I’m writing this to you today from inside the gates of the Festival of the Cow. What is the Festival of the Cow and why on earth would you go to such an event, I hear you ask. My friend, that is an excellent question :). It’s a very small festival, and there are no actual cows, although the way that we think about food morning, noon and night and mill around doorways may give that impression sometimes :). No, my friends, this is an astrological festival, celebrating the mighty Taurus – and in our small family of four people, three of us are born under this sun sign..
The youngest Taurus has just had her birthday. This is a child who loves every little thing about birthdays. The first song she could sing all the way through was “Happy Birthday”. She was 1 at the time, and was a hit at every kid’s party we went to. When she was two, she got so excited by the birthday cake and candles event that she blew all the candles out before the birthday boy could get to them, causing great hilarity in the crowd :). On her own birthday, and the week/month/year leading up to it, she gets progressively more and more excited. Every present is received enthusiastically and with gratitude, making her an absolute joy to give to. When we sang happy birthday to her on Wednesday, she sang along with great enthusiasm – happy birthday to ME! Happy birthday to ME! Happy birthday dear me-eee 🙂 I should note that this extreme birthday love comes straight from her grandmother, who would dedicate an entire month to her birthday and sing happy birthday to herself for weeks leading up to the event. No, not when she was a child, but when she was my mother 🙂
Today we are having a little party for her after school, but on her actual birthday we skipped school for the afternoon and went to the beauticians so that she could get her nails done 🙂 She absolutely loved it 🙂
After that we had afternoon tea with Granma and Pop:
And then went home to cook up her favourite dinner – roast chicken, smashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and corn. Followed up with a deconstructed pavlova – meringue broken up into a glass and topped with fruit – blueberries, strawberries, kiwi fruit and passionfruit. Yum 🙂 I actually had a go at making the meringue myself and was stoked when it worked :).
This weekend is Mother’s Day, then it’s my birthday on Tuesday, then lastly my son’s birthday on the Friday with a sleep over party on the Saturday night. A friend asked me what I was doing on my birthday. The thing is, after I make sure that both of the kids have special birthdays, I never have enough energy to make my own birthday special. Next year I will be 40, which deserves a special effort (right kids, no parties next year – it’s going to be allll about me 🙂 ).
There is something I would like to do this year though – one of my favourite restaurants is moving into a new premises on the 18th of May – and the space they are moving into a place is one that holds significance for me. The Bear and I lived there for a couple of years when we first moved here, before we had kids or a mortgage – it was like our honeymoon house :). Set in a rainforest at the foot of Mt Yarrahappinni, five minutes from the beach, it had been a restaurant but had closed down so was rented as a house – open plan, windows all the way around, huge glass circular fire place in the middle of the floor, commercial kitchen out the back and even Men’s and Ladies toilets 🙂 I’m thinking a dinner out with my friends to mark the end of the Festival of the Cow might be in order :).
How do you celebrate your birthday as an adult?
Best Short Read
I found this post on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page today, re-posted from this time in 2013. It is common for us in our culture to dismiss our inner spiritual/creative journey as self-indulgent and pointless. The feminist in me says that this is because the hero’s journey (going out into the world, conquering, then bringing home the goods) is valued more in our culture than the heroine’s journey of deep inner work. Believe me, there’s a part of me that’s cracking the whip and shouting, “Do more! Earn more money! Be useful!” The thing is, I spent many years following the dictates of this voice, and it really wasn’t that helpful. It’s still there, but it shouts from inside a box, so his voice is greatly muffled :).
QUESTION OF THE DAY: IS IT SELFISH TO GO ON A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY?
Dear Ones –
Somebody asked me this the other day and it made me smile, because it reminded me of the years between 2006 and 2010 (what I call “The Eat Pray Love Years”) when somebody (often a reporter or interviewer) would ask me this question EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It’s been a while since I’ve had to answer it, so I will take a trip down memory lane here, and answer it once more.
The answer is: No.
No, it is not selfish to go on a spiritual journey. For that matter, it is not selfish to go a vision quest, or to embark on therapeutic/psychological self-examination, or to go on a pilgrimage, or to devote yourself to prayer and meditation, or to set aside time to improve your physical health, or to honor your creativity, or to take any sort of investigative voyage into the self whatsoever.
1) It is your divine and intrinsic right as a human being to discover who you are, and who God is, and what your purpose is, and what your talents are, and where your joy is to be found, and how to ease your own suffering and the suffering of others. (In fact, seriously: What else are you going to spend your life doing, if not, at some point, taking a bit of time to try answering even one of those questions?)
2) Going on a true journey of self-exploration should not be confused with going to a spa for a weekend. It is not a way of spoiling yourself. (NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH SOMETIMES SPOILING YOURSELF!) It is not a luxury. It is not a mani-pedi for the soul. Nor is it a relaxing endeavor — as anyone who has gone deep into meditation or self-examination can attest. We don’t necessarily take on the central questions of self and divinity (Who am I? Who is God?) because it’s FUN. Often we are driven toward those questions by great suffering, and can only work our way through those hard questions with tremendous courage. Sometimes we don’t even want to ask those questions, but simply must. What’s more, these questions can be asked at any moment, from any place in the world, in the midst of any situation. These are not questions for the rich or the privileged only. You don’t need a plane ticket anywhere to explore this stuff. I have a friend who is investigating these questions from within a prison cell right now — and trust me, even from within his seven-by-ten-foot cage, he is ON A JOURNEY.
