Good Enough

It’s been a while. The reasons for my extended online absence are numerous, but I do not wish to obey the urge to justify and explain myself. I just want to write something freely and authentically, letting go as best I can of any ideas of what a blog should or shouldn’t be, of what I should or shouldn’t say, of my judgements of myself and my work. The perfectionist tendency, the harsh inner critic, has caused me a lot of anxiety in many areas of life but especially in writing, and has silenced me time and again. It is my hope that more and more I find the courage to act anyway, and that’s more or less what I want to write about today.

I became so weary of writing my blog because of the unrealistic expectations I was placing upon myself, which were leading to an ever-increasing sense of dread. I wanted everything I wrote to be good in some way, and writing with that in mind is a joyless experience. What is good writing anyway? We recognise it but it is not easily defined. I defined it for myself as beautiful, engaging, and/or useful. Writing with either of the first two qualities in mind paralysed me. I could not set out to write anything beautiful or engaging without sickening myself with a flood of critique and judgement. Beauty and appeal must come organically. So what about useful? Could I at least make my blog posts useful? Alas, no! How could I trust that something I wrote would be useful to others? I know what is useful to me, but I didn’t trust my own judgement; I felt foolish and presumptuous.

My motivation disappeared because fear isn’t an ideal fuel, not long-term at least, and especially not for creativity. For a while I kept trying to push through, but I found myself swinging between two extremes: either writing something light, airy and—I thought—superficial, or writing something authentic, raw and—I thought—dangerously vulnerable. I couldn’t find any middle ground and I couldn’t handle either extreme. One felt fake and the other traitorous. Both fed my fear and left me frozen. So, after a long internal struggle, I surrendered; I stopped trying to force something that just wasn’t working.

My life did not feel like it was working very well either. Last year was a tough one for me. I felt deeply homesick. I spent five months working at a factory that reminded me of Dickens stories, where we were constantly yelled at to go faster and were discouraged from talking too much with one another lest we get distracted from our work. There was illness and injury in my family, and I worried from afar, feeling helpless. Then there was injury and illness for myself, and I feared I would never get better. There was unemployment. Financial struggle. Existential angst. Depression and anxiety. Sometimes all these pains and fears lay so heavy upon me, so debilitating, that as soon as I walked through my front door beyond the gaze of the world, I would crumple and cry. I remember weeks of this, as I tried to find another job, holding in tears until I could get safe behind my door again, and dissolve.

I have painted a bleak picture of last year, which is inaccurate. There was much beauty and love as well, even through the darkest times. It moves me to think of how patiently and lovingly my partner supported me in both a psychological and practical sense. He kept the roof over our heads while encouraging me to take the time I needed to find a job that nourished me and to heal my mental health. Family and friends were there for me when I reached out; I visited home and felt so nurtured and cared for, and as I was in much physical pain at the time, I had to humbly accept that I could not do much, and simply offer gratitude for all the care I received. The exquisite natural beauty of my homeland inspired me to creativity I had not felt in ages.

When I returned to Australia, I missed home of course, but I continued to get outside and appreciate the nature here as well. I got better physically. It took longer to feel better psychologically, but slowly I did. I got a part-time job fundraising for a non-profit environmental organisation. It wasn’t perfect but it was a good cause and it allowed me to contribute something financially to my household again. Earlier this year I got my first studio job as a yoga teacher, something I had been shrinking from pursuing the previous year, out of fear. It has and continues to be a deeply rewarding experience. I still regularly get anxious before a class, I still have days where I doubt my abilities and worry I’m not good enough, but it’s getting easier, and there are also days that I feel really good about what I can offer people in this role. I feel so grateful to be able to help others to nourish themselves in this way, and for that all the anxiety is worthwhile. (Besides, anxiety is just something I have to work with in general!)

I have also started writing again, far more consistently than I have in years. I have started on some big projects that I have dreamed about for over a decade. I recently took a short writing course for inspiration and tips for writing fiction specifically. One of the most helpful things I got out of it was the reassurance that first drafts do not have to be good. In fact, they very likely will be quite bad, and that’s okay. It is all part of the process. Just keep writing. Let that be the goal. It’s not always easy, but I no longer expect it to be. Just keep writing.

