JULY, 2016

I have been going through another metamorphosis of late…

I do this every couple of years.  Mostly not on purpose… it just kinda… happens.

I’m beginning to better understand these (inevitable) seasons of change.  And I’m also beginning to understand that if I embrace and accept change – that the process is so much smoother (and oftentimes quicker) than if I attempt to fight it.

Fighting change is a losing battle.  Everything about life involves cycles, seasons, growth… and change.

Fighting change is like a woman who fights against the process of ageing.  It can be a pitiful sight: someone so obsessed with clinging to youth and appearing young that she loses sight of what really matters.

Wrinkles don’t matter.  Greying hair doesn’t matter.  Drooping boobs don’t matter.  Our external appearance is such a minuscule fragment of who we really are.

The things that matter are far deeper (and more important) than the deepening grooves on our skin.

Who are you?  And what are you doing with your one short, precious life?

“Seasons have to do with the lessons I’m currently learning and the ways that I’m evolving at this particular point in my life”

Image of cocoon from my mood board on Pinterest.

I have been asking myself that question every day.  And I’m slowly beginning to carve out my response…

A NEW SEASON

These days, I’m beginning to better understand my seasons of change.  For a start, they’re unpredictable.  They tend to sneak up on me when I least expect them.  They tend to catch me off guard.  They almost always mess with my assumptions about the way I think things are.  They shift my perceptions and challenge my stereotypes.

The transformation season usually begins with a period of cocooning and somewhat reclusive behaviour peppered with hearty doses of introspective questioning.

Depending on what is changing (and how much of a fight I’m prepared to put up) the process can either be agonising and drawn-out or I can glide smoothly and seamlessly in to The New.

If I look back on my life, I can clearly see these patterns… these seasons… and how change and growth would come – regardless of how much I fought it or attempted to run from it.

Change always won in the end.

My most recent season of change (which began early this year) has been an enlightening experience.  I went through an intense cocooning process, only connecting with a handful of very close people… and I ensconced myself in my Joburg home for about 4 or 5 months.

It may sound a bit grim and hermit’y… but it wasn’t.  It wasn’t a lonely time and it wasn’t a sad time.

If anything, it was a time of incredible creative growth and discovery.  It’s as though I was a mad scientist – locked away in my laboratory – cooking up all kinds of grand, exciting experiments… emerging wild-haired and dishevelled in order to eat, re-caffienate and bond with my beloved threeples.

As I write this, I feel as though I’m now in the process of emerging from that cocoon.

I’m still not entirely sure what this “New Me” will be or what she will look like or who she will become…

…but I’m excited to push through to the other side, to emerge from my cocoon… to unfurl my new wings and see what colours, shapes and patterns have developed.

But, what about Hat?

Before I go on, I’d quickly like to explain a couple of things.  For those who have read my book:  “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” and who have journeyed with me down the road of rediscovery and MUCH’ness recovery… don’t worry;  Hat is still here and she’s going nowhere.  I’m not going to hide or deny that part of me ever again.

Hat is my Operating System.

Hat is my core… the “me” that has never changed (in spite of all of those miserable decades spent living in denial and trying to squash myself into moulds that didn’t fit).

Hat is:

  • the creative creature
  • the generator of endless ideas
  • adventurous & risk-taking
  • spontaneous & messy
  • lover of diversity
  • multi-dimensional
  • questioner, ponderer, dreamer
  • and (yes)… a wee bit mad

“Hat” is my ME’ness… my MUCH’ness… it’s who I am.

Seasons – on the other hand – have to do with the lessons I’m currently learning and the ways that I’m growing or evolving during this particular point (or season) in my life.

To illustrate the point, let me chat about a couple of my most recent, redefining seasons (to give you a better idea):

The “Living Differently” Season

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The Living Differently season began somewhere in 2007. 

