It is what it is

I used to work with a Marketing Brand Manager by the name of Dan at one of my last jobs. He is one of my very favourite people. A huge personality and one of those lucky Geminis who has endless luck. He always has money, always has a black bag from The Iconic arrive at his desk at least once a week, always has a new fancy car and would arrive at airports for a work trip and magically get upgraded to first class. Very little worries him (or he would leave all the worrying to the girls who work under him I suspect). His most commonly used phrase around the office is “it is what it is”. A line that used to infuriate me when he said it and when a much older (and slightly condescending) ex-boyfriend used to use it. Though in the last year or two, I have had a shift in my outlook on life and I too find myself using this phrase quite frequently.

It’s so simple yet so truthful. Everything actually is what it is, whether I cry about it or not.

I think my change in outlook came about, upon reading Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’. I tried to read it once many years ago and just kept re-reading the same pages unable to make sense of any of the words in front of me. Now, I read it once a year as a top-up and every page is like a light bulb moment. I do believe that you have to be ready for certain life lessons. I wasn’t when I first bought the book.

Tolle states that there are no good events or bad events, there are simply; events. It is only when you attach emotion to them, do they have a positive or negative connotation. I know you’re yelling at the screen now saying “what about car accidents, what about Cancer”? I get it. To us, these events are life-changing. The premise however, still stands. To the Universe, events are like ocean waves and we’re the surfers. We can either ride the wave gracefully into shore or stand flat-footed, refusing to move with the current and struggle upside down, underwater until we’re snorting out salt water and putting our exposed bits back into our swimmers.

Three years ago, I was apartment hunting for my boyfriend and I. It was a very exciting time; to have found the person you want to share your life with and both agreeing on the beachside suburb you will set-up camp in. I was constantly picking out furniture at IKEA and beautiful abstract paintings online. I had nearly everything picked out; except the actual apartment. Times had changed since I last apartment hunted. It had become a lot more competitive. I would show up to an inspection and there were nearly thirty other couples vying for the same property. I always made a point to shake hands with the agent and make sure they remembered my name and the fact that I was willing to take out someone’s knee Tonya Harding style until I got that property.

There were two apartments early on that I had my heart set on. The first had a nice little courtyard. On my vision board, I had specified that I wanted an apartment with either a balcony or courtyard because the Italian that I am, I love to host parties, dinners and BBQ’s for my family and friends. There were thirty parties applying for this property! The agent told me that our application made it into the final two but the Landlord ultimately picked a single, much older lady. I recall specifically going home, throwing myself on my bed and kicking and screaming like a child having a tantrum in the middle of the cereal aisle when mum picked All Bran over Coco Pops. I was 31.

Just a week later, we found an amazing unit with a huge living area, a lovely balcony, internal laundry, garage and very close to the cafes and shops. There were just as many applicants as the last two we had applied for, but we were blessed enough to get this one with very little effort. The Landlord is an amazing couple who sent me a personal email to thank me for decorating the apartment so nicely, they laid down new floors and they send us yummy hampers at Christmas and have just offered us a third year at the same rent. No price increase. Not to mention the awesome, rather quiet and predominantly, female neighbours. Every time something in my life doesn’t go according to my plan, I think back on this time and have a little chuckle. No, we didn’t get the property we had set our sights on. We got an even better one. Much, much better.

Perhaps when something fails. It’s not failure at all. Just a mere detour on the way to an even more suitable destination.

In his hugely successful book, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’, Deepak Chopra talks about the Law of Least Effort. How struggling against what is, can take you further from where you are meant to be.

“When you struggle against this moment, you’re actually struggling against the entire universe. Instead you can make the decision that today you will not struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment.

You accept things as they are, not as you wish they were in this moment.

When you feel frustrated or upset by a person or a situation, remember that you are not reacting to the person or the situation, but to your feelings about the person or situation.

When you become defensive, blame others, and do not accept and surrender to the moment, your life meets resistance. You don’t want to stand rigid like a tall oak that cracks and collapses in the storm. Instead, you want to be flexible, like a reed that bends with the storm and survives”.

I just love that last analogy of the oak versus the reed. I’m very visual and I like to picture something to aspire to. Only now I’ve evolved the reed into the blow-up dudes you see in front of car yards. Not only do they bend with the storm, they look like they’re having a little bit of a party.

