Hat’s Story (and pile of resources) #2

If you haven’t already read my introduction on what these Hat-Stories & Resources are about… read this first!

For everyone else – this FIRST Hat-Story (& resource) post is about un-jobbing.

Here’s what this post will cover:

  • How I ended up in a career that I hated (and the toll it took on my life)
  • The final straw that broke the camel’s back and cemented my decision to change direction
  • A couple of photos of me taken during *those* years…
  • A couple of quotes, links & useful resources for those feel trapped in a job they hate.

For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you might recognise the story I’m about to share from a blog post that I wrote  on the 1st January, 2014.  Please bare with me (if you’ve read this before).  I have added extra goodies (and new photos) – and there’s stuff in here that wasn’t included in that post from a few years ago.

The most dangerous risk of all:  the risk of spending your life not doing what you want… on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later”

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Me... in my office... 2007.

Me… in my office… 2007.

I call it my Bathtub Moment.  The moment I knew… with utmost clarity and certainty… that my life had to change.

My life didn’t need slight tweaks and adjustments.  It needed to change.  As in:  completely.  As in:  irrevocably.  The entire trajectory of my existence needed to shift onto a very different course.  And I knew, with certainty, that I could never go back.

It was mid-2007.  At the time, I owned a graphic design and below-the-line ad agency called COPS Creative Corporation.  I’m not sure how I ended up with that company.  It certainly wasn’t on my list of Life’s Big Dreams.  I probably ended up in that position for the same reason that (most?) people end up doing the stuff they do:  I kinda drifted there.  It just… sorta… happened.

It went something like this:

  • I’m a creative creature
  • I needed to make money, so I started doing some freelance design work for a few friends
  • Word spread
  • Other folk approached me and asked me to design some stuff for them too
  • Eventually, there was too much work for me to manage on my own so I hired another designer to help me – and voila! a business was born.
Some of the promotional material for COPS Creative Corporation

Some of the promotional material for COPS Creative Corporation

By 2007, the business had tripled in size.  I employed 9 people (excluding myself).  Six were employed by COPS and, on the home-front, I employed another three – including a full-time nanny (who cared for 2-year-old Morgan) and a housekeeper.

In 2007, my life was… kinda like a runaway train.  It surged ahead, full-speed – and although I knew that I should have been up in the front of the cab, powering the train and tooting the whistle… it felt as though the train was driving itself and I was limping on the train tracks – far behind the train – frantically trying to catch up.

This is not a fun feeling.

Anyone who has chased feebly after their runaway lives will understand how un-fun it is to live like that.

WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE DURING THAT TIME

In 2007, Nick and I lived in a large suburban home which we had purchased, shortly after we had married in February 2005 (as one does).  Morgan arrived in November 2005 (and Joah followed in March 2008).

The house (and attached cottage) was our home… but it also served as a studio for Nick (a filmmaker) – and the headquarters of COPS.

My company created advertising and promotional campaigns for a number of clients.

I was once told, by the owner of a large, wealthy advertising agency… that his job (and mine) was simply this:

“To manipulate people into using money they don’t have… to buy things they don’t need”.

Somebody else (I think it was a copywriter) referred to our kind of work as:  “Rolling other people’s turds in glitter”.

Here’s a nice pic of a glitter-turd (that Ranty made with polymer clay):

IMG_4407

And yes – sometimes, that’s exactly what it felt like.  Sometimes, I not only disliked my clients… but I extra-disliked their products and services.  Sometimes, I thought that their products were overpriced and badly made… or that their services were unethically ripping people off.

And yet – I’d don my polite-and-enthusiastic smile… and invent creative ways to promote said turd’ish product… to glitterize it… to make it more palatable to the general public and thus generate sales for my client.

Obviously, this wasn’t true of all of my clients.  I had some lovely clients too.  But it felt as though most of them (and certainly the over-sized, arrogant corporations) required me to do lots of turd-rolling.

My biggest client was a company that owned hotels.

Lots of hotels.

They were a large, hotel-owning company and (like all colossal corporations), they were concerned about one thing:  The Bottom Line.

I did lots and lots of turd-rolling for this company.  And I did lots of corporate brown-nosing in their bling-encrusted boardrooms (while sipping their shitty coffee).  I’d talk the talk and dazzle them with designer jargon and assurances of how gush-gush *amazing* their next campaign would be.

Then, I’d go home… and my designers and I would burn the midnight oil in order to meet the demands and expectations of the CEO and his minions.

