At the end of 2012, I held out little for the year ahead, I was going to let 2013 roll out in all its glory.
But on 13 January, my husband and I were mugged, and I came very close to serious injury. Even today, I am amazed that I survived with only a 20 cent sized scar on my shoulder. I shudder at the thought of being dragged down that road, and now, no longer think of it, except with thankfulness that it shook me up positively. Because the trauma of it stayed with me, it was the catalyst for changing my original ‘let it flow’ beginning to the year. Suddenly, time had become important. Life and the resulting circumstances that can come at you from left, front or back without warning, catapulted me into a sense of urgency. It was time to get on with not just living, but a true life purpose.
Later that month, after having been down a black hole, things seemed to get worse. I became the target of a cruel social network campaign, led by a small group of women who were later to teach me one of my biggest lessons of the year. They gaggled in a frenzy, inventing cartoons and nicknames. (The Sheriff of Nottingham was one. Disparaging as he was as a rapist and thief, it showed ignorance that his character was aligned to a woman, and lack of education that the analogy was so far bent that it was incredulous, although I did not feel that way at the time!) However, the bullying had a far deeper impact. For three days, I curled in a ball. At one point, I called my husband to come home, I was frightened of the space I was in. I only put my head up to check the vicious attacks. For weeks I wondered what I had done. My step-niece contacted me to be on Channel 9 about the muggings. I said yes, she is an up and coming reporter in Sydney and her producer had contacted her and others, to see if anyone knew me. As it turned out, she did!
I appeared on the news and got emails about how I had “contacted Channel 9” to get my bit of fame. Seriously, I will never understand why people make things up. But it all served a purpose and as they whirled in their own cackling storm, I grew stronger. Other criticisms followed this year. I began to understand how the media worked. And was amused that some who were active in the media, threw their own word-bombs. Slowly, it was time to step back, and pursue what was, not what wasn’t.
By February, I had put my head well and truly out of the trenches. While the jibes got louder, I pushed through. By March, I launched my first book, Things you need to know about Bali. It was 500 pages of things that travellers needed to or might need to know, about travelling around Bali (and really, South East Asia). But the book felt empty. There was something missing and for the life of me, I couldn’t define it. I launched it anyway, at around the same time an email came in from Jack Canfield’s marketing team, inviting me to a retreat, to ‘fast-track my life purpose’, or words to that effect. The price tag, waaaaay down the bottom of the page, was stupendous! I sat on it, made a call at one in the morning to the VP of organising, Alice, and the next morning, cautiously showed it to my husband.
“Do it.” They were the only words he said, before adding, “You must.”
Zoom through a couple of months to May, and there I was, standing amongst a group of already successful people, some of them authors or publishers, most of them wildly wealthy, or on the way there. Jack met me at the front, offering a huge bear hug. I’ve already shared this experience in an earlier blog, but life was about to get crazy from that point on.
The jibes continued, but my sensors slowly tuned out of their frequency. For three weeks, I sat writing a marketing plan, and Bali Soul Journals emerged. I’ve already shared how Trish and I connected to create it together, and you’ve likely watched on Facebook as we set a date and pushed fearlessly toward it.
Late November, we printed it, perfect in its imperfection. Quickly we found errors, pulled it apart (never put two perfectionists on a team together!) and then just as rapidly, forgave ourselves, and patted ‘us’ on the back for having had the guts, drive and energy to do it in the first place. We both invested significantly in both time and money, but were on a road to who knows where. We both just knew we were on it together, and giving up wasn’t an option.
As we herald in any new year, we look back on the one that was. The Soul Journals journey was one of the most remarkable of my life, which also clarified many of the lessons I experienced through the year.
The first and most powerful realisation, was that we are all connected. I’d loosely held an ideal of this in my head, but when you interview over 16 people, all of high calibre and insight, you begin to look at life with different eyes. Many of the themes they spoke of reached out and touched another’s. Each had a firm belief of their role in not just their own success, but that of the broader community. Depending on their life experience and age, the breadth of connection only grew as they got older.
The second was the mirror principle. I’d long understood that what we see in others is a reflection of what is in ourselves. As Colin Tipping said, “if ya spot it, ya got it!” What this means is that whenever you criticise someone, it’s likely that what you are mouthing off about (crudely put, but this is usually what we do!), is likely something others might see in you! Wow! And oops! I marvelled at this throughout the year. The bullies on Facebook all revealed their inner hypocrisy. What they criticised me for, was something that was obvious was a weakness in them. “Looking for her two-cents of fame!” crowed one, who brandied self-promoting articles around the web! The more I listened, the more they revealed about themselves. And, that was okay! I was able to finally accept that they were on their own journey, just the same as the amazing people I was interviewing. They likely also had incredible stories. We all do. Lesson one…we are all connected.
This learning came painfully, as it should. Each time I opened my own mouth, I was now learning something about myself! That’s where the “oops” comes in! But the more I spoke with people about Bali, the more I learned as well. It went both ways. Their incredible insights were highlighting their own very awesomeness within. And this was very humbling.
Which led me to lesson three. That every person has a story, if you just take time to listen.
I’m a pretty good listener, but this has improved as I realised the truth about the mirror. Instead of judging, or shifting comments into pre-determined baskets, I was starting to listen and look for the journey, the lesson, the insights. This is an amazing thing to do, if you want to try it. Sit down with a friend, and ‘interview’ them. Let the conversation flow wherever it wants to. All you need to do is either ask another question, or give feedback about a comment they have made, to make sure you’ve understood. You don’t need to agree with them, or disagree. Just let them talk, all the while looking for their story.
