Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Visionary

"My innermost dream is still the same: to be a successful author and to be abundant in all areas; to have the resources to do what you want to, when you want to".

I have heard many times this joke, that in Canberra practically everyone knows everyone, based on the algorithm that everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows you. Lately, it has been true for me in more than one occasion. For almost two years now, I have been witnessing from distance the makings of Canberra Wise Women, going from strength to strength. Although I have been following Lisa’s story for a while, it was only recently that I came to meet her in person.

The day before the interview, I was having a walk with one of my best friends and we were discussing our common disappointment with the high expectations society places on women, particularly on working mothers. Even more so, we were discussing our frustration with the high expectations we place on ourselves, striving to be perfect in everything and brilliantly failing at it. We were also talking about the lack of empathy witnessed over several incidents and about support, about that good old village that used to have your back and how women could better support each other. Coincidentally or not, this was an excellent preamble to interviewing Lisa, who is a firm believer in bringing people together - to shine a light on their dreams.

I got a very warm welcome in her house and what I loved most, from the first moment I stepped inside, was the fact that she welcomed me straight into the heart of things. My visit was not rehearsed for, she didn’t dress up especially for me, the house was beautiful and intimate – a house where people lived, not a house for showing off. A house filled with love, was my first impression and then I felt at ease. It’s not always easy, striking a conversation with people I haven’t met before and interviewing them can be challenging, since I am virtually asking them to open up to a stranger. Likewise, it can be equally challenging for me to find the right opening words, right tone or approach.  I furtively thought of the conversation I had with my bestie, when we were questioning why we sometimes feel that we cannot receive guests without an immaculate house. Which in my case is impossible, living with two little tornadoes who like to explore.  Understandably, I instantly loved Lisa for treating me like family, sitting me down for a cuppa and allowing me to make friends with her adorable dogs. The conversation ensued naturally and as we went through the questions, I knew I have met another friend. This is the beauty of the Hat of Many Dreams: I don’t intend to stop these series any time soon, but I do know that at the end of it all, I will be so much richer for all the friends I made.

- My first favourite story was Thumbelina. I liked things that were little, petite – they used to intrigue me. I had lots of miniature things. I had the family treehouse when I was little, which was a plastic tree house; it had a little elevator in the middle where you could put the family into and wind it up, then the top popped up and there was a shelf in it and it had three rooms, a lounge, a bedroom and a kitchen. There was a mummy, daddy, their children and a dog... I was around 5 when I got it. I only got rid of it recently.

My favourite movie has always been “Dirty Dancing”. I love romance, happy endings; not sad endings.

 - When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. Or an author, which is something I still want to be. Then later on, I wanted to be a detective.

- In my teens I wanted to be an interior decorator or an architect. Then I thought about being a journalist.  My mother made me change my mind about being an architect or interior designer; she thought that computers would be doing all the design work in the future. The more I thought about journalism, I didn’t think I could go to someone who just been through something really terrible and make them talk about it. I’m too empathetic for that.

Coming out of high school, I didn’t really have a big dream. One of my goals was to design and build my own house and to be an author. I have already done the first, still working on writing a book. I have a number of partially finished manuscripts.  

“Who are you now”? It’s a question I ask my sitters as a reflection over their path, looking back to their initial aspirations.  

- Who am I now? I usually describe myself as a business creative and inspirer and a wolf Mumma. I am a mother to three beautiful German shepherd dogs that look like wolves because of their unique colour. They are specially bred to be completely black.  
The main reason for starting this project was my genuine desire of finding out about other people’s dreams. The main question I ask my sitters in each interview is what their innermost dream is.

- My innermost dream is still the same: to be a successful author and to be abundant in all areas; to have the resources to do what you want to, when you want to.

The last few months have been really hard. We lost Mojo (beloved fur baby) and I lost my motivation. I really had to find what inspires and motivates me again. I feel like I have been on this journey for many years, finding what inspires me and keeps me moving forward. I’m just starting to feel better. I know it’s time to put all the hours of learning, training and information I’ve been gathering to use. It’s time to not let it all sit there, it’s time to find my courage and harness my ambition.

- What really motivates me is the desire to be better and to inspire others, to inspire myself, to see  people becoming the best versions of themselves. I often say I like to leave places, people and situations better than I found them.

Where does Lisa see herself in the next 5 years?  And what would she do with her 15 minutes of fame?

- I am bad at forward planning. When you do coaching, they do ask that – where do you see yourself? I find it difficult to project. Ideally, a published author with multiple successful businesses that are making a positive impact, a difference in peoples’ lives.  Having our home and garden the way we want it to be. To be enjoying our life..

