The Centre for Lessons Learned | On the Fear of Disconnection

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote

This is more a lesson I’m trying to learn actually.

“Shame is the fear of disconnection. That something we’ve done or something we are makes us unworthy of connection.” – Brené Brown

I just really need to not give a fuck. I’m 32 this year, I think it’s about time I stop worrying about what other people think of me.

I need to learn that if I meet new people and don’t make any new friends it’s not a judgement on me as a human being. At worst it means I’m shit at making friends, which is true.

The Other Lesson I’m Trying to Learn

I was reminded of this lesson I’ve been meaning to learn when I was reading my book, “Anne of Green Gables”, this morning. Anne was fretting about doing and saying the right things at a dinner date at Mrs Allan’s and Marilla scolded her:

“The trouble with you, Anne, is that you’re thinking too much about yourself. You should just think of Mrs. Allan and what would be nicest and most agreeable to her”.

I once read an interesting perspective on shyness, which described it as fundamentally selfish as the shy person is only thinking about themselves and their own discomfort. I think it’s such an elegant solution to shyness to simply invert one’s focus. I’ve always admired people who are welcomers, who have a natural grace and put other’s at ease.

I’m feeling so good now you guys! This is why I write. I can’t think things through like this without writing.

And you thought this was an art blog.

Things I’m Afraid to Tell You

Things I m Afraid to Tell You

I came across this blog post on Creature Comforts a long time ago and have been meaning to write my own ever since. It turns out that “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You” was a huge blog movement in 2012. Huffington Post wrote an article about it. It was a backlash against the blog world’s tendency to portray the lives of bloggers in a perfect, sanitised, and censored light. If anything, I worry about the opposite – that I say too much and share too much of my negativity. Even so, I appreciate the idea so here it goes.

  1. I don’t have a tribe and probably never will. I don’t identify with the online all-female mixed-media shabby-chic clique. I’m too cynical for all the new-age spiritualism and just generally feel like misbehaving and being contrarian when in this environment. I realise that a hefty proportion of readers of this blog are of this persuasion and I hope me saying I don’t feel an affinity to this group doesn’t leave you feeling judged. It’s just not for me. It’s cool if it’s for you.

  2. I spent most of my twenties never ever initiating get-togethers with friends because this requires a belief that people actually want to spend time with you and enjoy your company. The idea of doing anything for my birthday still terrifies me. To me, birthdays are annual popularity evaluations.

  3. I’m ashamed of how unproductive I am. I’m so appalled that it’s February already and I’ve achieved nothing. I have absolutely no excuse for this.

This is supposed to be when I say how freeing and real I feel now, but I’ve spent so long trying to think of scary things to tell you all I just generally feel a bit down. I hope somebody got something out of this. In hindsight this is probably only a cathartic exercise when you’re doing it as a blog challenge with hundreds of other bloggers. Doing it wrong…

Introducing Our Piece of Earth: Piper’s Moon

After 3.5 years of living nomadically and a year of house-sitting/staying with the in-laws in 2013, we finally have a place to nest and call home. It’s my very great pleasure to introduce “Piper’s Moon”.

Check out that wisteria. There’s a grapevine entangled in the verandah railing a bit further down too.

Pipers Moon 1

In winter when all the deciduous trees have lost their leaves, this view opens up and we can see all the way over to the next mountain ridge and watch the fog drift through the valley.

Pipers Moon 2

This is the view of the back of the house. The kitchen is in that centre pokey-out-bit right behind the ginormous tree fern, with a breakfast nook overlooking the garden. It was very important to me to have at least part of the house on the same level as the garden. My least favourite thing about Hills homes is that the great majority of them are on stilts, so the houses generally float above the garden and the most common view is the canopy of the trees. This can be quite beautiful of course but I don’t like the feeling of separation between house and garden. I want to be able to sit inside and watch the rain patter on the garden. I want to be able to walk straight out into the garden not along a verandah and down the stairs. I want to be able to create the view out our window.

Pipers Moon 3

And this view is from underneath our copper beech (it’s HUGE!) of the opposite side of the house to the photo above, which is the back of the house, but this isn’t the front of the house. I’m not sure what to call it.

Pipers Moon 5

We have two open fireplaces. TWO! One of them is in the room I think I’ll be claiming as my studio! There are actually two rooms with studio potential. It’s easy to narrow down good studio candidates as you want a southerly aspect (if you’re in the southern hemisphere). This is because direct sunlight wreaks havoc with painting. Piper’s moon only has two suitable rooms with a southerly aspect. The one with the fireplace is upstairs – you can see its chimney on the left in the photo above. The other room is downstairs – it’s the bottom picture window in the photo above. I’ll probably just give them both a whirl and see which one suits.

Pipers Moon 6

Obviously, I’m hopelessly in love with her name. I’ll admit, it made me want her a little bit more.

