Friday, December 28, 2018

Fearless Friday - bodies

Body image is a whole lot of posts and thoughts and words, so I'll keep this to a tiny bit here today :)

I've been going for a massage that's sort of like a spiritual experience. It's Kahuna massage, and the woman also uses hot rocks (if I have a longer massage time).

It's like nothing I've ever experienced before. Not only is there the massaging of muscles, there's also movement of limbs and stretching. There's massaging of head, hands, feet. There's movement of energy. Sweeping away of energy. Reiki-type moves. Setting of intentions. Prayers. Releasing energy held in muscles and other parts of the body. The massage therapist moves as if in a dance. It's the most incredible experience.

The first one I had was a bit confronting. She asked me to strip off, leaving my underpants on and lie on the bed beneath a sarong. That's pretty standard for a massage. I had a modesty towel as well. About halfway through, she asked me to roll over. And that's not so unusual either. I rolled over, covered by the sarong.

And the massage continued...except my chest was uncovered. My chest was massaged. As it happened, it was just a part of the experience. The moves had no sexuality associated with them. It was muscle manipulation. There was no difference in the touch from the back to the front.

However, I'd never had a massage where my bra was removed and my breasts were exposed. Sometimes my bra was undone or removed, but always something covered my chest. So to have my body on display like that was a little disconcerting - not so much at the time, but afterwards when I thought about it, and especially when I described the massage to someone I was recommending it to.

Women's breasts are such an almost 'unacceptable' part of the body. We're told to cover them when breastfeeding. Topless sunbathing was a huge thing when I grew up and had very similar connotations to full nudity - which was that it was close to illegal (if not illegal). And's chests are revered, well, if they're well muscled, appropriately hair-covered or removed depending on the fashion. And truly, what's the difference? Women have more tissue and so the beasts are extended... should that make them 'disgusting' or 'shameful'?

The massage therapist and I had a discussion about the unusualness of having your chest massaged. I wanted to know why it was done - she was asking why it shouldn't be because it was a part of the body and needed the same care as all other parts. She's right. It is a neglected body part, and yet it needs the same care as the rest of the body.

Then I asked about how disconcerting for her underpants were. I'd noticed that her sweeping strokes along my body were always impeded by the fabric. She said, yes, she preferred to work without but that it was something quite difficult to ask people to do especially for their first visit. And yes, I don;t know I would have managed total nudity the first time...I'd been a bit surprised by the bralessness.

In the spirit of my new fearlessness, when I had a massage this week, I went with the full nudity. I had a modesty towel so no 'private bits' were exposed.

There was something really quite freeing about having this massage. The massage movements were much cleaner and powerful. I wish I could say that it wasn't at all uncomfortable...but I can't. Maybe next time I'll be more relaxed about the experience.

I don't mind exposing my body when there's no one to see it! It's a completely different story if someone's looking :) How I wish I grew up in Europe where body image and nudity seem to have far less hang-ups than in Australia (or my part of Australia anyway!).

How are you with nudity?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday - Damselfly

I learned the difference between a Dragonfly and a Damselfly last week. The Australian Museum has some info here.

There are four major differences, but one of the was really really obvious - Dragonflies keep their wings outstretched, whereas Damselflies fold theirs.

I never knew! I never even thought we had damselflies here. So when I saw what I thought was a dragonfly flit past me and settle on a small tree in the yard, I asked him to wait until I got my camera, please. I thought I had no hope, but when I got back outside, there he was, waiting patiently and beautifully.

At the time, I did think, "Huh? I didn't know that dragonflies folded their wings."

But I thought nothing more of it...until I stuck a photo on FB and someone corrected my dragonfly ID. Oops! Should have looked that up rather than just be excited and stick up a photo :)

So, here are some of the many damselfly photos I took of the incredibly beautiful and patient damselfly.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Fearless Friday - Yael Stone

I'm writing this on Tuesday, after watching the 7.30 Report last night and the interview Leigh Sales had with Yael Stone. If you haven't seen it, this link to the ABC article might help.

I was completely blown away by the composure, intelligence and articulate way Yael Stone addressed a terribly complex and divisive issue.

The #MeToo movement has been welcome, but it's caused discomfort too. I don't know that I could have articulated my feelings as well as Ms Stone did last night.

So many things she said were incredibly well thought out and thought through.

She said she has to forgive her 25-year-old self for not behaving in a way that she would now.

This is such a powerful message. It's something that came up at the RWA conference too. We're all reflections of society, our upbringing, the times we were in, the things that were expected of us at that time. 20/20 vision in hindsight is something everyone seems to have - but when you're in the trenches, dealing with the life you're trying to work out, sometimes you can't see over the edge, much less far in front or around the corner. Sometimes you don;t act as you wished you had. Admitting that is such a powerful thing.

She also said she could forgive the man who made her feel uncomfortable. In fact, she seemed to have had a friendly relationship with him for years afterwards.

This too, is okay. I think it's a mature way to cope with the situation. She was uncomfortable in the workplace with this man's behaviour, with the imbalance of 'power', and with the way she felt. She was uncertain how to deal with this, but in her quiet way, she put in boundaries and in the most part those boundaries were tested but not significantly crossed.