What would she do with her 15 minutes of fame?
-It’s really funny because Canberra Wise Women has been going for 2 years and I’ve had my massage business for 20 years. Many people that I meet through CWW don’t even know I’ve spent over 20 years in the health industry. I find it interesting! That I’m known for my life’s experiences but not for my lifelong career.  

It was a well thought out decision to put my story forward when founding CWW. I knew that by sharing my story we would gain media interest, as well connecting with others who were facing challenges and feeling overwhelmed. I want CWW to get to the point where my story isn’t the drawcard. I want it to become about all the other stories that we share and the safe space that we create for people to connect.. My story and journey through PTSD have been used to create attention, so CWW can grow to something that is much bigger than me.

Even with my Massage business; I made the decision early on to not have my name in the business name. I always wanted Therapy Masters to be bigger than me. There are only so many people that you can help by yourself. When you have a team, you can help many more people.
I am always interested to find out about my sitters’ first and current role models. It’s always a question that draws complex answers and sometimes it is not easy to navigate through emotions.

 - My first role model was my sister. She was 10 years older than me and she was so good at everything she did: Dux of her school, state level athlete, smart – very driven. I don’t do role models now. My perception of role models changed greatly when my sister fell off the pedestal that I put her on, when I was much younger. When my sister was in her 20s she started to smoke marijuana – that didn’t work very well with her biochemistry. By the time she was in her early 30s she had developed an organic psychosis. She was diagnosed with late onset schizophrenia at the age of 32 and struggled with her mental health for the next 20 years. She died suddenly in 2013. She used to live here in Canberra, and was a science teacher. I came to study here in Canberra at ANU, and she was teaching in Canberra at the time. I was studying Abnormal Psychology when it became obvious she wasn’t well. There she was - a living, breathing example of my textbook.

What is Lisa’s biggest regret?

- I have various regrets but I don’t know if I have a particular biggest regret. Probably not having high levels of self confidence and self belief when I started Therapy Masters in 1997. I wish I had trusted myself and the ideas I had back then. At the time I was concerned about keeping others happy, keeping myself small and being influenced by people around me. If I had birthed those initial ideas even10 years ago, I would be leading the way in various areas now, I believe. It’s so common to doubt yourself when you are starting out. I guess it’s more about missed opportunities than regret.

Where is Lisa’s special place?

- I feel happy and at peace here, at home.  We moved here after we had some horrible things happen to us and this is has been our healing place.

Having witnessed Canberra Wise Women (CWW)coming to fruition, I wanted to know how Lisa drew her inspiration in putting it all together.

- I had the idea for a networking group for years and years, originally the idea was for a business women’s group.  Then the more I thought about it, the more I realised that most business women I know are pretty inspired and motivated, they are confident because they are doing work they love. It’s the other people walking around, doubting themselves, being unmotivated, that need to be inspired.  I don’t know how I came up with the idea for the CWW format – the idea for an interview style event just popped in to my head, all by itself.  It was very different from what else was out there at the time.  It ended up coming together really quickly.

I caught up for dinner with a friend of mine in September 2015 and I started to share the ideas and projects I was currently working on with her. She mentioned that her work might be interested in my women’s networking idea. Then I went to a conference in the October, run by The Women’s Collective and I left feeling really inspired. Driving home from the conference it felt like the universe was yelling at me “It’s time, it’s time, it’s time!” I emailed my friend and asked to chat further about my idea. We met in October 2015 and at the end of the month I found out that I would be able to use the function space of PWC here in Canberra. The only provision was that I had to hold an event before the end of year. 

I had just 5 weeks to make it all happen. Through my determination, network and friends we pulled it all together. We designed our logo in less than 2 weeks, found an interviewer, sourced our first three guests, started promoting, and put tickets on sale. We had 50 people at our first event.

- Behind CWW is our personal journey through multiple, horrible personal and business experiences. We had a long list of incidents occur in a short amount of time, one after another. My husband and I had a business targeted for crime. From 2007 to 2010 the business was repeatedly robbed or vandalised.
It was a chain of events that lasted for over 3 years – the first one, was a therapist being fraudulent in my massage business. I had spent the day investigating what had happened at the business and was looking forward to going home at the end of the day to eat chocolate and drink wine. But when I got home I found that our home had been burgled – we had $60,000 worth of belongings stolen. We went on to have 14 incidents at the store, including 4 armed robberies in the last 12 months it was open. We closed the business in August 2010.

I went to see ACT Victim Support in early 2011, expecting to be given a couple of hours of free counselling. I had written out a long list of everything we have been through and I shared all of it with the intake officer. Then she said to me “I’ll be back shortly”. It took longer than I expected but when she came back; she said “I’ve spoken to my supervisor; we have never had anyone in here with this amount of incidents in such a short time”. They allocated me 20 hours of counselling.

