn't about saying the 'right' thing. Our instinct is to comfort, to make things all better again. We try to 'fix' things with promises and platitudes, advice and answers. We basically want to rush them through their pain. And then we feel frustrated when our words don't seem to have the desired effect, or when our loved one has a relapse, as if it somehow undermines our worth.

But what it really says about us, is that we're unwilling to get, and stay, uncomfortable with them.

A couple years ago, that same friend lost her partner. I sent her this beautiful article on grief, which had the perfect advice for me: "Be there. Only be there. Don't leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you're not doing anything. In fact, it's when you feel uncomfortable and like you're not doing anything that you must stay."

This really hit home when I was on the other side of things. Our 3-week old son, whom we thought was perfectly healthy, was rushed into hospital for major high-risk open heart surgery. We were this close to losing him, and the only thing that was more overwhelming than all the terror and worry and not-knowing, was the incredible love and support we got during that time. And by incredible, I mean lots of teeny, tiny acts of virtual kindness - Facebook messages, texts, prayers of all faiths and practices. Nobody could tell us that everything would be fine. Nobody could physically do anything. But they kept checking in, they kept cheering us on, and knowing that they were all rooting for us made our hearts swell with something bigger than what we were going through. 

Admittedly, we chose to share our ordeal publicly (coz, boy, did we need every good and magical vibe that the Facebook world could muster!), which made it easier for people to support. Some pain needs to be experienced privately; some ordeals can drag on for a lot longer; and some stories, unlike ours, don't have happy endings.

If things had turned out differently for us, god, do I hope there'd have been a few kind souls with the stamina to sit out the pain with me. Because it would have taken years. It would have come and gone. It would have punched me in the stomach just when I thought it was finally behind me. I would have struggled with jealousy and resentment from time to time. I would have had a gaping hole in my heart that I'd probably learn to live with and would eventually become a source of empathy and insight etc etc, but I'd have had a lot of darkness to work through. And I hope that wouldn't have scared people away. I hope there'd have been someone willing to get uncomfortable with me, time and time again. Even when they had nothing to say.

Speaking of which, I recently came across the wonderful card-designer, Emily McDowell, who's ironically / appropriately illustrated a new book called There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love. She cuts through all the cheesy hallmark crap and creates cards that tell life as it is. Like dating cards that spell out the awkwardness in your head, or baby cards that promise not to give unsolicited parenting advice, and, best of all, empathy cards like these:

So the next time you're supporting someone you love through a breakup or an illness or a loss, short of getting them one of Emily's cards, just know that no words beat you simply aknowledging their pain, and sitting through their discomfort with them... C x

 

(Love)-Note-to-Self

I have this distinct memory of myself in my second year of uni: a single, raw, post-breakup me, walking by myself along St Giles in Oxford on Valentine's evening. Out of nowhere, this stampede of dolled-up-and-dapper couples appear, and I literally have to duck and dodge to avoid getting trampled by their lovedupness. 

I don't remember what I ended up doing that night. Did I cook by myself? Did I watch Bridget Jone's Diary for the 23rd time? Did I call up a single friend and drown my solo sorrows in a bottle of cheap wine?

Fast-forward 14 years, and I'm happily married with a 16 month old. We're not huge V-day people, so Valentine's this year will be like most nights, the 3 of us cozied up at home. I'll probably write Rob a sentimental card, and he'll hopefully make his chocolate molten cake, and we'll end the night falling asleep to our favourite show.

Of course, now that I have the domestic bliss I used to dream about, I find myself fantasising about alone time. 

I fantasise about showers that are longer than 4 minutes, and waking up whenever the heck I want, and having uninterrupted time to sit down and actually finish something! 'Me-time' is now squeezed into nap-time (and sometimes bedtime), a precious window where I can tend to nobody but myself. It's when I get to really sink into Positively Psyched stuff - blog, create, brainstorm, tinker... and it never feels like enough.

This lack of quality me-time is making me think long and hard about my relationship with... myself.

Am I a priority? Do I really listen? How do I talk to myself in my head? Am I loving? Am I bitchy? What do I give myself permission to do? Should I spoil myself more? Do I respect my own boundaries? Do I guilt trip myself? Am I my own best friend or my own worst enemy?

It's true whether we're single or hitched:

We are the bosses of our own bliss. 

So this Valentine's, I'm feeling the need for some self-loving. Me and I have some catching up to do. I found this awesome Manifesto by Jennifer Pastiloff that's going to be my Valentine's love-note to myself:

girl power manifesto

P.S. Feel free to save and print this Manifesto for some self-loving! Stick it on your mirror or make it your iPhone lock screen wallpaper (it's a bit busy as a home screen, I've found). Oh and Happy Valentine's, lover. Hope it's a deliciously self-indulgent one. C x

 

 

What riding my bike taught me about relationships

bikes, relationships and boundaries

When I was living in London, there was a period of time when I biked to and from work. 50 minutes, from Portobello Market to Angel. A more confident, competent cyclist could probably have done it in half the time; I was more of a stop-start-swerve-scurry type.

