Tag Archives: despair

Acknowledgement & Gratitude…2020 Revised.

Last night, I was going through my list. I don’t know if everyone has a list. However, I’m pretty sure most of us have that list we go back to when something else goes wrong, and for some of us this list of our misfortunes goes round and round in our heads and conversations like a broken record. Indeed, this list can be a millstone round your neck, and it’s no doubt taken many over the edge.

Bilbo watchin the sun set Palm Beach

This photo of Bilbo seemed to sum up the reflective pre-acknowledgement stage of the process.

While some advocate an almost aggressive, constant state of positivity no matter what, I prefer a different course. Indeed, I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about acknowledging the bad stuff which is the equivalent of popping over to visit a friend, without moving in. Indeed, you ACKNOWLEDGE what has happened, and then you you can sit with it for a bit, grieve, process and try to understand what’s happened and why, learn your lessons and even make some constructive fixes if required. However, at the end of that time, you pack your bags and you’re out of there, although you’ll probably pop back for a visit now and then, but as I said, this is very different to moving in. After all, there also comes a time where you need to leave the past behind. I can groan a bit when I hear people talking about moving forward while there’s still a splinter in the wound and it’s all starting to fester. However, not moving forward at all, even without the smallest and almost invisible baby steps, isn’t good either.

Bilbo and paw prints

However, while acknowledging the crap, we also need to be grateful for what’s gone well, or the good things which have come out of the bad. Take on board the yin and yang.

Thinking more about it, gratitude is also a form of acknowledgement, and that when you put these two processes together, it resembles a process which is very familiar. Stacking up your wins and losses. However, if you’re going through a particularly hard time (and let’s face it 2020 hasn’t been great), you might need to work particularly hard to find anything at all to be grateful for. Or, you might feel that the weight of all you’ve lost weighs down that side of the scales so much, that the wins feel pretty light weight and very much out of balance. Indeed, that the hand you’ve been dealt is mighty unfair.

Jonathon Heart Hands 2011

Holding love in his hands…our son painting when he was about 7 years old. What a beautiful young man. 

That’s why I’ve put these two words together as bookends to give them added strength and weight, and to encourage us to see how these two seemingly opposing forces can actually come together and ultimately get us out the other side.

Today, I spent a few hours writing down my Acknowledgements & Gratitudes. Rather than sharing the extended version right now, I thought I’d quickly list them down so people wanting more of a quick snapshot could take that in, rather than getting bogged down. However, as it turns out, even this is not a snapshot.

Quite frankly, in many ways, I’d like to return to New Year’s Eve 2019 when 2020 was all set to be a year of perfect vision.

Meanwhile, this is the bad stuff I’d like to acknowledge so far:

Rowena bogged Western Australia

Getting bogged in a remote sand dune in WA near the Pinnacles around 1990. I’m smiling on the outside but freaking out and seriously concerned about our well-being. 

Acknowledging the Bad Stuff

1) The catastrophic Australian bush fires. During the 2019–2020 Australian bushfire season, 34 people were killed directly while 417 died from smoke inhalation. The impact on our wildlife was absolutely devastating killing around one billion animals, and destroying over 18 million hectares of bush. 5,900 buildings including over 2,800 homes were also destroyed. Despite living well away from these bushfire areas, the dense choking smoke which went on to travel several times round the globe, forced me inside dependent on the air-conditioner to breathe. In hindsight, there were a few times I should’ve gone to hospital, but I didn’t want to be a pest. For awhile there, I was literally hovering in the balance.

2) The Coronavirus. When I think back to New Year’s Eve 2019, it looks like we were like the passengers and crew on board The Titanic feeling utter invincible as it sailed at breakneck speeds through waters dotted with deadly icebergs. When I first heard about the outbreak in Wuhan, China I thought it was going to be like SARS and that it would largely stay over there and leave Australia alone. Our geographical isolation is a blessing and a curse, and means we often miss out. While, our experience has been exceptionally good to date, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t had an impact. As the number of cases initially started to increase, they matched the same trajectory as Italy, and we were expecting things to be a lot worse.

