Lulu

Lulu
My Lulu, a dachshund x Jack Russell terrier. (Image copyright: Michelle Turnbull)

I bring home one   my number one
a soft-as-velvet fur-son
then I get number two   maharani you
even so       mummy must love Lulu

Number one licks multiple kisses on my nose
and basks in our adjoined shadows
you   though   only come to me when it suits you
even so      mummy must love Lulu

Number one’s meal you try to steal
after you’ve wolfed down yours with great zeal
a terrier you are through and through
even so   mummy must love Lulu

Number one cries if I’m not in sight
but you like to sit bum facing me in the rays outside
this is such a very you thing to do
even so    mummy must love Lulu

Number one doesn’t have the genes
to do what you do by any means
runaway   once    twice    disappear in plain view
what face will I show daddy if I can’t find you

Number one chases my to-and-fro stride
while my vocal cords shred
LUCY    LULU    LUCY   LULU
my munchkin   where have you got to

You are splashing in the creek
mummy’s hopes of tracing your prints are bleak
you are punishing me   too good to be number two
come back    mummy promises to forgive you

At a wit’s end   my heart finally slots back in place
at the sight of your pretty fox-like face
my baby   my Lulu
I  do love you

Love on the freeway

About four years ago, I’m on the eastern freeway and something happens to me that has never happened in the 21 years of my driving: I run out of petrol.

I thought I knew my fuel gauge intimately. But on that day she tricked me, and I putt-putted my way into the shoulder lane with my sweaty palms – damn you hyperhidrosis – and my cheeks the colour of scarlet.

Another fact very unlike me: I didn’t have roadside assistance. So I find myself calling RACV and immediately signing up for two years.

“Someone will be with you within the hour”, the operator tells me.

Great. I’m supposed to be meeting a girlfriend at the Slow Food farmers market. I dial her next. And she makes the right commiserating noises.

Then I call the hubby. “I’ll come,” he says. “I’ll wait for the RACV guy and you can take my car to meet Jacq.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Less than 10 minutes later, the hubby pulls up into the shoulder as cars pass us at over 100km per hour. To passersby, I’m sure we look as if we’re up to something dodgy. Or maybe that’s just the way I see it?

Because to some extent it is dodgy. It is not a win-win situation. Or maybe it is? I feel guilty about this exchange. Nevertheless, I allow myself to receive the gesture – another thing that often doesn’t happen.

When I meet my friend, hardly a few minutes late, I say, “If I ever grumble about my husband, can you please remind me about this moment?”

Dog hair

I often joke with my husband that our dogs travel everywhere. The last time I mention this is just a few days ago – I had found a single, short hair in my bra. I discovered it was because my boob was itchy.

The time before this was two weeks ago, when we were in Chicago and then San Francisco. My husband ran the Chicago marathon and I found stray hairs on my clothes.

When I vacuum, it takes me three times longer than it should. And I must vacuum weekly at the longest stretch, or risk the hair weaving itself permanently into the couch and the rug. Instead of a charcoal sofa, I’ll end up with a tan one.

Thankfully the dogs match the floorboards, and I can retain some sanity –  but not when sun rays stream inside, exposing tumbleweeds all over the joint.

While I doggedly chafe the sofa with the vacuum’s nozzle, sweating my way through the task, our 12-year-old Beaglier stares at me. I’m sure he’s wondering what I’m doing. “Lucky you’re cute”, I say, “otherwise mummy will have to give you away.”

When he continues to stare at me with his big, brown eyes, my heart melts. That’s what they do. When you’re not watching, they creep into every chamber of your pumping organ, leave a bit of hair, and implant themselves into you forever.

I know when they are no longer, I’ll be grateful for every strand I discover in the nooks and crannies of our domain. Saudade will settle into my bones, and, like Lydia Davis, my husband and I will “have a wild hope – if only we collect enough of them, we will be able to put the dog[s] back together again.”

If I had just 24 hours to live

My friend Alex gave me a free advanced copy of her new book So This is the End: A Love Story. It was engrossing. Funny. Sad. I could not put it down. In it, the protagonist, Norma, is given a second chance to live, but it’s temporary. She only gets 24 hours.

This got me thinking…if I only had 24 hours, what would I do with my time?

Twenty-fours isn’t much for some of the things I wanted to put on my list – like learning Italian fluently. I think I’d panic and waste a few minutes wondering what to to with my remaining precious hours on Earth. But here is what I would do for #MyFinal24:

  • Take my two fur babies – Kobi and Lulu – for a walk with my Hubby and then all cuddle together on the couch.
  • Eat brunch and enjoy the best almond-milk magic at my favourite café. I’ll read – one of my favourite pastimes – while I’m there too.
  • Soak in the Peninsula natural spring spas with my girlfriends – miraculously there will be no one else there!
  • Eat my mum’s chicken curry Indian style – by hand!
  • Stare at the moon – hopefully she’s a full one. But I’d be grateful for any visibility.
  • Write a farewell note on my (this) blog, with special mention of people who are dear to me.
  • Dance to reggaeton music.
  • Last but not least, have an intimate gathering at my house, hanging out and laughing with the people I love – Hubby, Mum, Dad, Jaya, Shourov, Arjun, Keshav, Josh and my two fur babies.