I gotta say, it was pretty intimidating at times. There I was in my flowery helmet and pink bike, scuttling alongside angry black cabs and big red buses, trying not to annoy these very experienced, very busy drivers.

Being the terribly polite, awfully accommodating Brit that I am, my instinct was to shrink. Stay out of the way. I thought this was me being safe, until a friend told me that playing small on the road is actually quite dangerous.

He was right, of course. By 'getting out of everyone's way' I would inevitably get stuck behind a row of parked cars or get too close to a pothole, and either have to stop or swerve out abruptly. 

'You have to claim your space', he would tell me. 'Then others will make space for you'.

That was 8 years ago. Since moving to Hawaii last summer, I've started cycling again (this one's a mint-coloured beach cruiser, with a lime-green baby trailer attached to it), and I've noticed how different I am on the bike. I'd like to think I've become more robust over the years, plus having a baby in tow seems to brings out the mama-bear in me!

I claim my space (mostly unapologetically!). I give clear, assertive hand signals. I give myself plenty of time to change lanes. I even find myself jutting my elbows out to help myself feel bigger on the bike! It's basically a power pose to tell others, and myself: I am HERE, people.

And of course, drivers make space for me. And they seem much less angry and annoyed than they used to be. Granted, this beach town is slightly more relaxed than Central London!

It occurred to me as I was cycling home the other day that this is exactly what healthy boundaries are all about. It's not about ignoring everyone else and driving around recklessly. When done right, boundaries are courteous, not confrontational. They're responsible, not rude. They're a heads-up, signals that tell others, 'THIS is who I am. THIS where I stand'. 

Boundaries allow us all to share space without crashing or driving each other off the road.

Better to inconvenience someone than to mislead them, which inevitably leads to resentment (road rage), outbursts (honking and cussing), and sometimes even head-on collisions.

boundaries quote brene brown

A compassionate 'no' is always better than a contrived 'yes'. Generosity, kindness, love... none of them are sustainable without boundaries. 

How to live a more Powerful Life (Pussyhat Style)

how to live a more powerful life blog banner.jpg


"Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 

VICTOR E. FRANKL

Gosh, it's been way too long... more on why later.

But first, can we please talk about the incredible energy that's been rippling out from the Women's March? I've been scrolling through my social media feeds in teary awe of these beautiful, bold, POWERFUL women (and the wonderful men that support them):

Powerful in how they've quietly knitted up a revolution.

Powerful in how they're reclaiming their 'shame', and wearing it proudly on their heads.

Powerful in their embodiment of the idea that we can ALL be soft and strong; tender and fierce, pink and potent. 

Powerful in their choice to simply say, "NO. That's not OK."

knit up a revolution
shame on head

That Victor Frankl quote has been looping in my head recently, the notion that our power lies in that teeny-tiny space between what happens to us, and how we choose to respond to it. So often we forget that space even exists. We assume. We default. We relinquish the many choices that we think we don't have. 

It doesn't mean that every choice we make will be a bold and defiant one. Indeed, softening is sometimes the most empowered thing we can do. But by claiming that space between stimulus and response, by choosing consciously, we are better able to act from a place of wholeness rather than fear.

Which brings me to this gift I've made for you... 

What I honestly thought would be a fun weekend project turned into a 2-month, 45-page, all-consuming endeavour! And while I'm not thrilled about going MIA for so long, I AM proud of what's come of it.

Based on my site's 'Power Reading', this workbook is PACKED with juicy reflections, meditations and actions to help you stand in you power, every day. 

I'm also giving you a free download of the full deck of Power Cards! Print and play whenever you need some courage, calm or clarity.

power cards

The workbook will walk you through the steps, but feel free to get creative. You could, say, use the cards and workbook as a way of bonding with your kids, partner or team. One of my besties is actually planning a Chinese New Year gathering with a few friends to go through the workbook together - love it!

And because we're #strongertogether, I've created a private 'Power Buddies' Facebook group where we can share, support and celebrate each other's little wins and breakthroughs. EveryMonday, I'll be sharing my card of the week with the group, and invite you to do the same whenever you're up for it. Click now to join me!

Here's to a pink and powerful 2017...

Much love,
C x

What good is gratitude in effed-up times like these?

I have post-election flu. I need a sick-leave from reality. How can this be happening.

