Departing for the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, 16 year old ballerina and proud Ngemba woman, Stella Donovan was asked what inspired her to dance.
“When I was five, I found a jewellery box at the tip with a ballerina twirling around inside. She was deadly and I wanted to dance like her. All me friends and aunties were into netball, but ballet was my thing. I hope to encourage other Aboriginal girls to pursue their dreams.”
Then, the tragic news came through.
Stella had broken her foot moments before she went on, but she wouldn’t let it ground her dreams.
I learn a lot writing these pithy 100 words of fiction. Many of you will know that our daughter is an aspiring ballerina and that things haven’t been easy over the last couple of years with covid and she recently snapped a ligament in her foot, but she’s back on deck again although not about to compete in Switzerland. She has the end of year concert coming up soon and next year will be onto auditions. To add a bit of a twist, I made this ballerina an Indigenous Australian a Ngemba woman from the outback town of Bourke where my Great Great Uncle, Herb Bruhn, was the head of the Bourke Dramatic and Musical Society and put on Cleopatra and Oklahoma under rather challenging circumstances and then had his pianist move away with no replacement. I admire his pluck! Anyway, I was delighted to find out that we have an Indigenous ballerina in the Australian Ballet, Ella Havelka, a Wiradjuri woman from Dubbo with a very encouraging story: What It’s Like To Be The First Indigenous Dancer in the Australian Ballet
Today, I am standing taller after watching Standing Tall, a powerfully inspiring event geared towards bringing out the best in our youth, helping them soar towards their dreams, and ultimately help them resist the notorious pitfalls lurking around. Acknowledging the “challenges” of the past two years, this year’s theme was “Dream Again”, which was very apt.
Okay, I can hear you saying that even in the wildest realms of my imagination, I am not a 16 year old schoolgirl like our inimitable Miss. “Who do you think you are? Go and take a look in the mirror and grow up!”
Well, in my defence, I want to make it clear that I wasn’t just watching Standing Tall for my own benefit. Yet, my motives were not purely altruistic either. I have a heartfelt passion and concern for our young people, especially after the last two years of covid and extended lockdowns. In that time, so many dreams and realities have sunk like stones, seemingly to the very depth of the abyss never to return. Moreover, two weeks ago, I attended a two day course given by Lifeline covering suicide intervention. As a parent of teens, I did this with particular thought to the young people who cross my path, hop in my car or occasionally sleep on our couch. Yet, there’s a space well before despair sets in where the seeds of self-confidence, hope, and hard work can grow and bear fruit. After all, we might never know what a difference a smile or a few words of encouragement can make to someone else’s life. This is where Standing Tall fits in.
Anyway, although covid is still around and has been joined by a nasty flu, the tide has turned and we have new beginnings. In recognition of these renewed hopes, the theme for Stand Tall 2022 is Dream Again, which is good for all of us.
So, I’m going to recommend straight up that after you finish this post, you go straight to the live stream replay. If you know some young people, especially living in Australia, see if you can get them to watch it too. It will be available free online for the next three months. By the way, if you can’t get them to watch it, watch it yourself and try to drop a few of these golden seeds of wisdom and encouragement into conversation.
“Every student has the capacity to make someone else’s experience of school better.”
Hon. Jason Clare, Minister for Education at Standing Tall 2022
Now turning to Standing Tall, each of the speakers encouraged me enormously. As I mentioned earlier, my interest in Standing Tall wasn’t purely altruistic. I’ve been in a state of extended limbo after having chemo to treat my muscle-wasting auto-immune disease. It took me quite a long time to get back on my feet, the family had been through a lot, and I also wasn’t the same person that I was before. I didn’t want to go back. I wasn’t well enough to move forward, and certainly I wasn’t too keen to fast-forward too far ahead either. I didn’t expect to be here. However, thankfully that hasn’t come to pass, and ironically I’ve actually been a lot better since covid came along. I haven’t caught so many chest infections and I haven’t caught covid.
So, to use Facebook parlance, my journey has been “complicated”.
