‘Failing is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.’

Elli Stassinopoulos (mother of Arianna Huffington)



The urge to just sit and write is so often met with equal tenacity by the ability to procrastinate. Today I intended to sit down and write for a good part of the day. And now, as the clock clicks over to 5.26pm on a Sunday afternoon, I have barely a word on the page.

Other things just kept getting in the way. Cleaning up after last night’s birthday celebrations, digging out the numbers from the detritus of my late father’s paper-work so I can tick his tax return off my to do list, folding the overflowing mounds of clean washing (I am so tired of the eternal hunt for matching socks and clean undies) and nursing a slightly heavy head from one too many glasses of Veuve.

But you know what? Regardless of the fact that I really should be making a start on dinner or getting my stuff organised for work tomorrow, I am sitting here at my desk, my fingers dancing across the keyboard as I am damn well not going to let the sun go down on another day without accessing the writer that lies within.

Have you ever had an itch you’ve just had to scratch? Well that’s kind of what it feels like to be a writer. It’s there, always hovering, begging for attention. And the more you ignore it, the greater the desire to scratch. And once you actually relent and scratch, it can be quite hard to stop. It can be addictive.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as sitting back and re-reading the words that have landed on the page. Sometimes when I read them, I almost can’t remember actually writing it. When you get into the flow, the words tumble out so fast that you just need to let them come out of you. Kind of like a giant cathartic purge. Yet at other times, it’s like drawing blood from a stone. I type a sentence then delete two. The inner censor can truly be a writer’s worst enemy. But it’s like anything you do. The more that you do it, the better you become. Or so I’ve been told.

I have recently completed a six week writing course with the wonderful Australian author Dianne Blacklock https://dianneblacklock.com  at the NSW Writer’s Centre in Rozelle. I came out pumped and rearing to go, filled with the ‘how to’ and ‘what not to do’s’. I was going to stop procrastinating, bite the bullet and write my bloody novel! But have I? In a word, no.

I have been reading copious blogs on how to write, leafed through my much loved copies of Fiona’s McIntosh’s ‘How To Write Your Block-buster’ https://www.fionamcintosh.com/blog/how-to-write-your-blockbuster-a-practical-guide  and Dani Shapiro’s ‘Still Writing’ http://danishapiro.com/books/still-writing and signed up for two online writing classes, James Patterson’s Masterclass and Liz Gilbert’s Creativity Workshop. They are all fascinating and full of vital tips and perspectives for writing my novel but reading how to do it isn’t exactly doing it, is it? I am also booked into Fiona’s five day writing masterclass in Adelaide this coming September (so excited!) You would think that immersing myself amongst such writerly talent the words would be cascading from me. But no. They’re not. So what’s stopping me? In a word, FEAR.

Fear is such a peculiar thing. Liz Gilbert tells us to embrace it. She says to tell it to hop in the back seat and that while it is welcome to come on the writing journey with us, it most definitely doesn’t get to drive or choose the direction we are going. She suggests that we write a letter to fear acknowledging its presence but letting it know that whatever happens, we’re going to write anyway. I’ve tried writing to fear but to be honest, I felt a bit silly doing it…so I didn’t. In the past fear has told me that I have no talent or ability, it has mocked me when I called myself a writer for the very first time a year ago and it was probably laughing hysterically when I started my Facebook writer page the other week www.facebook.com/shelleygardnerwriter

On the last night of my course with the fabulous Di and nine talented writers, we critiqued each other’s work (oh ok, we also had champagne and a little party!) I received some lovely feedback and while I still have a long way to go, their comments gave me hope that I actually CAN do this, that I really AM a writer. One of the nicest things said on the night (thanks Maxine) was that it was the kind of book she would love to take on holiday. And then Di agreed BAM! That just blew me away as that is exactly the type of book I am trying to write.

The equally fabulous Lisa Heidke http://lisaheidke.com , whose course I was lucky enough to attend at the Australian Writer’s Centre late last year, also kindly offered to have a look at my opening chapters for me. I received her email the final day of Di’s course, just as the panic had started to build about what people would think of my opening chapters. As I read her words, I let out a little squeal and did a happy dance! I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing some of her comments but she said she was ‘hooked’ by my story and that I ‘captured setting very well’. Lisa said I had ‘created my main character beautifully’ and that I should go to the class with my head held high. I was beyond stoked.

Yet despite all this, I am still sitting here, almost three weeks later, paralysed. I know that nobody can push me through the fear, the procrastination. Only I can do that. I have to do that if I am ever going to finish my novel. But it’s hard. Really hard. I thought if other people believed that I could do it then I would do it. But it is slowly dawning on me that I have to believe that I can do it. I want to finish my book more than anything. No one can write it for me (come on Di, Lisa, you know you want to write it for me???)

I started writing this blog post just after 5pm on Sunday May 15th. It is now just gone 8.46pm on Monday May 23rd. Good ol’ procrastination at its finest! My meditation teacher, Susan Piver http://susanpiver.com , who is also happens to be a NY Times best-selling author, tells us to practice loving kindness towards ourselves when we get stuck. She says to create a guilt-free zone as beating yourself up about something won’t get it done, it will just make you miserable. And she’s right. As I post links to great author articles and share cute writer quotes on my FB pages and even as I offer support to other emerging writers, one thought keeps popping into my head. I feel like a fraud. I am a writer who isn’t writing, although there is nothing I more desperately want to do. And that makes me feel guilty…and miserable.

But I need to change my perspective if I am ever going to do this. It may have taken me eight days to get this post written but I did get it written. There is something infinitely ‘doable’ about writing a blog post. It seems so small and contained compared to writing a novel. It seems possible. Maybe I have just hit the nail on the head. I am perhaps not just fearful but overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the ninety odd thousand words I still have ahead of me, overwhelmed by weaving together all the pieces of the puzzle that lay before me, overwhelmed by the re-writes that are to come. As I have written this post, various thoughts have popped into my head and the thought that is screaming the loudest right at this moment is to keep it small. Keep it doable. Don’t think of the 90,000 words. Just think of 500. Write those 500 words.

