Success? Rise early. Work late. Strike oil.

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After travelling around Italy for a month this year, I wrote a letter to myself with some key points I had learnt and desperately wanted to remember. It is easy to slip into sludgy forgetfulness, to fall into the squeaking mouse run of the every day where the magic warmth of Tuscany fades from your heart, where over ruby red wine and tomatoes that popped on my tongue, mouth glistening from the oil of salty olives, I had thought about what was important to me. I recently found my letter, written on a train in rural Toscana, a mix mash of quotes and things I had been told and bits I had read and mused over, and re-reading it filled me again with that feeling of pulsing purpose and heady optimism I had felt at that time. I am sharing it with you, in honesty. And yes, some bits may sound particularly pompous, (every time someone says ‘universe’ it can come across dipped and sprayed in dream catchers and unicorn dust, enough for any ironic soul to wrinkle their nose in earnest-allergy fuelled disgust) but I’m gonna do it anyways.

Have aptitude.

Validate your emotions, feel it, then decide. We have the ability to choose. So choose your love, and love your choice. We can choose how we react, choose how we feel, and choose what we do. Life is fucking wonderful. You open yourself to the universe and it opens itself to you. Decide what you truly want and it will manifest itself to you. You know what you need, and when you don’t, the universe does. ADD VALUE. You will add wealth to every part of your life by adding value to things. You will add more friends by being your most natural, energetic, magnetic self. You will add to your karma and emotional holistic spectrum by adding value to others lives. Do not be a micro-manager, but instead choose to care and prioritise the things that you MUST rather then the things that you SHOULD. Drop the word should from your vocabulary and you will drop the guilt.

Find meaning and arm and empower yourself with that story, then use that meaning and value to empower others. Drop the toxic, forget the bullshit and the games, be kind, be perceptive, be true. If it’s not a fuck yes! then it is a no. To add wealth, it is 80 per cent psychology, 20 per cent strategy. Wealth is important as it allows you the life you want. But wealth isn’t necessarily money. Be rich in what brings you happiness, and you will again be paying dividends. By looking after yourself, you are then in a better situation to look after others. Self love and care is not selfish – they are integral to being your authentic self (for want of a less wanky word) and allowing you to love others more fully. Be GRATEFUL. Gratitude is at the heart of honesty. You see all you have to be grateful for and that is a perspective you need everyday, to not get bogged down in the stuff that isn’t worth it. I truly believe gratitude is a big key to happiness. It gives you space from your problems, as you see the bigger picture. There is more to your life then the one issue clogging up your vision right now. Look at the periphery; a beautiful family, a loving friend, a faithful dog, a gorgeous day, a deep lungful of air, a nice cup of coffee, a smile from a stranger. All things to be looked for.

‘Not bad’ is not enough! Be awesome! YOU ARE NOT YOUR DNA. Don’t let your family history define you – your past life, or your ancestors choices, are not yours right now, today. Own up to your mistakes, say sorry, mean it. That gives you a totally clean slate to work from and a far less guilty load to carry. Be kind to yourself, for you are pretty wonderful and no one will like you as much as you should.

And if this is all getting a bit much, do as novelist Robert Louis Stevenson cheerily says; “Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits.”

I think that is enough self-affirmation today. What do you guys tell yourself every day?

For more tips on being your best you, check out what Jessica likes to do. Jessica may or may not be the best human in the world.

(I truly do this before interviews and also sometimes just because.)

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The women in my life

I am an avid believer that people come into your life at the right time.

Recently I have been coming into increased contact with older women who have taken on a sort of mentoring role, even if only for the time expanse of a dinner party, though often for a longer friendship that I am still enjoying. These women are usually older than 50 and have brought a wealth of knowledge and insight into my life that comes from several decades treading this planet more than I. They are also sassy, fun, a little bit wicked and a whole lotta gorgeous, proof in the pud that growing older brings a different sort of beauty about, and you can be a babe at any age. Big time.

In my head I call them my ladies; little pockets of wisdom that I’m lucky enough to call friends, despite the age gap of 30 or 40 years. Age is irrelevant when you’re a sponge (not the bludging-of-parents kind, of which I can also proudly claim, but the soaking up receptacle kind as well).

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A common thread that seems to run through these women’s lives, who don’t know each other but have similar binding experiences, is a thirst for more. Often, in their formative years, they have been very successful in terms of material wealth, most very business savvy, monetarily rewarded for their hard slog in whatever industry they have crafted. They out ballsed the men and either had children much later in life, or didn’t have any at all. They had the highest of expectations, and liked the best in everything.

They also had breakdowns, physically or mentally, and grappled with a darkness that seemed to strike mid age, after years pushing themselves ahead of the game, striving for the best, being the best.

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Cancer, depression, anxiety, adultery and loss; these were all factors that acted as leverage, as catalysts for an awakening that all my ladies rose to. After falling down their own rabbit holes, these women emerged blinking, more self-aware and honest then before. They sought more, understood what was important, and set about crafting a life and lifestyle that enabled a fulfilment not felt before, when they had their high earning jobs and mega-careers.

