There are times when life just feels like it is rubbing you raw, like a pair of ill-fitting, cheap shoes that you have no choice but to keep wearing because the alternative is blisters from the scorching pavement instead. Sometimes things are actually just a really crappy situation that warrants a small amount of grumbling or even outright grief and sadness, but other times it’s our judgment of a situation or occurrence that gets in the way – the should-ing and shouldn’t-ing, the must-erbating. With judgement comes ego, fear and self righteous anger, or imploding, devastating sadness and darkness, or even a combination, and that can get very ugly, very quickly.

I have found myself in situations recently that have resulted in me making myself miserable because of my judgment – or worse, the scathing self-loathing that comes as a result of gaining insight into my judgy thinking after I’ve either lashed out, or complained one too many times, and thought about it later and recognized how completely off the wall I was being. It can be at work, it can be at home. Our society seems completely obsessed with judginess, encouraging it at every turn, yet it only serves to escalate the judge-anger-fear cycle.

Lovingkindness (metta) practice in the Buddhist tradition, or prayers for/of forgiveness in the Christian tradition*, are soothing when we find we’re judging others or ourselves harshly, encouraging us to remember our common humanity and imperfections, and see things from a different perspective. They allow us to quell the heat of fear and anger, and say, “Oh, hello, Mara. I see you there. What are you trying to teach me today?”

One thing I have found particularly useful is sending myself emails with no content,  but just simple reminder statements in the subject line, so that when I check my email, there are reminders scattered through to look at things from a different perspective, brainstorm 3 quick solutions to a problem I’m grumbling about (but not doing anything to fix), or consider whether I need to believe the stories my judgy brain is telling me.

So no formal practice for me today, but a reminder from The Universe that there are lessons to be learned from all sorts of unexpected places, and that loving kindness and acceptance of our common humanity is key.

*I don’t think there is a limitation on practicing either one or the other, no matter what tradition, if any, you follow.


I will be the first to admit that sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I have great intentions, but don’t make it to the finish line. #100daysofhappiness is, well, a really long time to focus on one particular thing, and as someone who had had a lifetime of bouts of bleak depression, some days trying to find something happy to write about was both difficult and felt inauthentic somehow. So today I decided to shift the focus slightly and shorten the timeframe to something manageable yet proven as far as establishing habit.

I don’t remember when our how I was first introduced to mindful self compassion and metta practice, and I’ve only actively participated in it a few times, but those few times were profoundly memorable. It seems (in the West at least), that our collective religious heritage has had somewhat of a focus on sin as an inherent character flaw, something to distance ourselves from, a source of deep shame, which perhaps has translated to a broader cultural context of Not Good Enough, be it in the eyes of God, or the eyes of, well, anyone, and most of all ourselves. It feels odd, therefore, to extend the compassion we may find comes easily for others instead to ourselves as well.

Tonight I did a short 20 minute Affectionate Breathing meditation. I haven’t meditated in a while, and was all over the place, my mind wandering off within seconds, the eternal judge in my mind listing all the reasons why I couldn’t possibly deserve any amount of compassion. I stuck with it, but it was a challenge. It’s a start.

If I had a dollar for every time someone has said, “You’re from Australia?! I’ve always wanted to go there!”, I would have no need to continue working for a living. It follows then, that people also want to know what we did when we visited, expecting stories of snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef and 4 wheel driving through the outback. While I love traveling and exploring new places, being an expat has changed how I travel, especially with limited time off work back in the US, so alas, I have no exciting stories to relate from this trip. I’m much more inclined to plonk myself down and just live with family for the time we have here.  I do, however, have a myriad of small delights from every day we’ve been here so far. In no particular order:

  • A proper, real hug from my mother. Skype helps, but it’s just not the same.
  • Meeting new family members and hanging out with not-new ones.
  • Chaneling my inner Keiren Perkins by swimming in the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre. So it was in the kids’ pool area with the river current thing…my story (and I’m sticking to it) is that at least one of those molecules of water might have been in the pool during the olympics.
  • Passionfruit. Fresh ones. Oh, my my. I could sit and inhale their delicious scent and nectar for hours. They are like crack.
  • Salty air and crashing wave sounds. There is nothing like those for ungluing work-stressed shoulders from around your ears.
  • Shells washing back and forth in the ebb and flow of the waves at low tide.
  • Surfers gliding poetically through curling waves. (One day I will try this, and I’m sure it will be anything but poetic, but I’m rapidly getting to the point of not caring.)
  • Vegemite with a ton of melted butter on hot toast for breakfast.
  • Seeing friends from years (decades!) past, and picking up from where we left off.
  • Passionfruit flavoured Greek yogurt, with cream as the second ingredient. Milk fat is utterly delicious. Enough said.
  • A proper cup of hot tea wherever you go, with no need to ask specifically for milk to put in it.
  • Australian birds. Rainbow lorikeets, crimson rosellas, currawongs, magpies caroling complicated songs, and enormous flocks of raucous sulphur crested cockatoos.
  • Winter dormant frangipani trees with a hint of spring growth.
  • Crimson bottlebrush bushes in flower, and banksia trees with their Big Bad Banksia Man seed pods staring as you walk past.
  • Pubs that are family friendly places to hang out and have a few drinks (even non-alcoholic ones), with zero inference that you are entirely wasting your productive time or looking for a bar fight.
  • Finding my prom dress in the closet at Mum’s and finding it still fits…in all its 80s electric blue satin glory.