There were two major “ah-ha!” moments which kickstarted different elements of the Living Differently Season.  The one was My Bathtub Moment (when I decided to quit my horrible job)… and the second happened during a family mini-break (when we seriously began questioning our neat, normal suburban existence and routine).

Both of those events spawned cocooning, questioning, deconstructing, re-imagining and, eventually… change.

The Living Differently Season also sparked my blog of the same name (which has now been morphed in to this website).

The season was about us as a family – but also about Nick and I as individuals – deconstructing the “normal” ways of doing life and asking ourselves what we really wanted instead.  It was about figuring out ways to step out of The Norm, chart our own course… and live life on our terms.

During this season, we:

  • Took our kids out of school and began un-schooling / alternative education
  • Drastically reduced our monthly expenses by ditching the TV, the cable network, the gym contract, the overpriced cell phone contracts (and a whole bunch of other stuff)
  • Got rid of a mountain of accumulated and unnecessary possessions
  • Thought long and hard about our careers (I did a complete U-turn and walked away from a draining, life-sucking career.  Nick made some important changes of his own)
  • Rented out our home for a year while we experimented with nomadic living beginning with a 6-week road trip in South Africa, followed by 2 months’ road-tripping the USA, followed by 7 months in a Cape Town (including 3 months in a gorgeous beach house).  It’s there where I first began work on “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”. (We’re still live semi-nomadically.  I’m typing this post from a lovely house in Durban where we’ll be based for about 5 weeks or so).

The Living Differently Season continues still.

Interestingly, we don’t really see it as living “differently” any more.  We have adapted to this way of life (perish the thought…?).  It’s who we are… it’s how we live… it’s… normal.

Every now and then, somebody might say something that reminds us that we do, in fact, live a bit differently to many families out there who are from similar backgrounds to ours.  Our kids don’t go to school… we live and move all over the place… we don’t have “normal” jobs… we don’t watch TV… (and a whole bunch of other stuff)…

But it works for us.  We’re happy.  And we’ll continue to live this way until the season changes.

The “Finding my HAT’ness” Season

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The HAT’ness Season was a personal season of self-discovery.

It overlapped the Living Differently season and began shortly after we hit the road on our 6 week South African Road Trip.  It was then that I began art journalling in an attempt to ask myself some of the deeper questions that I had so effectively avoided for so many years.

The art journalling became more frequent as time went on, and my first illustrations of “Hat” appeared during our 7 months in Cape Town.  I put the final touches to my completed book a year later – back in Cape Town.

Full circle, indeed.

My Rediscovering-my-HAT’ness Season was about these things:

  • Rediscovering and embracing all of my creative, messy unique’ness.
  • Emerging from the shadows in to the light.
  • Allowing myself to be seen.  Saying to the world:  “Here I am.  This is me.  I’m not going to hide any more”.
  • A colourful celebration of long-overdue, long-suppressed creative expression (hence the pink hair, the polka dots, the bright clothes and the ‘fuck-it!’ rants in my journals)… again, another way of saying:  “I won’t be boxed any more.  I won’t hide any more.  I won’t conform-to-the-norm any more.  I won’t spend so much time trying to live up to other people’s expectations any more.  I will no longer diminish or change who I am in all these fruitless, draining attempts to please other people!”

During my HAT’ness Season, there was a (lot!!) of personal change.  So much so, that I’m somewhat flummoxed at the manners and thinking of ‘old’ me.

I told my story in the most authentic way I knew how:  a colourful, illustrated poem… a book which I self-published – and which continues to sell by word of mouth and connect me with wonderful tribe’sters from around the world.

I’m beyond grateful for this very precious and very necessary season of healing, re-discovery and self-acceptance.  And – more than anything – grateful for the people that I have connected with during this time (you all know who you are!)…

But… now that the change has taken place… and the Hat-Season lessons have been learned… I feel as though I’m now moving in to a new season.

Things have changed…

“Be an encourager. The world already has enough critics”.

I have changed.

Yes, I’m still Hat.

But maybe less… loud.

