The post about religion and politics that I DIDN’T want to write…

Have you ever changed your mind about something?

Think back… (if you’ll indulge me)… to the person you were 10 or 20 years ago – and the beliefs you held back then.  Are you exactly the same person?  Do you have exactly the same outlook on life?  Exactly the same religious beliefs?  Exactly the same political beliefs?

Have you not… grown… evolved… or changed your mind, since then?

Are there not things that you believed-to-be-true (then)… that you don’t believe-to-be-true now?

I am assuming that most people who read this post will agree that… in some way or another… they’ve changed their minds about something over the past number of years.

  • Maybe you don’t believe that The System and the rat race is all that it’s cracked up to be (whereas before, you were an ardent defender of capitalism)…
  • Maybe you’ve been contemplating some uneasy thoughts about climate change…
  • Maybe you’re questioning debt and consumerism…
  • Perhaps you’ve been seriously doubting the outcomes of traditional schooling – something that you’d never have done 15 years ago…
  • Maybe you’ve been pondering on some pesky scriptures in the Bible that never bugged you before (but now they do)…
  • Maybe you have a close friend or relative who has recently come out of the closet – and you’ve been questioning how you feel about homosexuality.  Maybe – a few years ago – you were completely anti-gay in your beliefs… but now… well, you’re not so sure…
  • Perhaps your politics is shifting too.  Maybe your stance on war has changed… or you’re re-thinking things like the death penalty… or you’re still not entirely sure where you stand on the issue of gun control…
  • Or maybe you feel that there’s a God-shaped-hole in your life and you’re seriously considering returning to church…
  • Or maybe even your temperament has changed.  (When my dad was much younger, he was quick-tempered and intense.  It would take just a tiny spark to send him into a red-faced rage.  35 years later… he’s a far more laid-back, mellow guy.  He even recently got his first tattoo!)  Perhaps you’ve noticed a slow change in your temperament too?

Of course – there are a gazillion examples of different views and stances…

… but my point is… we change.

As life goes on… and as we grow… as we experience more of life… as we see more of the world… as we read more… as we learn more… as we expose ourselves to people different from ourselves… we change.

Mostly – the change is gradual.

Yes – there are occasional epiphanies and light-bulb moments… when – suddenly – we’re exposed to a different thought… or a way of viewing the world that makes complete sense to us and we think:  “Wow – I never thought of it that way!”.  In instances like that – perspectives can shift pretty quickly.

But mostly… change is a slow, gradual process…

Now – here’s another question:

Has somebody ever FORCED you to change your views?

Has your mind… or your opinion… or your beliefs… ever been changed because some angry, ranting person forced you to shift your views?  Has somebody ever managed to argue and bully you out of your beliefs?  Has somebody ever managed to shame you into changing your views to fit theirs?  Has it ever happened that anger… and rage… and shaming… and has caused you to say to yourself:

“Oh gee.  They must be right.  I am totally wrong.  Therefore – I shall now change my mind and see the world in the same way that they do!”


Well – me neither.

Nobody ever changed my mind *for* me.  I changed my *own* mind.  Nobody ever forced me to believe differently.  The change came… at it’s own pace (the pace was snail-pace slow for my views on religion and politics… but the pace was pretty quick for my views on education, among other things).  There were countless *reasons* why I changed my mind and my beliefs.  Never ONE reason… never ONE person.  But nobody ever changed my mind FOR me.  And certainly not by means of angry rants and shaming.

I am seeing so much anger… and hearing so much ranting and raging out there in the world.

It seems to me… that people out there… really seem to believe that they can somehow shame others into change.

Take the gay-marriage debate, for instance.  On both sides of the belief-system fence… you have people fighting, arguing, shaming, ridiculing, hurling insults… and everyone seems to be saying:

“I am RIGHT and YOU are WRONG!”

“WE are RIGHT… and YOU are WRONG!”

Do you think that anyone’s mind is being changed by all this hating, fighting, name-calling, ridiculing and arguing?

Are the religious people suddenly going to say:  “Omigosh!  Those liberals are SO right – and we are hopelessly wrong and deluded!  They have shown us the error of our ways.  Thankfully, our minds are now changed – and from this moment on – we are changing our stance and will be completely accepting of the rights of gay people to marry who they choose from this moment on!”

And… from the opposite perspective… will all of the Bible-verse-quoting and the threats of hellfire and brimstone… change the minds, hearts and beliefs of those who are either gay – or who support a gay person’s right to marry?

And – if we’re all clear that this ugliness WON’T change the minds of somebody else… then why do we do it?

What are we possibly hoping to achieve with the shaming and the name-calling?

And, let me make a quick distinction here:

There is a big difference between making our beliefs known (as a way to say:  “This is where I stand on this issue, folk”)… and the other thing:  “This is where I stand on this issue.  I am RIGHT about this.  You are all WRONG.  And not only are you wrong, but you’re stupid and deluded and you need to catch a wake up!”

I *get* that folk want to be heard and make their position clear on issues that they feel are important. 

That’s why I *get* the rainbow Facebook profile-photo-thing.  For many people (myself included) it was simply a way to say to our friends and family who are gay (and I have many)… “We celebrate this milestone with you”… but, more importantly than that, for me… it was also a way of making it known that I am a *safe* friend (and for some of my gay friends who have endured some terrible judgement and persecution – it is a big deal to know who can be trusted to love and accept them – exactly as they are).

One of my gay friends expressed it this way:

“What may seem like a gimmicky rainbow wash over a profile picture is actually a message to some closeted, suicidal person who is struggling with sexual identity that you are a safe place for them to just *be*.  It’s a flag waving outside of your digital front door saying that they can come inside and talk to you without fear.  Respect to everyone nailing their colours to the wall around the world”

ALL of my friends (regardless of their religious beliefs, political beliefs or sexual orientation) are welcome in my home without judgement.  I wanted my gay friends and family to know that they are unconditionally accepted in my home and in my life.

But… hear me…

I also *get* why a number of Christian friends and family posted their stance too.  Somebody posted a Facebook meme:  “Share if you believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman” (obviously those who resonated with that message shared… and those of us who didn’t… didn’t).  Somebody else posted a photo of himself and his wife colouring rainbow butterflies… and the words:  “The only rainbows you’re going to see on our profile pictures today are these ones”.