Don’t mistake the word ‘surrender’ as letting people dominate you. Surrender means only acceptance of what is. You can still have an entire plan of what goals you wish to achieve, but it simply means that some factors which are entirely out of your control, will arise to change some of your plans on your way to your goal. Don’t waste effort wishing it was another way. Assess the situation as it is without attaching emotion to it, then reconfigure your plan to suit the status quo.

It makes me wonder if my friend Dan has Gemini luck, or if he is just so able to adapt to change that the universe constantly conspires in his favour.

This week, two of my best friends had major events arise that were not in their plan. For one, it is OK, he had a plan B ready to go which may even work out better for him in the long run. For the other, something quite heartbreaking happened. Her wonderful business is no more, through no fault of her own but through a very complicated legal situation. It was an amazing, creative and successful business. It was all she had known for a very long time and my heart really bleeds for her.

Sometimes it is quite hard not to attach emotion to such situations. I do hope that for my beautiful friend, and for any of you going through a new and daunting circumstance, that the closing of a door opens a window to a truly beautiful destination.

May you all ride the wave of life as majestically as Mick Fanning. And if a shark jumps up at you, punch that sucker straight in the kisser!

Note: If you’re looking for some extra inspiration in being more flexible in life, I recommend:

‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie

‘The power of now’ by Eckhart Tolle

‘The seven spiritual laws of success’ by Deepak Chopra

So many frogs, so few Princes

Who looks back at old pictures of themselves and cringes?

If the secret to being happy is living in the present moment and not in the past or future, then Facebook really needs to stop showing me what happened on this day five years ago. But I guess Zuckerberg has bigger fish to fry right now.

It’s rarely at the way I used to look (well maybe my eyebrows), but I cringed this week when I saw an old photo of myself from a time when I was in a very unhappy place. It was taken at the lovely waterfront spot of Doyles Restaurant at Watson’s Bay by an ex-boyfriend. You might look at the photo and think I look peaceful, but I know myself, and I see deep sadness in my eyes.

Sometimes I think I miss my twenties: The energy to party all night and back it up at work the next day, the beautifully plump skin on my face, and spending money on oversees holidays without worrying about adult responsibilities. But I was lost. It was a good decade of being on a quest. A quest to figure out who the hell I was and what I deserved.

I’ve had two very toxic relationships. I know which one my family and friends probably think was my unhealthiest relationship (the one I liken to a case of Stockholm Syndrome). But for me it was the last relationship. Due mainly to the fact that I was nearly thirty when it began, and I thought I had taken all the steps to get myself into a healthy place, only to be sweet talked into the most soul destroying two years of my life. With a man who was too busy with his own ego to realise that there were two of us in the relationship. I won’t go into detail in this article (let’s save all the juicy details for a blog about narcissists).

This week, I want to focus on the overwhelming feeling of living with a man who makes you hear concertos in your head every time you think of him. A man who doesn’t talk himself up. A man who under promises and over delivers. A man who has my back, every second of every day.

Throw your vomit bags away, I’m not going to start gushing about the romance and how gorgeous he is (hot AF). I want to tell all the girls out there who remind me of my former self, that love isn’t actually that complicated at all. Sure, in the beginning there is a major teething process. You have to learn a lot about your partner, and they about you. There is a lot of compromise and understanding of each other’s values to ensure that you’re not compromising yours or his unwittingly.

Love is not possession. Love is not Facebook profiles pictures. And the lesson that took me far too long to learn is that love does not make you live in fear or a constant state of anxiety.

Being with my partner is the easiest thing in the world. It is effortless. I don’t for a second wish that it happened sooner either. For without the downfalls, I wouldn’t have had such a deep appreciation for the state I am in now. Failure is the condiment that gives success it’s failure.

A lovely old friend named Carly once told me that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.  Boy was she right. Just be careful ladies, the frogs aren’t always green and will usually tell you that they are indeed your Prince Charming whilst having a drinking problem, a gambling problem and a secret online dating profile.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Maybe I was never really lost, maybe I was too busy being a compass for lost boys.

In a week where another Kardashian has been cheated on (no I do not follow any K girl on social media, but according to the internet, this was front page news) you have to ask yourself; what’s your currency?