I have also given a few motivational talks myself. I’ve also written numerous posts here on Beyond the Flow touching on things. However, I haven’t written the book, and considering I’m a writer, it becomes more of a sin of omission than for someone else. Yet, at the same time, as my writing lecturer at university, Michael Wilding, used to say: “writing is a thinking process”. So, when those thoughts are incredibly traumatic, it’s no wonder the writing process pauses or even stops.
Now, getting back to Standing Tall, the first speaker, Duku Foré, really hit me right between the eyes. Duku was born in a refugee camp in Uganda and lived there with his family for ten years. His life changed abruptly when his family came to Australia as refugees. However, in many regards Australia wasn’t the promised land. It wasn’t easy starting out in a new country. For many years, he was the only black child in his class and also had a severe speech impediment. He was bullied at school, and also got into trouble himself. Despite all of this, he set out to inspire others through motivational speaking, and at 19 represented Australia at the United Nations. If you would like to hear more about his story, here’s another interview.
“Do something today that your future self would be proud of…”
I’m not going to go into every speaker or I’d be writing for a year. However, I also wanted to mention humanitarian and cancer survivor Michael Crossland. His journey is particularly relevant to me as he has overcome numerous life-threatening health issues, and is still here to tell the tale. Although he’s told this story many times before, he spoke with an emotional rawness as though he was telling his story for the very first time. However, his story wasn’t just about recounting his traumas. Rather, he has made what would be considered extraordinary achievements for the average Joe, and yet he has ongoing, diabolical health issues. How is it so? I don’t know but his mother also has this extraordinary fighting spirit. Grit. Tenacity. Supernatural strength and optimism. Michael is also a humanitarian and has given back, which includes buying a house for his mum. My words feel dreadfully inadequate. So, here’s a direct link to another motivational talk which overlaps with his talk at Standing Tall.
Another speaker I found particularly interesting was model and blogger Harmony Butcher. She spoke the dangers for young people about self-image on social media. Indeed, she wrote this enlightening post about self-image on her blog. As she spoke, she mentioned a statistic that 25% of people feel they need to change some aspect of their appearance to be feel acceptable on social media. Being a bit more mature in years, I found this statistic staggering. Yet, I just realized that I’m guilty of this myself. It’s exceptionally rare for me to have any photos taken of me wearing my glasses, although I wear them all the time. Indeed, although I’ve been posting here at Beyond the Flow for ten years and fairly open, how many of you have seen me in my glasses? Sure, it’s only a small alteration, but so is airbrushing out pimples, freckles or wrinkles. To be fair, this what we do with makeup anyway, and who really puts their real, undoctored physical self out there anyway? Well, let me assure you that aside from the glasses, what you see of me here is what you get. I rarely wear makeup in real or online life, but I’m also currently living the quiet life.
“Some people would do anything to have your bad day.”
I also wanted to share the story of Danny and Leyla Abdullah. On the 1st February, 2020 their lives were shattered and changed forever when a drunk driver mounted the footpath and killed three of their six children: Antony 13, Angelina 12, and Sienna 8, along with their cousin Veronique Sakr 11. The randomness of the accident and that one family would experience such a catastrophic loss, especially due to a drunk driver, was devastating. How could they go on? Understandably, there was strong community outrage towards the driver. Yet, a few days after the accident, Leyla Abdullah publicly forgave him. How could this be? Indeed, in her talk, she emphasized that she forgave the driver before he apologised. Extraordinary. She also said that “forgiveness is a choice. It’s like a muscle. The more you practice it, the better you get.”
Danny and Leila Abdullah didn’t stop there. They have created a national day of forgiveness, i4give Day, to remember the loss of their children and niece, and for everyone to think about someone they can forgive or ask for forgiveness. Forgiving others is critical, releasing our hearts from the toxic poison of hate, resentment and revenge.
The Abdullahs also had a special surprise at Standing Tall. It was their little bundle of joy and hope…their 10 week old baby girl, Selina. Of course, she doesn’t take the place of her lost siblings, but seeing a new life created out of the ashes was so encouraging. Indeed, I was jumping for joy in my chair.
“You can’t silence fear, but you can turn up the volume of hope and faith and drown it out”.”
