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It’s usually played at remembrance ceremonies and funerals for soldiers. In some ways, this last post isn’t very different from that of a B bugle call playing in the distance as the sun rises to remember brave soldiers and battles fought.
Only this time around, it is my battle and not those I’d reflected on in remembrance.
In the past ten months, I found out I had cancer cells, had to sit around for six months waiting to hear if they got them all (which they did… I put it down to telling them to f#@* off), sustained an arm injury which tore me away from work and study for six months, was physically assaulted, someone deleted all my websites, I had to move house unexpectedly, couch and floor surfed for nearly four weeks and to put the cherry on top, was in my new house for two weeks and got broken into. And this list certainly doesn’t count all the other lemons, some of them just too damn bitter to recollect in an open forum.
Do you know what it’s like to feel like you’re losing your sanity? And you don’t even know why? To sit on a tram, only to turn around half way on the journey because you just couldn’t be around people? Finding every excuse in the world why you couldn’t, wouldn’t, just damn well didn’t want to see anyone. How going through a box of tissues in a day was normal and you became used to darkness descending at 7am, forcing a day under the covers in the hope you would wake up and it would all just be a bad dream.
I knocked back the anti-depressant prescriptions : I had a tried and tested tool of focussing on the small things that bring us to life. Besides, I didn’t need to add to the GDP to make Australia an even greater country. I withdrew from most of the world, including friends, was careful where I went, who I was with and what I was doing. I continued to sketch, write and outwardly seemed to be alive. Internally I was desperately trying to fight off the insanity of how I was feeling and it was only because I never forgot who was hidden inside that the embers kept alight.
Last year I celebrated my birthday by climbing Mt Agung in Bali, celebrating with friends on the coast and on returning home, had one fun karaoke night with some beautiful people, recognising the awesome of every page within my chapter 39.95. This year’s birthday, I struggled getting out of bed, I didn’t want to see anyone, managed to stretch myself for lunch and at the very last minute braved it in a room full of strangers at a story-telling night. The theme was turning points, and half way through the night, I decided to share a few of mine. You can’t have had a full life like mine and not had some turning points that have whipped your life 360°.
At the height of my stress levels and depression, the assault happened. Talk about hitting you when you’re down. Thank goodness #b03, a daily blog commitment, came along. Every day I sat, sometimes, all day, to pump out a post on something great that happened in the day or a reflection I had on the past. I credit this month, along with #MindfulinMay, for dragging me off the floor and keeping me focussed, on my writing, and my sanity. That, and a very humbling post from a wonderful friend who had taught me about purpose and owning your story and the comments from people when I made it to the final three of a blogging competition. They were all part of my turning point to understand the power of self-responsibility to take control. That and the realisation I was on a collision path.
This soldier was ready to stand up and start fighting. And again, whip my life 360°.
I started this blog when I accepted a challenge. I do have stories to share that could change the world, but this blog was always primarily to help me change my own world. Considering all the lemons that life had thrown at me, at first I wasn’t entirely sure I needed anymore challenges. So the preface was I would keep writing until I, or anyone else, didn’t need it anymore.
That time has come.
Over the past two years, I’ve never written for anyone else nor felt the need to promote my thoughts to the wider universe. It was my therapy. My passion. And my need to focus on the fact that life is unrelenting in its gifts of experience, people, opportunity and self.
I realised wealth and GDP prosperity are definitely not predictors of life satisfaction. We’re spending more money on ‘stuff’, making children’s hospital wards like first class resorts, building multi-million dollar social housing complexes and still don’t have enough, designing more prisons and detention centres, spending big on credit cards, destroying native forests with big trucks and large tools, spending more money on bicycles, house and car locks as theft increases, employing more police, consuming more food, alcohol and cigarettes, spending more money on pokies than on rates in many local council areas, donating more money to charities and yet have more social problems than ever before, destroying our natural wonders with mines and urban sprawl with excess for sale, earning more, still fighting the war in Afghanistan and our spending on anti-depressants is hitting all time highs. Yay : at 1371 billion dollars, we’ve got one of the highest GDPs on the planet. We should be so proud of ourselves spending all that cash so wisely… and happy.
As I reflect on my 158 bloody rippers over the past two years, I realise how so much of what makes life worthwhile is not measured : the innocence and joy of a young child, the strength of our relationships, the beauty of our art, digging out our courage, a breathe of fresh air in the midst of nature’s best, the setting of a sun. If our existence and success were measured by life’s joys, we’d all be abundant. And not just our country.