Okay – I *get* that too.

My Christian friends had just as much of a right to state their opinion on the matter and to make their position clear.  We all want to be heard – and I don’t think it’s helpful to silence people.

I might not agree with their opinion…  but… okay?  So??

Do I delete every Christian Facebook friend and family member??   (I have many of those too!)…

Do I post all sorts of ranty I’m-gonna-prove-you-all-wrong articles on their Facebook walls?  Do I throw *my* scriptures and Bible verses around too?  Do I ridicule their beliefs?  Do I hurl insults?


I do not.  And I will not.

Firstly – because I just think that all this fighting, ridiculing and shaming is hurtful… and accomplishing absolutely nothing (except for even more divisiveness in the world already depressingly divided).

Secondly… I do NOT believe that I can *force* somebody to change their mind… on ANY issue (and especially not when it comes to a person’s deep, personal beliefs).

In fact, I think it’s impossible.  And when we attempt to force – or shame – people into changing their mind… all it does is cause hurt, anger and heartache… and make matters so much worse.

I’m not in the business of amplifying hate.

As a quick disclaimer… I need you to know that there ARE times when my tolerance runs out.  If people post deliberate hate-filled vitriol on my Facebook wall (any kind of vile, racist comment or “God hates fags” comment)… then yes, they are hastily jettisoned from my friends list.  Stuff like that actually makes me feel physically ill.

But I DO think there is a significant difference between “This is *my* position” posts – and (the sadly more common):  “You are all deluded and wrong, wrong, WRONG!” posts.  The former is a personal statement of belief.  The latter is an attempt to control and shame everyone who doesn’t believe the same way.


I have changed – in so many ways – over the past 10 to 15 years. To coin a phrase by Joan Didion, “I have already lost touch with a couple of the people I used to be”…

For the most part, I view these changes in a positive light.

I have changed my views on spirituality (I used to be an extremely dogmatic Christian – but I’m now somewhat of a romantic agnostic).  That could also change (and probably will).  Speak to me in another 10 years and I’ll let you know.

I have changed my political views (there was a time when I aligned with conservative politics… now I align closer with liberal – if not libertarian views – tinged with a hint of occasional anarchy).   As with everything – this could ALSO change… speak to me in 10 years’ time, and I’ll let you know.

I have changed my views on traditional schooling.  There was a time when I was vehemently anti-homeschooling.  Now – I not only home-school my kidlets – but lean more towards a very informal, relaxed kind of home-education known as unschooling.  The *me* of then… would not have recognised the *me* of now.

I have even changed my views of ME (I no longer hate myself… if that gives you some idea).

There are – of course – many other examples that I could share of how (and why) I changed…

But – mostly – I keep these stories close and don’t share too many of them on a public forum like this blog (and especially those to do with religion and politics).

Here’s why I don’t post about my religious or political beliefs on this blog:

  • Well, firstly – it’s not that kind of blog.  There’s loads of blogs out there that discuss religious and political beliefs.  This isn’t one of them.
  • Our beliefs are such a personal part of being human – and I never want anyone to feel that I am promoting *MY* beliefs as “The Truth” or “The-RIGHT-Way-to-Do-Life”… (or that everyone else is *wrong*).  I just don’t see the world through those kinds of dualistic lenses.  It’s not the way I’m designed.
  • I have zero interest in attempting to evangelise people in the hope that they become more like *moi*...
  • I remain a constantly changing and evolving living creature.  Therefore, it doesn’t really make sense to me to carve my beliefs into stone.  They’re probably going to change and shift in a couple of years anyway.
  • And lastly – as a Lover of Diversity – I would never want blog followers to feel unwelcome, ridiculed or judged in this space – based purely on the fact that we might hold a different set of religious or political beliefs.

A final thought:

I have a born-again-Christian mother (in full-time ministry) and an atheist-activist sister.  None of us share the same religious or political beliefs…in fact, I’m not sure if it’s possible that you could find 3 more different people.

But… all three of us manage to love each-other unconditionally – in spite of our differences.   And hey… maybe in a couple years’ time – Mom will feel differently about gay marriage (or maybe not)…  and maybe – in a couple years’ time, Suzanne will be attending a spiritualist bootcamp (or maybe not)… and maybe – in a couple years’ time, I’ll be back on the worship team at a Christian church… or I’ll be a Buddhist… (or maybe not)…

The point is – we change.

Can we not extend some grace towards our fellow human beings as we change, grow and navigate the world together? 

I’ll end with this quote (I’m not sure who said these words, but I resonate!!):

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

Stuff I learned about myself (and you) while crowdfunding

So – the grand ol’ crowdfunding campaign to help me raise money to print my book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” is now (thankfully)… over.

Those of you who are bone-tired of hearing me harp on about the crowdfunding can now heave a sign of relief.  No more e-mail bombarding and pleading Facebook posts… it’s over.  It’s done.

My crowdfunding goal was to raise $5000… and we managed to raise $3981… just-just short of $4000 and 80% of our goal.

81 people contributed… with backers from South Africa, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, Poland… and even Estonia, Norway and Peru.

$3981 is enough… yes… to PRINT the book! (woo-hoooo!!!)  And come hell or high water… I’ll make sure we find the outstanding amount so that every backer (wherever they are in the world) will receive their books (and gratitude-goodies) posted to them as soon as the copies come off the press.

So – in a nutshell – the crowdfunding campaign was necessary… and I’m glad we did it!

But… it was NOT easy for me.

And I am glad-glad-glad-GLAD that it’s over!

In fact – I feel an enormous sense of relief… now that it’s done!

Me & Tracy.  Tracy - by the way - is the "Andrew" I was searching for a while back.  She has been an invaluable support... in ways too numerous to mention.

Here’s a nice photo of Tracy & I (taken by my friend, Tracey Kelsey). Tracy – by the way – is the “Andrew” I was searching for a while back. She has been an invaluable support… in ways too numerous to mention.

