Is Perfectionism getting in the way?

Perfectionism v. Good Enough.

If perfectionism gets in the way of you completing tasks, whether it be a project, sending off a manuscript, finishing a piece or art work or anything else, then check out my take on perfectionism… and rainbows. I teach this topic and more in courses for adults and for teenagers. Here is a little video I made on the topic from the jungles of Cambodia.

For more info on this topic and other tips, check out my book The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence.

Asia Pacific Writers Conference, Indonesia.

On Tue 24th Oct at Ganesha University, a 3 hour (or more realistically, 4 or 5 hour) drive from Denpasar airport in Bali (through stunning mountains I might add), I was on a panel as part of the 3-day Asia Pacific Writers and Translators 10th anniversary conference.

This was my 5th one.

The topic of this 90 minute panel was:

Belonging and Writing:
Exile, Homecoming and Return Narratives.

Just a small topic!

I was one of three on the panel and last minute became the moderator also as ours had to head back home south to Sanur. I was worried that being both moderator and panelist would be a little tricky with Osamah Sami on the panel – an award-winning actor, writer, director and stand-up comedian, with a memoir Good Muslim Boy and movie Ali’s Wedding. A lively and confident personality as you might expect, but also a humble young man born in Iran to Iraqi parents who moved to Australia as a teenager. The panel was rounded off with writer and PhD candidate from Queensland Australia, Sophie MacNeill.

What unfolded quite naturally was a juicy discussion on ‘home’, ‘exile’, ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’ from a Muslim Iranian, Iraqi Aussie, a born and bred Australian Aussie of Irish decent, and a Jewish Australian expat living in Asia. As you can well imagine then, questions of belonging and identity were about as straight forward as our panel’s participant’s stories. ​The audience seemed to really enjoy the discussion and had plenty of questions for us. Thanks to everyone for coming down and thanks to the panel for their honesty and courage in their stories. The 3-day conference was as always, full of incredible authors, editors, translators and publishers. Northern Indonesia was such an incredible place to host such an event, most of us having never adventured to this area before. Here is (some of) the 200-strong gang from over 23 countries.

Every year I take a photo of me with the AP banner, so here is this year’s….

There are many workshops on offer throughout the conference. I feel so fortunate to be meeting with such experienced people in the industry. I went to ‘Editing: An Insider’s Guide’, hosted by Cate Blake from Penguin Random House and Ian See from University of Queensland Press in a small group where we had the opportunity to listen, learn, share and ask questions.

Holistic Counselling

So what exactly IS Holistic Counselling. What does it mean to say you are a holistic counsellor or that you want to go and see one?

Holistic Counselling looks at all of you. It recognises that people are not one-dimensional and that all the different parts that make up a person need to be factored in, to be able to fully understand the person. Holistic Counselling looks at mind, body and spirit.

Here is a 1.26 second video I made  explaining Holistic Counselling.

When I say I am a holistic counsellor, I am saying that I will take in to account your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual thoughts, ideas, fears and concerns. I will acknowledge that upbringing, religion, society and culture can play a role and I will listen without judgment and help clear past blocks and help you to step forward with ease, flow and confidence.

Tips for Journalling

Here is a short 4 video series to help you journal. For those who have never journalled, have stopped somewhere along your life journey, or are just curious to hear more.

Journalling – Writing in your diary – Self Writing

There are just as many reasons why people don’t journal, as why people do.  One reason for not journalling I often hear is “I don’t know what to write” or “I don’t know where to begin” so here are my 4 Key Questions in one minute videos that you can ask yourself.

4 Key Questions:

Question Number 1.

Question Number 2.

Question Number 3.

Question Number 4.

Happy Journalling

THE KEY: Hear what the students had to say

Teaching TEENAGERS about EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is no easy task, but I was up for the challenge.

My latest book THE KEY became the workbook in my curriculum that I recently taught to grade 7 (12-13 year-olds) at Bialik College in Melbourne, the top academic school in the State.

But academia doesn’t factor when talking about emotions, as the Head of Middle School discovered when he attended one of my classes to find that it wasn’t the usual ‘smart kids’ putting their hands up, but everyone else also.

One-hour weekly classes, over a ten-week period, teaching roughly 75 students in total.

We truly started from the beginning:

“Does anyone know what emotional intelligence is?”

The response was 100% “no”.

As with every topic, they were asked to write down what they thought it might mean before bringing it in for a group discussion.

A large range of topics were covered using the tools of writing therapy, discussion, youtube, some activities, and journaling homework.

