Tag Archives: forgiveness

Forgiveness

For the last two days, I’ve been living and breathing forgiveness as I participated in 1000 Voices for Compassion‘s January link up on forgiveness. I very much feel like a new person and have grown so much. Thank you! It’s been tremendous food for the soul!

As Trent pointed out, you could easily write a book about the nature of forgiveness and what it means to forgive.

However, after all that I’ve read, to me forgiveness is climbing straight up that rugged, almost vertical mountain where you’re dragging yourself along covered in mud, dirt and scratches but when you finally get to the top and look out, you have found the promised land. You are living in green pastures. Of course, it doesn’t last. We have to keep crawling back but the journey is more than worth the costs.

Ideally, however, we catch our issues before they have reached such insurmountable heights.

As I concluded in my own post: it doesn’t matter who or what is hurting you, you need to forgive and quite often this forgiveness is all about the little things. Overcoming the everyday. It’s less about that big one-off apology. It’s a daily thing. Just like breathing, eating, thinking, we forgive.

Over the last two days, I have read over 20 different journeys of grappling with forgiveness: the struggle, the setbacks, the jubilation and the status quo. I have walked in so many different pairs of shoes. Seen and experienced tremendous struggle through those eyes  and feel so incredibly privileged to be a part of those. To hold hands with my friends and share the innermost beating of our hearts and very painful memories and to find acceptance, understanding, love…and COMPASSION!!

This is such a treasured gift! Thank you.

In terms of feeding my soul, it’s been like indulging on super foods…a veritable feast (and if you are anything like me, you have to include chocolate in there, of course!) Each and every person has brought something unique and valuable to the table, which has become something of a gourmet pot luck dinner.You open the lid and WOW!!!

I would like to encourage anyone who is struggling to forgive and still feeling whatever kind of angst, to persevere. Keep walking. Even if you only change your position ever so slightly, you have moved. Have a new perspective. Never give up!

If you haven’t already visited the  Link Up, I highly recommend it. It’s food for the soul.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

 

Forgiving the Unforgivable.

What if you were called on to forgive something you can’t see, can’t touch yet it stalks you 24/7 year after year after year, never releasing its grasp?

Welcome to my blessing and my curse.

Dermatomyositis is a severe, systemic auto-immune disease where your muscles attack themselves and self-destruct. It also, as the name suggests, attacks your skin and can also cause fibrosis in your lungs. Treatment is available but can be tricky. My case is considered severe and has been somewhat resistant to treatment but I’m lucky that my doctors keep plucking rabbits out of their hat, coming up with something new. I have been in remission for 2 years and am currently doing very well for me.

Newton Family & bilbo

A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007. This was taken 6 months before my diagnosis when I was already quite ill.

As I said, dermatomyositis is my blessing and my curse.

My blessing because most of the time I live my life to the very fullest appreciating each and every moment. I know life is short. Although I get sidetracked probably more than most, I do know what matters most to me and I do try to put these people first. Not always successfully but I love my family and my friends but I also love my writing, photography and helping others.

This, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a complex balancing act. However, dermatomyositis doesn’t understand love, relationships, priorities dream or goals. It just stampedes over the lot of it and when it flares up, even the best time management in the world, can’t save you.

Rowena

Getting my infusion in the brand new hospital.

Hence, it’s my curse. Almost since the birth of my daughter, I’ve been haunted by dermatomyositis and we are actually surprised but exceptionally grateful that I’m still here. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to have your two year old son look up at you with his huge blue eyes and blond curls and ask: “Mummy better?” Worse than that, I couldn’t answer him. We didn’t know. To fall at home and knock your 16 month old toddler over on your way down but not being able to reach her and also to strangely to find that you can’t get up again yourself, is perplexing at best. What on earth was going on? In the end, my husband was carrying our sleeping daughter off my lap and into her cot. He even had to help me get dressed and cover me with my dooner each night. My parents were stepping in more and more to look after our kids and even me… their 35 year old daughter!

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

It’s hard to believe that the same person who has subsequently developed a love of adventure  (albeit within my limitations) was ever so sick. Or, is still affected by this snoring giant which is kept under control through medication. I have been left with 60% lung capacity and some mobility issues but these are no match for my iron will. I am incredibly determined and have the best inspiration in the world…my family, my friends, my writing and my life.

DSC_9437

Sailing this week.

That said, I am lucky there is treatment. No amount of determination can help you beat a disease without treatment.

The life I am living is good, even if it isn’t anything like what I’d planned or expected.

I could focus on all that I’ve lost but going down that path, really is the road to ruin…just like unforgiveness.

amelia heart painting

We have more choice in how we paint our own picture than I ever thought possible.

Seizing hold of all the good in the life I have now…this is the road to happiness. Do we call it forgiveness? Acceptance? I don’t know but whatever you call it, it certainly took me a long time to get here. I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis 9 years ago and I certainly didn’t reach this point overnight. I was angry and didn’t know who or what to blame. God? Bad luck? Genetics? Indeed, it was only after I had chemo 2 years ago almost to the day, that I have let it all go and finally learned what it means to be a human BEING…not just a HUMAN DOING.

