What the Heart Wants.


We exist in the space between where we are and where we would like to be.

So much of our life force is spent in imagining we should be other than what we are, where we are, who we are. We are conditioned to yearn.

What if we could accept life as it is now? See a field of possibilities in our future but be gloriously, joyously content with our present?

I have a confession to make. I didn’t write that for you. I wrote those exact words in my own journal, where I regularly have some of my best conversations 🙂

I’m a “yearner” from way back. As a child, I yearned for a father that didn’t yell and a mother that had time for me. In high school I yearned to be better at Math. To not feel awkward at parties. To have a flat tummy, just like my best friend. To understand what the heck my Physics teacher was talking about. (I’d still like to be better at Maths and less awkward at parties. Thankfully, I had the good sense to drop Physics 35 years ago… and as for my tummy, well, my new best friend is stretchy jeans.)

As a fully fledged grownup my yearnings are a little different. There are days when I yearn to change the past and have Greg not die from cancer. To have been a better wife to him for those 28 amazing years. To have appreciated each moment we had together instead of spending them yearning.

Unfortunately Time Travel remains in the realm of Star Trek, and no amount of yearning is going to change the past.

Greg died four years and one week ago. Four years. It still felt like a fresh wound in my soul. I forget that each May 16th always leaves me anxious and bewildered. Instead I expect it to get easier, and it just doesn’t. When do the stages of grief end? Do they end? Last Wednesday the thought crossed my mind that I had somehow failed at bereavement.

Then, out of the blue, my dear friend Marie Williams, (of the tender and beautiful Green Vanilla Tea), shared this with me about bereavement:

“It holds in it some of our dearest memories. Sacred and true. It still brings me to my knees 11 years on. And then I wake up on another day, cleansed by those tears. One thing I know, grief has made my life bigger. There is more sadness and there is more love too. There are more tears and I’m laughing more now too. I am more aware of pain and I am grateful for so much which has made room for more joy. Joy and sorrow, they can sit together quite nicely if we let them … honour your sadness.”

Perhaps Greg reached out to me from the World of Mysteries and sent me comfort through Marie.

——————————————

I’ve recently moved to the hills of Perth. After eleven years of renting, I now own my very own house, for the first time, without Greg. It’s a small cottage, perched on 3200 square metres of gently sloping woods. I wake to birdsong and the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. Kookaburras regularly laugh at me. It’s really quite spectacular.

But.

After a 2 hour eye-opening walk around the property with a Bush-fire Officer, I realised that my land was a tinder box, not so much because of the trees, but because highly flammable weeds, and fallen, decaying matter that has built up on the forest floor.

So my days are now spent clearing firebreaks. Lopping dead wood off trees, cutting away weeds and clearing the ground of years of detritus that is choking the earth and providing fuel for bush-fires. It’s going to take … a Very Long Time.

The apparent enormity of this task, when viewed logically, is actually impossible for me to complete on my own. I’m a short, spindly-legged, little Indian woman who is not known for upper body strength (or indeed anything that requires normal-ish muscles) and, according a recent MRI, has dodgy, degenerating bits of vertebra in her spine. Additionally, I spent 28 years living with someone who was quite the opposite of all of those things. Basically, Greg’s superior physical strength made me lazy and entitled. But if I want to significantly reduce the chances of dying in a bush-fire, I have little choice but to rise above my poor musculature and pretend like I can do this.

What an AMAZING metaphor for life! How often are we actually fully equipped for whatever life deals us? I know I’ve never been. I’ve just faked it, and at some point, (sometimes after years of pretending like I know what I’m doing), I’ve surprised myself with a whole new set of skills.

So I pretend. I clear small areas, thirty minutes at a time so my delicate body doesn’t freak out too much. I make pile after pile of leaves, ready to be burned in the rainy season. I’ve no idea how to do that safely, but I’m pretending like I will become an expert at this. As I rake, I discover tiny plants struggling for light and air. I uncover the textures of a long-forgotten path around my property. I pull away masses of dead material with my tiny, aching hands and realise that gloves are my absolute best friend, because (who knew?!) a lot of the Australian bush is covered in sharp thorns. I even invite friends to come over with rakes.

Clearing my land has become enormously satisfying. And every time my thoughts stray to the BIG-NESS of the task, I pull myself back to the here and now.

I hear Greg’s voice in my head.“Chip away, my love, just chip away at this.” 

So with my dog Ruby watching from a safe distance and making sure I stay on track … I focus on this path. This stretch of 5 m. That’s all.

Our hearts leap into the abyss of our yearnings and we forget that right now is ALL we have. Clearing these leaves. Cutting back this dead wood. Removing these weeds.

Little by little, I keep raking. What textures and colours will I uncover next?

———————————————————-
The concept of ‘HOME’ has come to take on many meanings for me. Buying my first home on my own was thrilling and scary, but it gives me enormous comfort to know that every tree, every leaf and every single blossom is mine. However, while a physical home can bring a sense of security and peace, I’ve also learned that any change, EVERY change, can destabilise me, if I let it… and the most important ‘home’ to feel secure and stable in, is my own heart.

