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.

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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.

“Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.” – Winston Churchill

There is something reverent about Christmas and the end of the year. It’s a sacred time for me, where memories of the past year come flooding back and I get to really think about the year’s events. Needless to say the end of 2015 gave me plenty to mull over. I approached this with a sense of gratitude and acknowledgment of just how lucky I’d been to catch my bowel cancer early.

While I’ve been better at looking after my health at different times in my life than others, I can say that I probably wasn’t doing all I could to remain healthy. For starters I let other people’s problems and shortcomings weigh on me. As an empath it’s hard not to – I sense the undercurrents and they worry me, whereas a ‘normal’ person would not give someone’s mood another thought. They certainly wouldn’t feel responsible for it, which is how I have been in the past. Let me give you an example: if someone is angry, worried or sad I know it when they enter a room, without them saying anything, and I try and fix it. You can’t ‘fix’ other people, nor take responsibility for their path, but I used to try. Now I acknowledge that it is their path to walk and that I have enough of my own worries to try and ‘fix’. I’m much more willing to see that I (like everyone else) am a precious human soul that needs nurturing, loving and looking after.

So I’ve hit that particular problem out of the ball park, thank God.

Next, I have a hedonistic bent to my nature – I love wine and food but too much of a good thing is never a good thing and I’ve let my over indulgences interfere with my good health. Now I’m less inclined to give into weaknesses.  A life of ‘limitation’ is only as limiting as you make it. Now, I replace vice with victory and have a fruit smoothie instead of a chocolate and a mineral water and ice instead of a wine. That’s not to say that I don’t allow myself the occasional treat – I do – and, guess what – it tastes and feels twice as good.

So, yeah, I’ve knocked that particular problem on the head – well mitigated it, at least…hopefully.

And then there is exercise, or lack of it. Now I walk daily and one of my best Christmas presents was a Vivofit which is getting a workout. I am now walking at least three to four kilometers a day – this activity from a couch potato who upon remembering the competitive sports of youth, hit the gym or pool hard…for all of a couple of months of the year. I now understand that exercise is a daily requirement.

However, one of the biggest reflections for me this Christmas was in gratitude. I experienced and felt everything more keenly, all the while with a heart filled with gratitude for life. I may have had to pop the dreaded chemo pills over Christmas but that didn’t stop me trying to give as much as I could to my family. I did this because I knew that had my diagnosis been different, I may have been absent this Christmas or struggling to survive.

I cooked the most beautiful turkey, stuffed with a ham, onion, herb and garlic mixture and I basted a huge ham with the best glaze that I’ve used year after year because it is so divine. My husband and I shopped up a storm, buying treats like individual Christmas puddings which were absolutely beautiful, and the Christmas staples like Panettone, a wonderful European invention.

I allowed myself a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc which I sipped slowly through dinner and the hilarious card games which followed. I had a good Christmas despite the chemo.

But behind the positive there was also a sense of the magnitude of what I experienced in 2015. I tried not to look too hard, or think too long, about this. There was the awful radiation and chemo, the huge six hour operation and the mop up chemo when your body has, simply, had enough but asked to stay in the ring and ‘go a few more rounds’. As always, I returned to that feeling of gratitude; that cancer is commonplace and I had faced it and survived to this point…and my prognosis was good. I thought instead of how much I’d grown spiritually as a result of cancer; that I’d felt invisibly supported by something greater than what we can realise here on earth. Of all the signs and omens that had been placed in my path to testify that ‘yes, you are going to be ok; you are going to survive this’.

That’s what I thought over Christmas and as the New Year rang in. I thought about something higher than myself and yet of myself. I am very lucky to be able to use my cancer experiences to grow spiritually, and as a human being. Cancer has not silenced me; on the contrary it has given me my voice.

As 2015 ticked over to 2016, I wondered what purpose I had yet to fulfill. I don’t have that answer yet, but I do know that the right things happen at the right time.

I’m looking forward in 2016, not backwards. I’ll be continuing some tertiary study – because the uni that I kept asking for deferrals said ‘study this semester or lose your place’. That’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to it and I will be one step closer to earning my Bachelor of Social Sciences (Social Welfare).

I’ll also be working hard at my current workplace, on work that really does matter and that does good rather than causes harm to people. And I’ll be finishing my treatment. Chemo ends on 12 January, wherein I will purchase a nice bottle of champagne to share with family.

There will be a few milestones in the early part of the year before treatment finishes and then I will have time to think about how I am fully going to use my experiences to help others. There is purpose left for me to find and act upon yet.

 

I was raised a Catholic and unwittingly consumed all the usual religious teachings over my formative years, including the most ridiculous of all: ‘turn the other cheek’. For years I think I actually believed that heaven would be attainable if I gave the horrible people I met (between the nice ones that is) the opportunity to be horrible…again.

My Zambian friend once said to me that I had the patience of Job. She was right, I do…or did. Most of my blog readers would know this year has been monumental for me. In January, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and have spent most of this year fighting through some pretty hard treatment yards. When I look back on the person I was before cancer, and now, a lot has changed.

One of the most significant of these changes is in my tolerance of people who offend, who are rude, who have no self-reflection compass, who are arrogant and thoughtless or those who believe competitiveness and ruthless self advancement (of the materialistic kind) is ok. Just like Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” creed, ego-based behaviour that seeks to dominate or compensate for an undiagnosed failing within is not excusable or ok.

Post cancer diagnosis and treatment, that good little Catholic girl has finally been erased. There is no more ‘turn the other cheek’ for me these days. Life is too short, and peace of mind and happiness are gifts that should be fiercely protected.

And the Gordon Gekkos of this world? Well let’s just say they can make friends with like minded people. It’s one party I won’t be lining up to attend.