Acceptance, Forgiveness, Friendships, Happy Life, Relationships

The Power of a Tiny Dot of Attention, Planning & Communiation

Recently I’ve had a massive realisation with respect to my business life; where there has been a vacuum of attention, planning, and/or communication, problems and issues have not been far behind.

Now this may not be a new idea for most of you, but for me, ensuring that are as few vacuums as possible has really been life changing. I’m less stressed, I feel like I’m achieving more, there’s no guilt, my clients are super happy and no matter how heavy my work load gets I’m feeling like I’m responding actively rather than reactively.

So this morning I got to thinking about how these vacuums affect a person’s personal, social and spiritual life. I started thinking about all of the times in my life when I’ve lost focus and not placed any attention in an aspect of my life, and what I found was shit always got bad. And the fascinating thing about that is how expediential it was, the longer I left giving the aspect any attention the greater the shit.

Vacuums of attention don’t stay vacuums for long. Something or someone is always going to fill that space, and most likely it is not going to be to our choosing.

I believe that pain in our life is caused by the gap between where we are and where we want to be, the greater the gap the greater the pain. In those moments when we are truly present and appreciative and can say to ourselves “There is no where in the world I’d rather be right now” we are truly blissful.

So surely when we lose focus and attention on an area or aspect of our lives the something or someone is always going to fill the space in a way that is not only different from the way we would have chosen for ourselves but is ultimately going to take us further away from who and where we want to be.  Thus increasing our discomfort, pain and sense of suffering.

So if this is a premise that you can believe to be true can we agree that preventing vacuums from occurring is paramount to our own sense of happiness?

If we know it is super important and we know that we can prevent vacuums from occurring by simply giving the space some attention, planning and communication; then why do we keep procrastinating and avoiding the addressing of our issues and aspects enough to keep allowing vacuums to occur?

I’d suggest that firstly we tell ourselves it is because “we don’t have the time” and maybe that is partly true, but I feel the real reason is fear. I believe that the only reason a person wouldn’t chose happiness is because they’re bound by fear. And not particularly massive fears, I believe that even small fears like ‘the fear of not being seen to be a good person’ can bind us just as tightly as our big fears.

I also believe that it’s not just our fears of dealing with the ignored aspect which create vacuums of attention, but also fears around the removal of our attention and time from the aspects that are getting the lion’s share of our focus.

I’d also split the lion’s share into two categories; attention we are giving because we are moving towards something or attention we are giving because we are moving away from something.

And I think that this is an important distinction. Wanting something or someone because we think it would be a fantastic addition to our lives has a very different feel from wanting that same something or someone because we fear what our lives would be like in their absence.

Here is what I think the good news is, if tiny fears can create vacuums then can’t tiny amounts of attention prevent them forming in the first place? To prevent a vacuum forming I don’t think it requires any real action from us; I proposed that all it requires is just a tiny bit of attentiveness.

Let’s say we are super focused and consumed with work and a vacuum is forming in our home life. Rather than deal with the imbalance, what if we addressed it before it addressed us? I would argue that has the potential to prevent a something or someone from setting an agenda contraire to our desires.

What if we gave it a tiny amount of attention, planning and communication?

“My dear loved one, things are out of balance with work right now, I am aware of it and it is my intention to sort it out. Right now though I don’t feel like I have the time or the energy to do so but I am conscious of where most of my focus is and how that can make you feel at times. Are you ok if I take a couple of months to get this sorted out? Would turning my phone off and not working every Sunday afternoon to spend time with you and the kids be enough of a gesture in the meantime?”

Wouldn’t the above example be more welcomed than nothing? ‘Nothing’ doesn’t take responsibility, ‘nothing’ doesn’t acknowledge, ‘nothing’ doesn’t set a plan, ‘nothing’ doesn’t offer small gestures and ‘nothing’ doesn’t communicate. Nothing is that head in the sand thing that we hear so much about. Nothing is nothing, it is an absence, a vacuum, and a void.

Of course there is room in the above scenario for real action, but what I wish to discuss today isn’t the best case solution, it’s a solution in exchange for nothingness. And we can get on our high horses and demand real action from ourselves and other’s and reject the tiny ‘something’ as not being good enough. But what are we trying to achieve here? Aren’t we all just trying to be happy? Aren’t we procrastinating and avoiding certain things because we think it will make us happier than facing and dealing with our fears around it? Isn’t ‘something’ a massive step from ‘nothing’? What’s our rush? Let us remember that we can avoid and procrastinate about an issues for months, years even decades.

What if we took it easy on ourselves and saw the tiny ‘something’ as a step towards a big ‘something’ and something wonderful.

“I’m drinking a fair bit at the moment, more than I’d like.  I know I’m drinking to avoid some stuff that I don’t feel ready to deal with. I want to prevent a vacuum forming and I know that I need to give that stuff some attention to do so.

But I don’t wish to trawl through all of the pain of those issues right now, right now I want to have some peace in my life and some fun. I’m going to plan to let it all-go for now and I’m going to ease up on myself about the drinking. I know that every time I start judging myself about my drinking it only get’s worse. I know that right now I’m enjoying it and it isn’t causing me any issues in my life, I’ve just been down on it because I know that I’ve been using it as an escape and I don’t want to live like this forever.

Now that I’ve let go of the need to deal with all of the stuff right away I’ll have lots of opportunities for more peace and fun to come into my life and it will come in many other forms than just the drinking. I always drink the way I have been to move away from something, now I’ve given myself permission to ease up on dealing with everything I feel like I am free to move towards something for the first time in ages. I want to give my attention to feeling good and just saying that helps me to feel better already.”

Now here is where this gets really interesting, what if we swap the word vacuum with void? What if all of those deep voids we feel like we have could be filled with a tiny bit of attention, a tiny bit of planning and a tiny bit of communication.

If procrastination and avoidance form a vacuum of attention regarding what we want and where we want to be, then doesn’t even a tiny bit of attention cancel out the vacuum? How can you have a vacuum if something is there? Even the smallest of dots on the largest piece of paper is not nothing; it is a tiny dot on a very large piece of paper.

Let’s be easy on ourselves and give all of those things that we are worried about a tiny dot of our attention, for a tiny dot is just as much of something as anything else.

Leanne xx

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Health & Wellbeing

Wait Loss

If you are tired of waiting in life for that specific thing to happen before you can get on and live your best life, then I write this article for you as well as myself. Today I am focused on losing the wait(ing), through my journey of losing the weight.

Even if weight is not your issue then I hope you’ll find the content pretty universal and relevant; whether you are waiting for more money, better health, a special person, a life’s purpose, a family, more confidence or like me you are keen to lose some physical weight, we are all connected by a common barrier which is preventing us from living the rich interior life that we deserve.

Today I ask the question, why are we waiting for our external world to change in order to change how we feel internally?

Earlier this evening I was out and catching up with a few friends when one of my girlfriends caught a glimpse of an acquaintance across the room that she hadn’t seen for awhile. She commented to the other girls who also knew her “Holy Crap! She looks amazing! What has she been doing? She looks like she’s lost about 30 kilos” to which another friend replied “She saw a Life Coach, they got into her head and she said it changed everything.”

My girlfriend then turned to me and said “You’re a Life Coach, you need to do that to me” to which I replied, “I need to do it myself” and then I lol’d.

