Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there’s a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

-Pink Floyd, Shine on You Crazy Diamond

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There is something about you that is different. Even if you have convinced yourself that you are average or blend into the backdrop of the mainstream. I am here to tell you, that you are indeed different, because the concept of normal is a complete fabrication designed to keep us feeling trapped in a cage of our own creation. This disillusionment of normal keeps us disempowered and willing agents in perpetuating a system that serves only those very few at the top, while the rest of us waste away in the land of average and sameness, always feeling like something is missing and never reaching our potential. It is possibly the most important task of your life to discover what it is exactly that sets you apart, defines who you are, and then surrender to it fully with all of your heart. If you can make this a priority, your life will change forever and you will wonder why in the hell you never did it sooner?

Who are you? The question of questions, and one that I ask myself every day to ensure I don’t slip back into complacency and a false sense of self, designed by my ego when I was young in order to help me survive and navigate a painful world, plagued with conformity. We are not our family, our job, the city we live in and the society that has shaped us. These are just the effects of nurture, but they are not your nature. We came into this world with something that is uniquely us and our life experience has either helped to steer us towards ourself or away from it. So really, the question is, who were you before the world got a hold of you? Who were you before you got talked out of following your heart and your bliss and all the things that ignite your fire and make your soul smile and cheer? Who were you before you integrated the message that if your interests don’t make you money they should not be a priority? Who were you before security, practicality and responsibility steered you away from who you actually are and what you want for yourself?

When I see people struggling within the life they have created because somehow, along the way they have ended up filling their days with way more ‘have to’s” than “want to’s”, I have nothing but compassion because I’ve been there. I, like so many others was programmed by social conditioning to keep putting the things I loved aside in favour of socially accepted and understood choices that would ultimately make me money and provide me with security, social status and respect. I went into sciences at University because I had been told repeatedly by many sources that I was more likely to get a job in the field of science, and nothing was more important than a secure job. I then ended up in a very practical Environmental Technology program at College. A couple of years later, I moved out from my childhood home into my own apartment, got a part-time job to pay the rent and gas for my car and then graduated soon after. By the time I was 21 I had started my career at an Engineering firm and began a 10 year climb up the corporate ladder and into a well respected position in a glass sky-rise at a large Corporation downtown. During this climb, I bought a house with my then boyfriend, now husband at age 24, got a dog, bought my first new car, and went on a warm vacation annually. By all socially accepted measures of success, at only 28 years of age, I had made it. While some might have found that life comforting, a deeper, more intuitive part of me found it deeply disheartening. I was only 10 years into being an adult and there were very few rungs left on that corporate ladder I was climbing. I had landed directly in the middle of average. I shot for the middle instead of the stars and landed there more quickly than I had expected. This life was taking up all of my time with very little left over for my interests or passions. Was this really going to fulfill me for the next 35 years of my life until retirement? And then what? Then I get to do what I want? Was I living for the weekend, the next holiday, the golden retirement years? I had a constant nagging feeling within me for something more, that money and vacations and marriage was not fulfilling. Then, I checked the next milestone off my well laid out and organized life. I got pregnant, and everything changed. I was faced with the hardest and also the easiest decision of my life. Would I stay in my extremely demanding career and try to juggle being a Mother, a Wife and a career woman, or would I give up the career I had been building and working towards since high school? That’s when I started to question everything, mostly myself. That’s the first time I had dared to ask myself “who am I?”, and allowed myself to be brutally honest. After quieting the opinions of others and finally listening to my inner knowing, I knew that this life I had built so diligently by following the rules and playing the game, was not in fact who I was. So I gave up my career, and all the money and status that came with it and devoted myself to raising my babies, all the while, doing the soul searching work of getting back to the core of who I was before I got onto this well trodden mainstream track. The isolation and solitude that being a stay-at-home Mom provided me, while lonely and alienating much of the time, was the best gift I have ever given myself. I had a legitimate excuse to get out of the rat race, be separated from the constant reinforcement of popular opinion, and come back home into my own heart.

