Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On constantly comparing and feeling stuck

We take our eyes off the horizon where they have been focused all the way through high school and university to look down at the new bundle of life we are holding. We keep them down to nurse and rock to sleep and learn the words to lullabies long forgotten. We wash blankets and tiny socks and learn how to rub out a wind and change a diaper. Our eyes are down as we love and tend and cry on the days when we are tired and feeling alone. Sometimes we look up briefly and the light of the horizon blinds our eyes, gritty from lack of sleep. And the years go by and we're running to catch before a fall or pulling down from a dangerous climb, and always we have to be a step ahead and so our eyes cannot leave the ground. And then one day they are off to pre-school or big grown up school on a bus and suddenly there is no reason to keep looking down. And we look up for the first time. Allowing our eyes to get used to the light up there. And we see everyone else so much further ahead, if life were a race - which of course it isn't - but we have been groomed for many years to compete and keep up and be the best at the game. And now we have stopped playing or been playing the wrong game all along, and it takes time to clear the vision and stand up straight. And even staring at the horizon and wondering which way to start, there is a familiar and well loved tugging at our hand.

I love the world of blogs and e-courses and the amazing community out there ... writers, designers, stylists, artists, surface pattern designers, entrepeneurs, human rights activists who are also yoga teachers and writers (Marianne Elliot) and human rights advisors turned pavilion builders and interior design gurus (Maryam at My Marrakesh) . Whew. Just writing the list is exhausting. But there's a side to it all that I really battle with and that's the constant need to compare myself to everyone out there. And if it's not enough to have the world of blogs and websites to keep up with, there is Facebook and being able to see what everyone I have ever known is doing. And mostly it's wonderful - the staying in touch, the keeping up of relationships and being able to renew friendships lost in the days before email and texting when sometimes letters just took too long and weren't enough ... but some days I find myself spending hours just making myself feel worse as I compare their achievements to my own. I know this is a case of needing to be disciplined with my time online and only reading what is encouraging and uplifting and not what makes me feel like i'll never be good enough ... but it's not always easy. I need to take what will push me on my own journey and ignore the rest - a skill I am still battling to learn.

I know i shouldn't compare myself. I know that's not at all what it's about. We can all present what we want to when we appear online in any form - in the words we choose to write, the photos we put up, the achievements we list. We can show only what's best and hide the ugly-and-not-so-perfect under the bed. I know that the amazing designer might be desperate to start a family. That the talented painter might have no friends. I know that all is not necessarily what it seems online but I do know too that there is amazing talent out there and people really pushing themselves to work hard and follow their passion. And i love this because it's something i believe so deeply in. Now I just need to find my own again.

I know that the things which make me feel jealous or sad or like i've missed the opportunity to do something creative with my own life are the things I need to pay attention to - they hold the clues to help me find my own way on. But sometimes it can all feel really overwhelming and it's easy to get lost in all the comparisons and other people's lives. Right now I am in the middle of Mati and Will's RE:Connect course (my last one for a while) to help me find my way back to myself again ... not that i was completely lost but I have forgotten some of the things I used to dream about and I'm not sure where to go from here. Which is really why I started this blog and 6+ months in I am starting to see glimpses but a little more clarity is needed still. I think i might need to take a break from everyone else's online world for a month to focus a little more on breathing and reading and tea on the couch and my own thoughts, if i can remember where to find them. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Apple picking ...

For me the first time we go apple picking means the beginning of Fall and it's one of my favorite family outings that we've adopted since we moved to America ... the days are still hot and sunny but the leaves are slowly turning and a trip to one of the orchards always makes me feel more in tune ... maybe it's the need to walk some fields every now and then, the scent of apples and watching things grow. Something I often think about, living in a suburban area as we do, is the lack of connection with the land and the outdoors, especially for Lexi and Hayden ... it's the walking wild grasses and seeing the starlings take flight - black patterns woven across the blue sky. 

On Sunday we took the day and went to pick our apples and in between the lovely time spent with friends and the kids hunting for the perfect apples was the pure happiness to be outside with green space around me ...

We took a hayride to the orchard, we picked our apples and walked across the fields. We ate doughnuts and drank coffee in the sun.

All the time I was thinking that this is what I need more of ... less city and more fields

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gratitude ...