3) Going on a journey toward the self is actually a public service. You know why? Because until you get to the bottom of yourself — until you humbly investigate the roots of your own suffering and nonsense and misery and destructive patterns — you will just keep causing mayhem, misery and trouble…not only for yourself, but for others. A friend of mine who has been savagely unhappy for years finally started therapy a few months ago, and he said to me, “It’s super helpful, but I just feel so selfish, spending this much time and money on myself…” To which I replied, “Trust me, dude. It is benefiting ALL OF US.” (His wife and children most of all. But seriously — all of us win whenever a loved one gets helped or healed.) To put it even more simply: Going on a spiritual journey might ultimately make you less of a pain-in-the-ass.
4) I was once told that in Mandarin there are two words that both translate into “SELFISH” in English. One means “Doing something that benefits you.” The other means, “Doing something that benefits you at the expense of others.” In English, we don’t have this distinction. But there is a recognition in Chinese that these are two different notions — that it is not necessarily true that anything you do for yourself harms others. Sometimes you can do wonderful and important things for yourself without taking a thing away from another human being. This is the difference between self-care and greed. Self-care = GOOD. Greed = BAD. They are critically different. Never forget it.
5) Remember that only happy people can truly love and serve other people. My husband pointed this out to me the other day, when he made this simple but hilarious observation: “Even happy people think only about themselves most of the time — let’s say, 95% of the time. But miserable people think about themselves 100% of the time, because nothing is more all-consuming than depression and suffering. So if you can find a way to make yourself happy, then you immediately free up about 5% of your time, in which you will now have space and room to think about other people…which means that — the happier you are — the more you can finally serve others and love others!” All of which is to say: a spiritual journey is all about finding ways to relieve your own suffering and discover a deep and truthful well of personal happiness and peace. After which, you can finally begin to love the whole world. Which is our highest and ultimate destiny.
You know how I was telling you it was a little wet last weekend? Well, it ended up being more than a little wet – we ended up having a huge flood, so big that the old timers reckon they’ve only seen one bigger, and that was in 1949! It was a big flood, but what was truly remarkable was the speed in which the water came up. Fortunately it went down just as quickly and by Monday morning the roads were clear in time for school. A few years ago I set up the Taylors Arm Community Facebook page, so over the weekend I was posting and sharing photos of the flood that my friends were sharing, as well as what the road and bridges looked like as the water cleared and left behind flood debris and damage. That’s the wonderful thing about social media – sharing events as they happen, and connecting people who would otherwise be isolated. We were fortunate that our power and internet were not affected – places south of us had been hit with a similar storm the week before and some of them still didn’t have power a week later. Check out the page if you’re interested in seeing the photos – most of them aren’t mine so I can’t share them here – but check out this photo that I did take of the damage done to the bridge close to our house – this photo ended up on the front page of our local paper :).
A friend sent me this the other day – I love gifts, don’t you?
So, I mentioned briefly last week that the English Major that I had enrolled in through Saylor Academy had been downgraded to a community run course while they focus their attention on courses that are more popular or can lead to credit at University. I could have still stuck with it and pursued the course purely for increasing my own knowledge, but I realised I needed more. I wanted to study literature and writing for real, at a proper University. The Bear was a little taken aback – he had hoped, he said, that we would be earning more money at this time of our lives rather than creating a bigger debt for ourselves. What exactly did I hope to get out of it?. How was going to University going to further my career goals? How would a University education benefit our family?
These are all reasonable questions, but I felt my heart sink. How could I predict the exact benefits that a University education would bestow upon me? How could I know exactly what doors would open for me as a result of studying? All I know is what my heart tells me – that when I think about studying literature and writing, that my heart expands and I feel joyful and excited. I know that this will leave us with a debt – but the Bear has had his chance – he has his degree – and now I would like to have mine.
So. I started looking around. The University of New England is the nearest major University and they specialise in Distance Education, which would be perfect for me. I could undertake a Bachelor of Arts majoring in literature and writing – it is government funded and I wouldn’t have to pay for it up front. I am well aware that it will be a big investment of both time and money and would no doubt affect my family as I push to get assignments and essays in on time. Sure, there are more practical things I could study – things like education support or even a teaching degree. The thing is, I don’t want to study those things. I’ve made that mistake before with education – choosing things that were useful and practical, things that I was interested in but not passionate about – and it’s no good. It doesn’t work for me.
I’m just going to sit on this for a (little) while. After chewing it over and over in my mind like a dog with a bone, I decided to hand the whole thing over.
Dearest Divine, if I am meant to do this thing, please show me the way to make it happen. Also, please help me to have the courage to prioritise my own needs. Finally, if I am not meant to do this thing, then please help me to let it go. Yours truly, Me <3.
I’ll keep you posted :).
Is this not Divine?
It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday in my part of the world – and my mum is coming to breakfast. I want to cook her something yummy, but I’m not sure what that yummy thing is yet 🙂 I’d better go and find something! I hope you have a beautiful weekend – and I’ll see you on the other side xo
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