It’s been a good start to the year. Health wise, I’m ok but like all cancer warriors I touch wood when I say that. I’m feeling much better than I was at this time last year however it’s been a long road back, rehabilitating my immune system following chemo and radiation, and also building strength and overcoming physical setbacks. That is cancer for you…the gift that keeps on giving.

I have my last CT scan coming up in the next few months; part of the surveillance oncologists implement following cancer treatment. It will be three years since diagnosis. After the CT scan, providing it’s clear, I will be handed over to my GP for six monthly blood tests, and that’s it. So getting on with things beyond cancer, and working within any limitations treatment has left me with, is a priority for me this year.

Cancer leaves many legacies – good and bad. One of these is an inbuilt ‘I don’t muck around anymore’ mantra. Dysfunction, things that aren’t working out, and old patterns that aren’t in my best interests, are dealt with swiftly and decisively. You learn there simply isn’t the time ‘to much around anymore’. Which brings me to my fight with the sulfur crested cockatoos that visit my home every year, to feast on my pear and apple trees. I love pears. They are soft, full of good stuff, and I eat them every morning. I’ve been waiting for them to ripen, conscious of the cockatoos’ arrival. They came again this year, but I was determined to get them out of my pear trees.

For years I’ve been talking to the birds that nest in the many trees surrounding my home. Call me what you will but I enjoy communicating with them, and they’ve become friends. I have a group of magpies that stand guard around my house, two crows who go walking with me, plenty of parrots who fly close by me, and the cranky plovers who grudgingly accept my presence near their nest because I faced them one day when they were swooping and angrily shook my fist at them. (Sure I might look like a crazy bird person to outsiders, but I don’t really care!).

I decided to try a bit of attitude on the thieving cockatoos, so I looked them in the eye and yelled at them to get off my tree. My partner and sons laughed…the ‘mum’s being random again’ thought crossed their minds. I was undeterred. Next I got a riding crop and waved it in the air at them, making a whooshing sound, and telling them to stay off the pear trees. The cockatoos flew off screeching back at me. For the next two days, it was back and forth until only a solitary bird would land in the tree. I would stare the bird down until it flew off.

Then the cockatoos thought I was a potential friend and began appearing in the gum tree outside my window every morning cawing, not screeching; kind of like saying ‘good morning’. And so my ‘friendship’ with them developed. The pear trees? They by and large left them alone, however I haven’t dropped my guard because they will have another go at trying to get what they want, and I’ll have to try and keep what I have. It’s just the way it works, but they do make me smile.

Anyway, enough mucking around with the cockatoos. It’s time to finish the many writing projects I have outstanding now. That, and a bit of exploring…wherever that may take me this year.


The year of ‘me’

Posted: December 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

2018. Two years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago…I remember those new year’s, the people and situations and the good and the bad. But today is for looking forward and planning, not in detail but the general tone of the year. I’m setting my intentions, trimming my sails and aiming for a destination. My destination in 2018 has everything to do with good health and wellbeing. And creativity. I would like to solemnly declare 2018 as the year of ‘me’.

When I imagine the year ahead, visions of ‘me’ at the day spa come to mind. Or me banging away my next novel on the laptop. Or me on a beach…or at an interesting metaphysical workshop; enjoying my pot of English Breakfast with friends, learning and laughing, not dwelling but cultivating joy and happiness.

I’m now in my 50s and over halfway through this lifetime, if I’m lucky. That means I need to make the absolute most of the time I’m given. So far, I’ve thrown myself into raising three boys and managing the trials and tribulations being a parent brings; and I’ve worked hard to establish a career as a professional. I love that I’ve kept building experience and skills, and can offer that to my employer. I’m versatile and useful, get to work on things that really matter, and I intend to keep learning in my career. That ain’t over yet. BUT…

There’s more to learning than just increasing professional skills and qualifications, and pursuing meaningful work. I’m fascinated by Eastern philosophies. I’m also a student of metaphysics, so 2018 will include further expeditions into the unknown. I don’t mind adventure.

And at the heart of ‘me’ is the need and desire to be creative. That means I’ll be writing again. Already a story is germinating.

The bucket list. Yes, I’ll be ticking a few items off that as well in 2018. A little travel hopefully. That art class through the University of the Third Age is a goer for sure. Something daring and left of field also, though I’ve yet to decide what that will be.