Finding Your Way Home is my upcoming workshop, where I share my own experiences at at being ‘lost and found’, and I offer unique, powerful, yet gentle creative activities to help each of us find our way back to our own centre – the safest place in the world! If life has thrown you off kilter at times, and you’d like to use your own creativity to wield its magic on your heart, this is the workshop for you.

Join us by the Swan River in Applecross, Perth, over two beautiful days on June 30/Jul 1 OR Jul 7/8. Both dates are open for enrolment now, and absolute beginners are absolutely welcome.
Come take this journey to find YOUR way home.

“You probably will not know to what extent the experience of Finding Your Way Home has left imprints on my soul. I feel the learnings I gained will be far reaching and ongoing for a long time to come. Thank you always.”
– Lynne Cartwright

Comments 40

  1. Heartwarming Malini. Such a thoughtful soul. Explains why all of your art is so amazing.
    Nature gives and takes so much to and from us, our job IS to find the positives and keep chipping away! I am able to help in 6 weeks if you need it!

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      Dear Paula,
      thank you so much for your kind words — and even an offer for help! What a sweetie! your paintings inspire me with their life and colour, and they inspire my students too!
      much love to you x

    2. What about a great weekend away (for us) equipped with a paint brush and a rake… a inspiring getaway for us ladies a challenge all round exercising (raking) and painting into the evening with a camp fire going and a camp oven cooking mm……..:)

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      Aaah, Gela-Marie, wordsmith, beautiful friend, one-who-steps-in-just-when-I-need-your-wisdom! thank you, thank you. x

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  2. this reminds me of one of my favourite passages from a beloved childhood novel. it became even more relevant to me (and my brother) when our father died.

    You see, Momo,’ he [Beppo Roadsweeper] told her one day, ‘it’s like this. Sometimes, when you’ve a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you’ll never get it swept.’
    He gazed silently into space before continuing. ‘And then you start to hurry,’ he went on. ‘You work faster and faster, and every time you look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder, and you panic, and in the end you’re out of breath and have to stop – and still the street stretches away in front of you. That’s not the way to do it.’
    He pondered a while. Then he said, ‘You must never think of the whole street at once, understand? You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next. Nothing else.’
    Again he paused for thought before adding, ‘That way you enjoy your work, which is important, because then you make a good job of it. And that’s how it ought to be.’
    There was another long silence. At last he went on, ‘And all at once, before you know it, you find you’ve swept the whole street clean, bit by bit. What’s more, you aren’t out of breath.’ He nodded to himself. ‘That’s important, too,’ he concluded.

    – Michael Ende, Momo

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      Carina dear, thank you so much for sharing that. I had no idea Michael Ende was the author of The Neverending Story as well – one of Greg’s most loved tales. Now I have to buy Momo!

      So lovely to hear from you, you are often in my thoughts. Come visit me (with or without a rake!) xx

  3. Wonderful, Malini! Here am I, about to ‘celebrate’ 57 years of marriage with the 2 of us often stating we’ll jump under the next bus because we’ve made a mistake or forgotten something, and you tell in a short story the joys of ‘today’ or the present. And that’s something that some of us forget at times are ‘the present’. I know we’re planning to travel the Great Central Highway next year, but will be separated for 4 days from tomorrow (4,000kms apart) and know we’ll miss each other and not a word about it will be said.
    Will keep in mind to enjoy the present with him around. Thanks for the reminder.

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      Robin you are THE BEST! You continue to inspire me with your humility and love. Thank you for reading my words and always responding with such warmth. love xx

  4. Mal I listened with horror as you told me that YOU, my delicate sister, were clearing your fire break! But as usual you have made it a life lesson with so much hope and positivity attached to it. Thank you

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      Do you think the genes got watered down as they produced more children, so that I came out “delicate” as the fourth and last?!! It might explain a lot!

      Hope I continue to surprise you with horror, my big sister! And thank you for your kind words and support, as always xxx

  5. Love from South Africa, Malini, your posts bring tears to my eyes every time! and the joy of remembering!

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      Thank you Karen from South Africa! I’m honoured and touched at your words. Thank you for reaching out and for reading my stories. xx

  6. Greatings from Albany, W. Australia, Malini. When I started reading your moving post, I was in a very joyful mood, then I felt sad, then I felt happy because I understood (for the first time) that joy & sadness can live together. I dont have to push one away to make room for other. Maybe they were always meant to be companions in hearts. Thank you Mal
    Yvonne

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      Hello there Yvonne, what a lovely perspective! I appreciate the thoughts and love in your words, my dear friend. much love x

  7. Welcome to life in the hills and the trips to the tip with green waste. It can be a very satisfying feeling. I’m very proud of your’ little by little , day by day’ perseverance in clearing the mass of dead leaf litter and branches. Great metaphor for so many journeys in life and I really prefer the ‘bulldozer’ approach but alas not always possible!