So this is my pledge to myself. I will write 500 words by this time next week, Monday May 30th. Immediately my inner critic is screaming ‘God you’re going to be a hundred by the time you write this thing’ but I have told it to shush! If I set an unrealistic goal I will write Nothing. Nada. Niente. Better I write 500 words than no words. And maybe the next week I will write another 500. And maybe without realising it, I will be writing again, the words will be flowing again. I will let you know how I go. And if you too are struggling to actually sit and write, maybe you would like to write 500 words too. Hey, maybe we could start a FB group? The 500 club! It’s ok, only joking….I think.

Till next week.





“Thinking about death clarifies your life.” Candy Chang


I’ve just been reading over my last blog post from late October. I was feeling refreshed and renewed and about to really reconnect with my writing. https://ordinarymagic.me/2015/10/27/the-rains-of-change/ But as is so often the case, life had other ideas.


Today it is 48 days since I last saw my dad, last held his hand, gently rubbed his forehead, as he left this world to join my mum. The dulcet tones of Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’ were playing on my sister’s iPhone. We felt it only fitting that the music that embodied my dad, heralded his departure from this realm to the next. It was the morning of Christmas Eve. His passing was quiet, peaceful. He had lived a full and happy 89 years and loved nothing more than his family. He was a good man.

Two days before he died, whilst wiping his fevered brow, he opened those dark Welsh eyes of his and looked straight into mine. He’d only had glimmering moments of consciousness over the previous twenty-four hours. “Hello beautiful” I said as I smiled at my dad. His eyes smiled right back at me. I will hold that image deep within my heart until it is my time to see him again.

New Year’s Day normally unfolds with copious cups of tea and lying on the lounge with a good book; an attempt to wash away the previous late night and one too many glasses of champagne. But not this year. January 1 2016 was spent putting the finishing touches on my dad’s eulogy for his funeral the following day.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines the word remarkable as “unusual or special and therefore surprising and worth mentioning.” My dad led a remarkable life. He grew up in pre-war northern England, the eldest child of ten. His father was a publican, his mother a housewife. Yet his early life wasn’t traditional, as he was raised by his maternal grandparents and much adored great aunts until his 10th birthday. He often said he had an idyllic childhood, days spent exploring and getting up to mischief with his best mate Kenny. Dad used to love regaling us with stories about his life. It is a blessing that he wrote a lot of them down. Like me, an aspiring author, he had hoped that one day his words may fall within the pages of a book, be published, see the light of day. So here you go dad, a few of your words in electronic print<3 My favourite story was the time his grandma and great aunt were placing baked goods into a rear pantry for ‘safe keeping.’ Little did they know what lurked behind the pantry door……

“On this particular day I was playing with Kenny when I saw my grandmother and great-aunt Louie carrying pastries into the pantry. I snuck into the house and hid in a broom cupboard just inside the pantry door. Eventually, the pantry full, I heard my grandmother remark that she had better lock the door to keep me out. After hearing the key turn, I opened the small window giving access to the backyard. Ken was standing there, arms outstretched, collecting the goodies as I handed them down….I had hardly closed the window behind me, as I made my escape, when the pantry door opened. Then I heard my grandmother cry out “Louie! Someone has stolen the cakes. How on earth did that little bugger get into here!” I think this story explains dad’s love of cakes and sweets. Luckily he had two granddaughters who loved to bake!

Four years after moving back home with his parents, WWII started. He told us about the time a 10 day blitz by the Germans hammered Liverpool. Having thought the bombing had stopped he was sent by his father to retrieve the family from the air raid shelter situated under Liverpool Cathedral. Two sisters chose to stay in the shelter, but dad carried their belongings home, trailing behind his mother who had the baby and younger siblings. She told him to hurry up but his load was slipping so he stopped to reorganise things in front of a house. As he did, he heard the aircraft engines and the familiar whistling sound that pierced the stillness. His father was running up the hill yelling for them to run like mad. My grandfather grabbed the baby under one arm and his wife under the other and thrust them all into the pub’s cellar. The bombs missed the cathedral but destroyed the house in front of which dad had stood only moments earlier. Jimmy G was meant to be here…he still had many things to do.

Not long after, he walked in on his parents in the midst of a violent row. After this, he went back to live with his beloved great aunt until immigrating to Australia at the age of 22. He lived such a varied life, working in outback Queensland, the Philippines, on oil rigs in the Middle East and even vacationing in Cuba!

Of course, when he finally met the love of his life, Joan, the bachelor days of traipsing all over the world were over. The proud and devoted father of two daughters and later an admired son-in-law, his world was completed with the arrival of his two cherished granddaughters, although he never got over the loss of his adored wife in 1997. But he had a great life. A sometimes sad, often funny, rewarding and interesting life.

In the words of Candy Chang, “Thinking about death clarifies your life.” It gets you thinking about what would be in your own eulogy. Obviously, I hope my family will feel about me the way that I feel about my dad. I love my kids and my husband, my family and friends with all of my heart and I am always there for them. But if someone was to recount the story of my life, what tale would it tell? What were my adventures? What unrequited dreams will I think back on as I exit this life?

Candy Chang is a Taiwanese American artist who created the Before I Die Participatory Art Project http://beforeidie.cc/site/

“After losing someone she loved and experiencing deep depression, artist Candy Chang created an interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighbourhood to create an anonymous place to help restore perspective and share intimately with neighbours while remaining an introvert. After receiving permission, she painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighbourhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stencilled it with the grid of a sentence, ‘Before I die I want t0____________’ Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in a public space.” (quote from the Before I Die site)

Candy had no idea what would happen and what did was out of this world. By the next day the wall had loads of responses and it just kept on growing. There are now multiple interactive walls across the world in over 70 countries, in over 35 languages. It is a thought that unites everyone, everywhere. The responses are wide ranging from ‘hold her one more time’ to ‘straddle the international date line’ to ‘abandon all insecurities’.