Despite the lemons, me and life have managed to still walk hand in hand:
- Finding old memories
- Bucket lists
- Completing my first biathlon
- Fridge notes can change the world
- The power of courage
- My first tattoo
- Noticing everything around you
- Letters to Santa
- New found love for sketching
- Top ten travel experiences
- Ten things I value
- The nurture of nature
- New year wrap-ups
- A better planet
- All the bloody rippers
With the setting down of the sun, I will remember them. I may need to come back to this safe space at some stage. But unlike global wars over the centuries that we just don’t seem to be able to learn from, it’s time to hold that mirror up and use every one of my darn lemons to push me into neutral territory.
As much as I appreciate social media for its ability to connect me to so many amazing people I have had the pleasure to cross paths, the doors it has opened, the information it has made available, the world it allows you to explore, and the access it provides to new opportunities, events and people, our friendship is going to take a small hiatus. At its core, it is an incredible resource, but right now, I need to commit to my own projects and not learn about others. I need to open my own doors and not simply peep into others. I’ve explored the world and it’s now time to start exploring my visions. I want photos with my friends because we’re out doing things together. I want to be able to come back from my hiatus taking action on my loves and not simply liking everyone else’s.
It’s time to say goodbye to the external forces and hello to the internal power.
A few years ago, I had a dream about a domain name : www.give.com.au. As a direct result of my experiences overseas, I spent a lot of money and time to build a pretty big fair trade website, working with projects I had visited and researched. I wanted to change the world, or at least make a small imprint on some communities that had made a huge impact on me. Fail. External and internal forces were at play and it’s only recently I came to the understanding I was never going to be able to sell hand bags : I hate shopping.
By understanding the power of my story, it is now I truly understand that before you can give to others, you must begin with yourself. You must be able to stand up in your own power and at the end of your life, whenever that may be, be proud of what you did, what you didn’t do, who you loved, what you let go of, what you accepted, where you went, who you journeyed with and the person you were. All the ideas I have had over the last few years will now be married to create a new www.give.com.au : one that encourages you to give to self, and others. My journey has allowed me to meet the people I needed to meet to make this happen, and for once in my life, I’m putting my hand out to accept some help.
I want to give my writing purpose in a new way, leaving the scope of my life and the joy it brings to focus on some inspiring people that know what it’s like to find purpose. Before I never cared about who read what I wrote. Now I do. I want to start work on my biography. And I want to create some really fun projects allowing others the space to give to themselves… every little part of them and not just a glory box of stuff. www.thedinnertable.com.au is a big part of that : bringing people together to share, connect and create. I still want to change the world in a small way and everything I do will have that as its underlying glue.
The biggest opportunity we have on the planet right now is not to solve any of the world’s greatest problems. It is to inspire a society of change-makers. That change-maker starts with me.
Right now, I’m so glad I’ve had 43 jobs, travelled to 43 countries, have some amazing people in my life, have lost count of the amazing experiences I have had, stood up and fought the battles and now lay down my weapon of choice for the past two years to get on with it.
Three days ago, my friend Richard who had already done so much for me by allowing me to explore purpose in a three day retreat, again put out his helping hand and invited me to a Real Leadership workshop. One of the activities was to pull out from a large selection three pictures that represented three timeframes, one story. With a grin, Rich heckled me for doubling the selection, knowing only too well that in this case, I needed to own my story.
In short, the past is represented by the darkness of which I believe is an important part of my story as well as the strength to stand up from the battle and move forward. The loose threads of my life have been ripped apart to now allow me the ability to bring them all together as a conduit towards the future. I can’t do it alone, I need variety, and I welcome everyone else’s playlists to inform and inspire the future journey. No matter how far apart, how little time we spent together or how close we are, I thank those deeply who have travelled with me on the journey so far and welcome those who are yet to come. And as for the future? One of my favourite films is “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring”. Through stunning cinematography, it is a journey through life’s lessons and at the moment I feel embedded in the contrast of those seasons. I want to continue that journey, knowing I have some handy tools to keep the weeds at bay and there’s going to be one garden I am now ready to focus on… and I want it to flourish.
As for right now, it’s off into the spring sunshine to sit and design “A Beautiful Day” and a gratitude project as required of my Masters in Wellness and then plan to make them happen. Who ever thought when you decided to study at university for the first time in your life, you would be allowed to write about what you’ve written about for two years… just when you’re playing the last post.
