Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Yo Mama! An Interview with Vashti Whitfield

A few months ago I read an article about an inspiring woman, and her equally inspiring husband - it was a beautiful story of love and devotion. It was one of those stories that stayed with me - it struck a real chord and I remember being profoundly affected.

This beautiful couple had two gorgeous small children; the beautiful wife, Vashti Whitfield enjoyed a successful career as a professional life coach/facilitator, and her handsome husband, Andy Whitfield, was hitting his stride with his own successful acting career.  

Fast-forward a couple of months - and I received an email asking if I'd be interested in having Vashti on my blog. Well - that's a no-brainer. Of course I'd love to have her on my blog. I was ecstatic!

Vashti is a woman you want on your side. I can imagine sitting with her and chatting into the wee hours about life, kids, parenting - whatever. She's a positive powerhouse and I can't wait to hear more from her in the coming months.  

I could think of no better way to launch into the New Year than with Vashti. Let's go!

PMM: Vashti - as a wife and as a mother, you've been through so much sadness - how do you keep refreshing yourself?

VW: I have always looked at life with a sense that there is just so much possibility out there. Whilst there have been, and still are, times that I feel extraordinarily challenged, I always come around to the fact that there is something wonderful to be had and shared and that is what inspires me and guides me to take and make my next move. I also make sure that I keep hitting my personal  'refresh' button, which often isn't until one of my wheels has fallen off, but I am learning to read the signs a little quicker. So along with being a mummy and the many aspects of my work, I absolutely make sure that I exercise, ride my motorbike, run with the wind in my hair, watch a movie by myself with Andy as my imaginary friend and anything that washes away the build up and pressures that the current chapter of my life and I place on myself.

After losing Andy, what made you keep moving forward? 

Losing Andy who was such a young, beautiful and open man, gave me this tremendous determination to be as creative, authentic and passionate as I could possibly be - as a woman, a mummy and someone capable that could use her force to make a difference however big or small. Losing him created this daily conversation with myself about being privileged enough to have my life and to be here now, and that I must make the most of that with every minute I have! This is what keeps me moving forward, along with the fact that I feel like he is always around and can see right through me when I am not following through or stepping up in the way he would expect of me. On top of all that, I have two little beautiful kids who no longer have their dad, which makes it even more important for me to keep moving forward and ensure their needs are met. There are ups and downs and both are honoured equally so as to ensure we all get the chance to process our grief.

You have two children - how do you manage the juggle of working mum?

I squeeze as much as possible in the time available to me. I invest in time for myself as I find I am not capable of being effective in my work or being a 'nice' mummy if I don't get the space to think. One of the tricky things about grief is that it can just creep up and take a hold of you, so making alone time is critical for me. I also have always worked for myself, which whilst it comes with great responsibility, also gives me the flexibility to manage my time and the motivation to create great work that supports my family and feeds my soul. The truth, however, is that sometimes I just want to buckle under the weight of it all and often finding myself taking many deep breaths after having to cancel clients to collect a sick child from school, knowing that I am the breadwinner and the one who will be up all night with them, trying hard to be clear and fresh faced the next day. But just like popping a baby out, in the moment you think "I can't do this" you find your real power and centre and from nowhere comes the stuff you are really made of.

What is your advice for turning New Year's Resolutions into a reality? I never stick by mine - so I don't make them anymore. Can you turn me around?

The issue with New Year’s Resolutions is that we generally declare them as a reaction to the things we didn't achieve last year that we feel we need to change. The reality is that we usually need to take a step back and address why we are in our current situation in the first place. The first step is to reflect on what structures exist in our lives that have stopped us or will stop us and then is the time to declare the realistic, inspiring and tangible goal like resolution that has some accountability, some strategy and a clear fail safe plan to bring it to life. The truth is a takes a bit of work and a whole lot of honesty, but once you can front up to that, anything is possible.

What's the best bit of your day?

I love the mornings. If I can rise before the kids, drink a delicious coffee, write for a while, ride my bike to the beach do a quick soft sand run and be home just as the kids are waking, my day is made! Paying a baby sitter for 90 minutes for me is worth every cent and then getting to make their brekkie, packed lunch and a quick play before school and everyone is happy!

Maybe McQueen seems to be a hub of honesty and inspiration. Grief can be exceptionally hard personally - do you find sharing with your community helps? 

I, to my own detriment sometimes, have always worn my heart on my sleeve. My need to verbalise my thoughts and feelings has always led me to share a little more openly than most, which certainly gives a platform for others to explore and share their own journeys. Grief is something that is usually incredibly private and yet until I began communicating about it, I felt completely suffocated by it. During my husband's illness we made a documentary about the journey and just as it was being interviewed for it, you resisted the idea of sharing your thoughts and feelings, but once you had let go of everything through talking about it, anything and everything seems possible, lighter and brighter. Sharing your own experience not only allows others to process their own lives but externalises thoughts and feelings that once let loose, become more about possibility and new beginnings than just a sad and finite ending. 

What's next for Vashti Whitfield?

Losing my beautiful friend and partner in crime has really taught me that time is of the essence and whilst being in the moment is key, creating and taking action towards the life you want is paramount. So for me 2013 is about turning my blog Maybe McQueen into a place that is to only a platform for cathartic sharing but more of hub for much, much more! There will be video blogs, books, master classes and a real marriage between my work, my passions and how I voice that out there in the world. There will also be the release of a documentary about Andy called ‘Be Here Now’ next year, so keep your eyes peeled for that. You never know, you may even see me hosting a bare all talk show in the USA if I manifest hard enough! Anything is possible.

Check out Vashti's blog - Maybe McQueen
Andy and Vashti have made a feature documentary 'Be Here Now' about Andy's journey. You can follow the progress and support the making of here 
Tomorrow I'll share Vashti's Ten Achievable Steps to Turning New Year's Resolutions into a Reality.

This is the fourth interview in my Yo Mama! series. Interviews with creative working mamas. Look out for them weekly. 


Megan.K. said...

Wow Lexi. Thank you for this one, how inspiring.
Just watched the trailer of the doco and have tears welling.
Vashti, all power to you on your journey ahead.

Kate Dixon said...

What a courageous woman.

Such inspirational words to start the new year with.


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Small Catalogue said...

The Be Here Now kickstarter was the first crowd funded project I'd ever heard of. I'm so glad that it has all come together for this lovely family. What a beautiful way to start 2013 - a grand, lucky year if ever there was one.

theredthread said...

Thanks Lexi for introducing me to Vashti and to Andy. I've just visited Maybe MacQueen and watched the Be Here Now Trailer and I am full of so many emotions, but also incredibly inspired. x

Maggie May Ethridge said...

I read this with great interest, because I always want to hear about how others survive tragedy and heartache. Thank you Vashti, for sharing.