Sunday Life Article: “It’s My Party”

Dear friends,

In the lead up to co-hosting SBS’ coverage of the Sydney Mardi Gras, Sunday Life asked for me to write a piece about coming out in the age of social media. Please enjoy! Love, Faustina.

Sometimes the smallest action can set off a powerful chain of events. If I hadn’t chosen to dine alone one summer’s night two years ago, I may not have come to the realisation that I am a lesbian, nor have had the confidence to come out at a time when equality is still an issue in Australia. I’m sure my dinner for one was the reason why Brenda, then a stranger – with friends Michelle and Helen – initiated a conversation.

I had returned to London, the city where I was born, for work. The UK is renowned for creative television and I wanted to explore my options. My initial encounter with Bren, Mich and Helen was brief, but the instant connection I felt led us to make plans for later that week.

While Mich and Helen bailed, Bren showed up, a bright, direly Irish red heart with blue, jewel-like eyes and a chatty vivacious demeanour. And with the comfort of my anonymity, I felt secure to completely open up.

Bren had just come out of a relationship with a woman. I was shocked. Up until that point I assumed she was straight. Then she told me about Mich and Helen, a couple who had been together for almost a decade. The shock and surprise gave away to a sense of belonging. As she swiped through photos on their Instagram, particularly photos of Mich who, like me, is mixed-race, I thought “These are my people! This is me!”

It took a few more hours to drum up the courage to admit it out loud. As Brenda suggested we go and check out some men for me, I found myself saying, “I haven’t really told anyone his before but… I’m gay.”

No men entered our orbit that night other than the waiters who plied us with espresso martinis while a deep and meaningful conversation ensued til 3am. I had made a true ally and a friendship with a woman I felt I had known forever.

I went home and cried waves of emotions into my pillow, an outpouring of 30 years of repressed feelings. Elated, but also frustrated that it had taken so long. My mind was connecting all the dots; the feelings towards women when I was a kid and how I shut it down because I didn’t think it was right. All the gay slurs I’d heard – and even used myself – during my ignorant high school years.

I was making sense of all my social anxiety. The random – yet clearly intentional – gay girl dreams in my mid-20s; the steams of thoughts I’d never dare entertain. Then a bigger wave hit me – the overwhelming relating of having to tell my family and friends. What would they think of me? What did I think of me? I was realising the truth, hurt and emotion that comes with being a “minority of one”.

This idea is summed up succinctly in Magda Szubanski’s memoir, Reckoning “The crucial difference between Lesbian Gay Transgender Bisexual Intersex and Questioning people and other minorities is this: in every minority group the family ashes the minority status. In fact, it is often something that unites them. But gay people are a minority within the family.”

I wanted that summer with Bren, Mich and Helen to last for an eternity. They became my tribe. Life finally made sense. In their company, I felt whole. And never in my life had I felt so alive.

In LA, while armed with this new-found sense of self, I was apprehensive – no, terrified of dating. I delayed the obvious next step and borrowed a lesbian-living-how-to-guide from the library. When I told Bren she was bewildered. “What are you doing with an A-Z of lesbianism? Put the bloody book down and get out there!”

I told my family and a handful of friends. In the week leading up to my birthday I considered using the occasion to come out. I knew that being vocal in some way, would allow someone, out there, to feel the same sense of support. To extend the strength that Bren, Mich and Helen had given to me. And, in this small-worldly digital age, I also wanted to ensure the message came from me.

So in a gorgeous neighbourhood cafe in Beachwood Canyon, Los Angeles, I got together with a small group of friends to celebrate with a rainbow cake. After the birthday party, I posted my coming-out blog on my site, then an image from the night on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. By then, it was late afternoon back in Australia.

The response was breathtaking, with Snapchats and direct messages on Instagram from young girls and boys caught in a time I had just left. The tribe had expanded. They told me they felt included, more comfortable with who they are, some even wanting to celebrate with their own rainbow cake!

I’ve met incredible, intelligent women over the past year. Women who counsel gay youth on suicide prevention lines (in a time where LGBTQI people are much more likely to suffer depression and take their own lives than heterosexuals), journalists, academics and writers with impressive and inspiring bodies of work, to teachers and lawyers.