If you can feel the breeze on your face and the grass wet under your feet
If you can run in the waves and hold grains of sand in the palm of your hand

If you can reach out and touch the one you love beside you
And bend down to kiss a sleeping cheek at night,
uncurl a hand from a cuddly toy and tuck in a stray curl,
If you get to kiss the bruises and the scrapes with magic kisses
in spite of the fights and not listening and tiring days sometimes

If you get brought flowers or stones or leaves turned gold in the fall

If the phone rings and there's a friendly voice
An email sent with love and care your way ...

If you can lose yourself in a book and imagine a life lived far away
If you get to travel and walk new places or if you don't 
but have a familiar and well loved landscape around you ...

If you are surrounded by family or have them far away, but family still
if you can speak your mind and give voice to your hopes

if you can sit and watch the sunset and have a moment of rare peace inside
Or lie under the stars at night and know what you believe

If you can feel the sun on your skin and smell the earth after the rain
and your prayers are sometimes answered ....

Be grateful today
Be present

Feel the strength and the frailty all at the same time, in perfect and sometimes not so perfect balance.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Around here at the end of summer ...

Around here we have started feeling the cool crisp early morning air that heralds the beginning of Fall ... summer is drawing to a close ... slowly slipping out in the warmth of sunny afternoons and chilly tiptoeing in of dusk time. 

I love the Fall ... especially here in New York where the seasons are so clearly different ... not like growing up in Durban where they blend together and leaves stay green all year round. Fall is yellow school buses and leaves turning shades of gold and red. Pumpkins and apple picking and smoke lazily curling out of chimneys. Fall is pumpkin pies and Halloween and all things fun and orange. It's just a great season for families with small children here in the States, and this year it's especially exciting because we have my mom coming to stay for a whole month ... such a treat. We are counting sleeps in my house.

Around here we are holding on to the last of the summer with time in the garden, playground outings and a trip to Jones Beach on Sunday - my first time there ... waves and good friends and hot sun beating. Bliss. 

We are settling into being back at school with its early morning starts and homework and the need for routine after weeks of doing what we felt like. There have been the obligatory tantrums and hitches along the way but we are slowly finding our groove again.

I am loving this online magazine which I found a while ago but never got to read - now I'm subscribed (best part, it's free) so won't miss another issue. 

Looking forward to the Fall issue of this stunning pulication too - beautiful writing and photos. In an age of online media and a glut of magazines and books on the market, it is lovely to hold something so solid and timeless ... a piece of art to page through. You can sometimes find copies in Anthropologie or local bookstores.

A new blog I am following ... found by a post on Kelly Rae's blog.

A painting course i would love to take ... and think i might just sign up for before it starts on Monday ... it's been a long time since i last had real time to work on my own stuff and i'm feeling a little stuck in so many ways - about painting and where i want to go with all of it, about career and whether or not to go back to work .. wanting to write and move forward and try new things .... maybe you feel the same and maybe this course might just help - just a little .... 

There are so many places to find inspiration online at the moment - gorgeous blogs and photos and magazines ... perfect for a new season which draws us in and makes us want to curl up on couches and hot chocolate, thinking and dreaming and making new plans.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Bucket List

Today i found this post - a new blog i haven't read before and this bucket list was one of the first pages I came to. I had to read it and love that i have done a few things on her list which I wouldn't have expected to BE on anyone's list ... and in a week where i really am feeling that my life needs some serious boosting and that i am still not famous = being totally worthless (just kidding) ... these are some things i can cross off from her list, even if they would not have been on mine  ... 

Eat a croissant in Paris
Play pooh sticks off the Official Pooh Bridge
Haven't had cream tea in Cornwell but I have had it at the Dorchester in London - does that count ?
Spend Christmas Day in my pyjamas (and drinking Dom Pedros at the same time makes it even better, for anyone attempting this one)
Live in the states for a year
Make something on a potter's wheel
Drink Dom Perignon champagne (Nobu baby)
Get rid of all the clothes in my wardrobe that are neither beautiful or functional
perfect the boiled egg
skinny dipping - but not with Lisa
snog in the rain
Stand under a waterfall
Send a message in a bottle
Walk in a bluebell wood

And so of course this leads me to wonder in all seriousness what would be on my bucket list .... something I have never actually done. There have been lists. Lists made at college where I dreamed of my future. Crazy things I used to have on my list but which have now disappeared (and with no regret) - aka parachuting. But maybe it's a good thing to do now, right in the middle of trying to figure out my way forward. So here it is in all its glory, to be revised i am sure but it's good to have a starting point.