24h ago, I was buying a huge tub of caramel cone ice cream, CERTAIN that we'd be eating it in celebration of Hillary's victory that evening. It honestly never even occurred to me that we'd be drowning our shock and sorrows in it instead...

My Facebook feed felt like a funeral - lots of friends coming together for a very sad reason.

I was actually going to launch a Gratitude Challenge today to celebrate Thanksgiving. So much for that. Nobody I know is going to be in the mood for warm, fluffy feelings right now.

Amidst all this doom and gloom, gratitude feels frivolous, misplaced, inappropriate even.

Last night, I went to sleep to Trump's victory speech, floored and heartbroken, thinking, this is basically telling the world that it's OK to be a misogynistic racist and hateful bigot because not only do you get away with it, you get to WIN.

This morning, I woke up to Hillary's concession speech. Forgive the melodrama but it felt like listening to a mother's parting words. 'Be strong my dear, you'll be OK, I'll be with you in spirit." "Nooooooo!!! Don't goooooooo!!!" I cry, sobbing into her hand. 

But by the time she was done, I was floored in a whole other kinda way.

So THIS is what rising from heartbreak looks like, this is how to get up off the floor with dignity, to create space in our hearts for both that which we believe in, and that which utterly baffles us. This is what gratitude looks like when you're feeling completely and utterly crushed and defeated.

"I am so grateful to stand with all of you... This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it...let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do." - Hillary Clinton

Maybe gratitude is not frivolous right now, maybe it is absolutely essential that we hold on all the more fiercely to that which is right and good in the world.

Many have compared this election to 9/11. A psychological study done in the aftermath of the 2001 attack asked the question, what good are positive emotions in crises? The results showed that "amidst this amalgam of anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety...subtle and fleeting experiences of gratitude, interest, love, and other positive emotions appeared to hold depressive symptoms at bay and fuel post-crisis growth."

So science says it is possible to hold both grief and gratitude in our hearts. And that seeking out gratitude, as subtle and fleeting as it may feel, will not only ease the pain, it will make us more resilient and powerful in the long run. 

When I was researching for the Gratitude Challenge, I came across 365 Grateful, and was so moved by their beautiful video about Amy. Like our Bailey, Amy's little baby had a congenital heart defect, but tragically, hers didn't make it...

The next day she told herself, "OK, you have a choice now. You can fall to pieces or you can get on with this." And so after the funeral, she started taking one photo a day of something she was grateful for. "What started off as a coping mechanism became a healing mechanism."

One of her gratitude photos was of the lyric, it is now that my life is mine. "That was the turning point for me, where I realised this gratitude thing is now a part of my life. I was taking ownership of my life... I had chosen to be happy."

It is now that this life is mine, by Hailey Bartholomew

I know, nobody's died here. But for some of us this feels like the world as we know it, or thought we knew it, is falling to pieces. I don't know if we'll be able to afford healthcare for Bailey if/when Obamacare is appealed. Just as American Muslims don't know if they're still safe, and women don't know if they'll be punished for choices they make concerning their own bodies.

But we can choose how we respond to this madness. We can fall to pieces, or get on with this.

And so, I'm going to get on with this. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to be done. The Gratitude Challenge is back on, people. Who's in?! C x

(NOTE: FOR THOSE OF YOU READING THIS AFTER NOV, 2016, I'LL BE RUNNING ANOTHER ONE IN NOV, 2017 - STAY TUNED!)

Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge

Thanksgiving Gratitude Challenge

And in case you're still deciding, here's a little infographic I put together on all the potential side-effects of this challenge:

Scientific benefits of gratitude

Scientific benefits of gratitude

How to get your dream on the road (when you don't have enough experience, time or 'likes')

how to get your dream on the road

Being a new stay-at-home mum, in a new country, without a driving license, where 80% of my daily interactions are with a one-year-old, I was quite worried my brain might get a tad mushy.

But I've discovered that one of the best perks about my new domestic existence is being able to listen to whatever I want all day long. Audios have been my saving grace. I can be cooking and cleaning and chasing after Bailey, all while having my brain stretched and titillated. (Check out the Inspiration Library for some of my favourite podcasts and videos. I've literally had slo-mo-chariots-of-fire moments in my kitchen with some of these.)

Being the note-taking geek that I am, I thought I'd start a 'Best Bits' series for this blog, where I take the highlights of whatever amazing audio or video I've tuned into that day and turn them into bite-sized takeaways for you all to enjoy. How'z that sound?!

My very first 'Best Bit' post is inspired by this 'Magic Lessons podcast', in which the phenomenal Elizabeth Gilbert interviews mom/writer/activist/love-warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton, on her creative journey, from being a drunken bulimic and drug addict to writing New York Times Bestsellers and hanging out with Oprah. 