I’ve learnt about the evolution and need for events like the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival, now in it’s 38th year. I’m grateful to be out at a time when equality has become the centre of political and cultural debate. Not all of it is pretty, but every inch toward an equal society helps. My small decision to accept an offer of conversation from strangers helped me in ways I could never have imagined. How incredible would it be if we all acted, in some small way, to help eradicate the notion of a “minority of one” and instead foster acceptance for all.

My small decision to accept an offer of conversation from strangers helped me in ways I could never have imagined. How incredible would it be if we all acted, in some small way, to help eradicate the notion of a “minority of one” and instead foster acceptance for all.

When we revere people

We can undo ourselves in many ways when we revere others. We look to and talk to their status rather to them as a person. We also become less discerning. We’re blinded with admiration.

The common types of people we hold high – leaders, CEOs, layers, doctors, directors, athletes and artists are not without their shadows.

Complaint < Solution

We can complain all we want. Vent all we want.

It can alleviate stress, but what’s ultimate is that we’re  looking for solutions.

There’s a solution in every complaint. Think about what you’re saying and how you can make the situation better. Or look to that golden friend, a mentor, an advisor to break it down for you.

Don’t wait on anyone, just keep working

My cousins invest in property. A brother and sister pairing with a portfolio of homes across the UK. When they’re close to signing off on a deal they’re researching the next opportunity. Their logic – if the pending deal falls through they’re onto the next one.

This should apply to anything we take on.

Don’t wait for permission. Don’t ask for permission. Just keep working.

Dr. Happy: Developing Mindful Insight

 

Regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 19th century, Oliver Wendell Holmes was also considered one of the wisest people of his time. His sagacity and profundity can be found in many of his works but few illustrate better what we can learn from his writings than the following quote:

A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.

Why do I think this to be such a valuable statement?

Because as someone who’s worked as a psychologist and coach for approximately two decades now I’ve come to learn that if there were a common factor to be found in those who’re happier and more successful in life, it’s the ability to “know oneself”.

Knowing oneself (sometimes known as “psychological mindedness” or “insight”) allows one to accurately assess where one is and what one needs to do to get to where one wants to get to (i.e. achieve meaningful goals). Knowing oneself is also at the heart of what in recent years has been referred to as “emotional intelligence”; and it’s well known that emotional intelligence is a key indicator of success in almost every area of life. Knowing oneself involves looking inwards and reflecting, not in the self-defeating, melancholy way of depressives but rather, in a constructive way that drives positive action (something I’ll write more about in my next post).

So how, then, does one develop insight and self-knowledge?

Well, I’m glad you asked and I happily proffer the following suggestions for you to try out and tailor to suit your own style and personality:

  • Set up some form of a reminder system whereby you stop, several times each day, and just pay attention (without judgment) to your thoughts and feelings
  • Start keeping a thought diary (or journal) in which you write down, each and every day, how you felt and what you were thinking in different situations
  • Become more aware of your strengths (and weaknesses) by asking a few people who you know well and trust, to honestly summarise you at your best and your worst

Ultimately, the way we think about ourselves and the world directly determines how we feel and how we perform. Being more aware of your inner thoughts and beliefs, therefore, is a crucial first step to gaining more control of yourself and your life!

Dr. Timothy Sharp is a clinical and coaching psychologist who’s sometimes known as Dr. Happy! He’s the Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute and you can find him regularly tweeting at @drhappy.

 

(Image: Abandoned fishing hut in Germany, via onebigphoto.com)

Jonni Pollard, 1GiantMind: Four Pillars of Meditation

By now you’ve probably downloaded the 1 Giant Mind app and began the process of learning how to meditate. If you haven’t, make it the next thing you do after you finish reading this post.

Learning to meditate is really easy with an experienced meditation teacher. The biggest challenge once you have started, is actually sticking with it. In this post I’m going to layout the most tried and tested formula for a smooth ride on the ‘meditation horse’ and how to develop the agility to stay on especially when the terrain gets rough.

There are 4 key principles that are must knows to keep your practice steady and flowing.