Of course, it helps when you have made buckets of dollars before, when your youth was spent padding out the bank balance for later exploration and comfort. Money and self-awareness are not necessarily exclusive, and for all that one might think you have to sit on a hilltop and meditate, mental and physical health runs parallel with being able to afford it. But I also don’t buy (if I had any money) into the idea that the creating of your own fulfilment has to start of with being miserable, or working a high earning job that you don’t enjoy. Not everyone has to go down the same path. Perhaps it could, and should be different for you and me. Gen Y is showing this more and more, as people carve out livings and existences pushing the boundaries and working in careers that didn’t exist before they made them up.

But it also takes consciousness, and all of my ladies actively and consciously strove for enlightenment, for use of a better and less wanky word. And even better, they are sharers, eager to bestow their juicy insights with me, whether they really know it or not. My sister and I often eagerly confer with each other on our luck to have stumbled (or having been directed) into the path of these ladies, for they can give us an idea of what to look out for, the pitfalls that can often ensnare, the attitude and fortitude it takes to live a holistic life. It helps when one of your ladies is you mother, your aunt and your 22 year old sister, all wise beyond their years and with stories to tell. I am filled with happiness to know that with every story I really listen to, and every idea I tentatively soak up and mull over and try to understand, the further along I am in my-self. My ladies have enriched me and propelled me along years ahead with conclusions that I would have naturally come to far later in life.  They have taught me about being a women, in a time in history where these lines are all the more blurred, where no one really knows what stands for who, and where you should stand at all.

They have taught me to take back to word feminist, quietly, for myself. That the F word, for all of its connotations and deeply scarred histories, stands for things I believe deeply in; choice and equality. Things we should be arming ourselves with every day, as rights and as expectations.

With no memory there is no foresight, and with these women’s memories, I can operate my own little path through the various life quagmires. What a wonderful thing. And how very lucky I am.

Strong women

Summer is in a sunburnt country

What is summer to me, in Australia?

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For everyone it is different, but having grown up in the country, where the heart of Australia is in the red dust and the gum tree silhouettes and the sudden white cloud of cockatoos wheeling in a glorious symphony against a beating, colour streaked sky, it is a visceral season; one felt in the burn of the skin and the sweat on the temple, a slow thud between your rib cage. Living in the city, summer is the beach on weekends, barbeques on the green, a gleeful slither of mid-drift skin on show, bare shoulders and legs. It is rooftop bars, cold beers, freezing air-conditioning in the office so walking out into the day is like a slap to the face. It’s surfing before work, the salt drying and tightening your skin till it prickles, the water cold, so cold.

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Summer in the bush is the long balmy dusks, where the bite of the raging heat glowers, whimpers and drags its feet to bed, her white glare fading to orange sweeps and pink fronds as she melts into the horizon. It is the flapping moths, beating against the lights left on, throwing themselves at its electric warmth. Summer is water-skiing with the extended family on the slowing shrinking dam, mud thick and cracked on the side like crocodile skin, the bare dead branches in the middle of the water spindling upwards. It is eating overcooked snags and coleslaw on the communal barbecue afterwards, eating in wet swimmers with sunburnt arms and happily tired faces.

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Summer is the song of cicadas as they purr in the encroaching dusk; it is the electric hush before an afternoon storm, crowds crackling black in the distance.

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Summer is the film of sunscreen that lightly coats everything; the creeping warm lush in your belly as the sun firsts warmly licks your bikini-clad body. It is the whirring of the fans, abrasive at first but then, vital to sleeping routine, a soothing white noise as you drift off to sleep. Summer is perfecting your towels waft as you billow it out onto the sand, the bite of a green ant as you wander barefoot, the crack as you twist ice from its plastic embrace. Summer is the shimmer of mirage dancing on the melted tarmac, the searing brand of the seatbelt left in the glare of the sun, the anticipation of Christmas, prawns on New Years. It’s watching the tennis with the curtains drawn, limbs sluggish from heat, getting up early to do outside jobs before the noonday heat swallows you whole.

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Summer is siestas, sticky, sweaty, salty and sandy, sexy, uncomfortable and cross making. It is ice cream on your chin and watermelon drips.

 

Summer is, love.

My ten hot tips for being a freaky good traveller

After spending quite a lot of time travelling over the last two years, I feel I have earned the right to impart some semi-kind-of-probably-not-useful-and-boringly-pretentious advice, learnt by missing trains, throwing up behind French bill boards after indulging in a little too much aperitif, getting stuck in a Sumo suit, chased by a banana-crazed monkey down a Thai beach and an angry hairy Russian with a rug instead of a chest in a Croatian beach bar, to name but a few misstepped adventures. I do believe it is the worst decisions which make the best stories, and as long as you end up safe, type two fun (where you don’t realise it’s fun till a while after the event, often when re-telling in a bar, delightfully exaggerated by vodka) are usually the greatest reminisces. So here goes. I’m getting all yah yah I travel on my gap yars but still. You’ll deal with it.

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1. Wear sunscreen.

Just do it man, or you end up looking like that piece of jerky with a face that is always haunting the beach, sizzling around the sides. Fake tan is fine, if you’re going to tan you will do so through your wonderful life-saving UV shield, and if you don’t then embrace your pretty pastiness and get all renaissance on people’s asses. Botticelli’s chicks don’t have no wrinkles and practically glow in the dark and their milkshakes bring all the guys to the yard.