Here’s how the toll of Covid 19 stacks up today on the 20th May, 2020:

Worldwide                                                              Australia

Cases:                         4.89 million confirmed                                        7 069 confirmed

Recovered:                1.69 million                                                            6 411

Deaths:                       1.69 million                                                            100

3) Lock Down due to the Coronavirus/Covid 19. People isolated, businesses closed. Massive job losses. Everything completely out of synch and out of order.

DSC_9231

Even the poor old park bench was in lock down and wrapped up in red tape.

4) I developed a chest infection in March which developed into a repetitive barking cough, asthma and gasping for air well after the infection itself had  cleared. The timing couldn’t have been much worse, just as cases of coronavirus is NSW were rapidly increasing and starting to match Italy’s trajectory. It was not a time where anyone wanted to be heading to hospital, especially someone with dodgy lungs. There was also the concern that I’d end up competing for one of those rare as hen’s teeth ventilators. Or, given my poor health and disability status, I might just be left to die in the corridor (Thank goodness I gave my lung specialist a Christmas card last year!! Next year, I’d better give him a packet of Tim Tams as well).

5) Our son’s school history through Europe was cancelled on the 2nd March, when the NSW Education department banned all out of state excursions. At the time, there were minimal infection rates in Australia and it was just on the cusp of the spread to Italy. So it was very early in the peace and were were feeling a bit cheated. Was this really necessary? They were due to fly out on Wednesday 8th April bound for Berlin. From there, they were heading to Munich, Rome, Sorrento, Pompei, Naples, the French Battlefields of WWI and Paris. What a trip of a lifetime, just gone up in smoke. At the time, we were also unsure of refunds and they’ve only just started coming in. All up, it was a huge hit.

6) In late February, I had a really nasty fall dropping our daughter off at a dance audition when I tripped over a significant crack in the footpath. While I didn’t break any bones, I was in rough shape for a few weeks. I also suspect that the stress of the fall exacerbated the chest infection as it was just managing to behave itself til then.

7) Work. Although my husband’s kept his job during lock down and is working successfully from home, both of our teenaged kids had been looking at picking up part-time jobs this year and that’s gone on hold thanks to Coronavirus. I’d also wanted to pick up some work, and those hopes have also been dashed.

ballet shoes

Dance Classes via Zoom have involved both acknowledgment & Gratitude. 

8) Our house has gone from being a home, and is now an office, school, Church, dance studio, Venturer hall, cafe. That’s been a lot to process.

9) Rather than social isolation, we’ve had the whole family at home under one roof almost 24/7. There have been times where that has grated, although nowhere near as much as expected.

10) My violin lessons have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

11) Much of my daughter’s dance activities have been cancelled this year.

Sunrise

Sunrise, Bathurst pre-Covid.

Gratitude For The Good

  1. My husband & kids who live and breath everything with me. As I’m coughing my lungs out and gasping for breath, they’re running for water, reaching for my ventolin, asking if I need an ambulance and wondering whether this is going to be it. Even our three dogs get called into the battle. We also have a lot of good times together in between.
  2. My parents who have been my rocks forever.
  3. Like all Australians, I’m incredibly grateful to our bushfire volunteers and their support networks. They signed up to help, but found themselves fighting inside the very heart of an apocalypse, and they kept going at incredible personal cost. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  4. Very thankful for the very generous donations from around the world to help save our precious Australian wildlife, and for carers trying to save them.
  5. For the doctors, nurses, hospital staff, chaplains and scientists who are treating people with Covid 19. Or, who are working towards a deeper scientific understanding of the virus and hopefully towards a vaccine or treatment.
  6. That I haven’t contracted Civid and am still here. Also that I recovered from my chest infection and didn’t need to go to hospital during the Coronacrisis.
  7. For our Australian leaders and medicos who responded quickly and efficiently to flatten the curve and provided us with the information and support we needed to get through. Indeed, we’ve far exceeded our grim expectations and I am so grateful for that!!
  8. For the Australian people (and those around the world) who have stayed home, and continue to practice social distancing. This has saved our bacon. (Well, at least, so far.)
  9. Friends and family who have helped me grapple with life, the universe and everything inside my head, and tried to help me accept the mysteries of God and his role in all of this.
  10. A special thanks to the strangers who stopped and helped when I had the fall mentioned in acknowledgements. A teacher from the school went back and found some ice and she dropped me down at McDonald’s down the road where I was meeting my friend, while a man fetched big band aids, saline and antiseptic from the medical kit in his car.
  11. Grateful that my Church has maximized the use of technology during this time to hold Church online and using zoom so effectively to allow us to keep in touch. It’s meant so much for me to keep in touch.
  12. For making significant progress towards researching and writing my books about WWI soldiers serving in France during WWI.
  13. Humour, empathy and understanding  from family, friends, strangers. It’s helped us all get through this.
  14. My Blog and all the friends I’ve developed over the years and the new ones. I typically experience periods of time each year where it’s difficult, impossible or inadvisable for me to go out and beyond my family, you are my social contacts and community. I really and truly appreciate each and everyone of you, all the more so too, because we’ve never met in person.
  15. For the kids’ school for advice, empathy and consideration while the kids were doing school from home, and for putting in strict social distancing practices for the first two weeks where students were back one day a week.
  16. That my daughter’s dance studio has been providing lessons online and she’s been able to dance and keep her dreams and goals of being a professional dancer alive.
  17. Thankful for our son’s venturer leader who thought of ways of keeping the group connected and engaged during lock down.
  18. That we’ve been able to save some money, and clear my credit card.