Life… it can be so
you bloody ripper!
To Richard, Angie, Glenda, Gregory, Michelle, Steph, Damien, Dani, Yvette, Nynke, Inge, Aaron, Carol, Adam, Diana, Jarrod, Kal, Mike, Annie, Linnet, Calm in the City, Mindful in May, #b03, SLAMALAMADINGDONG! Poetry Slam, Arts in Action, Stillwaters, Enchanted Evenings and The Holos Group. Thank you for being my brakes.
For 5.5 years of my life, I lived out of a backpack. Life was never more simple than having only what I needed, nothing more. Well, I suppose the odd chocolate may not count, but I’ll put that down to essential treats. And then there was the badminton racket strapped to the backpack, essential when an all day traffic jam required some entertainment.
I often moved frequently, occasionally I’d stop a little longer. Life was uncomplicated. Underwear was cheap.
Last year, I moved three times within the same city, and not all intentionally.
I wrapped. Packed. Loaded. Unloaded. Unpacked. And then….did it all over again. And again.
When I found myself surrounded by boxes for the third time, I realised that my unrequired possessions were my unrequired burdens. It was time for me to dig into the depths of fearlessness and get back to the simplicity of decluttered essentials, with a few treats and entertainment included in there for good measure… and sanity.
And so the piles began: donations that did not include used underwear or ½ empty bottles of shampoo, the junk pile, the recycle pile, the things I really needed, the things I might use once in a while and the things I needed to fix before I could use them.
I looked at every object and appreciated it for what purpose it may have served, who gave it to me, who I thought would make better use of it, and placed it in the pile it needed to be. The ‘just in case I get invited on a date’ wasn’t this time round good enough to keep the ball gown my Vietnamese friend made me as a farewell gift. But I may want to wear the Laos ethnic jacket I was given in exchange for some silk worms. It was a tussle, but with the help of fearlessness, the declutter found my home, head, and myself, just a little lighter.
I no longer live out of a backpack, and still probably have a little more than I need with two rooms filled with my worldly possessions. This includes a lot of towells (masseuse), lots of books (student), office essentials (business), mementos (traveller), lots of paperwork (taxman), a keyboard, digital radio and quite a few CDs (entertainment), kitchen utensils (essential if you love spending time in the kitchen) and quite a few products left over from my old fair trade site (anyone want a silk handbag).
The freedom of a life based on essentials of the material, heart and purposeful kind has an addiction that I will again one day crave for, but at this point, I don’t feel it necessary to completely reduce my life to a backpack’s essentials.
Everything I need in my life right now, is within reach.
you bloody ripper!
You need to get in quick – there’s no time to spare before the thoughts, messages and pictures of your quick wit and fast action make way for reality.
Don’t be in such a rush to clear the way for the morning preparations. Make some time to dig out that inner Dali and let loose on an audience of one.
And for those who may come after, love notes, to do lists, words of wisdom and big fat kisses are always welcome to be found on the frosted glass canvas of the bathroom gallery.
Finger painting just came back in vogue.
you bloody ripper!
Other times, it rains for days. Sometimes even weeks. On the odd occasion, you may even wonder when it might stop.
I’ve had enough downpours in my life to have built an arsenal of umbrellas. Sometimes they may pop a few corners, but they still work. Besides, it’s not a bad thing to get wet. Don’t we bathe to cleanse?
I have nothing positive to say.
I can’t believe these words crossed my lips. And yet two days ago they did. I curled myself into a foetal position and cried. Downpour. I sat in a strange house, in a suburb I’ve never been to, surrounded by boxes and bags when 24 hours prior I was nice and settled, focussed, writing proposals, planning and lining up interviews with some amazing people.
In my travels, I’ve seen a depth and breadth of life that usually shifts me out of ‘feel sorry for self’ mode pretty quickly. I have no reason to complain. I have a roof over my head. I have clothes (albeit they are packed somewhere). I have food. I have health. That was until the call from the doctor saying I needed to come back in. Biopsy needed. Hit me when I’m down.
I was standing on the batter’s mat with an entire team throwing balls at me. This time, I had no energy to fight back.
I slept. I cried. I reflected. I cried some more. And then I woke up.
Some people walk in the rain. Others just get wet. Roger Miller
I deserved to feel the way I was. That was my first acknowledgement. Secondly, we cannot be expected to act on information we didn’t have as much as we make decisions based on what we know. Nor should we always have to feel that we don’t have a right to complain. And so I allowed myself to feel every emotion. I gave myself the right to feel sorry for myself.