I still haven’t got it down to a fine art nor do I have all the answers. However, I’ve made radical progress possibly through letting go. I had to walk away from my job a few years ago but I am now at the point where I’m about to step out there again.I’m yet to work out where I’m going or how. However, that can wait. My kids are starting new schools next week and for the next few months, I make no apologies for putting my kids first. The rest can wait.

So, how have I been able to forgive dermatomyositis and move forward?

Fight back and don’t be a victim. This means doing what I can to give myself the best chance of managing the disease and trying not to make things worse. This also means taking responsibility for my health and not delegating my life to anyone else. I take my medication. Have regular blood tests. Exercise. Could eat better but could eat worse.

Have fun. Enjoy!

Extend my limits. If you can’t go through the front door, how about trying the side door? Think laterally and be resourceful. It can be very easy to shrink inside your shell where it is warm and cosy but do you really want to live the rest of your life at half-mast?

Rowena Violin

Violin Concert 2015.

Everyone needs a reason to live. A reason to get up in the morning. A reason to go through all the tedious bits and pieces in life when the going gets tough, boring or too painful to go on. It doesn’t matter what that reason is but without that, how to you keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Find support. I’ve had considerable counselling over the years and that really helped. I had some training in mindfulness techniques which I really struggled to take on board at the time but probably use more than I realise. I also went on a low-dose anti-depressant during a serious setback a few years ago and stayed on them. I am looking at re-visiting this in the next few months. I’ve been on so many other drugs that I let it be but they’ve come down significantly so it’s time for a review. My life is no longer hanging on by a thread.

Find a way of releasing your anger. I have written journal after journal burning off angst, deep sorrow, anger and anxiety throughout this journey and it’s really helped…both through venting and also being able to look back and see how far I’ve progressed.

Get out of your box. Sitting at home alone, it’s too easy to feel sorry for yourself and focus too much on how things how gone wrong for you. However, you only need to step outside your front door to realise that everyone has their lot…the blessings and their curse. You are not the only one. Even if you have a rare disease like me, there are still people in the same boat. For me, that’s either other parents battling health issues or others fighting different auto-immune diseases. I am far from being alone.

Most of us know if our glass is half-empty or half full. If you’re a pessimist, you’ll probably need to work harder to maintain your equilibrium. Write down something to be grateful for everyday…your What Went Well or WWW Book. Focus on that instead of the bad stuff.

Help someone else. Helping someone else has been shown to do wonders for your mood.

I have always seen dermatomyositis and a separate being, not “me” or even a part of myself. This means I haven’t internalised it. I am still myself.

Watch your language. Never call yourself a “sufferer”. I don’t have dermatomyositis. I am living with it. It might have moved into my body but it hasn’t taken over my soul.

 

Before I head off, I just wanted to address forgiveness when it’s someone you love who is living with a chronic illness or disability, which is a very different experience from being the person directly affected.

From my experience, it’s much harder for those around me to separate me from the disease. So, when I’m too tired to listen, be attentive, play, join in or can’t go bushwalking, go to the shops or invite friends over, they don’t usually see dermatomyositis. It’s more a case of Mummy being asleep again. Mummy can’t be bothered or…Mummy doesn’t love me.

After all, while I might have an over-abundance of words, don’t we all know actions speak louder than words!

So, I also have to forgive what can be a lack of understanding and compassion by those who I love the most at times. Deal with their anger and disappointment that Mummy is somewhat broken and there’s a gap between the concept of what a mother should be and reality. As my health goes up and down quite significantly, this can also be the contrast between well Mummy and sock Mummy. They don’t need to look any further afield to make that comparision.

When my kids are angry about things and playing up, they’re actually needing more love, not less and it’s not the time for me to retreat, which goes against any concept of self-preservation but that’s what it means to be a parent. Somehow, you need to be thick-skinned and thin-skinned all at the same time but who is immune to being hurt, especially by those you love the most?

This all brings me to this point. It doesn’t matter who or what is hurting you, you need to forgive and quite often this forgiveness is all about the little things. Overcoming the everyday. It’s less about that big one-off apology. It’s a daily thing. Just like breathing, eating, thinking, we forgive.

This post is part to the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Please check out the link  to have your mind truly blown away by such personal journeys of grappling with forgiveness. Each month writers come together to post on compassion often within a theme. This month’s theme is forgiveness. 

xx Rowena

 

Proust Questionnaire: Making Mistakes.

As you might be aware, I’m working my way through the Proust Character Questionnaire as background research for the Book Project.The journey started here:

Continuing right along with the Proust Questionnaire, we’re now up to question 3:

What is the Trait you deplore most in yourself?

Addressing this question in 2015 well beyond the Victorian era when it was posed, I’m a little taken aback.

Aren’t you supposed to be asking me about my strengths before we get stuck into the weaknesses? Isn’t that how this thing works? Don’t I get an opportunity to shine before I hang out all my dirty laundry?

Smile!

Smile!

Well, I guess you could say things were a little different back in 1890 when Proust responded to the questionnaire as a teenager. This was long before phrases like: “Greed is good” and “looking after Number 1” came into vogue.