So what does all this mean for my blog? Well, I guess I don’t know. I have thought a lot about what I want to do with it going forward, feeling like I needed a plan. But actually, I think I just need to drop the expectations of myself. I need to stop thinking that I need to write a good blog, and just write a blog. It is entirely your decision, dear reader, if you read it, and entirely beyond my control what you think of it! Of course I hope it may be interesting or useful to those who take the time to read my posts, but I can’t control that either. So ultimately, my plan is to just keep writing. Part of the delight of the writing process is discovering what unfolds that you never could have planned. Letting the writing write itself, in a way.

To finish, I would just like to thank all of you—those who know me and personally support me in my life, and those who don’t. Thank you for being there, for caring about what I have to say. May we all find freedom in the unique creative expression of our lives, whether through some kind of art or something else. May we all treat ourselves kindly, may we treat each other kindly. With love, Tegan

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On People

What love, friend,
in that glazed eye
that sees not?

Too worried, too busy
A tight band of distraction
wrapped around the head
A dark cloth encasing
your childhood dreams
your heart’s truest desires
covered in dust
Sadness or madness:
ache
indifference
or even cruelty
What a world
people say
A world of people
looking for themselves
looking for each other.

I know these traps
I know these deadweights
leaden myths and mental barbed wire
We are the same

But sometimes
Angst slips off me
like a heavy woollen coat
In my lightness I see
and the moon rises
within my breast
and into my eye
and reaches out—to yours.
Sometimes you shine back at me
full lunar brilliance
We are drunk like monkeys
at the sacred sour tree
on a hot summer night
Drunk on our own freedom
that was here all along.

But oh, my friend!
I am not so strong yet
that I can withstand
your thorns
your storms
your chills and quills
your suspicion…

How could you doubt
my good heart?

The same way
I suppose
that I doubt yours.

Flow

The hills lie folded softly in the late afternoon glow
The sound of a bell in the distance vibrates
Unseen but felt in the depths of our living bodies
Our unique living bodies
that will not last forever
How to make peace with this fragility?
With the ever-changing flow of life?
Its rise and fall
The great mystery…

Half-light hush
The majesty of life
Whispering in every leaf and blade of grass
Shimmering off the wings of each evening insect
An awe and a wonder
and I just know
Timeless and eternal
Freedom and joy
I just know there is nothing to fear
Love is forever
The heart’s wisdom is to be trusted
The soul’s inspiration to guide us

But sometimes
Uniform grey
Unbroken loneliness
nothing but doubt
Leaden confusion
crushing grief and despair
The mind tries desperately to hold onto something
And clinging to flotsam it seeks to hush the storm by sheer will
looking to make it all okay…
but the storm will run its course

Thoughts forget they are thoughts
Thinking thinks it is reality
missing the wise presence of the heart
the only force that can calm the skies
and let the sun break through the clouds
or perhaps the cold but peaceful stillness of night
The cycle of light and darkness

Ever changing seasons
A thick bloom of lilac fits inside my hand
A loose fist around its plump petals
What a sweet and simple joy
Can I trust the blooming of love within?
The wonder and awe of my soul?
Yes, oh yes!
Something whispers ardently
And I am free
Then my mind tries to build an unsinkable
Ship out of this moment
Please can it be forever this time?
But I cannot hold onto it
It slips away again and again
I am subject to the peaks and to the valleys both
Each time either hoping or fearing it is here to stay
But when I know
I know
A knowledge beyond the mind that I cannot hold onto
But I can trust it when it’s alive in my breast
And flying free on the wings of my spirit
When I contract once more,
I must try to remember this freedom
Have patience
It will come again
Because it is always there

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Photo by Anna Bethune

Poems of Home

I – Reunion

Real July breathes deeply
Dark green forests exhale
Tall majestic conifers
of the Northwest Coast
Growing exquisitely
Right down to the shore
Seagulls above
Big, grey white and brazen
Rich dark blue and soft wave soundwaves
Ocean stretches infinite
Calm as a lake cradled
between hot summer mountains
Colour and gleam
like the pearly lining of an empty mussel shell
like these blue fragments mixed
through the pebbles of the beach

It’s easy to love a sandy beach
The rocky shore requires a different kind of seeing
Sometimes you’re born with it
Sometimes it hits you one misty day
Clouds like dark poems shifting in the sky
sometimes it’s just    Home
The white barnacles keep you company
Each wave sighs a little song
before it slips back into the silver crested sea
Frosted with sunshine
The mountains across the strait painted
Delicate watercolour
They frame the horizon with hazy blue lines
Jagged   smooth   rising   falling

