Monthly Archives: September 2014

Monsterful Monday: Unexpected liquorice

Because I’m sorry but if it’s a red candy heart and it’s on top of a red velvet cupcake, I anticipate some kind of berry flavour. Weird.

Anyway…(ooh, surprise cream centre!), I think we can all be grateful for the existence of cupcakes, especially cupcakes I totally swiped from an extremely frustrating meeting, because even though the meeting was frustrating at least there was food.

There are probably people who can view both spring forward and fall back with equanimity. I am not one of those people. I like having sunlight in the morning. But I did get an extra night of snuggles with the best beloved, which I am very grateful for.

I’m also grateful for useful meetings outnumbering frustrating ones, for the Four Agreements, for Things and Ink (the latest issue arrived on Friday and was, as usual, both full of interesting articles and beautiful art).

I’m finally a member of the library! I’m very grateful for this even if it is highly dangerous, knowing what I’m like at remembering due dates. For books! I may have already reserved two. And by ‘may’ I mean I did.

I’m very late to the party, but The Bloggess has had me almost falling off my chair with laughter, which was especially good on Friday when I was very grumpy. I’m rather worried at how likely many of her stories would be to happen to me. Luckily I think my Best Beloved would be OK with that. Knock knock, motherfucker.

Small things: the fact that things like this happen at my work, being able to sleep in, successfully timing mac and cheese completion. The existence of this dress ,even though I can in no way afford it. It makes me happy just looking at it. I also think I need all of these candles. You know, for my fantasy retro burlesque sparkly rainbow apartment. Re-living the 90s (I still refuse to accept they are now retro) with ninja turtles- both the proper 90s ones and the silly Michael Bay ones (which were not as silly, or as far from the original, as we expected). Social time with friends, especially the ones I don’t see often enough. And finally, coconut rum ice-cream. Trying new things. It can be awesome.

Seeing red and being seen, part 3: how I finally stopped worrying and learned to love makeup

It was last year that the person who changed my life came into it.

At least that’s how I see it. He would disagree, and tell you it all came from me. But my counsellor, who I was lucky enough to see for many weeks, was the one who gently suggested new ways of thinking.

It was him who realised that one of my biggest problems was that I was hiding. That it came from learning to be quiet, to disappear, to avoid confrontation. And then he asked me a question:

What could you do to stop hiding?

The answer was obvious. And terrifying. But I had to find a way to stop bottling myself up.

I already had several red lipsticks, sitting unused in my makeup box. I picked one. And the morning after my counselling session, I wore it.

And nothing terrible happened.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I was frightened somebody would notice it, comment on it. For a long time on the rare occasions I did wear makeup, even on my wedding day, I was terribly embarrassed about it. Somebody might realise I was wearing it, that I wanted to feel pretty. Somebody might notice.

The day after that, I wore it again.

I noticed something I hadn’t noticed since getting a job after many months of frustrating unemployment: I was walking taller. I was looking up. I was making eye contact. I was noticeable.

And it was OK.

I understand why a lot of women reject makeup. It’s their way of being seen as they are. For me, it was a way of hiding who I was and who I wanted to be.

I started to enjoy myself with it.

One day, a colleague commented on the lipstick. Complimented it in fact. And I didn’t want to run away. I didn’t feel uncomfortable.

A cashier at the sushi joint I frequented asked me what lip colour I was wearing. She loved it. I floated through the rest of the afternoon.

And then came the day when I looked in the mirror and, for the first time in a very long time, I saw myself as beautiful- something I had never really believed about myself before, if I’m being honest.

Obviously there was a lot more to it than lipstick, but for me, it’s become a tool I use to show love for myself. It’s been a long time coming.

Mid-week (well kinda) joy: Guided meditations

What can I say? Yesterday was a Day. Today is a better one. So you get some midweek joy, following on from my post about Tarot Meditation last Wednesday, and later on today we’ll be back to the normal schedule.

As I said last week, I’ve found guided meditations a very useful part of my meditation practice. They keep me on task, and have led to some really beautiful ‘ah’ moments. Here are a few of my favourites:

The Six Phase Meditation by Vishen Lakhiani is a great way to start your day, focusing in on what you’re thankful for, and visualising how you want your day to unfold. I use the physical relaxation process from the beginning of this with other meditations, it’s a good way to get into the right space.