Indeed, dare I mention the Seven Deadly Sins:

  1. Wrath
  2. Greed
  3. Sloth
  4. Pride
  5. Lust
  6. Envy
  7. Gluttony

I might be wrong but it seems like the Victorians were more concerned about what they were doing wrong than doing right. After all, this seems the era where you constantly renovated yourself, rather than your house.

However, when it comes to the trait I most deplore in myself it has to be making mistakes. I really don’t like making mistakes and often feel like a bumbling idiot.

Sponge Cake

Sponge Cake

Take yesterday’s sponge cake for instance. I probably took it out of the oven a minute or two too soon, which meant that the top was still a bit too moist. There I was staring at perfection one minute and then the top stuck to the wire cooling rack and just like a skinned knee on bitumen, it was savagely ripped off. While it might have looked funny for the blog photo and made me look endearingly human, I didn’t want to be human. I wanted perfection. I wanted to swan around at home as if I’d just won Best Cake in Show at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show.

Violin Concert 2013.

Violin Concert 2013.

The same goes with playing my violin. I cringe every time that jolly instrument squeaks, even though violins are legendary for being difficult, temperamental and just plain nasty. If you think a two year old child can throw the world’s greatest tantrum, you haven’t met a violin and yet, they can sing like an angel too!

There I was two years ago practicing for my preliminary exam with my accompanist and it was so hot that my fingers were sliding down the strings. After all those months of practice, to have my performance compromised by the heat was almost the last straw. I could’ve hurled that violin straight of Sydney’s most famous suicide spot The Gap without a second thought.

Indeed, my aversion to making mistakes on my beloved violin was so intense that I arrived at the examination rooms an hour early to warm up (despite the heat). When there was nowhere to practice, I went downstairs onto Sydney’s busy York Street and set myself up in an empty bus shelter practicing away as bicycle couriers, buses and cars whizzed past. I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I was going to get my A…and I did!

So, as much as I hate myself for making mistakes, I do admire myself for those times where I keep pushing through, persevere and finally reach victory!

A family photo Mother's Day 2007.

A family photo Mother’s Day 2007.

When it comes to making mistakes as a parent, of course, the list is endless but at least I never left the baby at the bus stop or failed to pick the kids up from school. Most of what I term mistakes are actually more funny incidents in retrospect. Such as the time, our newborn son was still crying at 2.00AM and my husband put him in the pram and took him for a walk through the local shops and his screams were apparently quite deafening as they echoed through the empty streets. There was also the time we completely freaked out because he’d turned orange. We’d thought he was dying but he’d simply eaten too many orange vegetables. There were also his explorations which took him on top of the back shed at 2 years and looking like a scene out of Dead Poet’s Society, he marvelled at the “mountains” and how different things looked from up there. Another time, he fell off the back shed and Mummy caught him. He also got stuck exploring under the house and did I mention anything about climbing trees? Our daughter cut her finger when she was 3 and needed surgery after that.There have also been many hours where my children have had to occupy themselves as the ravages of living with my auto-immune disease took over.

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

I’m sure this list of parenting mistakes is only going to extend now that our son’s about to start high school and we’ll soon be embarking on the teenage years.

What I hate most about this fear of making mistakes, however, is not the mistakes I’ve actually made. Rather, it’s all the things I’ve never tried because I anticipated failure and gave up before I’d even started. This list is so long and very humbling but I have started working on it. I am moving forward with the book project and while attempting complex recipes I’d put off might seem a relatively trivial thing to overcome, I disagree. Baking can be a very non-forgiving science. When making sweets, you usually need to be very precise and precise isn’t my strength. I’m much more slap dash and intuitive. Moreover, due to my medical conditions, strictly following procedures and getting things in the right order isn’t always easy for me. So baking can actually  be quite challenging. Of course, these challenges multiply expediently when I’m cooking with the kids. Of course, they add a whole extra layer of distracting confusion, as much as I love cooking with them. It can be quite hard when I’m making something new and I don’t know what I’m doing and they can step in and add all the wrong things at all the wrong time, all with good intentions of course. Unfortunately, this is when my aversion to making mistakes rears its ugly head and I might snap at the kids, morphing into something of a Gordon Ramsay disgusting myself completely and it’s tears all roun.

Thank goodness for “Sorry”!

Fortunately, most mistakes aren’t fatal.

We can have another go and seriously who expects to get things right the first time? Yes, I know we all do.It would be great but it’s not realistic. It takes practice. trial and error. More error than success but giving up is a guaranteed fail.

When it comes to stuffing up our relationships, “sorry” is a good start but change is always possible and alongside sorry comes forgiveness. Not always possible but I’m talking more about garden-variety crimes than the big ones. We all hurt each other unintentionally possibly more so than through intent.

How could she do anything wrong?

How could she do anything wrong?

Although as a parent these days, I’m more focused on my parenting crimes, I still tend to gloss over those crimes I committed as a child. That same sense of entitlement I don’t like seeing in my own kids…a lack of appreciation to outright rebellion.

There was a certain party I had when my parents went away for the weekend but hey at least hordes of gatecrashers didn’t turn up along with a Police helicopter. As great a crime as it might have been, having a handful of trusted friends over could have been a hell of a lot worse. Moreover, the effort that went into devising a story to tell my Dad was worthy of an epic novel and gave us all quite a lesson in creative writing. Being a writer himself, he should have appreciated that but he had his “Dad” hat on at the time.