Some girls seem determined to pick a mate based on status and income. I had a friend who used to select guys based on what car they were driving. When I met my man, he had a motorbike and an Opal Card…and I’ve never smiled this much in my whole life.

My currency always has been and always will be; love and happiness (Mazel Tov if you found a rich guy with a good heart). And upon assessing all of the relationships in my life today; I feel as rich as Gina Rinehart.

There’s a great little quote that says: Be with a guy who ruins your lipstick not your mascara. I switched over to waterproof mascara in my previous relationship because every night-out ended in tears and usually me catching a cab home to my parents’ house instead of going home with him. I still use waterproof mascara today because it makes my eyes pop! But the only tears that ruin my make up are due to laughing so hard that I ended up rolling around on the floor like a Looney Tunes character.

It’s ironic how being loved by the right people can make you feel so free.

I never gave up on finding the right man after a few false starts. After the last break-up, I took a good ten months to be by myself. Re-visit all the things I love like reading, writing, singing, dance classes and spending time with my girls. I knew that once I valued myself enough, the right mate would come along.

Of-course every relationship I have been in started with love and I do hope that they are very happy now and most importantly, treating their current partners with the love and respect they deserve (hey I put a lot of work in, someone should benefit).

For anyone out there struggling in an unhealthy relationship, I leave you with a line that I used to repeat on the daily, to remind myself that the distressed state I was in, wasn’t my final destination:

I’m a sundial in the shade; I’m not broken, I’m just in the wrong place.

Let’s disconnect and connect

I’m still on a slight high after watching the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games this week. It’s not something I had even planned on watching but I flicked over just in time to catch the industry veteran Katie Noonan (who was also the musical director for the ceremony) singing a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘I still call Australia home’, accompanied by the Gold Coast choir. Noonan’s ethereal voice was so calming as she sang songs aimed at welcoming other cultures into our land.

Next was a very special moment to honour and to showcase the indigenous culture of this beautiful land. Contemporary Indigenous artist Luther Cora conducted a traditional Smoking Ceremony with three generations of his family. The smoking ceremony involves burning native plants to produce smoke – it is about cleansing (oneself) and connecting (with each other, the land and spirit). It was such a captivating moment that slowed down the whole proceedings and made you feel like you were watching a piece of history from a faraway land unfold.

To add a little glitz, glamour and power vocals to the night; Goddess Goodrem appeared in the middle of the stadium singing her new single: ‘Welcome to Earth’. It’s not hard to see why Goodrem has led the pack in the Australian Pop music scene for over 15 years. She can write a song underwater, her vocals can carry for miles and she’s genuinely her happiest when on stage. The lyrics in this song are so perfect for these games and are really motivating me this week; “Welcome to Earth, where the broken and the beautiful collide”… “Make this moment all you’ve wanted, we were made to live our dreams out loud”. It’s the first time in a long while that I’ve played a song on repeat.

As beautiful as all of the performances were, what made me smile the most (and in all honesty, a little bit teary) were the faces of the past and current athletes taking part in the ceremony. From walking out onto the arena, waving to the crowd and representing their country, to parading around with the Queen’s Baton, to standing around dancing & clapping as the performances were underway. There was such pure joy and pride on each and everyone’s faces. I can imagine their parents and grandparents sitting at home with the ceremony on record, hoping to catch a glimpse of their pride and joy on screen. These athletes have most likely worked their whole lives to perfect their craft, and they’ve most likely dreamed of the moment when they represent their country on an international scale and it’s really moving to see people achieve their dreams.

Everyone in that arena was so fully immersed in the present moment and connecting with one another. I truly believe that there is no greater purpose for us in our lives than to connect. They weren’t looking down at their phones, they weren’t running late for work, they weren’t stressing over an expensive bill: they were sharing a moment together. And it was really special.

Of course the next day, journalists jump online and start stirring the pot about diva antics, possible lip-synching, the absence of major stars….yadda, yadda, yadda.