Next up, was Olympian and long-distance runner, Eloise Wellings, who is also the co-founder of the Love Mercy Foundation. Eloise had some really good things to say, which focused on overcoming setbacks and disappointment, believing in your potential and to keep going. She also mentioned something I’ve observed, and that some young people had developed a culture where it is better not to try than to fail. That they use the term “to be a sweat” to knock down people who apply themselves. When I was at school, the term was “swot”. Eloise was really encouraging and said: “you won’t regret trying.” She also advised focusing on the process rather than the big goal. “Get the next step done.” Talk about good advice, and certainly applies to me and the book project.
Bella Taylor Smith deserves an extra-special mention as she not only spoke but also performed. For those of you who may not know Bella, she won The Voice Australia 2021. Bella has her own story of overcoming adversity and is now touring with Guy Sebastian.
“It’s not what happens to you. It’s who you choose to become”.
Last, but not least, there was 19 year old Alex Noble On Sunday the 21st of October 2018 16 year old Alex Noble was doing what he loved best – playing rugby. As a rising sports star he was training with the Under-17 NSW Rugby Sevens youth selection squad. Tragically he was badly injured on the field, breaking his neck and severely damaging his spinal cord. Since then, Alex has poured all the tenacity and resilience he’d applied to his rugby training into his recovery and has made incredible progress. He has also started the Alex Noble Foundation whose motto is “I fight you fight”. (I’m looking back at my notes now and I see the phrase “We are unbreakable” circled. I know from personal experience what it’s like to experience a gruelling physical setback and barely be able to move myself. However, thanks to a reasonable diagnosis with treatment among other things, I am now doing remarkably well!)
So, what were the take homes from this extraordinary day?
I think the bottom line was that even the most extraordinary dreams are possible if we work hard, persevere, and develop the resilience to be able to bounce back from setbacks. At the same time, we might also have to find a new pathway when our dream sinks, regroup and find another. Secondly, we are not alone in our triumphs or tribulations. When we triumph, think about others around you and pitch in. If you’re at rock bottom, you are not alone. Help is at hand. It is also possible that while you’re at rock bottom, you will meet others who aren’t being reached. So, even in the depths of your own despair, you can offer hope to others. Well, I added that bit, but I know it to be true. This is another of my own observations… we need to keep ourselves in good physical, mental and spiritual shape because we don’t know when adversity is going to hit and the bumps will be less intense if we’re in good shape. As the Scout motto says: “Be prepared!”
I hope this encourages you to check out the live stream so you can absorb and apply their wisdom and zest for an abundant life, and I would personally like to thank everyone who contributed towards the day for having such a big impact on me and my family.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you, especially if you attended Standing Tall or like me tuned into the live stream.
Welcome to Day 10 of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. As you may be aware, my theme this year is Motivational Quotes and these are geared towards people like myself who are working on their first book and getting it published one way or another. Obviously, it’s a long road from INSPIRATION to PUBLICATION!
Today, it was a toss up whether to choose inspiration or imagination. While there is much common ground, there is a distinction. In the end, I had Roald Dahl representing Imagination:
“There is no life I know to compare with pure
imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly
wish to be.”
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole
world around you because the greatest secrets are
always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who
don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl
However, when it came to INSPIRATION, there was Jonathon Livingstone Seagull:
“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the
fishing boats, there’s reason to live!
We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find
ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence
and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
Personally, I don’t have any trouble finding inspiration or with being inspired. That after all is the initial spark which gets the fire going. It’s keeping that spark alight once I’m further down the track, where I struggle.
I am starting to understand that process better now. While they say slow and steady wins the race and that you need to pace yourself, I find that it’s more a case of making quick and easy progress at the start and a lot more effort is required as you progress through your project and that you could well have less return as well, especially if you’re talking about pure word count. Understanding that process is helping me overcome some of the doubts which sets in when the going gets tough.
Just another thought…. much of what I read about getting that book done and dusted talks about word limits. Stuff like write 1000 words a day. However, what you don’t hear, is that not all words are created equal. Perhaps, one day you might only write one word, but that word will change everything. Perhaps, not only just for yourself, but also for your readers.