This course was about discovering your identity and thinking for yourself. There was no right or wrong, nothing was being marked or graded, this was about YOU, your thoughts, feelings, questions and concerns. Who are you? All big topics but when broken down in to smaller topics, it all can just make sense.

It is impossible to wrap up the course in one piece of writing so I will share with you some student feedback given to me on a few of the topics covered.

ON IDENTITY:

“I can be myself. I don’t need to hide anything”

POSITIVE THINKING:

“I thought I couldn’t do it (a task) but then I changed my thought pattern in to a positive one and I did it”

FRIENDSHIP:

“I started being more honest with my friends and they were honest to me and we made a stronger friendship”

ON SUCCESS AND FAILURE:

“I used to think I constantly failed but it really depends on how you define things”

FRIENDSHIP:

“Instead of saying ‘no’ to someone, I helped them with what they needed. It made me feel like a better person and a helpful person”

JEALOUSY AND ENVY:

“I watched something and I didn’t feel jealous and it felt really good”

LEARNING BREATH:

“I did better in a test because I took deep breaths first and felt much more calm”

TONE OF VOICE:

“I stopped a fight from happening by changing the tone in my voice”

APOLOGIES:

“I apologised to someone and I meant it for the first time ever”

EMPATHY:

“When walking down the street, I saw a homeless guy so I went to Coles and bought him a loaf of bread and vegemite”

TONE OF VOICE:

“I have used a different tone of voice with my siblings this week and we have had less arguments and a much better relationship”

NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS:

“I was disappointed with myself and used the 4-step process to feel better”

JEALOUSY AND ENVY:

“I got a mark on a test and my friend got higher and I was fine instead of jealous”

TONE OF VOICE:

“I now get in to less fights with my family with understanding my tone of voice”

FAMILY:

“That my parents divorce was not my fault”

A few other topics covered: Choices, Unconditional Love, Comparisons, Happiness, Sadness and Depression.

NEXT STEP?

To get this curriculum in to EVERY school. Any suggestions, advice, partnerships welcome.

Bitter Sweet

I finally made it to the Maccabiah Games in Israel but it feels bitter sweet.

The Maccabiah Games are an international Jewish and Israeli multi-sport event held every four years in Israel since 1932. It is the third-largest sporting event in the world.

I played the team sport of netball in Australia for Maccabi Club from 1984-2010. That’s 26 years!

In that time I think I won every award possible at different stages of my sporting career. and was a very proud (and somewhat boastful) netballer.

My dream was always to play netball for Australia at The Maccabiah Games. In 1993 I tried out for the team as an eighteen year old and was injured (and terrified) during tryouts. This was for the 1997 Games. In July 1997, I tearfully watched the Australian team leave without me.

As the Australian team was making its way into Ramat Gan stadium for the opening ceremony, tragedy struck as the “makeshift bridge over the Yarkon River collapsed” and four of our Australian squad died and more than than 70 others were injured.

The bridge disaster in 1997 effected me deeply and I’m not sure I ever recovered, staring at the news for weeks, all day from 6am, trying to find my friends and see who was ok and who was not. Something I never speak about.

I put it behind me as I tried out for the 2001 Games. I made the Australian netball team! I spent the next 4 years training again, almost every day for the Games with my incredibly talented and amazing team. We were damn good too.

Just before the Games came a massive debate that tore at the hearts of the Australian sporting teams, about whether to boycott the Games until compensation for the families was secured or play in the memory of those we lost. I advocated to fly to Israel as a team and play. I strongly believed that playing was the best way to uphold our lost athlete’s memories. I lost. I was completely devastated. After 4 years of training, we never got on that plane.

——–

18 years later I am in Israel. I just happened to be here in July. As much as I have ignored and suppressed my emotions on this topic, I just had to come out to watch the netball team in the 2017 Games.

So here I am about to watch the grand final of Australia v Great Britain. I am sitting outside, mostly trying not to cry and mostly not succeeding. I’m not sure how I’m going to watch this match but I will because I will always love Maccabi and forever be a netballer. I have been a player, the  President of the club and even helped train the Israeli squad train in 2004.I am outside, crying, as I prepare to head in and cheer the Aussies on. Go Australia!

Afterword: I wrote this post above and put in on facebook whilst sitting outside the stadium in tears. I felt it was finally time to ‘go public.’ I don’t know why. I just felt I couldn’t hold it in anymore. So many people were effected by this bridge disaster. I always felt embarrassed to talk about it because it was not me on that bridge, nor my brother, sister, mother or father. I felt other’s emotions were more valid than mine.