    Zac & Rosie dogs grass

    Even our grass is greener in lock down.

  19. That we now have a back lawn that’s green and not looking like a tragic lunar landscape after Geoff wrought the backyard back from the dogs.
  20. I don’t want to thank the NDIS because it’s often my bete noir. However, it continues to make a difference and has funded the supports which have also helped me get through this year, and more more personally challenging times.
  21. Surprisingly, we’ve actually been able to save money during lock down and I actually paid off my credit card. Meanwhile, I have also been grateful for a few online purchases. Thinking I’d be in lock down for months, I bought some new Peter Alexander pyjamas on sale…yippee!!
  22. The beauty of nature and being able to go on extended photography walks and experience that beauty more intimately through the lens and back home, through the pen.
  23. Having family time at home without having to rush around. On this point, I’ve also been grateful our kids were teens and I didn’t have little ones at home with the parks and playgroups closed and needing to teach kids myself at home.
  24. Cooking with my kids.
  25. All the people who have helped and offered to help throughout the years.

……

Well, I’m actually rather surprised that my list of gratitude has more than doubled my acknowledgements. So much is really going well for us.That is, despite my health issues, the coronavirus, being in lock down, grappling with the bushfire smoke. It seems we’ve strangely come out of the first six months of 2020 strangely ahead.

However, I am acutely conscious that isn’t the case for everyone. So, I would like to acknowledge those who are grieving, distraught, experiencing PTSD, trauma, and I send you our love. It’s up to those of us further away from the front line, to support those in the thick of it in anyway we can. What you are experiencing is real. You’re not the only one. You’re not going crazy. Well, you’re not going crazy without due cause. May I encourage you to find local sources of support and encouragement and to try to get out for a walk in the sunshine when you can. It’s certainly helped lighten my load, which you can see, hasn’t exactly been lightweight or just been a recent development either. I also have a few key friends I can share with beyond my family, and I do that myself. That’s the value of community…many hands lighten the load.

I would encourage you to do this exercise for yourselves either on or offline. I found it very constructive, especially this was just another one of those blogging ideas I came up with on the fly. That’s right. It all started out with those two simple words: Acknowledgement & Gratitude…another way of looking at our wins and losses.

I would love to hear from you on this and I hope that you’re okay.

Best wishes and much love,

Rowena

Rowena Victory

This photo was taken during chemo to treat my auto-immune disease, where I was at least looking victorious in the midst of some pretty tough times. I hope and pray that we will ultimately conquer Covid 19 with a vaccine and treatment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stone In My Pocket – Friday Fictioneers.

This was it. I took a deep breath. The 23rd Psalm echoed in my head, and I recited the Lord’s Prayer. Not deeply religious and anything but devout, I still kept a toe in with the man upstairs just in case. However, as I stuffed the heavy stones down my shirt and stared into the lake, I wondered whether he’d accept I was repentant, even if I did commit the ultimate, unforgivable sin. However, it was a done deal. I’d left a note, blown my dosh. I closed my eyes….5,4,3,2,1…Geronimo.