I shared a Facebook post about this last year but it was only whilst reflecting on dad’s eulogy that I started thinking about it again. I don’t have an abandoned building covered in chalkboard paint but I do have my blog page and my Facebook wall. I would honestly love to know how you would complete the sentence. But of course I couldn’t ask you to answer if I don’t…so here goes!

Before I die I want to LEARN TO PLAY THE CELLO
Before I die I want to WRITE MY NOVEL
(sorry…there’s just too many things I want to do!!)




“Our lives are journeys that nobody can take for us, and nobody can spare us from, we have to do it on our own.” Marcel Proust

All these moments

You can feel the change coming. The air is so heavy it feels devoid of oxygen and you struggle to breathe. And then the rains come. The temperature drops. You can taste the moisture and it feels deliciously cool through your nose as you drawin a slow, long breath. It is as if your lungs have been purified with a renewed vitality. And so it is with our lives.

Life is a complex, myriad of moments in your day, your week, your month that can often leave your head spinning, your body out of balance. You race harder, faster, trying to manifest all the things you think will make you feel fulfilled and happy and do all the things you feel you really need to do. But, so often, all it does is leave you feeling empty and exhausted. The problem and also the answer lies within the fact that our lives are unpredictable; we are constantly evolving into the newest version of ourselves.

Two months ago I spoke of the Buddhist concept of impermanence. At the time it had become my saving grace as I had reached the status of total overwhelm from being all things to all people all the time. The notion that it wouldn’t always be this hard helped me through the rough days. And now, here I am safely out the other side (but no doubt this too will change!) I have learnt that life is transient. From an external perspective, my life may look the same. Same house, same job, same family, same friends. But I’m not the same. The cup that had become an empty vacuum is filling back up. I am filling it back up and I am becoming more and more the person I was destined to become.

Nurture is a word we associate with doing to someone else, most often our children. It is defined as “to care for and protect something or someone while they are growing.” Yet honestly, if we don’t care for and protect ourselves who’s going to? We are growing; mentally, spiritually, emotionally every day and we need to nurture that growth. We need to be our own soft place to fall. I love the saying ‘I’ve got your back.’ I even bought my husband a mug with it emblazoned on the front when he was going through a tough time. But the thing I’ve come to realise lately is that we really need to have our own back. That’s not to say you can’t ask others for help and support but the fact is this:

NO ONE knows YOU better than YOU do. NO ONE has the ability to tweak the intricacies of your life in the way that you can because YOU are the one with the clarity and insight into what it is you really want (even though a lot of the time we don’t believe that we actually know either!) But if we get really quiet, and really listen, we will begin to get a glimpse. And I have found that through mindfulness and mediation, one voice speaks louder than the rest.

And what is it I have decided that I actually want in this moment in my life? Obviously, there’s no singular answer to that question but the voice that is shouting the loudest is telling me that I want to write. It actually goes much deeper than that. I NEED TO WRITE. I have always loved words and books and writing but somewhere along the road that is life, I forgot how much it defined me. It was something that allowed me to express what I was feeling within my deepest layers, both the light and the dark. It gave me a way to express my creativity (whilst I dabbled with the folk art brush, let’s just say it was never my true calling:-)) and without sounding conceited, it was something I was good at. It gave me a sense of self, something which I had sort of lost.

Writing is a way to fill my cup up, to nurture myself. And my hope is that through my words, I can help other people too; to get them to stop and listen to what it is that they want in their busy, ever-changing lives.

We need to treasure life, every magical and not so magical moment, because ultimately ‘all of those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.’




“Be gentle and kind to you. Treat yourself like you would your dearest friend. Never give up on yourself. Remember, the deeper you go under the crashing waves of the ocean, the calmer it becomes.” Jono Fisher – wakeupproject.com.au

Happy Not Crappy

I had a silent chuckle to myself yesterday as I recalled my post from December 30th last year. It was titled The Mindfulness of Simplicity. https://ordinarymagic.me/2014/12/30/the-mindfulness-of-simplicity/  “Simplicity. Semplicità. Simplicité. The word sounds so simple and easily rolls off your tongue yet manifesting it in our lives is something that many of us struggle with, me included.” In that moment in time, when I hit the post button, I was full of hope for 2015. I had no idea how ephemeral that feeling would be.

Before you start to panic, no great disaster befell myself or my family (for which I am eternally grateful) but life took on a trajectory all of its own, totally beyond my control. I had hoped the frenetic days of 2014 were a distant memory, to be replaced by a sense of calm and ease. A chance to savour the magic that is life; to immerse myself fully within my writing, not ignoring everyone else but finally putting myself on the list of people whose happiness was important. But it was not to be.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an employee and a friend. And I have struggled with wearing several of these hats this year. My writing, my way of processing my thoughts and feelings has disappeared from the landscape of my life. Quite often, I sit before my laptop to write a new post (my last post was 6 months ago), or work on my novel, and my mind is such a cacophony of thoughts that I am paralysed. Countless hours disappear on social media. Some stories are uplifting and give me hope, some remind me of how good I have it compared to so many others. At the end of the day I go to bed, saddened that I have yet again let another day slip by without refilling my cup.

Coping with an elderly father who is struggling to accept that things have changed, that he’s not that sprightly man of 20 years ago, has weighed heavily upon my shoulders. The distorted perception of his illusion vs his reality breaks my heart. I love him dearly and want him to be safe but his dogged reluctance to acknowledge that he isn’t coping living alone anymore and his refusal to accept that things need to change have caused friction on both our parts. Alzheimer’s is a truly wicked disease. It teases you with many moments of piercing clarity before thrusting you deep down into the chasm of confusion. But when lucidity is matched in its tenacity by disarrayed thoughts, no decision can ever be easy.