Here’s what I learned about myself during the last 40 days of crowd-funding:

1.  I REALLY DON’T LIKE CROWDFUNDING (or ANY kind of fundraising for that matter). 

Well.  Okay.  I knew that from the get-go – but now I really-REALLY know.  I hate asking for anything… and especially help… and especially-especially money.  It goes against every inch of Patterson-Pride that lurks in my DNA (I think my dad – for example – would rather gnaw off his own digits – than… ever *ASK* – perish the thought! – somebody for help or money).

So it was VERY hard for me to ask for people to… y’know… *give* me…. y’know… actual… y’knowMONEY to support this campaign.  I felt like a beggar for 40 days.  It wasn’t fun.

…but, to my credit:


When I launched this crowdfunding campaign… I made a decision that – regardless how hard and difficult it was to ask… I would force myself to do it anyway.  I would actively campaign… I would *DO* what needed to be done… and I would not just sit passively – waiting for funds to magically materialise in my bank account… waiting for Oprah to call… waiting for a giant hand to descend from the Heavenlies bearing a huge wad of cash – garnished with a velvet bow.

I would not *wait*… I would *do*.

So… DO is what we did.  Tracy and I had regular meetings and updates.  There was endless Face-booking, e-mailing and newsletter’ing… we even pulled together a last minute Songs & Stories evening in a last-ditch attempt to raise the remainder of the funds…

At the end of it all (even though we didn’t meet the goal)… I told Tracy that I still felt a certain sense of accomplishment… because I had done-my-part.  I hadn’t been passive.  I had been very pro-active… and that felt like a nice, healthy little self-esteem boost.  Noddy-badge for me.


Those who have stuck around on this blog for a while… will already know that I have… uh… *issues*...

We ALL have issues (obviously)… but the effect that crowdfunding had on me – was like putting an allergy-prone person in a small, musty room… surrounded by bales of cat-hair and buckets of pollen.  I itched… I scratched… my eyes watered… I broke out in a What-Will-People-Think-or-Say-about-Me rash… every day!

I ruminated obsessively too.

I lay awake at night and pondered my fate:

  • “Nobody’s gonna fund this book…”
  • “I’m just pissing people off with all this nagging and begging”…
  • “Nobody cares about my crazy dream“…
  • “I’m not a REAL artist”…
  • “By the end of these 40 days, my blog followers will ALL have left… because they’ll be bone-tired of my neediness and begging!”

Blah-blah…. (I’ve already chatted a lot about these ruminations and inner ramblings quite a bit – so I won’t go into TOO much detail here)…

I wish I was one of those confident people who have the ability to market themselves without cringing, squirming and awkward-moment’ing with clockwork-regular melt-downs of insecure rantings (whilst finding solace in jars of Nutella and late-night-oily-popcorn)…  but – yes, well… sadly, not.

Hence… I am GLAD it’s over – and hopefully I can now return to some semblance of rational-human-behaviour.

(Pity my poor long-suffering husband).

And now … (*drum-roll*)… here’s what crowdfunding taught me about YOU (as in:  The-People-Out-There on the other side of this computer screen):


Apart from the 81 kind souls who contributed financially… I have found myself wonderfully overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and the words of support and encouragement… from SO MANY people.  Lots of kind folk shared my campaign on social media (even if they weren’t able to financially contribute).  Others sent e-mails of support and encouragement.

Seriously… (and I know I tend to be a bleeding-heart idealist)… but I absolutely DO believe that the majority of people out there in the world are GOOD people.  GENEROUS people.  KIND people.

NOT mean-hearted, mean-spirited selfish people.

And the knowledge of this fills me with hope and happiness.


There were certain people whom I expected to fund my campaign (I’ve written about the miseries of expectations on this blog before)… and – as Shakespeare rightly said:  “Expectations are the root of all heartache”.

I found myself feeling a bit… disappointed… that certain people – whom I had *expected* would support the campaign… remained ominously silent (thus significantly amplifying my already out-of-control inner thoughts and insecurities).

And – interestingly – many people whom I DIDN’T expect would support me… (either because I thought it would be too expensive for them… or because I thought they just wouldn’t be interested)… DID support me.  A friend from primary school – whom I haven’t seen for years – whom I assumed wasn’t particularly keen on Hatty things… deposited $100!  Another friend – whom I assumed to be broke – deposited $120!   A very conservative, religious friend of my mother was another one who donated very generously (and I wasn’t expecting that at all).

So it just shows.  My assumptions about people are usually always WRONG.

(Now I can just remind my Ruminating Self of that fact… my insomnia should improve somewhat).


I feel grateful, happy… and loved.

I am over-the-moon-delighted that there’s a little tribe of people who *get* the Hat-Thing… and who have been sooo supportive and encouraging.  My cup runneth over! ;-)

Now… if you’ll excuse me… I am going to disappear into my studio.   For the next 2 solid weeks, you’ll find me here… surrounded by blobs of paint, scraps of paper, glitter, photos, scribbles of rhyming words (and lots and lots of empty coffee cups).  During the next two weeks… (while I wait for the campaign money to arrive in my bank account)… I shall be finishing off the last pages and pieces of the book – and then uploading the whole lot onto the printer servers…

Stuff is happening, folk!  This big-crazy-dream of mine… is actually happening!  :-)

To every person reading this:  THANK-YOU for journeying with me!! 

Love, Hat X

I’m DONE with diminishing (and I hope you are too!)

There’s a famous quote by Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela) that goes like this (bare with me if you’ve read it before):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others

This quote… as seemingly simple as it is… has been something that has caused a LOT of soul-searching (mostly of the painful type).

You see… I was taught to diminish.

And I learned that lesson well.  Very, very well.

The lessons began when I was much, much younger (back in the days when I still loved acting, performing on stage and amateur theatre).

Here is a photo of the *me* from back then (performing and singing on stage as Boy George):

Mini Pops

And here’s another one… at my tramp-themed birthday party:


But, I was told:

  • “Stop showing off!”
  • “Calm down!”
  • “Keep quiet”
  • “Your jokes aren’t funny.  You just look silly”
  • “Your cousin (the one in the straw hat on the left of the photo above) is the drama student, not you”.

