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The day I realised my career could have ruined my family

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It was a humid, salty Saturday and we had booked in a tradesman to finish the renovation of our bathroom. We laid in late, chatting about the changes that were about to come in our lives as we waited expectantly for our first born to arrive. It was 8am and my waters suddenly broke. Three weeks early in the aftermath of redundancy.

Novice Parenthood unleashed a tirade of change in our swaying adulthood yet it distilled so much of what we held dear. It was like the minute we became parents our eyes opened to so many things that had remained clouded by the past.

Legacy became a regular synonym in our early parenthood conversations.

Questions like;

What do we want to leave for our children?

How do we parent them in such a way that they become kind humans?

Is there anything in my life that I do not want to replicate in theirs?

Teeth bulged, nappies exploded and purpose waned. It was like the toddler years of our babies confused the sense of purpose that we so had heartily stepped into Parenthood with.

We ached for legacy. We discussed the legacy that our parents had imparted in our lives and we debated how much was too much in the balance of family life. Legacy became a key word in our families foundational years and we launched a business that the key vision was to leave a legacy for those who had little. We believed in this pursuit so much that we named the business after our children. Going back to the days where businesses were named after the family name. Strength and Freedom became our passion.

This sounds so noble and it is the greatest of pursuits but honestly living life with perspective on legacy is so damn hard.

Asking questions of ourselves like…

Am I so busy helping everyone else that my family is lost in my compassion wake?

Shauna Niequist from Present over Perfect answers this question as well

“I’ve preferred to believe that I can be all things to all people, but when I’m honest about my life, in the past couple of years Ive been better from a distance that I have been in my own home. I have given more to strangers and publishers and people who stand in line after my events that I have been to my neighbours, my friends.”

12 days into Novice Motherhood back in 2012, after being made redundant and the reoccurring thought “Was I not good enough” I was tempted back into the office with a job that seemed so enticing. Over the next year, I was offered fifteen different roles, from organisations that were so amazing and the opportunities were overwhelming.

The terrible truth is I would have done anything to escape the tyranny of the in-between. Motherhood was nothing like I expected. The shake I felt so deeply in my soul in my sense of worth and purpose was palpable. Every time someone asked me what I now did, my voice was shaken as I whispered I’m a “stay at home mum”.

Five years later I have walked the deep waters of discovery around this topic and I am now once again ready to step into the days of career with new perspective and grace, however, I will always need to reframe how much I do outside of my home and allow legacy to be a boundary that shapes.

Questions like;

In this season do my family feel like they have my attention when it is required?

Do my littles know that they come first?

Is there anything in my career/ work life that is overwhelming my family in weight and responsibility?

This is the call of Legacy.

I believe both is possible, but conversations like this from Shauna’s book are important and valid. We need to be able to walk into spaces where we understand that every woman’s season looks different and the call of legacy is expressed in different ways.

What did this section of the book bring up in you? regret, peace, thankfulness or something else. I am so interested in hearing what you discovered.

Happy Friday Book Club Friends.

If you want to go back and engage in the other chapters and writers, they are all linked here.

Amanda Marie

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Realising that I do not have to be good.

Present Over Perfect

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Mary Oliver

Shauna Niequist had me hooked in her first stanza. I am not sure if it was because I was on a plane to Indonesia post a very busy season or the Catholic roots of my faith that echo in my loyal soul but my heart she breathed.

“Amanda, you do not have to be good.”

“It is okay to not have it all together.”

“Yes, that pain you feel sits high on your chest, let’s unpack its weight together”

Breathe, stop and heave.

The same realisation came eight years ago when I bought a Hawaiin beach shack in the little town that I grew up, running away from the pain that was so confusing in my workplace.

I stood with a real estate agent, it was the first place I had looked and I was smitten. Full of mold, carpet that reeked of cigarette smoke but it was five steps to the sea.

I had friends grieving from the deep sadness of illness that had consumed a dear friend, I was single and so very disappointed.

Quickly I said to the real estate agent, I want to place an offer on this little Oahu beach shack and my sea change recovery began. As I renovated the past from its walls, the heaviness in my heart released. Each time I walked over the road and breathed deep in the salty air, my questions were not answered but I found the space I needed.

In the midst of this massive season of loss and transition, I realised a deep theological question that had been hovering in my soul. It taunted me, it kept me awake at night and my sea change allowed it space to breathe.

The question was this;

“If I am good, then why do bad things happen?

or the opposite why do people who are bad have good things happen to them?”

In the midst of the sea change, I watched pelicans fly in formation and the tide change slowly from Summer to Spring. I needed to face these questions alone and I needed to reframe my deep beliefs that told me…

If I work harder, please more people and keep it together then I will be okay.

