Author Archives: Jay Verney

How to Feel Good by Opening a Single Drawer–Declutter, Discover, and Create in One Small Space


Feel overwhelmed?  No time for anything?  Cursing those apparently perfect people (let us call them PPs) who smile a lot and seem to have everything in order?  Guess what?  They don’t (and the smile is a grimace, grasshoppers).  It’s the illusion of the margarine commercial, the enticement of the biscuit ad.

They, too, have their secret stashes of smouldering stuff.

Yes, you heard me, stuff.  Smouldering stuff.

Smouldering PP stuff.

When the little director in their heads yells, “Cut,” and the studio lights strobe down, when the guests go home, and the dishwasher begins its mesmeric hum, that’s when the smiley grimaces disappear and they, too, the PPs, have to deal with their stories of stuff, their stuffy PP stories.

Stuff in drawers.

Innocent looking enough on the outside, the drawer has come to symbolise the epitome of the bland but lethal cover story for stuff.  But it doesn’t have to be so.  You, grasshopper, and you, PP, can turn the drawer into your friend.

You can declutter, discover and create in your drawer space, and you can do it now. A Few More Blinks

Two for the Price of One: Mindful Meditation & Memoir


Sculpture by Ron Mueck – Drift, 2009

I’ve realised that sometimes you can effectively do two things at once and succeed at both

Research is increasingly revealing that multi-tasking isn’t necessarily the way to go, but here’s something that can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and apologies to the birds – who would ever think to do such a thing?  Not us grasshoppers.

The two things allow you to calm down, meditate on specific things, and create memoir if you choose to do so.

A Few More Blinks

Record, Write, Declaim a Pocket Memoir and Create Your Legacy

One of the easiest ways to begin to create your legacy is to record, write, declaim or otherwise remember a Pocket Memoir.

What’s in a person’s pockets can be revealing.  It may prompt you to revise your usual pocket form and change your ways.  Or it may remind you of something you forgot a long time ago – why you pocket things the way you do, or why you don’t pocket anything.

For most of my life, my pockets have been empty, except for a spare tissue.  In recent years, due to the exigencies of life, that changed entirely.  But the reason why a pickpocket would have been very disappointed in picking my pockets for most of my life is quite simple – I blame it all on Mum. 

Yes, mothers like smooth lines, they like non-stretched clothing, fabrics that retain their spring, or their starchy straightness, their minty-fresh, crease-free, just-ironed sparkle.  Mothers hate disreputable-looking fashion, hanging carelessly as though it’s been pummelled with river rocks, or turned into a carrybag for spuds and carrots.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clue where our iron lives anymore.  I used to iron hankies, and serviettes.  I ironed everything, and then, one day, I didn’t anymore.  Fabrics changed, I changed, and the iron went into seclusion somewhere in the house.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because empty pockets – they too have their story.  If you feature empty pockets, what’s their story?  Is it your own choice, or a hangover from someone else’s idea of impressive?

Here’s a pocket memoir I recorded for Ridley Scott’s and Kevin McDonald’s film project Life in a Day.  I watched it again recently and realised that what I carry in my pocket now has changed yet again.  And I know that empty pockets are a thing of the past for me.  How about you, grasshopper, what do you have in your pockets, and why?

Embrace the Ephemeral: Create a Cloud Memoir


Monday’s Cloud Audit

Most of the time, I’m too busy concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other to look up.  But when I do, 99 times out of a hundred, I love what I see, whether there are clouds or a clear blue sky.

I decided to create a cloud memoir to remind me of the sky at a particular time.  A Few Blinks More

What’s in a Name, Grasshopper? As Usual, It Depends Who You Are, Where You’ve Been, and What You’ve Seen.


Cher, Madonna, Prince, Rihanna.  Some names are prime candidates for singular expression these days.  Others, well, probably not so much, although in another time perhaps Edith, Cuthbert, Cecil and Joan were just as recognisable.

What is it about the famous four, Cher, Prince and the rest?  A Few Blinks More

Instant Memoir by the Trunkload: Just Add Toast & A Cuppa


In 1990, Kenneth Branagh, the British actor, published his autobiography, titled BeginningAt the time, he endured quite a bit of ridicule because of his age.  He was 30 when the book was published. 

