Tag Archives: self

Quote: Living With Yourself.

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

–Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

As hard as it it to live with someone else, perhaps the most difficult person to live is ourselves.

After all, we live with our selves twenty four hours a day seven days a week from birth right through to eternity. That’s way longer than being stuck in the same lift with someone…anyone!!

When I was younger, I used to get frustrated when my Mum would think she knew me better than I knew myself. Who did she think she was? She wasn’t me. She wasn’t walking in my shoes. Indeed, she had her own shoes and she could jolly well step straight back in them and leave my shoes alone!!

However, I have lately come to appreciate that we only know ourselves from the inside out.. through our own eyes, our own experience and let’s faceit, when you’ve only been on the planet for 5 short years, your understanding of the bigger picture and wider world is extremely limited.

Those around us, particularly who know us well but also have a broader experience and knowledge of life, can not only see us but also where and how we might fit into the overall scheme of things. They can see abilities in us we might overlook or downplay as well because so many of us are our own worst critics. In putting ourselves down or aiming for a perfection we can never attain, we can completely dismiss our strengths and fail to become all we were meant to be.

Rowena sea steps

Returning to the quote, however, that deals more with our conscience. That it doesn’t matter what other people think or hold dear, we must be true to our own values and conscience. Stand up and be counted…even if we are the one…that lone voice calling out through the wilderness.

After all, only we need to live with ourselves…and our actions and inactions. No one else.

As Edmund Burke wrote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Moreover, for those of you who are a bit like me and feel you can’t do much, he also wrote:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Edmund Burke

It is so much easier for us to point the finger out, instead of pointing it in and asking: “What is my role? What do I need to do? Not someone else…just me.

What are your views? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

I would like to thank Merril Smith for sharing the quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird, which inspired this post. You can read her post here: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/walk-and-talk/

Like Your Life Depends On It: Life Lessons from Dancing

Another great jolt to pursue our passions! xx Rowena

Fot some reason, this didn’t reblog properly so here’s a link through to the original post: https://sirenatales.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/like-your-life-depends-on-it-life-lessons-from-dancing-2/

Carpe diem seize the day all!

xx Rowena

Sirena Tales

The gifted, generous choreographer and dancer Robert Battle was spurring us to dig deeper in performing the movement phrase he had just taught us. Although I took his classes years ago, I can still feel the thrill of hearing him urge that “when you dance, you should move as if your life depends on it!”

The drama and sweep of that statement have galvanized me on more than a few occasions. But I confess that it took awhile for me to appreciate just how far-reaching the ramifications are for Mr. Battle’s fabulous advice.

Photo: Essennelle Studios Photo: Essennelle Studios

I was reminded of this again yesterday as I was buying a book about dance at a lovely independent bookstore. When the young woman who had been helping me was ringing up the sale, she paused, and suddenly asked if I am a dancer? Yes! What kind of dance? Contemporary or modern.

Her face…

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In Pursuit of Character: The Proust Questionnaire

Although I’ve spent many years trying to refine and improve my own character, attempting of course, to become more virtuous, this journey is more about the pursuit of character development. How to develop complex and meaningful characters in our writing.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
Helen Keller

Or, in the case of the Book Project, creating myself as a character which is authentic and yet will inevitably end up being some kind of fiction.

I'm a veteran journal writer.

I’m a veteran journal writer.

I dipped my toe into these incredibly deep waters as I wrote about myself on my train trip to Sydney, trying to view myself through the eyes of the other passengers, who are of course, complete strangers:

Me, Myself & I: Writing A Complex Character Profile https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/me-myself-i-writing-a-complex-character-profile/

This proved quite useful but was obviously very superficial and based on how I looked, my actions.

I mean, perhaps this said a lot more about me than I’d like to believe. After all, as we’re observing others, we feel quite invisible and yet we could equally be the subjects of their study. They could indeed be writing about us. Did you ever think of that?

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
Henry Ford

The train trip home proved more insightful, confirming indeed that I was protagonist and antagonist rolled into one, as my creative diversions made me late for my medical appointment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/surry-hills-to-gore-hill-sydney-a-hill-climbing-odyssey/

To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.
P. G. Wodehouse

Anyway, some time ago, I heard about the Proust Questionnaire and decided to work my way through this in the same way I worked the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge…one set topic per day and by the end of the month, I had knocked over quite a lot of writing. I was rather surprised…and impressed. If you had asked me to write that many words in a month, I would’ve balked. Of course, all those words came at a price and I was viewed as something of a ghost on the home front that month but I was thrilled to pull it off. After all, it showed me that I was truly capable of writing longer works (and indeed completing the book project if only I could get started!).

Writing to a set topic everyday was quite a change for me. After all, I have unwittingly always been a “panster”, not a planner when I write. I’d never heard much about terms like “protagonist”, “antagonist”. I just had my thesaurus. Besides, if you are a good story teller, these things are what makes a good story, whether you give them formal titles or not.