(I didn’t actual lol. I just threw that in there to stir her up because she’s a passionate hater of the ‘lol’. And now I really am laughing out loud, I am soooo funny. lol)

My girlfriend and I discussed it and agreed that we would do it together, not as a client and consultant but as two mates helping each other out. I provide all the tips, techniques and tools that I have and she provides some accountability for me to start practising what I preach.

You see I know what I need to do, and I don’t do it. I even know what I need to do in order to get over not doing the things I need to do, and I don’t do them either.

I believe that all of us know what we need to do to make ourselves happy, healthy and loved and sometimes we don’t do those things.  Sometimes we need help. Not to work out what to do but just to help us allocate some time and effort to an issue in our life. To help us with some inspiration, to help us with some accountability and to help us to acknowledge our unhelpful thought patterns.

I believe that we can successfully achieve any goal on our own, but I also believe, “where’s the fun in that?” Isn’t it an awesome thing to be able to collaborate with someone? Isn’t the juicy stuff of life all about sharing journeys, offering support and swapping wisdoms and ideas? These are the reasons that I am so passionate about what I do, I love helping people…but it’s time to start helping myself as well.

I preach the importance of, “putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on others” all the time, but I’m not doing it. I also preach the importance of “taking it easy on yourself and focusing on the things that you are doing as a beginning point rather than on what you’re not”, so this is where I’m going to start.

Before I started Loving Business I sat with my own business consultant and we talked about the kinds of clients I wished to see and the types of issues that I wanted to focus upon and specialise in. The conversation turned one day to helping people with their weight issues, and I remember saying to him “how could I possibly help others when I’m not doing it for myself? I’d feel like such a hypocrite”.

And then he asked me what was a great question and just one of many great questions that I have thanked him for asking me, he asked “What would be the benefits to your clients be given that this is an issue that you’ve struggling with too? Remember that you’ve also overcome the struggle a few times before, you know the path and the traps for relapsing.”

I came up with a long list of the ways in which my journey and personal struggles could help people, but my fears of being hypocritical shied me away from the idea.

So I’m going to dip my toe in and help someone, not a client but a friend, and then I’ll go from there. But it’s high time for me to lose both the weight and the wait. My intentions are to write down in detail the journey that we undergo and put it into a format of a teaching program; and if it all goes well then I’ll share it with you any of you who are also on this path and interested in what we came up with.

Actually let’s go one step further than that. If any of you would like to be included on this journey as we go along then feel free to contact me via the Loving Business Facebook page and I’ll keep you up to date with what we are doing. I’ll set up a private Facebook group where we can share our stories of giving up the wait no matter what it is that you are waiting for, as well as offer support and inspiration.

A few months ago I wrote an article about How to Help Her Lose The Weight Without Losing Her, I had some great feedback from lots of people that told me they couldn’t read the article because it tapped into issues that they had experienced from others trying to control their appearance and weight. I promised that I would rewrite the article from the perspective of the self for those people.

So tonight this is what I’m doing. The following is also an outline of the conversation I had earlier with my girlfriend when I was explaining to her how we’d go about this all and how we’ll start. I promised her no talk about food or exercise to begin with, no jumping on the scales, and no tough love. We’ll get there, but we all know that stuff. The stuff that we really struggle with is letting go of the wait.

The waiting until we get our perfect bodies before we start to live the life that we really want to live, before we feel like we deserve to be loved and before we feel like we have anything to offer, the wait is the most insidious thing about a weight issue.

So if you are keen to get on with it and lose the wait, no matter what it is that you are waiting for then I hope you enjoy the outline I’ve written below. As discussed earlier it specifically pertains to my weight loss journey but the kernel of each point is transferable.

1. What You Need To Understand Before You Begin

No one can ‘get’ you to do anything, including lose weight. It’s a personal journey that isn’t anyone’s business, so be careful who you speak to about it in the early stages.

Many people struggle with this issue and people will be only too happy to offer you their fears and opinions regarding your journey, keep them at bay. You’ve got enough of your own fears and enough tough love swirling around in your head, you don’t need to invite another critical voice to the party. You know exactly who this person is within your life that I’m talking about, keep them out of this.

2. Why You Are Overweight

Regardless of what you’ve been telling yourself or other people, you are carrying this weight for a reason. Not only are they good reasons but they are awesome reasons. Whether your weight has been a comfort, a protection, a support, a shield, or all of the above, it has been of great value to you.

Whilst weight gain as a coping mechanism has many limits and some obvious health costs, it is not the enemy here. It has done everything that it has been asked to do. It has been your way of coping, and it has done its job. It has also provided you with a sign that something is out of balance in your life.

To effect change you don’t need to unravel the specific reasons as to why the weight has been necessary in your life, you know why. You only need to get to a point where you can acknowledge that those reasons are a part of who you are; therefore they are important, valid and worth loving.

 3. Why Do You Want To Lose Weight?

Years ago I dated a man who thought that it would be helpful to pull at a fat roll on my stomach and tell me “You know something? You would be stunning if you lost some weight”.

Now let us ignore the insensitive nature of these comments and look at them for what they were. They were statements that I allowed because they mirrored my own thoughts about my body. They were also statements projected from a man who had those same insecurities and thoughts about his own body.

His motives limited his ability to offer a solution. He wasn’t able to offer me anything other than critical observations because that was all he knew how to bring to his own struggle.

If there was no way that his criticism and judgement was going to help inspire me then why do I think it appropriate to offer the same bullshit to myself?

Make sure your motives are loving ones. Get excited about moving towards the things in life that bring you joy rather than trying to push away from the things that are frustrating and disappointing you in your current life.

4. Your Weight Loss

Give up the temptation to compare your body and your weight loss journey with others. I mentioned before that your weight is no one else’s business, but the same goes for you.

I get that it gives you a thrill to see a celebrity on the cover of a magazine with their cellulite showing, or to run into frienemy who has packed on the pounds, but for your own sake stop it.

There are never times when we are thriving, feeling awesome and kicking goals in all aspects of our own life that we bother to stop and compare ourselves against the flaws and shortcomings of others. Never.

You’re not a horrible person for judging others, it’s human nature. But it’s not helpful to you on this journey. It is “pushing away” rather than “moving towards”. It is everything that you need to stop doing to yourself.

Judgement brings no joy and no solutions, it only offer’s more of the criticism that you’ve been hurt by yourself. Get rid of it out of you life. Because if you can stop measuring and judging the flaws in others then you’ll soon be able to stop doing it to yourself.

5. Specifically, What Are You Hoping To Achieve?

As an example let’s say that you’ve lamented how you used to be the life of the party and now you’ve put on weight you hold back. You’re less, less willing to go out, and you’ve noticed that you’re now lacking the confidence that you remember you used to have.

In this instance what you are hoping to achieve is to regain your confidence in a social context.

Activity:

I would encourage you to write out a list of the qualities you are hoping to see in yourself and experience once you’ve lost the weight, found the perfect person, have more money, have better health etc.

6. You Are A Mirror

You are the mirror from which you see yourself daily. If you were to start offering a new perspective on how you see yourself and your weight, then doesn’t it make sense that this would start to change how you felt about yourself deep down?

And the great thing is you don’t have to believe the new things that you are telling yourself, there was a time that you didn’t believe the horrible things that you say to yourself now. Your critical inner dialogue implanted itself into you slowly, little by little. So if you can develop hate for parts of yourself just by the things that you think repeatedly, then isn’t it logical that you can develop love for yourself using the same method?