What would you do with your precious last day?

(Am I) ugly or pretty?

“You’re so pretty”, Sally had said.

I can recall the day like it was yesterday. It was our very first day of moving into the university’s halls of residence. We were both 17. And it was a warm summer’s afternoon in February 1992.

This was the first time I ever met Sally. And that was the first thing she ever said to me.

I blinked at her, stunned. Eventually, I spluttered a thank you, with my gaze held downwards, my cheeks hot.

I remember feeling confused. I had believed myself to be ugly, well, ever since I moved to Australia. You see, in year 9, aged 14, not even a full year after migrating to Melbourne, I was told as such in the girls’ bathroom while washing my hands.

“Gosh, you’re ugly,” a classmate had pronounced out of the blue, as if it were fact. Her name was Deirdre.

I recall my words getting caught in my throat. My body shrinking, as my spine slouched.

Taking Deirdre’s words as gospel, I had believed myself to be grotesque. So when three years later Sally remarked on my beauty, I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know whether I should believe her. But a small part of me thought, what if she’s right? And a bold part of me candidly thought, “Can’t people decide whether I was pretty or ugly?

How naïve was I. As if it were someone else’s call to decide. As if someone else gets to decide.

As a society, we’ve placed external beauty on a pedestal. It’s obvious in every type of media. It can be the reason for getting snubbed or being revered. It can be the reason for getting the job, or applying for the next one because you didn’t.

And if someone hasn’t been cruel to us as bluntly as Deirdre was to me, we are cruel to ourselves. With our self-talk. With our seeking validation outside ourselves.

For example, while “Does my bum look big in this?” is the butt of many good-humoured conversations, it still gets posed on a serious note.

Heck, even I sometimes ask my husband before we head out somewhere, “How do I look?”

You know how he answers? Like this: “If you’re happy with how you look and feel, then why does it matter what someone else thinks?”

Smart man. Because what he is saying is that you don’t need my – or anyone else’s – endorsement to feel beautiful.

The thing is, people will always judge our exterior. And if we absorb someone else’s opinions about ourselves as the truth, we give away our power to be who we are.

Skin-deep beauty is fickle. So, you might as well hold on to your power, and love your own unique exquisiteness.

How? With your self-talk, with your behaviour, with how you treat yourself.

No one else gets to decide. Not even Sally.

The importance of noting your little successes

Yesterday I was deep in conversation with a friend. Let’s call him Art.

For the past 10 years, Art had lived and worked overseas, where he had created a name for himself and his indie performances. But a few months ago, he moved back to Australia to help his ailing dad.

Art is in his 40s. He had used up all his savings to invest in his projects, and now this unforeseen return home put him financially in the red.

Because he couldn’t afford outings or accommodation, Art found himself housebound and living with his parents – people who weren’t supportive of his work, and made his life difficult in the past for not conforming to their ideals of success.

But one of the main blows for Art was his projects also suffered, since he didn’t have his creative networks within reach to collaborate with, or his trusty fans to perform to.

Art was teetering on a dangerous edge, mentally.

“If I didn’t do anything about it,” he pronounced, “I knew I’d find myself spiralling into a dark, deep depression.”

Looking at At’s smiling face, I asked, “So, how did you turn things around?”

“By focusing on making each day a success and writing down every little triumph I had,” he replied.

Art doesn’t recall how he got the idea, but he says it’s what  made him get out of his funk.

By focusing on and writing down his daily, run-of-the-mill achievements, he felt worthy. Worthy enough to create, live, be who he is.

What did Art’s successes look like? “Writing,” he had recounted. “Sometimes painting, cooking, and taking a walk. The key was jotting it down.”

Art went on to get a casual job in a café – so he can afford life’s little luxuries, like enjoying a cup of coffee and eating out with a friend occasionally. He also creates his art every single day.

Hearing my friend’s story, I realised that anyone – even if their circumstances aren’t that dire – could benefit from writing down their successes daily. They don’t have to be grandiose ones either. Think caring for someone, vacuuming, fitting in some exercise, calling a friend. Heck, some days it could just be getting out of bed and having a shower.

So yesterday, at the end of the day, I took a leaf out of Art’s book and wrote down my small wins of the day:

Doing 25 minutes of yoga at home, using my favourite app.

My three-hour deep-and-meaningful chat with Art, over coffee and a nutritious bowl of goodness, all of which fed my soul.

Taking my dogs to the park, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it (looking at their happy faces as they ran around aimlessly made me feel glad that I did).