I got it.  I got the message.  I stopped acting.  I stopped performing.  I removed myself from the stage.

And Hat started thinking:  "Perhaps they are right.  Perhaps I DO need to change.  Perhaps I AM ridiculous".

And Hat started thinking: “Perhaps they are right. Perhaps I DO need to change. Perhaps I AM ridiculous”.

At the age of 16, I joined a church.  A couple of years later, I joined the church worship team… but… there was this shadow of worry that lingered like a toxic fume.  Was I *performing* again?  Was I showing-off again?  Was it sinful and wrong for me to be *seen* on the stage?  Did I think more highly of myself than I ought?  Was I sinning by seeking *approval* and *applause* from PEOPLE – instead of from God alone?

So, I told myself again and again that I would NOT perform… or be *seen*.  Instead – my job was to diminish into the background and make sure that God was always first.  I used to repeat again and again:  “More of you, Lord… less of me… less of me… less of me…”

When you keep telling yourself to diminish… eventually, you DO.


This kind of thing… passed around in Christian circles… reminding each-other NOT to be splendid… NOT to shine… NOT to be extraordinary. But rather… to shrink, to be less, to be small… a quiet little unseen mouse in the corner. But at least (we told ourselves)… we were “right”… we were “humble”… and God-was-pleased.

My mother used to talk of me “hiding behind a pot-plant”.  Because that’s exactly what I’d do.  If our particular event called for the worship team to be up on a stage… I would try to find myself a shadowy little corner at the back of the stage (preferably next to – or behind – a pot plant)… where I could hide behind my keyboard, keep my head down and put-the-Lord-FIRST.

And I believed that God was pleased by my shrinking.  I believed that’s what God wanted.  I believed that it was very Good-Christian of me.  And that it was the *right* thing to do.

At the time – I wrote a poem (I get a bit of vomit in my mouth when I recall this short excerpt):

I have no need of compliments, nor people’s vain applaud.  This is no proud performance, MY song is for the Lord.

I scorned compliments and applause.  And I believed that any kind of performance was proud, sinful and wrong.  In my mind, being a Good-Christian meant “becoming invisible”… and “serving from the shadows”.

Church – of course – wasn’t the only source of the Diminishment Doctrine.  School… society… the media… they all played a role in teaching me how to hide.   As a woman – I quickly learned that my worth would always be determined by my external appearance.  So… when I started getting fat… I tarred myself in shame and black baggies… and hid… and disappeared… and lurked in the shadows… and hoped not to be noticed.

The Diminishment Doctrine was authored by a whole concoction of pastors, prefects, parents and ad-execs.  Problem is – I lapped it all up – like the good, obedient, eager-to-please little doggie that I was.

Yet another photo of the years when I wore only black clothes and tried my best to disappear...

Yet another photo of the years when I wore only black clothes and tried my best to disappear…

By the time 2007 arrived, I had mastered The Art of Diminishment.  Mastered it.  I had managed to make myself almost completely invisible (except for a tiny tribe of very close people – who *saw* me)…

And… then…

…somewhere… somehow… I read that blasted Marianne Williamson quote for the first time.

And her words:

“We ask ourselves:  “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Which was – like – the story of my life.  In fact – I didn’t even ASK myself any more.  *Obviously* I would never aspire to be “brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous”… because those things were wrong… and selfish… and bad… and vain!

And then her next words:

“Actually, who are you NOT to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking…..”

Okay.  Slap. Through. The. Face.


What was that?

“Who are you NOT to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented fabulous?”

*gasp of horror!*

“Your playing small does not serve the world”.

I remember initially feeling offended by those words.  Smallness… “humility”… serving-from-the-shadows… diminishing… emptying ourselves… being LESS… these were all *GOOD* things…!

… (weren’t they)…?

And I was forced to ask myself this inevitable (very, very, very, VERY uncomfortable) question:

“If I truly believe that being small and diminishing has – in some way – served the world… or been a good thing… or helped others… or benefited humankind (or God) in some way… HOW might this have happened?  Can I think of a single example of how my hiding and diminishing has been helpful or *good* for ANYONE?…. Anyone at all….?”

Of course…

I had to face the ugly truth.

WHAT had my decades of diminishment, invisibility and shrinking accomplished?


No – wait – not only had it not accomplished anything… not only had it NOT served or helped anybody in any situation… but – instead it had wreaked an astonishing path of destruction.

My self-esteem?… my health?… my sense of worth?… in absolute tatters.  My talents and gifts (that I’d potentially be able to use to help or serve others?)… all packed away in the dark, dusty corners of my mind… lest I be guilty of “selfish ambition” or “proud performance” or “vanity” by unpacking those talents and exploring ways to share them with others.

Not to mention the utter hypocrisy… of parenting from the shadowy places of diminishment.

“You’re beautiful, valuable and acceptable – exactly as you are!” I’d tell my daughter (whilst believing myself to be ugly and worthless).

“Follow your dreams!” I’d encourage my kids (whilst simultaneously refusing to give myself permission to follow mine).

Well.  I’m done.

Done, done… DONE.

I’ve been done with the diminishment doctrine for a long time now (the journey began in 2007 – and continues still).

But today – I was reminded – once again – of how this toxic poison regularly tries to sneak back into my life…  and especially when I’m in vulnerable-mode (as mentioned in the previous post)… and even MORE especially when I’m asking people to back my Big Dream.

When stuff like this happens, I’m bombarded with Diminishment Doctrine thoughts like:

  • “Who do you think you are, Heather Costaras?”
  • “Do you think you’re so special?  Do you think you’re so talented?  Well – you’re NOT!  You should just leave the illustrations to the REAL Artists out there”.
  • “What right do you have to think you can publish a book?  You’re not a REAL writer!  You’re not a REAL singer!  You should just give up this crazy idea… and come back to the shadows.  It’s where you belong”.
  • “You are being VAIN, PROUD and SELFISH!”
  • “Why do you think that anybody gives a damn about your stupid book and your stupid story!?  You’re not some celebrity! You’re not important!  You’re just some bland mother-of-two from the suburbs of Johannesburg.  Nobody gives a shit about YOUR story, Heather.  Pack this crazy-stupid dream AWAY!  You’re just making a fool of yourself.”