I am currently writing a compilation of biographical short-fiction built around our combined gene pool of persons past. With this, I’m not as concerned about word length finding an angle. Something which will touch and inspire people. I want to put my finger on the pulse if that makes sense. So, instead of generating thousands and thousands of words, I’m immersing myself in research plucking the story out piece by piece like a restorer and yet hopefully infusing that spark which will bring these people back to life. This is a spark which all of our characters need in order to engage our readers, who are after all, our audience.
What inspires me most about these characters is when they overcome adversity in some way and that’s what I want to share. That we are not alone. Not the only ones who have ever been through trials and tribulations, been in the wrong place at the wrong time. These is something universal about being human and that is very much part of and the inspiration behind what I write. I want to help others, and I also want writing somehow help me put bread and butter on the table because none of us can survive on air. We need an income.
So, what inspires you and your writing? What do you do when your inspiration wanes? I’d love to hear from you!
Welcome back to my series of motivational quotes for writers and creatives for this year’s Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Today, I’ve decided to focus on three words which, at least in my mind, go hand in hand…Dreams, Doubt and Determination. Indeed, they’re all part of the production process which take us through to the finish…The End.
How often has a writer or creative person been described as a dreamer? Moreover, while we might view being a dreamer in a positive light, the description is usually applied in the more derogatory sense…”You’re a dreamer'”. Or to quote one of my favourite Australian movies, The Castle: “Tell ’em he’s dreamin'”
“Writers write. Dreamers talk about it.”
Jerry B. Jenkins
Yet, in many ways, creatives need to be dreamers. Not only to come up with the initial creative spark which inspires a project, but also to set aside a massive chunk of time devoting yourself to something unknown, unseen… a vision. Something where there isn’t a pay packet at the end of each week, and you’re turning your back on the well-worn road to a warm seat at a much-used desk and having what is otherwise referred to as a “real job”. In this sense, it takes us back to my first word in this series “adventure”. While “adventure” is usually portrayed as a more rugged and physically challenging form of travel often involving daring physical feats like climbing Mt Everest, writing a book out of nothing, is also “a daring adventure”. It’s a massive risk, when there are so many other tried and tested paths. It is anything, but the easy road. Yet, somehow for some of of us, it becomes the only road.
This leads me to the flip side of dreaming, self-doubt. While that initial creative spark can be rather intoxicating, the process of converting that into a finished product is challenging involving a lot of hard work, dedication and often crippling self-doubt.
Having experienced crippling self-doubt myself, I wasn’t surprised to find an abundance of quotes covering on the subject. Although he lived centuries ago, William Shakespeare could have been writing about me:
“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
― William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
However, it’s not just the up and coming who are plagued by doubt. In Modernism’s Patriarch (Time Magazine, June 10, 1996)] Australian Art Historian, Robert Hughes wrote:
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt.
Perfect confidence is granted to the less
talented as a consolation prize.”
Even the great Tennessee Williams wrote:
“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how
completely unsure I am of my work and myself
and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of
others has always given me.”
This self-doubt can escalate and literally gain a stranglehold either in terms of creatives taking their own lives. Indeed, this incredibly heart-breaking loss of life is something our creative communities need to address. Too many have taken their own lives to keep hiding their epitaphs under the carpet. While nothing compared to the loss of life, too many truly brilliant ideas and valiant efforts have also been dashed against the rocks due to self-doubt.
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot
paint, then by all means paint and that voice
will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh
This brings me to determination, which often starts out with something incredibly basic…simply taking action.
On a personal note, the photos featured in this post were taken at Palm Beach back in 2014 while I was having chemo treatment for my auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. At this point in time, my future was looking rather grim, but I was also very determined to beat it. My kids were ten and eight at the time, and as much as getting a book published has long been my burning, almost all-consuming desire, the prospect of leaving my kids behind was excruciatingly painful. That was five years ago and the treatment worked and I’ve been in remission ever since, with ongoing ups and downs.