Often, people who are experiencing that nagging, that inner turmoil that tells them they aren’t living their authentic life, get stuck, because when they ask themselves “who am I?”, “what do I want?” they honestly don’t know the answer. My humble advice for this common experience is to go back to the beginning and start from there. Who were you before other people’s influences, projected fears and scarcity mentality got the better of you? What were you like as a child? What did you do with yourself when boredom led to self-directed creativity? When you were told to go and play or entertain yourself, what did you gravitate to? What made time stop for you, that you lost yourself in completely, that you returned to again and again? All of those things, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem to you now, are the clues to your bliss. They are where the essence of who you are resides.

When I asked myself these questions, it was very clear to see who I was, and I was definitely not being true to her anymore. I was dishonouring that little girl who loved to dress up in elaborate costumes and create characters in her Grandmother’s wardrobe and then come downstairs and ad-lib in character to my Grandparents delight. I was not being true to the little girl who loved to sing and dance, create costumes and perform dance routines to Mini-Pops songs on my portable record player and microphone that connected to our radio. Thank you 1980’s! I had suppressed that pre-teen who dressed her friends up in our Mothers’ clothes and created sets and themes riffing on popular advertisements. I’d take their pictures on an old camera, taking the time to get them developed and putting them into photo albums. I had polished and wiped clean that wild child with the messy tangled mass of hair, who was strong and athletic, wore a camo sweatsuit, painted mud on her face, hiked in the woods, communed with nature and built ramps to jump her BMX bike on dirt trails. I had silenced the teenager who wrote poetry and short stories to process her emotions, played guitar and piano, adored thrift shopping for vintage and cutting up and sewing new clothes out of thrift store finds. There was almost no sign of the girl who read countless books on astrology, spirituality and mysticism, learned to read tarot cards and burned incense daily in the solitude of her room. I was no longer honouring the young woman who chose theatre as her extra curricular activity in high school and Bellydancing as her twenty-something after work hobby that she squeezed into her work schedule. Dance led to teaching, performing and producing Vaudeville-estque productions, and eventually training with world-renowned Bellydancers. Aside from keeping a small fire lit in my heart with dance, I had somehow completely suppressed the girl within me, my soul self, my essence and she was screaming to come out, and making it harder and harder to ignore her dissatisfaction as the years ticked by. I had been waiting for permission to be myself, to be told by someone, anyone, that the things I loved were worthy of my time and focus, and that they deserved to be the centre of my life, not something I pushed to the sidelines in favour of money and security and conformity. I had talked myself out of myself. Everything in me wanted to believe that if I followed my bliss, my interests, the things that made my heart sing, I would be ok. I would be able to take care of myself in this world that had convinced me that the things I love carry no value and have no place here.

I have spent the last decade, re-claiming myself. Gathering up all the ways in which I gave myself away, spread myself too thin and replaced my soul self with an imposter out of fear and the very human need to belong, even if it meant I’d end up surrounding myself with people who would never fully understand or genuinely encourage the real me. I gathered that young creative girl up in my arms and I told her she has my full and complete permission and undying support to unleash herself fully un-encumbered. I started to take chances again. I re-aquainted myself with my creative spark. I re-connected with the wild, natural, mystically inclined warrior woman I always was. I dove back into my passion for vintage clothing, began fashion styling, creating fashion editorials and working with photographers to create visual art. I started writing again and embraced art, philosophy and poetry. I started this blog for the shear joy of mashing all my passions together and birthing them out into the world. I continued to dance and teach and learn. The more of myself I accepted, the more layers of false reality about the world started unravelling and revealing to me. The more honest and authentic I have become with myself, the more confident I get and the easier it is for me to reveal my truest nature to others. I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy, or that you won’t lose people along the way. Being true to yourself at all costs takes an immense amount of courage and conviction and can be challenging for those around you who would prefer you to not rock the boat so they can stay comfortable inside the paradigm they’ve accepted. People who uphold mainstream values will see your choices to live alternatively in favour of your own truth, as a personal judgement on them, not as the brave and honest thing it is. People will see your personal sacrifices of monetary gain and non-attachment to titles and material things as an affront to a lifestyle they are trying to justify to themselves daily in order to have the gumption to hit that alarm clock every morning and go to a job they complain about all the time. You have to be willing to allow those people to fall away from your life and open yourself up to all the new beautiful souls who will begin to appear in your experience.