Full round clouds
Float just above the peaks
Besides them
The sky is clear
so clear sight sinks like a pebble
into the deepening hue
And gets lost
Lost in sweet blue space
until the honeyed summer sunshine
pulls us back out
by the corners of our eyes

A soft breeze
The salty smell of the sea
Wise and wild geese in Vs
who know where to go
Every stone sits perfectly
Home in time
For this perfect moment
Brought to me by the scent of hot seaweed
and the flash of glass green
just before the breaking waves bow forward
into frothy white
Dry cedars and firs behind me
And drops of sunshine
On my toes

II – Distracted

Hoary grey rock strong beside me
Mother Earth whispers on the breeze
at last I stop to listen
She sees how weary I am feeling
hugs me ever so gently
brushing my temples with her soft summer breath
Let go my dearest
She invites me to slip out of my heavy thoughts
into the light freedom of her perfect day
Her nurturing sunshine
late afternoon softness
Bright green leaves full of life
Feather touch of the zephyr upon my brow
Nectar gleam to the light

I want to
I think I don’t know how
My chest feels tight and heavy
Who am I anyway
Can I dare trust that
I belong
She stays with me anyway
Makes the leaves sashay and twirl
I am tired but I am not a lost cause
I know I can find my way home

III – Reverence

On the beach and the evening Sun
Mm
Exquisite rolling wave
Crash
Because of the wind
But here      just here
It blows lightly
So blessed
I am
Kissed by the rich low rays
Here
Well
An ease within
this place
That holds me

The crashing seashell song
surprises me
Tucked away in the trees
I could not tell
Reed grass ripples
Fly away leaves
Dry seaweed
Strands of hair dancing about
ticklish
dark waves     dark water
Blue mountains     blue sea
Infinite skies     Blue    blue    blue
And the ocean too
Beloved blue earth

And beloved the green beneath that cold surface sheen
The path of hot white to the late afternoon sun
Feet at the end of lazy legs crossed one over the other
Did they ever look so right?

So right
White veils atop the swells
Blown over by hearty gusts
Hazy golden dream air
Hugging me so close
Something has bitten my ankle
It itches ferociously
My joy    gentle joy
Laughs with delight

Like the fire in the sky that warms us
Seaweed-spangled rocks and
sand fleas and crabs
awaiting high tide……….
Is there anything like a crab?
Water   air   soft   hard
We used to catch them and turn them over
to see if they were girls or boy
Underbellies with ridges like ripples in the sand
At low tide

Yellow flowing spark evening
Hot glow of it in my eyes
Close them. Feel it.
The shapes that dance in that
substanceless red
While wrapped in the blue coast air

Sea mountain sentinels
Sacred watch
Sky and earth
Family of treasure
Where does this come from,
This enthusiasmus
Specks of glitter in a big black round stone
A flicker of something good
Fairy dust from the days of open magic
no doubt
and right here and now
Glittering with Quality
in the brown algae pockets
and the mineral flecks
alike

This is my homage
so that I might not be driven mad
with love
Crash    swish     sigh
Shimmer    burn     glow
Whisper soft breeze and salt
Water spray
Let us love together

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Southern Sky

I’m trying to listen
I’m trying to listen to the whispers beyond words
To sounds beneath sounds
I’m thinking hard
Sometimes not thinking
And doing that hard too
Concentrating so hard on that silence
Before the next thought comes in
Listening to the listener

I’m trying to see the colours beneath the sunset
To dig even deeper for nutrients that might feed my heart
Which sometimes blooms like the sun behind the clouds
Just before sundown
It blossoms and billows
Like a nebula
Like the shanks of a volcano shrouding the lava
Like sheafs of ash enveloping a coal
Like a flower
A lotus of course
Then again perhaps honeysuckle
Sweet sweet delicious
More intimate than a rose
The scent of heaven surely
The soft tendrils of pink and white and yellow
Sometimes my heart blooms like this
And I trust

Today I will not talk about the shrinking cold and dark
The anguish of tightness and restriction
A poor anemone poked at lowtide
Children and their sticks
Maybe
Or maybe not

The clouds are just so this evening
The petals around the heart of the flower
Unfurling across the sky in the softest colours
The sweetest cirrus formations
I cannot will not tear my eyes away
It’s a nectar I’ve been needing
Enough
It’s enough
So am I
Beneath this rippling sky
A drink of relief
A drink of eternity in a flower

