Raise it to Resolve it

Recently I sat through a work seminar on bullying and harassment. They are pretty common training sessions now – and sadly there is never a shortage of examples of degrading and quite embarrassing behaviour.

As the presenter spoke I started to feel uncomfortable. I’m emotionally super sensitive and discussions like this are very hard for me to hear – especially when I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to just be decent adults that behave respectfully and courteously.

I was fortunate growing up that the bullying stuff never stuck – or I was far too naieve to notice. As an adult though this is an entirely different ball game – I no longer justify bullying behaviour – there just aren’t any excuses to make bad behavior tolerable.

The presenter made a simple yet vitally important point ~ “raise it to resolve it”.

We don’t raise bullying or harassing behaviours for so many reason:
– we feel silly,
– we don’t want to attract attention,
– we don’t want to be that person who makes a complaints,
– we don’t want to start trouble,
– we don’t want to miss a promotion,
– we are concerned about any fallout from raising it.

Instead, we start to modify our behaviour:
– we work quietly and lessen interactions with others,
– we avoid people, areas, situations, anything you think wont bring attention,
– we worry whether what we do will inadvertently upset someone,
– we stress,
– we can develop anxiety about work, or about emails or phone calls coming in, or meetings we need to attend,
– our sleep becomes disrupted,
– it impacts our family life, our friendships our mood…

And then we get to a point where we have done absolutely everything we can possibly think of to no longer come to the attention of that person… but the degrading behaviour continues – most likely in new creative shapes and forms – this leaves us more confused and perhaps we start to wonder why – is it me? Is my personality the offensive part? So we try to shrink yourself out of existence…

Let me tell you a little secret… that basically everyone knows…
…it’s not you…it’s not us… we are not the problem… we are the target… we are the dumping spot for this person to offload their crap without regard.

Our self care is absolutely paramount in these situations. This is the time where it is vital that we actively engage in ways to look after our mental health.

I beg you – raise it… raise it to resolve it…

Instead by not raising it we give that other person more power to continue. Our self esteem and self love takes a huge hit.

We change because of it and our mental health is too important to risk out of feeling silly about calling out bullying and harassing behaviour – irrespective of who the culprit is.

It is never wrong to speak up when you aren’t being treated well.

And when you raise it, make sure you are heard. If the person you have raised it with isn’t taking you seriously raise it higher and higher and louder until you are heard. Your gut instinct is hardly ever wrong…

~ F.P

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Falling in Love with Minimalism

Spring – A time for rejuvenation and renewal.

I openly discuss my love affair with ‘spring cleaning’ and ‘de cluttering’. Whilst I am not a fan of labels, I have come to embrace that of being a minimalist – well, one in the making.

A little over a year ago, we moved from our tiny ‘baby house’ that we had out grown with a walking toddler to a full sized family home. With it came the temptation to quickly fill it with things – furniture, art, stuff. After all, what was the point in having a bigger space with less things?

Our baby house was filled with our past. It was the first home shared with my husband and the first home I had after living with my family. I had never moved and felt the need to hold all of my memories within my possessions. As we packed to move, I started to feel suffocated by my things. They were no longer providing me happiness or meaning but instead they were creating an environment of frustration. I could never easily reach for things. Opening a cupboard could be an OH & S issue and my mind was often distracted with needing to ‘clean up’ because ‘stuff’ never looks tidy. I had mistakenly believed that being organised meant I needed to have everything on hand and prepared for a ‘just-in-case’ scenario with ridiculous just-in-case items – 40 billion shopping bags anyone??

The temptation to fill our new home quickly evaporated – stuff didn’t provide me happiness – instead it was distracting me from living.

The bigger space instead presented us with something far more beautiful than ‘things’ – it gifted us with mindfulness, gratitude, appreciation.

Our home has most importantly provided the space for clear thought and tranquility – our haven to come home and breathe out the day. It has replaced chaos with calm – busyness with quality family time and inefficient time with productive time – like writing or having a soothing, soul nourishing bath.

Visually, our home is calming. Each item purchased is carefully chosen –

Does it reflect us? Does it add value? Do we love it? Is it essential?

It has provided us the opportunity to ‘hunt’ for unique treasures, items that reflect who we are and what life we want to create.

It has provided us with a comfortable amount of space to celebrate events and life – to have family and friends around to enjoy being together – life’s important treasures…The soul of the home is already etched with memories of laughter, love and happiness.

Having a relaxed home has also given us the gift of adventure – the ability to step outside of it without the guilt of choosing to ‘go out’ over cleaning – the expectation of having a spotless house. There is minimal effort of maintenance with minimal clutter. It also provides a beautiful space to return home to with a heart full of adventure.