So, above all else, I owe my parents a huge bunch of sorries. Most of all for being critical of their parenting efforts and not understanding that everybody makes mistakes. That we’re all human and simply can not walk on water. That’s a hard lesson for us all!

I know we can't just rub out all our mistakes but it's worth a try!

I know we can’t just rub out all our mistakes but it’s worth a try!

The next question on the Proust Questionnaire is: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Dare I say being perfect? Getting it right the first time?

Ouch! That’s tempting but as I said, I’m only human!

xx Rowena

Punishment Versus Justice: Two Australians Executed in Indonesia.

“What I would like people to see in him is the person he had become – not the stupidest thing he ever did.”

Matthew Sleeth, Melbourne artistwho worked with Myuran Sukumaran.

For the last few months, I’ve been anxiously following the pending executions of convicted Australian Drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Although I’d considered their actions incredibly stupid at the time of their arrest, as I learned of their radical transformation inside prison, my attitude changed. I, like so many others, sought clemency and did what we could to get behind the campaign. For me, that was very little but I did write to my local Member of Parliament and I posted this on my blog:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

Meanwhile, I watched as a pack of fiercely loyal and determined supporters fought for clemency like dogs pursuing that proverbial bone. Throughout this campaign, the men admitted and owned their crime and nobody denied that they’d done the wrong thing. Just that they had changed and didn’t deserve to die. It is my understanding that their lawyers were seeking a reduction in their sentence to life in prison.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

After all, since being incarcerated, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were changed men. Not just on the outside, but in their hearts and in their souls. Both men became Christian and Andrew Chan became a Christian Pastor while in prison. While being Christian is no guarantee of perfection, the men had definitely changed: inside and out. Myuran Sukumaran became an accomplished artist under the mentorship of Ben Quilty and Matthew Sleeth and shared this gift with other prisoners. Both men have also helped their fellow inmates to reform and change their lives by teaching them life skills, so they too could be reformed and return to their communities better men.

On 29th April, 2015 those hard fought hopes were completely dashed when Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by a firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan at 3:35am AEST.

Although I’d been anticipating the worst, there was still that glimmer of hope. However, then news reports showed coffins bearing their names and date of death, forecasting the very worst. I could sense that rising tide of incredible despair and dashed hopes. Even though I hadn’t been following case closely until recently, I had become emotionally involved, getting those awful, sick in the depths of my stomach feelings. As far as I’m concerned, you didn’t need to know the men to have a heart for their situation and to hope that against the odds, things might just turn around.

As long as there was life, there was hope…even if it was fading fast.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

Against these increasingly bad signs, we still clung to hope by our very fingernails. Surely, the Indonesian President would finally see reason? He would have the courage and capacity to change his mind and to acknowledge that these men had reformed. That they were no longer the two young criminals who had conspired to smuggle heroin into Australia.

It wasn’t looking good.

I guess for so many of us who could see and understand how much these men had changed and how they were now contributing to the world for good instead of bad, this was hard to understand. That, although they shared the same name and the same skin as the men who had committed this very serious crime, they were, indeed, different. They were new creations. These men no longer deserved to die.

That is, if they ever did.

Yet, despite trying to move incredible mountains and the Indonesian President, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed. They are dead and their bodies returned to Australia for burial on Saturday, ten years after their arrest.

What does this mean now? How are we to understand and process their deaths? Were they martyrs? Heroes? Modern Ned Kellies? (Ned kelly was an Irish-Australian bushranger who was hanged for his crimes but has become somewhat deified)

Or, indeed, were they vile criminals whose intent to import heroin into Australia could have ruined so many Australian lives?

I don’t know but many have done far worse and never paid for their crimes…just received a slap on the wrist!!

One of  Sukumaran's last paintings depicting the bullet hole through his heart.

One of Sukumaran’s last paintings depicting the bullet hole through his heart.

This case has certainly publicised the death penalty, which is probably something your average Australian has given much thought. That is, since competing in their high school debating team. We don’t have the death penalty here so it’s not an issue that crops up all that much. Prior to this case, I certainly hadn’t given it much thought.

However, given my unwaivering faith in humanity’s capacity to change, I can not support it.

That is because I truly believe that everybody has the capacity to change and even radically change their lives if they want to. This isn’t change being enforced from the outside in but rather coming from the inside out…from the heart. The science of neuroplasticity has also proven that even changing our thoughts, can change the very physical structures of our brains.People can and do change. The trouble is that we then need to forgive and give people a second chance, which is not so easy or so straightforward.

We all know someone we have loved and cared about who has been troubled either by mental health issues, drugs, addiction and yet we’ve been absolutely powerless to save them from that relentless downward spiral. At this point, it is so often said, that they have to hit rock bottom before they get back up. That the only way they’re ever going to wake up to themselves and all that they’ve become, is for them to face the music…whatever that might be. Sometimes, people can somehow exit the spiral before they land in jail, commit suicide or indeed, attempt to smuggle drugs out of a country with the death penalty. However, sometimes they keep going and going to a point of no return. They reach a point where it’s very difficult, if not impossible,to return. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people or they come from bad families. Perhaps, they’re just sheep who have wandered too far away and get captured by the wolf (in whatever guise) before making it home.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we each have a dark side. All have sinned. While there is a huge difference to holding a party when your  parents are away versus smuggling heroin out of Indonesia, it’s still breaking the rules.