But… you know what?

I’m DONE with diminishing, shrinking, playing-small, hiding and making myself invisible.

The time has come to (finally)… SHINE.

As we are ALL meant to do.  And that nasty little voice can shout, scream and tantrum all it wants.

But… nonetheless… I’m going to shine.  And I hope that you will too.  And – as we let our own light shine… we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.


To end off – here’s 3 recent – and very Hattish photos from our Mad-Hat tea-party (shot by my very dear friend, Tracey Kelsey):

We clearly don't take ourselves very seriously these days...!  ;-)

We clearly don’t take ourselves very seriously these days…! ;-)

Much giggling...

Much giggling…

Cupcake boobs - tee-hee!!

Cupcake boobs – tee-hee!!


If you’re based in Joburg and you’d like to hear me TELL… and SING… this story (about shining)…with added artwork, photos, slides and what-not…  come along to Fisherman’s Village at 6pm on Saturday the 27th June.  There will be comfy couches and a roaring fire.  Bring some cash if you want to buy coffee, cakes or hot, freshly prepared jaffles.  :-)

And – if you’d like to pre-order your signed, first-edition copy of “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” – click here.  I only have 5 more days to raise about $2000… in order to get the book printed & distributed.  This is scary & terrifying… and a huge part of me yearns to hide myself… and my dream… from all of you.  But another (much more stubborn) part of me says:  “No!  I will *DO* this thing.  I will not chicken out!” So please bare with me.  I’m gonna promote the shit out of this crowdfunding campaign until it closes on Monday the 29th.  After that, I’ll return to *normal* blog-posts.  x

Can I be frank?

This morning… I woke up feeling all insecure.

This happens with me.  And it usually happens when I publish a vulnerable sort of blog-post (like yesterday’s one).

When I publish posts like that one… (where I share a bit of my story… of a bit of my past… or a bit about “the deep stuff”) – it has the propensity to send me into a… bit of a freaked-out… over-thinking… over-fretting… zone.

I would LOVE to be the type of person who genuinely doesn’t care what others say or think about me…

But I’m NOT that person.

I DO care what other people think about me… although, not in the ways you might imagine.

  • I genuinely don’t care whether people approve of me or not.
  • It genuinely doesn’t bother me what other people think about how I look… the size of my body… or how I dress (that ship has sailed and disappeared over the distant horizon)
  • I also don’t mind if people gossip about me… or whether folk disapprove of the way we live – or the way we raise our kids.
  • Honestly… it does NOT bother me… if people don’t agree with me – or if people don’t approve of my choices.

Those are not my *problem* areas.  THESE are my problem areas:

  • I DO worry about whether people will misunderstand me – and think that I’m saying things that I’m NOT saying.
  • I DO worry that people will feel judged by me… when the LAST thing on earth I want… is for people to feel judged by me.
  • I DO worry that folk will assume that I’m a “Knower”… a dualistic-thinker who believes there’s only ONE “Right” way to live life – and if they’re not doing things *my* way – then it’s “wrong”.
  • I DO worry about coming off as boastful… as proud… as one of those self-promoting folk who have All-The-Answers – and who are now in a position to share their impressive 5-Step-Fix-Your-Life-Plans with the “mere mortals”.
  • I DO worry that people might think that my only concern is getting my book printed and promoting myself and that I don’t *actually* care about anyone’s story but my own.
  • I DO worry about whether my story… or whether speaking-MY-truth… will – in some way – hurt the feelings of somebody else.

And – (as those of you who have been blog followers for a long time will already know)… my biggest fear (as a blogger) is not that people won’t AGREE with me… but I deeply worry about not being “got”… not being understood… not being heard.

There was a season in my life (a long, sad season)… when I felt completely invisible.  Here’s an illustration that pretty-much depicts how I used to feel (it’s one of the pages from the book):


As a result of this… shady-background of mine (no pun intended – har-har!)… I’m still super-sensitive in the “being heard” and “being understood” department.

One of the main reasons why I started writing and illustrating “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” was as a personal journey… a way for me to walk through my story… to process everything… and to use the art and the illustrations as a conduit for healing, understanding… and celebration too.

(It was only later… when it started morphing into a book… when other people started noticing and commenting… that I decided that I would finish the project – and turn it into the illustrated story that I had dreamed of publishing since I was a child).

But it didn’t START that way.

I didn’t wake up one morning and think:  “I’m going to write a poem-story about my life.  And I’m going to illustrate it.  And publish it”.

It all just sort-of… evolved….

Yesterday… after writing the post about low self-esteem… body-shaming… self-abuse… and all that very vulnerable, personal stuff… I went to bed with a lump of worry squatting heavily on my chest like an unwelcome little gremlin.

And these are the thoughts that galloped… unrestrained… through my brain:

  • What if people think that I’m boasting?  What if it sounds as though I’m saying that I have all-my-proverbial-ducks-in-a-row… and that I’m now “perfect”…?
  • Who do *I* think that *I* am… to offer “HOPE” to anyone?  What kind of vain assumption is that? (NB:  The “Who-Do-YOU-think-YOU-are?” voice of accusation… has haunted me all my life!  It’s bosom-buddies are the “What-right-do-YOU-think-YOU-have?” voice… and the “You-think-you’re-SO-special-don’t-you?” voice).  One day – I’m gonna draw the 3 of them… just like I drew my personalities.
  • What if people misunderstand the whole weight-fat-food thing?  Should I have told them about how much weight I’ve lost?  NO!  Then it will be about the *weight*… and I don’t WANT it to be about the *weight*… I want it to be about the *worth*!  And if I mention numbers on a scale – then it just contradicts what I’m trying to say!  But… Omigod… what if everyone completely misunderstands me?
  • And what about the folk who read my blog because… maybe… they’re interested in alternative education for kids… or travel… or disentangling themselves from burdensome expectations and other bullshittery… what are THOSE folk thinking about these weird, deep posts about cutting and bingeing….?  WTF?
  • Am I just a “taker” and not a “giver”…?  Am I just USING my blog followers?


So now you know.  I’m feeling a bit freaked out and vulnerable today.