Oops. Next time, I’ll find a deeper pond.

…..

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s photo prompt comes from  © Sandra Crook.

 

Slaying the Beast.

Frantic, Sue scoured the gaunt shadows waiting for the night bus to Byron Bay.

“Jazzy! Jazzy!” She screamed, her throat constricting until she couldn’t breathe.

She’d found her daughter’s note, her scrambled handwriting running away in a river of tears. No surprise, it was only the latest chapter in her exhausting, soul-wrenching battle to reclaim her precious baby from the devil ice. Watching Jazzy turn inward, closing all her petals around her like an impenetrable shield, Sue had become a frigging smiling alien. Now, she could only pray. Be her daughter’s shadow…her guardian angel.

Feeding her baby organic, wasn’t enough.

…….

This was a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo prompt from © Shaktiki Sharma.

 

For readers unfamiliar with Byron Bay, it is located in Northern NSW, Australia. Known for its incredible lighthouse overlooking vast sandy beaches, it used to be a hippy haven but has long had a dark undercurrent. Many flee to Byron with serious drug, alcohol and mental health issues searching for answers or simply to run away. We have family living nearby and go up to Byron Bay at least once a year. Our kids have their climbing tree at the railway park where there are some homeless people camping out and is also a focal point for groups reaching out and giving away meals.

So much to think about…

Further reading: The Dark Side of Byron Bay

xx Rowena

R-Rilke: Letters to A Young Poet #atozchallenge.

Dear Rilke,

I am writing to you during my series of Letters to Dead Poets.

Indeed, this series was inspired by your book: Letters to A Young Poet, which contains your correspondence with a young German poet: Franz Xavier Kappus dating from February 17th, 1903 to December 1908. Kappus sent you some of his poems, essentially asking your opinion. Was he good enough to be a poet? Or, should he abandon his dreams? That was pretty much the gist of his first letter.

Unfortunately, I only came across these letters when I was a middle-aged poet, whose poetry had been swamped by the realities of growing up. Yet, somehow my inner poet rekindled and we finally met finding that your advice for young Kappus still held true.

Recently, your letters inspired my own series Letters to Dead Poets… as well as their endless questions! I wasn’t intending to explore the great questions of life. Rather, I came up with the theme for a simple blogging challenge where you write your way through the alphabet during April and many of us have a theme. I had been intending to write about Sydney landmarks but didn’t have time to take the photos and thought this would be an easier choice. While the theme might sound rather morbid, it was actually meant to involve a bit of humour. The only trouble was that most of the poets who’ve inspired me, weren’t funny and had more than truly wandered onto the dark side of the force. So, this has actually been a rather probing journey and nothing like light entertainment.

However, as my husband pointed out, the” lightness of being” has never been my thing[1].

Initially, the plan was to keep these letters short and sweet, moving through the poets like an express train roaring through stations, taking very quick and limited stops. In retrospect, that was wishful, short-sighted thinking. After all, how could I ever engage in any kind of conversation with such minds and not explore the heights and depths of what it means to be human?

I can assure you that’s no quick conversation!

So, I’m retreating  to my cave with a different poet every day and on some days even two, while still trying to juggle the realities of life like what we’re having for dinner and needing to wash a stinky dog. To be honest, it’s become something of an orgy of ideas and I’m absolutely exhausted from so much delight. Indeed, I wouldn’t mind booking myself into some kind of facility where I could write all day and collect my meals at the door. Of course, I have no intention of staying. I’d simply be on “sabbatical”!

After all, I love my family and I love living life, which is what’s given me the strength and resilience to delve into some pretty hard questions and the journey isn’t over yet. Indeed, the end isn’t anywhere in sight. Or, is it? I’m so immersed in the journey that I don’t even know where I am.

rainer_maria_rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

This brings me back to you. Indeed, as young Kappus said:

“And where a great and unique man speaks, small men must keep silence.”

Franz Xavier Kappus 1929.

While you exchanged letters with Kappus just over a hundred years ago, my question is: Would you offer the same advice to young poets now in the 21st Century?