My Bathtub Moment was, in a sense, the fruit of this particular hotel-owning client.  And I remember it as though it were yesterday.

Me... taking some photos at one of the hotel-owning client's hotels.  Don't I look terribly thrilled and excited?

Me… taking some photos at one of the hotel-owning client’s hotels. Don’t I look terribly thrilled and excited?


THE LEAD-UP…

When it (the Bathtub Moment) happened, my husband was away on an international shoot.  Nick was usually my reliable buffer during times of stress.  If I had crazy deadlines, he’d ease the load and make sure that Morgan was taken care of during evenings or over weekends and holidays (when the nanny wasn’t there).

But, on this occasion, Nick was away.  For 3 long weeks.

And during those 3 weeks, my hotel-owning client suddenly decided (at the last possible moment) that they wanted to exhibit at Indaba (an international travel & hospitality expo, held in Durban every year).

Not only were they going to exhibit at Indaba, but they needed thousands of printed fact sheets, posters, brochures (and all sorts of other bits and pieces) for ALL of their hotels.

All of these items needed to be designed, printed and delivered to their flashy double-storey exhibit by 7am on the first morning of Indaba.

We had two weeks to pull it off.

Usually, a job of this size would take the printing company – alone – two weeks to produce (at a push).  And we needed to first design and typeset the whole lot… and have it checked, proofed and signed-off before I could forward a single item to the printer.

To cut a long story short;  I worked like a rabid insomniac for those two weeks.  I existed on a diet of coffee and Red Bull.  I slept in short spurts.  I paid the nanny overtime to help me with Morgan in the evenings (she bathed her, fed her and put her to bed).

At one stage, I humiliated myself when I begged Piet, my printer… (like a dog)… I literally begged him… with genuine tears stinging the corners of my eyes to:  “Please, please, please, please… make it happen, please!” when he expressed his doubts as to whether we’d make deadline.

“It has to be ready…”, I begged him, “Please, it has to!”…

Trying to do some last-minute work on the kitchen counter because my office was being used by a staff member...

Trying to do some last-minute work on the kitchen counter because my office was being used by a staff member…

I was worried that I wouldn’t have everything at the Indaba exhibit by 7am on launch day – as expected.  I fretted about what might happen if I didn’t meet that deadline.  What if I lost the client?  And how would we pay all the bills and salaries without the income that the rich, hotel-owning company generated?

The day before the deadline, I was pacing my studio like a restless, caged animal.

I’d phone Piet-the-Printer (a remarkably patient man).

“Hi Piet.  It’s Heather from COPS.  Is the job ready yet?  Can I collect?”

“No”, said Piet, “It’s not ready yet”.

The hotel-owning CEO’s secretary was also phoning me regularly;

“Are you on your way to Indaba?”, she’d ask.

“No.  I’m still in Joburg.  I’m waiting for the printing to come off the press”

What!!?  WHY isn’t it ready yet??” she demanded, seemingly oblivious of how much of my life I had given up and how much turd-rolling I had taken on for her company.  No, wait.  I wasn’t turd-rolling.  For this particular job, it felt as though I had submerged myself in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of corporate poo!

Here's another miserable-me pic.  You know that saying about how a picture can paint a thousand words?  I think this photo says a LOT...

Here’s another miserable-me pic. You know that saying about how a picture can paint a thousand words? This photo says more about how I felt about my life (at that time) than words could.

By 5pm, I was starting to get desperate.  I dialled Piet again.

“Please… please tell me it’s ready”

“It’s off the press.  We’re just waiting for the ink to dry.  Then we’ll score, fold and send it through the guillotine”

“It’s not cut yet?”, I asked, feeling the desperation and panic beginning to rise like bile in my throat…

“We’re doing the best that we can, Heather”, snapped Piet, sounding distinctly unfriendly.  He had a bite to his voice that suggested that he was rapidly running out of his usual supply of patience.

I don't know where I found this pic

By 8:15pm, the last of the printed material was ready.

I had packed an overnight bag, dropped Morgan off at my mom’s and had driven my Renault Modus to the printing factory.  Piet’s night staff had helped me to load 10 000 copies of fact sheets, brochures and posters into my small car.

The printed material engulfed the Modus.  It filled the boot, the back seat (I couldn’t even see out of my rearview mirror)… and it towered precariously on the passenger seat next to me.  I was worried that if I made an abrupt turn in my car, the mountain of printing would topple over and crush me like an insect.

