There's always a place for you here in my wild heart.

Part of Me, Good Old War

I love to jump into the energy of a new year. But not before closing the loop on the previous one, as a way to make sense of it all.  Recently I went camping by myself on a permaculture farm in Margaret River in the last week of the year. Time in nature to get clarity and your thoughts in order should never be underestimated.

To make an end is to make a beginning. - T.S. Eliot

Looking back, 2018 was quite a year – I started a tea circle, became a marriage celebrant, travelled on over 40 planes, read one book a week, spent seven days in silence, tried nude yoga, dined at Noma in Copenhagen, sang Toto’s Africa in an Athens karaoke bar, and became a woman of 30 in Tuscany. In this time, I also ruthlessly prioritised my emotional wellbeing, exercise, and getting as much sleep as possible.

The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me, if you will take care of you for me. - Jim Rohn

It was also – hands down – one of the most challenging and exhausting times of my life and I still have a lot of unanswered questions. Making self-care and wellness a central part of my life was the magic bullet for survival, and as such, I feel the healthiest – mentally, physically, and energetically – that I’ve ever been.

I also lived the word soften – my word for 2018.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. - Naomi Shihab Nye

To be soft, as Rupi Kaur writes, is to be powerful. Softening means having a flexible heart and a generous spirit. To soften is to become so open that a truck could drive in. Softness is a force. It means being ten times more compassionate and forgiving than you ever thought you were capable of. Softening is equanimity and ease. And in spite of everything, remaining soft in fire.

Grief ends up giving us the best gifts: softness and illumination. - Anne Lamott 

Following my tradition to pick a word and spend the year living it – my word for 2019 has been hard to pin down, but crystal clear to me now.

Alignment.

That feeling of everything falling into place. Stars aligning. The antidote to a cosmic clusterfuck. Making decisions in line with what you truly want. Following what feels good. Being at home in yourself. Like when a cat walks in a circle then curls up into a ball.

Living in alignment is an intentional and uncomfortable process. There’s a bit of waiting and a lot of faith. It will sound like a series of ‘no, thank you’ until you feel like a genuine yes inside of you. You’ll notice what’s working and what isn’t, and you will need to be brave and honest about what needs to change – like dropping things that don’t feel right anymore and adding new things into your life to experiment with.

I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing. - Nora Ephron

As it’s become an annual tradition for digesting the year that was, here are 10 things that genuinely changed my life in 2018:

Inner Seasons & Moon Cup

Being a woman in this world is not an even keel. Understanding the inner female seasons and how to make your cycle work for you was a total gamechanger for me this year. In short – every month in a female’s life represents a lunar moon cycle, and like nature, we all experience four different seasons within a given month. Winter (the start of cycle and ‘moon time’) is for rest, retreat, and self-care, in Spring (after your cycle ends) you get a burst of dynamic energy to resurface and get shit done, then comes Summer (the peak of your cycle) when you feel incredibly motivated and on – for creativity, fun, and adventure, and then in Autumn (before the next cycle begins) your emotions become amplified and you begin to clear space as you get ready to retreat in another Winter. And so it all begins again.

In my experience, these inner seasons make complete sense with a varied monthly rhythm – I can go from energised and powerful to contemplative and melancholy in a matter of days then back again. It’s been empowering to feel more in tune and knowledgeable about how to make a moon cycle work – creatively, mentally, emotionally, and physically – for my life. I highly recommend reading Adore Your Cycle by Claire Baker and this brilliant article, as well as watching Lucy Peaches’ TEDxPerth talk The Power of the Period and seeing her award-winning Fringe Festival show My Greatest Period Ever. Also, around this time my friend Amanda from Yoga Alchemy and I got talking one night about the Lunette Moon Cup – an easy to use, eco-friendly, and healthier alternative to tampons. After a little hesitation, I tried it out and I am a lifetime convert to this remarkable freedom-giving invention.

Boxing

I’d been putting off taking my first boxing class for months before I said fuck it and “Hi, I’m new”. I now know why Hilary Swank won an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby. Boxing is as hard as it is rewarding. If you don’t pay attention, you might get punched in the face. Nothing matters as much as your presence. Being bad at boxing at first is inevitable so it teaches you to be a humble beginner. Eventually, you get a small ah-ha moment when you land a satisfying punch or get lost in the flow of a combo and think: I getttttttt it. I love the feeling of leaving a boxing class with aching muscles, matted hair, and being on top of the world before 7am. It’s magic.

