Follow Your Heart

TOASTMASTERS has been a great life enhancer for me. Not only have I found new, caring, intelligent friends, but I’ve been able to develop my VOICE. This is a WRITER thing but it’s also very human. We all want to be heard, feel valued and understood. Most people join to develop themselves somehow. I joined because I wanted another reason to write. I’ve not only found an outlet for my writing, I’ve found a group of people that encourage me, make me feel strong and interesting. I can speak without fear of judgement and this is a confidence booster.

I’ve included here today, a SPEECH I made a few weeks ago, on my return from the Great India Interlude. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to follow your heart, like I have.

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Have you ever had a strong desire to do something that’s not totally rational, or predictable or convenient? Something that pulls on your heartstrings despite your mind saying, maybe that’s not sensible?

Six years ago, age fifty, I did something out of character. I packed the dog, hired a motorhome and left the family for a six-week time out! It was a dream that turned into a life changing journey.

Two years ago, I changed the course of my life. I left my marriage.

It was an action that was neither predictable or convenient. I stepped into the abyss and it took courage. Why did I do it? Because I knew, deep in my heart, that I would never be all I could be if I stayed.

Two months ago, I boarded a plane for India. This may have been rational and predictable. After all, I am writing a novel that includes India and I am known as adventurous. But going to India alone was going to be challenging.

I was nervous about being a single woman travelling alone in a country where native women only travel with their family. If alone, they risk being thought of as reckless or having loose morals. I was nervous about getting sick, finding my way, getting accosted.

But the twinges in my tummy weren’t from nerves. They were flutters of excitement. I wanted to be alone in India, to immerse myself in the place, in the crowd, with the noise and cows and colour. That was what was pulling me there.

I’d been there before and travelled like a maharani. But the India I craved, was amongst the commoners. I wanted to connect empathically.

My book is the story of three women who have the courage to start again (any similarity to me is coincidental!) and one of them lives in India for a year. I wanted the trip to be my version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, maybe Bollywood style.

So, despite my fears and friends’ words of caution, I embarked on my journey. In transit, in Hong Kong, I faced my first challenge. I missed my connection! This was stressful and I wondered if the trip was really a good idea!    I appealed to the gods, asking if I really needed such a lesson. I pulled myself together, found my offloaded suitcase and figured out how to get to Mumbai that night. Arriving at 3am, there was no one to meet me. I had no cash and I needed a taxi. With the help of a kind Indian man, I figured out the foreign ATM machine. Then I set off through the dark, quiet, deserted streets with a taxi driver who spoke no English. Friends’ words of caution were firmly blocked out.

After this initiation by adrenaline infusion, things settled down. My days of research in Mumbai were glossy with success. The help I had was beyond my hopes. Nothing was too much trouble. I found where my character lived, shopped and cremated her husband.

The next part of the journey was a nine-hour train trip to Goa. Another example of facing my fear and doing it anyway (thank you Susan Jeffers) Online horror stories of women-solo-travellers on trains and the cautions from friends had me alert, but concern was unwarranted. At 5am I was escorted by a guide to the right platform and the first-class carriage. The carriage was comfortable and fellow travellers looked agreeable. No scoundrels in sight. The most unpleasant part of the trip was the man on his mobile, shouting ‘hallo, hallo,’ every time the signal cut out.

Goa is a seaside resort town and very relaxed. On my first night, I settled at the garden bar of my resort to listen to the traditional Indian band.

A bellydancer wove through the tables and grabbed my hand. I leapt from my chair, my inner bellydancer coming out to play. Travelling alone is liberating because there’s no-one you know to bear witness to your actions.

As I returned exhausted to the bar, a fine-looking English gentleman sung my praises. I was charmed as we chatted, especially when he told me he bred and showed spaniels. We ate dinner together and laughed at our stories.

I began to think I’d met my soul mate. I was quite besotted. And then he said four words that changed everything. “As a gay man……”

After I recovered, we went on to have dinner together every night.