We don’t want to force him out of his home but what are our options when he refuses to admit the time has come to move somewhere safer? Sometimes I feel like yelling ‘You’ve had 89 years living how you want to live, but this has to change. It’s not fair on any of us.’ I fear that phone call arriving to say that there has been a fire because he has left the oven on or that he has fallen and lay there helpless for hours, alone. I can’t be there for him 24/7. Apart from the fact that I work, I want to be his daughter, not his full-time carer. I have effectively been his part-time carer for the past ten years and if I am honest, I have carer’s fatigue. I know it from both sides as many years ago, as a young nurse, I worked part-time in aged care. But I got to go home at the end of those eight hour shifts and return to my life, to recharge so that I would have the energy to return. There is no opportunity to recharge when it’s your dad. I see the look on people’s faces, particularly doctors, when they find out he lives on his own. The look is directed at me as if to say how are you letting this be so? I often ask myself the same question but the answer is, he’s my dad. I don’t want to go against his wishes. If he was confused more that he was lucid, the decision would be easy. But he’s not and it’s not.

That undercurrent of stress flows through to my family and friends and I know it. My patience is way less than it usually is. But I am tired. I am overwhelmed and just once, I want someone to take me in their arms and say ‘It’s ok. I’ve got this.’ Don’t get me wrong, my family and friends try to support me as best they can and my sister is equally weighed down by the dilemma we find ourselves in. But I am finding that resentment is building. He left the UK when he was young and never looked back, never had to dealing with ailing and ageing parents and yet he expects us to dedicate our lives to maintaining his independence and his life as he wants it to be. But what about my life? Don’t I get to have that same privilege as him? He got to travel and sow his wild oats and create the life he wanted yet I increasingly feel that I am being denied that same right that he fights so vehemently for.

Of course, if this was the only difficulty I was dealing with then it would be simple. Yet life has a way of seeing you struggling and saying ‘what the hell, let’s throw some more stuff her way and see how good she is at juggling’. The answer is I SUCK AT JUGGLING!

I try to be ALL things to ALL people but I am slowly coming to the realisation that I can’t continue this at this moment in time. My cup is empty. The dam is dry. I feel so frighteningly close to having nothing left to give to anybody.

But how do you stop and recharge when all around you, people are relying upon you? In a non-egotistical way, I have people needing my shoulder, my ear, for me to take the lead and I want to be there for them; I need to be there for them in certain instances. I can’t just say ‘sorry, the shop is closed. Come back next year.’ Life isn’t like that.

My youngest daughter was diagnosed earlier this year with Coeliac disease. http://www.coeliac.org.au/  I am in awe of how she has adapted to what is a radical lifestyle change for anyone, let alone when you are fourteen years of age. It has been a steep learning curve for all of us but as the person who cooks the majority of meals, I have felt the responsibility firmly upon my shoulders. This isn’t a fad diet or trend, this is life and death. If left untreated, Coeliac disease puts her at a very high risk of many types of cancer, infertility, type 1 diabetes, osteoporosis and other auto-immune conditions. A fully gluten-free diet will put her at no greater risk of these things than a non-coeliac.

I can’t stuff this up. I HAVE to get it right. And one night I stuffed up and accidentally glutened her. I was tired. I was stressed and I was rushing to get a meal on the table and inadvertently used ‘our’ butter. So what’s the problem I hear you ask? Those tiny little crumbs, the remnants of the hastily buttered piece of morning toast brimming with gluten, made her feel sick for the next few days. Every time a coeliac consumes even the tiniest bit of gluten, even though they may only feel unwell for a few days, it damages their bowel and it can take months to heal. Just imagine the mother guilt when you know that something you have done, albeit unintentionally, has hurt your child.

Finally, there is a situation affecting me at the moment that I can’t go in to as it’s not my story to tell but on top of everything else, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The anger I feel is so real and it permeates every essence of my being. I am not normally a hateful or vengeful person but I wake up to go to the bathroom at 2am, return to bed and lay there seething, praying that Karma hits soon. My protective mother gene has been activated and I don’t know how to stop it. Unfortunately, although I would love nothing more than to verbally express my anger and sense of disappointment to these people, the situation won’t allow this. I don’t mean to sound all mysterious but my speaking out could have ramifications for someone I love dearly and I would never do that to them.

I am lucky to have several precious friends whom have been there for me, to listen while I vent and support me through my tears and for them I am eternally grateful. I am also truly blessed to have my beautiful meditation Sangha, http://susanpiver.com/open-heart-project/ , who have been a great source of strength and guidance, reminding me of the Buddhist noble truth of Impermanence. Simply put, Buddhists believe that ‘all conditioned existence, without exception, is transient or in a constant state of flux’ (thanks Wikipedia for the simple definition!) It is a concept that I am well aware of but when the sky is falling it is hard to see what is before us.

Once reminded of the concept of impermanence, that nothing lasts forever, the tears dried up and I felt better able to cope and support my daughter. But that anger is still there, bubbling under the surface. I try and meditate and calm my mind. Last night I listened to an amazing podcast via my Sangha. It was a Dharma talk given by the remarkable Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project. http://www.goodlifeproject.com/ The topic was ‘The Importance of Self-Knowledge as the Foundation of Choice’. Of the many profound things that Jonathan said, the thing that really resonated with me and gave me some sense of a path to move through the frenetic busyness and stress in my life was this:

“The faster I’m going the more mistakes I make….Meditation doesn’t fix anything – it just allows you to see more clearly the truth of what you are living with, what you are struggling with, what’s working and what’s not working so you can take action.”

He went on to talk of the ‘moment of the pause’ in meditation. For those of you unfamiliar with mediation, it is largely focused on the breath. And the moment of pause is the space that exists between inhalation and exhalation of the breath. I call that pause ‘A perfect moment of nothingness’. It’s a space where I just am. There are no thoughts. No worries. No fears. And no anger. It lasts but a fraction of a second but it gives me hope. The trick now is that I need to work out how to expand upon that moment in my daily life.