The world has changed a lot but have people at their core still stayed much the same? Does a young person need to go through pretty much the same apprenticeship to become a poet? Or, would you actually advise them not to become a poet at all? Tell them to “go and get a real job”? That being a poet doesn’t pay. That indeed, too many poets have paid with their lives for the privilege and that’s too much!

Why become a poet when there’s such a smorgasbord of alternatives which aren’t such a risk? Safe, secure jobs, which don’t take you to the very depths and dump you there. Leave you  without a thread to find your way out of the labyrinth? Indeed, could it be that staying skin deep could actually be a better road? Just keep on looking forward. Indeed, peer deep into your phone and never glance away.

Of course, I’m not asking you these questions to just to fill the page. I have two kids. While many parents would be thrilled to have their kids follow in their footsteps, I definitely do not want my kids following in mind. Indeed, I pray that a river washes my footsteps away, so they have to blaze their own trail.

Scan10538

My feet photographed in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris in July 1992.

After all, you ask any parent what they truly want for their kids and they all say the same thing …”I just want them to be happy”.

Yet, does being a poet make you happy? Indeed, is being a poet the exact antithesis of happy?

It’s not looking good. Indeed, suicide, depression, drug abuse, all seem to be our tools of trade. That’s hardly an endorsement!

Mind you, I also wonder whether writing poetry actually lets the darkness out. That it’s actually therapeutic.

I understand you were very influenced by Jens Peter Jacobsen who wrote:

 “Know ye not that there is here in this world a secret confraternity, which one might call the Company of Melancholiacs? That people there are who by natural constitution have been given a different nature and disposition than the others; that have a larger heart and a swifter blood, that wish and demand more, have stronger desires and a yearning which is wilder and more ardent than that of the common herd. They are fleet as children over whose birth good fairies have presided; their eyes are opened wider; their senses are more subtle in all their perceptions. The gladness and joy of life, they drink with the roots of their heart, the while the others merely grasp them with coarse hands.”

Jens Peter Jacobsen

What do you think?

Or, is the jury still out?

This brings me to the question of Paris. In a letter to Lou Andreas-Salome you compared Paris to the Military Academy and you “could not say worse than that” and “Often before going to sleep I read the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Job, and it was all true of me, word for word[2]”:

“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.

24 “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
and my pipe to the sound of wailing.

Job 30: 20-31.

I was rather surprised to read about your disdain for Paris. Yet, I related to much of what you wrote. Like you were pining for the vastness of the Russian Plains, I initially found Paris very noisy and claustrophobic. Indeed, I started thinking about a train trip I’d taken on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth across that vast expanse,  the Nullarbor Plain. Oh to be an eagle able to take off and spread my majestic wings without flying straight into a wall!!

330px-Nullabor_plain_from_the_indian_pacific

The Nullarbor Plain, South Australia viewed from the Indian Pacific Railway.

Naturally, I couldn’t help but notice that too many poets have been casualties in Paris. Jimmy Morrison mysteriously met his end in a bathtub in Paris and Oscar Wilde died destitute in his Paris hotel. Is it no coincidence that the world most famous cemetery x is located there?

I don’t know. Do you believe in coincidence? Or, was there some dark influence at work? That at the very heart of the light, there is also the shadow? That life itself is all about this intimate dance and fusion of light and dark?

Anyway, getting back to young poets, my son is only 12 but I wanted to show you a poem he wrote recently for school. I was rather impressed and while I gave him a hand, it was all his own work. I would really appreciate your opinion and a bit of advice.

Do you still believe there’s a place for poets in our world or must we all go out and get a real job?

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

 Through My Window

Looking out my window,
I hear a sound.
Scutter scutter.
Scutter scutter.
Out in the garden,
there’s a little white rabbit.
Mum!
Dad!
But when we get back,
it’s gone…
just like a puff of smoke.

No one believes me.
They just say
that I’m dreaming.
Imagination overload
all over again.
But I know what I saw.

Now,
that I’m back here alone,
the rabbit returns.
It’s glowing gold,
red eyes flashing
in the darkness.
What is it?
Why has it come?

Then, I blink again.
The rabbit burns up into flames
with an even brighter glow
and is gone.