Pipers Moon 4

There’s too much to say on this topic. Should I tell you about the little girl who yearned for this day? Who looked forward to this most of all about adulthood? Should I tell you about the many twists and turns our plans took over the years sat in our motorhome, dreaming about where we’d end up. About the architectural plans we drew up and the virtual models on the computer? Or perhaps what the last year was like and my despair in December when I realised the market wouldn’t pick back up again until spring 2014; only to have Piper’s Moon listed 4 days before Christmas! Even once we’d decided she was the one it was a rough ride as our building inspection turned up a major structural defect and the first quote we received to fix the problem was absolutely astronomical.

There is too much I could write on this subject. I feel an overwhelming need to wax lyrical about the Dandenong Ranges; the little piece of heaven which we now own a little piece of but I’m keenly aware I’ve already done this.

For the sake of thoroughness, the Dandenong Ranges (or The Hills, as the locals call them) consist of steep, densely forested hills dissected by deeply cut streams and lush gullies full of fern trees. The Hills are an oasis of temperate rainforest, dominated by the giant Mountain Ash, many over 100m tall. Due to the elevation, fog is common in winter months and it has been known to snow. We miss the clear delineations between seasons of Europe but at least we have a chance of snow up in The Hills and our property is full of mature deciduous trees! Two things uncommon to most of Australia.

I can’t express how excited I am about gardening. And buying original art and hanging them from our picture rails. And having a real studio!

An Essay On (My) Life, The Universe And Everything

Katherine Herriman

I’ve been feeling somewhat adrift this year. Since quitting my full-time job 4 years ago to live nomadically in Europe, I’ve always had forward momentum in my life. In the first couple of years it was all I could do to just focus on re-designing my entire life, my entire me. Becoming an artist. Struggling with learning technique, learning mediums, remembering how to draw. Drowning in information about blogging and selling online and scaling that learning curve. All the while living in foreign countries and just trying to soak it all in.

Then, last year I opened my Etsy shop and I had that to focus on. So far this year my only real goal or forward momentum has been to make paintings and list them in my Etsy shop. As it turns out, this isn’t enough. I’ve been feeling deeply unmotivated this year.

All year, I’ve had a sense of emptiness. Travelling Europe the way we did was such an enormous dream of mine; something I’ve dreamt about since I was a child. And whilst we were doing it our lives had an inherent meaning. We were living a dream. Throughout this year when I tried to come up with a similarly compelling dream for my art I couldn’t think of anything. Artist-me grew up on a diet of Kelly Rae Roberts’ teachings; the main doctrine being to “dream big”. I think maybe I don’t want big. Maybe vagabonding around Europe was my big.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve struggled with defining success, knowing what it looks like for me. This of course has a lot to do with not having any goal posts. I’ve read a lot of other people’s definitions of success and the few that have resonated somewhat with me I’ve made note of. One in particular I read on The Minimalists blog is:

Happiness + Constant Improvement + Contribution = Success

On Happiness

I mostly like this emotional equation, although I have a problem with “happiness”. Happiness seems like a meta-category of a lot of different things to me. More like a result than an action. The other two elements of the equation are or can be actionable verbs, whereas “happiness” is something that happens to you as a result of other things. I feel the need to break “happiness” down to its lowest common denominator. I think a more useful understanding of what I think the author means by “happiness” is this from Tim Ferriss:

“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase… When people suggest you follow your “passion” or your “bliss”, I propose that they are, in fact referring to the same singular concept: excitement… The question you should be asking isn’t, ‘What do I want?’ or ‘What are my goals?’ but ‘What would excite me’?”

On Constant Improvement

This one’s a no-brainer. If my work was to stagnate and my art didn’t improve from this point forth there could be no happiness.

On Contribution

I believe that “contribution” is about meaning. It’s hard to find meaning in one’s life if it isn’t intersecting with anyone else’s. Like excitement/happiness I think “meaning” would be a more accurate word here as I believe “contribution” is simply the most obvious way of creating meaning. Another possible synonym is “connection”. Connection to something bigger than oneself.

I much prefer the equation with these tweaks:

Excitement + Constant Improvement + Meaning = Success

Why The Hell Are You Doing All This?

When rifling through the blog posts I’ve saved on this topic I came across one titled, “Unmotivated to Get Shit Done? Here’s Why”. I actually find this blog post a bit obnoxious, possibly solely because it quotes “The Millionaire Fastlane”, which sounds like the epitome of douch-baggery. However, the essence of the post is: “Those magical cocaine-blowing-insanely-focused people have a strong sense of why.”

Yeah, I don’t know what cocaine blowing is either. Isn’t that the opposite of what you’re supposed to do with cocaine. Or is that the point? Anyway…

Why The Hell Am I Creating Art?