These 4 principles are:

  •  Having a Teacher with the Knowledge of the Mind
  • Having an Effective Technique
  • Correct Attitude
  • Regularity

Think of these 4 principles as the 4 legs of a horse. A great meditation practice is the ability to stay on the horse and ride it through any circumstance in life. Whether it be busy, stressful and challenging times, relaxing holiday times or anything in between. If you are able to keep these 4 legs of your horse strong and stable, you’re guaranteed to stay on. Remove any one of these legs and you’re going to have a tough time getting the horse to giddy-up.

All 4 principles are equally important. You need each of them in equal proportion to keep you on the horse and comfortably cruising along.

 

  •  Having a Teacher with Knowledge of the Mind

Understanding why the mind does what it does and how we can influence it to do what we want it to do, rather than being a slave to it, is why we meditate. The workings of the mind are subtle, obscure and at times utterly confusing. This is why it is important to have an experienced teacher who has insight into the nature of the mind from their own direct personal experience. Without an understanding of the nature of the mind, we find it difficult to contextualise all the different experiences we have in meditation, what they mean and how to relate to them.

Often, when we don’t understand our meditation experiences, we tend to resist them, thinking that we are not meditating correctly. We then fall into the trap of trying to make the mind do something it doesn’t want to do. At this point, the practice can become frustrating and even seem like a chore. If meditation feels like this, then we are completely missing the point. A teacher with knowledge of the mind helps eliminate doubt and ensures we don’t get stuck.

 

  • Technique

There are many techniques and styles of meditation. A good meditation technique enables the mind to expand beyond the everyday level of thinking into quieter states of awareness and enables the body to rest deeply. If a technique requires too much focus and concentration it can often cause more stress and frustration than restful expansion. 1 Giant Mind has created a ‘Learn to Meditate’ app that is free, easy to learn and facilitates expansion of the mind and deep rest. If you haven’t already and want to get started right away you can download our app now for free. This program has been created by experienced meditation teachers who know exactly how to get you on the ‘meditation horse’ and riding like a pro in no time.

 

  • Having the correct attitude

Attitude is 25% of the game here. Meditation is a journey, not a destination. When you start your meditation practice, it is important to surrender your expectations, preferences and preconceived ideas about what you think is ahead of you. Discovering the nature of your mind is the most radical journey you can undertake. To do this successfully, you must take the approach of being the innocent witness. If you come to your practice with rigid ideas about what you want, you may very well miss out on what you actually need in that moment. Forcing the mind to make things happen in meditation will actually have the opposite effect of what you desire. So let go… and allow allow allow.

 

  • Regularity

Like anything, the more you meditate the more it becomes habitual and the effects of it increase exponentially. This applies to all things positive and negative. The more we go to the gym the stronger and fitter we get, the more we surf, the more ripping our style. The more we smoke cigarettes the more addicted and unhealthier we become. This simple principle can be applied to anything. It seems so obvious reading this right now, however, as you will find out when you begin to meditate, without this leg of the horse, the practice won’t yield what you truly desire.

 

In my next 4 posts I’m going to write about each of these principles in much greater detail which guarantee to deliver a bunch of AHA moments!

In the mean time, if you wanted get started with a great technique right now, go to download the 1 Giant Mind free app I will personally guide you through a step by step program and have you meditating deeply in no time at all.

What are you grateful for in 2013?

Peeps, I’m offline til Jan 7. Before I bounce the one thing I ask of you is this: write a list of all that you’re grateful for in 2013.

I know for some of you this may sound a bit wet, unfollow me if you wish, but this is to the core of me. If you do this, no doubt the majority of you will find more positive things in your life than negative. My gratitude list for this year is currently in the hundreds.

And if life has knocked you sideways with health, the passing of a loved one, a breakup, ongoing depression, anything – for whatever reason, keep strong, beautiful times are in sight. A lot of it comes down to the effort we make for each moment in our day to be awesome.

I wouldn’t be such a happy lass if I didn’t practice this. Thank you for being in my digital orbit. Enjoy the rest of the year and let’s make 2014 the finest year yet. Big Love, Faustina