Do you struggle about whether you are good enough?

Shauna’s book Present Over Perfect has helped me unpack my need to keep everyone and everything ticking over so that my world doesn’t unravel.

I realised though all those years ago when I shifted away from the city, from friends who defined my sense of worth and a culture that was toxic, that it is okay to not have it all together all the time and as Shakespeare so eloquently describes in the Tempest;

A man is thrown into the sea, and under the water, he is transformed from what he was into something entirely new, something “rich and strange.”

The funny thing is less than a year ago we sold that little healing beach cave and bought a new place. It is like the journey begins all over again. Maybe that is what life is, a series of becomings.

I am looking forward to this journey of our Book Club together. February could possibly be the beginning of your tempest sea change.

Lets do this journey together.

Amanda Marie

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Five Books that Changed me this Year

 

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One thing I try to do each year is to reflect back upon the books I have read and the impact that they have made on me. Lately, I have realised I am much better at reading a book if it is sitting on my bedside table and I can feel the time and effort it took to print its pages.

Book Number One: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Available here with free shipping from Book Depository.

It is difficult to describe how Big Magic helped me this year. It came in a season when I needed to re-remember what I knew about creativity and how powerful it is to help us find our voice. The beginning of 2016 was full of much grief. I needed to re-find the power of creativity and step into the great unknown of my year. Elizabeth Gilbert helped motivate me to start again and finish off those projects that remained undone.

Book Number Two: The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Available here with free shipping from Book Depository

I am reading this book right now, from my Kindle, but I am going to order a paperback copy. It is massaging my heart in places that are needing to be tenderly approached with care. I had one week in particular in the second half of 2016, where we cracked an ipad air screen, a iPhone screen, and a ipads screen. We hadn’t broken any screens in our house, till this one fated week. The only device that hasn’t been fixed yet is my iPad air. The one I work on. That is because it costs over $400 just to replace the screen. It is funny from the beginning of this little season in my family life, I was deeply upset because there was a part of me that just couldn’t look at something that was broken every day. Especially something that I write and produce creatively on. But lately, as I read this book on that smashed screen, I am realising that there is beauty in our brokenness and God meets us in these undone places.

Book Number Three: Present over Perfect by Shauna Niquest

Available here with free shipping from Book Depository

During November, I laid down technology and picked up paper. I turned forty at the end of October and this book was the perfect end to a big decade of my life. I had bought two houses, sold one house, gotten engaged and married, given birth to two children and traveled extensively. I am not someone who easily sits in the pocket of present over perfect. There is something within me that wants everything to work out with precision and flare. Life is far from perfect and Shauna’s writing has been a balm this year to my soul.

Book Number Four: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Available here with free shipping from Book Depository

I have only just found this little gem, this week in fact, but it is coming in as a year long favourite, with Shonda’s wit and courage. She encourages her readers to dance it out, stand in the sun and be your own person. Maybe 2017 needs to be your year of yes. This writer from some of my favourite shows like grey’s anatomy has caught my attention with this one.

Book Number Five: Savor by Shauna Niquest

Available here with free shipping from Book Depository

This book has 365 Chapters, with little nuggets for the whole year through. It has been such a privelege to walk with Shauna through her year, with this little book of devotions. Each page has a scripture and a thought that is so applicable for my season as a Mum. I have decided to write each day and do this as my 2017 devotional again next year. To help me walk into my new season with hope and light.

And of course, my year would not have been complete without this little special friend.

2017-5

I feel like I gave birth to a book baby this year DEAR SINGLE SELF and the feedback that is coming from people all over the world who are ready my stories and thoughts is so encouraging.

What are your top five books for the year?

I would love to know.

Happy December friends.

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her reflection

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Princesses and Super Hero’s dress up day at dancing today.

Yesterday was the last day of our online book club and I have a secret; I haven’t finished the book. Last night I had questions like;

How can I contribute if I haven’t finished the damn book?

Does this mean I failed book club?

So I decided to show up today and tell you my secret, knowing that there would be others who didn’t finish the book. In fact, I emailed the hotel where I stayed in Darwin today, realising I left it on the bedside table of my hotel room.

Not just a fail, but an epic one. Maybe that’s the best end to this journey for me, accepting my weird and in fact enjoying its potential.

“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

I have had some big questions that have been prodded along by this book, but one of my main reflections is this.

Creative doesn’t equal deep and dark.

Creative doesn’t demand intense long, overwhelming pauses.

Creative doesn’t define my identity.

But it brings colour, life and magic to all of these parts of me.