Don’t let the name fool you- the Meditation Manicure by Gabrielle Bernstein is fantastic. It’s a climbing visualisation which I’ve returned to over and again- and when you’re starting out in a meditation practice I can’t recommend it highly enough. I choose to climb to higher thoughts– such a great affirmation to work with.

If, like me, you pay attention to the phases of the moon, a great meditation for the Full Moon is the meditation to release negativity by Doreen Virtue. It feels like floating, is the best way I can describe it. Just give it a try.

The Meditation Society of Australia offer a bunch of free guided meditations on their website.  Yes, it’s a very old-school website. But I can forgive them that. You can sign up for the Learn to Meditate podcasts via Itunes, otherwise you’ll need to register with their site. I found the Cliff, the Crossroads, and the Train meditations to be especially good.

If you give these a go, I’d love to know what you think! If you’ve got other guided meditations you’ve found useful, I’d love to know about them. You know where the comments are, go to it, and happy rest-of-the-week!

Monsterful Monday- Two out of Seven Dwarves

I’m sleepy. I’m also Grumpy.

The last thing I feel like is writing about the things I’m grateful for, because the things that have upset me are clamouring for all my attention.

Which is precisely why I’m doing this. I need it. When I’m in a bad place, I need it so very much more than when I’m in a good place.

So: I’m grateful for good friends. For a clean, dry place to sleep- walk down Queen Street and you’ll always see at least two people who don’t have one. For restaurants that will deliver hot, delicious food to your door. For butter paneer, a butter naan, rice, and onion bhajis.

I’m grateful for how when my Best Beloved holds me, all the grumpiness goes away. For how warm he is, physically and emotionally. For how he puts up with me when I’m in a bad mood, and gives me tenderness when I’m hurting.

I’m grateful for exciting times ahead- bridesmaiding for my best girlfriend, and getting tattoos I’m really excited about. For Molly Crabapple giving me permission to use one of her stunning artworks as a tattoo. For Rock and Roll Bride arriving in the post so I can give it to the bride to be.

For considering my spending priorities, and working out what I’m really passionate about, so I can act more in alignment with the things that really get me juiced and make me happy.

Here’s to better days.

Mid-week Joy- Tarot meditation

Tarot by Meeralee, used under Creative Commons license- http://bit.ly/1qZAXeK

What? It’s still Wednesday somewhere…

Meditation. Of the many things I’ve tried to get my mind back into a good place and recover from the depression, meditation is one of the most helpful. The quiet, the calm- neither of these things come easy to me. As soon as I’m awake, thoughts are whirling around my head.

Focusing on something, even for 20 minutes? Not easy for me. At. All. I’ve found a couple of ways to deal with this, which you may find helpful too if you’re a beginner. The first is guided meditations. Just look on Youtube. On Friday, I’ll even put links to five of my favourites for you. When I was trying to get into a proper meditation practice I found that the guidance really helped me not get distracted and start thinking about the laundry when I was trying to be still.

Admittedly that still happens. But less often.

The second, and my reason for writing this post, involves my tarot deck. Now, a disclaimer- I know I’m not the first person to do tarot meditations, and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are lots of people out there with much more expertise in the tarot than me, and I bow to them. This post is intended to describe what I do, in the hopes that if you haven’t come across tarot meditation before it might encourage you to give it a try. It’s simple but very effective.

I keep one deck for readings (The Goddess Tarot by Kris Waldherr), and another deck for my daily meditation. That one is the Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Pui-Min Law.

It was actually the book that came with the Shadowscapes deck, specifically the introduction by tarot great Barbara Moore, that led me to the meditation practice. In the introduction she advocates bonding with your deck by shuffling it, taking a card at random and focusing on the image for several minutes, then closing your eyes and ‘stepping into’ the image and, if you’re brave enough, talking to the figures in it.

I know, I know. It probably sounds odd to you. But the results of doing this- in my case I pulled The Empress- were so beautiful and calming I started doing it each day.

Here’s how it works: Every morning, when it’s time for me to meditate (not long after I wake up), I shuffle my Shadowscapes deck, asking ‘what do I need to meditate on today?’. Occasionally, if something’s really troubling me or if I’m linking it up with the weekly challenges in my Five Minute Journal, I’ll ask a different question, but ‘what do I need to meditate on’ is the go-to.