I’ll pick up the example of confidence that I gave above. The first thing I’d like to ask you is; how has your lack of self confidence benefited you? Some possible examples below;

Activity:

Go through your entire list of what you are trying to achieve from the above activity and look at how you being overweight/ill/poor/lonely/ etc has benefited you in those areas. The benefits are there I promise, they are just hard to see when you are so heavily focused on the drawbacks.

The human experience is a dichotomy; near and far, hot and cold, light and dark, good and bad. It’s the whole yin and yang thing, for every drawback you’ve acknowledged about being overweight/ill/poor/lonely etc there are an equal amount of benefits, that’s right…equal. So start looking.  

 Then write out a list of appreciation for those benefits. 

Yin-Yang

 7. Your Positive Aspects

Going back to your list of things that you hope to achieve, I’d encourage you to start looking for where those facets of are currently showing up in your life.

If you are seeing your lack confidence at big parties; then where aren’t you lacking confidence socially? Where are you thriving socially? Who are the people you are with and what are the places where you are completely uninhibited?

Look for those moments; offer appreciation and positive attention to those moments. The day that you find more examples of yourself thriving then of yourself struggling is the day that you’ll tip the balance in your own perceptions.

8. Tell Yourself You Are Beautiful And Why

Once again, you don’t need to believe the words you are saying; because you certainly weren’t born thinking parts of yourself were ugly. You’ve picked that up over time through the practice of saying it repeatedly to yourself; unfortunately it most probably began with the help of some people you love.

So it’s time to get conscious about what you are saying to yourself, start by offering yourself some specific compliments that you can’t dismiss or shrug off. It doesn’t matter how small you start, just start. Pick something to focus on and repeat it until you believe it.

Be as enthusiastic and adoring of yourself and your body right now as you would be if you were living the dream that you’ve envisage for yourself. Once again, you don’t need to believe it, we’re faking it til we make it baby!

Why wait until you lose weight to offer yourself this level of positive attention, appreciation and affection? There is a lot about you that is fantastic right now. You’ve just got to start looking for what these things are. This is impossible to do when you are so heavily focused on the things that you don’t like, so shift your focus and get some balance back into your perspective.

9. You Don’t Need Fixing

You don’t need fixing because you aren’t broken.

You don’t need ‘to do things’ as much as you need ‘to stop doing things’. You need to stop believing that you are anything less than magnificent as you are right now. And this is easily achieved through practice.

Underneath it all you are exactly the same strong, brave, caring, compassionate, loving, smart, sexy, capable, funny and beautiful person who you’ve once known yourself to be. And don’t let me hear you say that you’ve never felt that way about yourself, you have. Because if you hadn’t then feeling the way you do right now wouldn’t be so bad because you’d have nothing to compare it to.

You know who you truly are, and that’s why it hurts so much everyday when you tell yourself that you are less than this.

You don’t need help to ‘get back’ to that person; you only need help to acknowledge that you still are that person. If fact if you were only focused more on ‘who you are’ and less on ‘who you’re not’ then you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

10. Losing the Wait

If you really want this, then stop waiting for your outside to change so you can have some peace and happiness on the inside. You can achieve that right now, immediately, and without waiting. Just keep your focus on just how amazing, beautiful and special you are right now and on thinking the thoughts that you perceive you’d have if all of your dreams were true right now.

Much Love & Appreciation, Leanne xx

PS: As mentioned above if you’re keen or you think that a friend would be interested to follow our journey with a focus on wait rather than weight, then hit me up through the Loving Business Facebook page. I’ll create a link for our private group where you’ll have a safe and supportive place to connect with which will hopefully inspire your own journey too.

Also for more Loving Business Articles please see the links below.

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Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Family, Relationships, Romantic Relationships

“I’m engaged!”And why I’m looking forward to a less than perfect marriage.

So I have some great news to share with you all! The other night my beloved boyfriend of nearly 3 years surprised me by popping the question, and I said yes!

We’d been to one of the most heartfelt and joyous weddings that I’d even been to just days prior to him asking me to marry him.

And whilst I’d like to think that it was the romance of the wedding that had swept over him the truth be told I think it had more to do with a big fight we had the next day. By big, I mean the biggest we’ve ever had. This fight combined with a quote from Pulp Fiction has led me to one of the most joyous and loving places I’ve ever been in.

In the lead up to the weekend I was stressing out about a decision which I didn’t need to make. Rather than just go along and deal with the problem if it ever arose, I took it upon myself to try and find some hypothetical solutions to what is a hypothetical problem.

In other words I was making shit up in my head, a little trait that I’ve tended towards oh too many times.

After speaking with a dear friend about it, and given our mutual love of Pulp Fiction, I was sent this pic below and then a really profound message.

My new favourite quote from my old favourite movie.  Thanks HS. :)

My new favourite quote from my old favourite movie. Thanks HS. 🙂

“I know what it’s like to get in your head too much, but if you turn it to a point of appreciation it actually puts you back on track to where you are wanting to go, rather than beating your self up for not being exactly where you want to be…and bitch be cool!”

I was really touched by the message, it resonated deeply with me and it wasn’t the first time that the answer to me feeling better about a situation lay in appreciation.  It annoys me so much though, because for heavens sake I know this stuff; I teach it for a living.

But in a weird way me forgetting to adhere to my own advice is great validation for what I do, an outsider is able to bring so much more to a situation, particularly when we are too close to it to see the bigger picture. It’s the whole forest through the trees thing.

The day after the lovely wedding my beloved and I had a stupid fight over something stupid. We had a perfect storm brewing, we’ve had visitors for a few weeks, we’re renovating and this has meant that at the moment our bedroom is in the living room without a wall or a door.

We hadn’t connected, communicated or spent anytime together in weeks and our little wheels fell off. Niggles would arise that we couldn’t talk about because we didn’t have the privacy and then another and another until boom.

Here’s the good news. At the point of boom I did something that I rarely do. I didn’t freak out and get into my head; I didn’t let the boom expand into the reaches of my hypothetical future. I told myself “bitch be cool”.

I told myself “we’ll sort this out, we always do”, I appreciated all that we have together and I chilled out about our relationship not yet being where I want it to be in 5, 10 or 20 years time.

Early on, my last wedded union was riddled with me comparing it to my parent’s marriage and being frustrated at how short we came up. Even after my mother generously shared with me,

“You never saw your father and I in our first five years of marriage, so stop comparing yourself to where we are now after years and years of hard work.”

I wanted it sorted; I wanted to just get to the destination without having to experience the pain of the journey. This is a little habit of mine too from as long as I can remember. Many a time I have managed to avoid the perceived pain of a situation but I’ve also avoided the exhilaration and the joy of it.

So there I was, after the ‘blow up’ feeling closer to my beloved than ever. I’ve finally accepted that one, or two or many blow ups don’t mean that it is all going to turn to dust. My father gave me some fantastic advice (which I didn’t take on board either) on the eve of my first wedding. He said,

“Your mother and I have worked out a balance where 10% of the time I’m impossible to live with and 10% of the time she is. As long as we try and spend most of our time living in that 80% then that’s my definition of a really happy marriage.”

Our new engagement as well as being in a serious relationship again in general, has led me to reflect upon so much within my first marriage. I can hand on my heart honestly say that I never let my ex have his 10%. I was always on his arse about everything.

Fix this about yourself, this annoys me, change this, give me more, take from me less; I just went on and on. But I sure as hell expected my 10% to be accepted and understood with patience and empathy.