There is almost always a period of isolation and loneliness in the process of un-learning your social programming and embracing your true self, but I can’t even begin to explain to you the incredible freedom that comes with self-acceptance. Pursuing the life that matches your values and attracting like-minded individuals who will come into your life to teach you new things, cheer you on, support and encourage you and celebrate your victories along with you is incredibly fulfilling and vindicating after facing your fears and conquering them. These new advocates will not only not be threatened by you or want to compete with you, they will hold you up and inspire the hell out of you! The mutual respect will be that which you have always deeply desired. The angst and judgement you felt towards people because you gave your power away by blaming them for robbing you of your vitality, will start to become beautiful to you in incredible ways and you will begin to love the world again the more you love yourself and honour the things that call to your heart and soul.

Remember. Remember the creative genius of a soul that is you. Remember who you are and don’t give your power away. No one can take it from you, it has to be given up freely. Make yourself a priority and get back to that joyful being you were so freely as a child. Peel away the layers of false messages that have been keeping you down and re-claim your potential. And Shine. Shine on you crazy diamond!

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When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re Acceptable
Respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!
Oh, take it take it yeah
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
‘Cause I was feeling so logical
D-d-digital
One, two, three, five
Oh, oh, oh, oh
It’s getting unbelievable

– Supertramp, The Logical Song

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

STYLING, MODELLING and ARTISTIC DIRECTION: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

MAKEUP: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams Shop

HAIR, & MASK DESIGN: Kitty Berns, FreshHair Boutique

FASHION:

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A Woman’s Sexual Sovereignty

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I will not cower from people’s opinions and criticisms of my body like it has any bearing at all on how I choose to feel about myself. I will not allow some ridiculously narrow standard of beauty stop me from revelling and celebrating in this incredible vessel I am lucky enough to live in. I will do with my body what I want, when I want and that includes sensual and sexual expression, simply because, it’s my body. I will not feel shame for being a woman and all that that encompasses. I will not shrink, I will not be quiet, sit down and be told how I must act, what I can and can not wear to be respected. I will not be diminished or intimidated by whispers and finger pointing. I am not ashamed of this body, that has allowed me to be a dancer, a lover, a mother of two beautiful boys and a model, despite the worlds desire to make me think it’s not good enough. There is no such thing as beauty flaws. My lines, age spots, cellulite and stretch marks are a map of my physical growth and changing life story. How dare anyone imply they are flaws that I should be embarrassed about, hide or try to repair. I simply don’t accept it, and I am more than willing to be the tip of the arrow head that slices through that old, outdated, oppressive paradigm designed to keep women insecure, fearful and as a result, controllable. I understand that being that spearhead may mean I get battered and bruised by judgement and criticism, but I’d rather be dead than allow this body shaming standard to continue into the next generations. It’s time is up. That story is over, time for a new one and I intend to help write it.

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 It’s true what they say about women in their 40’s. There are only so many fucks to give in any woman’s life until you run out, and often, when women enter their 40’s, they discover there are zero fucks left. It completely unravels you and everything you thought you knew, which is terrifying and at the same time, completely liberating. Every woman has a finite amount of patience to put up with oppressive bullshit and bite their tongue until one day, they wake up and say, it’s not ok anymore, enough is enough. This summer, I turned 40. I was born in 1978, hence the t-shirt in this photoshoot. It is hard to believe that I have been alive for four decades already! As I enter my 40th year upon this earth, within this body, I find myself in an intense time of personal reflection and examination, as often comes with Birthdays, and the change of season. Goodbye to a transformative summer, which was somewhat of a living death for me, and welcome to a new and more empowered chapter. Happy Autumnal Equinox!

