Monday 29 November 2010

Amazing Women: Megan

There are some amazing women out there and I'm not talking about celebs and unattainables. The most interesting and inspiring women I've found are ones that actually exist in the world around me. Having asked one of the strongest women I know to write a few words about how she became who she is, I'm happy to say that it is here for you to know too.

Megan and I met on twitter, via a shared love of shoes. We aren't shoe addicts but see ourselves as collectors. She is a lawyer by day and mum, shoe lover, wife, writer and trend setter every other moment.

Hopefully, you will gain as much from learning about where others find their strength as I have.


“What does my name mean?”
I remember asking my mother frequently. “It’s Welsh” she would say “It means the Strong One because that is what you are – strong.”.

If someone tells you that you are strong, does that make you become strong? Strong willed, strong minded, strong opinioned – independent. Or is the name a talisman to protect that strength?

My grandmothers, both of them, were strong women. By some strange stroke of fate, both were named Helen. The name Helen originates from the Greek and means (apparently) ‘the bright one’. Both were possessed of incisive minds and biting wits.

My Scottish gran, wee Nellie, the youngest of 13 children, won a scholarship to St Margarets Convent. Her parents decided that going on to high school would just lead to problems. Aged 14 my gran was apprenticed to the J & P Coats Mills in Paisley. She always claimed that her parents had made the right decision but there was a simmering anger within her that evinced otherwise.

It was this anger, this ferocity that always impressed and terrified me about her. On one hand she was verbally though not physically affectionate. Every week she and I would hang out and I would polish and pootle about with her collections of brass miniatures and antique buttons and talk. Then we would walk. “Let’s click hen” she would say to me linking arms with me in a conspiratorial way when I tried to hold her hand. At some point my gran would meet someone, some elderly woman that she knew from the church. At that point she would relinquish my arm and stare the other woman straight in the eye. A conversation that appeared cordial would then ensue. After what seemed an eternity to me (probably 5 minutes), the conversation would draw to a close and the parties would disengage. “See you hen” my gran would smile and wave. “That one” she would then mutter to me “I would piss on that one if she was on fire, she’s a spark out of hell that one”.

The childhood me often wondered why Gran spoke to people she disliked so intensely. Later I realised, like a Mafioso she would keep her friends close and her enemies closer. Her single most important piece of advice to me was – “tell no one anything hen, you only empty your mouth to fill someone else’s”. To this day, I follow her advice. Anything that you tell me in confidence will stay in my confidence. Completely, absolutely and irrevocably.

There was another ferocious grandmother Helen in my life, the chain smoking, languid, elegant one. The one who wore beautiful clothes and shoes, who was never seen without a shampoo and set or a manicure or a full face of make up.

“tell no one anything hen, you only empty your mouth to fill someone else’s”

Grandma Helen and I were never going to see eye to eye. Her concept of good grandchildren were children who sat quietly and ate instead of talking. “What wonderful appetites your children have!” she would exclaim to my mother. This was all very well until I became a teenager when she would remind me frequently not to eat too much. There was an odd tension in my grandma Helen’s eating habits. On the one hand she would drink Tab diet coke

and on the other hand, she could and would happily eat her way through a retail display tray of Cadburys® Crème Eggs at a single sitting. While chain smoking and drinking diet coke.

And yet despite her girth and the fact that her breasts rested on her knees without a bra, my grandma Helen carried herself, all 5 foot 2 inches of her, with elegance and grace and an innate sense of her femininity. “I may be fat” she would say “but I have amazing legs” and she did.
From her I learned that there is no situation for which a good outfit, a decent hairstyle and a healthy dose of self belief can’t prepare you.

"...there is no situation for which a good outfit, a decent hairstyle and a healthy dose of self belief can’t prepare you

And then there is my mother. My mother who once was a talented ballerina, who decided that dancing was never going to be a way to live her life, who decided at a very young age that looks do not last and that the only thing that she could rely on to get her through life was her brain. My mother who has healing hands and the ability to avoid judging anyone. My mother who once said “Love expands us.”

From each of these women I have acquired a gift – my fierce protectiveness of my friends and family from Gran, my appreciation of nice clothes, scents and shoes from my grandmother and my belief in the overwhelming power of love from my mother.

Mental, like physical strength, something that we are either born with or something we can acquire by through persistence and hard work. When I look at my strong willed, independent, ferocious little daughter I realise that her battles won’t be so different from mine, from every other woman out there. And I hope, and I pray that it won’t take her 40 plus years to figure out how to fight those battles effectively. Like me.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Monday 15 November 2010

Who's the boss?