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2. Get lost.

The best way to find the most delicious restaurant, no matter the city, is to step off the winding tourist funnel and walk as randomly as you can through the streets. Criteria for a delicious pit-stop include but are not exclusive to – no english signs out the front – no photographs of food – especially in Italy, no menus, hence gorgeously fresh and seasonal – the locals eat there – it preferably has a little garden out the back. If you have to mime what you want by lying on the ground and flapping around like a salmon/crab/piece of linguine even better.

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3. If there is an option between sleeping or having an adventure, go for the latter.

You can sleep when you’re dead. If the bird in the hostel bed next to you suggests you go for a drink, get that sleepy butt up and get outside. Fun stuff doesn’t happen when you are in your flannel nightie. Push yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Goooo owwwwwwn. And when people ask why, you say, why not?

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4. Talk to people.

I know right. But you don’t have to be instagramming the whole time. Strike up a conversation with the dude sitting next to you at the airport/on the bus/ in the cafe/in the dog park/on the beach. You can probably leave the Nigerian guy with the fake handbags standing on the corner alone. But people are interesting. Everyone has a story and the contacts you sometimes come away with are soul warming. If they’re a loser, you’ve lost ten minutes that are never a waste. You always learn something. It is better to be interested, then interesting. Though it is also excellent to be interesting, and gives you more to talk about. So there you go. Conundrum.

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5. Eat. Everything.

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6. Travel alone.

It can be scary, especially as a chick, but you are more capable than you know, and that is when it gets interesting. Walking around a city by yourself is when you notice the small details, undistracted by the warble of a mate. It’s important to be able to enjoy a meal or a drink by yourself, to be happy in your own company, to understand how to while away some interesting hours in the pleasurable ambience of your own awesome charisma. You are your best friend and easily the most attractive person you know. What?

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7. Never be bored. And it is ok to be weird.

Only boring people get bored. There is always so much to do wherever you are. Ok, airport delays are boring. And travel times on buses or trains can be tedious. But you can use that opportunity to practise number 4. Try it. Or use that time to dream a little. We don’t do enough dreaming. And dance as often and exuberantly as you can. It’s not all about the dance like no one is watching crap. But move your bod, let go, and get freaky. It’s just. so. fun. Being your best weird self is the ultimate. Everyone is someone else’s weird. And that is ok.

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I moustache you, do i have something on my face?
I moustache you, do I have something on my face?

8. Open yourself up to opportunity.

Shit comes along at the most random times and the universe has a funny way of opening doors, however disguised, waiting patiently for you to step through. Or sometimes, push you through. But that perspective is an attitude. If you are open to possibility, the things that come bowling your way are extraordinary and move like mercury. I imagine the world as a ball of billions of multi-coloured tangle strings, each of us crisscrossing in a tight, intermingled loveliness where we are only six steps from the other, snagging against each other at certain times, producing experiences and memories and learnings all the time. Luck is a bit of chance, a bit of timing, and a whole lot of attitude. So open up and let the good times roll.

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9. Be grateful.

If you’re travelling, be body huggingly pleased for yourself. Many don’t get the opportunity, and you are seeing the world and learning new things about it and yourself every damn day. And you deserve to. Gratitude doesn’t imply guilt. It condones pleasure, it embodies awareness, and it proves you have your head out of your ass. The universe doesn’t owe you anything, and often misfortune comes up and slaps you in the face when you least expect it. But through the shit storm, after the blizzard blows over and the dust begins to settle, sometimes you can find some meaning underneath it which gives you a little more knowledge. How awesome for you.

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10. Add value.

Often on the tourism circuit you feel like you are another trampling human being, coming to take take take the sights and the smells and the pictures and leave again in a wafting breeze of litter and cigarette ash and crumbling ruins. But you can leave something behind, add a little value, wherever you go. What that is, is your choice and infinite in possibility. Kindness, a smile, a coin in the cup of someone less fortunate, no matter the cynicism, engagement, sharing, awareness, conversation, energy. Just be nice to the guy selling you a sandwich, offer to take someone’s photo as you are walking past, pick up your dog poo and litter, write a nice review. But it is the reaching out that gives it all a little humanity. Give a little back. It’s all so big, exciting and beautiful!

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Western Mail chainsaw carving article

A recent article I wrote on Adam featured over a double page spread in Cardiff’s Western Mail newspaper, here and here. The exhibition was an incredible success for Ads, both commercially and artistically, and he is currently knee deep in commissions and balls deep in sawdust – an excellent place to be as a chainsaw sculptor! Adam’s skill with the saw is undeniable and his vision remarkable. What always gets me with his work is the lack of an eraser or delete button – my favourite button on my laptop. Once it’s off it’s off, there is not much margin for error. But he seems to be coping just fine. It is also helpful when hitchhiking to mention ones partner is proficient with a chainsaw. Seems to cool the loins. Visit http://www.castlecarvings.com/  for more information.

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One girl explains, never play leapfrog with a unicorn