So in this moment, I can peacefully enjoy a cup of coffee – each sip without the distraction of needing to do something in this moment because I have replaced chaos with calm and life has become a whole lot more manageable.

~ F.P

 

Life, dreaming and what I have come to learn

On the eve of my 30-B birthday, I started compiling a list of all the lessons I had come to learn along those 30-something years of life. I struggled, not because I couldn’t come up with a list but because it just did not do justice to the thoughts of my heavy heart on this day – and my life isn’t really about lists.

In my quiet moments of reflection, I have packaged by thoughts into a nutshell and this is what I have come to learn:

Life is amazing – Life is too amazing not to be authentic about it …

… About who you are 

…About what you like 

…About what you do.

It’s okay to feel it – It’s okay to say it – It’s okay to do it (generally).

 

The rules are the ones we create for ourselves. Let’s for a moment replace rule with general guideline. In the practice of law, we often refer to issues being viewed in context and on a case by case basis – nothing is a one fits all approach, arguably, the only way upon which we can assess life circumstances on a case by case basis is if we are present in our own world. It’s easy to feel as though we are dragged through life and running to keep up. Things in life will happen – we may be seeking a higher meaning to justify a negative life event – to ease pain and sadness by blaming the universe – if this works, sure, why not! Blame the universe… full moon, life moves in cycles, there is a greater purpose… one door closes for another to open. Some things will never have an appropriate justification and you will be angry without direction and that’s okay – but whatever the life circumstance allow your soul to heal. Breathe through the sadness and give your heart the time and the nourishment to heal and to keep moving forward.

Feel confident enough to ask yourself the hard questions – does this life fit me? Are there things in my life that are counter productive to my happiness? Are there other things that I want to do and can do? 

It’s equally okay not to have all of the answers – It’s okay to have some answers – It’s even okay to have the answers but you haven’t implemented any changes. The reason it’s all okay, is that you are at the very least being an active participant in your life. That’s the authenticity in it.

This is life – your life – Own it – All of it, even the parts that aren’t fantastic or flattering or life events that make you cringe when you think back to your own actions. Own all of it because that is part of your life’s history and your blue print – it helps to shape your world, of which you get to choose how your life is shaped.

Today as I sit here… at the age of 32, I distinctly remember in my early 20’s thinking that I couldn’t wait to be 32 – It was an age I had come to believe would be the age where life would fall into place or everything would be figured out – I am confident enough with myself to allow the roaring laughter at naivety  – I probably have more questions than I did at 19! Again, that’s okay – I am likely to have even more questions at 42, 52, 62…

At 32, life is full of questions, hopes, aspirations, vision boarding, dreaming! All of these blissfully romantic thoughts sit along side the domestic life in my brain because at 32 my life is also full of clothes patiently waiting to be washed, a daughter who is fiercely independent but needs mummy cuddles (on her terms obviously), a thoughtful and loving husband, my awesome tribe of my dearest family and great circle of friends… my work, my writer dreams and glasses of wine for those challenging days…

 

Today will look different to tomorrow. Life will keep happening – whether I have caught my breath or not. I will continue to be shaped by experiences, both the positive and the challenging and that’s okay.

 

I work at life everyday to be in it and to steer it and to make it a life that I continue to feel blessed to live in all of its messy, chaotic and authentic glory!

 

~ F.P

A Letter to my Daughter on Love

To my dear angel heart,

At this moment, you are light years away from any meaningful walk down an isle that is not the local grocery shop, better described as chaotic zigzagging to touch anything you can reach.

You are miles away from a heartbreak that may shape your idea on life and love and you are enjoying the blissful age of showing love with few words and through your innocent affections but at this moment, I choose to pen the ideas of marriage in hope you too come to learn.

So my dear daughter…

Fall in love.

Be not afraid of any future heartache for any guarding of the heart may lose you the opportunity to find the greatest love story of your soul.

Age does not determine the ‘rightness’ of your love. Your daddy and I feel in love as young and spirited teens. We grew together-we navigated life together-made mistakes together and learned but we knew, we always knew that we are a commitment and two souls living our life’s path in compliment to one another and not in consumption of the other and we continue to love each other madly.

Embrace the fear accompanying love. Giving your heart to anyone is one of the greatest acts of taking a leap of faith. You cannot control the response of another but be not afraid for those three words to leave your lips to land on another’s heart. The greatest regrets come from the times we have not more than the times we have.

Throw out the idea of a perfect love. Love takes work, it takes faith and it takes courage.

Settle not for stable. No stability in life is worth the sacrifice of true, awesome, heart pounding love.