With the benefit of hindsight I firmly believe that if I’d just allowed my previous relationship not to be perfect from the beginning then it may very well have developed and blossomed into the relationship of my dreams.

This insight has infused me with great confidence going into a second marriage, great confidence as well as great responsibility. For I now believe that I have a lot more control over how successful this marriage can be then I even dare to acknowledge.

I firmly believe that most relationship problems can be fixed from just one side, even my beloved Dr Phil talks about this when he frequently refers to “it only talking one person to be a hero and step up.”

My previous quest for perfection was always outwardly focused, “you need to fix this”, “you need to change”, “you’ve made me feel this way”. Never once did I come from a position of responsibility and used the words “I am”, “I’m going to love you just as you are without asking you to change for me”, “I’m going to be patient and kind with you because I believe in all that you are”, “I’m going to focus on loving you rather than on being right”, “I’m going to strive for a loving connection, rather than perfection”.

Now I can see how, even unknowingly that my hunt for perfection used weapons of criticism, judgement and control to bring my ex-husband down.

Where as a hunt for a loving connection uses tools of acceptance, understanding and patience to build up.

Moving forward in this relationship these are my great quests,

  • To let our relationship be exactly what it is for now.
  • To remember that nothing remains the same, both in our relationship and as individuals, we can’t help but to grow, expand, change and move forward and sometimes that is going to be frustrating and other times it is going to be awesome.
  • To focus on appreciating all that my new husband-to-be, myself and our relationship is, rather than all that it’s not.
  • And to remember “To be cool!” when things aren’t perfect.

So back to the proposal, fresh from my revelations from the weekend, the Monday just afterwards was my birthday. I take birthdays very seriously, perhaps too seriously, and last year’s was a debacle. I left all of the planning up to my beloved and as birthdays aren’t very important to him, long story short; he managed to drop the ball in a spectacular way…from my perspective anyway.

So this year rather than brace myself for another flop, I positioned myself in a place where I was opened to giving him the benefit of the doubt as well as letting go any expectation that he would do anything special for me. I would just let it be what it was going to be and offer love and appreciation regardless.

I spent the entire day appreciating all of the wonderful things both big and small in my life; and boy oh boy, isn’t that a good recipe for a joyful and happy birthday.

I had a fantastic day, I was high on life and chilled out about birthdays being a part of his 10%, and then the most wonderful thing happened. Genuinely free from any judgement or expectation he absolutely nailed the whole birthday thing and then went on to nail the whole proposal thing.

He’s had the ring for over 6 months and had been waiting for the right moment. I’ve been banging on about the perfect proposal, hot air balloons and those YouTube videos of ‘The Best Proposal Ever!’

I think it was no coincidence that the minute I stopped pushing for everything to be perfect, my life played itself out in ways which were more beautiful than I could have imagined.

So to all you stress heads and perfectionists out there allow me to grace you with these final words, “Bitches be cool!”

Leanne xx

NB: If you enjoyed this article then it would be fantastic if you could share it with a friend if you haven’t already done so, either via email, twitter, Reddit, carrier pigeon or by liking and then clicking the share link on the Loving Business Facebook page. (Share links at the bottom of this article.)

Also for more Loving Business Articles please see the links below.

Much Love & Appreciation

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Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Family, Friendships, Relationships, Teaching & Learning

“… I’ll give you something to cry about”: How My Father Taught Me to Surf in The 80’s

My father has always had a deep love for the ocean, and in particular fishing and surfing. These were passions which were passed down by his father and upon becoming a father himself it was his great ambition to continue the legacy on to his own children. And what a lovely wish it was.

The day my father taught me to surf was a gloriously sunny day. It was the mid 80’s and I would have been about 10.

Now I know what you’re thinking,

“1985? You would have been pretty cool just hanging out at the beach wearing your Brian Rochford Fluro-Pink Cossie, smelling of Reef Oil and humming hits from your favourite record Choose 1985. But now you’re being taught how to surf? OMG Leanne, for a 10 year old you were really taking cool to a totally new level!”

Choose 1985.

Choose 1985. Was up there with Summer of ’87 as my favourite compilation. I’m pretty sure this was the first compilation that I ever owned that was by the “original artists” and not some povo knock off’s.

I know right! But unfortunately that’s because you are thinking of this….

Tricia Gill  Photo:Simone Reddingius www.jettygirl.com

Tricia Gill
Photo:Simone Reddingius
http://www.jettygirl.com

 …when my reality was actually this.

Waveski "Goat Boat" Rider Photo: www.travelblog.org

Waveski “Goat Boat” Rider
Photo: http://www.travelblog.org

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a Waveski but they are called a ‘Goat Boat’ for a reason. It didn’t matter that there was no one around for me to impress (my father always sort out remote and desolate surf spots), I still wanted to be a cool surfer chick.

Prior to the surf lesson I was happily shredding up waves on my Moray Mach 7 Boogie Board. Ah, how I loved that board.

Me in my mind…

mach7

…me in Real Life

stregis-boogie-board

So I do understand that as he watched me mucking around in the foam, my father would have found it difficult to imagine that I was possibly having as much fun as he was out the back on the big waves.

My time had come. He grabbed me and told me that he was going to take me “out the back for a screamer”. It didn’t take me long to work out why he called them “screamers”.

My father fully trained me on the use of the made-for-adults device,

“Make sure you paddle as hard as you can.”

And then he went through a detailed safety induction,

“See this clip, if you get into trouble pull it open to get yourself untied from the ski, but only do it once you’re underwater. Otherwise it might smash you in the head and knock you unconscious.”

And then to round out my training he thoroughly assessed my capabilities,

“You’ll be right, stop being a sook.”

So after my comprehensive instructional it was really time to put all that theory to the test. He popped me upon the “fibreglass beast”, strapped me in and then dragged me through crashing wave after crashing wave by hanging on to my little foot strap thingies (which were wayyyyy too big for me).

Note the foot strappy things.  Pic: www.capacitysports.com.au

Note the foot strappy things.
Pic: http://www.capacitysports.com.au

That was it for me, I’d had enough. I pleaded to go back into the shore but it was too late,

“We don’t quit.”

Once out-the-back there was a moment of reprieve from the set which gave me an opportunity to cough up the 80 litres of sea water I had just swallowed.

And then in a mad attempt to either, distract me, get me excited or build some last minute confidence, he alerted me to the wave he had spotted for me,

“See that one? That big one out the back? Whoa, it’s huge. This one’s gunna be a real screamer. Here it comes”.

Things the detailed training program didn’t cover:

  • A check to see if I weighed enough to lift the nose of the ski by leaning back to avoid it nose-diving.
  • What to do when you don’t weigh enough and the “beast of a floatation device” nose dives.
  • What to do when you slip through the seat belt and the “beast of a floatation device” is about to belt you in the back of the head.
  • How to avoid the razor sharp paddle from smashing into your face whilst undergoing a nose dive.
  • How not to panic as you try to un-strap yourself from the “beast of a floatation device” whilst upside-down and under water.

Whilst underwater, thoughts of my beloved 1st Grade Teacher came to mind. I can’t remember his name but he was awesome. He was young and fit and he was a Surf Life Saver.

He told us heaps of stories about the people that he had rescued and there were two stories that I always remembered. The first one was how he had to shovel the vomit out of people’s mouths with his fingers before he gave them mouth-to-mouth, and the second was how,

“After the struggling part ends, drowning is actually one of the most peaceful ways to die.”

Convinced that this was the end I remembered those wise words and readied myself for my inevitable demise. How poetic it would be, being taken at sea.