I’m worried that my crowdfunding campaign won’t be fully funded by the deadline on the 29th of June.  I’m worrying about all the people who wanted a children’s book… I’m worrying about whether I’ve upset them (by deciding to publish the deeper, darker version first).  I’m worried that the wonderful people who have already backed the campaign will be disappointed with the book and the goodies that get posted to them.  I’m worried that other blog-followers will be saying:  “Enough about the book already!!!  Write about travel – like you used to!  Write about unschooling!  Write about debt-downsizing… anything but the bloody book!!!!”

Okay.  I’m now going to log off before I dig myself into a deeper hole of angst and fretting.

I shall make myself a large mug of caffeinated beverage.  I shall soak in my tub.  I shall then put on something VERY pink.  And I shall buy some colourful flowers to put in my studio (because fresh flowers just… have a *way*… of cheering me up).  And I shall complete the last couple pages of my book…

*HUGS* to all of you…  (and especially to you, Rach – Purple-Hairy-Mammoth… who brightened my morning with a well-timed and much-needed blog-comment!) X

Still trapped in the cycle of body-hatred and shame? There’s hope.

For those of you who feel trapped (and yes, I’m aware that not everyone feels trapped)… but for those of you who DO feel trapped.

This post is for you.

I want to instil a bit of hope. (Hopefully).

There is HOPE for those who feel trapped in a place of self-loathing, low self-esteem and body-hatred.

A couple of years ago… this is what life was like:  I hated myself.  There is no other *nice* way to put it.  My self-hatred was so extreme, I would self-abuse.  I  believed that I needed to be punished.  I believed that I needed to hurt… because I deserved that hurt… I deserved that punishment because I was bad, bad, bad… BAD. Here’s how I punished and self-abused:

  • I binged.  And binged.  And binged some more.  Slabs of chocolates, bags of chips, 3-cheese-pizzas, tins of coke, anything and everything I could stuff down my throat in an attempt to numb or anaesthetise myself against the disappointment I felt about myself – and about the state of my life.
  • Bingeing (naturally) only brought on extra large doses of shame about how “weak” and how “pathetic” I supposedly was.  So I would cut myself (mostly my forearms or my stomach)… or I would pull out the hair on top of my head (one by one)… or I would take a wooden baton and beat bruises into my own legs whilst repeating “I hate you!  I hate you!  I hate you!”.
  • I so desperately hated my body and my appearance – that I lost all interest in taking care of myself.   I wore baggy, faded tracksuit pants and old T-shirts.  I never bothered with hair or make-up… I always used to think:  “What’s the use?”.  I couldn’t even raise my eyes to look at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror when I brushed my teeth in the morning.

Extreme?  Yes it was.

It’s hard for me to dwell on the memories of that time.  They’re not pretty memories.

Here is a photo of me during a really shitty season of my life (at the time – I was cutting):

sad heather5

And here’s a photo taken a couple of years later.  I wasn’t cutting any more… but I was still bingeing and filled with feelings of shame and self-loathing:


But there’s hope!!!!  Change is possible.

Today…  I can honestly say… that I no longer hate myself.  I like the person I see in the mirror (and I’m not just talking physically… I’m saying that I like the “me” that I greet in the morning)… and I’m slowly starting to learn to even LOVE the person I see in the mirror (baby steps).

  • I haven’t binged in 3 and a half years.
  • I haven’t cut, beat, plucked-myself-bald… since early 1999.
  • I greet myself with a genuine, self-loving mirror-smile in the morning.  I’m not ashamed to look myself in the eye.
  • I no longer shame my body.
  • I’m not afraid of wearing bright, colourful clothes… of celebrating my me-ness (I even cut my hair short and dyed it pink a while back)
  • I no longer desperately need or seek the approval of others.  If I want to swim in the sea with my kids… then I swim in the sea with my kids.  I no longer fret about irrelevant things like fatness / cellulite / big bum and not wanting to appear in public in a swimsuit.  Those days are OVER.  I don’t give a damn about whether other people *approve* of me – or my body – (or not).

Here is an illustration that I have created for my book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.


The single most important decision that I made with regards to my journey towards inner-healing… was when I decided to love and respect myself – exactly as I was!!

This was a HUGE departure from my shoot-myself-in-the-foot mentality of the previous 25 years… which was:

  • “I will only like myself when I’m thin”
  • “I will only nurture myself and treat myself with respect when I’m thin – because right now, I’m too fat and revolting to *deserve* love and respect”.
  • “I will only buy myself nice clothes when I’m thin.  But right now, I’m shameful and I need to hide… so I will cover my body with black, baggy clothes and hope that nobody will notice me”
  • “I will only pamper myself with treats like trips to the spa, pedicures and new hair-do’s when I’m thin.  Because – at this size – what’s the point?  You can’t disguise an ugly thing”

Yes… well.

You can probably imagine how *well* that worked out for me… (*insert sarcastic snort here*)

To cut a (long) story short… when I decided that I was going to choose self-love and self-care over body-hatred, fat-shaming and self-abuse… it was the beginning of my journey towards healing.

You can not hate and shame yourself into change.  It doesn’t work.  It never works.

Change only came when I slowly started adjusting my toxic attitude.  Change only came when I slowly learned to stop hating and shaming myself – and my body.  Change only came when I began to believe (a slow journey – by the way)… that perhaps my weight didn’t determine my worth… and perhaps I was worthy of love and respect exactly as I was (flaws, fat and all)…!  Love and respect by others – sure… but it had to begin with love and respect by ME.

Here’s a recent photo / artwork of me (also going in the book)…


I’m not “perfect” (in fact, I have completely disentangled myself from the very idea of “perfection”).  The journey towards healing and self-love continues.  I still have feel-crappy days… and shroud-myself-in-black-baggies days… and food remains my Kryptonite.  But, in spite of those things, I’m happy-to-be-Hat.  I wear bright colours.  I pink up my hair.  I don’t skulk along in the shadows any more.  I don’t hide any more.  I’m not ashamed any more.   I have learned to embrace my uniqueness… my HAT’ness… my quirks… and yes – even my flaws!