Be cautious of distractions by glamour and promise. Be not dazzled by promise of lavish gifts and exotic escapes-love can flourish merely between the souls of each other-minus the fireworks, the roses and any grand gestures.

Marry the person you can laugh at life with… Because when life throws you lightening bolts of chaos sometimes the only option open is to laugh!

Marry the one who holds you tightly when you cry, swooping your hair back caught in your tears and still manages to make a little smile appear… But be cautious if your tears are forever falling over them.

Marry the one who you find yourself caught up admiring.

Marry the one who’s compassion shines especially when they stop to pat a puppy.

Marry the one who dreams your dreams and encourages you to dream to greater scales.

Marry not merely because you were proposed to but because your soul sung the song of a hundred angels rejoicing over the path of fate.

Marry when the time is right by your souls clock and not by the expectation.

Your daddy and I waited until the universe aligned with our souls and life schedules which was not always the accepted situation of those who questioned our motives for delay.

I will tell you a secret – there was no ‘perfect’ time for a wedding.

There was no perfect time for our wedding…we had already well and truly committed our love and that did not need the approval of others as you won’t either because in every love story, you write the rules.

Or marry not at all.

You choose the path of your heart and above all-be genuine and navigated by love.

~ F.P

Happy International Women’s Day

Today I pay my respects of love and gratitude for the women who came before me to pave through a challenging road to grant me the rights I have today…

…The right to vote;
…The right to own land;
…The right to be educated;
…The right to work;
… The right to become a mother ~ or not; and
…The choices I make over the life I choose to live.

I also express my respect and gratitude to the woman who has shown me what it means to practice real, unconditional love; to develop the patience of a monk and to dream as grand as your imagination can stretch, then be so determined, confident and strong willed where the only option is to have your dreams and goals realised. That woman is my mum.

An important lesson my mother taught me is that whilst I shall embrace my life as a woman and as a mother… above all else, I am a human part of the global community who chooses equality of all. I do not define myself as a feminist, a female or woman but I am defined as someone striving for fairness and equality for all of us and not because of my gender or the colour of my skin or things such as my sexual preference but based on what I believe to align with my moral and ethical compass.

Today I show my gratitude to the women of our past and the women of my past and my present and also of my future.

And to my daughter…

To my dear, strong willed, determined and spirited daughter ~ be strong enough to fight for your beliefs, yet humble enough to listen to the opinions of another and have an open soul, willing to welcome a change in your perception, should you be inclined… but dear daughter, strive for greatness not because you are a woman but because the world deserves the brightest future possible ~ as does you.

~ F.P

Dear Graduate – You are not defined by your score

Dear VCE Graduate,

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”

– Chris Grosser

The end of the academic year for you has arrived. For other students, the anticipation of completing the year is just that – the conclusion of another round of academic combat to start again after the summer break and yet for you this time signifies having completed your VCE studies and the release of your long awaited ATAR result.

Welcome to life on the other side!

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The rainbow of emotions are shining all of the colours in your mind and racing through your body like electricity. You may be celebrating achieving the desired result; or you may be feeling confusion as to where you had fallen over; you may just be relieved to see a result as a conclusion or you may be feeling guttered, thrashed and your brain stomped which may only start to scratch the surface of your emotions.

I graduated from high school in 2002… and yet the emotions of the days aftermath of the release of that number still causes a dull ache in my heart. I didn’t achieve my desired number… and yet I stand before you as a qualified and practicing lawyer and writer.

I made the choice not to be defined by my number.

The time after my score was released was a blur of emotion and reaction, so here are some of the things I wish I knew then…

 

1. The score does not define you

As a VCE graduate, you have completed seven years of primary education and six years of secondary education. Your parents will fondly (and no doubt emotionally) recall the first day of grade prep. You started school without knowing the alphabet or what 2 + 2 equalled, realistically you couldn’t really coordinate yourself enough to throw a ball aiming where you needed to or how to tie your shoe lace!

You were young, bright eyed and maybe a little scared being away from your parents and thrown into a new, excited and structured life… but importantly you were a blank canvass. Now take a moment to appreciate all of the information you now know.

That number does not reflect how far you have come and what kind of member of our global community you will be. Life experience isn’t measured by any high school score.

 

2. No one will ask you for your number

After the fog had cleared, I enrolled into a ‘training / TAFE’ course to try something. I dreaded repeating my score to others. I dreaded having to see the look of judgement and disappointment on another’s face and try to justify that I swear I am intelligent especially when it felt my score didn’t reflect it. I felt I would have to justify that I did work hard during VCE, maybe the scores were brought down because of the bell curve average adjustments.