If you ever saw the footage, it was simply horrific, terrifying and chaotic. Knowing you know everyone there, but knowing nothing else, forever changed the way I view the news and the world.

I immediately received responses from my post from so many different people; from one of my oldest netball coaches from when I was a child and from friends who had never heard of this sport. The messages from my old team mates at the time got to me. Words of understanding, love and support.

I dried my eyes and entered the arena.

Who did I see? Two of my team mates from 2001. Standing right there! I held it together for a second, until one of them hugged me. She had seen my post already. And that was it, I burst out crying on her shoulder, right there at The Games, in the stadium in front of everyone, including the former President from my day. I knew everyone, and they all knew me – as a player, as a coach, as the former-President and hopefully … as a champion.

What’s Your Dream?

Do you have a dream? Have you told someone about it?

Last June, when in Australia for my book launch of The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence, I approached some Melbourne schools. I went to heads of departments and said:

“I am a counsellor who works with adults. Most adult traumas or negative thoughts stem from when they were a child or teenager. So why are we not teaching people younger how to deal with life? – with traumas, with negative thoughts, bullying etc etc. Why are we not teaching teenagers how to cope with life? I don’t want any adult to have to go through 20-30 yrs of pain before they seek counselling. MY DREAM is to work myself out of a job. I want to write a book, design a curriculum and teach it in the classroom to every kid in the world.”

And here I am, back in Melbourne 10 months later with my new book THE KEY which is also now a curriculum.

Tomorrow is Day 1 at Bialik College in Hawthorn, Melbourne where I will teach the curriculum and I can’t wait!!!!!

SO, what’s your dream?

Learning to Breathe

Have you ever stopped to notice your breath before?

When you get a fright, you inhale and hold your breath. When you get anxious, you take short breaths, not quite big enough to actually fill your lungs and body full of oxygen. When you’re in pain you probably exhale hard but don’t really remember to inhale.

Can you see some patterns relating to the breath? Can you see how important the breath is to control and keep us calm? You don’t in fact have to do anything to exhale, to breathe out, that happens naturally. What we need to concentrate on is the inhalation – the breathing in of oxygen because our body (including our brain) needs it. It sounds obvious and you’re probably thinking, “I breathe all day”, but do you really?

Do you take nice long deep breaths that truly reach your belly and truly open your chest and fill your lungs? If you do, then you’ll be feeling completely relaxed all the time.

Let’s stop here and try.

Lie on the floor if you can, or sit up straight. Put your hand on your belly and breathe in through your nose. Breathe into your belly until it is big, until you feel it expand and your hand rise with it (you may have learned this in a yoga class). Exhale gently through your mouth and let out a long sigh. When you exhale you should feel your hand on your belly drop as the air comes out. Breathe all the way out until you literally can’t exhale any more.

Now we are going to add colours to the breath. Think of a colour that you like that makes you feel calm and happy.  Next, close your eyes and picture breathing in fresh oxygen and positive thoughts in this calm, beautiful colour full of love and happiness, all the way until your belly is big. When you exhale, breathe out all your negative thoughts, sadness and bad energy in a dirtier colour of brown or grey or whatever colour it is for you. Inhale love and all the beauty in your life and exhale what you don’t want or need. Try this a few more times.

If you are taking long, deep breaths now, can you feel how much space you actually have inside? More than you realised? Now that is a full breath!

It is not always simple and it does not come easily to everyone. I actually ended up having lessons in how to do this, because I felt like I couldn’t. I found it very stressful and scary to think that I didn’t know how to take a full deep breath until I learned and practiced. As with anything, practice is the key. Once you feel comfortable you can start using this type of breath whenever you feel you need it.

If you have had a stressful day, if you come home upset, if you have an exam coming up or have had a fight with someone, then lie down somewhere quiet and breathe. Start with one or two minutes and work your way up to five or more.

Using this breathe when you are upset, angry or confused will help you calm down and bring focus and clarity. To take it one step further, here is another little trick. Before you lay down to practice your breathing, grab a pen and paper and write down whatever is on your mind. Write without trying to understand it all yet, just write all your thoughts or frustrations. This will help clear the chaos of the mind. Then breathe. Practice the breath you just learnt. This combination really helps clear the mind and bring calm.

Step 1:

Write

Step 2:

Breathe.