Liz and Glennon <3. Source: Momastery

Liz and Glennon <3. Source: Momastery

If you can spare your ears for an hour, please do listen to this wonderful podcast. If not, I've distilled the conversation into 4 seemingly counterintuitive tips on how to get your dream on the road, like, NOW:

 

1. Start before you're ready

The Catch-22 that keeps so many dreams stuck on square one is that we think we can't start unless we're 'good' at it, but we don't get good at it unless we start...

Despite feeling like the 'worst candidate for motherhood on earth', a positive pregnancy test became Glennon's invitation to get up off the bathroom floor and start showing up for life. 'We're always holding some kind of invitation from the universe' she says, and we are arguing with the invitation. We're saying I'm not ready, I'm not good enough, I need to lose 10 pounds, I need to do more research, I need to be more like her... We are deeming ourselves unworthy of invitations instead of just trusting the inviter'.

Glennon doyle melton show up before you're ready

I love the bit in the interview where she recalls sharing a painfully revealing '25 things you didn't know about me' Facebook post (that resulted in an inbox jam-packed with 'me too!' emails), and telling her husband that she'd figured out her thing in life is to be a 'shameless truth-teller'. To which he replies, 'Dammit! Do you have any other marketable skills?!' 

Nope. She says. This is all I got. And so, with no experience, no marketable skills, and not enough time, Glennon used the one thing she had, her soul-baring honesty, to begin what has now become the wildly popular blog, Momastery

 

2. Lock Yourself in a Closet. Consistently.

As a mother of 3 young kids, Glennon wasn't exactly twiddling her thumbs when she started her blog. She MADE time by giving up every mother's sacred pleasure, TV at night (I am shedding a silent tear right now), waking up every morning at 4.30am, locking herself in her closet (or 'cloffice', as she calls it!) and writing for an hour. 'I didn't have a room of my own, but I had an hour of my own.'

The fact is that very few of us have the luxury of giving up our day jobs or being responsible for nobody but ourselves. We think we'll finally find the time when we've saved up enough money, or work is less crazy, or the kids have grown up, but I have a feeling that's not really how life works...

Don't find the time, MAKE the time, says Liz.

Even if you have to steal it or barricade it or double-lock it in a closet. Be a big, bad-ass bouncer to your sacred creation ('sacreation'!) time.


3. THINK SMALL

Hold on, hold on! Aren't we supposed to dream big?! YES. But we can't stay zoomed out on satellite view all the time. We have to zoom back in as well so that we don't miss what's right under our noses.

Glennon says that one of the most frequent (and frustrating) questions she gets asked at book signings is, 'How do I get to where you are? How can I grow my audience?' While that's a perfectly valid question for anyone who wants to make a bigger impact, we can sometimes get so caught up in getting the attention of those who aren't following us yet (and the shortcuts and shenanigans involved), that we forget about those who already are

'You get a bigger platform by serving the platform you already have,' says Liz, even if it's just our 5 students or 2 clients or 10 readers. Because 'it is such an honour', says Glennon, to have the opportunity to 'shape their consciousness for that day'.  

So serve your peeps with all the love and light you can muster, and they will grow your tribe for you.

 

4. DON'T INSIST ON BEING SPECIAL

Another stumbling block for many of us is that we think what we have to offer has to be original, or unique, or super special. And then we look around and see that a million other people are doing it, annoyingly well, and we think, well, there's no point then. 

Think again, say Liz and Glennon. Even if EVERYONE is saying the same thing, we all have a different voice, and each of our voices move different people for different reasons. 

elizabeth gilbert quote authenticity

I gotta say though, we are living in a particularly noisy day and age. In this digital world, EVERYONE has a voice. And that's awesome. But it can sometimes feel like our own voice is being drowned out and it's SO difficult to be heard above all the noise.

I find that I've developed selective hearing, I tune a lot of noise out. I skim, I scroll, I 'swipe left' as it were, and I'm forever unsubscribing.

But the voices that I do hear above all that white noise, the ones that I keep tuning back into, are the authentic ones. Not the expert voices or the pitch perfect voices or the loudest voices, but the ones that just sound real and honest. They're the ones I connect with, that I want to get to know, that I 'swipe right' on.

The only way we can be unique is to be ourselves. So let's all just start there.

 

Now TELL me...

 

What invitation is it time you said 'YES!' to?

When and where will you be consistently showing up to make your magic?

Who are the peeps in your life that already love what you do?

What do you want them to feel when they hear your voice?

 

Let me know in the comments, loves. I want to hear you too. C x

Are you punishing yourself to prove a point?

punishing yourself to prove a point

I caught myself about to do this today. 