After filing in those initial forms stating what my score was (and aside from the competitive sibling banter with my older brother that he did better than me) not much has ever been said about the score.

I haven’t had to declare my score on any travel documents as I come and go from holidays; my employers haven’t asked for it; it wasn’t included in my admission to becoming a lawyer and I didn’t have to include it in my marriage documents or declare it when I had a baby. Lots of life experiences have happened and not once has it revolved around that score.

 

3. You have options

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”
— Steve Jobs

Admittedly when I left VCE, I had lost my career compass.

I never set out to be a lawyer and I had cycled through so many different career options from being a performer in a circus, a nurse, an actor.. the list was endless. By the years end, my VTAC guide was beyond well worn out – tabbed and highlighted. I was clueless before finally settling on Journalism. I booked in to set the entrance exam and by gosh my heart fell out of my chest as I realised this was not for me. Leaving the exam early and incomplete I felt like I was back to square one.

Over those early years I tried… I was flexible in my approach and open to the possibilities of my career revealing itself. My faith was rewarded with a tumbling pathway. Life and my experiences have taught me that there is nothing impossible so long as your determination is backed up by hard work and flexibility. There are options… there are always options! It’s most important to take the time to step back to evaluate particularly when you feel like you are backed into a corner.

 

4. Life and success will always be determined by your attitude

We live in a society that thrives on complaints. We complain about the weather; having to go to work; having to study; having to pay taxes; having to do a whole range of expected things to be part of the community – I am included in most of these complaints but we need to acknowledge that circumstances play out with the tainted glasses you are wearing.

You can accomplish anything you desire! You set your goals and dreams and you have to navigate through any road block to get there. You are the only thing common denominator that you have control of that makes the world of difference… time to start wearing your ‘can do attitude!’.

 

5. There is more than one pathway to success

It almost sounds cliche to point out but people such as Bill Gates, Lin Fox and Sir Richard Branson, didn’t complete their secondary studies, yet they are some of the most successful people in business today. Equally there are huge numbers of people who are wildly successful that did not obtain their desired score… but what all successful people have in common is a great work ethic and the right attitude.
There are ways to get to where you need to go, it may just take doing your homework to find out other ways to achieve it. There are apprenticeships, TAFE courses, on the job training, volunteer work, transferring into a course – the options are limitless! When we are young we worry about something taking a long time to get there, however I don’t believe that changes as adults but one thing that is for certain is that the time runs regardless. It may have taken me longer to become a lawyer but I am here now and it was definitely worth the time and the patience to follow the path through.

Congratulations to you for graduating!

And for those embarking on the journey of VCE, be kind to yourself.
Keep the process in perspective – learn for life and not for an exam… and work on strategies to keep your stress levels in check. Remember that your ATAR will not define you, it’s how you move forward, planning for the future and dreaming big that is important… and there are options… there are always options…

 

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.”
— Unknown

 

~ F.P

Tonight I surrendered…

Tonight, my daughter fell asleep holding my hand. It was in this moment that I truly felt surrender.

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Last week when my daughter sought my comfort to sleep, my mind raced between the clothes that needed to be washed, the shopping list that needed to be written, the emails I needed to check, the life list that needed to be ticked off for tomorrow and the general tidying I was distracted by. I was physically present – this is what she needed. She wanted to hold my hand and be there with her. I was there. I held her hand; I stroked her hair; I whispered her a lullaby as I willed her into a restful slumber.

I waited until her growing fingers loosened their grip around mine and continued to wait until they completely fell away to rest lightly upon her chest. I listened as her breath slowed and settled into a deep humming as she nestled into her dreams. All the while I was physically there but I was mentally absent.

But tonight was different. Tonight, I caught myself thinking forward to the time that would inevitably come where my hand would no longer be needed – when my presence will not be required to will her into a restful slumber. There will be a time when bedtimes stories, a million good night kisses and a lullaby will no longer be needed.

So tonight I let the thoughts of the washing and the shopping lists and the house duties fall away.

Tonight I listened eagerly to her breathing almost in a meditative trance at the soothing sounds to my ears.

Tonight I watched as her chest rose and fell in her breath – remembering back to the first nights of her earthly life as I watched her breathing eagerly and with the instincts of a lioness I hadn’t yet truly come to appreciate the depth of.

Tonight I watched attentively as her fingers re curled around mine before they fell away, not ready yet to let go ~ and neither was I.

Tonight I surrendered to the beauty of my baby girls basic need – the simple need to just to be together and comforted and surrendered to being mentally present … for me and I look forward to all the nights where life pauses ~ because these are the moments that count…

~ F.P