Losing my religion

Last night we had a parish council meeting, and it was long and hard and I lost out on something that mattered to me. Of course right now I’m massively emoting, it’s early and I’ve not had much sleep.

I feel pretty foolish; I wrote something about it in the church newsletter, which clearly just looks silly now. As does my joy at clawing a little bit of the injustice that is swamping us.

I raised this issue because it was important to be seen to do something. It’s a small gesture that I hoped would shift minds and hearts, and set us on the path to larger actions.

I raised it because I want the Jesus I love – the radical street preacher who spoke truth to power to be the Jesus I meet in church. I don’t want my Jesus to be the nice safe white man who made up a set of rules we follow. I want to see the person who cared for the sick, the outcasts, who challenged people, who was political and who took a side reflected in my church. I’m not sure if I find him there.

And that’s down to me… Perhaps I need to look harder, or look elsewhere. For some time I’ve wondered if I’m a good fit for that church. It’s been easy and safe to go there but maybe that’s the problem – Jesus is not easy or safe.

It would be a wrench of course because they are good people, some of who I love and consider friends, most I’ve known for half my life. And right I’m hurting and prone to making rash decisions. But I can’t keep ignoring this, so maybe it’s time to stop, reflect and seriously think; what kind of Christian am I called to be, and is my current church is equipping me to do this.

I hope the answer is yes, but I don’t know unless I ask. And if the answer is no, then I hope God gives me the strength to take a new path.












Back to high school: facing demons

I just finished reading a book by Jill Stark called Happy Never After. It was about her struggles with anxiety and depression. Some of this book was difficult for me to read. Her experience of anxiety was a lot like mine. Even more her experience with bullies and feeling friendless in high school resonated.

When I was in high school I had very few friends. I don’t know why, you’d need to ask those girls who said they didn’t want to be my friend. I cannot to this day explain to you why no one wanted to hang out with me.

Social media is on these occasions a blessing and a curse. I’m friends with a few people I went to high school with but I’m picky. I didn’t have a lot in common with those people then and perhaps less so now. Some of those who weren’t kind to me have messaged me to say they wonder what happened to me. I haven’t responded.

What happened to me is that I grew up. I went to uni and found people who had broader minds than them with their middle class snobbery. I found my people amongst book nerds and librarians. I found people who have accepted me with all my weirdness, just as I am.

But it hurt. Like only rejection can. It felt fundamental that somehow I’d been made wrong. And it made me scared too. Scared that what I was into was weird and stupid. That I was weird and stupid.

At 15 I wanted to kill myself because it got too much. No one liked me, I was a terrible person. These days that would trigger alarms and get you some help. This was the 90s and no one believed me. When I tried to talk about it, I just felt like I was disappointing people. so I pushed it aside and got on with things.

I went back to my high school for the first time a few weeks ago. Some friends and I snuck in. It looked exactly the same, with its white tower and 19th century English stately home vibe.

For a girl with a romantic heart such a school was the perfect place – it had a croquet lawn and history. Mostly, I just remember it being cold not just in the winter but cold and unkind. Ironic for a Christian School, where one should have expected generosity and acceptance.

The school format didn’t help with its English grammar school pretensions, ranked classes and prefects. Nothing is more irritating than being told what to do by a 17 year old with a little bit of power and a superior attitude.

Of course it wasn’t all bad. In the last two years things were mostly better or at least bearable. I made friends through the school play, a shared love of literature and there were some people who were genuinely kind.

But there was a cost – being scared of my own shadow, feeling like I didn’t deserve to occupy a place in the world and the need to be validated. When the opportunity arose, I had a completely inappropriate relationship with a man 15 years older than me. I was an adult but he was not kind and I was too naive to see he wasn’t perfect. It ended as one would expect.

About five years ago I got an invite to my 20 year high school reunion. You won’t be surprised to find out I didn’t go. I told the person who asked me, that I’d rather stick needles in my eye. Given the generally awful experience sitting around reminiscing about “the good times”, and feeling like I had to justify my life didn’t seem like a healthy choice.

I’ve now reached the end of this post, and I wonder why I’ve written this. It’s water under a very distant bridge. I’m not that person anymore, as I’m sure the people I went to high school have changed too. But experiences shape you for good and bad.

The hole they created – still hurts sometimes. It’s a faint feeling that I’m still not in on the joke that everyone else gets. I sometimes feel physically awkward – like my body is weird and wrong. I have tried to be invisible and take up as small a space in the world as possible.

While this is a painful story to write, it’s also been joyous. I’m not unhappy. Your life is your life; you do the best you can, play the hand you have been given. I’ve been privileged and blessed. And I hope that this experience has made me more compassionate, with a heart for outsiders.