What worthy things did he have to say at such a tender age, critics asked?  How could anyone be so arrogant as to publish an autobiography, a memoir of any kind, before they were at least 70, or older? 

He was a toddler, a baby, an infant, for heaven’s sake.  Go away and grow up, they said.  Get some experience, squirt, get some age on you, get rid of the bum fluff, and then come and tell us a few things.  30?  Get real.

Recently, here in 2011, an announcement was made that Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah, the former Governor of the state of Alaska in the US, would be publishing her memoir later this year.  Its title is yet to be made public.  Bristol is 20. 

There are a few things Bristol could write home about, if she wasn’t already at home.  She had a baby at 18, she’s been engaged to the same fellow twice, she came third on a TV show called Dancing With the Stars, her mother is a controversial political figure in America.

Twenty-one years after little Ken published his memoir, it’s par for the course to see ‘infants’ as it were, foetuses, some might say, publishing their contributions to the genre based on little more than dollops of fame and/or notoriety. 

The year before he published, Kenneth had directed and starred in the film, Henry V, which also earned him Oscar nominations for directing and acting.  Perhaps he felt the time was financially right to flog a book about himself.

Because it’s all about commerce, but you know that.  Publishers don’t invest unless they’re almost entirely certain of a positive return.  Justin Bieber is 16, and has already published his autobiography, First Step 2 Forever, and Miley Cyrus, 18, is the author of Miles to Go

They’ve had the good grace, like Kenneth, to emphasise in their titles the fact that they’re just starting out.  And they have, and will, sell trunkloads and truckloads of their instant memoirs because they’re celebrities for now, and their fans are easy marks.

Whether or not they’ll write follow-ups when they’re 70, or 25, is anyone’s guess.  In a year or two, they could be simply formerly fabulous as the next generation moves in and dusts off the microphones and dance floors and cranks up the gossip mills. 

So, my question to you, grasshoppers, is this: What’s stopping you from creating your own instant memoir?  You can read and write, you’ve probably been around the paddock a few more times than Justin and Miley and Bristol, even Kenneth.  You’ve got some wisdom and insight to fall back on, and you know and remember that Memoir = Life = Now.  They certainly know it.

And even if you haven’t been around for long, even if you’re 16, or 18, or 20, you’re living your life here on the third rock, too, only it isn’t happening in a fish bowl, luckily for you.

Pursue the moment, and see where it leads you. 

The next time you get that feeling that you need to remember this moment, this hour, this day, grab your writing implements, make a cuppa, burn some toast, and go with the flow.  Get it down.  Justin, Miley, Bristol, and Kenneth (now 51) are cheering you on.

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Sign On or Sign Off – It’s Our Choice Now, and Now, and Now


I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning.  It was 5.15, the sky was overcast, the air humid.  I was sure I could smell a shower on the way and, contrary to the song lyric, I do not like walking in the rain, although I have been known to wish on the odd star in the Southern Cross Constellation. 

I really wanted to stay in the bed, the lovely, lovely bed.  The fan was blowing a cool breeze through the room, the sheets were soft and comforting.  Dotty the Fanatical Cat had yet to perform her early morning dance of the seven-varieties-of-Dine-Feast-this-minute on my right shoulder.

So, I’d almost made the decision to walk tonight, after the sun sets – be skin care aware, grasshoppers – and then, something happened.  I got up. 

Call it motivation, call it respect for delayed gratification, call it fear of a narrowing left ventricle.  I got up and off we went.  But some days, I don’t make it.  Some days I sign off, and I almost always regret it.

A famous athlete, Herb Elliott, said that the hardest part of training is getting out of bed every morning.  The trick is in realising that most of us need just a little burst of extra grunt in order to rouse ourselves, but once we’re up, we’re up.  The logic of the little burst applies to so many things in life.

Beginning, starting, having a go, being there, showing up.  Waking up.  Getting up.

Momentum.  The little burst.

Those who show up get the prizes, whatever they may be: money and jobs, sure, but consider, too, satisfaction, consider the comfort of knowing you’ve done the thing you wanted to do but didn’t think you could.  Consider the work, the art, as Seth Godin describes it, that will win you new life directions and career options.

Consider capturing the memoir moment.