If nothing else then every night when you jump into bed, take at least three of these deep full breaths. You will feel more calm, and ready for sleep. I still do this every night.

Tears in Phnom Penh

I never know when the tears will come but I know they are there.

Whenever I mention my kids in Cambodia, my beautiful kids that I lived, worked and shared my life with, I feel hot tears stinging the back of my eyelids. I secretly clench my fists, hold my breath and pray to get through another conversation about my old life that feels so far from the beach in Thailand that I live on.

Just recently, after 18 months, I landed back in Phnom Penh with a smile from ear to ear as I sat in the back of the tuk tuk and was reminded of the smells and sights of this beautiful and broken city. Chaos is the best way to describe this place. And it is home.

I saw my Khmer family and friends; my old housemates, ex-pat friends, local friends, my old boss and brother ‘KK’ and all my kids who are now grown up. I made it through the whole week without crying. Even when I saw ‘Frog’ who I met at 15 as a troubled teen with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Frog, who would run away often, get back on drugs often, who I took to Italy to visit a drug rehab community … and even ran away from there! Frog, who I hadn’t seen for five years now because he had run away when I left the country. I had dinner with him. We ate tacos. He is now 20 years old. I stared and stared in disbelief at this adult before me and the two of us got the giggles. But I didn’t cry.

I saw my two boys I worry about most. The two that have been to hell and back more times than anyone ever should. ‘Tra,’ still with his girlfriend and ‘Kha’ smiling and trying to hide the sadness in his eyes. We hugged and hugged and stared at each other. We held hands, we smiled, we chatted and we knew. But I didn’t cry.

Then one night we sat around chatting about ‘Ya’. My beautiful, beautiful Ya. Ya, with the voice of an angel. Ya, who found English mind-boggling. Ya, who sang on stage with me in Australia and New Zealand in 2012. Ya, who I spent months teaching one sentence to in English so he could perform it at TEDx. Ya, who sang to me at my farewell party ‘Srei s’art Romi, mokpi Australi, ’ ‘Beautiful girl Romi who comes from Australia.’

Ya, the incredible young man I met at 19 who took extreme poverty to a level I had never seen before, even working in the slums. Yet he was humble, generous and forever shy.

Ya, who in 2012, was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.

Ya, scared and penniless didn’t have any money to pay the police or eventually the judge to get out of what would become a 12-year sentence, later reduced.

Back at the bar, one of my girls picks up her phone, dials, hands it to me and says ‘Ya.’ And Ya is on the phone. I run outside for some quiet and start talking to him in Khmer language. He answers in English. I do it again. English again. I am confused and start to wonder if it is actually him.

“Ya?”

“Yes”

“Ya?”

“Yes mum” and I know it is him.

“But you’re speaking English.”

“Yes, I study English in jail,” and he giggles.

He tells me he is ok and will be out in three months. He wants me to come back to celebrate. Three months!

We hang up and I am left standing in the streets of Phnom Penh in silence with a phone in my hand. And I cry.

I cry and cry so much my chest hurts. I can’t breathe. The owner of the bar Darin, comes out to me, her eyes full of concern. Darin who herself understands my kid’s lives better than anyone. Darin, the greatest success story off the streets of this poor country.

“What’s wrong?”

“Ya… jail … he speak English … three months… all grown up … my kids, they all grown up … Frog, Tra, Kha … all of them … they ok … they all grown up … I hug them … I see them … I know them …”

She stops my words by hugging me deeply.

“I know, I get it” and I know she does in a way that maybe no one else in the world could.

Asia Pacific Writers Conference, Manila.

“APWT is the largest, longest running, functioning literary network I know of in South East Asia and the Pacific”

Says Philipino Jose Dalisay better known ‘Butch.’

What an absolute pleasure it was for me to join this gang of amazing writers, publishers and translators. This is my third year at this conference which is in a different country every year. 2015 was in Manila with the theme ‘Against The Grain.’

To summarise my time there, I:

– I was on a panel titled ‘True Stories Need to be True’ with Beth Yahp (Malaysian), Irena Cristalis (Dutch), Neil Garcia (Philipino) and moderated by Qaisra Shahraz (Pakistani).

– I attended Tim Tomlinson’s incredible workshop on learning how to write/say a pitch.

– I did a public reading of my story ‘Climbing the Walls’ published in Griffith Review: New Asia Now to a full room. I was also pleasantly surprised (actually straight out shocked and excited) to arrive at the reading and find my name and a photo on a large projector… naturally I took a photo of me… and me… having a moment 😉