In the morning,
I found no rabbit prints

in the grass.

No sign of the rabbit at all.
Yet,

I know what I saw…

a mysterious rabbit

hopping outside

my bedroom window.

By Mr J

 

[1] Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

[2] Reginald Snell: “Introduction”, Letters to A Young Poet, Dover Publication, New York p. 5.

E-TS Eliot: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

 

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
TS Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Dear Mr Elliot,

Welcome back to the land of the living, although I thought you might have had enough. Would rather be left alone, far away from this land of shadows.

However, while I was pondering all of this, I found a letter on the floor. No signature, only paw prints. Being quite the champion of the underdog, especially in its age old battle against the supercilious cat, I decided to act as messenger and forward you this poem from a group calling themselves: “The Pollicle Dogs”.

old-possums-book-of-cats

Although they could well be a terrorist cell for radicalized canines, I thought they had a point. You made no secret of your love of cats and just to confirm what seems to be a definite bias in the battle between cats and dogs,  there’s definitely no Old Possum’s Book of Practical Dogs to inspire Dogs The Musical, is there?

Not that I’m judging you in any way. It’s just about equality and fairness. That’s all.

To TS Eliot: A Note from The Pollicle Dogs

 In defense of the dog,

we now appear.

A lover of cats,

you hold them too dear!

These killers of birds.

The most stuck up of beasts!

Friends when it suits them

but never for keeps.

Your poems are an outrage,

we tried to have banned.

But then came the musical

that should’ve been canned.

Cats! Cats! Cats! Cats!

All we hear is just cats.

Dogs…pollicle dogs!

Why don’t you write about

 US?!!

Signed,

The Pollicle Dogs.

While evidence strongly suggests that my dogs, Bilbo and Lady, penned this poem, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of their comrades down at Dog Beach were also involved.

dogs

My Dogs…Bilbo and Lady.

You see, I’ve never ever seen a cat down at the beach, which would seem to suggest some kind of demarcation or indeed, the existence of a secret dog society, which could very well be plotting the demise of the cat.

dog beach zoom

Dog Beach.

Personally, I’ve tried talking to my dogs about this before. That we all need to be kind to our enemies. Turn the other cheek. Even apply the Golden Rule. They found  that extremely challenging, not only when it came to being nice to cats, but also when it came to stealing the humans’ food from the table. They’ve actually become a pair of thieving scoundrels of late and have been in endless TROUBLE!!

Indeed, I think they’ve related to those famous last lines of Hollow Men, as they’ve been dispatched hastily “OUTSIDE”:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I must admit that these lines keep returning to me throughout my life. Funny that because so many times, it’s seemed like the end of the world and those lines have been going through my head, when I somehow manage to live right through the moment and life just goes on without any after thought, acknowledgement or recognition. There’s only that inner relief of knowing that I’d made it. That I’d survived another close call, even if that was only my perception.

Like so many who have read your work, I can’t help but wonder at the contrast between your earlier poems and your more comical cat poems. However, through my own experiences of adversity and an understanding of the dark side or shadow, I also appreciate it’s flips side, which is often expressed through a macabre or dark form of humour. Indeed, my husband and I, who are both avid amateur photographers, have observed “the darker the shadow, the brighter the light.” Humour is incredibly therapeutic!

Well, it’s almost time for my kids to arrive home from school. While Mum’s taxi won’t be driving round and round the cactus bush, it certainly seems to be doing more than its fair share of circles round our neighbourhood, especially in the afternoons.

skimbleshanks.jpg

Speaking off which, it’s time for me to head off to the station to pick up my daughter and give a wave to Skimbleshanks. Somehow, he has absconded to the Antipodes.

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

 

 

The DNA of Happiness

As I explained before, I am slowly making my way through the Proust Questionnaire, a tool commonly used by writers for character development. It’s become my goal to work my way through this list a question at a time, preparing for a motivational memoir that I’m working on.

While some of the questions don’t require a huge amount of thought, the first question is a really, thought-provoking challenge:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Now, perhaps, I could’ve simply taken this question at face value and just jotted a few things down.

However, why get straight to the point when you can procrastinate and turn a simple question into a journey?