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My personal story is about a girl who tried very, very hard to be a good and to be liked. To behave in the way that pleased people. We learn at a very, very young age what behaviours will be met with approval and all the positive attention that will come with it, and what behaviours will be ignored, in hopes it will go away, or with downright disapproval. I learned very quickly that nice girls were modest and reserved and appropriate. To fit in and belong, I learned to place others’ opinions of me above my own. To care what the neighbours and strangers around me thought of me. By 15 years old I had accepted that to fully be myself was a recipe for rejection. I had to hold some of myself back at all times. I knew what people wanted me to be and I knew what behaviour was going to get me approval and belonging. I thought that being approved of was synonymous with being loved, because my behaviour seemed to dictate the amount of positive attention I would receive or not.  I think my story is shared by a lot of women.

It took me a long time before I understood that really loving someone was to accept them as they really are. It is not conditional. It does not depend on behaviour, shared interests or values and it certainly does not rely on accomplishments, conformity or obedience. I began to understand it the first time I fell in love. It became completely clear once I had my own children. I will not withhold my love and affection and support from them when I disagree with or do not understand their behaviour or choices. Once they figure out who they are, with much encouragement from me, I will back them, no matter what. Their personal unfolding and life experience and choices are their own, not mine to control. That’s love.

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When you begin to understand what love is and you start to see the transformative power of it, you begin to understand how important it is to turn that kind of love onto yourself. When I began to do this, I discovered that my love for myself up until that point had indeed been conditional. It wasn’t true love, it was dependant on how I looked, on my performance in life and my accomplishments. It was dependant on how others perceived me and if they approved. That was a very difficult and shattering realization. Interestingly, but not too surprisingly if you know me personally, I realized that the two places in my life that I had had the courage and audacity to fully self express despite obvious disapproval was with dance and attire. From as young as I can remember, I refused to conform about either of these two things. I refused to wear the frilly pink dresses my Grandma tried to get me to wear because it just wasn’t me, and I continued to have a strong opinion about how I would dress through my childhood, which only strengthened and became more adventurous, and bold into my teens, through my 20’s, 30’s and to this day. I understand now, that something like clothing and style may have seemed insignificant or even shallow and vain to others around me, but in truth, it was a deeply empowering gateway to my understanding of who I am and what my true purpose is in this lifetime. Patron of Dreams is not about clothes, it’s about empowering people to be themselves. My style was one place in my life that I didn’t compromised myself to please others. I expect there are others out there like me.

The other place I didn’t compromise was with dance. I recall challenging my Ballet teacher when I was only 7 years old about the politics in the classroom. I expressed that it was unfair and not right that some students got to have significant roles in the performance based on how many other dance classes they were paying for, and not based on skill and commitment to that class. Such defiance! Needless to say, I quit at that school and moved on to another one with more integrity. I danced unabashedly and joyously as a pre-teen at Junior High dances while others awkwardly hovered against the walls. Sometimes I danced all by myself in the middle of a room full of uncomfortable and self-concious people. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone thought of me because of it. I was born to dance. It’s no surprise that I ended up finding true love in the ancient art of Bellydance. I found pure power and presence of self in the most sensual dance style in history. Through my studies of this dance, I learned that it had absolutely nothing to do with the male gaze and it was then that I understood the personal power and sovereignty that lies within our sexuality, and that it has nothing to do with sex. We are sexual beings, when alone or with others. Our sexuality is a full expression of our being. It is our life force and vitality. It is a power source. It is as much about our mind and our spirit as it is our body. In fact, I’d argue that our sexuality has much more to do with our mind and spirit than our body ever will.

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The reality of this limited physical experience we are having here on earth, is that much of what is inside our mind and spirit can only be expressed through our body or outward appearance. It is a terrible misunderstanding and an atrocity to assume someone’s bodily expression is an invitation for sexual advances, for un-invited comment or opinion. To assume you understand someone’s intentions, or what is going on inside someone’s mind and spirit when they express with their body, whether it’s what they wear on it, or how they move it, is quite frankly, to show how little you understand about yourself. It’s a sign you are the victim of the old bullshit programming about women’s sexuality that has seeped into the world’s psyche. The age old “virgin-whore dichotomy”. Every woman’s body is a battleground. Every Man has the right and privilege to assess and openly critique any woman’s body if she’s out in the public eye, like she solely exists as a body to state your opinion on. Like a cow at an auction. She may be a singer, or an actress, or just someone walking down the street, but all anyone is talking about, is her body. Can you even imagine if it was as standard for women to do this to every Man they saw on Netflix or in the street. “Look at the gut on that guy!”, “He might be alright looking  if he wasn’t bald!”, “Hey baby, sweet ass, wanna party?”. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? It’s no less ridiculous when Men do it to women, we’ve just been programmed to expect it and not bother speaking up against it because “that’s just how it is”.  Well, this just in. It’s no longer socially acceptable to publicly critique every female body that crosses your path or your screen. Period.