I had plans to be productive
Waylaid I was by the sunset sky
Yes please and thank you
Hold me to you
Water my heart so it may flourish
Like your cloudy petals against infinite blue sky
Like a summer’s day
Even in the coldest winter
Warmth within

I’m not trying so hard beneath this sky
Effortless listening
A song beneath
a song

Ode to the Kitchen

It’s been a while since I had my own my own kitchen. Since moving into our own place, the kitchen is what has most stood out as a particularly lovely room in which not to be guest. This is the first time since November that we haven’t been on the road or staying in someone else’s house, and consequently sharing a cooking space. I am aware that having access to a kitchen with a fridge, stove and running water is a luxury, full stop, but I missed the even greater luxury of having full reign to do whatever took my fancy in that space. I love food, making and eating it, and I love the freedom to embark on culinary projects and experiments when I feel like it. I like knowing what tools I have at my disposal, and I like being able to clean up as I go in order to avoid an enormous pile of dishes at the end–no, I don’t love ALL kitchen activities, but at least I can mitigate the dishes duty when I’m in control of the dish-dirtying, and when I share the space with only one other person who thankfully has a similar dishes-style to my own.

But enough about dishes. There are so many things to do in your own kitchen! You can string fairy lights in aesthetic but functional patterns, for example, adding ambiance while making up for a lack of lighting. You can place plants in the windowsill, to sooth your spirits and brighten your days, or lull you into a meditative state as you pinch off yellowed cilantro leaves and whisper to them sweet, CO2-rich nothings–apparently plants respond well to positive vibrations! Can’t hurt anyway. Nor can it hurt to give the almighty sour-dough-from-scratch a whirl. Why not? In your own kitchen you can make a little bread station, and feed your frothy, sour concoction daily, delighting in the Grade 2 science experiment feel of it all. If it flops (which it did), you can salvage what you can (I made pizza dough) and start again! No pressure.

In your own kitchen, you can play your own music. If you have the day off but wake up early anyway, you can make a big pot of soup at 7:30am. You can cry over the onions or some sudden stirring lyric, some sweet note. Perhaps you put too much cayenne pepper in the broth, and the whole pot makes you sniffle and gulp a litre of water for every bowl. If so you can laugh–no one is waiting on this soup, and there are no hosts to impress.

You stock up on the foods you want. You deal with mishaps as you will–such as a hole in your brown rice bag and a bunch of “wild rice” granules that definitely weren’t there when you bought it! Yes, a mouse may be munching your dry goods, but there is no need for a mouse trap if you have a partner with the same love of animals as you, who is willing to chase the wee fellow around with a tea towel until cornered. Our little friend is relocated to the great outdoors (hopefully he was living here alone!) and half a bag of rice to the compost, and all is well again.

In your own kitchen, you can have breakfast in silence. You don’t have to be friendly and talkative if you don’t feel like it. You can stand there alone and just listen to the wind in the trees, or watch the cat that looks like a cougar as she prowls across the neighbour’s fencetop. Or you can close your eyes and feel the thump of your heart, no one else’s needs or expectations–nor your projections of them–clouding the depth of your breath.

Yes, there are many things you can do in your own kitchen, and to have such a space again is a luxury I am thoroughly, gratefully enjoying.

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Merit or Money?

“I spend my free time either volunteering at hospitals and animal shelters or else enjoying a quiet evening  at home over a cup of herbal tea. I also like long walks at the beach and my greatest wish is world peace…”

I’m afraid that’s what my “tenant’s profile” is beginning to sound like. Not quite, but Robin and I have decided to turn up the charm (keeping smarm to a minimal—we hope) on our rental applications. Competition is stiff for nice and affordable apartments in the areas we are looking, and my six weeks at the chocolate factory under the employment section must not be inspiring confidence.

At this point we have seen many suites, including a number of Almosts, quite a few No-ways, and only one Let’s-go-for-it. But we didn’t get that one, and after over two and a half months of searching, we’re throwing our shame out the window and lavishing our applications with hobbies, education, travel, wholesome photos, and heavy emphasis on our uber conscientious approach to being tenants.