I’m still working on the forgiveness thing. I know Jesus was rejected and still loved but I’m not at that level of grace. Perhaps it’s also forgiveness for myself for not being whatever it is they needed. I was quiet, and did the right thing, to afraid of upsetting people. Rightly or wrongly, I was heavily influenced by my family. I was in no ways cool, I liked whimsy and romance and by their reckoning had poor taste in clothing or music. I was not brave enough to own that. I am now.

Jesus shines a light in dark places, he gathers up those who have been hurt. So perhaps in telling this story, in reckoning with the sadness  and sharing it, it stops being painful and the healing starts.

Post script… If you are experiencing difficulties or this post has triggered things for you please consider talking to your doctor or call these numbers

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636












Where are you going with your life?

Some friends and I decided to sit down and think about what we wanted to do with our lives. We are going through some changes at work, and it seems to be a good time to do a check in. I’m not much of a planner so rather than a firm idea I was hoping to uncover some sense of not just wondering about aimlessly.

I hate the question where do you want to be in five years. Because the answer to that is always on the beach, with an endless supply of books and cocktails.

Here are the questions we talked about… I hope you find them useful if you too are asking yourself the question – what do I want to do with my life?

-How does this job fit into my life?
-What tasks inspire me/what tasks drain me?
-Am I progressing how I would imagine?
-What am I really passionate about and why?
-What does my dream job look like?
-Is my career allowing me to do what’s important?

The last question I think is the best and most useful one. Because in answering it, you need to think about where you career fits into your life.

Saturday night movies

Last week for reasons I can’t explain I got all nostalgic and looked up Bill Collins Wikipedia page. It was probably Saturday night and I was probably moaning about how they don’t show good movies on TV anymore.

Generally my tv watching goes like this – looks rubbish, really rubbish, super violent, boring, super scary, what even is that. Oh Carlton Heston great let’s watch that for a while.

Of course I know a lot of the classic Hollywood movies because as a kid I grew watching Bill Collins Golden Years of Hollywood on a Saturday night.

Saturday nights were pretty fun at our house. We made an 80s Aussie version of Pizza with a meat sauce base. It was delicious. We’d watch Hey Hey it’s Saturday and we were allowed to stay up a bit and watch a movie. Mum and Dad always said to get into our pyjamas and clean our teeth first – so they could carry us to bed if we fell asleep.

I think this is why we sometimes groaned at his long introductions because it meant we’d see less of the movie before falling asleep. But eventually the movie would start and we’d be transported to Casablanca or Paris after the war or the America during the Civil War.

This was how I came to love musicals. Rodgers and Hammerstein movies were great. State Fair was a favourite. I could never stay awake for all of the Sound of Music. Watching Gene Kelly tap dance, inspired me at age of 16 to take it up for myself. After watching Roman Holiday I knew I was going to visit the mouth of truth if I ever made it to Rome.

Hitchcock Season was the best – I’ve never forgotten watching Rear Window for the first time. For obvious reasons, I was restricted to the not terrifying for little people movies, so no the Birds or Psycho, which I still have never seen.

One of the best things about Saturday night movies was having an intermission in the middle, where you could make a cup of milo and go to the toilet. Often this was also the cue for me to go to bed as the littlest. Until I was a teenager I’d seen half of some of the best films ever made from Hollywood’s golden age.

Nostalgia isn’t always a good thing, it gives you rose coloured glasses about what the world was like. What I remember mostly though was these movies were fun, violence happened but was not gory, men wore hats and were effortlessly cool, and Audrey Hepburn was the most gorgeous woman on the planet. Oh and there was usually a happy ending.

Things you can eat on couches

I’ve been a bit sick so there’s been a lot of lying and eating on my couch. I’ve come up with some rules about non-mess making couch eating.

Here are my rules for eating on couches…

1. Things in bowls – cereal, noodles, dessert, pasta but not soup. I like soup but getting it from the bowl on a spoon to my mouth without spilling any requires way to much hand eye coordination. Note also big bowls are better than small ones.

2. Things on plates – anything that does not require a knife or fork. Also not eggs because those things are messy.

The best thing to eat on a couch though is anything out of the care package your parents bring you after you decide that you have had enough of trying to be an adult and tell them you’re sick. And then the call and say – what do you need?

Unpleasant surprises

Last night I got home to find that someone had ripped some of the grasses I’d recently planted out of my rockery. Not the nice expensive ones mind, the crappy tube stock ones that are worth less that $20. But they didn’t steal them, they just left them behind – an act of stupidity and vandalism.