Being creative is a gift, a friend to my everyday. It is not a burden to carry, but a language to learn.

It is not a disease or a disposition, creativity can be light as well as responsible.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic has converted my already creatively obsessed heart. I am more in love with creativity than ever before, but in some ways, I am less defined by it.

Does that even make sense?

I am carrying my creative load a little lighter and don’t feel so defined by its genre and category. Maybe my thoughts will change as I finish its last few chapters, but I doubt it.

Maybe it has done its work anyway.

And for those who didn’t read along with us, let me leave you with what I believe is the best paragraph in the whole book;

“Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticised or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavours as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of workspace, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

How about you?

“What have you learned from Big Magic?”

Elaine and Jodie, thanks for the journey.

Till we meet again in online book club land,

Cheers

Amanda

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Realising that I care too much

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Post Birthday Massage

Late at night on Wednesday I started another conversation with my husband that was so risky. It went a little like this.

I said “Hey Charl, why do you think I care so much about what other people think?

Silence,

Echo,

{Did I actually say that thought out loud?}

He said “Not sure love, but yes you value often what the crowd says, more than those who are in your gang.

Deep breath,

The vulnerability dance.

One of the greatest awakenings I have been having in my life of late, is the realisation that I do everything I can to escape pain.

The pain of exercise,

The pain of saying no to myself when I want to numb with food,

The pain of saying no to someone when all I want to do is say I will help.

Pain avoidance is one of the greatest challenges to finishing Brene Brown’s book from our online book club. I didn’t want to finish it, because I didn’t want to feel the pain of the words she pierced my numbing mechanisms to keep all my plates spinning.

My plates spin,

I keep myself busy to stay connected to the world,

But my writing and our book club worlds have been drawing me deeper into a place of contemplation and recognition.

Recognising that I really am deeply a people pleaser, that wants approval.

Recognising that I care way too much what people in the crowd think of me often at the complete disregard of those in my cheer squad.

Recognising that I numb the pain, when I do something brave, when I find my voice, when I create and people criticise me.

Recognising that shame patterns I learnt from a very young age, have created a fight or flight pattern in my relationships.

Recognising that I am deeply flawed but perfectly imperfect.

This month and this book have been transformational.  (Brene would say revolutionary) For me transformation, is when shifts start to occur so deeply that irrevocable change happens.

My writing is so often linked with creative pursuit, but this year has leaned more towards relationships and emotional wellness. The funny thing is they are linked so intrinsically and her book Rising Strong has confirmed this on so many levels.

I feel like I am just at the beginning of a curious journey that is helping me to not be afraid of my Wholehearted ninja self, to embrace my Hangry Bear and to step back and find perspective in the midst of my everyday.

I didn’t expect to be unpacking it all in front of you my readers and I also didn’t think I would actually finish the book. But yesterday I sat myself down at a beautician, I got myself a pedicure, I left my phone at home, I picked up a favourite little something for lunch and I finished her damn book.

I rose through the pain of its truth.

I found strength in the finish.

I looked for help beyond myself.

I faced my fear and fell forward.

Why did I struggle so much with this book?

Because I fail so often.

Because I have been hurt and let down before.

Because I have expectations that are so often not met.

Because I care so damn much all the time, but I am wanting to be a little more care free.

As a leader, as a speaker, as a writer, as a novice mum, as a wife, my expectations of others have been so formed by the unrealistic expectations I have of myself.

I am pretty sure I am still facing the aftermath of the truth I have read and processed here through the month of October and I am sure I will need to go find a someone professional to help me reframe some of the revelations with perspective.

I do know some prayers that I want to now pray, asking God for his wisdom and strength.

A question for our book club;

What is one emotion that this series of writing or the book has made you more aware of during October? Shame, embarrassment, curiosity, anger, grief?

And to tie it all together a final something from Brene… (if you would like a print out click here)

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers

Than those of us who are willing to fall Because we have learned how to rise.

With skinned knees and bruised hearts;

We choose owning our stories of struggle, Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending. When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we run from struggle, we are never free. So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye.

We will not be characters in our stories. Not villains, not victims, not even heroes.

We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.

We craft love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

Showing up is our power. Story is our way home.

Truth is our song. We are the brave and brokenhearted. We are rising strong

Thanks for being kind to me as I walked out this journey here on my online space. Thank you to Elaine and Jodie for being my whole hearted honest partners in what turned out to be quite a unique journey together. Lastly to Brene, Im not sure I like you anymore. I’m sure my friends and family will love you in the future, but right now your words have hit a deep and painful chord.

Can’t wait to tell you about my series for November.

Finding Legacy, a countdown to the launch of our not for profit.”

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