BUT…

While all this creative spontaneity might work for a shorter work, I am thinking that more planning and structure is required to pull of the Book Project. Much of the book concerns what happened but I am wanting to fully develop the text by having fully developed characters and a strong sense of place as well. These have turned out to be much more complex than I thought because how I see myself is no doubt quite different to how others see me. Moreover, each different observer, has their own viewpoint and perspective. While it is very tempting at this point to say it’s all just too hard and to just create a fiction, I am going to persevere.

writer at work...Perisher 2012.

writer at work…Perisher 2012.

Indeed, it has become something of a challenge.

After all, anybody can make up a character. It’s quite another thing to capture what is in a way that strangers can fully understand. Strangers who, by the way, live all around the world and might not quite appreciate some Australianisms.

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.”
― Henry David Thoreau

In order to pursue character development further, I have decided to turn to the Proust Questionnaire like so many other writers have done before me. Author Marcel Proust didn’t actually invent this questionnaire. Rather, such questionnaires were popular in the day and his friend Antoinette asked him this list of questions. It was a way of getting to know your friends and your self better, which translates well into developing the back story for your characters across a range of creative pursuits such as writing, painting acting.

Here’s the list as it appeared at The Writing Practice: http://thewritepractice.com/proust-questionnaire/:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Which living person do you most admire?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Which living person do you most despise?
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
When and where were you happiest?
Which talent would you most like to have?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Where would you most like to live?
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
What is your favorite occupation?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Who are your favorite writers?
Who is your hero of fiction?
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What are your favorite names?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is your greatest regret?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?

There are 35 questions, which makes it roughly one question every day for just over a month. It might take me a few days to tackle the more challenging questions, while on other days, I might make it through a few. While I do want to get through this in a disciplined and focused manner, I don’t want to rush it and gloss over the weightier issues just to adhere to a schedule. I am doing this to learn, create, extend and understand myself better, which could well benefit from a better focus on the clock but won’t be governed by it…if that makes sense.

My shadow in Surry Hills

My shadow in Surry Hills

I now invite you to join me on this journey either writing about yourself as a character or to answer the questions through the eyes of a character you are working on. Feel free to respond in the comments section or to write your own posts, which can be linked through in the comments as well.

So, Who are you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WseRJMQf1U

This is going to be a very intriguing and challenging journey.

xx Rowena

PS I recommend you read this post by Ula at Broccoli Addict: 5 Questions Before You Write Your First Draft https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/5-questions-before-you-write-the-first-draft/

A Blank Canvas…

I don’t know whether I would call it procrastination, avoidance, hyperactivity or just too much prednisone because today I actually managed to clean the fridge.

There has to be some psychological term to explain my latest cleaning frenzy…a category all of its own in DSM IV or whatever the good book is called. I am quite ideologically opposed to cleaning and I only do it when I really have to. That said, I have also realised that now I’m a grown up, I can’t just throw all my crap in my cupboard, force the door shut and believe it’s all just going to magically self-sort. These days, it turns out, I have become the proverbial fairy, wielding my not so magic wand…clunk!

I think I might just blame the prednisone. I’m blaming it for everything right now! It’s a bit like being pregnant!

Anyway, before you get all excited about what rotten remains I’ve “discovered” in the fridge, I haven’t reached the inside of the fridge yet. I’m just talking about the fridge door.

So I’ll get you to sit down with your cup of tea and just think about fridge doors for a few minutes…

The more I think about it, the fridge door is actually something of a canvas. It’s blank. It’s white. You can let your imagination run totally wild.  Sure, like any canvas, of course there are boundaries…limits…a frame. Yet within that space, anything is possible although I would just advise against a completely literal interpretation of my “fridge door as canvas” concept. I strongly advise against painting on the fridge door itself. My daughter has written on our fridge door in permanent marker which at this point of time, is looking way too permanent. After all, the whole point is to be ephemeral. Your canvas is constantly changing, evolving…a melting pot of things past, present and maybe even future.

However, this “fridge door as canvas” concept is a long way from where I started out this morning. This morning my fridge door was looking something in between a dog’s breakfast and a very chaotic whirlwind. As I looked at everything stuck on top of it, I’m sure I could even detect whirly patterns. It was rather disconcerting as I wondered what the state of the fridge door actually said about me? Was this my reflection?

Then I got a bit stuck. I didn’t quite know how you are supposed to arrange all those fridge magnet thingys. It seems a bit anal having them all lined up in neat little rows like Monopoly houses but my ephemera was looking like it had been in a whirlwind. You know how it is. The magnets fall off and you just put them back anywhere before they get stamped on by the hoardes.

In an act which could only be described as desperation, I pulled absolutely everything off the fridge until it was completely and utterly naked…bare. It was actually quite a strange sight and all that white actually looked pretty glary. I needed my snow goggles on to deal with such vast expanse of white. I was in very unfamiliar territory. I, as you will come to know, am the Clutter Queen!

I re-discovered this message from a friend who had helped declutter my kitchen a few years ago.

As much as my fridge door might be messy, it is also glamorously eclectic and bursting with meaning, history…just like me! My entire life story is on that fridge door much of it preserved in the actual fridge magnets themselves. Not that I officially collect fridge magnets but maybe I do after all.

