Collateral Beauty


“Do you blog and if so, where can I find your writing?? (You mentioned you’re good at uncovering people’s stories – do you document this?”

“Do you keep a blog? You should blog. I want to read about this stuff!” 

Well, ok then.

The first statement was made via my first email exchange last year with my now good friend Rachel Service (who is the top boss lady over at Happiness Concierge – helping people to ace work and life). I sent Rachel an email packed with love and laughs after seeing her speak at Creative Mornings Brisbane and totally dug her vibe.

The second statement was made earlier this month by my wax therapist as I filled her in on the excruciating lows and intense highs of my November and December, 2016 as she prepared to put me through my regular dose of worthwhile pain.

To cut to the chase, November specifically, was hell for me. I split up with my partner and left my job all within the space of a week (insert explosive sound effects and numerous dark clouds). Far out, it was the most intense period I’ve ever been through in my life. I turned away from the world in a way I never have before, and it frightened the people close to me. The hardest thing about it was that I loved both of these aspects of my life so deeply. I cherished both of them and whilst there was boundless love and a fight to hold on from both sides, in both situations, a series of unavoidable factors meant that for whatever reason these two things were no longer meant for me.

Jesus. Ok, that’s barely a drop in the ocean of my actual experience and yet I am welling up right now as I continue to type. But that is actually why I’m here and why I decided to write this post today. I am always ready to crack wide open with intense joy or pain. Just last night I was having a conversation with someone and blatantly saying “I cry all the time”. I began by referencing it in terms of witnessing art – whether a piece of music, an incandescent film, a live performance but then interrupted myself and said “Those aren’t the only times. It happens to me all the time. I could be walking down the street, witness a moment between strangers and end up crying (with joy).” And this isn’t just now, after my hell November. I’ve been living like this for years.

About five weeks ago I was sitting on my couch when something triggered me. I burst into tears and I cried long and hard. Whilst this was not the joyful kind, I allowed myself to be there and feel all of it. I then decided to do something I’d never done, and capture it. I took the following photo and ended up sharing it on my Instagram with this message:


I went through incredible heartbreak recently. Change swept through my life so suddenly, leading to a pain I could not have foreseen. And whilst I am moving, and I am making a conscious space for the people, environments and things in my life that bring me joy, it’s a journey. It’s a practice. I’ve had a lot of friends commenting recently on how amazing my trip away looked from the photos I had been posting. I met them with a “It was fucking awesome”. Because it was. Every minute of it. I had crafted a week for myself that would be nourishing and leave me feeling a little more revitalised. And high five to me for doing that. But tonight, out of nowhere, I had a big cry. They still come, and I let them. And as I got up to wash my face I stood and stared at myself in the mirror. I thought of all the joy I’d experienced in the past week, and I looked at myself standing here in this moment of pain and thought “This is also me. I’m still here, just right now..I’m feeling pain.” And I wanted to capture that. I meet my pain in the same way I meet my joy – with gratitude. It’s part of my experience. It’s the small spaces in between throwing my head back for a belly laugh (I freaking love to laugh), sinking my teeth into a succulent burger, feeling the water hold my body or the sun against my skin. As Frederick Buechner so beautifully put it: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Frederick Buechner. What a freaking champ.

I had seen this quote only a few weeks prior to everything happening and was smiling wide into my screen as I read it. And as I read it again during this moment ^ I still felt the same rush of excitement that arrives when you come in contact with something that rings so true.

So last night, following my “I cry all the time” share, I went to the cinemas to see the latest Will Smith flick, Collateral Beauty. (Promise I’m not giving any spoilers away.) The story follows Howard (played by Will), whose six year old daughter died two years ago and whilst he still has incredible, caring people around him, his life is in ruins. He has completely shut down with the agony of having lost one of the greatest loves of his life. He soon meets this woman, Madeleine who hosts a support group for parents who have lost a child. After having lost a child herself, one night Madeleine shares this story with Howard about how when she was waiting in the hospital to hear of her daughter’s death an elderly woman sat beside her and said “Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty.”

You can imagine the look on Howard’s face when Madeleine says this. It’s probably pretty similar to yours right now. What the actual f**k? But she goes on to explain that while this woman was saying such a thing as Madeleine was preparing for her daughter to die, a year later as she was walking down the street, Madeleine out of nowhere, completely burst into tears. Joyful tears. “And I got it,” she said. The essential message of the film is this – that collateral beauty is the profound connection to everything.

Naturally, I knew walking into a film of this nature that I was going to be feeling all the things. And I did indeed have several moments where I misted up. But the one that really hit me was Madeleine’s encounter with the elderly woman. Because I’ve lived it, time and time again. Not necessarily the exchange, but the being so utterly overwhelmed by a moment that it reduces me to tears. I had just hours prior to seeing the film told someone that I could be walking down the street and I will have a moment like this, and here I was hearing a description of the same experience. And there it showed its face again – collateral beauty.

The theme here is reflected in one of my most cherished poems by a most beloved poet, Kahlil Gibran. And so, I will close with this small excerpt from his passage On Love, from The Prophet:

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.

This year I will continue to write and tell people’s stories, but as someone so generously said to me recently “Don’t forget to tell yours too.”



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