I then pull a card (use whatever method you would normally use). I look at the image for a couple of minutes (that’s longer than it sounds), get familiar with the figures in it, the background. I read the description in the book- and start to get a handle on what exactly it is that I’m really meditating about. That becomes even clearer when I actually start my meditation- closing my eyes, and stepping into the image in my mind. The conversation with the figures is a way of delving deep into myself, finding the answers that were there all along. Somehow, the meditation process makes things that have been troubling me easier to accept and deal with- because as the meditation makes clear, I already know how to deal with them. I just have to accept it, and take action.

Another hint- I use a meditation helper app on my phone to time myself (on a work morning I have to). When the final bell sounds, I say thank you and bid farewell to the figures in the image, and step back out into the room.

The final phase is keeping a tarot journal. This is something you’ll find recommendations for all over the place. For me, it’s a way of recording the insights from the meditation- which, as an added bonus, also helps me get a better intuitive sense of the cards I’ve pulled each day.

It’s that simple, and very powerful. The insights and the ‘ah’ moments happen every day with this practice, and I’m so grateful for finding out about it. I haven’t tried it with any decks that don’t have people in most of the images, so I can’t say how it would work but, if it’s a deck you feel connected to, I don’t think it matters what kind of images they are.

If you decide to give this a try, I’d really love to hear how you get on! Do let me know in the comments- share your ah moments! Enquiring minds want to know!

Monsterful Monday du Soleil

First up, Cirque du Soleil. Sweet Jesus. Their show ‘Totem’ is currently in Auckland, and the fun and games of getting across a raceway in the pouring rain to the Grand Chapiteau (when I say fun and games I mean wet muddy feet and, well, pouring rain) were completely worth it. It’s absolutely astonishing what the performers in Cirque can do. The aerials (especially the double act on a stationery trapeze) were a big highlight for me, but then aerials always are. And can we just talk about the pair whose finale to their act involved one of them balancing upside down with ONE SHOULDER ON HER PARTNER’S FOOT?! If you want to see what complete trust looks like, watch any of the acts with more than one person. Holy wow.

I went with my Best Beloved’s best friend, and getting to know her better and share that experience with her was an added bonus. If you’re in Auckland, or if you get the chance to see one of their shows- GO. We were lucky and got discounted tickets through Grab One,  but when they come back I would happily pay full price. And talk about inspiration for getting better at acro! And at adding sequins and sparkles to costumes…

The rest of the weekend was extremely relaxing which was good because next weekend is a big campaign game weekend, and will therefore be not even a little bit relaxing. My Best Beloved, as usual, was wonderful, letting me nap whenever I needed to, including napping on him, and giving lots of snuggles.

The two back issues of Things and Ink that I ordered arrived over the weekend, and were definitely worth it. The Art issue in particular had some really beautiful tattoos, and the writing throughout is good and fascinating. Also I now want to make an appointment with Tracy D at Kings Cross Tattoo next time I’m in the UK. This art nouveau flamingo is one of hers and I. Am. In. Love. I mean come ON- ART NOUVEAU FLAMINGO. I’d love to meet whoever has it so I can shake their hand and admire it in person. For now I’ll content myself with a subscription to the magazine, and poring over every glorious page, as well as getting super excited for Nursey No Mercy doing my next piece. It’s going to be special.

Finally, meditation. I’ve been using my tarot deck for my daily meditation practice and it’s getting me such beautiful results that on Wednesday I’m going to share how I do it, just for you. A little different from the usual set of links, but still bringing you some joy for the middle of the week. I hope you’ll join me- and join in.

The Little Things

Mongolian Barbecue at Gengis Khan (how can you not love a place where you can have as much as you want, and get your delicious Mongolian barbecue meat (mint-marinated lamb! SO GOOD) with a side of mac and cheese?), new shoes that don’t let the rain in, getting creative in a different way from usual, borrowing patterns from kindly fellow sewers, having a set of ab exercises to work on for acro, lighter mornings (so much easier to wake up in time to meditate when you’re as fundamentally lazy as I am), the Parlour, Avengers Assemble, Angelique Houtkamp, text conversations, having a view of the ocean from each of the offices I work at during the week, awesome work colleagues, good advice, and, as usual, tea.

Seeing red and being seen, part 2: The terrible teens

So from the bad beginning we’ve reached the time at which I started to look at makeup as something I wanted to play with. I wanted to, but I was terrified. By this point I had learned to hide and obey so well that I didn’t even realise that’s what I was doing some of the time. 