Changing the template of my blog for a fresh start, now that the plan was to write more in 2018.

Cooking the lamb skewers we had for dinner to perfection – not chewy at all!

Reading a few pages of The Happiness Project – I have read it a couple of times, and it makes for a motivating read at the beginning of a new year.

It  was gratifying experience. It’s the little stuff, daily, that matters, that makes a life, I realised. Thank you, Art, for this invaluable life lesson.


Life is full of little victories if you choose to see them. And by writing them down, you get a boost. A pat on the back. Something we all need from time to time to keep on keeping on.

I’ll be writing my daily successes in a journal for the next few weeks to see how it makes me feel. Want to try it, too?

Lesh x

My holiday traditions

I’ve been doing some work for an online magazine. And of all things, I’m writing about grief and loss.

Writing about a sad topic, especially at this time of year, has, however, offered me some soulful insights. It’s got me thinking about memories – and creating them – for that’s all we have when, sadly, a loved one is no longer with us. It’s the happy memories, and even the silly ones, that keep us going – not the material stuff.

Naturally, I began to think about whether I had any particular traditions for the holiday season to build great memories upon.

My side of the family – as with many families – has a long-standing tradition of Christmas lunch. What I love about it, is the extra specialness of getting together as a clan at this time of year – eating yummy food, which is a mix of Western and Eastern, with goat curry being a staple Christmas dish on our table. It has a certain air about it.

Five years ago, Kris Kringle was introduced for the adults too. And my nephews, aged five and seven, now know they need to hand a gift from under the tree to an adult for each gift they open – to learn the joy of giving too (thank you to a dear friend for this brilliant idea).

 

IMG_0217-1My husband is into creating his own traditions, the depth of which I’ve just recently realised. I think it bothers him that we don’t have any particular Christmas traditions just for our little nuclear family of two humans and two fur babies. Without children – for children do make it easy to bring Christmas to life – creating traditions, I have found, can easily go by the wayside.

So, as of this year, rather than the conventional Christmas tree, the hubby and I have started a tradition of ‘his and her stockings’. Blue for his, pink for mine. Clichéd, yes, but, at least, they’re not red and green.

Into the stockings we’ll stuff goodies for each other – mostly what we use, want to experience (or eat!), but which are also a little extraordinary. The essence of this tradition is tuning into each other’s needs and desires – that ol’ mindfulness thing again – to gift something meaningful.

Each year, I’ll enjoy creating memories around this ritual – hanging the stockings, being clued into what my husband is saying for gift ideas, and then sneakily wrapping and plopping the wares into his stocking while he’s none the wiser.

We also mark Christmas by hanging a wreath on the front door.

Simplicity is key in our household.

I’m also creating a ritual of catching up with a few friends, who are my closest. It’s our one-on-one time to recap the year over some great food, talk about how far our friendship has come, and to exchange something thoughtful. I also write something special about our relationship in the Chrissie card.

While these customs are not many, and nor are they revolutionary or grand, they’re my little way of celebrating the big day. And, they’re consciously chosen – from the kinships and gifts to the activities and the number of them – making this time of year a deeply pleasurable one, one for creating memories that feed soul.

You can consciously architect your Christmas too.

What traditions do you have? Which ones would you like to let go? Are there any new ones you wish to introduce?

Mother & daughter time

mum-meNext week, I’ll be taking my mum to a vegan cooking and yoga retreat in Hepburn Springs for few days. I’m so looking forward to spending this time away with her, to give her my undivided attention – that’s the intention I have set for those days. Sure, I’ll be doing yoga and learning more about vegan cooking, which I know I’ll enjoy, but they’ll be secondary to ‘simply being’ with my mother.

It may sound like I don’t spend much time with my mum. I probably don’t. Generally because she lives 45 minutes away, and, of course, there’s always something else that ‘needs’ to be done – most of which are not as important as hanging out with her. And when we do get together, the time is punctuated by other diversions – siblings, partners, nephews, cooking, chores – like any other family gatherings, I suppose. So my good intentions of giving her my time, where it’s just the two of us, rarely happens.

This story of my mum and me may resonate with you – cause you to think about what’s important in your life, but that you don’t necessarily make the time for. The adage ‘actions speak louder than words’ rings so true here: what we choose to make time for in our lives speaks volumes about what’s most important to us. (Note to self: social media is not more important than writing, or spending time with my husband.)

When I think of what I care about the most, I keep coming back to this: spending time with my immediate family and close friends, looking after my health (eating real food, walking, yoga, meditation), writing and contributing to the greater community – and to do them with consciousness.

Anything that takes me away from what matters to me deserves very little of my (or no) time. Because try as hard as I might, I can’t do it all – at least, not with full awareness. Besides, it makes life a one big blur, and rather stressful.

So this retreat is a conscious mark of putting what’s important to me first – and cultivating a life of purpose.

What do you want to make conscious time for?