So when you see me standing on top of that rock, it personifies determination and overcoming all sorts of doubt. I also needed quite a lot of help climbing up and getting down. Yet, that’s okay. You don’t need to get there alone.
“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
William Butler Yeats
A few weeks ago, I booked myself into an adult ballet class. The classes are being held at the dance studio my daughter attends. While taking up ballet again as an adult sounds crazy, it actually felt like a natural progression…the next step. After all, I’ve been driving my daughter to dancing for 6 years, and after years of being the spectator and observer, why can’t I have a turn? Why can’t Mummy get out of her taxi and spread HER wings?
Our Dancing Queen
Dance in body, as well as mind, because I’ve been putting myself in other people’s dance shoes for years and even dance in my dreams. I borrow the best too…like a cuckoo moving into another bird’s nest. That way, I can almost reach the stars with my pointed toes, without even leaving my seat.
Yet, my time has come. After waiting in the wings all these years, I had to step out of Mum’s Taxi. Grab the bull by the horns and carpe diem seize the day. Shift gears from 1st position into 4th and even attempt a pirouette!
Watching was no longer enough.
As many of you can no doubt appreciate, taking action can be a huge thing for a writer. I suspect it could well be in our wiring, but we’re used to being the observer. Sometimes that’s because we’re in a support role, but I also know fear and a crippling sense of failure hold me back. So instead of doing, I write about it instead. Sound familiar? It’s great fuel for my writing, but you can end up living a second-hand life. Keeping your wings folded, never learning to fly even though you could.
However, all this positive thinking is only one side of the coin. The flip side is equally convincing.
Looking from a logical standpoint, me returning to ballet was ludicrous, ridiculous, stark raving mad. I have multiple disabilities and even struggle to walk along a footpath. I broke my foot last year walking on grass. So, how could I ever expect to dance? Added to all of that, I recently turned 47 so I’m no spring chicken.
I had infusions of IVIG every 3 weeks for five years.
Bearing this in mind, I set the bar low and decided that even if I spend the classes sitting in a chair, if I can just hold my hands like a ballerina, I’ll be happy.
Yet, with so much stacked against me, I did have one ace up my sleeve. I’ve been watching ballet for 6 years and as a photographer, I don’t just watch, I absorb. I’ve been intrigued watching their bodies move in ways I could only ever dream about… setting their bodies free from all sorts of limitations, inhibitions and actually leaving the ground. Now, that my body struggles to move, I really know what that means. I appreciate being able to move, in the same way you savour that first day of Spring after a long bitter Winter. It’s pure joy and I take nothing for granted.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
After years of sitting on the sidelines, I recently noticed that I was enthusiastically tapping my foot in my chair and that the other parents weren’t necessarily tapping…only the dancers. Slowly but surely and through shedding years of being told I’m “unco” and believing dancers were wafer thin and very young, I felt there was a repressed dancer hiding inside. A dancer longing to come out of her cocoon in a safe, nurturing environment. That I was meant to dance.
Ha! Not that long ago, I even joked with the Principal that instead of being a DANCER, I am DANGER.
So, you get my drift.
So, what with all of that stacked against my dancing career, I didn’t tell my parents what I was up to and I joked about it with a few close friends in the same way you might announce that you thought you could fly to the moon.
Playing Moonlight Sonata after chemo.
Meanwhile, as I waited for the classes to begin, the doubts set in. Rather than feeling like a risk-taking explorer, I felt like I’d well and truly crossed over to the other side of crazy this time. You probably know the line:”But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell” from Matchbox 20’s hit “Unwell”, but you might not be so familiar with these lines, which sum up my apprehensions so well:
I’m talking to myself in public
Dodging glances on the train
And I know, I know they’ve all been talking about me
I can hear them whisper
And it makes me think there must be something wrong with me
Out of all the hours thinking
Somehow I’ve lost my mind.
Yet, this is the same person who plays the violin and skis, even if I don’t walk that well.
Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.