So much wonderful change has taken place… but I haven’t “arrived”.  Nobody has.  The journey continues – and I’m more than willing to walk alongside anyone who is still struggling with the issues (mentioned above) that I struggled with for such a long time.  Feel free to e-mail me and send me your story….

Perhaps we can learn from one another as we journey together?

And finally:  maybe low self-esteem, eating disorders and body-shaming is not your *thing*… So – here’s another area where you may feel trapped… where (I can assure you)… there is HOPE:

There is HOPE for those who feel trapped in shitty, life-sucking jobs that they hate!  There is HOPE for those who feel trapped by debt.

(But I’ll discuss that in my next post!)  :-)


UPDATE on the progress of my Crowdfunding Campaign.  I’m raising funds to print my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”.   As I write this post… I need to raise the remaining $2500 by the time the campaign closes on the 29th June (Eeeeeek!!) If I do not manage to raise the full amount – Indiegogo takes a commission of 9% (instead of 4%) on the funds already raised.

I can’t print and produce this book without YOUR help…. and I would be so very grateful if you could CLICK HERE… visit the campaign website… browse the photos… have a read of my splurb’ing – and (if you resonate in any way) – you can pre-order your copy of the book – thereby simultaneously backing the campaign and my project.  A gazillion thanks to you (and – of course – to every person who has already contributed!!)… X

Misconceptions about “creativity” and illustrated books

Today – I’m going to respond to a question that I’ve been asked by a couple of people.  The question is this:

“I thought this was supposed to be a children’s book.  Why have you created an illustrated poem for adults?”

Well… the short answer is:  why not?

But I actually have a number of thoughts on this topic.

Why do we only have storybooks, illustrated books and poetry… for children?  Why are these things not created for adults too?  Why do most of us assume that illustrations… and illustrated books are “for kids”…?

I actually think it’s a big part of the problem.  This idea that we (“grown-up’s”) have about the arts as a whole.  Most of us have been raised in societies and schools that devalue the arts… poetry… storytelling.  We’re told from a young age to “grow-up”.  We’re instructed to be sensible, obedient, practical, dutiful and responsible.  And, in many ways, we’re told and taught (and especially as we get older)… that we need to pack away the whimsy, the beauty, the playtimes, the stories, the dreams, imagination, adventure, wonder and art… and we need to store it all in a little box called “Childish Things”.

That little box gets padlocked… and filed away in the deep, dark recesses of our minds where it gathers dust and lies dormant – like an undiscovered treasure.  And many of us NEVER open it up again.

We replace the beautiful, whimsical things with practical things.  Sensible things.

We replace the play with work.  Because that’s what we grown-up’s do.  We work.  Play is for children.

We replace the fables and the stories with “truth”.  When somebody tells us a story, we – as grown-up’s – immediately respond:  “Yes, that’s very nice.  But is it true?

We replace our big, beautiful dreams with “realism”.  We say things like:  “I’m just being realistic“.  We tell ourselves that our dreams are “pipe dreams”… or “fantasies”.  We scold ourselves for dreaming.  We tell ourselves that it’s time-wasting, childish nonsense.  That we need to grow-up and “get real”.

We replace imagination and ideas with systems, structures and 3-step-plans.  We’ve been so programmed to think this way… to Answer-the-Questions (instead of QUESTION the answers)… to Obey-The-Rules… and Pass-The-Tests… and Do-What-We’re-Told… and to be compliant and obedient… and, as a result, many of us have lost the ability to think for ourselves… to initiative NEW ideas… NEW concepts… NEW solutions.

Many adults believe that they need other people to govern their lives and tell them what to do – and without those people;  the parent… the teacher… the pastor… the husband… the boss… the “expert”… the government official… they feel unsafe and adrift.

And… as for the WONDER.  Whatever happened to that?

Most adults can’t even get their brains around the idea of “wonder”.  We believe we *must* have The Answers.  We must know The Truth.  There seems to be little room for questioning… pondering… or even a willingness to embrace uncertainty.  Few of us (grown-up’s) are content to embrace the wonder of the unknown… the divine mysteries of life… to be perfectly comfortable admitting:  “You know what?  I don’t know.  And I’m okay with not knowing.  But… ah… isn’t it wonderful simply to ponder on all the possibilities??”

And as for art… and colour… the creative expression of our longings, thoughts and imaginings…

For many adults, “ART” is the domain of The Arty-Farty’sThose people.  Those other people.

“I’m not creative”, people say (I’ve heard this so many times… I’ve lost count).

And yet – as children – we ALL created art.  We ALL were involved in painting, drawing, dancing, drama and poetry.  As kids, we were ALL encouraged to express ourselves in a creative way.  Nobody pigeon-holed us then.  Nobody said:  “You five kids over there!  You are the arty-farty’s.  You are ALLOWED to create art.  The rest of you?  You’ve got NO creativity or talent.  Go and kick a ball or do some sums”.

As children – we were ALL encouraged to express ourselves through art.

What happened?

What changed?  Why were the paints, the poetry, the crafts and the music all packed away?


One of the reasons why I’ve created my book as an illustrated poem… is because I believe that ADULTS… could do with a nice, healthy dose of ART, stories, poetry, colourful imaginings… and whimsy… injected back into their lives!

By telling my story (which is, at times, dark and difficult)… using ART and POETRY… it’s my small attempt to debunk this crazy myth that illustrated-books-are-just-for-children.

THIS illustrated book is… for grown-up’s.  Yes – I’ll create another one for children (a *lite* version).  But – this FIRST version… this FIRST edition… is for all the adults.

And ESPECIALLY for the adults who have told themselves the bullshit lie that they are “not creative”… or “not particularly talented at anything”… or “not enough”.

ESPECIALLY those adults.


I have 19 more days to raise the full $5000 that I need to print and distribute my book.  If you would like a signed, first-edition copy of my illustrated-poem-for-grown’up’s… (along with other goodies and perks that I’ll be posting to backers) – I’d be HUGELY grateful if you click on THIS LINK.  Thank-you!  Thank-you!