Those who wake up and get up into their lives, those who actively choose to sign on to their lives, enjoy much better odds of, first of all, continuing and then, of finishing what they’ve begun.

It has to do with focus, mindful focus, as you create your memoir, your art, and your legacy now, and now, and now.

But ultimately, it’s your choice.  Perhaps you’ll cruise past the SIGN ON banner the first few times around the paddock.  Then, you might decide to take a look at who else is signing on, so you roll up at the appointed hour and mill about in the background, near the car for a quick getaway, among a handy stand of shady trees, so you’re almost invisible.

You pretend you’re just an onlooker, doing a bit of gardening – even though you hate gardening – checking out the last dandelion.  Not that anyone’s asking.  They’re all too busy queuing to sign on.  Eventually, you think, and this is where what you think comes into its own – thoughts dictate actions and feelings – you think, What the hell, what harm can it do?  With any luck that’s what you decide, because as some famous person’s humble father once said, You only regret what you don’t do, Jennifer.

Fear is often the biggest obstacle to signing on, even in the morning when all you need to do is pull yourself up and pivot sideways to greet the wonderful world of the vertical mammal.  Ignore fear, try it once, and let the little burst guide your way.

Are we going to sign on or sign off?  Now?  Or now?  How does now look? 

Let’s do it, grasshoppers.

Remember: Memoir = Life = Now

Can Not Having a Choice Be the Best Choice of All?


Here in unusually sunny, muddy Queensland – La Nina has taken a terrible toll on our sun-filled-days-per-year boasting – thousands of people have been decluttering their lives.

Unfortunately, the decluttering hasn’t been voluntary but essential and unavoidable.  Thousands of homes were inundated by our recent floods, and the cleanup has resulted in tips and landfills being inundated in turn many times over by council and volunteer cleanup squads.

The mantra, Let it go, Let it go, Let it go, is heard first as a plaintive cry and gradually builds to a call to arms across my beautiful city, Brisbane, as every household item you can imagine gets the heave-ho to the footpath.

Most of the time, we get to decide when we declutter and what goes out the door.  But in the mess of mud and filth that the river water left behind, there have been few choices available.

So I’m wondering, Can having no choice be a good thing, sometimes?

There’s that old joke about the T-Model Ford: You can have any colour as long as it’s black.

In the case of these wretched floods, residents can have any style of interior decoration they like, as long as it’s an empty house.  Some don’t even have the ‘luxury’ of an empty house.  Their ‘choice’ is no house at all as some homes have been described as unliveable and worthy only of demolition.

Imagine, then, if you were in a position where you had to start all over from scratch, what, after securing basic shelter, a roof over your head, would be your first meaningful purchase?

Leave aside the usual necessities like basic clothing, footwear and toiletries, like furniture and kitchen goods and electrical appliances to heat the beans and wash the T-shirts with bean sauce on them, and a TV in front of which to sit and eat the beans and spill the sauce.  Oh, and an internet connection to go with the new PC.

[A sidebar question: Do you think the internet has become indispensible for most people in countries where communications technology is advanced and available to most of those who want it and can afford the required investment in a PC and connection?  I know of people who’ve gone offline in protest at the gathering momentum of the online world.  I don’t know what they’re hoping to achieve with a complete withdrawal – a complete rest?  more privacy? – but I wish them well.  Like the Buddha, I prefer the middle way – moderation in all things – though I don’t often achieve it, but that’s why goals can be handy.]

So, what would you buy, grasshopper?

Let’s make it a little easier – your first three purchases – what would they be?

Of course, I’m relying on you to have already initiated a decluttering policy from Day 1 with your necessities.  You don’t have to be entirely like writer, Margaret Atwood’s mother, who apparently believed that two dresses were plenty for her girl: one on and one in the wash.  Perhaps a little more leeway is desirable.  Let’s not get too deeply into Lenten sacrifice.

I’ve been wondering what I would choose once I got back to the place where I had a choice once more, and it took a while for the grey cells to get moving, but I’m almost certain that these are the three: a camera, a day book, and a pen.

With these three items, I could create my world anew with visual and textual instant memoir.  And I’d get very busy remembering, too, describing the photos and documents I’d lost as the memories returned and beckoned for attention.  This would be my new foundation.

What’s yours?

Remember: Memoir = Life = Now


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