Perhaps, walking is too pedestrian for me and I’m actually meant to fly:
“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
So, tonight I finally headed off for my adult ballet debut…barefoot in concealing attire. I was thrilled my friend also signed up and we were embarking on this madness together. There were a couple of blokes in the group too. So, we were quite a motley crew. That was a truly special thing, because as our teacher pointed out, you don’t have to be a particular build, shape, gender or age to enjoy ballet. Ballet is for everyone.
“Every savage can dance.”
So, how did I go?
Well, I could remember the basic positions… just like you never forget your times tables. However, as I stood in 1st position for possibly the first time since I was 11 years old, it didn’t feel like it used to. My legs have changed and it all felt odd, unfamiliar with no muscle memory whatsoever. On the bright side, while the movements felt strange, I can now understand the French ballet terms better than I used to…not that speaking the language necessarily translates into being able to keep up with the steps. Or, perhaps it does because I did keep up most of the time. Holding onto the barre, I pointed my foot, moved my arms, and dared to dream that the clumsy ducking could become a swan.
So far so good.
Yet, just when I thought it was time to go home, Miss Bronwyn mentions “pirouette” This is a term which eludes my French, but I know it means trouble. It all starts off with needing to focus on a spot on the wall and then turning your head and your body while moving your foot up near your knee, like a stork. I did try turning but at this stage I’m just focusing on the feet and keeping my balance.
So, I not only survived my first ballet class, I came home feeling exhilarated, fluttering with excitement and feeling frustrated that I have to wait a week for my next class. I am hooked. Not only with the joy of dance, but also experiencing the thrill of conquering so many boundaries and limitations. I even reacquainted myself with my inner hero. Great to know she’s back.
Now, I’ve got to get on with my homework. We need to practice our heel rises so we can be ready to jump.
What the? The Castle’s Darryl Kerrigan had it right:“Tell her she’s dreaming”.
Yet, now I’ve stepped out, there is no turning back.
I will be dancing my way to the stars!
Have you ever tried something out of your league and found a missing piece of yourself? How did it feel?
Writing Prompt: Write a story or poem that includes the following words:
So pop on your favorite version of “Summertime” (mine’s by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong) or another summer song, and get writing. Post your story/poem or link in the comments by June 22 to be included in the round up.
I’ll add my response in the comments and include it in the round up as well.
Riding my bicycle in my bikini,
liquid ice cream dreams
by the flapping tongue
of a thirsty dog
It’s like they’ve never even been.
Oblivious to my ice cream woes,
the boy with the waffle iron
Find s love
In another’s arms.
summer can be so cruel.
PS It was tough trying to fit waffle iron into a poem!
On Sunday, when we celebrated our son’s 11th Birthday, it was about so much more than cake, presents and even the much anticipated party. It was a golden opportunity to show our son how much we love and cherish him and for him to sparkle like a diamond in the candlelight. There’s nothing like your birthday!
If you read my last post, you’ll understand that celebrations have become quite a production and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon finds its way to Broadway or London’s West End.
I’ve already dealt with the cake.
Now, we’re onto the presents…or THE present, in particular. You see, I gave Mister a second-hand Australian Army uniform, which I chanced upon at a local opportunity or thrift shop.
Choosing gifts is something I take pretty seriously. I really do try to slip inside someone else’s skin, walk around in their shoes, see the world through their eyes and their soul to find that “Wow thing”. That thing which makes their heart sing. Not only because they love it but also because they know I understand. I get them. This gift, therefore, somehow reflects that very special, often concealed inner self or perhaps the seeds of that very precious dream, which are just waiting to germinate, flourish and grow yet are still so tender, tentative and so very embryonic.
To put it simply, gift giving is a great way to show empathy, which is such an important component of love. It is the life-giving force which enables us to grow and reach for the stars.
After all, don’t we all know it when someone gives us something which misses the mark entirely or when our significant other gives us something so impersonal that it could’ve come from a stranger? These gifts affect us in a different way, so often stabbing a knife through the heart. Quite bluntly, they clearly don’t understand you at all!!
A happy birthday boy!