So, I’ve taken this opportunity to explore the DNA of Happiness.

What actually makes us happy and when you think about being happy, what sort of images come to mind?

Not the “I’ll be happy when…” but the real stuff. What has brought you the greatest, personal happiness?

Or, to put it another way, “What have been the happiest days of your life?”

I wonder if they look anything like mine?

Our Wedding Day....The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

Our Wedding Day….The Happiest Day of My Life. I smiled so much, my face hurt!

“Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside it.”

― Kahlil Gibran

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
Martha Washington

The Arrival of Our Little Man...I couldn't take my eyes off him!

The Arrival of Our Little Man…I couldn’t take my eyes off him!

What does it mean to be happy?”
One kid declared:”If I have a million dollars in the bank, I’ll be happy.” Another announced:”If I’m number one in my chosen profession, I’ll be happy. But I won’t settle for number two.”
The discussion continued with comments in a similar vein. All agreed that money, success, and achievement would make them happy. Not one of these seventeen and eighteen year old kids talked about love, children, relationships, marriage, community or friends. Which made me wonder: When your resume is perfect, how does your soul feel? …If we can buy big houses and powerful cars, we may be able to achieve the illusion of security, but it is still just an illusion. If we do well at school or work, we may get a sense of accomplishment but there will always be a something more to accomplish- happiness will always be around the corner.
Real security only comes when we are comfortable with who we are (and the feeling is enhanced when we are in a relationship where there is mutual love and understanding. Real happiness is a by-product of a life well lived.

Letters to Sam– Daniel Gottlieb

Bringing Miss home from hospital.

Bringing Miss home from hospital.

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Celebrating my Second Birthday with Teddy (my parents don't like to appear on my blog).

Celebrating my Second Birthday with Teddy (my parents don’t like to appear on my blog).

Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not what I look like in the mirror. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it’s as close to healthy as I ever feel.”

Morrie…Tuesday’s With Morrie, Mitch Albom.

Graduation from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Graduation from the University of Sydney in 1992.

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult, no longer matters.”
M.Scott Peck: The Road Less Travelled.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

-Aeschylus (Quoted by Robert F. Kennedy in his Eulogy to Martin Lurther King.4th April, 1968.)

Overseas Travel. Pictured here in Florence, Italy.

Overseas Travel. Pictured here in Florence, Italy.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”
“On Joy and Sorrow” Kahlil Gibran

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
John Keats: “Ode to Melancholy”.

What with all this pondering about happiness and also its inter-relationship with sorrow, I thought I’d better start reading what seemed a pretty good authority on the nature of happiness…”The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler. Although I am only up to page 75, this book really is well worth reading.

The Dalai Lama basically states that: “The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness.” This happiness can be achieved through training the mind. Underlying all the Dalai Lama’s methods, there is a set of basic beliefs that act as a substrate for all his actions: a belief in the fundamental gentleness and goodness of all human beings, a belief in the value of compassion, a belief in the policy of kindness, and a sense of commonality among all living creatures.”

In terms of how to train the mind, the Dalai Lama says:
“When we speak of this inner discipline, it can of course involve many things, many methods. But generally speaking, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this,one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness.”

Christmas brings a lot of happiness....and also heartache.

Christmas brings a lot of happiness….and also heartache.

Yet, despite getting all philosophical, perhaps happiness really is as simple as this:

“Happiness is a warm puppy”- Charles Schultz.

Bilbo as a pup.

Bilbo as a pup.

I’m sure Bilbo would agree!

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that while I’ve been researching happiness, I’ve come down with serious bronchitis. Today, I was back to the doctor and given a powerful combination of two antibiotics and am on the nebuliser every 2 days during the day. If this doesn’t work, I’m off to hospital tomorrow afternoon. Although my health isn’t great, I am happy and content.

Why is this so?

Perhaps, because my ongoing health battles have made me quite conscious of seizing the day and what matters. For me, that’s my family, my writing, being part of community, my faith, getting out with the dogs and walking along the beach in the sun, photography, playing my violin. I am living my life to the very fullest. Things could be better. Could be worse but I’ve worked through all that and really do have a strong sense of hope that I am going to keep winning this ongoing battle.

-+