This was one of the most powerful privileges I was allowed while writing Bali Soul Journals. People opened up so much, that I had to edit heavily, to ensure I preserved their privacy. We decided to keep two stories out of the journals, as they were simply too shocking and out of the theme of the book. (Don’t worry, they are wonderful stories, and will be used later, when the moment is right.)
I also learned about the courage that so many carry, quietly and humbly. When you are shown this, face to face, heart to heart, life takes on a different hue. The troubles others overcame, simply by getting on with it, often moved Trish and I later to simply sit and be speechless with each other.
Lessons and more lessons, it was a big year! I learned from my adversaries as well. And those who were more on the outer of my friendship group. My response had been somewhat miffed after one little occasion not needing to be elaborated on, but it was her a) response of indignance and b) comment about me, that made me sit up and take notice! She said, “Why do you have such a problem with being successful?” Whew! That was insightful! The time with Jack had been all about learning about my being in my own way, and here it came from someone who barely knew me!
Her indignant response was also another ‘aha’ moment. Suddenly, I began seeing little quotes pop up on Facebook, explaining that when people responded defensively, it revealed what was going on in their own world. How easy it was to have compassion for them then, instead of anger. (Well, in truth, it did take a couple of days!)
And all of these lessons, from one little year, but more so, one huge journey writing a book!
So, onto 2014! 2013 began without a road map. 2014 has a very clear one. It’s taken a full year, and that doesn’t count the learning that came before that!
Not many know that I have been ‘writing a book’ for five years. Even fewer know that I have held this dream for over a decade. It may not be a best seller yet, and we have no idea where it is going to take us, but there is now a plan. As they say, if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
For the connections I have made this year, I’m incredibly grateful. My adversaries have taught me mountains and made me stronger, and I look back on them with gladness.
The one last moment of the year that made me feel so very honoured to be on this road, was with that of a young lady. In July, Trish and I interviewed her over some three hours for the book. I wrote an article. I rewrote it until I loved it. And then we shelved it. Not for its worth, far from it. She is one of the most amazing people on the planet I have met. But that Soul Journals had taken a very spiritual turn, and we hadn’t spoken to her in depth about this.
Later this year, she sent me a note, asking to see some of my photography. I directed her to a couple of places, and thought no more of it. A few weeks later, she asked if I would photograph some intimate shots of her and her husband. The reason was at the time, confidential, but was because she was heading to Singapore to have her breasts removed and rebuilt, after she had learned she possessed the gene that would almost guarantee her death in her forties. Just like her mother.
I sat with it, but something made me just say ‘yes’, even though I found it confronting. To witness a woman so beautiful, in tender moments with her husband, before heading off to literally have part of her human soul removed, something that defined her as a woman, was beyond anything I could imagine. It was not only a leap of faith and trust, of her in me, but was forcing me to face reality. Others do have bigger issues. She kept hers private, until after her surgery. She carried on with grace and dignity, all the while carrying this burden of news and decision to be made.
The morning began with a clear blue sky, and Trish and I both set out with our cameras. I mentioned how grateful I was that she was also here, to add strength for all of us and, another photographic perspective. Our photographs reveal a love that runs deep between two people. It grounded us, refreshed us, humbled us. We drank a cold beer afterwards, as she shared her fears.
So as I close 2013 and reflect on what it was for me, in truth, it was what it was for others. When you were belittling me, I got stronger and saw your fear. When you loved me, I marvelled that I was enough to be loved, and thrived. When you were angry with me, I saw your anger with yourself. When you forgave me, I saw the compassion I possessed. When you hated me, I loved myself even more. And when you shared with me your stories, your journey and your pain, you gave me gratitude and comfort and grounded me. Every single person gave something, and on 28 December, I hope that in some way, over the past long year, I gave something back.
When you closed a door, I opened another. Once, it was for not responding to emails. As that friend departed, another appeared. At times, I closed doors myself, in order to cleanse the page, focus more clearly.
And I looked at every single opportunity and connection made in 2013 and am still shaking my head with the wonder of it. Not just for the connections that made sense, like meeting a publisher. But for those which at the time, made little sense.
And when all of you who connected gave me these lessons, I ventured back home to a wonderful life, full of humility, pain and growth. A human life, that is but a speck in the bigger scheme of things, where problems are sent to help us, not hinder us. Where we get delivered what we focus on. And a life that we get out of, exactly what we desire, if we but look for it.
I am looking forward to 2014 like an toe-hopping kid at the gates of a carnival. Not to put 2013 behind me, but to embrace all the lessons I have reflected on over the last month or so, the culmination of so much, in such a short time. To, in no particular order!… Trish, Anna, mum, Christine, Agung, Don, Tanya, Pepi, John, Amanda, Nani, Peta, Chris V, Murni, John, Marg and all of the amazing people who gave up their time for interviews, Natalia, Samantha, Kerry, Tracy/ey (s…there are a few of you!), Rachel, Liz, Kath, Ade, Kate, Sandy, Mercedes, Jack and team ………okay, there are quite a few who impacted this year in so many ways. And these are just the hugely positive ones!
Thank you to Bill. Words can’t describe how it is to have someone like you, believing in me when I don’t, cheering me on, when I can’t. I am sure you see much more in me than there is, but am eternally grateful that you do.
Hoping everyone can reflect on 2013 and pounce on 2014 with all your lessons and experiences safely under your belt.
Have a wonderful new year. See you in the new year with some special blogs on Bali. The job is far from over.
And wishing Trish, and her new grandson and all of her family, an extra special 2014. Thank you. You know why 😉
Lots of love,