Yes even as a youngster I had a flair for the dramatic. Apparently the reality was much closer to me be under for only 30 seconds in about 3 feet of water with my father right beside me.

Never the less, I had now tasted the far and distant fringes of a near death experience. Rather than see my second chance at life as an opportunity to “Carpe Diem” I was instead determined never to take a risk again.

My father knew that if he left me to sit on the shore and ponder the big questions of life, like why Corey Hart wore his sunglasses at night, I would always have a fear of the surf.

Corey Hart: "I wear my sunglasses at night So I can, So I can  Watch you weave then breathe your story lines."

Corey Hart: “I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, So I can
Watch you weave then breathe your story lines.”

So right about here my father figured he had two choices,

1. Quit

  • He would have to “give in” and let me have my way by leaving me on the shore.
  • He would have to admit that maybe his way of teaching me things wasn’t the best or the only way.
  • He would have to trust that I would overcome my fears to try something out of my comfort zone without being pushed to.
  • He would have to leave the beach that day knowing that I’d had a “loss” that he’d created and hadn’t helped me to overcome.

2. Don’t Quit

  • He would have to continue on and drag me out the back and then literally throw me in the deep in.
  • He would have to trust that he knew what was best for me more than I did in that moment.
  • He would have to believe that he could help me overcome my fears and that I would leave the beach that day with a “win” under my belt.

When you look at those two choices it is no wonder that my father chose the latter, he knew, after many years of throwing me in the deep end, that if he pushed me to persevere that I would get there.  He also knew from experience that with his help I would overcome my fears and learn this new skill.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about our loved ones wanting us to change or else. The two options that my father had perceived above are also underlined by the perceived need for change below.

 1. I Quit = I Need to Change How I Do Things

2. I Don’t Quit = You Need to Change How You Do Things

With the benefit of hindsight my father would now argue that there was indeed an option c) available to him that day. I could have quit my whining a bit and understood what he was trying to do, and he could have quit his disregard for my fears a bit and we could have met in the middle. We both could have changed how we were doing things.

But today I am just focusing on the sentiments of option b) you need to change. And what I am really interested in is when the “or else” part is added to the end.

To be clear I bring with me no judgement of the path my father took, not just because he is my dad and I love him, but because I would argue that the “or else” part offers us a choice. At that point we can either get-on-board with the change that is being requested of us or we can choose to accept the “or else” part of the deal and refuse to participate.

So my father made his choice, whilst I was still in tears after the first wave he grabbed me and back out into the surf we went.

He put me on another screamer, I got dumped and then I was really screaming. This cycle of dump/screamer/screaming would continue to go on. The more I got upset the harder I made it for myself and the more frustrated he became.

My father was stuck; I was obviously ill prepared but he had also greatly miscalculated the risks regarding my chances of failure. He needed me to overcome my fears and he did that the best way he knew how. He created a new fear which he thought was greater than my fear of the surf. So out came the old,

“If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about”

So here we were, “change or else”.

I had a choice; I could have accepted to have received the “something to really cry about”. Having taken the “or else” option plenty of times growing up, I knew that a smack (it was the 80’s) and a time out on the sand would have been much easier to cop than to have to face my fears. And I also knew that the chances of him “giving me something to really cry about” were minimal in this context, I was 99% sure he was bluffing, which are great odds as a kid.

Through all my carry on, my tears and my pleas not to go out the back any more; I knew that I didn’t want to take the offer of the “or else” that day. I wanted to try and therefore I consented to change and I can’t imagine that I would have faced my fears to that extent without someone beside me who was relentless in their belief that if I stuck at it I would get there.

That day I did catch a wave and not just any wave but a real screamer. Only this time I was finally screaming with joy just as he had hoped I would.

In that moment, the entire struggle was justified by my father and forgotten by me.

So the question I ask today is, “Can we really force our loved ones to change if they don’t want to?” Aren’t they consenting by not choosing the or else part? Just as I did as a kid, is it possible to consent whilst pretending that we don’t?

Now I get that this is a really grey area, I’m not suggesting that it is acceptable to threaten children with corporal punishment to do things against their will. This beach story was nearly 30 years ago and even my father’s stance on smacking children has completely turned around.

But in our society we do threaten children all the time with an “or else you won’t be able to play on your iPad”, “or else you won’t get dessert” etc.

And have you noticed that a lot of the “or else’s” are left really vague? I would argue that this is the case because so often what we mean is,

“you need to do this thing or else, I will get upset”.

We don’t really want to add an actual consequence because we aren’t really interested in following through with our threats. We just want our point of view understood as one that we are really serious about.

It is such a common criticism of parents that I hear,

“No wonder the kid is out of control, they never follow through on their threats”

And I do see parent’s threatening misbehaving children all the time with,

If you don’t behave we are going to pack up and go home right now, I don’t care that we just got here.”

I would argue that this “not following through” is a good instinct, it’s an evolution from the way our own parents reacted by cutting off their noses to spite all of our faces.

Threatening less or ceasing to make threats that you don’t have a desire to follow through on in the first place is what is missing from the new model of parenting.

But equally I get how hard it is not to reach for this old faithful when the kids have spent the day winding you up and pushing your buttons. It is really hard to parent differently from our own parents, it’s hard wired into us.

I also think it is important to ask the question “Do our loved ones really need to change in the first place?” What would have happened if I was left to my own devices that day on the beach? What if I had never experienced a screamer out-the-back? Would I have been any worse off?

For the record to this day I do feel very confident in the water as well as oh so respectful of the power of the ocean, but would that have happened anyway because of my heavy exposure to the beach?

The path that my father took me on did come at a cost; he no doubt would argue that it was a very small cost and this many years later on I would tend to agree with him.

But I have strong memories of always being scared to try new things with him. I was never able to trust that he would listen to me when I told him that I was terrified. But in his defence, I kept coming back for more even though I knew what was likely to occur.

In essence I was saying,

“Dad, I’m happy for you to show me how to do this new thing but you need to stop ignoring me when I tell you I’m scared, or else.”

My father always chose the “or else” option.

I’m guessing that for him it was more important to push me through my fears once I’d started something then to worry about if I’d come back for more down the track. Or maybe he was super confident that his ends would justify his means and I’d keep lining up to be pushed out of my comfort zone.

The ideal is obviously a position of compromise in relationships and a two-way communication style that omits ultimatums. I would also be so bold to suggest, and you’ll disagree with me here but just let me plant a seed,

“that we need to reach a place where we can accept that our loved ones know what is best for themselves no matter their age or their circumstances.”

I know, it’s a hard one to swallow, and it’s a concept that I’ve only just come around to and often I do the opposite with my loved ones. The “I know what’s best for you” drum beats very loudly within me.

But until we reach that place, then I would argue that we can’t get this stuff wrong.

By being able to refuse our loved ones suggestion to change and by having the option to take up the “or else” part we can hold just as much power as our loved ones in that moment.

Or conversely if we chose to act then surely we take on just as much of the responsibility for the outcome as they do…maybe more?

Relationships are growth machines and they constantly plant seeds for us to develop, grow and change; it is because of the magic of the “or else” part, we get to choose the when’s, if’s and how’s.

Leanne xx

NB: To be very clear I am in no way speaking about the forcing of our loved ones to change in ways that are defined as emotionally, physically or mentally abusive. Such behaviour should never be tolerated and you should seek immediate help and support if either yourself or a loved one are at risk. Google “Domestic Abuse Help” in your local area.