Long story short, I wanted to make someone feel bad for implying that I couldn't do something that I really wanted to do by not doing it. Does that...make sense?

Basically, I wanted to make a point, that I was hurt. And my grand plan was to prove it by hurting myself some more.

That's the thing about guilt trips. They rarely go anywhere unless we're in the car as well, driving.

I think we do this more often that we realise.

We perpetuate whatever it is we think is unreasonable or unkind or unfair so that we can prove it is unreasonable or unkind or unfair.

We work ourselves to the bone to prove we're being overworked. We bear it all ourselves to prove that we need help. We overstretch to prove that we need to be cut some slack. We deprive ourselves to prove that we deserve more. 

It's all rather silly. 

So, the next time you find yourself cutting off your nose to spite your face, remember, you don't need permission to feel the way you feel. You don't need to justify your personal boundaries. You don't need to prove you're worth whatever it is that you need. 

Just own it. Declare it. Kindly but firmly. Because nobody's responsible for your happiness but you.

C x

 

Are you in your Truth Zone or your Comfort Zone?

truth zone vs comfort zone

I'm always telling friends and clients to 'do what's comfortable'. 

"It doesn't matter what label your relationship has. As long as you're comfortable."

"Don't worry if it's too much too soon. Just go at a pace that's comfortable."

"No worries if you're too tired to come, hun. Do whatever's comfortable!"

But hold on, hold on. Isn't life supposed to start at the end of your comfort zone?

To be comfortable or not to be comfortable? That appears to be the question...

After quite a bit of pondering I think I've figured it out.

There are, in fact, 2 very different types of comfortable. There's the 'complacent comfortable', and then there's the 'feeling-right-in-oneself' kind of comfortable.

Sometimes the two are at complete odds with each other. To feel comfortable in one way, you may have to simultaneously feel very uncomfortable in another way.

Starting from scratch and creating this site felt decidedly uncomfortable at times. "What if I get 0 'likes'? What if I run out of things to say? What if nothing comes of it?" Part of me would have felt much more 'comfortable' just keeping my thoughts to myself. You can't fail at something that you don't do! But I decided to step out of my comfort zone in order to stand in my 'truth zone', and so far it's been well worth the discomfort.

Biting your tongue to avoid confrontation might keep you in your comfort zone, but out of your truth zone. 

Walking away from a soul-sucking job or a destructive relationship might put you way out of your comfort zone, but closer to your truth zone.

Ignoring your wild creative urges might mean you're sitting pretty in your comfort zone, but aching to be in your truth zone. 

Our comfort zone feels safe. Our truth zone feels right

I think of one as being ruled by our ego and the other by our soul (aka higher self / true self / intuition / inspiration / god / mojo / deep inner knowing / still small voice / deep driving desire... etc etc. Whatever you connect with.) 

I think of my ego as a pompous armchair critic, and my soul as a wise but child-like explorer.

If you think about it, our ego, with all its puffed-up pride, is actually a bit of a wimp. Underneath it all it's really driven by fear, scared of embarrassment, exposure, rejection, failure...

Our soul, on the other hand, is love-driven. Even when it's saying 'no' and setting boundaries. It says, "I love you, but I love me too, and this is what I need to feel comfortable."

Our ego asks, "But what if you fail?" Our soul asks, "What do you love enough that it doesn't matter if you fail?" 

And (to borrow Liz Gilbert's metaphor on inspiration) even if we jump out of our comfort zone only to land flat on our face in our truth zone, while our ego lies there bruised and battered yelling "look what you made me do, you jackass!!", our soul is going, "Woohoo, that was awesome! Wanna do it again?!"

The great thing is, you don't have to catapult yourself off a cliff to land in your truth zone. You can just dip your toe in it. A little bit every day. And then your foot. And then you might splash around in it a bit. And then one day, you may just find yourself skinny-dipping and deep-sea diving in your very own glorious ocean. 

So now, when something feels uncomfortable and I'm wondering what to do, I ask myself, is it my ego or my soul that's uncomfortable? Is my decision fear-driven or love-driven? Is it my pride that's at stake, or is it my truth? 

Let's bite the bullet of our truths, my loves. It doesn't mean it will all be rainbows and unicorns. It just means that at the end of the day, when we check in with ourselves, we can say, "This feels right. I feel right."

 

 

 

 

The Grief of Surviving

the grief of surviving

What was that...? 

I was lying in bed last night, sandwiched between my two sleeping beauties, when it suddenly gripped me. As the clock-hand brushed past this time last year, I momentarily relived it all again. Except this time I was living out the 'if he hadn't made it' scenario, one we escaped by so sickeningly narrow a margin that it still makes me churn and shudder.

Why, on my son's 'rebirthday', do I find myself grieving?