Determined to never think of romance again, I concentrated on spirituality. One evening in Udaipur I attended a puja, a Hindu ceremony.

I mimicked the worshippers: hands together, sitting cross legged, lining up with the ladies to run holy water through my hair and accepting flower petals. As I made my way through the little alleyways back to my hotel, I almost skipped.

I could tell you twenty other stories: of conversations with women, of feeding dogs and kissing cows, of lascivious looks by young men in villages, embarrassing massages, disturbing road accidents, Bollywood movies with no subtitles, falling a little in love with my guide in Varanasi, clever beggars, and trudging through the snow before dawn to watch the sun                          rise on the Himalayas.

But I’ll just tell you this one. I wanted to get some advice from a traditional Hindu doctor. I had a hand drawn map from my guide in Varanasi and I was told it was an hour-long trip. I was deliberating as to whether it was worth it and was sharing these thoughts with a Swiss woman at my hotel. She looked me straight in the eyes, touched my arm and said, “You have nothing more important to do today!” So, I went.

As I stepped around the cows and into the white building, I was greeted by the doctor. I shared my concerns. His final words were, “You’re fine. You have everything you want in your life. Meditate, fast and you will be well in body and mind. Concentrate on writing your novel.”

Some of life’s greatest moments come when you’re not totally rational, or predictable, or comfortable. They come when you feel that pull on your heartstrings and you go with it.

Follow Your Heart (2)

Bogged Blog

Travelling around India researching my novel, exploring only for the joy of it and seeking a stronger connection with the place, I thought I’d write a lot on the blog! Unfortunately, I was too busy being in the moment and enjoying myself! I was so happy, my blog got bogged!

It’s ironic, isn’t it?

But it makes some sense. When we’re low, we’re generally not as active. We withdraw into ourselves and spend more time thinking. For me, I spend more time in my journal. My journal is how I vent and work through my problems, come to resolution or decide on action.

My blog is an online, next level journal. I express my resolutions and the conclusions I’ve come to while deep in thought. But it’s also a place to express appreciation of my world and share my joy. It seems though, if there’s too much joy, there’s no time for this!

I’m sure excerpts of my India trip will filter through now that I’m home.

I was partly in India to see how I went travelling alone in a place so crowded and different from the world I know in Australia. I’ve learned that by pushing my boundaries and doing something I’m a little unsure about or even fearful of, I get stronger. I see that I can do it and that makes me more confident. The India trip certainly did this.

I’m pushing my boundaries in attempting the novel I’ve set out to write. Disciplining myself to write Draft 1 last year was a big start. I found I had great discipline when focused on the goal. I was proud of myself and shared my dream with friends and family, making myself accountable, saying, I’m writing a book! I’ve done many courses and read craft books in order to keep the learning process going. I’ve found new friends amongst people who share the same dream.

This year I’ll be writing Draft 2 and 3 in the first half and second half of the year. I aim to have something good enough to share with beta readers and publishers by the end of this year. I’ve embarked on a course at the Faber Academy called Write Your Novel. The intention is to learn, commit to constant writing and be with a group that all has the same focus, something I’ve found is invaluable in keeping me going. It will be a challenge. I’ll have to treat it like a job if I’m going to achieve the 5000 words I want to complete each week.

And my blog will be part of that job. It was started to give me an online presence, find my voice and get known as a writer. I’ll share what I discover: my deep level thoughts, what I find funny or what makes me emotional.

I’ll end this Post with a quote from the movie Grace of Monaco (not a great movie but this advice from the priest-friend to Grace, is superb!)

“You are the fairy tale, the serenity to which we all aspire, and peace will come when you embrace the roles you have been destined to play: devoted mother, loyal wife, compassionate leader. Up against a task larger than yourself, you will overcome your fear.”

If only all women* who choose to be the support person, carer and life-facilitator to the children and income earner, had such recognition! Don’t you agree? (*some men choose to be this person these days, and Bravo to them!)