I feel less inclined to shout my truths from the rooftops.  I feel less inclined to preach, proselytise or to tell people what I believe to be true about life.

See, I’m not a preacher or a motivational speaker.

I’m not one of those Answer-Giving-Gurus with a “How-to-Change-Your-Life” book and a series of workshops designed to share my latest 5-Step-Plan… my Answers… my Secret, Special Solutions…

But – for a long time, I thought that’s what I should be doing (albeit in a creative way).  And I amassed a small mountain of How-To content for future books, automated E-courses and creative workshops.

Because… isn’t that what one does when one overcomes an obstacle… climbs a mountain or achieves a milestone?

Aren’t we supposed to… I dunno… share our secret-sauce, as it were?

If you lose a lot of weight, everyone wants to know what diet you followed… what’s the secret solution… what’s the cure… what’s the ‘Answer’…?

In a way… after all my Big-Changes and Milestones-Met… I kinda felt as though I needed to meticulously document my ‘Life Diet’ and share it with others… as though it provided some kind of solution, some kind of answer, some kind of special truth or secret sauce.

But every time I tried to do this, it always felt so… wrong.  It felt forced.  It felt as though I was trying (yet again) to squish myself into another ill-fitting mould.  Trying to morph myself into some kind of Online-Guru, Motivational Speaker or Answer-Giver…

When – actually… I’m none of those things.

I don’t believe in “Answers” (and especially when it comes to any kind of personal change) – because I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all… or magical elixirs… or my-way-is-the-only-right-way.

What worked for me may not work for you.  The lifestyle and choices that are a fabulous fit for my family – may be an awful fit for yours.

For a long time, I felt paralysed by this.

As somebody who wants to… needs to… be a part of the Greater Good and make some kind of positive difference in the world – it deeply frustrated me that I wasn’t able to “fix” the lives of others.

I wanted my (personal) trials and tribulations to mean something.

  • I wanted all of those who have diminished themselves… who are invisible, ignored and hiding in the shadows… to step out in to the light and shine!
  • I wanted folk who feel limited, trapped and boxed-in by miserable, life-sucking routines, jobs, lives and relationships that are toxic, draining and damaging – to have the courage to escape!
  • I wanted folk who are wearing masks, who are weighed down by burdensome expectations placed upon their lives by other people – to free themselves, remove those masks and have the courage to be seen for who they truly are!

I wanted to be able to take everything I had learned on my journey… all of the lessons learned (most of them the hard way)… the resources… the practical steps… the stuff that worked and the stuff that didn’t… ideas… suggestions… everything I could think of – and wrap it all up, tie it with a big, red bow – and present it as a gift to others who were still struggling through the sludge of life-terrain that I was already painfully familiar with, and say:

“Here… take this!  This will fix it!  Here’s the solution!  Here’s a roadmap!  Here’s the cure.  Here’s everything you need to know.  This will help you!  This will heal you!  This will make it all better!”

But I couldn’t do it.

And it took me a long time (and a number of painful lessons) to finally reach the conclusion that:

  1. I can’t ‘fix’ anyone’s life – except my own.
  2. I can’t change other people either.  I can only change me. 

That’s not to say that I don’t think that I (or anyone else) isn’t able to make a positive impact on the lives of others.  On the contrary, I think we can…

But I think that this ‘positive impact’ is less about:

  • simple solutions
  • ‘right’ answers
  • ‘right’ ways
  • 5-step-plans
  • telling
  • shaming
  • shouting
  • preaching
  • forcing
  • threatening
  • insisting
  • instructing

…and more about inspiration, encouragement, awakening (and – where applicable – mentoring).

And for my part, at least, the best way I can think of to inspire and encourage others is through art, music, poetry, stories, questions and metaphors.

That’s where my strengths lie.

And that’s what I believe my New Season is about.

I will elaborate in a later post (with lots of extra images, mood boards and themes).

I’m embarking upon a new journey – and I’d love you to join me.

Hx