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Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Friendships, Relationships

What Baby Gammy has Taught Me about the Freedom of Difference

Photo Credit: Damir Sagolj, Reuters.

The other night Four Corners aired a report by Debbie Whitmont about the Surrogacy Business in Thailand with particular respect to Australian families.

The future of surrogacy in Thailand has been well and truly rocked by the alleged abandonment of baby Gammy. For those of you unaware of the story; it was alleged that Gammy, who was born via a surrogate in Thailand to Australian biological parents, was abandoned and left with his surrogate mother due to being born with Down syndrome.

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support for baby Gammy and a continued interest in the case as there is still so much that is unknown. Baby Gammy’s story has raised so many important questions with respect to how children are born and raised in our modern world.

Inspired by baby Gammy; today I wanted to push all of the legal and ethical questions aside to focus on our societies’ perceptions of children with special needs and the freedom that comes with the acceptance of different points of views.

Baby Gammy’s birth has raised many questions in me and made me reflect deeply upon my own beliefs, thoughts, fears, misconceptions and behaviours. I put my hand up to say that “I freak out when I see a child with special needs in a supermarket”. I don’t want to stare or make a fuss, I don’t want to seem uncompassionate or disinterested and I often find myself awkwardly smiling and trying to gauge the response of the parents. I am genuinely unsure of how to respond in a way that doesn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable or unseen.

Then I got to thinking about how I respond to children without special needs in supermarkets. I never seek the interaction; I interact naturally and when the situation calls for it. If they speak to me I speak back, if they stare at me I smile, if they bump into me I make a joke about it.

I’m also guided by the parents, if a parent is in a bad mood and dealing with a misbehaving child I don’t think,

“Oh I better interact with this family somehow otherwise they’ll think that I am disenfranchising them from our community.”

If I’m coming up an aisle about to walk past a family who isn’t paying any attention to me; I don’t think,

“What am I going to do once I get to them? They are standing in-front of the frozen peas and I don’t want to appear rude by asking them to move. Should I talk to the child first before I ask the parents to excuse me? I don’t want them to think that I don’t care about their child. Maybe I’ll just come back for my peas.”

I would never behave in such an awkward, calculated and conspicuous way; I would just be myself, I would act naturally and I would take my cues from the situation.

This all got me thinking about how we respond to the birth of children without special needs and what would happen if we behaved the same way upon the birth of children with special needs? What if we let the situation and the context dictate our responses?

In the past I haven’t shouted out any loud messages like “special needs children are born perfect as they are!” I’ve no doubt taken pity, offered sympathy and sentiments of commiserations; I’m sure behind closed doors I’ve made broad generalisations about how a special needs child “would ruin your life”. And if those words didn’t come out of my mouth directly then I have definitely allowed them to be spoken in my presence unchallenged.

I can’t speak to the realities of raising a special needs child, and that’s kind of my point. I would argue that none of us could understand the complexities until we were in that situation. I wish to be clear that I am only speaking of these ideals to the context of our collective society.

A close friend of mine gave birth to a normal, run-of-the-mill, healthy child yesterday. When we all heard the news her Facebook wall was littered with sentiments of ‘congratulations’,‘ how wonderful’ and ‘how exciting’.  I wondered if we would share the same sentiments if she gave birth to a child with special needs?

Raising any newborn child is difficult, I don’t wish for the sleepless nights and total upheaval that my girlfriend is about to experience upon myself, but I certainly wouldn’t think it appropriate to offer my sympathies to her. I strongly believe in her ability to be a mother to this child and I know that she has the support that she needs to do a good job.

If in a few days, weeks or months time she comments to me on how difficult she is finding it then my sympathy and support would be offered, but it is in a context of her seeking it. There are so many variables in how someone raising a child with special needs, or without, is going to be able to cope. The family and support networks available, access to medical care, education, practice, experience etc. Surely these things would make the journey of caring for a special needs child different from family to family?

So what if we offered special needs families the option to have us offer our excitement, our congratulations and our joy from the beginning? If it wasn’t appropriate because they told us they were struggling then we could offer them our compassion and support. But ultimately it would be their context and their needs that would guide us rather than our hypothetical projections of what it must be like for them.

I get that in practise this is awkward stuff, this is why I’d encourage us to have those conversations with our friends and families before such a situation arose. We are so good at asking the question “Would you go ahead with a pregnancy if you found out the child had special needs?” but rarely do we ask “If it happened, how would you like me to respond?”

To ease some of the awkwardness we could start having a different type of conversation behind their backs. What if when we were having those discussions with our mutual friends about their ‘situation’; we focused on the positive aspects that our loved ones were not yet able to see? What if we started to tell stories of hope and appreciation rather than pity?

“I heard about Bill and Jenny’s poor bub. Isn’t it dreadful? I can’t even image how difficult it is going to be for them. Their lives are never going to be the same; it must be so stressful for them. I don’t know how they are going to be able to cope.”

 What if we offered something similar to these sentiments as a new response?

 “Yes I don’t think I could cope but who knows how’ll they’ll find it. They are amazing people and I’m sure they’ll surprise themselves. I’m excited for them because if any family can thrive with a special needs child it’s them.

I know this is not the child they were expecting but what a blessing and joy he has been. I’ve already learnt a lot and I’ve had a lot of my misconceptions challenged, and he’s only 3 months old. This child could possibly be the greatest thing that has even happened for all of us, I am really looking forward to being a part of his life.”

We don’t know how things are going to turn out for Bill and Jenny, but the same is true for all families. Their family could break under the strain or they could thrive. As their friend what service do I offer them by focusing only on their potential future struggles? It’s not like if I don’t point out the potential difficulties to them that they’ll never know they exist. Why do we feel like “telling it like it is” is a helpful approach? You can’t “tell it like it is” about the future because there is no ‘is’ yet.

This is a really complex issue and I’m not suggesting that having a child with special needs is something that every one should choose or even consider. I have no judgement about the choices that parents make, every family is different and every set of circumstances is unique. Even as this story about baby Gammy unfolds it is appearing that his life has taken a much better turn than if his biological parents had taken him.

I’m simply suggesting that as a society rather than focus on the struggle as our first point of call that we allow space for an alternative more hopeful viewpoint for families. Surely we can offer optimism to others even in situations that we would find undesirable for ourselves?

Isn’t celebrating the birth of every child something that as a society we would want to aspire to?  Maybe this is a moot point; maybe upon the birth of a special needs child within our sphere of family and friends we would extend our congratulations and appreciation very naturally. Until that moment comes we are only speaking in hypothetical’s.

We’ve all over heard or participated in a conversation with friends and family behind closed doors that has been sparked by a prenatal Down syndrome test. During these hypothetical’s, declarations about “a zero desire to raise a child if the test came back positive” as well as “abortion being the only sensible option” are made. I don’t think for a minute that the decision would be so cut and dry if ever that choice had to be made for real. But maybe it would be, I’m not judging either way.

What is there to judge about people making decisions about what is best for them based on their own personal situation, needs and beliefs? I dream of living in a society that is able to do just that. Because the more capable we are of pursuing our own happiness free from guilt and shame the sooner we’ll stop caring about the choices that others make that are different to our own.

It is the allowance of a different point of view that I am arguing for. When those hypothetical’s come up; I can voice an opinion that for me the experience of having a special needs child may be one I see as difficult and unwanted, but I can also offer an acknowledgement that this wouldn’t be true for every family.