Bucket List

write a novel and have it published / have an exhibition of my paintings / have a children's book published (my own story and illustrations) / buy and read a book of ee cummings poetry / make a bonfire on a beach again / go shopping in Marrakesh / ride a camel / swim with dolphins in the sea (or salt water at least, somewhere open and free) / start kayaking / see a manatee in real life / drive from the east coast to the west coast of America and include North Carolina in that drive / eat pasta in Italy / take photos in Bali / swim in the Maldives / walk a beach in the Turks and Caicos / buy a sari in India / own my own house - ideally by the beach but really a house in itself will do just nicely thank you / watch Casablanca / have an occasion to wear a ballgown / visit San Francisco / Take Hayden to Lego Land in England / See the stars over the Kruger Park / work for House and Leisure magazine in South Africa (dreams are allowed on here, right ?) / grow a vegetable garden / learn to make chicken pot pie / see the tulips in Amsterdam / Swing in a hammock in Mexico, at the home of a dear friend / Trace my family roots with a trip to Labrador / attend a painting retreat in France or Italy / Visit the Amazon / Take photos of the San in South Africa / Watch the sun set over the Grand Canyon / Spend a week in the Little Karoo / Go back to the Owl House, Nieu Bethesda (more on that later) / Work as an art therapist / this one is vague but it has something to do with South Africa and feeling like i am doing something for someone, somehow. As i said, it's still vague. Making a difference is i suppose what i am getting to on this one / Visit 7 continents (3 down, 4 to go) x

And for now that is it.

What would be on your list ?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Time by the sea ...

A beautiful week in Cape Cod. It has become something of a family tradition - a week by the sea in August. Living far away from home (South Africa), with none of the usual family time we had growing up, it means a lot to us to have our children grow up with a bond to places both here and in South Africa - and for us the connection to the Cape was an immediate falling in love the year we first went ... the feeling of familiarity and home when we return each year, but still every time there are new things to discover.

Not to say it's always perfect. I wish it was. There were fights and tantrums and the usual (and not so usual) family disagreements ... a couple of bad moods and stomping around. But there was more great time on the beach with the heat of the sun turning moods around. Building sandcastles, learning to boogie board. Watching children growing in confidence and having wonderful time with friends. Lying in the sun. Little feet paddling in the water trying to catch something in the net. Quiet early morning sunrise-watching on the beach, the water warm and sandy toes. Crabs. Shells. Silence. Space to breathe in and out again.

I got to lie on a striped couch and read to my heart's content, this beautiful book by my favorite author. So fitting. Drank coffee and ate loads of ice-cream.  Watched everyone go a little berry-brown and hair lightened from the sun. Got to potter around Chatham on a rainy morning, in and out of galleries and funky shops. Saw whales out at sea on a boat.

Got to reflect a little. A lot of the time i was thinking how much I love all of it - the sea, the sand and the heat. The quieter pace. How things are softer and more rounded, less sharp edges and less noise. Less frantic. How I belong somehow, there were barefoot is the norm and there is not so much reason to brush my hair every day. I wish we could buy just a little place right there and find work and sleep and read and daydream and catch our breaths, but not just on vacation. But it's enough for now that we get to go now and then, and recharge a little. 

Some signs i loved along the way but didn't get to photograph:

My heart belongs by the sea. 

I think that needs to be in a painting somewhere.

If you are more than barefoot, you are overdressed.

And now it's back to school and for me this time of year always feels more appropriate for new year resolutions than January does. Summer is slowly leaving and fall is on it's way. Time for new beginnings. And for me this is the time where soon both kids will be in school for at least some of the day - Lexi only for the mornings but still ... back before I had her, i had just started having time to myself - got back to painting after many many years of not. And then i was pregnant before things really got going and i knew it would be slow and all about family until she was in preschool. And now this big milestone is just around the corner. What am i going to do next ? I have been trying to keep my heart really really open, hoping something will fall into place - come clear out of the mist. That some of my questions will find answers.

So here's to the new school year (if you live this side of the equator) and to resolutions which allow for growth and adventure in a good way ... to new beginnings (starting with a new banner for my blog) ... here's to jaunts and sunsets with a glass of red wine in hand ... for feeling more ourselves and growing not up, but into - into ourselves, into who we want to be. Here's to midlife reflection being a positive thing and not meaning one has to toss everything to the wind and start again. Rather to be able to sift through the sand and to find the beautiful shells and stones to hold on to.