So in the wake of what is a tragedy on so many levels, I hold my own children close to my heart and in my prayers. They need to understand that there are consequences for their actions and know that no matter how much you try to undo the past, sometimes what’s done is done. Prevention is so much more effective than depending on a cure…an undoing. Sometimes, no amount of undoing can rewind the clock and you do end up paying the ultimate price.

This was also the message which Andrew Chan left for his baby nephew Kai:
“I love you Kai, keep looking to Jesus, trust in his ways and learn from my mistakes. ”

There is much debate in Australia about how these men should be perceived. While I don’t want to put them up on a pedestal, these changed men truly became an inspiration. Despite living under the omnipresent shadow of the death penalty, they turned their lives around showing that no matter how bad it gets, even as a convicted drug smuggler facing the death penalty, you can still change your heart and live for good and even preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. You truly can be a new creation!!

Michael Chan, Andrew’s older brother, described his last moments:
“He said there were three things he was going to do — he is going to sing all the way there and he done that and he said he is going to wear his Penrith jersey and he is not going to wear the blindfold, he is going to look them in the eye. He did all of them.”
Michael said knowing how his brother acted in the final hours and minutes made the horror of what happened more bearable.
Michael said hearing about his brother’s bravery, courage and dignity in the face of such a dreadful end had brought a rare smile to mother Helen’s face in what has been a nightmare ride.
“That put a smile on her face to know those hours leading up to it that that’s what he did and how he held himself,” he said .

It is still too soon to appreciate their long term legacy. In the short term, the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia has been recalled. Moreover, a strong campaign to fight the death penalty, particularly in Indonesia, has been mounted…the Mercy Campaign http://mercycampaign.org/
As Andrew Chan said:
“This campaign is more than just about myself or Myu. It represents a second chance and forgiveness, it represents kindness and help for those in a helpless situation. Mercy represents all of us here.
I would like you to take a moment and reflect just on the word mercy. Please don’t let this just be about myself and Myu, but about others all over the world who need your help.”
— Andrew Chan

This quest has  been taken up my artist Ben Quilty. He wrote this message on his Facebook page:

“Joko Widodo tonight you will kill two good men, my friends. I want you to know that you may take their freedom and their lives, you may rob their fellow inmates of the support and love that both men have offered and provided for so long, you can turn off Myu’s imagination but you will never kill the memory of them. I have promised Myu and Andrew, their parents and their siblings, that I will fight against the death penalty for the rest of my life…”

So after considering their crimes, their radical transformation, and their horrific deaths, I am reminded of the words of Moriah Carey’s “Hero”. Not because I see them as heroes but because as reformed men facing their crimes and their deaths, they were heroic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IA3ZvCkRkQ

“Hero”
There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

[Chorus:]
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It is my heartfelt prayer than anyone considering trafficking drugs will learn from their example and do whatever it takes to pull back and walk away. Live for good. Know to look after your body, mind and spirit and think about how you are attacking yourself through drugs and then also putting your family and friends through hell as well. Also, offer others that same respect and don’t see selling drugs as a way to make fast money. All too often, it ends a one-way mission.

Meanwhile, my heartfelt condolences go out to the Chan and Sukumaran families, their legal and spiritual teams and those close and dear to them who fought so tenaciously for clemency. You never gave up. I also think about the many, many people around the world who have been touched by their lives and their deaths. Just because we do not know them or their families, it doesn’t mean we do not care!I send you my love.

Love & God’s richest blessings,
Rowena

Sources:

http://www.smh.com.au/world/bali-9-executions-andrew-chans-letter-to-the-nephew-he-adored-20150501-1mxxdl.html
http://www.news.com.au/national/michael-chan-tells-of-andrew-chans-pledge-before-execution/story-fncynjr2-1227329311248
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3063852/They-best-agonizing-days-Myuran-Sukumaran-realized-dream-artist-longed-says-former-teacher.html

Found…Lost Dog.

You know how much I love our precious Lady, a 2 year old Border Collie x Cavalier King Charles Spaniel what with her effervescent wagging tail which speeds up as you approach and her warm, loving, affectionate nature…

However, without being a dibber-dobber, she has quite a capacity for mischief and her sin sheet is long and extensive. In Australia’s past, humans have been transported for lesser crimes or even hanged.

Anyway, Lady’s latest crime wasn’t so much that she got lost, although that she did. It was more a matter of how and where she got lost and what that little black dog was up to, which caused her to get picked up off a busy road before being unceremoniously squashed by the L90 bus, which travels a long and arduous route from Palm Beach to the city.

It was this skulduggery which had her picked up off the road and “transported” to the local vet’s. “Transported” was the word used when sending convicts to our shores and in the case of Lady, who really did deserve to have a mug shot taken, she truly was transported. She was being a very, very bad dog!!