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Women are expected to be sexy, but not too sexy, modest, but not a prude. Women have been condemned from the beginning of time immemorial for our sexuality. We are supposed to be ashamed and hide everything that makes us women. We hide when we bleed because of the stigma around our period. We stifle our emotions so we are not thought of as hysterical or irrational. We cannot be flirtatious, playful or expressive with our sexuality in public without being called a slut, a tramp, or being accused of “asking for it” when we call out someone for groping at us un-invited. Our sexual expression is not an invitation. If it was, then why would we put on clothes that make us feel sexy and dance in a sexually expressive way when we are alone? New flash, lots and lots of women do this! It’s not an invitation. It’s a celebration of being a woman in all her glory, vitality and power. End of story.

This photoshoot was a playful and personal expression of my sexual sovereignty. It was in celebration of entering my 40’s as a fully realized woman. It was about taking back my own sexuality from the ones who think they get to dictate to me what I can do with my own body, and to show that I don’t adhere to some ludicrous standard of beauty. I don’t fit the mould and I’m not going to feel shame for that or change myself to meet their standard, no matter how hard they try. I have danced on many stages in theatres and under the stars and empowered many woman with this body. I have grown two babies in my womb, birthed them both naturally, and fed them the milk that I produced with this body. I am well aware of my power as a woman, and I am here to tell you that the reason there are so many backwards, corrupted and blatantly untrue ideas out there being spread and perpetuated about women is that the powers that be are well aware of a woman’s power.  They understand that to shame women about their bodies, and throw derogatory slurs at us for being sexual beings,  has worked to control us in the past. They are banking on us being too afraid of public criticism and persecution to continue that behaviour which may have the disastrous effect of empowering other women to do the same. Never forget, it’s the ones who are trying to tear you down, who believe in your power the most.

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I called on two other sovereign and empowered women to help me bring this shoot to life. Joey Senft, the photographer who drew the youthful and playful vixen out of me, and Lori Fast, aka Lady Lorelie who adorned me with the ancient art of henna. Since this photoshoot was in celebration of my Birthday and entering an important decade, I asked Lori to create her version of the Astrological star constellation for Leo down both of my legs. I wanted to embody the playful, fun, bold and courageous attributes of my Astrological star sign. I asked for crescent moons on my shoulders to symbolize femininity and the essence of being a woman. Lori is a gem of a woman and it was an absolute honour to spend the afternoon with her having my henna done. She was a treasure trove of wisdom and amazing life experiences. She put me at ease, did an amazingly professional job and I found myself pouring my soul out to her like I had known her forever. The entire experience was completely cathartic and an exercise in release. I went to her to adorn me and give me that little bit of extra confidence to put myself out there and push my own comfort zones. It worked, to say the least. I highly recommend Lady Lorelie’s magic if you are wanting to embrace and celebrate your body. Henna is a fantastic bridge that allows you to expose your skin without feeling naked. The added bonus for me was that I felt I had placed strong intentions for myself in the henna during the process and as it slowly faded over the next few weeks, it was like my intentions were slowly being released to the universe. It was a wonderfully powerful experience, and I fully recommend it to every woman.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft,

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

HENNA BY: Lori Fast, Lady Lorelie

FASHION: Absolutely killer velvet bralette and velvet ruffle shorts custom made for me by Solstice Intimates. Socks from American Apparel. Shoes and 78 tee were thrifted. Glasses from Urban Waves.

VINTAGE: Vintage chairs from Atomic Age Vintage