The weight was clearly too much for the Modus.  The axles groaned… the tyres looked as though they would burst under the strain – but I didn’t care.  I had possession of the completed material.

Now, I just needed to drive it all to Durban – 700 kilometres / 435 miles away.


With my overnight bag, 8 tins of Red Bull and a tiny car, overloaded with printed promo-material… I drove through the night from Johannesburg to Durban.

Oh – and did I mention?  I was pregnant with Joah at the time.

Stressed and exhausted, I drove with the windows down so that the cool night air would (hopefully) keep me awake and I would (hopefully) not plunge myself off a ravine… or something.

About an hour in to my drive, I received a phone call.  It was from the hotel-owning client (the CEO himself).

“Where the fuck are you?”, he shrieked in my ear.

Just as I was about to explain… in my most polite, most professional glitter-coated, brown-nosing voice… and tell him that I was on the road and that the job would, indeed, be delivered on time… the battery on my phone went flat.

I drove the rest of the way to Durban with the knowledge that the CEO was foaming-at-the-mouth-mad at me… expecting me not to show up on time (if at all).

Just the knowledge of this filled me with dread.

IMG_4356

Another photo for the evidence file…


I arrived at my hotel at three in the morning.  It was a beautiful 5-Star establishment and I was shown to my lavish suite by a polite porter (I had tried to book a cheaper hotel, but with Indaba on the go, every reasonably-priced hotel room in the whole of Durban was booked up.  Only super-expensive places were available).

I slept for two hours… woke at 5am… showered, dressed, swallowed some breakfast… and returned to my loaded Modus – only to discover:  a flat tyre!

The Modus was going nowhere.

Again, that familiar feeling of panic began to rise;  “Oh crap!  Oh crap!  Oh crap!  I have to get all this stuff to the hotel exhibit… at Indaba… in the centre of town… by 7am!  It’s now 6am… and I have a flat tyre!!”

Thankfully… mercifully… my cousin was also exhibiting at Indaba that year (she and her husband own a lodge in Limpopo).  I phoned Clare, explained my predicament… and her husband, Michel, drove to my hotel, helped me to re-load all the shrink-wrapped parcels into his van… and helped me to deliver the whole lot – ON TIME – to the hotel-owning client’s flashy double-storey exhibit.

After off-loading the trolley, I sank down on to the floor in a daze.

It was at that moment that the hotel-owning CEO arrived on the scene (the one who had cursed me on the phone the night before and who had since left a number of ominous threats on my voicemail).

He was striding, red-faced, down the expo aisle… followed by a small cluster of worried-looking, note-taking minions.  Upon reaching his exhibit, he stopped abruptly… glared darkly at me… and turned his attention to the mountain of neatly-stacked printed material that I had delivered.

Realising that everything was there – on time – he glanced back at me, delivered a curt nod, spun on his heel… and left.

No “hello”… no “thank-you”… nothing.

I was simply the hired help – and I was expected to do whatever it took to deliver the goods.

If I had plunged the Modus off a cliff in the middle of the night… and died… his biggest concern would have been whether there were enough salvageable pamphlets for Indaba.

This… by the way… was one of those slap-through-the-face catch-a-WAKE-UP moments (which cemented my decision to change things):  the realisation that I did NOT matter to those people.  That I was just another cog-in-the-wheel. Dispensable.  Replaceable.  Because what really mattered was money and profit.

And I didn’t like that feeling.

I didn’t like feeling like a cheap, replaceable cog.

I didn’t like feeling as though the primary purpose of my career (and the purpose of my creative gifts)… was to make money for other people… to help rich corporations get even richer.

It sounded like a pretty shitty and meaningless investment of my one, short, precious life.

“The price of anything is the amount of LIFE you exchange for it”

– Henry David Thoreau –


Michel dropped me back at the hotel.  I went to my suite, put on some music and sunk into a very hot bath.

I so desperately wanted Nick and Morgan with me.  I wanted them in that hotel room with me.  I wanted to lean against my husband and feel the reassurance of his warm hugs.  I wanted to scoop up my baby girl and just BE with her.  I wanted to see her beautiful little face.  I wanted to listen to her happy giggles.

But I was alone in that tub… in that big, 5-star-suite.

Exhausted… stressed… and alone (well, not entirely alone – I had a baby boy growing inside of me at the time).

And that was when my Bathtub Moment happened.