So I’m still surroundered by bags, mess and uncertainty. But I have a funding application to write, a masters paper to complete and a website to develop.
And so I step one foot at a time. And I won’t stop walking.
you bloody ripper!
I had prepared to head into the city for a day’s planning. But the perfect autumn day beckoned me to stop. Pull up a chair. Fluros were replaced with a flawless blue sky. Warming sun replaced howling winds. Windows to nowhere exchanged places with flourishing gardens.
There was no commute. Taking time to prepare lunch allowed connection to passion. The waft and flavours of cauliflower and lentil dahl provided contentment. Silence brought clarity. Stillness stimulated motivation.
Space provided natural inspiration.
you bloody ripper!
Whilst living in Asia for almost 3 years, I was known to go into the kitchen of many local restaurants, market stalls and village homes. And not just because I couldn’t read the menu.
I wanted to learn. Basic. Fresh. Traditional. Simple. Delicious.
Many a time I sat and helped. Peeling the stringy outer of pumpkin vines. Soaking dried mushrooms. Splitting almonds. Stuffing tofu. Slicing lotus root. Plucking chickens.
I love food. I love to get my hands into the food. I love watching people passionate about food. I appreciate a degustation menu and savour the flavours of a simple slow-cooked broth.
I was in need of some nourishment. Off to my favourite market in Melbourne for some Asian flavours. In the afternoon at Box Hill, it is easy to imagine oneself back in Beijing, and not simply because of its large Asian community.
Persimmons, lychees, lotus root, purple spinach, water spinach, watercress, bamboo shoot, kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, a plethora of mushrooms, tofu and herbs beckon with their exotic aromas, to select and fill one’s basket to overflowing. It smells of Asia. And the last minute stallholder cry of ‘bags for $1′takes me home.
With an extra workload than I’d planned, a little weariness had descended into my life. So the perfect remedy was a herbal chicken soup. With a market bag filled with fresh vegetables, free range chicken, chinese dates, lycium, longans, astragalus, ginseng and goji berries, this soup was definitely packed with ancient remedies and goodness.
If you ever wondered why chicken soup is good for the soul, perhaps it is because it is filled with natural carnosine, a potent anti-oxidant that prevents cell damage and improves cell function. The Chinese also believe that it nourishes the qi, our natural energy flow.
Goodness knows mine was stagnating. And I needed it to floweth.
So whether chicken soup has the placebo effect of all good food, or its ancient curative powers are based on proven medical research, I don’t really mind.
Dice. Slice. Wash. Peel. Soak. Clean. Chop. Slow cook.
Home made. Hand made. Made with soul.
Ah… that feels better now.
you bloody ripper!
Firm-n-Fold massage tables don’t come up very often. And if I’m ever to be a good practitioner, I need one soon.
It’s not like a coffee table or a comfy couch. I’m not looking for colour or style but a rare commodity amongst the hundreds of imported copies.
The last one I found had a 11.30pm finish. I believe I was drooling by 10.15pm… outbid.
Finally, a decent hour, a decent colour, a decent location and hopefully a decent price.
30… 29… 28… 27… you have been outbid… new bid… page download taking forever… anxious wipe of the brow… 17… 16… no, not again… fingers faster than Clark Kent in a telephone booth…
Congratualations. You have won!
It may not have been the lottery, but I am now the proud owner of just what I wanted, at the right price, picked up only five minutes from home, and joined the previous owner for dinner as I commented about the awesome smell on arrival. Let’s see how I go the rest of the week with the eBay winner’s mantra:
Never give up, no matter how many times you fail or need a rest stop. Belief, persistence, staying calm and keeping your eye on the goal, is guaranteed to bring success.
you bloody ripper!
I’m talking car park fury.
You know the feeling.
Nothing. Nudda. Zilch. One more lap. Race to the next aisle only to be pipped at the post by a new contender. Sweat on the brow. Raised voices. Was that a swear word? Oops, finger slipped. Ok. Make that a nasty scowl.
Anxiety levels seem to be at an all time high enroute to the weekly shopping. You know there are limited parks and there is limited time.
Stay focussed. Stay positive. Loosen the grip. Believe in the power of the car park fairy.
Drive in. Reverse lights. The carpark lottery has finally pulled my lucky number.
you bloody ripper!