Parenting, I’m sure, will remain a constant throughout 2018. Just because children grow into young adults doesn’t mean they don’t need help when they fall; or someone to really believe in them when the world appears against them. Caring for loved ones is particularly important when you consider just how crappy life can get.

But first, I’ve got to treat this poor, old, aching body of mine; a product now of multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. Thankfully, I’m still ‘no evidence of disease’ (NED) as they say, and hoping that NED will be with me for many years to come, but he has left his mark and 20 months later, there’s still a need for nurturing and healing. That is a prime goal in 2018.

So, that’s pretty much all I wanted to say in this pre new year blog post…other than I hope 2018 is a brilliant, meaningful year for you. And that gentle winds speed your journeys towards the goals you set in this new year, hopefully bringing you good health, happiness and wisdom.

All the best.

A lot has happened in a month. We’ve started 2017, set our goals, and our sails, and got on with the start of the year. I was pleased to start a new year as 2016 brought many personal and health challenges. However when the new year ticked over it was like someone had wiped my slate clean. The old fears and worries disappeared, replaced with optimism. Yes, optimism.

I’ve always been relatively optimistic,  believing that opportunities and new horizons would come my way. That was a belief that was based on experience. I’ve been incredibly lucky throughout my life to have had many adventures but the horribleness of cancer treatment during 2015 and 2016 made me wonder if there’d ever be anything to be optimistic about again. Well somewhere along the line, something switched and I greeted 2017 with excitement. I wasn’t sure why I should feel that way, the old challenges were still there, but I couldn’t help it.

Without conjuring anything up, I really feel optimistic about this year. That’s based on   an expansive view of the future and renewed interest in the present. And also something else. I’ve decided that there is nothing to be gained from being pessimistic or doubtful even if the situation is dire. Far better to keep a positive mood because any other way is just a waste of time. I don’t know about you, but I’ve not got any time to waste.

So whether it’s watching my favourite English drama on tv or writing a report for government or industry, or writing a future bestselling manuscript (gotta have hope), or walking the dogs under the canopies of Elm trees, or yarning with old friends, I’m interested in having a go. And that makes me optimistic about the future.

Merry Christmas everyone

Posted: December 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

I’m writing to you today to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the best for 2017. I too have high hopes for the incoming year, after what can only be described as a couple of horrendous years battling, among other things, cancer and its long and hard treatment. My family has been battered and bruised with hard times since my diagnosis in 2015 but we are doing ok. Today, I’m doing ok and that’s what I really wanted to say. At the end of the day, there is enough faith and hope that we do overcome adversity, that it is there for a reason for what happens in our lives, and if we are very brave, we learn and grow from hard times.

I’ve learnt much over the last few years of turmoil and, really, chaos. I’ve learned to confront fear including having what I’d previously built my identity on – career and a kind of misguided Christian like faith of helping everyone else at the expense of myself – upended and challenged. I no longer build my identity on superficial status nor do I blindly rush in as the rescuer and the advocate, while ignoring my needs and the needs of my inner circle. I no longer look outward while ignoring what is going on within.

My perspective has altered beyond what I could have recognised a few years ago. I look for something deeper now and I find it in the simple things. In nature, in words, in love and sacrifice and generosity, and in deliberately focusing on finding meaning and purpose. I was told when I was 20 by a man, at the end of his life, that life is a tapestry, rich in its weaving; the threads interconnected and interconnecting, intricately forming the picture. Sometimes you couldn’t see why certain threads were running a certain way but, later, when you stepped back, you were able to see how they formed the tapestry and why they were so essential to the whole.

But we’re here to talk about Christmas and the new year. Right. I really hope the holidays are relaxing and special for you. For those going through hard times I just hope there are glimmers of hope you can see and that there might be faith that things will get better because always they do, one way or another, and in time. I wish everyone the very best for 2017. For me, I will be focusing on closing the door behind cancer with all the learnings it has provided me on nurturing and loving myself and treating myself gently and kindly; the way I hope to treat others. The other big ticket item for me is creativity. I’ll be writing at least another manuscript and finishing my last lot of tertiary studies. I’ll be working to extend that creativity to all parts of my life, in the home and in my relationships and in the way I listen to others, hopefully providing a space for their creativity and expression.