I need to find a way to move forward, through the anger. In my attempt to deal with this feeling of anger, I just re-watched the insightful and candid Susan Piver, head of our Sangha, giving a guided meditation from a few months back titled ‘Your meditation teacher got angry.’  She starts off the video saying why she is angry and then goes on to say “Maybe you’ve never met a mediation teacher who was pissed off but here, let me introduce you to her!” I love how she validates that it’s ok to be angry, to be pissed off. She goes on further to say, speaking about Buddhism, that “One of the things that I appreciate most about this profound tradition, that is more than 2500 years old, is that it doesn’t tell you that you shouldn’t get angry, or you shouldn’t be sad, or you shouldn’t be disappointed or frustrated or any of those other so-called negative emotions…..I do get pissed off….and I don’t want to think that that makes me a bad person. What makes you a bad person is getting angry and acting in an unkind and aggressive way because you have not figured out how to meet your own anger. That’s a problem. We just have to look at one day’s headlines and see what an enormous problem it is. So anger, NOT A PROBLEM. Acting on your anger, HUGE PROBLEM.”

Susan then truly makes me giggle when she says “I can’t stand spiritual teachers who say you can create a situation for yourself where you are never angry or upset and if you do get angry or upset you can just sort of bliss that away by OHMing yourself into some other stratosphere. That is BULLSHIT! There is value in feeling bad. You are a human being who feels things…we meditate to feel our hearts.”

So it looks like what I’m feeling is OK. It’s just a part of being human. I will struggle with it, I will sit with it but ultimately I will get through it as this too shall pass. My hope is that for all of you also struggling with your own anger, and stress and resentment, that you find some solace and ideas of a pathway forward through my words.





“An earthquake revealed to me that balance is not about stability or rigidity, but the ability to yield and move.” Steven Petrow

 Not going to be easy

It has been a while since my last blog post. Almost eight weeks in fact. I have thought about writing it many times. I have felt guilty that the momentum I had around Christmas has totally evaporated and left me devoid of words to lay forth on the page. And it’s not just my blog. I lament my novel sitting despondently on my laptop, waiting patiently for me to click ‘file open’. Even my computer mocks me when I finally open the file, greeting me with a sarcastic Welcome back. It’s been 32 days since you last opened this file. Yes, I am well aware of that.

And why haven’t I written? In a word, LIFE. Busy, chaotic, crazy life. My head has been filled with so many other things that have taken priority in my thoughts that my words have temporarily been shunted off the main track and into the siding. They are still there, constantly assailing me with fragments of sentences, but are hastily pushed aside as more urgent matters are resolved. I woke up this morning and said to myself ‘today is the day.’ It was my intention to embrace the morning quiet of my home and write my latest post. Yet instead, I spent the bulk of the day drifting between the kettle and Facebook. Weariness won out. Don’t get me wrong, I came across some fabulous links to some inspiring and fascinating articles which I loved reading, but here I sit at almost 3pm and my blog post remains unwritten.

But then, whilst opening yet another link, I stumbled across an article written by American journalist and author, Steven Petrow called ‘What Yoga Taught Me About the Balanced Life.’ http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/12/what-yoga-taught-me-about-the-balanced-life/ In it, Steven speaks of his search for balance since he was in his thirties, which was in the late 1980’s. His moment of clarity came in a recent yoga class as he stared down at a green yoga block inscribed with the words Life. Balance. Growth. His reaction was to let rip with an expletive that balance was total bull#@%* and he fell out of his yoga pose. He later discussed his frustration with his teacher who told him “Personally, I think balance is a fallacy. It’s presented in society as something that can be achieved, but in reality it’s not an achievable goal.”

Seeking further guidance, he approached one of his life guides, Susan Piver, for her words of wisdom. Those of you who have read my post about Serendipity https://ordinarymagic.me/2014/12/07/the-magic-of-serendipity/ will also know that I am a huge fan of the delightful Susan and am part of her online meditation group, The Open Heart Project. When asked for her views, Susan replied “Is it ever possible to be balanced? I don’t think that it is because then you’d have to freeze in that position. GOT IT! NOW DON’T MOVE!” She went on to say that “balance is not so much striking or holding the pose, but flowing with the movements that affect your pose. The more quickly you can respond and make those adjustments – that’s balance. Balance comes from adapting quickly.”

The analogy between balance in yoga and balance in everyday life inspired me to write this post. I know for me that balance meant being able to juggle all the balls life threw at me but still finding time for myself. It was a place where calm prevailed even when I had a lot on my plate. It was this penultimate goal to be ALL things to ALL people and still be able to do the things that I wanted to do. I had this idea that if I set up a rigid, successful system for my life, almost like a schedule, then I would be able to find the balance I was yearning for. My inner perfectionist was brilliant at creating a colour-coded spreadsheet of my life (figuratively speaking). It took into consideration paid work, house work, running kids around, helping to look after the needs of my elderly father who lived independently in his own home (read that as he’s not really independent!) and also finding time for catching up with family and friends, reading and partaking in my beloved writing. Last year was very unbalanced. The time to pursue MY passions just didn’t materialise. No worries I said to myself. 2015 will be different. In a non-selfish way, 2015 will be about me. Obviously that didn’t mean that I would abandon my responsibilities, but with my careful planning, all would flow smoothly. There would be BALANCE. On paper it looked doable. But then life happened and my perfectly laid plans turned to s#@%! Balance went out the window.

I have come to realise that I can’t constantly be all things to all people and maintain my equilibrium (or my sanity). But I’ve also come to realise that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Steven Petrow said, “Balance is about flexibility and change, not stasis or symmetry. Anything that challenges my equilibrium or anyone who tries to throw me off-kilter will actually improve my balance because day by day I’m learning to be nimble, deft and keep my focus.” So I take from that, that even though I often feel like I’m drowning, overwhelmed and am pushed beyond my limits, in reality I am improving my balance to handle all the challenges that are to come.