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      Hello there Sush! My piles of leaves would be very much more overwhelming if not for your lovely husband taking the green waste to the tip for me! What a good man! And I have new appreciation for the 25 years you have lived in the hills and maintained huge and beautiful properties without complaint and with so much joy! Thank you for the welcome… and for reading my post. much love x

  8. Thank you Malini. Again your words have come at such an ideal time for me. I am working at moving from where i am stuck to where i want to be, and this has reminded me that as uncomfortable as the present is I need to celebrate it for what it is.

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      Aaah Anika,
      I feel like designing a new workshop JUST so you can come back and do another one with me!

      You know I think most of life is about “moving from where we are stuck to where we want to be” as you so eloquently put it. I can certainly relate. It’s wonderful that we have the creative process to help us do just that… thank you for stopping by, and for sharing your valuable thoughts. much love x

  9. Hi Malini, never really knew you during our school days but have learned so much about you through just this one post. Thank you. Never realised you had such yearnings about your parents when we were schoolgirls way back. Always thought you had such a carefree and can’t care less attitude ha ha. And now, here, together we can understand the peace, joy and contentment of being here and now….you with your raking and clearing, me with my dishes and my household chores :).

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      Hi old friend, nice to know I had a “carefree” attitude back then (actually I was ANYTHING BUT carefree, it was all an act!) I guess one of the good things about getting older is being able to look back and learn from our lives, both the good and not so good things. Take care and thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Much love x

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  10. Thank you Malini for sharing your joy, your sadness, your vulnerability and your strength. Missing a loved one is always hard. Sometimes it does get easier with time but it’s with love that we can cherish the heartfelt moments. May the beauty of nature that you share bring you peace.

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      Nature has been a perfect solace, Grace, you are so right. And I truly live in paradise, here in Perth, Western Australia. I keep reminding myself of this blessing, and the rough bits of life seem a little easier. Thank you for reading my post and sharing your thoughts. Much love x

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      Thank you Christine! I seem to need MANY reminders that “the here and now” is ALL we have. Off to rake! much love x

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      Aww, thank you my child. I love that you read my posts. I love that you love them 🙂 And I love you. xx

  11. Loved it! … as I love all your posts but this one specially is sooooo relevant and so useful especially at this time of my life …. such a useful reminder that all we have is NOW. But hard to put into practice, need to be reminded everyday… yes, little by little day by day and big things get done.

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      I obviously needed this reminder in a BIG way, so that every time I look outside, I am reminded of “little by little, day by day”!

  12. Thankyou for sharing Malini…so beautiful.

    I hope these last few days since we last spoke have been easier.

    I love that you express yourself in a vulnerable way. I wear my heart on my sleeve also and sometimes think of it as a weakness but after reading your post realised its a strength.

    Love to you, see you on Saturday

    Natasha xx

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      Thank you for your kind words. I think we can all relate when others express their vulnerability, it makes us feel more normal and less alone. Looking forward to sharing a creative space with you again, Natasha! x

  13. Hi Malini , I just read your mail ,,yes it was sent 2 weeks ago , I’m a yearner like you and it could have been me writing it , the story is the same , except for the last bit , I wish you well for clearing your property it’s a huge task but once you have it under control it won’t take so much next season , I too have lived on a rural property in the bush so , I understand , I’m also a artist and started painting to help myself get well , ( amateur) but I just wanted to say I’ve come across a book called Rise Above one brushstroke at a time . By Whitney Freya , it’s worth a look at if you haven’t already . I would dearly love to do a work shop with you but I live in NSW and being disabled now I’d find it hard to get there and participate , so good luck ! Do you do online workshops ? All the best love your work From Linda Quimby

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      Hi Linda, thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and share a little of your life. It is marvellous that you have found art to help you move forward. I’ll definitely check out that book too! And YES I have an online workshop called Finding Your Way Home – The Ecourse and you can check it out here: maliniparker.com/finding-your-way-home-e-course/

      I wish you all the very best Linda! x

  14. I loved this post Malini! I am going through a challenging time and your writing has reminded me to allow the sadness – for I will know true joy more deeply one day, and to focus on the ‘now’ on clearing my own debris 5 metres in front of me. Your writing is a gift to the world! Thank you x

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  15. The authenticity and vulnerability of your writing through grieving is very powerful. You are able to express emotions in the journey of bereavement that I immediately identify with. Namely feeling another’s suffering or tearing up in joyous parts of films with a level of heightened sensitivity. When my wife left, blocking me from seeing my 3 children for 11 years (until now) it has been very much a bereavement. I spent a little time with Greg towards the end, then, unfortunately, was whisked out of Perth as my visa expired, so I was denied the chance to pay my respects at his funeral. Now living in the UK and caring for my mother with later stage dementia I yearn to be back in Perth. With the loss of my children, I think I’ve been faking my role as carer and human being. I think you have a gift for being able to translate unaltered this raw emotion into words, in a way that others can’t and reaches deeper places!

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