  • Because I believe most things human-made detract from the beauty in the world and that makes me sad.
  • Because when I wasn’t creating I would become angry-jealous when I saw wonderful things I wish I had made/could make.
  • Because art is the only thing I’ve been vaguely above-average at.
  • Because the frustration of not being able to translate inspiration into action is one of the worst feelings in the world and the joy of the converse is one of the best.
  • Because before I ever began painting, art supply stores would fill me with a deep sense of yearning and I inexplicably enjoyed just being surrounded by art materials.
  • Because I remember feeling a deep sense of disappointment with reality as a child and I’ve never lost the wish that it was little bit more magical, a little bit stranger, a little bit more artful.

Completing the Equation

I feel like clarifying my “Why” has answered the “Meaning” part of the equation for me. As long as I keep painting I can’t not fulfil the “Constant Improvement” factor. Which just leaves “Excitement”. I essentially started this blog post saying that nothing excited me. That was true until just a few days ago.

When we were still in Nettle (our motorhome in Europe for any newbs), Mike told me of a children’s picture book he remembered very fondly. The way he described it made me intensely curious to check it out when we got back to Australia. I only remembered this a few days ago when we were staying with Mike’s mother in his childhood home and asked if she knew where it was. She put her hand on it almost immediately. That night we went to bed, and read the book out loud. It was delightful and magical and ridiculous and so so inspiring. It was the type of children’s book I’d be deeply proud to have created myself and the thought of making my own truly excited me.

I’m going to write a children’s book.

Epilogue

The irony that this blog post exists next to one in my sidebar titled “The Big List of Dreams” is not lost on me. However, if you read it you’ll learn that I was participating, with some skepticism, in an online group which not only subscribed to the “Dream Big” philosophy but extended it to “Dream Broad”. Turns out, I’m more of a depth girl, myself. I have no idea why this post has persisted in the “Popular Posts” category for as long as it has.

Aspiring to Nest

Writing this blog post induces many a twinge. Since settling back in Australia my partner and I have been house hunting whilst we bounce between various, temporary house-sitting jobs. As I write this, our belongings are strewn across the spare bedroom in my mother-in-law’s house as a result of us rifling through boxes and bags to find things we need in the 6-day interim between house-sits. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the immense good-fortune we’ve had in finding enough house-sits to last the better part of a year but, it’s getting old. I’m ready to have a home again.

We’ve had a surprising amount of near misses with house-hunting this year. Everyone says, “you’ll know it when you see it”, which is a feeling I’ve actually felt on several occasions but there’s always been some major, deal-breaking detraction. I’ve never been told, “you’ll know it when you see it but you’ll find one reason or another to hold out for something better”. Are we doing it wrong?

First, there was what the real estate agents dubbed the “Hobbit House” (they know their market):

Hobbit House

The absolute deal-breaker with the Hobbit House was the busy tourist road at the bottom of the garden.

Then came a house I loved even more than the Hobbit House:

Notre Dame

Notre Dame 2

I adored this house but Mike didn’t and I have to admit, his reasons for not loving it were all valid.

Next, there was the circa 1917 guest house of the Belgian Consulate, which I love beyond all reason:

Tremont

Tremont 2

Tremont 3

Tremont 4

Images do not do this house justice. It was very higgledy-piggledy and labyrinthine with amazing valley views. The tragedy of this gorgeous beast is its location. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but we’re looking for a house in the Dandenong Ranges (“The Hills”) – an area of outstanding natural beauty, east of Melbourne. Unfortunately, my dream house is located in the edge between “The Flats” (nasty suburbia) and where The Hills get good. Sob, sob.

The weekend before last we had a glut of house inspections, one of which came very close to being “the one” and another was never really a serious contender but deserves an honourable mention.

This house gave me the “this is the one” feeling:

Colehurst

Colehurst 2

This house had what was possibly the most tragic deal-breaker to date. Not only was it a southerly aspect with a hill to its northern side (little sun, lots of damp), but the view from the property was nothing but manky pine trees. The tragedy is that the location is otherwise spectacularly good. It’s actually situated in one of my favourite residential areas in The Hills and is in walking distance to my favourite Hills town: Sassafrass. I think we may have found the only property in Sassafrass to have an ugly view.

I actually never fell in love with this next house but it gets an honourable mention because:

  1. Mike tried talking me into it
  2. The view!
  3. The studio!

Kallista

Kallista 2

Finally, there’s the house which ticked all the boxes but which was inexplicably not The One.

Lennox

On paper, this house was perfect. When we actually tried to imagine living in it though, we just couldn’t see how it could work. The layout was all wrong and just didn’t seem functional.

Writing this post has been rather therapeutic! I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about finding our home after listing just how many amazing houses we’ve found – it’s actually quite a hefty number. Having said that, it is 9 months worth of houses and how long can we keep saying no to amazing places?! Huh, that optimism was short-lived.

Taking the long-view, there is absolutely no rush. There is no benefit to rushing a decision that’s going to effect where we live for the rest of our lives (at least for the foreseeable distant-future). And yet, I want a home. Can I do this temporary living arrangement for another 9 months?