Google defines balance as “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady” and I think I have re-defined what it means to have balance in MY life. Balance isn’t about smooth sailing. It’s not about the perfect ratio between good and bad. It’s about getting up each day and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about hanging on for dear life, through the stormy seas and getting into port still standing and saying thank God I made it!



“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Family Magic 1 Family Magic 2 Family Magic 3 Family Magic

There’s nothing quite like spending time with your family. Not the everyday time when you’re rushing from one thing to the next, talking in broken sentences, trying to get everything done but, even though I really dislike the term, quality time. Those hours where you can reconnect with each other, laugh over silly ‘in’ jokes, sit up late chatting, share a giggle whilst watching Monsters Inc for the 10th time, wake up each morning and ask “what shall we do today?” You guessed it….I’m on holidays!

Summer holidays….ahhhh. What a wonderful time. We have driven about three hours south of our home in Sydney to a coastal town called Shoalhaven Heads. The south coast of NSW is a very pretty place; lush green pastures, soft golden sand beaches with piercingly blue water and a laid-back, relaxed lifestyle. Mornings are spent sleeping in (the girls and hubby), meditating in the cool morning air (me), lots of cups of tea & reading (also me), before heading off for the day’s adventures after a quick breakfast. Days melt away swimming, kayaking, rummaging through flea markets and quaint stores in tiny villages, foraging for dinner supplies and whatever else we feel like doing. Afternoons are more leisurely and as the clock slowly winds round to 4.30, it is aperitif time!! I had my first gin and tonic in ages the other afternoon, with a sliver of lime, and it immediately felt like summer. As I write this, I am siping on an ice cold, crisp glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I just adore daylight savings, where the sun doesn’t dip down below the horizon till well after 8pm. Those balmy summer nights, eating alfresco. Tonight’s delectable dinner will be prawns (shrimp) trawled from the ocean this very morning, salami, fetta-stuffed bell peppers, an assortment of dips, crumbly cheese and crispy bread with a lovely glass of Italian Prosecco to wash it all down. This is the life! The holiday life. My intention for 2015 is to have more quality time with those I love. Life is short. The good stuff shouldn’t just be saved for holidays.

As you know from my earlier posts, Simplicity is my ‘word’ for the year ahead. I seek to slow down and focus on the little things that so often get overlooked. It hit me quite suddenly that this year our lives would change in a big way. My precious first-born daughter completed high school at the end of last year and 2015 will see her commence training for her ‘dream job’. You see she wants to become a pastry chef…she is already a seriously talented purveyor of sweet delicacies and I wait with bated breath to see the amazing desserts she will be able to create with formal training. She is due to commence her pastry apprenticeship in February with an amazingly talented chef whose artistry has to be seen to be believed. It will, however, see her driving to the other side of the city for 3 or 4am starts! Yes, you read that right…3 or 4am. Now that presents to us some major life changes. She will need to be in bed around 7pm each night which is the time I normally manage to rustle up some food and present it to the family as their evening meal after a day at work. It is my biggest fear that we will lose that family time and become ships that pass in the night. BUT I WON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!

We need to grab time with those we love and hold onto it for dear life. Maybe it will mean doing as the Italians do and have our main meal in the middle of the day on the weekends, before she heads to bed. Maybe it will mean trying to get away for overnight stays every now and then to spend uninterrupted time together. Maybe it will be pulling out a board game on her nights off and beating hubby at Pictionary! I don’t know exactly how we’ll do it but trust me, it will happen. My family is the most important thing in my life. Recently, friends of mine have lost two dear friends. Both were in their 40’s. Both were mums. Both were taken way too soon. How often do we put off doing things? Sometimes our kids come up to us right as we’re in the middle of something and if we say “let’s chat about that later”, we lose the magic of the moment. I intend to be more present this year. I don’t want to miss those moments.

I also intend to have more fun with my family. Markus Zusak , author of The Book Thief, said during his TED talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-_8QIdm4hA that “Teenagers have got a lot of soul that adults have forgotten they have within themselves.” The other night after dinner we went for a walk by the water. In the adjacent grassed area an ‘outdoor gym’ was set up by the local council, complete with a kind of elliptical machine and various weight machines and parallel bars. It was more ‘big kids playground’ than gym but lets call it a gym. I giggled my head off as my husband and two teenage daughters jumped on the equipment (I would have jumped on too but my back is playing up so thought it best not to!), peals of laughter ringing through the night-time quiet. Our faces were all beaming as I snapped away on the camera, recording those moments for years down the track when my memory lets me down. I think my husband and I re-discovered that teenage soul that Markus was talking about. That playfulness. That spontaneous fun. And now that we’ve found it, we have to make sure that we don’t lose track of it again. lolshelley.x



“There’s a realisation that each moment is fresh and new…We keep ourselves so busy, talking to ourselves, distancing ourselves… It’s coming back to this basic simplicity of the moment, where you can cultivate appreciation and you can see the world around you in a fresh and uninvolved way.” Pema Chodron


Simplicity. Semplicità. Simplicité. The word sounds so simple and easily rolls off your tongue yet manifesting it in our lives is something that many of us struggle with, me included. I love how as the last resplendent hours of 2014 slip quietly into 2015 (well maybe not so quietly depending upon how you spend your New Year’s Eve!), we will ponder what the year ahead will hold. What New Year’s resolutions will we make (and so often break)? What item will we tick off our bucket list? What new dreams will we embark upon?

There seems to be an increasing trend on social media this year; asking what will your WORD be for 2015? I have always had many dreams for the year ahead but I don’t know that I’ve ever nailed it down to one single, solitary word. As a writer, I love so MANY words…..how could I possibly pick just one? Several immediately sprung to mind but I had to choose just ONE (well I didn’t really have to…but I wanted to) so I decided to meditate on it.