And we’re not even done yet. Still seven days to go.

From the Charter for Compassion.






Tomorrow marks the beginning of another journey home to Australia (though exactly where “home” is as an expat is up for debate). I’ve always loved the heady feeling of the world being my proverbial oyster with a flash of a passport and a plane ticket, or standing in front of a train destination board picking where to go, beginning with my solo 7 week trip across Canada in 1997. I’d like to say that I coolly and suavely negotiated my way around with the aplomb of a Lonely Planet reporter on that trip. The reality was more along the lines of me attempting to walk Montreal streets in -25C winter weather and crying because it felt like my Australian eyeballs were going to freeze solid, drop out of my head, and roll away down the sidewalk like marbles, and buying a velvet medieval style cloak in Quebec that nearly outweighed me and gave me a headache every time I wore it (but dammit, I looked cool). I also lugged a giant SLR camera I didn’t know how to use well (it was subsequently stolen in London while I sat doing a brass rubbing in St Martin In The Fields), packed way too much stuff (including stiletto heels), spent entirely too much time shopping, and got marooned in Edmonton, AB because I lost my wallet… for the second time on the trip. But I also laughed uproariously with new friends gained on the transcontinental train (who knew there were so many creative ways to sleep upright?), attempted to snowshoe up a mountain and finished fifteen feet up that mountain in a giggling heap in snow that engulfed me up to my waist, and swam in the incredibly incongruous Banff hot springs, where the water was hot enough to make me need to get out to cool off for a while, and I sat wearing a bikini next to two foot icicles that gripped the pool railings.

I am happy to say I learned my lesson well regarding packing, and am now a devotee of carry on luggage only. This trip, I made Daughter and I ultra simple cordura nylon bags that are the exact allowable dimensions. This will be her first trip dealing with her own luggage, so it will be interesting. I hope to make a world traveler yet… or at least speak some curiosity, and remove the initial fear that comes with the unknown and unfamiliar.

Travel is an incredible blessing, and while I might grumble and complain about the insane distance I live from my family, it is a truly humbling but incredibly enriching experience to be able to participate in it. I hope I never stop exploring.

I’ll send more from the other side of this great blue marble in the vast sky when we get there.

While I’m not planning on moving back to Australia any time soon, we are leaving for a visit next week. Life as an expat has its ups and downs, so I’m truly grateful for the steadfast circle of Australian expat friends I have over here who understand what it is to be a Triangle in a land of Circles or Squares. That said, I’m also very lucky to have a circle of native-born friends here who have accepted my quirks and occasional odd word usage, and taught me a lot in the process, so my shape over the years has definitely become less rigid, and it’s easier to morph between Circle and Square. When all boils down…. I really like being a Triangle.

This Tim Minchin song has become somewhat of an anthem in the expat community around Christmas time in particular, but it’s a great song no matter when you listen. The later verses are the most poignant.

And for poking fun at ourselves, there’s always Keitha or the fruit seller who hates Aussies from Flight of the Conchords. 🙂


My posting has slowed somewhat as I enter the middle third of the 100 days, as I’m noticing a pattern of recurrent themes in my posts. At first my mind squawked, “Boring! Boring! “, but on reflection it’s actually a useful thing. It’s helping me home in on what *really* is important.

I cannot imagine my life without music in it. Ever. Having said that, for a variety of reasons it was absent for a number of years, and in hindsight it’s no surprise that it felt like a vital piece of who I am was missing. Truly geeky confession: one of my favorite things about living in a shed (long story, not all of it bad) on an acreage was being able to crank up the volume and sing at the top of my lungs with whatever was playing… which was usually a curious mixture of Jesus Christ Superstar (Australian cast), Paris (Jon English’s musical about the myth of Troy), Riverdance, Crowded House, Sarah McLachlan and Loreena McKennitt (and likely others that I can’t recall). And maybe occasionally some Orff Carmina Burana or other choral music. It’s not the same as cranking the volume through headphones or ear buds; I’m talking making the hair on the back of your neck stand on end type impact. Or maybe killing your lawn volume…heck, I’d just settle for loud enough to sing with.

I think it’s time I finally got around to ripping my CDs to an external hard drive, and – gasp! – getting some speakers that are larger than an oversized mars bar.

I first heard this arrangement of “Africa” performed by the local university choral ensemble, and it really did make my hair stand on end in an entirely good way.

Perpetuum Jazzile – Africa: http://youtu.be/yjbpwlqp5Qw