I started to cry… as in howl-cry.  Big salty tears plopped into the steaming bath water and I howled some more.

And then…

(and this is important)…

I started to QUESTION!

Here are the uncomfortable questions that I asked myself in the bathtub that night:

  • Why am I here?
  • What am I doing?
  • Why am I doing this work?
  • Why am I putting up with these turd’ish clients?
  • Why am I running this business?
  • Is it worth it?  Is it worth the humiliation, the stress, the time spent away from my loved ones?
  • Was this my dream?
  • Did I even want this?
  • If I didn’t want it – then why am I doing it?
  • Is this all there is to look forward to?
  • Is this what life is supposed to be like?  An endless cycle of working, eating, sleeping, stressing and bill-paying?
  • Is it possible to escape this?
  • Is it possible to change this?
  • Is it possible to dig myself out of this hole?
  • Is it possible to redesign my entire life?
  • Is it possibly to live differently?
  • Is it possible to be happy?

What are YOUR uncomfortable questions?

Deep down, I already knew all the answers to the questions I was spewing out.  I already knew what needed to be done.  The Bathtub Moment was simply the first time I had articulated it to myself… the first time I had given myself permission to feel… and dream… and to decide that I wanted something else for my life.  Something… different.

And so, right there… right then… I decided.

Just like that.

The decision was made.

Change


After I had returned to Joburg and after Nick had returned from his shoot, I sat down with him and told him what I wanted to do.

“I want to shut down COPS.  It’s killing me slowly.  It’s robbing our family.  And the stress is not worth the money I make.  In fact, I suspect we’d be better-off financially without all the debt, salaries and extra expenses”.

Nick agreed.  And that was the end of that.  We closed the business.  Shut it all down.  My staff found other work.  I phoned all of my clients and told them they’d have to find a new design agency.  We sold the computers.  Shut down the shop.  Paid the last of the bills.  And just like that… it was gone.

COPS Creative Corporation was no more.

And just like that… I had the freedom to decide:  “What do I actually want to DO with my life?”

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car you are still paying for… in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it”

Ellen Goodman


RESOURCES:

BOOKS I found useful (whilst trying to answer the question:  “What do I really want to do with my life?”)

  • The Element – how finding your passion changes everything (by Ken Robinson).  He also has a book called “Finding your Element” – which is a much more practical guide (but I think I prefer the first book).
  • The Four Hour Work Week (by Tim Ferris)
  • Eat, Pray, Love (by Elizabeth Gilbert)

I also recently came across a book called Roadmap – the get-it-together guide for figuring out what you want to do with your life”.  Although the book mainly seems to be targeting younger folk (perhaps high-schoolers and university students) – they DO have some fabulous thought-provoking, practical exercises in there that, I think, could spark a few ideas (for those who feel *stuck*).

INSPIRATION:

This is your life

“If you like conformity, competition or pretense… then ordinary reality is a great place to be.  If you’re interested in personal growth, however, you’ll need to go through the cracks in ordinary reality and find out what’s on the other side”

– Troy Dayton –

BLOG POSTS about asking ourselves those big, deep, scary questions about whether we’re *surviving*, *getting by*, *making-do*… or are we LIVING…?

PONDERTUNITY (a pondertunity is an opportunity to ponder, think, dream, deconstruct old ideas and re-imagine new ones)

Ask yourself some of these questions (I found the questions uncomfortable – but my responses to the questions were telling):

  • How do you feel about where your life is at… at the moment?  Are you happy?  Are you content?  Are you miserable or frustrated?
  • What is the biggest cause of frustration in your life right now?
  • How did you end up with the job you now have?
  • Was it your plan (to work where you’re working now) – or did you just kinda end up there?
  • Do you enjoy your job?
  • If the answer is no… do you have an idea of the job you’d like to have?
  • Have you ever thought of changing the direction of your life?
  • If the answer is yes… what would you like to be doing?
  • What holds you back?
  • If you never, ever had to worry about money (ever again)… what would you DO with your life?

And finally – to end this post on a positive note… I need you to know (and especially those of you who are reading this post without any knowledge of my back-story)… that my story DOES have a happy ending *insert whoop of glee here!*

Here’s a recent photo of the current “me” (compare to the misery-me photos above – and you’ll see that a LOT has changed):

MADhattersTEA_WEB-57(1)

I LOVE my current life-work (to coin a phrase used by the folk who wrote the Roadmap book)… everything has changed.