For those of you who have read my previous post on Serendipity and Ordinary Magic, you will know that I believe in signs from the universe, revealing to me what I need to know, and that I have found the best way to tune into those signs is through my meditation practice. So I stopped for a little while and just listened. As we all know, in the frenetic lead up to Christmas, stopping isn’t something we get a lot of time to do. We race from shop to shop trying to secure the ‘perfect’ gift, fly from party to party in a mad race to catch up with friends before the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day rolls by in a blur of pretty coloured paper, delicious food, lots of laughs and way too much champagne (well it does in my house!) and then there is that sacred day in Australia called Boxing Day. I was only just informed by a friend that Boxing Day isn’t a universal tradition (apparently a lucky legacy of being part of the British Commonwealth!) I thought everybody enjoyed that decadent day to stop and regroup after Christmas; that one day per year where you get to lie around and do WHATEVER you want to do, with no need for cooking as the fridge is overflowing with Christmas leftovers and everyone can just help themselves. My sister spent the day glued to her lounge watching the Boxing Day test cricket, my hubby tinkered away on the Coi pond he is building in our backyard, my gorgeous girls danced their way through cyberspace on their laptops and I perched myself upon the lounge with a 400 page book…..and savoured every mouth-watering word.

Sorry, I have digressed…..oh yes, that’s right I STOPPED and I LISTENED and I realised the signs were all around me for my word. Just before Christmas I had bought myself a book called Simplify Structure Succeed, by Shannah Kennedy, and also bought a Mindfulness journal, the cover of which reads “Wherever you are, be all there” (Jim Elliot). Then yesterday, as I caught up on interesting blog posts I had tucked safely away into my pending file, I came across an interview on American 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper. He interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Professor of Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School, who created a program called Mindfulness-based stress reduction. This program has been rolled out in hospitals, offices, some schools and even at Google’s head office. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally” Anderson Cooper goes on to say, “One of the things that Jon talks about is that everyone wants to figure out how to live longer. Maybe you’re not extending your life (through mindfulness), but you are present and living more of the moments of your life.”

Perhaps by now you’re saying “but I thought your word was Simplicity? So why all the talk about mindfulness?” When I delved more deeply into my perfect word for 2015, I realised that mindfulness was the conduit and simplicity was the intention. We are constantly barraged by the world in which we live. We have taken the concept of multi-tasking to ridiculous heights, to the point that we now struggle to maintain our focus unless we are juggling multiple balls in the air. But just STOP for a minute. Are we really focusing on those six concurrent tasks we are doing? Or are we doing them all imperfectly? I can arrive at work and my morning prior to that moment is a blur. From a cognitive perspective I can recite to you all that I have done from the moment I set foot out of bed until I climbed out of my car at my destination but was I actually present for any or all of it? Not really. How often do you arrive somewhere and go “oh, am I here already?”

So this year, it is my intention to change all that. I want to simplify my life, be more connected and calm, so I don’t miss a precious moment of it. I am striving to find a sense of inner peace. Years ago, I bought a fridge magnet which said “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

I don’t yet have the answers as to how I will exactly do that but check back in with me same time next year and hopefully I will have some answers for you! My year will be about researching and trying out new ways of thinking and doing in order to be more present in my own life. None of us know how long we have to live so can we really afford to waste one precious minute? Happy New Year to you all! I would love to know what your word would be if you chose one. lolshelley.x

“Our lives are journeys that nobody can take for us and nobody can spare us from; we have to do it on our own.”                                                                                                                                                                           Marcel Proust


The Magic of Serendipity

“The only moment that matters is now.” Eckhart Tolle

Ordinary Magic

Have you ever known a time in your life when everything just flowed perfectly, where what you envisioned and wished for came true? A time when it felt like the planets had aligned and whatever you planned was revealed to you in the most exquisitely perfect way? Moments like these have a name…..we call them Serendipity. The Oxford dictionary defines serendipity as “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Tibetan tradition has another name for it…Ordinary Magic. Isn’t the word enchanting? Close your eyes and say it out loud; visualise the images it creates within your mind.

I first came across the term whilst listening to an interview on Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project. http://www.goodlifeproject.com/mindfulness-serendipity-and-the-unplanned-life/ He was talking with Susan Piver, founder of The Open Heart Project. Susan is a Shambhala Buddhist meditation teacher, a New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker and more than that, she is a really lovely lady (I know because I meditate online with Susan and am part of her wonderful online Sangha, which is the Tibetan word for community). In the interview, Susan refers to Ordinary Magic. She says “In the Tibetan tradition they talk about Ordinary Magic which is auspicious coincidence and a path that unfolds before you. And being here, putting your mind to the present moment is the gateway to that Ordinary Magic that makes your life fantastic.”

The moment those words rolled off her tongue I knew that I had a new name for what I had experienced. I have been blessed to have witnessed Ordinary Magic twice. The first incidence was several years ago. It lasted about 3 weeks and then disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. At the time I was reading about Buddhist philosophy and meditating. I jokingly said to my meditation group here in Australia that perhaps it was a glimpse of enlightenment, a message from Buddha saying “keep going, you’re on the right track!” The second occurrence was earlier this year. It only lasted several days and was similarly after a period of more regular meditation.

My only problem is how to perfectly describe it to you. It was like having the most remarkable clarity appear in every facet of my life. Everything just flowed effortlessly. My vision and hearing were sharper, my mind was clearer (which is saying something because often my mind feels like an overworked computer with way too many tabs open – the ‘tabs’ concept isn’t mine, I read it somewhere and I loved it!!) and it was almost like I didn’t have to put a voice to what I wanted….the Universe already knew. There was a level of insight into myself that I had never felt before. When Susan said “auspicious coincidence and a path that unfolds before you”, it resonated to my core. So often I was having things happen at the perfect time. Some would call them coincidences. I called them serendipitous moments and the more I acknowledged them, the more frequent they became. The description of a path unfolding before me was exactly what it felt like. There was no thinking ‘what should I do next?’, I just knew with every essence of my being.