It's like we were pushed so far over the edge that I can't unsee what I saw in that chasm. 

It reminds me of that scene in Interstellar where parallel realities meet, and Matthew McConaughey is screaming through the bookshelves at himself in the past, warning him not to leave on his space journey.

Except the other me is screaming, it could all have been so horrendously different. 

But I know that. That awareness has been a source of profound gratitude for us this last year. It's helped us hold the present moment more tightly and each other more dearly. It's been our very own life-altering miracle, one that humbles and amazes us every single day.

It also effing freaks me out. 

Often it's the sweetest moments that jolt me back. Back to that hospital corridor; that phone call; that baby in the opposite bed who didn't make it. But it's never been as visceral as it was last night. 

Not since Oct 10th, 2015. The day Bailey's heart-stopped for 30 minutes. The day my brother got married. The day the angel of death sat and held our hands for a while. The day even the faithless prayed. The most awful and awesome day of my life. 

I'm not sure what changed the angel's mind. Was it the nuns' blessings in Florence or the temple offering in India? Was it the fact that doctors and angels and friends and strangers from all corners of the planet joined hearts and willed our little bean back to us? 

Facebook post on 10/10/15: "Middle-of-the-night feedings and pumping were never my favourite activity, but the last few days I've been pumping for your life little one, and all I want is to wake up to you again and again. This is mummy's way, however symbolic for now, of sending you life-force and energy. We are so proud of you for making it this far, stay strong little Bailey bean, the world is rooting for you. X"

Facebook post on 10/10/15: "Middle-of-the-night feedings and pumping were never my favourite activity, but the last few days I've been pumping for your life little one, and all I want is to wake up to you again and again. This is mummy's way, however symbolic for now, of sending you life-force and energy. We are so proud of you for making it this far, stay strong little Bailey bean, the world is rooting for you. X"

I still have that crumpled piece of paper that we took to the hospital every day to read to Bailey while he was in ICU. I'd scribbled on it the poem by Robert Frost, 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening'. That last stanza has become our little family's heart song:

 "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep..."

Facebook post on 20/10/15: "Bailey's out of ICU! We finally got to hold him!!!!" 

Facebook post on 20/10/15: "Bailey's out of ICU! We finally got to hold him!!!!" 

Time is both linear and cyclical. As I brushed shoulders with the other me last night and our respective realities overlapped for a moment, I hope a bit of my joy rubbed off on her, just as a bit of her pain rubbed off on me.

The Joy of Less

Kay Wong in Demark by Morten Durr

Kay Wong in Demark by Morten Durr

What happens when an international fashion designer, who for a decade has churned out season after season of catwalk collections, flogged them at fashion weeks and showrooms around the world; who's dressed A-list celebrities and caught the eye of Karl Lagerfeld himself; whose very survival depends on the consumerist compulsion for the more the better, the newer the better... what happens when she decides to not only stop making new clothes, but to stop buying new clothes? What is she left with?

She's left with what she started with a decade ago. A pure, unfettered desire to create.

Kay Wong by Paul Smith. How cool is this image?!

Kay Wong by Paul Smith. How cool is this image?!

Meet one of my favourite people on the planet, fashion designer turned sustainability 'artivist', Kay Wong. She's currently living a minimalist life in 'the happiest country in the world', Denmark. Kay bikes everywhere, eats an increasingly raw / vegan diet, and makes art made from discarded objects found on her walks back home - fragile feathers and fallen twigs, cobweb-weaved into wooden frames with yarn left over from her former life.

feather art
Feather Art by Kay Wong

Feather Art by Kay Wong

And so, as Kay sheds the layers of that former life, the thick, heavy layers of responsibility and trends and excess that she was carrying around, she finds herself having less but enjoying more. More time, more space, more lightness, more health, more creativity.  

That's the thing about moving across the world and starting from scratch again. You clear out a lot of clutter, physical or otherwise. Bits of me that I thought I couldn't live without, skins that I didn't realise no longer fit, they kinda just fall away. 

Leaving Hong Kong meant leaving my 'hood and my homies. It meant leaving the therapy practice that I'd spent years building up, along with the relationships and independence and fulfilment that came with it. The fact that we were uprooting to Hawaii certainly sweetened the deal, but the transition wasn't without some angst.

You see, the school Kay and I went to in Hong Kong has a reputation for producing steely, high-powered Devil-wears-Prada types. While that's a gross misrepresentation of most of us, the belief that I would grow up to do 'big' things did become ingrained. And so, a few days after arriving in Hawaii, back when Positively Psyched was but a foetus of an idea and my new stay-at-home-mum shoes were still feeling exceptionally tight, I found myself in a sulky strop when Rob got home from work. "Is this all I'm good for?!" I cry as I dramatically hurl my hair grip across the living room. 