Watching the ceremony took me back nearly 18 years ago to my time as a wide-eyed 17yr old school girl, performing in the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. I, along with all of my school friends (Newtown High School of the Performing Arts) dance friends (Brent Street) and countless others, were the tap dancers who came running through the crowd, onto the main arena with metal plates and steel cap tap boots. What a time to be alive in Sydney. The weeks of rehearsals leading up to the event were both thrilling and exhausting but the actual night was just magical! I remember walking around the city after the event which was centre stage to tourists from all around the globe and not for one second did I feel scared, even though we were a group of scantily dressed teenage girls (it’s a safe assumption that I spent most of my teens scantily dressed). It was quite the opposite. Everyone was so warm and friendly. You would stop in the street and converse with complete strangers. The city was magical and buzzing, like a theme park for adults. Of course there were no smartphones or Social Media sites in the year 2000 so you had no choice but to be in the moment and connect with each other. How magical indeed.

Think of a time when you have gone to a concert to see your favourite band or singer. There is a particular buzz in the air. The strangers next to you become your temporary possy. You sing your favourite songs together at the top of your lungs and you feel like you’ve shared something with everyone in that room.

Whenever I attend mass at church (admittedly not as frequently as when I was a child), I always look forward to the part towards the end of mass where the priest says “now offer each other the sign of peace”. For my non-Catholic readers, this means you turn to your neighbours and shake hands whilst telling them; “peace be with you”. Such a lovely sentiment, no matter which, if any, sect you belong to. As a child I used to get so excited leading into this section that my palms would get sweaty and I would wipe them on my dress and blow air onto them so I wouldn’t have a clammy shake when the big moment arrived. I used to plan my targets of who I would shake hands with and in what order. Usually turning to my family or friends first, then everyone in the row in front of me, then swing around to nab everyone in the row behind me. I would do awkward leans to reach as many people as possible and I would keep shaking until the priest commenced the next segment. If you look around at everyone after this exchange, you can see them talking and smiling more, their body language has shifted and everyone is really jovial. That’s the power of the human spirit; sharing a moment with one another is like recharging the batteries of the soul.

I still carry this with me on my morning walks along the beach, smiling at everyone I can and saying “Good morning”, especially to grumpy faces (you get an extra ten points if the grumpy ones smile, 20 if they wish you a good morning in return).

I missed my train this week and it was a 12 minute wait until the next train. Instead of picking one of the empty seats and scrolling through my Instagram, I decided to sit next to an older lady and say ‘hi’. The lady’s name was Jill, and she was more than happy to enter into a chat with me until our train arrived. Jill grew up in Newtown and we both talked about how much we love Newtown’s culture and welcoming vibe. Though we reminisced about the awesome Op Shops that seem to be dwindling out. I could remember my first purchase of an aqua singlet top of just $3 in 1996. Jill bought a stack of fine China for just $10. We’re both Cronulla residents now and agreed that it’s nice to see people still stopping and chatting to each other in the street. Just like the good ol’ days (but with far more green juices & protein balls and far less cream buns & sausage rolls).

I set a challenge for you this week: Connect with three people who are not a part of your family, circle of friends or workplace. Strike up a chat with a neighbor (even if you’re ignoring him since his dog pooped on your lawn last year) keep your phone in your pocket or bag and talk to the lady sitting next to you at the train station or smile at the crazy guy trying to cut into your lane without so much as a thank you wave.

Happiness spreads like wildfire. Shoot every grumpy douche bag you see with an arrow full of it this week.

Happy hunting.

La Dolce Vita

I like to think I’m a healthy balance of both ethnicities: My passion and temper are all Sicilian (much to my Papà’s pride). And my love of Kath & Kim, Vegemite on toast, and walking barefoot up the street make me a product of this beautiful sunburnt country. Not to mention the fact that I can recite the entire opening song to Round the Twist.

When I’ve visited Italy, Sicily in particular, there is a part of me that feels like I’m home. My soul feels connected to the land and culture, like someone who meets a long-lost sibling later in life but feels that instant connection. I love spending time there but imagine I could never live in Italy. Everyone moves soooooo slowly! Walking along the beach with the family after a big bowl of pasta is like the march of a 100yr old tortoise. When my cousins came to visit Australia, I took them to Taronga Zoo and kept them to a rather tight schedule to ensure that we saw as many animals as possible. They nick-named me The Sargent! In my defence, they spent 20 minutes watching a bear sleep. Um hello? The Bird Show was starting at 1!

There is one part of the Italian lifestyle that I really wish I could live by and that’s their relationship with food.