You see, if you have been following Lady’s adventures, you might recall that she found a recently “deaded” rabbit on the road near a park on the Palm Beach foreshore a few months ago. She took off from me and shot off to the beach where she efficiently skinned it and had an instant meal. Lady came from a farm in rural Tenterfield and I had been warned that she liked to hunt. However, being a city girl, I’d never had a dog who could help themselves in such a fashion before. All my other dogs were just happy with their kibble and the occasional butcher’s bone and could only bark at any furry or feathered critters.

Lady must be quite partial to a bit of rabbit because every time we walked near the park she’s take off near the road and I was naturally terrified….especially her being a black dog on a black road. Black on black doesn’t make for good visibility!! Lady was back on the lead.

Being awhile since we’ve been over, I’d naively thought that Lady would have forgotten about the rabbit by now. She’s a lovely dog but she’s no Einstein and she certainly doesn’t seem to remember her name when you call her or other “commands”. You could say that she’s very “laissez-faire”.

Lady out walking in the clouds at Palm Beach, yesterday.

Lady out walking in the clouds at Palm Beach, yesterday.

Anyway, I was walking past the park which backs on the road and is just down from where she’d found the rabbit when I saw Bilbo walking out of the park but Lady wasn’t in sight. Suspecting she was off rabbit hunting again and her chances of surviving on the road were slim, I raced up in hot pursuit. Well, as fast as I could, which is, as you’d expect, is well below the speed limit!! The traffic up ahead had stopped and that did concern me. Had she been hit? What was going on? But I hadn’t heard anything and I would have heard a yelp, a screech. I scanned up and down beside the road for a ball of fur but saw nothing. Lady had simply vanished. I even asked Bilbo where she was but he wasn’t helpful at all and looked flummoxed, which was odd. We walked further down the beach but there were no paw prints and another dogwalker hadn’t seen her either.

By this stage, I was really starting to worry. I’ve lost her down here for a few minutes before but she’s soon reappeared usually running furiously to compensate for some deviation she’d found.

I scanned the beach, the water, the road and found no sign of her, which really wasn’t making any sense. How could the dog simply vanish almost right in front my nose? The dogs can sometimes walk a few metres ahead but they generally don’t wander and Bilbo certainly stays close. This unfolding nightmare was just like a scene out of CSI, where the parent turns away for just a second and then their child was gone. Kidnapped in one of those plain white vans.

I called and called and called her name and no little black dog appeared.

Where was she? What had happened to her or had she simply made her own way home?  I was starting to get frantic!! After all, I love my little black dog!

But she wasn’t at home either and when I told Miss I’d lost Lady on our walk, she wasn’t impressed. “You were supposed to look after her,” she said.

Lady had vanished without a trace from right in front of me and I really had no idea what to do. How could I lose the dog? Miss told me off and said I was supposed to do looking after Lady. She was right. I wasn’t happy when the two kids had ridden off on their bikes once and Mister arrived home saying he’d lost his sister. At the time, I couldn’t understand how he could lose his sister when they were riding together like that but now the same thing had happened to me and I’d lost the dog. Now, I could sort of understand that these mysteries were possible even if I didn’t know how.

I’d barely been in the house five minutes when my phone rang and it was the Avalon Vet. Lady was safe and hadn’t been injured. The prodigal dog had been found on the road, rescued and taken to the vets.

Perhaps, the driver could’ve checked if she was alone before they put her in the car and drove away. I was only metres away from her and as I said, I saw the bus and some kind of delay on the road. I also called Lady over and over and over again they could have heard me. That said, it’s a narrow, busy road where the traffic is awkward. Morevover, there probably wasn’t anywhere to stop.

As much as I value persistence, Lady discovered that persistence also has it’s drawbacks and we also need to know when it’s time to stop and apply the brakes.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

I’m bending the rules a little but this is a second ‘F’ post for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge. After the morning I’d had with the kids, I also wrote about Fractured Fairytales.

Do you have any lost dog stories to share? I’d love to hear them!

xx Rowena

PS: I just remembered that while we were at the vet’s Miss saw a sign advertising Puppy School and she said that’s where Lady needed to go. When we were talking about how F was my letter for today’s challenge, she said: “F for Fail”, referring to Lady failing Puppy School. It looks like Lady will be getting an education when we get home!!

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!!

When it comes to fighting for justice, I will personally stand up and be counted, even when the case is rather controversial. After all. it’s easy to have compassion for someone you love. It’s much more challenging when someone has a few prickles…or a past. Yet, sometimes our journey takes us down that road and we are forced to argue the points backwards and forwards inside our heads until we can make sense of it all and hopefully judgement turns to love.

I don’t know if the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia has made International news. However, as citizens of the world, this case affects each and every one of us who believe in the sanctity and importance of justice and the capacity for humanity to change and redeem itself.

We are all called to stand up and fight.

The case I am referring to is the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were part of the notorious Bali Nine. Since their conviction, these men have completely turned their lives around and deserve a second chance. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished. Just that they don’t deserve to die.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

 

My justification for clemency lies in the science of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. If you know anything at all about brain plasticity, you will know and understand that these men have changed the very physical structures of their brains through rehabilitation and are no longer who they were. That they are, indeed, very different men. After all, if you have a different brain, how can you possibly be the same?

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry , summed  this up well when he addressed the Melbourne vigil held on 18th February, 2014. Lasry had been involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Lasry said that he has visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers left in 2005. “4.

About Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. “He writes that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!”

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

My argument is that through rehabilitation, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have demonstrated that through such brain plasticity, they are no longer the men they were.

Therefore, as an exceptional case and while not dismissing the severity of their crime, these new men deserve a compassionate response…jail not execution!

This quote from US President John F. Kennedy sums it up well:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

Background to the Bali Nine

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were the ring leaders of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as “The Bali Nine”. On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg (18 lb) of heroin valued at about A$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. These men were no angels and heroin, as we know, is a hard core drug which destroys lives. Authorities must do whatever it takes to get heroin off the streets. While people do dispute the death penalty, they are not advocating a more relaxed after to stopping the trade of heroin.

Going back to the time of their arrest, I didn’t have any sympathy for the Bali 9. Due to the very publicised case of alleged drug trafficker, Australian Shapelle Corby, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws had been front page news for some time. I might not agree with the death penalty but Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws most definitely weren’t a secret.

Australian Shapelle Corby had been arrested in Indonesia on 8 October 2004 when she was found to have 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) of cannabis in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag. Corby was convicted on 27 May 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Denpasar District Court and imprisoned in Kerobokan Prison. To this day, Shapelle maintains her innocence and there have been numerous theories about how the cannabis got into her body board bag. Her case became a “cause celeb” and during that media frenzy, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws was made very, very clear.

From where I was sitting in front of the TV, you’d have to be a complete idiot or have a serious death wish to even consider smuggling drugs in or out of Indonesia. I know people talked about making their luggage more secure after Shapelle’s arrest. Indeed, I’d even be checking the paperwork on my prescriptions before heading to Indonesia…especially given the amount of pills I take in a week. They could easily be perceived as trafficking quantities!

Those were the sorts of precautions your average Australian traveler was taking when the Bali 9 were arrested. Nobody wanted to be another Shapelle Corby and we were leaving absolutely nothing to chance. The consequences were just too great.

Given the historical context, the Bali 9 did come across as a bunch of idiots who had earned themselves what’s known as the Darwin Award: http://www.darwinawards.com/ After all, they didn’t need to be Einstein or have some kind of mystical crystal ball to know what they were getting themselves into. They just needed to turn on their TV. Shapelle Corby’s face was everywhere. Remember: Shapelle Corby was arrested on the 8th October 2004 and on the 27 May 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Bali Nine was arrested On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested right in the middle of Shapelle’s trial. You do have to wonder what they were thinking and if they were even thinking at all and certainly you would never expect these men to amount to anything much at all!!

That was then. This is now.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Fast-forwarding nine years, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are changed men and are inspiring other prisoners and leading exemplary lives. These are not the same men who were convicted back in 2006. Their names might be the same and they are older versions of themselves but in terms of their soul, spirit, character and no doubt even the neurofibres in their brains, they are not who they were. Therefore, executing these men would be a great travesty of justice.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

 

Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs  outlined how much the men had changed when she addressed Federal Parliament on 12th February, 2014:

“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali – whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change – have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President’s rejection of his clemency application, Andrew’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the ‘gentle giant’ – has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates’ medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran’s inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo…

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name. [2]

What Brain Plasticity Means For Chan & Sukumaran. Why Spare These Men?

If somebody completely turns their life around and becomes an entirely new and different person on the inside, should they still be judged and sentenced to death because of crimes they committed in the past? Although they have the same name and DNA, they are a different person and things become very problematic.

Would justice truly be served and can we as a global community just stand back in good conscience and do nothing to spare these men? Or, do we both as a society and as individuals need to do whatever it takes to prevent such a tragic and unjust loss of life?

The answer is a resounding “yes”!! After all, two wrongs have never made a right!!

Although I have never met these men and I certainly don’t support the use or sale of such drugs, there is such resounding evidence that these men have significantly and are now dramatically improving the lives of those around them as well, rehabilitating and educating other prisoners much more effectively than other methods.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, whose husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, spoke out in Parliament saying: “criminals can be redeemed – my husband is proof.”

She adds that the laws which underpin the executing these men is the basic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world. But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/plibersek-these-men-deserve-restorative-justice-not-execution/6088334.

I also thought it was interesting that at last night’s vigil, emotional statements were read from the pair, which acknowledged their original stupidity,  saying that  the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed” 4″

Their Last Words

Andrew Chan: “Thoughts from the Edge

“Thank you Jesus that you give me the strength and courage that I need to stand strong and to trust in you when the waters arise.”

“I thank you Jesus that you never give up on me and that your faithfulness is what helps me striving forward. I thank you for all the family and friends you surround me with in life and how your love pours out from them.”

“The Lord is revealing to me through this scripture is about how he’ll fight the battles for us and that we won’t be defeated if he goes ahead of us… The truth is God is remind us that when all seems helpless and you feel as though the enemies army surrounds you, God is telling us to stand still, take up our battle stance but do not move.[3]

Myuran Sukumaran – Thoughts from the edge

“When you are young you think money is the only way to get happiness … after being here for eight years you realize it is not.”

“After being in prison for eight years I only realized when it comes when it comes to drugs nobody gets rich – there are a few people – most get caught and end up in places like this and that’s the lesson.”

