17. Jan, 2016

My book of the month and how to find your own Je ne Sais Quoi

Once upon a time, in a decade far, far away… the 1980s, to be exact… there lived a girl who wished to enjoy everything life had to offer.  Yes, that girl was me.  Working for a then-government company, in the office, I also worked in theatre, film and television when I could, and grew my own herbs. 

One of my bosses was a very short chap; under five feet tall, who would conduct his morning ‘goal setting’ meeting while perched on top of a cream, metal waste paper basket in the corner of the room.  He was a great motivator, as he knew how to laugh at himself and life in general, but always made sure that work was completed and staff were happy.  When I eventually left this position, to pursue an acting career in Melbourne, he gave me a reference that I retain to this day.  He also wrote on my ‘Going Away’ card something like, “Good luck to our favourite Yippie!”  What, I asked, was a Yippie? Well, he informed me that up until he had met me, he thought that the ‘younger generation’ were divided into two types:  the Yuppies – 80’s young adults such as Alex P Keaton in tv’s “Family Ties”, who simply want to make money and live a shallow life of material bliss – and the Hippies, the followers of the ‘60s idea of peace and love, combined with the New Age movement of crystals, organic food and other such oddities.  Hey, it was the ‘80s!  Who knew we were ACTUALLY one day going to be able to purchase organic produce in the supermarket and ACTUALLY have to pay for bottled water?  Anyway, he was intrigued by the fact that I could be on my way to the theatre one night, and the following morning be in the garden spreading fertiliser.  So, I was a Yippie, the combination of the two.  For some time I pondered why so many people wanted me to choose between the two ‘sides’ of me, as if they were somehow at odds. They weren’t, they were the two sides that gave me balance.  And nothing has changed.  In fact, you are more likely to see me dressed for the theatre and then have a pigeon land on my head as I walk out the front door.  I may be balanced, or I may be a bird brain!  The point is, you can be 'chic' no matter what your lifestyle or circumstances, and it is not something shallow...

This week I want to share a lovely book I discovered by accident at the library several months ago.  In “At Home with Madame Chic” and her other two books, Jennifer L. Scott shares ways to be chic and elegant, no matter what your lifestyle or circumstances. She shares ways to become a ‘connoisseur of daily life’ in simple and magical ways.  The thing that struck me was how much her humourous writing style reminded me of myself.  I found it resonated with me on many levels, and I found myself wanting to read the rest of her books, and also her blog page.  Even better, I found that Jennifer chose the name for her blog, The Daily Connoisseur, from an Agatha Christie book. (http://dailyconnoisseur.blogspot.com.au/)  Agatha Christie has been a favourite author of mine since childhood, and has been a lasting influence in my interest in writing a novel in a similar genre.  Serendipity!


Be present!  Not be A present, although of course your life IS a gift!  Instead of being proud of how much multi-tasking you do, focus on thoroughly enjoying and observing each waking moment.  It may seem like this makes you go slower, and you may worry that you will not do all the chores you need to.  In fact, you will find the opposite to be true.  Instead of brushing your teeth, then remembering you forgot to finish filling the dishwasher because the phone rang and then you had to open a computer file, and while you were there you caught up on some emails and oh, you only put mascara on one eyelash…. Well, you get the idea.  Do things one at a time, even just for an hour.  Feel the satisfaction that comes from completing each task before moving on the next: it can actually make you feel you have achieved more than when you rush around doing five things at once, and then realise you haven’t completed a single one.  I know this can be tricky when you have a family, work, study or other things vying for your attention, so even just one hour a day of this kind of focus can be beneficial. 

Trust me, I can’t count the number of days when I have jumped in the car, only to get out five times because I remembered various things I needed for the day, or that I may have left the iron on, or the clothes were still in the machine and not on the line.  I made lists and so on, but I still would just get caught up in the distractions. 

Breathing helps.  I always take several nice, deep breaths at the start of the day, and when I complete a task, I exhale as though I have just finished an exercise.  Then I take some more breath, let it out, and start the next portion of the day.  It allows me to appreciate what I have already accomplished, and to commence the next task with a clear and focussed mind.  If your phone makes some random noise:  a call, a text, an email, or a social media update – IGNORE IT!  We actually used to survive quite well getting on with our daily routine, and then catching up on messages in our lunch breaks, or after work.  In fact, many people from my mother’s generation considered it rude to answer the phone if you already had guests sitting in front of you.  Back then, you were actually expected to focus on those already present (including yourself), and show the good manners to give them your undivided attention.

These days, we are truly expected to keep our minds and energy scattered and diverted by every possible thing.  It takes more effort to stay focussed on one thing at a time, and even harder to stay focussed on your own personal goals and dreams.  It can be done, with a little bit of effort.  So for this week, think about this:  and if you can, find Jennifer’s book, or at least check out her blog.  Remember, if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves!

Stay happy,