PS:  Now… go and paint a picture, take a photo, climb a tree, do a cartwheel, scrape Nutella out of a jar with your fingers, have a bubble bath (preferably with bath-toys), compose a limerick, sing a song, daydream, pick some wild flowers and stick them in your hair, mould something out of polymer clay, wear something outrageously bright and sparkly, play dress-up… (well – you get the picture)…. X

PPS:  Quick disclaimer (added after reading a few comments and suddenly feeling horrified that I might not be making myself crystal-clear with this post).  To all the mathematicians, scientists, engineers (and people generally brilliant at all the stuff I suck at).  Please… please… don’t see this post as a *diss* on your particular craft or skill.  I truly believe that we are ALL creative… that creativity shows itself in ways as diverse as the stars in the sky.  Although I DO believe that the arts (like painting, poetry, drama, dance, music, etc) have been marginalized and generally devalued by society and school and viewed as hobbies and not as *important* as maths or science…  I am *NOT* saying that *I* think that maths or science (or anything – really) – is a “lesser” pursuit.  I see ALL our talents and gifts as equal… and ALL of these things can be expressed through creative means.  There is creativity in business… there is creativity in maths… there is creativity in engineering.  I’m sorry if anyone has misunderstood my stance on this!  Pleeeeeease know that I hold these 4 values close to my heart:

  1. I believe that we are ALL creative.
  2. I believe there is no such thing as a “lesser” or “less worthy” gift / calling / talent / career.
  3. My deep desire – for everyone – is that they learn to truly embrace their beautiful uniqueness and be the best version of THEM-selves.
  4. I have never-ever-ever wanted other people to be more like “me”.  God forbid.  I want YOU to just be… more like… YOU! – and not to let anyone tell you how to live or who to be.  Just be YOU.  Be… YOU!!

*phew!* (Hope that’s cleared up?)…

Dreams DO come true (although, sometimes, it takes a while)…

I’m a sentimental person.

I keep stuff.

No – seriously… you don’t understand… I keep stuff.

When it comes to de-cluttering the house and donating stuff to charity… I can happily and unblinkingly jettison clothes, shoes, bags, pots, pans, pillows, appliances… whatever.

BUT… when it comes to “My Sentimentals”… forget it.  Nothing leaves.

The history of my life is contained in big, plastic crates of “sentimentals”.  I have my old school books, letters, cards people have sent me…  I have diaries, drawings, photographs, my granddad’s medals and compass… my great-grandmother’s family Bible… my great-great-grandmother’s beaded shawl… my mother’s letters that she sent to her family from boarding school… I even have an entire pony-tail‘s worth of my childhood hair!

Um.  Yes… so you get the picture.

I keep sentimental things.  Lots of sentimental things.

And – every so often… I sort through the boxes of sentimental things.  And – as it happens – last week… I went through the box that contained the dog-eared, typed pages of the (many) stories I wrote when I was a child… along with a stack of my earliest illustrations.

And then, I read through a couple of “about me” pages I had written in my school books.  Here’s one:

Scan 55

I wrote this when I was about 9 or 10…

Of course – the things I loved (always did… still do)… were:  reading, art work, piano playing, stories & poems, chocolate and English (referring to my love of words)…

And yes, I still enjoy some crispy bacon…  and a good film… and swimming… (although I’d say my dancing skills leave much to be desired)…

In another “about me” page, I typed this (I haven’t corrected the spelling & grammar):

Hello, my name is Heather Patterson.  I am twelve years old and my birthday is on the eighth of November.  I was born in Mowbray nursing home.  My mother says when I was born I looked like an Eskimo baby.  I had lots of black hair and Chinese eyes.  When I was a little girl, I used to call everyone “Daddy”.  One day in the supermarket I saw a native boy and said “hello Daddy”.  The Native thought I was crazy.  My dad is very firm, he oftern tickles us.  He is always neat.  My mom is lovely.  She cares a lot about us all.  My little sister can be nice when she wants to and nasty when she wants to.  She has long hair and I have short hair.

Our house is on three levels, it is very big.  We have a garage with three doors.  At the back of our garage we have a tiny house we can rent to people.  We live on a plot.  We have a very big garden with hundreds of fruit trees.  We have 20 acres of land.  We have two rottweillers, Helga and Bronson.  Bronson is Helgas puppy.  We also have a collie, Cindy, she is ten years old.  We used to have two cats, but one died, so we only have one.  Midge.  Mom doesn’t like Midge because he thinks our house is his toilet.  We had a bird called Benji.  Benji could say “Pretty Boy” and he could whistle a tune.  But one day Benji flew away.

I have my own room, it’s a “pink room”.  Pink is my worst colour.  If I could change it, I would make it a “blue room”.  I like the kitchen because when Im hungry theres lots of food in the coboard.  I also like the lounge and the downstairsroom.  I like the lounge because its got our t.v., video, t.v. games, tape recorder, radio and record player in it.  I like the downstairsroom because it has our piano in it.

My only friend is Sonja Fahn.  I like the way she draws.  I don’t like the way she boasts.  We do sometimes fight over silly things.  In my free time I like:  reading, drawing, playing piano, watching videos, jumping on our tramperline, swimming and playing Donkey Kong.  When I grow up I want to be an Author.  I also want to illustrate my own stories.

That was written in January 1985.

It took me a long time… to finally DO that thing that I always said I wanted to do.

I have been wanting to write and illustrate a book for as long as I can remember.  But for decades – I put that (personal) dream on hold.  Instead, I invested my time and energy into other people’s projects.  Other people’s books… other people’s businesses… other people’s productions… other people’s films… other people’s albums… other people’s dreams….

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not as if I regret supporting or investing in the dreams of other people.  There were – in fact – many projects that I felt privileged to be a part of (and many others that I loathed from the get-go)…

But… if there is a tinge of regret… it’s that I packed my art, my stories and my dreams away for such a long, long time… (for reasons – of course – that are explored in my book).

So… my illustrated book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back”… is just a few illustrations away from being finished.  64 full-colour pages of a childhood dream that finally… 30 years later… is coming true.

If you’d like to back my project – and be the first to receive a signed, first-edition copy of my book… just click here or on the link below.

Now… (literally)… back to the drawing board….!  :-)–2/embedded/10839044