Although I don’t always find that perfect present which fulfills all these hopes and expectations, I did find the perfect gift for Mister and I couldn’t wait to see his response. As I mentioned, I bought Mister an Australian Army uniform I chanced upon at the op shop. Mister wants to join the army when he grows up and although I’m not keen, I pushed my own feelings aside and supported my son. Of course, the uniform is way too big but dreams are like that at the start. We have to grow into them.
Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what’s important.
More than just being an army uniform, this was a very special birthday present from me to him. It said I can put my values and desires aside to respect and nurture his dreams and encourage him to grow up and be himself, rather than trying to shape and mold him into who or what I think he should be and, in effect, turn him into a bonsai…a pruned and shrunk down version of who he was meant to be.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” ― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
You see, in my youth I was pretty opposed to armies, war and battles. I even took part in protests against Australia’s involvement in the Gulf War and marched through the streets. I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist but I’d definitely be of the view: “Make love not war”.
Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.
I’m also a person who, at least I hope, has principles and have built up something called “character”. This means having values and standing up for what I believe in. Before the kids were born, for example, there were going to be no Barbies, no guns and definitely no signing up and joining the army. But as much as you bring up your children, they also modify you and seeing pure happiness and joy glowing on your child’s precious face does tinker with these values a bit. Or, at least, it does for me.
Hate to admit it but a persistent campaign of incessant nagging by your kids can also make an impact on all you held dear as well!
Mister was thrilled when he opened up his present. He was so happy with such an enormous smile that he was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I was happy too. Both kids held the uniform up against themselves and it looked ridiculously big, reminding me of a comedy sketch from Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW6gj2n51sU
Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.
I’m sure Mister didn’t appreciate what giving him that army uniform represented. Of course, he doesn’t know just what a seismic shift it is for me to embrace his love of the army. While I love any form of history and honour our ex-service people and collect memorabilia and books from WWI and WWII, that’s very different from having your one and only beloved son go and sign up. That possibility, though still a long way off, does trouble me a bit because I was also his age once and that was when I decided to become a writer and I’ve never veered off course. Writing is like breathing and I even write in myself. Actually, truth be told, I’m often writing when I should be asleep!! I knew that’s who I was when I was 10 and it was set in stone.
However, as much as I have marched and protested going to war, I also felt it was important that I support my son in how he sees himself and in pursuing his dreams. Recognising who he is as a person and empowering him to walk in his own shoes instead of trying to impose me or my values on him like an iron on transfer. Just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean their dreams and values aren’t precious and worthy of recognition and respect, even if we would rather they pursued a different path. Our children need to know they can trust us with their dreams and aspirations. After all, they come from the very heart of the soul and are so very, very precious and need to be handled with kid gloves … certainly not ridiculed or rejected. That, would be like stomping on the precious wings of a beautiful butterfly which, having just emerged from its chrysalis and waited for its tender wings to dry, is about to take its first tenuous flight…and this is your child who is so much more worthy than that.
So I gave him the army uniform and made him happy.
So happy that he took the army uniform to school on Monday, particularly to show his teacher whose son is in the army. He was as proud of punch and he truly respects all that the uniform stands for and what it means to fight for your country. Well, as much as you can when you’re an 11 year old kid and war is on the other side of the world and it’s not in your own backyard.
So I managed to get it right.
Or did I?
After all, was it just coincidence that I strayed across that army uniform in the op shop or was it meant to be? Serendipity? God? Destiny fate?
This isn’t just an erroneous question. I am an op shop addict and I have never seen an army uniform for sale in an op shop before and yet there it was just a couple of weeks before Mister’s birthday. As much as I might have decided to stretch myself well beyond my comfort zone to encourage his dreams, I also suspect I was nudged.
Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.
By the way, I should point out that while I was protesting, Geoff’s brother was actually in the Australian army and Mister has grown up with Uncle Terry’s slouch hat in the house. Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French died in France during WWI and we have been down to the Australian War Memorial as a family to honour him and we even participated in a special memorial service they hold each day and we laid down a wreath. Another Great Uncle served in Gallipolli and went on to serve in Beersheba in the Australian Light Horse. So it would seem that joining the Armed Forces are in my son’s blood.