Turning Thirty

Hey world, I’m thirty! I said farewell to my twenties and hello to my thirties this year with a trip to Europe travelling around Copenhagen, the Greek Islands, and Italy. It was bookshops, bike riding, bakeries, brunching with babes, and the best of times with my bestie Kylie. I also lived out my dream of visiting Tuscany and recreating Under The Tuscan Sun (you haven’t seen it?!) by renting a giant 10-person villa with our own vineyard. I will never forget the five days that I spent with family and friends (and my brother, who surprised me!) in the Tuscan countryside living the good life with Chianti wine, hot spring baths, Aperol Spritz at midday, road trip singalongs, bedroom dance parties, lost in translation LOLs, and gnocchi, pasta, and carbs galore.

Jeans

Hello denim, my old friend. This past year I rediscovered the magic of wearing jeans after a two-year hiatus when I bought a high waisted, straight Japanese denim pair from Bassike. I live in them now, and I am grateful for the rise of mum jeans. It means I can let go of the pain of trying to fit into low-waisted skinny jeans. While I certainly don’t have the hips of my twenty-year-old self, at least now I get to feel like Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats. Denim – our lifelong romance is back on.

Curated Closet

Something I’ve known for a long time but didn’t want to address is that I didn’t really know what clothes suited me. I discovered Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees and realised that what I was missing my own personal style, so I set out to organise my wardrobe, like properly. Over the course of the year, I gave away and sold about 80% of my clothes – everything that was unflattering, ill-fitting, itchy, uncomfortable, old, and worn out. I also decided to only buy new things that truly feel like me and not that fetching girl on Instagram. What emerged was a surprisingly enjoyable process of thought and consideration, and a style vibe that is headed towards being chic, effortless, comfortable, and elegant – basically: a wardrobe of beautiful minimalism.

My goal is to shop for quality, not quantity. I now look out for lived in fabrics, immaculate tailoring, small details, and shapes that accentuate my features. I replaced a lifelong love of Converse for Spring Court sneakers and started wearing beautiful intimates as everyday pieces like female-forward Negative Underwear and Kiwi lingerie label Lonely. Undertaking a Curated Closet project takes time, and I’m still going. Sometimes you come home empty-handed and a little deflated as nothing suits you. But that’s okay, it’s not easy to find lasting investment pieces and you don’t want to buy something you will then later sell for $10 at a swap meet (trust me). A quick win of the project has been how easy it is to pack for travel now as I have less to choose from and most things are my favourite. Developing your personal style is an evolving work-in-progress and it’s really just a lesson in knowing yourself. My challenge for this year is a new frontier: online shopping, done ethically.

Winter Living As An Autumn

I have honestly never had any second thoughts about my style until this last year. Halfway through 2018, I had a colour analysis to find out what ‘season’ I am. The theory is that we all have a seasonal type based on four colour variables: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Which season you are depending on the undertone of your skin, eyes, and hair. As you are born with your season, it can be used as a blueprint for finding out what colour palette is your ideal wardrobe. As Coco Chanel said, the best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you.

As it turns out, I am a winter who has been living as an autumn her whole life! A Clear Winter in fact, so just call me Zooey Deschanel. Winter is bright, clear and cool – which means no pastels, warm colours, muted shades, loud prints, and washed out tones for me. Khaki makes me look like I have jaundice. I admit dressing for your season takes some time to get your head around but soon you won’t be able to deny that some things are simply ‘nice on others, not for me’. What I love about knowing I am a Winter is that it is a doorway to a lifetime of simplicity. You start to learn how to choose colours and styles that suit your seasonal palette and buy clothes that will live the longest in your closet. It’s been very freeing and empowering process, and now I have more know-how around what will bring good energy, comfort, and joy into my life.

52 Books

I challenged myself to read one book per week in 2018 and I managed to read 58 in total, hurrah! Despite being a lifelong reader, I would still average around 20 books in a typical year. It’s crazy that I almost tripled that and the difference in 2018 was that I made it a commitment to read whenever I could like over breakfast, on planes, waiting for friends, on weekends, and before falling asleep. My list on Good Reads details all the books I have read, and the notable callouts are: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton, Normal People by Sally Rooney, Deep Work by Cal Newport, Consolations by David Whyte, Why We Love by Erich Fromm, Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, and We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby. I have learned that a boring book must be abandoned, a good book will keep you entertained, but a great book will have you audibly gasping, laughing, crying and leave you in a state of genuine sadness when it’s over – in a way that only unforgettable words can. This year I am keeping up the 52 books challenge and I’m going to see if I can double it.