Since then I've gradually broken in to my new life, and like Kay, find myself enjoying quite a bit more space. More space for all those 'unproductive' things like curiosity and doodling and podcasts. And ironically, I find myself feeling more nourished and inspired than I have in a while. 

As Kay and I go through this process of moulting together, albeit from opposite ends of the world, we've also been able to find more space for each other. Last week, Kay sent me this TED talk called The Joy of Less. After collapsing under the weight of her own success, Kim Coupounas asks us all the beautiful question: 

"What is that abundance, that joy your heart aches for, and what can you have less of to make room for it?"

Just as those of the animal kingdom moult at specific times in their life cycle, so should us humans periodically slough off any skins and shells that no longer bring us joy.  

I am not advocating a monkish existence here. I still intend to live a 'big' life. But 'big' to me is starting to be less about mass, and more about space; success less about what I cumulate, and more about what I am able to make space for.

 

A Love Poem to my Negative Emotions

love poem to my negative emotions

I've been thinking a lot about negative emotions recently. 

You see, positive psychology is all about 'building what's strong' over 'fixing what's wrong'. It doesn't deny the negative, it just wishes to balance out the scales of traditional psychology, where nearly all the focus and money has been on researching the negative. (Given the psychological aftermath of WWII, that was probably necessary for quite a while!)

Now, a second wave of positive psychology is underway that's all about the positive power of negative emotions.

And then there's Liz Gilbert, who says it's about befriending your fear, and Brene Brown, who tells us that vulnerability is the most accurate measure of courage

Power quote brene brown vulnerability courage

Jealousy, however, is one of those emotions that I feel embarrassed about feeling. Anger can feel strong and defiant, vulnerability brings on the cuddles in no time. But jealousy? I wouldn't want to admit to feeling that. It makes me feel petty and small-hearted. 

Until, on one of the many soul-nourishing e-courses I've done with Susannah Conway, she gently suggests that jealousy is simply your heart telling you what it longs for...

It's quite romantic, this notion that beneath all their prickly, achey, ickiness, our negative emotions are actually looking out for us. That if we sit with them and listen with an open heart, they may eventually pass us a secret love note...

Coz you know what happens when you tell someone they suck, right? That they should just shut up and go away? Typically, they come back banging and whining and fighting harder.

And so, I've been inspired to write a little love poem to all my negative emotions. It's time we make peace. Here goes...


Jealousy shows me what my heart longs for,
Frustration stirs the fire in my core.
Failure asks, well, is it worth fighting for?
Oh yeah? Then quit sulking and do it some more!


Shame reveals the voices that I need to shake.
Pain slams down on the emergency break.
Fear reminds me what’s at stake
Though I’m learning to discern between stick and snake.


Cracks, they say, let in the light.
And scars, they keep our healing in sight.
Though heartbreak leaves me shattered on the floor,
it hands me the glue that makes me stronger than before.


Anger shows me the line in the sand.
It shouts, hey girl, this is where you stand! 
Vulnerability whispers that if I strip bare,
It’s courage, not weakness, that resides in there. 

 

Have your negative emotions ever handed you secret love notes or gifts? Leave me a little comment coz I'd love to know! C x

Bailey's first birthday

Image by Chantal

Image by Chantal

Today is Bailey's first birthday.

We've only been in Hawaii a couple months, and so the idea was to do something low-key, just a handful of Rob's new colleagues and a few beers. But apparently, a baby's first luau is a HUGE deal in Hawaii, and before we knew it we had a Costco trolley so full I had to get into a cross-fit lunge to move it, a bouncy castle so big that it barely fit in the garden, and 30 guests, most of whom I was meeting for the first time.

It was lovely. We went all out with the nautical theme, and one of Rob's amazing colleagues baked us 50 sailboat cupcakes and cookie favours. Bailey was of course clueless, slightly feverish, and somewhat perturbed by all the commotion and new faces (I had my fingers crossed the whole day that he wouldn't burst into tears during the 'happy birthday' song!).

Today, as I clear up the remains of yesterday's party, it's just me and the boy at home. It can't just be any old day... How can I make a 1 year old feel extra special on his birthday?  

Bailey doesn't really have any favourite cartoon characters or obsessions yet (except putting anything and everything into his mouth, including a garden slug the other day!!); he can't eat cake because of his milk allergy; he doesn't have the faintest idea what a 'birthday' even is; and he's more interested in the crinkly wrapping paper than he is in all his presents! 

So I keep thinking about what makes Bailey smile. Well, he loves it when we dance, sing, play peekaboo, make silly noises... Basically, the goofier the better. And goofiness requires commitment and energy! You can't be half-hearted about it. Bailey susses that out immediately. Half-heartedness bores him and he lets it be known. 