A side note- aged 11, I asked my Mum if it would be OK for me to kiss a boy. Yes, you read that right. A boy had asked if I kissed boys, and I went and asked my Mum. She told me no, because if I kissed boys I would have sex with them, and that was wrong. 

My parents, I think, didn’t want me to grow up. My Dad certainly didn’t want me to be more of a girl than I already was, but that’s perhaps a different story. 

Aged about 9 or 10, I got a book at the Junior School Book Fair. It was called ‘Freaky Fashions’ by Caroline Archer (you can still find copies on Abebooks). The second-to-last chapter was about make-up. I pored over the different eyeshadow combinations, longing to try out the crazy colours. Then I asked about getting some.

No, no, no! Eyeshadow was MUCH too old. Eventually, Mum relented enough, when I was about 13, to buy me some blusher. I think I used it once, but was horrified at people noticing it. Noticing me. No! Hide! So it sat in my drawer for years. 

13 was also when I got my first lipstick. I didn’t actually buy one, it was a free gift with ‘Shout!’ one of a slew of teenage magazines that were launched around that time. The only one of those I wasn’t allowed was ‘Just Seventeen’- “But you’re NOT SEVENTEEN!”. Again, I digress. The lipstick in question was from Collection 2000, and It. Was. RED. Very red. Confident, bold, adventurous, noticeable. All the things I wasn’t. I would sit and look at it in my room. From time to time I would take off the lid and gingerly twist the bottom of the tube. Just to look at it. I think once I may even have tried some on the back of my hand. 

The other girls at school, of course, didn’t have the same fears I did. Or if they did, they had worked out what I hadn’t- that now was the time to rebel against the rules laid down by your parents. To buy things you weren’t supposed to. To make mistakes. To kiss boys and stay out late, and wear wild colours on your face.

Then the Body Shop opened a branch in our town. The excitement! What was (to us girls in a small commuter town in the 1990s) fancy bath stuff, and perfume, and, yes, make up. Designed by a make-up ARTIST no less. A girl in my class, Anna, showed me her All-in-One Face Base and my goodness, I was envious. I watched, fascinated, as Kelly Bond applied BRIGHT pink lipstick in class. As Mia used a stick of concealer all over her face as a concealer- and didn’t get told to take it off. My heart fluttered when I saw other girls wearing makeup- and I thought it was fear. No, no, no. Mustn’t. Shouldn’t. Can’t. 

I got brave enough, on a rare random time when my Dad offered to buy me a book, to get a book on make-up. The Usborne First Book of Make-Up, no less. I read that over and over, looking with longing at the least terrifying of the tutorials- the natural look. Tinted moisturiser, clear lipgloss, mascara. Yes. That I could deal with. I’d be wearing it, but nobody would know! 

After some persistence from me, and I’ve never been quite sure why she agreed to it, Mum allowed me to book in for a free makeover at the Body Shop. To say I was excited was an understatement. I fantasised about getting lipgloss, the all-important All In One Face Base. Things that people wouldn’t see. 

What I got was the one-size-fit-all makeover. EVERYTHING layered on. It was the greasepaint all over again. I felt horribly self-conscious and I was wearing too much on my face and then my brother said my eyelashes looked too dark. To be honest, if Mum hadn’t been there with me I might have been brave enough to tell the assistant exactly what I wanted to try. But she was, and I wasn’t. Not for the first time, or the last, I sat there and accepted things I didn’t want.

At 17 I discovered Britpop and finally, FINALLY, got a Just 17 Yearbook, with advice on how to look like Justine Frischmann. Who didn’t wear makeup, just Vaseline on her lips. And so I hid without realising I was hiding, behind a facade of not wearing makeup, just as so many other girls hid behind a face of tinted moisturiser, and mascara, and lipgloss. Like every other lonely, awkward teenager, I had found a mask to wear. It was just that mine was petroleum jelly and, aside from occasional medicated tea-tree-oil concealer, bare, acne covered skin. 

But I still looked at makeup. From then until really quite recently, I would pore over the beauty section of magazines, of the Avon catalogue, of any special offer that came through for lipstick once the internet took off. 

And do you know what? I was always looking at the red lipsticks. (Except when I was eyeing up glitter eyeliner but that’s another story). 

And then, to coin a lyric from a Pulp song (part of the soundtrack of those awkward hiding years), something changed. 

But you’ll have to wait until next week to find out what.