It wasn’t a quick-fix.  It didn’t happen in an instant.  It was (and continues to be) a journey.  A journey of baby-steps… a series of teensy-tiny-daily CHOICES… a continued, every-day effort to question…. re-define… re-align… and live deliberately.

“Tapping into your purpose takes a great deal of discipline, because you have to ask yourself the question every day when you open your eyes:  ‘Who am I?'”

– Penny Brown Reynolds (quote taken from the Roadmap book) –

It’s a journey.

I have definitely not *arrived*… (any regular reader of this blog will know that!)…

I don’t think anybody *arrives*.  I think there are folk who camp on the side of the road, indefinitely.  Preferring not to move.  Preferring not to change.

But for those of us who choose to move… and change… and grow… and explore…  I don’t think the journey ever ends.  There’s a new lesson around every bend (and that’s what excites me!)… I like not knowing what-comes-next.

I embrace the beautiful unpredictability of life… it’s what makes me feel truly-alive!  :-)


Anyhoo… so that’s Hat’s Story (and pile of resources) #2….

I know it was pretty long-winded… but the truth is, I’ve only TOUCHED on this topic.  I have so much more to say and share about escaping a nasty, life-sucking career and doing what you LOVE… (but this post would turn into a book!)…

So – moving on…

The NEXT post in this Hat’s Story series will be about what happened after I had shut down the business and stopped doing the only thing (graphic design) that I thought I was good at…

By the way – feel free to respond in the comments… or on Facebook… or drop me an e-mail heather@themadhat.co.za

Lots of love to you all!  Hat x

Hat’s Story (and pile of resources) – #1

As most of you already know, I have written and illustrated a book called “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” – which is currently in the final-final stages of production – and should (if all goes according to plan) be printed by the end of August.

As I’ve gone through the motions of crowdfunding… and promoting… and chatting about the book, I have connected with a lot of people – and a couple of you have asked me a couple of questions.

And a couple of those questions have been asked again and again, like these:

  • “HOW did you get your HAT’ness back and find yourself again?”
  • “HOW did you stop shaming your body?”
  • “HOW did you lose all that weight?”
  • “HOW did you escape the rat-race?”
  • “HOW do you educate your kids differently?”
  • “HOW did you get out of debt?”

And I have a lot to say about those things (and many other things).  A LOT!

So – being the perfectionist, all-or-nothing person that I am…  I collected a mountain of resources to share with you:  stories, tips, advice, inspiring books, articles, blogs, links & quotes… strategies that had helped me… pondertunities… creative exercises… photos, art, ideas… (and a gazillion other things)…

And I began to compile colourful resource-zines and creative-courses that I wanted to share with you…

… but…

… because it wasn’t all *PERFECT*… and because I haven’t really had the time to create a PERFECT thing to share with you guys… I didn’t share ANY of it – at all (did I mention that I have a problem with the All-or-Nothing mentality…?)

And so… all that content… all those stories… all that (potentially helpful) information… has been stacked in a giant filing cabinet – and NOT shared (even though it could prove really helpful to some folk)… because… (*sigh*)… I haven’t deemed it to be “ready” (read: perfect enough) to share with you.

So… today – I say:  No more!

Starting from today – I am going to share a series of pretty intense blog posts that will each contain the following:

  • My story and experience (surrounding a specific topic or issue)
  • Photos & Art
  • Creative exercises & ideas
  • Pondertunities (questions & thoughts for YOU to ponder too)
  • Tips, links & resources to the stuff that helped ME.

The posts won’t be “perfect”.

But – that’s probably a good thing.

I’m kinda done with trying to be *perfect* anyway….

PS:  Feedback appreciated!  And especially if you have any particular questions or topics you’d like me to address!

Hat x

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!”

No?

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?

No.

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:

2.  WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE – I’M A DOER… NOT A SIT-ON-MY-BUM-AND-HOPE’R…

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.

3. CROWDFUNDING IRRITATES AND AMPLIFIES MY *ISSUES*…

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):

1. THERE ARE LOADS OF FLIPPIN’ AWESOME, GENEROUS PEOPLE OUT THERE!!!

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.

2.  EVERY TIME I MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT PEOPLE – I TURN OUT TO BE WRONG.

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).

AND FINALLY…

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:

tomboy6

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.

IMG_3776

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?

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?

NOTHING.

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):

invisible

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?

*sigh*…

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):

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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:

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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”.

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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)…

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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…. heather@themadhat.co.za

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!)  :-)

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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