This is how I've dealt with similar workplace circumstances. If you have to work with someone, you need to have a line, but you also need to mark that line in a way that doesn't alienate the work colleague. Once you know how the person reacts, you can have more confidence with that line, so long as you work hard at making sure it doesn't creep from where you placed it.

Her overall messages seemed to be, these things do happen, but rather than ignore them or challenge them in a court, maybe we need to sit down and have a conversation - person-to-person, and well as as a society. It's not just a single issue, this is a systemic change that needs to happen.

For me, this was the most powerful part of the interview. This is what I believe MUST happen. Court cases are fine... but they're all about taking sides, dealing out justice. They aren't about social/personal change. Unless issues are understood, I don't think change happens.

Ms Stone's examples of her discomfort in the workplace, and other similar behaviour reported, along with the man's denials, seem to show a type of behaviour that was allowed to develop over a long time. There's a generational age gap between the man and Ms Stone, and I think in that time a lot has changed with the power balance between colleagues.

Fifty-two years ago, my mother had to leave the workplace when she married. Her sister, who is a little younger, could remain working after marriage but was expected to leave when she was pregnant. Women didn't have anywhere near the 'standing' in society that men had. This is the time that the man in question would have been learning his craft, from older men. Respect for women was not high. Wives were commonly beaten in Australia. Women were allowed to vote, but there was an expectation that they voted for the same party as their husband. Women's rights were slowly changing, but not in a fast way.

Today, women vote for who they want to. They have the ability to work when married, pregnant, with children, and to keep their surname. They can lobby for equal pay. They can speak out against violence. I'm not saying any of that is perfect yet - far from it - but in the lifetime of these older men, women have gone from silent doormats, to outspoken, strong humans who expect equality.

The behaviour that this man probably saw and learned as a young man, is not tolerated now. But sometimes older men are the hardest to change. They don't see what they do is 'wrong' because 'that's how it's always been done'. It can be very difficult to argue with an older man who is adamant that you're a young woman who'd know nothing (or a middle-aged woman who still knows nothing) and shouldn't have a place or a voice. It may not all be older men too, sometimes it's a cultural aspect that has men believing the same things as the older Aussie men.

That's why we need a conversation about these things. That's why we need to open the discussion on a large, societal scale.

Awareness and education are keys to change. If we can talk - articulately, intelligently, respectfully, and logically - about circumstances and events that made us uncomfortable, then people may begin to see patterns and see a way of changing these patterns. In themselves, and in society as a whole.

I admire the fearlessness that allowed Ms Stone - and so many others - to speak out.

As she said, it's not easy to speak about these things, and many aspects had to be weighed up before she said a word. Bravo, on an incredibly moving interview, Ms Sales and Ms Stone.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Fearless Friday - doing stuff

This week, I've been doing stuff. This time of year, it's kind of mandatory, isn't it? The difference for me this year is that I'm chilling about it, and I'm soaking it all in. I've been pushing my comfort zone a bit - not just with activities I'm doing but also with how much I'm doing.

This time last year, I had just gotten my voice back after 14 months of no voice, weird hearing, not good balance and general crappy healthy. I think it's taken a year to trust myself to do things and not end up sick again. That sounds insane when I say it. Pacing (ie limiting what I do) has been part of my life for the past 10-12 years and it's been allowing me to function.

Over the last 12 months, I've moved from pacing, to some weird thing where I manage my emotions and reactions. And I can't tell you in logic, sciencey type words what that is or how I do it or why it works. So the left side of my brain is freaking out a bit... but my right side is totally happy. And that's I think maybe what I've been doing, listening to the panic less and allowing the creative fun to happen more.

It's what I had to learn to do in writing stories - and what I'm still actively working on (letting go of making sure everything is 'real' and 'tried and true' and 'prove-able'). So it makes sort of sense that it'd be the same for my personality and life.

This week I met up with a writer who came to my recent workshop. We had a cuppa. We talked writing and life. We had cross-over events in our lives, weird things we each understood, a connection.

This week, we've started doing a project together (the other me anyway). And I'm kind of chilled about it - most other projects with writers I get keyed up and worried and doubt myself. This time I'm telling myself that I know my process. I know I can do this. I can work with these girls. I've done this stuff before. It's going to be fun and I'll learn more.

Last night, I went to a Christmas Party for a business I'm not yet doing any work for - but there is work planned for next year. Just a little job. I felt uncomfortable going because I'm not working for them yet, I don't deserve a Christmas Party when I haven't done anything to earn it. But that's a non-truth I'm telling myself. Christmas Parties aren't just for those who've earned it. They're a place to be. To network. To meet colleagues or potential colleagues. A relaxed atmosphere to discuss things outside of the business environment. I have to get over my own mind. I have to change the way I think of things, look at a bigger picture, be more creative, spontaneous and fun.