So from me to you – have a very merry Christmas, set those intentions for 2017 and deliberately steer the incoming year to unfold the way you hope. I look forward to sharing what I create in 2017 with you. Peace and goodwill,

Maryann 🙂

I’ve been thinking about the nature of power a lot lately – researching, reflecting, observing. It’s largely been prompted by the US presidential elections however that is not the entire picture. I guess I’ve been reflecting on my experiences with power and equally with the loss of my power. What qualifies someone to hold power? How do you hold power when the nature of power is dynamic?

I’ve been wondering how people survive power given we’ve seen so many who gain it, lose it. I’ve also been looking at those that manage to hang onto it and have decided they are not the narcissistic that burn brightly only to either self destruct or fizzle out into irrelevance. Rather they are those with multiple power sources, in short the experienced and those smart enough to know about the real nature of power.

Sure there are the dictators who seize it, and the autocratic that suppress opposition but in a free system unless you have the majority onside most of the time, power will go to the next and the next, continually expressing itself through change and an opportunity to learn…about ourselves.

Power can be superficial and fickle. It’s can also be linked to survival, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to think. 

I’ve discovered that power is not an external thing. It’s not reliant on money, status, class or association (bless the people who believe this). Real power is self actualised. In other words understanding and being who you are will make you powerful. Knowledge which leads to self knowledge will make you powerful. Thinking critically and really stripping away the crap in society – taking a deeper, questioning look – will make you powerful. Curiosity and interaction, can lead to power. Love and compassion for others is also self actualising. Something as simple as being happy and tolerant, and secure within yourself is powerful. 

And so I return to those questions on power I’ve been considering. There is only one answer: knowing and believing in yourself and your own power. When you get to that point, you are very powerful.

Some of us have learned the hard way that respect isn’t automatic or even given to those who deserve it.  Rather, deserved respect can end up subservient to another’s ego and agenda. And that’s ok because respecting yourself is the only bottom line that matters. 

Think about it. If you respect yourself then you won’t allow disrespect from others; you won’t allow the lines to be crossed. The agendas of others are meaningless because they are not your own. And you respect your own decisions and actions because you respect yourself. Actually I’ll go one step further…you love yourself.

I’ve only just learned this lesson; I mean really learned it. It absolutely sunk in when I came to terms with real equality – the poet, the angelic, the capitalist and the thief, all equal, and it has nothing to do with some pointless Christian doctrine. It has to do with understanding the power in loving (and giving this) to yourself. No one is, or should be, any less loved. 

In learning the lesson I found my boundaries. Importantly, what is other people’s business and what is my business. 

In other words you don’t have to invest emotions in other people’s ‘journey’. Your journey is more than enough to keep you occupied and deserves your respect. It’s a lifelong quest and how wonderfully important is that?

When I returned home to the farm between uni and finding a job, I began walking the couple of miles down to the front gate each afternoon. It was a hot and dry walk; another big dry had our family farm firmly in its grip.

Undeterred by the heat, and with John Mellancamp Jnr blasting in my ears, I strode out across the paddocks with my eye firmly on the horizon, at the place where an orange sunset met the red earth.

Black crows circled overhead and, despite their caws, there was a stillness and a peace about the land. Somehow the big dry was as natural as the green paddocks that had rolled into a blue horizon only a few years before.

On those hot, burnished afternoons, I loved that land. It spoke to me with a sense of place and of belonging. It was a belonging that drove away all fear; that somehow, if I were to die there and then, its peace and stillness would wash over me and I would become part of it.

I never forgot that feeling or the way a sense of place and belonging can drive away all insecurities; all fears.

I travelled overseas in my youth and across Australia for work. I’ve lived in a city and in other rural communities but I’ve never found a place like my childhood home. It’s not with regret that I look back at that home that was eventually sold, but with gratitude that I was able to experience a childhood in the country.

As I grew into adulthood, I made the deliberate decision not to live in the cities. My spirit craves nature; I need to look at the horizon and everything in between.

Today I live in the country and I’m happy with that decision. I walk out of my front door to trees and birds, snakes and lizards. Every now and then, there is an orange sunset and that sense of belonging stirs. When I get that feeling I know that time is endless, and that our spirits are a part of something much bigger, yet the same, as ourselves.