As I write this, we are hurtling toward the 5.2 millionth minute of the last decade.
It’s been a decade indeed. Have you looked back? What happened at the beginning, way back in 2010? What were you doing? What was it like for you?
For me – 2010 was the year that changed my life forever.
Let’s see… 2010 was the year birds entered my paintings, in honour of my lovely late mother-in-law, Kathleen. When she was alive, Kathleen used to refer to those strange “squiggly things” in my (very abstract) paintings 🙂 Kathleen was a bird-lover. So, after she died, I dedicated an exhibition to her, and placed recognisable bird shapes in my paintings in remembrance of her – and there they’ve stayed ever since!
2010 was also the year I held not one, but three art exhibitions.
And the year my husband Greg was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
Birds, Shows, Cancer. 2010 was a Big Year.
The nine years that followed have probably shaped my life more than any other period. Greg’s cancer journey took up the first half. Then I lost him about halfway through the decade, and with him went a Great Big chunk of me.
So I spent the second half of the decade finding my way back to myself.
The last three thousand six hundred and fifty days (ten years) have been about family love and deep friendships. I have been the recipient of more kindness than I ever imagined possible.
I also made some awful, misguided choices, forming relationships that just weren’t good for anyone, including, just this year, a business partnership that ultimately went terribly wrong … But over the decade, I built a business and an identity not just an artist, but also a writer and teacher, and surprised myself by managing to ride the stormy economic times without going under.
And scanning those 3650 days (in completely mixed up order), a bunch of other things stand out …
I cried rivers of tears over Greg’s death. I learned how to live on my own, learned I’m never EVER alone, and experienced mysterious and sometimes downright bizarre evidence of this.
I sold the family home, moved house four times, bought a house, built a studio, and lost a beloved pet.
I rescued a dog, who rescued me right back. My lovely mummy died. I witnessed my beautiful daughter, Mary, turn into a grown up wonderful human, sprout wings and fly away.
I kept singing. To explain – Greg and I met through music, and for a long time, we sang together on stage as a duo, and then staged large productions dedicated to the upliftment of the human condition through music. It was Greg’s passion and his art, and together with Greg’s oldest daughter Rachel, we’ve kept his beautiful New Era Baha’i Choir strong and alive.
And Rachel has very cleverly made several children (we’re up to four at last count) so I have Greg’s legacy alive and laughing all around me, not just in his music, but in his wonderful grandchildren.
I’ve travelled a great deal this decade. Across Australia to teach workshops, across the world to pursue awe and wonder. The Grand Canyon, The Bahamas, the snowy mountains of Australia, New York, London, Bali, Israel, Lake Como, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Hawai’i, Switzerland… the world is so, so magnificent, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to use its beauty to soothe and heal the broken, pointy shards of my soul.
(But also – thank you Netflix and chocolate. You, and my sofa, are amongst my most treasured friends).
The second half of this decade was enriched by the guidance of skilled coaches and mentors … the most notable of which is Your Year of Miracles, led my Marci Schimoff (author of Chicken Soup for the Women’s Soul) and her team. They equipped me tools and strategies that profoundly helped me change the way I look at things. For the last four years, I have re-enrolled in this amazing year-long programme. (I’ve never been that consistent about ANYTHING before since I left Uni!) I’ve learned more and more about deepening and amplifying the everyday miracles around me. (They are opening now for enrolment in 2020, and their free e-book, The 4 Biggest Mistakes that keep you from Living Your Miraculous Life is definitely worth a read.)
It’s also been a decade of seven solo exhibitions, and hundreds (actually approaching two thousand) students in my live workshops, who have filled my life with friendships, joy and hope, and shown me, over and over again, the transformative, sacred, mysterious, life-saving power of the Creative Force within us.
The world is beautiful.
And I’m very aware that I’m one of the incredibly lucky humans to have been gifted, with little effort on my part, with flushing toilets, fresh air, good friends, the ability to walk unaided, to read and to write. I own my own house, which sits perched over a magnificent forest of fragrant eucalypts. I make art for a living. I have the rare and precious bounty to have built my own studio next to my house – a beautiful space of peace and possibility for all who enter.
But at this very moment, there are countless global crises vying for our attention. Six hundred and sixty three million people live without clean water. Fires rage across huge swathes of Australia. A dear friend is struggling to care for an ailing father, whose mind and body are ravaged by a cruel disease.
The world is also painful and ugly and difficult. For all of us, some of the time.
We can get swept away by the struggle, and lose our fortitude, our patience, our faith. We have to find ways to acquire and hang on to equanimity and peace. I know this is not easy. I am deeply grateful to have found, in all the forms of my creative practice, a beacon of light to help me find that equanimity … to help me connect to the Sacred within.
Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, things you look at change.” I often suggest to my students that turning a painting upside down is a great way to break through a creative impasse. Sometimes, we have to look at things upside down to break through life’s impasses. To find the colour, texture, joy, delight and miracles in our journey, no matter what is actually happening in our lives.
As the decade enters its final minutes, I sit with a full heart, surrounded by the sounds of the forest. Australian forests are noisy, and my backyard is alive with chirping, cooing, whistling and other unidentifiable animal sounds. Kookaburras erupt into laughter regularly, inviting me to join them.
And suddenly, it all becomes very simple. Let’s invite as much laughter, good coffee and good friends into our lives in this new decade. Let’s deepen our sacred practices and share as much love and kindness as we can.
Thank you for sharing this space with me – whether it’s been for ten years or ten minutes, it’s an honour to be allowed into your world. Happy New Decade, my friends!
“You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
-Martin Luther King