My first reaction was shock, I mean who does that. I’m not sure I was angry;  annoyed and concerned mostly. Concerned that this will be a pattern now, annoyed that I need to think of upping security to stop morons who have nothing better to do.

I don’t think I want security cameras. I’ve installed an alarm but security cameras seem like a step too far. Like developing a siege mentality where you think the world is out to get you. I’m considering a fence but not sure if this is something I want to do right now.

Even better than any of these measures is asking my bible study group to pray for God’s protection over my house and garden. For non-believers this probably seems a bit weird but is quite a normal thing for Christians to ask for prayers for all sorts of things that are going on in their lives.

I’ve replanted the grasses but God knows whether they’ll be any good now. And it might take me a while to be at ease about the whole thing too. It’s not a pleasant feeling to know someone has been wandering on your property and vandalising it. But mum said grasses are hardy… So I guess I can be too.




The perils and joys of social media.

I’ve been a bit busy over the long weekend to write anything proper for #BlogJune. Between sorting out my garden, cleaning the house and spending large portions of yesterday following the #classic100 on twitter. It’s been full on… Mozart was robbed, robbed, I say.

Social media is both a blessing and curse. It lets you enjoy the fun of the classic 100 countdown but also is a massive waste of time. I’ve been reading this book called Happy Never After and it talks about the dopamine hit from social media; how it’s actually designed to make you care about how many likes, follows, shares, retweets etc.

I’ve noticed this myself, particularly on twitter. When I post something that gets liked I feel the need to refresh the app to see how it’s going. It’s unhealthy but no doubt taps into our need to be recognised, or liked or some such.

Of course it’s not all bad…  I talk to my friends on messenger apps and today I used Youtube to find out how to remove a halogen globe from my ceiling fan. But the mindless scrolling isn’t a great and when I feel the need to reach my iPad regularly even when doing other things – it’s not good.

I’ve installed software on my computer that allows me to block social media for a certain period of time. It’s called Cold Turkey, it’s really effective and a total pain in the arse. Once you have a block in place you can’t turn it off and you can’t delete the software. I accidentally put a block on for ten days once. Let’s just say I worked out how to delete the software but am now careful to not stuff it up again.

It’s a really effective tool for focussing on what you need to do. And by using it I’ve realised just how frequently I go to  Facebook or Twitter in the course of doing life stuff. When I’m writing something and stuck for a thought – I’ll go check twitter or Facebook, then come back start again. I’m almost doing it without thinking but with this blocker, I can’t access the site.  So now I’m trying to stay with what I’m doing but stop and gather my thoughts.

I need to work on getting the balance right. It’s a great tool to keep in touch with friends and family. One of the greatest things about social media is the world it opens up for you. I get most of my news now through social media and I couldn’t live without this. So I need it… But I don’t need to spend hours every day on it. And I certainly don’t need to wake up at 3am and think I’ll just check twitter as this will help me get back to sleep (an actual thing I did yesterday)

How to chop an onion without crying

I love Jamie Oliver, I own most of his cook books… I like how he now tries to cook for everyone rather than fancy pants 25 exotic ingredient that you only use once.

Back in his naked chef days, off camera a producer asked him how he managed to cut up onions without crying. He said something like he didn’t know but didn’t mind a good cry.

Chefs don’t cry when they cut up onions from what I’ve seen. I think it’s because they have the knife skills to cut it up pretty quickly.

I do not have good knife skills. In fact I have the knife skills of someone likely to cut themselves or others in the attempt. When they say dice finely, I think rustic/homestyle will be much better.

A winner of Masterchef I would never be. Thus a sharp object and running eyes are to be avoided at all costs.

I cannot claim my technique for cutting onions without crying is foolproof, I can say it works for me most of the time… when I remember how to do it.

So here it is.

Place your onion with the root bit pointing towards you on a cutting surface. The pointy bit should be stick away from you. It doesn’t matter if you peel the onion or not at this stage.

Just in case you think you know what’s coming…. Do not cut the onion in half from the pointy bit to the bottom, repeat do not. I don’t know why but this sets off the strong smell, stinging your eyes, resulting in sniffles and tears.

Instead cut your onion in half through the middle horizontally. Leaving the pointy bit and the root bit intact but seperate.

If you haven’t peeled your onion you can do this now. And then slice, chop or dice your onion as required by whatever you’re making. But just like magic you’ll be doing this without crying.

The first time I did it (by accident it must be said), I was so surprised but it’s worked almost every time and I now claim this as my one and only culinary party trick.

Hurrah – for no more tears onion cutting.

Sunday vignette

I was awake early this morning 6.15 and up at 7.00. I was on morning tea at church, you are meant to be there at 8.00 to set up. I’m not a morning person, I like to take my mornings leisurely and with tea.