After

Perhaps, the oldest fridge magnet I have, is a hand-painted ceramic painting of a border collie. I bought that at Glebe Markets about 15 years ago when I was living in a converted warehouse apartment just off Broadway and I thought anywhere beyond the inner city was the outback and to avoided at all costs. We are now onto our second real Border Collie.

There is another series of fridge magnets, also from Glebe Markets by artist Liza Paizis. They are heavenly inspired. I love, love, love her work. She has subsequently moved back to South Africa but she is online. I was seriously distracted looking her up!! You can check her work out at http://www.zhibit.org/lizapaizis

Last year, I discovered the Flower Fairies by Cicely May Barker. You can see that I live in my imagination but her illustrations of local village children as flowers as so beautiful…more superlatives! See: http://www.flowerfairies.com/ I have a series of flower fairy fridge magnets which I picked up in Sandford, Brisbane when visiting my cousins.

I also have not one but three Kombi magnets. I have very fond memories of my first visit to Byron Bay back in 1995 and seeing rows of Kombis parked beside the beach. I had sold my artistic soul out to the corporate sector back then and had found visiting Byron so liberating!! Byron was still fairly  hippy.

I have been dreaming of running away in a Kombi ever since. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ultimate midlife crisis vehicle. I mean if you’re really going to run away from it all, you can’t fit everything into a teeny red convertible. Moreover, a sports car towing a trailer just isn’t a good look! You could literally fit the kitchen sink in the back of a Kombi. It’s my kind of vehicle!

Back when I was still breastfeeding and an active member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), we made our own fridge magnets as a fundraiser. We brought in photos, which were turned into fridge magnets in much the same way you’d make badges. That was about 8 years ago and I thought they were so cool. There’s one with my son and aunty posing in front of the laughing clowns at the Marburg Show when he was only weeks old.

Just like getting married, there’s something old and something new…

It seems I have added quite substantially to the fridge magnet collection this year. You know that fabulous feeling when you’re on holidays and buying a fridge magnet has been my way of letting that moment extend… or even last forever.

In January, on our way to Byron Bay, we visited the Pet Porpoise Pool at Coffs Harbour. I just had to buy a couple of magnets there so I could look at the seals and dolphins when I got home. We’d been so up close and personal that we could almost smell their fishy breath from the stands. We all enjoyed seal and dolphin kisses as well although I can assure you, we all washed our faces thoroughly afterwards.

There are also some postcards from Nelson Bay. I went there on an adventure camp with Muscular Dystrophy NSW and went parasailing, quad-bike riding, dolphin watching and chatted and chatted with an inspirational group of people.

Lastly, just a few weeks ago, I bought a couple of fridge magnets from the National Gallery in Canberra, on our way back from the snow. There’s The Rose 1958 by Salvador Dali. I really liked this painting with a huge reddish rose hovering in the sky. I have always been a fan of Keats whose Ode to Melancholy suggests:

“But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud…
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose…”

I particularly liked Dali’s less conventional take on the classic rose. I stuck that on the fridge as a reminder to bounce back when the going gets tough (which it inevitably does for everyone eventually).

I also couldn’t resist Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly 1946. This painting shows a rear-view of Ned riding a horse and there’s a “window” cut into his helmet and you see the clouds in his head. This surrealist image has always appealed to me, as my own head is often in the clouds. We took the kids to see the Ned Kelly Series while we were at the gallery and our son tripped over the protective gutter and literally crashed into Constable Fitzpatrick and Kate Kelly. Fortunately, no alarms bells went off but a copy of painting is also plastered on the side of the fridge. I’m a bad mother!

There is also a magnet from Questacon. We all loved Questacon!!

I also have a few magnets with motivational sayings. There’s the Footprints poem. “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. – Joe Ancis and a photo of an elephant’s foot about to step on a mouse with the caption: “It could always get worse!”

I did throw a few magnets out today but even though our son is 8 and Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t quite so cool anymore, I couldn’t throw poor Thomas out. He stays.

I also added a photo of our family taken down at the snow as few weeks ago.

Our daughter’s artwork

But no fridge door is complete without artwork…especially when you have young kids. Our daughter loves drawing rainbows and they really are very good at turning your mood around. How could you ever look at a rainbow and feel sad? I have a self-portrait by our son up as well as something he calls the never-starting never-ending picture. He ended up putting a bloodshot eyeball in it. He’s rubbed dirt in his eye that day and ended up off at the doctor and returning looking like Pirate Pete.

Our son’s drawing: The Never-starting, Never-ending Picture”

As much as I’ve been steadily collecting these fridge magnets over the years, I’ve never thought about them like this before. Done an inventory and joined all the dots. It’s quite amazing really when you consider what a simple fridge door can say about who you really are.

Well, just one last word about what isn’t on my fridge door.

I have a magnetic whiteboard beside the fridge and it is the organiser albeit with a huge paper sunflower made by our daughter stuck to one side. I just can’t seem to stick to the straight and narrow!

What do you have stuck on your fridge door? I’d love to hear your stories too!