Four Burner Theory & Self Care

The original idea is credited to David Sedaris who was told about it by an Australian woman Pat in this The New Yorker article, but I’ve adapted it. The Four Burner Theory is to imagine your life as a gas stove with each of the four burners representing: health, family, relationships, and work. The catch is – you can only truly have two burners going at the same time, and all four is a veritable kitchen fire. The theory also says that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful, you have to cut off two.” Most people try to have all four burners firing off at the same time, but have you tried cooking with four pots and pans at the same time without something spilling over or catching on fire?

For me – my primary burner has always been self-care (health) and it’s something I consciously prioritise as a non-negotiable. This year I learnt that the only way I can maintain a high energy pace in work and life is to make time for rest, recovery, reflection and solitude. My wellness rituals included the farmers market, infrared sauna, acupuncture, facials, sound healing, colonics, yoga, massages, and meditating first thing in the morning. The biggest game changer for me is, and always has been, sleep. So if that means lights out at 9pm on a Friday night because you are bone-dead tired, then put yourself to bed already. And when your life suddenly becomes a forest fire, as it did for me a few times this year, you will be grateful for the times you practised self-care, to make up for the times you can’t.

I invest in myself but also in my relationships. Family and friends have always been important to me. However, for most of 2018, my second burner was work with new opportunities and lots of travel. Careers are obviously a large part of everyone’s lives, and so this year I’m looking at ways to make my work burner align more with what I was put here to do. In 2019, I will gently stop investing in relationships that I have outgrown and focus on people that truly feed my soul. As well as spending as much time as possible with the light of my life, my nephew Z, while we live in the same place.

Marriage

2018 was a year for love. In a two-fold way, I married myself during a tantra sistercircle ceremony and I also became an authorised marriage celebrant to marry others. First up – me. Something I never considered doing but highly recommend is writing vows to yourself. It was enlightening to realise that person you are going to spend the most of your life with is yourself (think about it) and to express that you will always be there for you: ‘I will be your warmest coat in the coldest winter’.

Secondly – others. I am now a conduit for commitment, a mouthpiece for matrimony, and a larynx for love. After six months of study, I can legally wed people – and have since married three of my closest friend couples. It was an unexpected surprise of 2018 as to how useful and special this new skill would be for others, and how humbling it is to be of service. My favourite part is writing the couple’s story and seeing my idea of love as ‘friendship on fire’ (more on that later) come to life, which is refreshing for a real-world romantic stuck in an online hookup culture.

Silence

In my experience, how well you take care of yourself is how well you live. This past year I intentionally created and sought spaces for peace in my life. Uninterrupted time alone, as it turns out, is my saviour. I attended a 7-day silent retreat with Spanda School in coastal WA bushland during the Easter break. I found out that I can live without talking, reading, and eye contact (plus more, not allowed during the retreat) but a life without music is by far the hardest part of being in silence. After the profound week I left feeling clearer and more spacious than I had in years, and so I spent the rest of the year building pockets of stillness into my life. Solitude Sunday is still a thing most weekends, but I also relaxed this ritual when I really wanted to spend time with someone awesome. Also, walking is said to be a filing system for the brain and so I started doing tech-free walks in the park leaving my phone at home. I discovered why all the great writers started their day with a forest walk. Time in nature with no interruptions is incredibly helpful for organising your thoughts and calming an overactive mind.

There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone. - Mary Sarton

Looking ahead to 2019, I hope to bring forth what I know to be true.

Travel to Vancouver, Alaska, Nashville, return to Ubud, and have an epic tea adventure.

Be grateful for the normal, boring days.

Learn a new dance.

Move somewhere brave and new.

Write about what I am trying to figure out.

Be smitten.

Attempt gluten-free cinnamon buns.

Give out unexpected kindness.

Make my iPhone boring.

Pickle vegetables like a pro.

Live near a dense forest within easy reach.

Be okay with changing my mind, and trust that everything is coming into alignment.

What’s your word for 2019?

She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Resonates

Comments

  1. Stacey says:

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this. It’s so amazing to see how you’ve evolved as a writer, and as a person since I first met you. You truly embody what you’ve set out to be – somebody who lives her dreams, truths, and ultimately her destiny. You are an inspiration, and I love you.

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