This was when I started to realise that maybe we had been through a lot, that maybe I didn’t need to be hard on myself and that I was coping pretty well, considering all we had been through. I went on to work with a psychologist specialising in PTSD for 18 months. Because of my background in health and well-being, I looked at my healing very holistically. I looked at the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects and I have done lots and lots of healing work over the last 7 years.  What I learned was that being positive, being inspired and being around like-minded people and letting go of negativity were critical for my healing.

It is these elements from my healing: positivity, inspiration, like-minded people that are the cornerstones of what Canberra Wise Women is about. In short CWW is a platform for positivity.

How much do you feel you have achieved from the initial purpose you set for yourself and CWW, to present?

- I know CWW definitely inspires people. Many people let us know that they leave our events feeling  inspired. I know we help others find their motivation and self belief to get their own projects off the ground. There is a saying going around at the moment: You can’t be what you can’t see. Part of what CWW does is shine the light on local role models. If you see someone who had been going through something horrible, and you see that they have gotten through it and moved on; it shines the light for you and shows you that you too can move on from whatever you might be struggling with. That’s part of what we share through CWW.

There are so many truly amazing and talented people here in Canberra. Canberra is such a creative, innovative space. I think there is a real diversity, positivity and brightness here that you don’t get in many other places. People often come to our events who have these amazing ideas, they have a deep yearning inside them and they are just too doubtful or scared to put their idea out there. I feel we create a safe space for people to tune in and listen to themselves. To really hear that voice that’s screaming – “it’s time” at you. To know that it’s safe and okay to put their idea out in to the world.

I know of someone who has been to our events, who then changed her career path, establishing herself in the fitness industry. Another friend started Canberra’s first giving circle, “Capital Giving”, a space that empowers people to be philanthropic in their local community. And another who has started a creative business, after finally tuning in to her inner voice. CWW also brings people together and they start beautiful collaborations and projects together. It’s wonderful to see it all of these things blooming from our events. I love that CWW was that initial spark, the introduction space - if you like, for many amazing things that are happening right now in Canberra.

The numbers to our events dropped over the winter months last year, which was disappointing for me. It makes you question what you’re doing. I wondered if it was our change of venue from Barton to the airport, or because we put on a higher number of events. There are also more events on now in Canberra and there is more choice for people who want to go out.

I’m in the process of planning our 2018 program at the moment. I’m looking at offering new events this year. I need to be the leader in what we are creating and sharing. After being in business for over 20 years I know we need to reiterate our brand and what we are doing every 18 months or 2 years.  CWW’s has just turned 2 - so it’s time to change.

What is it like, to be a Reiki Master? Does it make Lisa proud to achieve this title?

I haven’t received my Reiki attunements the same as most people. I’ve always been told that I had Reiki naturally (I am medically intuitive) and I had a friend who was a Reiki Master offer to provide my first Reiki attunement in 2006. Some people feel different physically after being attuned.  After my first attunement, I felt no difference. After my 2nd attunement, in 2011 I felt quite different. Then with the 3rd and Reiki Master attunements (also in 2011) I felt no difference again.  I am also a Theta practitioner – Theta also uses universal energy. As part of my healing journey, I booked in for a Theta session. I loved it and I decided I wanted to complete the training to become a Theta practitioner. That was in 2013.

With Reiki the energy passes through you to the person who you are sending the healing energy to. With Theta it’s like you are a traffic controller - you can direct the energy, and direct it where it needs to go; it doesn’t need to pass through you, unless you want it to. Both Reiki and Theta healing energies come directly from Source. When I do an energy healing, I use a combination of both Reiki and Theta.

Out of all my qualifications, I think I am the proudest of my massage qualification because they made us work for it! I used to joke that ANU were very nice and gave me my Bachelor’s degree, while CIT made me work hard for my Advanced Diploma.

Why does Lisa like helping people?
- Someone else asked me this last year, when I was interviewed at a CWW event. I became an aunt when I was 16. By the time I was 19 I had moved here to study at ANU and would only see my niece and nephew a few times a year. One summer holiday when I arrived home from Uni my niece would have been 2-3 years old at the time, and my nephew would have been 4 or 5. They were so excited to see me, to hug me and just spend time with me. I remember having that same level of adoration with my older siblings who were 10 and 12 years older than me. But they didn’t honour that adoration. To them, I was the annoying little sister. It was heartbreaking to not have that love received and returned with the same care and openness it had been given. So I decided in my late teens to honour that energy with my niece and nephew. My niece and nephew are now 28 and 30 – and we still enjoy a close connection.

- I know from personal experience that honouring people’s energy and connecting with them helps them find the positivity and confidence that we all possess. This is the space I come from when I’m looking to help people – whether that’s a health client, a friend or a guest at CWW.

- One word to describe myself?
Depends on the time of the day. Crazed or Creative.

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