Perhaps it is silly to expect to get the first place you apply for, and perhaps we ought to be less picky. But having lived in several countries now (and in my case, having moved multiple times in my home country), we’ve both learned that it doesn’t pay in terms of daily life-quality to just get something “for now” if you can help it. Sometimes you can’t, but since we’re in a position to wait, we’ve been holding out for the perfect place in terms of location, light, layout, neighbourhood leafiness, and price. We are of course willing to budge here and there, but on the whole, we don’t want to just settle for somewhere we will only want to move out of as soon as the lease is up. Neither can we afford somewhere that’s perfect but leaves us scrambling financially every month.

Given our requirements, we very hopefully submitted our first application, thinking we had found the perfect place: bright and cosy, trees out the windows, funky neighbourhood, a reasonable price. But apparently the agent didn’t think we were the perfect applicants. Ouch! There were an awful lot of other people at the apartment viewing and it wouldn’t take much to earn more than we do at jobs slightly more stable-looking and long-term. Or perhaps they had an awesome tenant profile?!

We came to terms with the rejection and got back on the horse the next weekend. On Saturday we hit three apartments in one day, and amazingly, we like them all. There is one place that we particularly like. It isn’t completely perfect—it’s on a busy street, there’s no balcony or terrace, and it’s quite small—but it’s perfect enough: cosy, bright, a few minutes from a huge park and creek trail, affordable, and in the neighbourhood we want to live in. As if by magic there isn’t a kilometre long queue of people waiting to view it either, so we may not be up against as many other applicants. We look around the place, raise our eyebrows a few times at each other, and emerge nodding and raising eyebrows even higher—are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yes!

We take no chances, and attach our unabashedly self-promoting profiles to the applications—along with an offer to pay six months rent upfront. There go the savings we aren’t supposed to touch, but we agree that it feels necessary.

After hitting them with our best offer, we wait anxiously for three days. Then the agent calls us and tells us that she’s narrowed it down to four applications, and that the owner will have the final say. We’ll hear from her again that afternoon if we’re successful. Robin texts me with a number of anxious messages and picks me up after work, tired from all the nerves. I’ve felt very positive about it all day long and when I get in the car I tell him so. But the clock keeps ticking and I begin to think that surely we would have heard something by now. Office hours will soon be over and…

Just as I begin to accept the disappointing possibility that we may not have gotten this place, despite our very best try, my phone rings.

“Hi, is this Tegan?”

“Uh, yes!”

“This is Shannon from Thornbury Real Estate, and I’m calling about your application for 247 Heidelberg Road.”

“Yes?” My voice is unnaturally calm.

“Well I’ve just spoken with owner of the apartment and she’s happy to approve your application. Are you and Robin still interested?”

“Yes we are.”

“Great! Well I’ll need you to come in tomorrow to sign the lease and pay the deposit, because we actually don’t take the listing off the internet until the deposit has been paid, and that has to happen within 24 hours of the application’s approval. Could you come in tomorrow at 3 o’clock?”

“Of course, no problem.”

Shannon continues, giving me details about the lease and utilities and such, and I can barely concentrate on what she’s saying. Rob’s sitting beside me, mouthing questions and giving me thumbs up and further distracting me. I am vaguely aware of sounding extremely calm and unexcited in my responses when the opposite is true. Not until she wraps up do I gather my wits about me and inject a little enthusiasm into the conversation.

“Well THANK you, Shannon. What great news for a Friday!”

“Ha, I wish it were Friday!”

“Ohhhh yeah, it’s not Friday is it.” I scramble about inside my head although I’m still speaking with an abnormally deadpan voice. “It’s only Thursday. Ohh dear. You know, I have actually been thinking it was Friday this whole time, and I’m afraid I can’t come in tomorrow at 3 because I’m working then. Um. Uh. Could we come in on Saturday?”

“No, I’m afraid not, it has to be within 24 hours…”

“Right, right,” I’m looking at Rob for help. I put her on hold for a moment and he tells me he can leave work early. In the end I sort it out with Shannon, arranging that Rob will go to the office the next day to pay the deposit and sign the lease and I can sign later. We say our goodbyes and I sit there for a moment. I feel foolish and I ask Rob if he thinks I sounded weird, which he does. But he assures me that they won’t change their minds about offering us the apartment just because I sounded strange on the phone (yes, I did worry about that).

We go out for dinner in our new neighbourhood and toast our new flat-to-be with a couple of celebratory drinks, even though it’s not Friday. We also have a chuckle musing over whether it was our profile or the offer of a big sum of money that led to our success. I like to think it wasn’t just the money, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. After all our searching we have found our own little place—at last!

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