And then I realise, it's actually simpler than that. This little guy doesn't want presents. He wants presence. Goofy, whole-hearted, presence

And so my love, today, on your 1st birthday, I promise to be more present. I'll try my best not to rush you, or humour you, or multi-task you. Because you, our little hero, our little miracle boy, our most terrifying close call and our most cherished second chance, you came back fighting to teach us just that. With your little patched-up lion-heart, you taught us how to live more wholeheartedly. Because, considering all the universal forces that conspired to bring you back to us, it would be downright rude and spoilt of us to forget that the present moment is the best present we're ever going to get. C x

Would you rather...

would you rather

As a lover of all games AND powerful coaching questions, this article in Bustle sure got my attention. Inspired by the movie The Light Between Oceans, in which the gorgeous protagonists face an excruciating moral predicament, the article presents 5 tough but fun dilemmas. SO! Would YOU rather...

I think the Brit in me tends to apologise for everything anyway! A habit I am trying to break... But if I really had to choose between the two, it would probably still be the former. I'd just be too wracked with guilt otherwise! Plus, when done right, there is something quite empowering about taking responsibility for your part in an issue, however small it is. So my caveat to this moral dilemma is to apologise for my specific part in everything. Done! 

Definitely longing. As an optimist (most of the time) my longings typically come with a good dose of hope. Having said that, I have experienced the more tormented kind of longing as well, where something you want desperately feels painfully out of reach, and I suppose 'permanent longing' means it would be forever out of reach... Hmm... Still, permanent guilt sounds awful. Would apologising for everything help absolve it, I wonder?!

This would really depend on the secret, and the consequences. I generally go with 'honesty is the best policy', but I suppose there are secrets out there that would be so damaging if exposed that I'd really wonder if it was worth it. PLUS I'd have to give up my passion as a coach since I'd be breaching client confidentiality, which would really suck. OK then, secrecy it is!

Oh man, now there's a tough one... I'm watching the TV show Weeds these days, so my point of reference is, "Would I snitch on the drug-dealing love-of-my-life knowing that I'd lose him"? VERY tricky. I am stumped. Will toss a coin: heads for morals, tails for love... Heads!!! Argh!! Wait, if I marry this guy aren't we protected by spousal testimonial privilege?!

In my 20s I would have said 'heart' without much thought (ha!). These days, I'm trying to balance my 'heart' with being 'smart'... But if I had to choose between one or the other... I guess I still believe that there's a lot of wisdom in love, a lot of intuition in desire, and a lot of insight in compassion... 

Let no one keep you from your journey

let no one keep you from your journey

While my inner perfectionist is still napping in the backroom, I feel I should sneak in my SECOND blog post! Nothing ambitious, nothing that will wake up little-miss-perfect, just something sweet and simple to keep this 'just DO it already!!!!' momentum going...  

How about a poem. Here's one that stopped me in my tracks when I heard it on Liz Gilbert's amazing podcast last week. It's by the spiritual poet Mark Nepo, and it goes like this:

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won't let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can't be done.

Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.

You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.

Another angel egging me on.

Whatever soul journey you're on, hope this poem gives you a little nudge in the right direction as well. C x

Start where you are

start where you are

Hi. My name is Christina, and I'm a recovering perfectionist.

That's why, although I've had the keys to this digi-home for a while, I haven't invited anyone in yet. I've been running frantically from one room to the next, tinkering with this, fiddling with that, leaving them all in a state of perpetual unfinished-ness. 

I have ideas of big dinner parties I want to throw, cozy movie nights and pretty garden soirees, but if I keep waiting to find my dream couch or the perfect shade of wallpaper, waiting until I can afford that new stove or interior designer, then I will never. make. any. friends. 

Which is very silly, and very sad. 

And so, I have given my inner perfectionist some chamomile tea and a chill pill, and decided that, for now, all I need is a couple of Ikea chairs, a kettle to make some tea, two mugs and some cookies. Maybe a nice photo on the wall. That's all I need to make my first friend, have my first conversation. 

And so, if you are one of my first guests (gulp) COME ON IN!! Please excuse the lack of furniture and the patchy DIY. I have grand plans for my digi-home but in the meantime, I'd like to get this conversation started.

Because communities begin with conversations, and some conversations begin with cookies (here's something I made for you the other day, it's quite sweet and quite healthy, hope you likey...)! =P

Power quote start where you are.jpg

If you're up for being buddies, leave me a comment below! What are you working on these days? What passion project are you hatching? Let me know and I promise I'll check it out! 

OK, thanks for stopping by, and PLEASE come back again, any time. I'll aways have cookies for you. C x