The truth is also that some families are thriving and have found it to be the greatest blessing of their lives. Why not tell those stories with our family and friends in front of our children as well?

It is the blanket belief that we hold as a society hold that “special needs children are always less desirable than children without special needs” that I am rallying against.  For some people the statement may be true, but equally for others it won’t be. So let us only declare which statements are true for us and let others decide for themselves.

Let us create a space where parents with special needs children can celebrate all that their children have enriched their lives with without us projecting our hypothetical fears upon them.

The reason we find it so difficult to muster hope and optimism for others is because we are searching for solutions to what for us is a hypothetical problem. We cannot possibly predict how others are going to rise to challenges or the amount of help and support that becomes available to them until we witness them in the situation.

We can never know the wonders or challenges that lay ahead in the future, just as we cannot know what drives the decisions of others and nor do we have to.

But to allow for a broad spectrum of difference in those decisions, and to offer people real freedom to make decisions that are different to my own which are free from my projections…well that’s a world that I’d like to welcome baby Gammy into.

Leanne xx

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Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Friendships, Relationships

The 3 Beautiful Lessons that I Learnt About My Beliefs from Picking Zucchini

Before the beginning of my final year at university I spent the summer picking fruit up north in a little town near the state border of Queensland and New South Wales called Stanthorpe.

The lovely little town Queensland town of Stanthorpe, home of the Apple & Grape Festival.

The lovely little Queensland town of Stanthorpe, home of the Apple & Grape Festival.

After some difficultly finding jobs, my girlfriend Michelle and I finally got work picking zucchini’s at a local farm. To get our jobs we had to convince and then promise the farms owners, a husband and wife team, that we were reliable and that we wouldn’t quit. We were told that the work was back breaking that they’d had a gut full of employees letting them down by quitting within the first week.

By the end of our first day I knew what they were referring to, I could barely stand up I was aching that much. But as we soon realised, there were other reasons that they had such a low retention of staff. Away from his wife, the husband’s behaviour was horrendous.

We were very young and his sexual attentions were very unwanted and they were constant. At one point he gathered the male employees together to watch us bending over picking zucchini’s and declared,

 “We should make them wear uniforms hey boys? Short skirts with no underwear.”

Our local pub which we conveniently lived 400m from. We were so broke that we couldn't afford to drink the $1.50 wines all night. So we would buy one and then refill our glass from a bladder of goon that we had stashed under the bushes near the back car park. #yeahIamabogan

Our local pub which we conveniently lived 400m from. We were so broke that we couldn’t afford to drink the $1.50 wines all night. So we would buy one and then refill our glass from a bladder of goon that we had stashed under the bushes near the back car park. #yeahIamabogan

I’m pleased to say that he was on his own, the ‘boys’ found him to be just as abhorrent as we did. We had no idea how to deal with something like this, we just tried to ignore it and hoped that it would go away, it didn’t.

After 6 days working there we had a day off. We travelled to visit a friend’s place that was on the other side of the border. On our way back we stopped and had a drink at a pub and we talked about our predicament.

For Michelle it was an easy decision, we couldn’t go back to work there, we’d find somewhere else to work. For me it was a massive struggle.

Firstly there was my fear about getting another job. We were living in a one-bedroom cottage with 8 other people; our combined weekly budget after we paid our $10 a week for rent was $50. Things were tight; between us we were down to our last $20.

Our beds on the lounge room floor of the 1 bedroom house that we shared with 8 other people.

Michelle demonstrating our comfortable beds on the lounge room floor of the 1 bedroom house that we shared with 8 other people. The only couple of the house got the bedroom and the bed frame above is missing a mattress because the guy sleeping on it vomited on it the night before.

But the even bigger reasons for my struggles were the beliefs that I held to be true of myself,

 “I can’t call home for money and admit that I’d failed at this, I’ve never failed.”

 “I’m not a quitter, I’ve never quit anything in my life.”

 “I promised them, my word is my bond. I’ve never gone back on my word.”

No doubt there were plenty of times that I’d failed, quit and went back on my word in my young life. But the way I would have justified it in my mind was by never declaring that I was ‘trying’ in the first place.

Unknowingly or not the ‘Farmer’ had tapped right into some of my most tightly held beliefs. I had made the commitment not to quit, I promised them I wouldn’t let them down, and I gave them my word that they could trust me.

These beliefs were further exacerbated in me by them also being tightly held by my family. Going back generations our family culture has been very clear about who we are and who we are not. We are ‘not quitters’, ‘we don’t let people down’, and ‘we don’t break our word’.

I still believe the attributes of determination and resilience to be fantastic ones, but that day at the pub on the border with Michelle planted a seed that changed me. Until that conversation it had never occurred to me to ask the question,

“To what end?”

What was I hoping to achieve by sticking it out at a job that was providing me some of the most uncomfortable and confidence crushing moments of my young life? I had failed to look at the context in which I was displaying these character traits that had always served me so well in the past.

At the pub Michelle told me that her father had always given her the advice,

“If it isn’t making you happy then change it, do something else.”

My struggle came about because I couldn’t see how her family’s beliefs could possibly align with my own. I saw her father’s advice as flakey. I remember thinking to myself that it all sounded too easy, what if everyone just went about and did what made them happy?

What if everyone did what made them happy? Good question isn’t it?

It was at that moment that I also realised I held a pretty strong belief that struggle was good. When I looked at why I thought that, it was because in my world struggle meant hard work, dedication and determination; and to me that always led to success. That belief had always been true for me whilst studying or on the sports field; but there was no ‘success’ to be had in this context.

At that pub I was gushing with tears. ‘Where I wanted to be’ was happy and safe, and ‘where I was’ was trying to hold myself in an environment that was making me miserable and unsafe. My two wants were in direction opposition which caused me a heavy internal conflict, my head was saying ‘stay’ and my heart was saying ‘go’.

After our drink we left the pub and we crossed back over the border, which became a metaphoric precipice for me. We quit our jobs the next morning and picked up work at another farm sorting green beans on a conveyor belt.

The conveyor belt. I often recited the entire script for Pulp Fiction whilst sorting the beans...it was the 90's.

The conveyor belt. I learnt to recited the entire script from Pulp Fiction whilst sorting the beans to break up the tedium. It was the summer of 1996 and I freakin loved that movie.

The work was much easier, we were paid more, and I loved every minute of it. The people we worked with, including our new bosses were some of the best people I have ever met in my life. They were impressed and appreciative of the hardworking, determined attributes that we demonstrated. I look back on our golden summer in that little town as one of the happiest times of my life.

Left: Me  Middle: Our beautiful new employers, Kim & Peter Slater Right: The most awesome picking buddy a girl could have, Michelle.

Left: I dyed my brunette hair blond myself after being warned by a hairdresser not to. She was right about it not turning out well. My hair was orange for a week and then after a couple of attempts I got it to a lovely shade of yellow. Middle: Our beautiful new employers, Kim & Peter Slater. Right: The most awesome travelling buddy a girl could have, Michelle Waples.

Michelle’s father was right, but so was I.

‘Get yourself into a safe and happy context’ and then try being ‘determined and tenacious’.

Over the years I’ve had many struggles when my tightly held beliefs were challenged, but every time the struggle has brought me a new perspective, a new ease and a new wisdom.

I’ve learnt three really beautiful lessons about my beliefs:

1. Beliefs are stubborn and hate the ideal of being changed. So we don’t need to change them when they are challenged if we don’t want to; just looking at the context is enough.