But I find myself awake early most weekends. I tell myself I should use this time to do stuff. Mostly I just curse that I’m chronically unable to sleep in. Now it’s dark it’s harder than ever to get up, even the birds seem to stay asleep until after 7.00.

If there are some joys in the early mornings, I usually listen to ABC Classic FM where Ed Ayres has the perfect mix of get up and move and quietness. I use tea cups rather than a mug on Sunday.

When I look out my windows I see swallows flitting over the water, having breakfast. The magpies are chortling, and this always makes me feel like the world is still okay. Sometimes you can hear Kookaburras.

There’s the ever present ducks who sneak across the road and eat my grass. In someways this is a good thing because it means I hardly ever have to mow. They rush off when they think I’m looking.

By this stage, I’m running a bit late, I need to get dressed and go. I always feel a bit bad that my time management skills as adult are not as they should be. But there are few times when you don’t need to rush here or there and Sundays should be one of them.


Setting intentions

At the beginning of yoga, the teacher always sets an intention for your practice. Intentions are usually compassion, gratitude or being fully present. I never really understood why we did this but assumed it was for some vaguely religious reason.

Apparently this is not the case, the intention is metaphor that takes yoga from being exercise to something that’s a part of your everyday life. I like this idea and have decided in 2018 rather than setting resolutions or goals I’m setting intentions.

Find a job
This seems blatantly obvious but important for me to write it down. For practical and other reasons I’m considering jobs outside libraries, although it pains me to think that after eight years maybe this just isn’t for me but it’s something I realistically need to consider. While my current situation is depressing, the upside is I do get to take a step back and really assess things; what am I good at, where do my passion and skills lie, are there other areas of GLAM or other fields that would suit me.

Cultivating Gratitude
Last year a friend and I read the Psalms together, it was an enlightening experience. David was incredibly human. He went through some really dark times, was often in danger, sometimes laughed at and he did some terrible things (See 2 Samuel 11 for the story of David and Bathsheba), but he never stopped being grateful and praising God. I found this very confronting – how can you be grateful when everything is falling down around your ears? This year being grateful in any and all circumstances is a strong focus. If David can do it when he’s on the run after an attempt on his life, then so can I.

The world doesn’t need more librarians or writers or success stories. It genuinely needs more people who believe that kindness is something worth pursuing. Not just in the way you treat other people but for yourself as well. It’s not about being a doormat or being taken advantage of because you need to be “nice”, it has personal boundaries; it’s something else, a genuine expression of your love of other people I guess. It also has an element of living in the here and now to it: like stop worrying about all the stuff and focus on being your best self right now.

Starting a book group
A friend and I are starting a book group. It’s literary fiction but not high brow just genuinely good stories. And in great book club tradition is likely to include wine. I’ve never been in a book group before but I’m so excited by it.

I’m leaving home
I’ve lived in the same house for 41 years. I brought some land and have signed contracts with a builder to put up a house. This process started early last year and I was hoping that it would be over by now. But this year my first home will be complete. I can’t wait.

I’ve booked into a writing course with a well know Melbourne author/commentator/famous type person. I booked it out of the hundreds available because it looked like a lot of fun. I want to expand my writing skills, try new things, learn to separate myself from the story so I don’t always just vomit all over the page. I hope it will help me make something of this need I’ve had since I was eight to tell stories.

Yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices
I stopped doing yoga for a large part of last year. I went back towards the end of last year and it was great. Physically difficult but for the hour or so I was totally engrossed and welcomed the peaceful calmness of the yoga space. Living quietly with space for contemplation, prayer, reflection, it’s essential that I find time for this.

Being myself
My massage therapist may or may not have a gift… During the three seasons I’ve had with her – let’s just say she’s said some pretty accurate things, which makes me wonder. At our last session she said to me that I should stop trying to fit the mould everyone wants of me and trust my instincts. I’m going to take her advice. I particularly want to stop saying sorry when I am in fact not sorry. This is something distinctly female I do when I feel I am (but not really) imposing or asking stupid questions or feel like I’m annoying people because they are stressed, irritated or I’m not 100% confident I know what I’m taking about. It needs to stop. I noticed one thing working in tech is that men don’t do this – they say things with complete confidence. So this is definitely something to work through.

To be read
I have a massive to be read pile and this year I plan on working my way through them. The pile includes Hemingway, Richard III, and a whole bunch of romance novels.

So that’s it… That’s my intentions for 2018, not an exhaustive list but it feels like the essential things I’ll focus on for this year. Of course as things change my intentions might change too – so a final intention would be to welcome all the changes with an open heart.

I hope you are excited about your 2018 journey. I know I am about mine.