PS A week after Mister’s birthday while I’m sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send as a post birthday present to my son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ
Last week, I was absolutely stoked when I found a copy of the New Yorker when I took our daughter to her doctor’s appointment, instead of the usual trashy magazines. For a New Yorker, this would be hardly surprising but when you’re in Sydney, Australia, finding a copy of The New Yorker is a rare treat. It was time to celebrate!
Who hasn’t experienced the joy of being camped at the doctor’s waiting so long you’re putting down roots and all you have is a stack of trashy magazines for entertainment? I’m sure the world over there are those familiar looking piles of trashy magazines, which should have been pulped long before publication. You know the sort of stuff I’m talking about where those flashy, glossy pages are smothered in the latest “Kardashian Krisis” and other celebrity crap. If you’re really lucky, there might also be some token National Geographics but don’t hold your breath!!
Knowing what to expect, I always BYO. Whenever I head down to Sydney for my specialist appointments, I usually take a choice of two books, a handful of pens and a writing pad to capture fleeting threads of inspiration. I must say that on some occasions, I’ve been bunkering down to write what seems like my entire life story, while I wait. It is nothing to wait for 1-2 hours for an appointment and indeed, there is a sign telling you to allow half a day. All this endless interminable waiting is all for a fleeting 15-30 minute appointment. While this might sound pretty dreadful, especially if you are seeing multiple specialists, it is what it is. I see my specialists for free so I’m not complaining. I just come prepared.
However, I can sure pick the newbies turning various shades of red and emitting shots of steam through their beetroot red ears while they openly complain that “being sick is a full time job”. Most of them could well be transferred to Emergency for immediate anger management. That said, being diagnosed with a serious disease is hard enough. Being forced to spend those precious, rapidly ticking away last minutes of your imminently evaporating life in the bland boredom of a doctor’s waiting room staring at white walls camouflaged by fancy prints, is enough to push even the most mild-mannered Clark Kent over the edge!! Trust me! I know!
I don’t think hospital was on Dr Suess’s list.
Of course, nobody includes being stuck in a doctor’s waiting room on their bucket list when they have 24 hours to live! Not on your life!!!
However, all my expectations of waiting room literature were turned around last week when I took our daughter to her specialist appointment. Much to my delighted amazement, I found a copy of The New Yorker on the very top of the pile. Wow! I was thrilled. Indeed, “I had chills. They’re multiplying and I’m losing control…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J01QPxZFlw4
A cartoon from the New Yorker, which I photographed on my phone.
The New Yorker is a rare breed in Australia so I was almost thankful that the doctor was late. I was glued to the pages and really had to peel myself away. Indeed, I was even taking photos of the funnies with my phone and seriously hoping the doctor didn’t catch me in the act. Of course, I was doing this in the name of serious journalism…snapping gourmet morsels to feed my blog!
The Statue of Liberty welcomes this adventurous Aussie Dreamer to the Big Apple.
For a few fantastic moments there, I felt myself being transported over the Pacific Ocean touching down for a refueling stopover in Hawaii to meet Max the Dog and indulge in a bit of Hula. Then, I was on a bit of a stop start journey through LA, New Orleans, Washington and finally touching down in New York in such a manner that I didn’t get my Wonder Woman cape caught on one of those spiky bits on the Statue of Liberty.
Just as well I didn’t start singing and dancing in the waiting room! I have absolutely no shame!
Though still sitting in the waiting room, I’m a real New Yorker or at least a New Yorker with an Australian accent. Well, make that a sedated New Yorker with an Australian accent. Being a rather slow walker who doesn’t wake up before midday without intravenous caffeine infusions, I’d look like a comatose zombie among the fast-paced New Yorkers.
But then the dream shatters…
The door swings open and all my fantasies of New York are put on hold. The doctor is ready and it’s now time to discuss why my daughter doesn’t eat.
Humph! No more New York…New York…New York!
I’ve touched down with a painful thump and it’s time for a brutal reality check!!
New York…LA,Honolulu,Sydney, Wahroonga….Can’t keep the doctor waiting!
The door closes.
Have you ever been to New York and have any stories to tell? I am learning the fine art of living vicariously.