We wouldn’t hold it as a belief if it didn’t serve us in at least one context, so in that respect all of our beliefs are true and useful.

All that we need to bother ourselves with is it’s ability to function harmoniously in the context of our desires. If our beliefs are working in opposition to what we want then maybe it is time to put them aside for a bit until the context changes.

2. Beliefs are powerful and wonderful things but there is even more empowerment and joy to be found when we combine them with another’s. Not just anyone’s, but the one’s that align with the perspective of our heart.

3. Without even knowing it our beliefs can reach out well past our sphere of influence and out past our lifetime.

Michelle’s father will never know how his beliefs contributed positively to my life. Who knows how many thousands of people this one belief of his has, and will continue to bring joy to. Isn’t that cool?

Leanne xx

Post Script:

Unfortunately I’ve lost contact with Michelle, I’m unsure of her married name so have been unsuccessful at tracking her down. On the off chance that anyone reading this does know Michelle (nee Waples) I would greatly appreciate you getting in touch with me below.

Last day of our Golden Summer before returning home.

Left to Right: Michelle and I on the last day of our Golden Summer before returning home.

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Acceptance, Challenging Beliefs, Health & Wellbeing, Relationships, Romantic Relationships, Single Life

How to Get Her to Lose Weight without Losing Her

As a person whose weight has fluctuated substantially over the years I am oh so familiar with the struggle. I’ve chubbed up recently and I’m currently a Chihuahua away from equalling my all time highest record on the scales.

The last time I was here it was under identical circumstances. I was at the beginning point of a completely new list of goals after ticking off my last lot. I’m very much an “in for a penny in for a pound” kind of gal so this has meant big changes in every aspect of my life.

These changes have challenged me and provided me with many opportunities to confront my biggest doubts and fears. And when I freak out I eat; correction, recently when I’ve freaked out I’ve eaten.

It is from this perspective that I write this post for you, for me and for my loving partner who has recently asked “How do I help you with this?”

1. What you need to understand before you begin

  • You can’t ‘get’ anyone to do anything.
  • Her weight is none of your business.

2. Why it is okay to proceed regardless

This process is designed to be unconditionally loving regardless of your motivations. Whether you are driven by your own fears and insecurities or a genuine concern for her good health and wellness; you wish for her to lose weight. There is little to be gained for either of you by you pretending that this is not the case, so why hide how you feel for the sake of being politically correct?

I bring no judgement about your motivations, I’m writing this because I wish to help you navigate your way through in a loving way which doesn’t piss her off, upset her or crush her self esteem.

3. Her reasons

Regardless of what you think or what she has told you, she is carrying her weight for a reason. Not only are they good reasons but they are awesome reasons. Whether her weight has been a comfort, a protection, a support or a shield, it has been of great value to her.

Whilst weight gain as a coping mechanism has many limits and some obviously health costs, it is not the enemy here. It has done everything that it has been asked to do. It has been her way of coping, and it has done its job. It has also provided her with a sign that something is out of balance in her life.

To effect change you don’t need to unravel the specific reasons why the weight has been necessary in her life. You only need to acknowledge that those reasons are a part of who she is; therefore they are important, valid and worth loving.

4. Why do you want her to lose weight?

Years ago I dated a man who thought that it would be helpful to pull at a fat roll on my stomach and tell me “You know something? You would be stunning if you lost some weight”.

Now let us ignore the insensitive nature of these comments and look at them for what they were. They were statements that I allowed because they mirrored my own thoughts about my body. They were also statements projected from a man who had those same insecurities and thoughts about his own body.

His motives limited his ability to offer a solution. He wasn’t able to offer me anything other than critical observations because that was all he knew how to bring to his own struggle.

5. Your weight loss

You may not have a weight issue but there is something that you are struggling with. There is never a time when we are thriving, feeling awesome and kicking goals in all aspects of our life when we bother to stop and notice the flaws and shortcomings of those we love. Never.

There isn’t anything intentionally unloving about wanting the best for our loved ones. Who wouldn’t want their partner to live the very best life that they can and to be healthy and well?

Noticing and caring about the flaws in others helps us to bring love and understanding to our own struggles. In fact I would argue that is one of the key purposes to being in a committed partnership.

So how do we fulfil that key purpose without hurting our loved one and our relationship?

We offer solutions that bring more to the table than the criticisms that our loved ones are offering to themselves.

6. Specifically, what are you hoping to achieve?

As an example let’s say that you’ve lamented how your partner used to be the life of the party and now she’s put on weight you’ve noticed that she holds back, she’s less willing to go out, and she’s lacking in confidence.

In this instance what you are hoping to achieve is for her to regain her confidence in a social context.

When looking at how you’ve perceived her weight to have affected you; maybe you are not feeling as attracted to her as you used to. You are hoping to experience yourself as someone who physically desires their partner.

Activity:

I would encourage you to write out a list of the qualities you are hoping to see in her and experience for yourself once she loses the weight.

7. You are a mirror

You are a mirror from which she sees herself daily. If you were to start offering a new perspective on how you see her and her weight, then doesn’t it make sense that so would she?

I’ll pick up the example of confidence that I gave above. The first thing I’d like to ask you is, how has her lack of confidence benefited you? Some possible examples below;

  • You don’t like big parties and it has meant that you’ve been able to spend more time at home.
  • You’ve had to come out of your shell more to compensate.
  • She’s developed empathy for your quieter moments.
  • She’s become a better listener.

Activity:

Go through your entire list of what you are trying to achieve and look at how her being overweight has benefited you in those areas. Then let her know how much you’ve appreciated those benefits. 

NB: I’d strongly suggest that you leave out any mention of her weight in these appreciations, keep it focused on the benefit.

8. Her positive aspects

Going back to your list of things that you hope to achieve, I’d encourage you to start looking for where those facets of her are currently showing up.

If you are seeing her lack confidence at big parties; then where isn’t she lacking confidence socially? Where is she thriving socially? Who are the people she is with and what are the places where she is completely uninhibited?

Look for those moments, offer her appreciation and positive attention about those moments. The day that you find more examples of her thriving then of her struggling, is the day that you’ll help her to tip the balance in her own perceptions as well.

9. Tell her why she is beautiful

Offer her specific compliments that she can’t dismiss or shrug off.

Be as enthusiastic and adoring of her and her body right now as you would be if she was the dream that you envisage for her.

Why wait until she loses weight to offer her this level of attention, appreciation and affection? There is a lot about her for you to be attracted to right now. Start looking for these things no matter how small they might be at first and then compliment her about them.

10. You don’t need to fix her

She doesn’t need fixing because she isn’t broken.

She doesn’t need ‘to do things’ as much as she needs ‘to stop doing things’. She needs to stop believing that she is anything less than magnificent as she is right now.

Underneath she is exactly the same strong, brave, caring, compassionate, loving, smart, sexy, capable, funny and beautiful woman who you fell in love with.

You don’t need to help her ‘get back’ to that; you only need to help her acknowledge that she still is that. If the both of you could focus more on ‘what she is’ and less on ‘what she’s not’ then you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

If you really want this, then be the change that you wish to see in her. Keep your focus on just how amazing, beautiful and special she is right now. You tried this approach when you first fell in love with her remember? I’m guessing you weren’t trying to point out her physical shortcomings and ‘tell it like it is’ on your 3rd date? And if you did then allow me to tell it like it is, “You are a fool and you don’t deserve her.”

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