I had the best night. I hardly knew anyone when I went. Now I know most people's names, I know some people more than I did before. They were all lovely people who oozed joy and peace and happiness and relaxation. I learned a little about another culture. I had a baby dropped in my lap, replaced by another baby. I shared a kitchen with fellow people more comfortable in the kitchen working than partying - actually, most of the people were in the kitchen working! And I heard a voice that made me melt (not sure I should tell the new colleague that her husband's voice had that effect!!). I think his voice is going to go into a story, a Cate one, because I seriously think this voice could make for some seriously delicious sex scenes...if only I can describe the sound in words. [Oh, now I write that I remember another guy I met through work years ago had that impact...and I did try to describe his voice for The Virginity Mission but I wasn't able to do it. I wonder if I have more skills now and can manage it?]

This past week of being fearless has been busy and productive. Open and full of sharing. Joyful and filled with the Christmas season's spirit of peace and goodwill.

I can't wait for next week!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Fearless Friday

I'm gearing up to try something new in 2019.

Since Jan 2011 when I first had a story published, I've been wrestling with so many things. I'm a natural born worrier...or so I've told myself. But in the past year, as I've done all sorts of 'weird shit' to try to get healthy, I'm beginning to realise I was never a worrier as a kid - that's come as I've grown up and been expected to fit a certain mould and it hasn't fitted me well. That's why there are two of me in my writing life - Cate who says what she feels, and Catherine who is circumspect and does what she's been told is right.

Which me is me?

I think Cate is more of the true me - the one's been tucked deep inside because she's not quite what society/people/friends/family expect.

Catherine is me too. I'm not for a minute saying she isn't. It's just that Catherine has tried to mould to fit in. She's careful and considered, second guessing everything, over thinking everything, and ultimately getting sick doing all that.

So, childhood me was always pushing boundaries, asking questions about why things were done in such a way, writing letters to object to things, begging to be allowed to do things that weren't allowed (not that it worked, ever!). I was insatiably curious, couldn't consume enough knowledge, wanted to talk with and question everyone. Was eager to discover why everyone didn't have the same interests as me.

When I was heading to high school, Skylab was falling. It was a monumental thing in my life. I tracked it every evening, often with Dad. Read about it in the newspaper and kept an ear on every news story about it. Would it fall in Australia? Would it wipe out people? If so, what then would happen to the space program? There were so many questions. I went to the high school interview and they asked me a question about current affairs - I can't remember exactly what it was, but probably something like, 'tell us something you're interested in at the moment' or 'what event most interests you from the news'. I went into a Skylab discussion...oh, no, monologue. The Principal of the high school my parents were going to send me to, had no knowledge of Skylab. When we left that interview, I asked to attend a different school. That didn't happen, I went there. In Yr 12, I sat my Physics HSC practice exam and my elective was not in the questions. 30% of my mark, did not exist. Fuck! I'd spent a term studying a syllabus that didn't exist. That's how much attention they paid to science - and my life was science.

These are the 'little' things that happen over and over as you grow up that change you from a confident, wild kid to someone who becomes a conforming adult (or ends up in gaol/jail, or unhealthy, or crazy or dead).

I'm looking at 3 boys I know who are 11 at the moment. I see their insatiable curiosity, their thirst for knowledge, their desire to stretch themselves into areas of interest where schools would rather limit them, and it makes me depressed. Sad that society can, not 'can', that's too soft. Society demands that they limit themselves. Sure, if you're in the top 1%, you can be a genius... but if you're up there but not right up there, you just have to be average.

What worries me more, how do the kids who are below average go? Do they get lost in the struggle? Where do they end up?

Anyway, enough backstory. It's time for me to be fearless, like I was as a kid. To shed all the shit I've picked up along life, and find the true inner me. The kid with the wicked sense of humour. The kid who loved information and knowledge. The kid who asked questions. The kid who was proud and confident and didn't realise that adults judged. The kid who got hit down, dusted herself off and kept on playing.

And in non-kid terms, that means, it's time for Cate to be unapologetically me.

I know I've said this before, or probably hinted at it rather than been committed to blurting and doing. So why's this time different?

Heart racing fear - but so freaking fun!
I feel well - or more well than I have in 12 years. Because I'm not fighting a health battle, I feel like I can fight for myself. I feel I have confidence to face life.

In writing terms, it means I'm going to write my books, hard. I've asked a beta reader if she would work with me to make my books stronger, more romance-reader-friendly. She now has a bundle of my short stories to look at and give feedback. I've done up some covers. In 2019, I'll start self publishing them.

I'm going take control of Cate Ellink's career and work it as hard as I can. I'm going to face my fear of promo and publicity (I hope!). I'm going to try to be more focussed and planned (even though I suck at that too usually - but maybe that's a learned thing and kid-me wasn't so worried about plans turning to shit).

I'm going to try to blog here about Fears. All sorts of fears.

I'll also try to blog about the 'weird shit' I've been doing.

And I'll try to be brave and honest and to hell with society's expectations.

If school kids can protest for Climate Change, I can stick my head up in my little blog corner and do something too.

I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest, but them I fell in love!
I'm writing this so I'm held accountable. So my thoughts are recorded somewhere 'public'. If I fail, please point me back to this me who was brave :)

Wish me luck. And please feel free to join with me, discuss with me, share knowledge with me.

On to the next 12 months of FEARLESSNESS