I feel like Italians treat food like the truest love of their life, while so many of us treat food like the cheap mistress we just slept with and are pushing out the side door before our wives come home and catch us.

I spent the majority of my life as a dancer and a singer so the word ‘diet’ was ingrained into me from a very young age. I remember being on diets and having nightmares that I would demolish an entire tray of cakes and wake up sweating, before feeling so relieved that it was just a dream I didn’t break my diet.

I lead a very health conscious life. I eat a large amount of vegetables and organic food, I limit my intake of sugar and processed foods, I don’t smoke, I only drink at special occasions and I exercise daily. But I’m the first to admit that I have an addictive personality and if someone in the office announces cake in the kitchen, I no longer a hear a word people say for the rest of the day, all I hear in my head is CAKE, CAKE, CAKE! Until I either give in and shove three pieces into my mouth then spend the rest of the afternoon berating myself or I distract myself by eating a hard-boiled egg.

         (actual footage of my lack of restraint)

The older I get though, the more I count emotional and mental health as just as important as physical health, if not more so. It’s kind of a package deal, as one affects the other. I’ve become more flexible with what I eat in an effort to increase my enjoyment. When I go out with friends, I indulge a little more and try not to think how it will affect my appearance.

I remember reading an article once, where nursing home staff were interviewed about what people said on their death beds. The top ten included such sentiments as “I wish I spent more time with my family”, “I wish I stopped and smelled the roses more”. No one ever said “I wish I worked harder”,I wish I didn’t eat that extra piece of birthday cake”.

How many of you eat breakfast standing up at the kitchen counter, or shove lunch into your mouth at your desk in between calls?

Italians do not.

They sit down and make a ritual out of a meal. Everything is laid out on the table like a feast, with the freshest, aromatic produce such as sliced tomatoes and bocconcini, covered in olive oil and basil, with crusty bread to soak up the juices. You would usually not eat alone either. You would have your family sitting around (enough people to fill a small village) and you would sit together and eat slowly, talking to one another, without the distraction of phones or television.

Image result for the sopranos eating( The Sopranos had a few good meals together before killing each other off)

Remember the scene in Goodfellas when a few of the men were in prison and they had their wives smuggle in salami? They cut garlic finely with a razor blade and made a rich, tomato, pasta sauce and they all sat together and had a feast…in their prison cell. Ain’t nothin’ gonna keep an Italian away from a good meal.

I remember in my childhood, my mum laughing at my Papà because we’d be eating lunch and he’d already be planning dinner. I used to come home on a Sunday afternoon and the smell of garlic simmering in olive oil would be wafting down the street. My Papà would be in the kitchen sipping on red wine and singing Italian Opera music as he cooked. It was, and still is, his true enjoyment.

Another fabulous comparison of Italians v Westerners is from the character Luca Spaghetti in the movie adaption of Elizabeth Gilbert’s biographical novel: Eat, Pray, Love. Luca tells Liz (played by the beautiful Julia Roberts) as she whines about her guilt of eating carbs;

“You feel guilty because you’re American. You don’t know how to enjoy yourself! It’s true. Americans know entertainment, but don’t know pleasure. You work too hard. You get burned out. Then you come home and spend the whole weekend… in your pajamas in front of the TV. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says, ‘It’s Miller time’… and you say, ‘That’s right. Now I will go to buy a six-pack’. And drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says, ‘You deserve a break today’… and he says, ‘Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon… to go over to your house and sleep with your wife’.”

Perhaps this is why there is not a binge drinking culture in Italy. They don’t binge on anything. They enjoy everything, slowly.

It’s my aim to have a better relationship with food. After all, we are lucky to have healthy, nutritious meals at our fingertips daily when so many of our global brothers and sisters are quite literally starving.

I’ve started saying a prayer of gratitude before each meal. Though it doesn’t have to be to God if you’re not a person of faith. Louise Hay (author and Wonder Woman) used to bless each and every meal she ate. She would thank her food for giving up its life to nourish her.

My wish for you this long, Easter weekend is that you savour every morsel of food that you ingest. That you spend time with your loved ones and really listen to everything they have to say.

May you treat your food with the same regard that you’d treat Ryan Gosling lying on Japanese silk.

Buon appetito!

Image result for ryan gosling in bed