There used to be this TV show on in the 80s, starring a young Alyssa Milano. She was the daughter of a man who basically worked as a maid for a rich upper class American woman. I don't quite remember why it was called that but I think it had something to do with the confusing idea that a man was in a female job working for a boss who was a woman.

[Quick addition: I'm not saying anyone is the automatic boss or there is a boss at all. I'm talking about how times have changed from even the 80s.]

I recently heard someone complaining about the idea of the show and saying that the question and name of the show didn't make any sense. That the woman who paid the man maid was the boss because she paid his salary. That sounds obvious now, as we sit here in late 2010 wondering how late we can leave it to buy all our Christmas presents.

I nodded and said "hey yeah, she was the boss and why did they even ask that?" then remembered that there were very strict gender roles at play in the past. Even in the 80s with Madonna calling it a Material World and women walking around in shoulder pads didn't really mean that much was different in the world.

Sure the sixties changed things. Women burned their bras and took the contraceptive pill on the way to liberating themselves. The world did change. No disputing that.

The strange thing is that I keep thinking it changed in the sixties and that we are sitting pretty now because of that. That nothing happened in between. Of course, that is ridiculous.

I remember TV shows that were dominated by kickass women "like Joan Collins in Dynasty, Victoria Principal in Dallas" as @maverickwoman on Twitter reminds me. There were movies with amazing female characters who had strength and independence. They went after their dreams and those dreams were not always the 50's view of a white picket fence and a yard full of kids.

That is what I grew up with. Not the sixties view of things but the 80s view of the world. A world with great possibility. Women were as strong, greedy and flawed as men. We can't stand around and talk of equality and forget what that means. Equal in all ways means good and bad. I saw that. It impressed me. It empowered me.

Why am I talking about this? Someone said that the sixties changed it all for them. Of course it did. It was the rolling start to the snowball that became the avalanche of feminism. BUT for me it was the 80s and it's awesome women who inspired me.

I hope the young women growing up now have that too. In fact, I look around and know they will be stronger and more blasé about the way it eventuated. That is fantastic. It is awesome. It gives me hope and a lot of it.


Saturday 13 November 2010

I said..

I like the idea of living every moment; experiencing all the joy and pain; and ending up smiling because you are glad you played.


Today was one of those perfect Sydney summer days. Up early and with all my chores done by midday, I spent a few hours chilling on the couch and taking in the peace around me.

Fingers crossed, I'll be starting a new job soon and the next chapter of life starts. It's time for it. I'm excited and happy. This is the way I want life to be.

Goodbye to some things and hello to new ones. Goodbye to old friends and hello to new ones.

Life is pretty awesome.

Monday 8 November 2010

Confessions of a Recovering Drama Queen

The problem with having lived the last few years as a drama queen is that everyone's first assumption is that you've completely overreacted to any situation :o)

Having had a week or more of zen and sh!t, it surprises me when people ask if I'm ok and stress that I might be freaking out. I guess in time, consistency is the only thing that will change their views.

Truth is that the old Damana used to be a calm and unimpressed ocean of smirks. She is on her way back

Until then, I shall giggle a lot and drink lots of water.

Wednesday 3 November 2010


People have dreams. Some people will realise them and do amazing things. Others will fear failure and not even try. The one thing that I do know about successful people is that they had faith in themselves, even when others lost faith in them.

When you know you are here to do something great then do not let anyone else tell you that you can not. There are many people who will give advice and warn you of the risks but they are your risks to take.

Be brave. Have faith in yourself.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

You need not search for it

"There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path." — Siddhārtha Gautama

There is no more important thing a person can learn than that happiness is intrinsic. It is not the resulting effect of some other action or of a certain circumstance that you have wandered in to. It is not brought to you by others or kept there by following a set of rules laid forth for you.

Of course, there are things that can happen that will harsh your mellow. It's not as if people suffering disease or living in war torn countries can choose to be happy and the bad stuff goes away. I'm not a self-help guru with delusions of all the ills of the world being solved by a smile and some well-formed motivational sentences.

However, there is something to the idea of choosing to be happy when that choice is yours to make. Those of us living the privileged lives of the first world are most often able to make this choice for ourselves. Factors like mental illness, life pain and other baggage can bring you down but in the end the journey back to happiness starts as soon as you decide you are happy and that you shall accept no less.

I love the idea of a happy moment causing a smile and a smile causing a happy moment. They are interlinked and both are cause and reaction.

Be happy by making the decision to be happy :o) Trust me, it works.