The concept of Ordinary Magic is much deeper than I am describing with my limited understanding and knowledge. I have tried researching it further but a lot of what I have read refers to complex Buddhist philosophies that I simply don’t understand at this point in time. I hope that one day I will understand but at the moment, I really don’t think it matters that I don’t. I think I just need to share where I am at in this moment. Because that is the second part of Ordinary Magic; “putting your mind to the present moment is the gateway to that Ordinary Magic that makes your life fantastic” and who doesn’t want a fantastic life!

So many of us spend our lives waiting for the next big thing to happen or reminiscing about the way things used to be. I am guilty of it too. If only I could do this then everything would be perfect, if I just buy this then life will be simpler, if only things were like they were before. What is it about the human predicament that makes it difficult to see what lies right in front of us, IN THIS MOMENT? Stop and think for a minute. How do you feel in this moment? What is your life like in this moment? What are you grateful for in this moment?

Meditation allows your mind and body to connect with the present moment. It grounds you. It makes things seem so much clearer. It can also be a difficult thing to do, disconnecting from the incessant chatter of our lives but I know in my heart that the more I do it, the easier it gets and if it brings me closer to rediscovering Ordinary Magic again, it is absolutely worth it.

This past year I have been trying to do things for ME; not in a selfish ignore everyone else way but in a nurturing, taking care of myself way. Reconnecting with my writing has been a major thing as has trying to increase my meditation and spiritual (not religious) practice. I am trying to be guided more by my intuition and insight and am listening more to my inner voice; not the negative inner voice we all have at times but the inner allie; the voice that has our back and cheers us on. Meditation allows me to hear that voice through the cacophony of everyday life and embrace the now.

My writing is flowing, I am feeling content, life is good. Above the desk where I write I have five timber letters that spell out the word WRITE (see picture at the top of this post). I bought these during a trip to Melbourne with my sister in May this year. I hoped that they would inspire me to sit down and write more regularly. After hearing Susan’s interview with Jonathan and feeling inspired, I took a piece of sparkly white card (a girl has to have a little sparkle in her life) and in silver pen wrote the words Ordinary Magic. I stuck it onto the wall above my desk as a visual reminder to believe in its magic. It was only later, as I walked past my desk, that I realised my placement of that sparkly card had left me a new message. It now said

WRITE Ordinary Magic

…..and believe me, I’m trying.



Reconnecting with the Magic of Dreams

“You are never too old to set another goal….or to dream a new dream.”  C.S. Lewis

Dream big

It’s surprising how easily you put yourself out there as a child…an impromptu song and dance routine in front of the family, dancing in a multi-coloured unitard in front of a hundred people at a school concert, standing up in front of the class reading aloud your creative writing with a sense of pride, knowing that a red dress and pink tights really don’t go together but not caring and wearing it anyway.

Yet as an adult, we create barriers to stop ourselves from fulfilling our dreams. We say that we are too busy or don’t have enough energy, time or money to engage in whatever it is that we seek to do. Maybe we just forget how to dream.

I used to dream a lot; the wonderful husband, the two kids, the dog and the house with the picket fence.  I am truly blessed as all of these dreams have become a reality yet suddenly I found myself in my early 40’s, without a true sense of what ‘new’ dreams I should have. Go to Italy (that’s a no-brainer), live to an old age with great health (but of course)…..but surely there must be more? Marianne Williamson said “middle age is the time you step into your destiny.”

Oprah screened an episode several years ago about reconnecting with your passion. The interviewee posed the question “what is your passion?” As I sat there, I realised that I couldn’t answer that question. Of course I was passionate about my family but this was more about finding something that was just for yourself; something that would replenish your soul. Then she said something simple and it resonated deeply within me. She said “ask yourself what you were passionate about as a child.”

Writing. The word popped into my head instantaneously. Something that had been such an integral part of my life as a child and teenager had totally disappeared from the landscape of my adult life. I used to dream of becoming an author or working as a journalist. Instead, for various reasons, I chose to study nursing and somehow, the writing stopped.

After that show, I started to write again. The concept of being an author and all that it encapsulated in my mind was, in reality, very far from the truth. The dream of spending my days in the sun, gazing out at the beautiful blue ocean with words cascading from my inner soul and landing perfectly onto the page isn’t how it works in the real world. Often I have read how writers can agonise over a word or a paragraph for days, just to ensure the perfect fit. I now know it to be true because I have done it too.

I don’t delude myself that writing will bring fame and fortune as how many writers out there also have a day job? Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love summed it up so eloquently when she said, “I can’t get behind the ambition to be ‘discovered’ as much as I can get behind the ambition to write beautifully and honourably and steadfastly.” Absolutely true Elizabeth. I totally agree. I just want to write. Write beautifully.

Up until quite recently, my words have landed in a file on my computer, not a structured novel or even a concept for one. They were merely words on a page; threads of a story that maybe one day would become more but in that moment were happy to just be what they were. It felt safe to have my words neatly tucked away where no one could see them. In my illogical mind, as long as no one could critique my writing my dream of becoming an author could remain intact whereas if I put my words out there and everyone said it was rubbish, my dream would be shattered into a million irrevocable pieces. But then one day it dawned upon me; if I never shared my words I would never become an author. And if I shared them and failed? I would still be a writer. No one could ever take that away from me.

And so I started to write…..and kept on writing. I’m now in my mid 40’s and I have seven thousand carefully cultivated words and counting (not a lot I know but for a recovering perfectionist who dissects every sentence, trust me, it’s a lot!!). I have the general concept for my novel. I have the characters. I think I know how it will end. It’s a start.

The past year I have reconnected with the magic, with my dreams, and it feels pretty damn good. There are other forms of magic I have encountered but that is for another post.

Harriet Tubman, an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian and Union spy from the Civil War said “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” My words might not change the world but I will still try to reach for the stars.