“I want to become a better person and I want to help everybody else become a better person as well. It is like a vehicle for everybody to travel in to better themselves.”

Last Words or a New Beginning…

Time is running out and I don’t know what any of us can do at this late hour. I understand that over 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian Attorney General pleading for mercy and many many people have spoken publically. Last night, a vigil was being held in Sydney to pray for the men and their families and this was just one of many. I can sense a collective heartache if these efforts fail and these two young men are put to death.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are in my heartfelt prayers.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

*Please reblog this post and spread the word. It now looks like the lives of these men rest on divine intervention and people power.

As the saying goes: “Never give up”!!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

[2] Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran, Address to House of Representatives Speech, E&OE, Parliament House, Canberra,12 February 2015.

[3] http://www.news.com.au/national/six-living-former-prime-ministers-make-united-final-plea-for-doomed-bali-nine-duo/story-fncynjr2-1227222259664

4) www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/vigils-held-for-bali-nine-pair-facing-execution/6143978

Paintings: http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumaran-paintings-in-melbourne/story-fnh81fz8-1227049488225

I apologise  for any breaches of copyright regarding the images used in this post. I am merely trying to support their cause.

Walking Through Martin Place: 6 Weeks After the Sydney Siege.

Yesterday, I walked through Sydney’s Martin Place for the very first time since the terrorist siege in December. It’s been 6 weeks. Experiencing something of a swirling vortex of emotion within, I felt unnerved, strange and just sad. Yet, with all the historic buildings still pretty much the same and the usual contingent of penguins in business attire, Martin Place was strangely business as usual.

Well…not quite!

“I am forever walking upon these shores,

Betwixt the sand and the foam,

The high tide will erase my food prints,

And the wind will blow away the foam,

But the sea and the shore will remain forever.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I wasn’t there as a voyeur but as someone trying to make sense of a horror which could never make sense. I had wanted to get in there earlier to pay my respects and leave some flowers. However, with my broken foot, I couldn’t get into the city. Now, leaving flowers no longer seemed appropriate and there was no means to express a grief which runs inexplicably deep, almost as deep as the historic Tank Stream, which lies buried beneath Martin Place’s  landmark GPO where most don’t even know it still exists.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

Tank Stream. Photo: courtesy Sydney Water.

A lot of tears have flowed into that stream lately and it’s been bursting its subterranean banks…or should I say through the pipes. Yet, now as time  passes, those tears are ever so slowly leaking through the cracks.

Above ground, everything appears almost, almost “normal” even though it isn’t. Not yet, anyway. We’re human…not machines. You can’t just press a stopwatch and your grief instantly goes away… along with your fear or at least a little reticence. After all, it could just as easily have been you, me, someone else we know and love and we know it. We’re no longer naive. It’s no longer “over there”. As I’ve said before, Australia has lost its innocence.

After a personally draining but positive day of medical tests topped off with a filling at the dentist, why did I feel the need to go to Martin Place? I really should have been unwinding and Luna Park or even a ferry trip would have been better options.

Yet, there was something stirring and resonating in my heart…a very strong, deep sense of grief..even a sense of anguish for all those who had been taken hostage and their families but mostly for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, who lost their lives. I needed to let that out.

I naturally feel a strong identification with Katrina Dawson, not only because she is also a Mum but because our family has been living with my tenuous health for almost 9 years and we have had some very, very anguished close calls. I have felt my children being torn away from me like having my heart ripped out of my chest and it is agonisingly painful. To know that her family is actually living that hell, that grief, makes my heart ache and there’s also anger because it didn’t have to be. Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson did not have to die that day.  This is probably some kind of survivor’s guilt. After all, it is hard to understand how I’m still here when my body has been ravaged by so much disease: my muscles, lungs, skin, bones. I doubt there’s a part of this body which isn’t being held together by safety pins. Yet, somehow I’m still breathing and even walking. Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were fit, healthy good people who had done nothing wrong. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and through some absolute miracle, my kids still have their Mum.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis.

The kids and I taken during my 7 week stint in hospital 2007. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

The kids and I. Mister was 3.5 and Miss was 18 months old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It doesn’t make any sense but I’m incredibly grateful and also incredibly conscious of other families who are living this grief.

I have walked through Martin Place countless times before. The clock tower still looms over the top of the historic GPO almost like the moon, even in daylight. I pass by the Cenotaph honoring those who gave their lives during a different type of war where we seemed to know the rules. None of that has changed, although some extensive renovations are underway.

Then, as I’m making my way through Martin Place, I starting thinking. Nobody knows where I am. That I’m here. I started wondering whether I should just possibly call my husband and let him know that I’m in Martin Place. If something happens, not that it’s going to happen because it can’t, nobody knows that I’m here. Lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice although all the reasons why Martin Place was hit last time, are still there. That hasn’t changed. I feel like I’m walking through a minefield and I need to report in. That something could happen and nobody would even know that I’m here. That a confession is in order. Yes, instead of catching the train straight home from the dentist at Milson’s Point, I’ve caught the train into the city, traversing the imposing span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge alighting at Wynyard  Station. Despite my broken foot, I have managed to hobble up George Street to Martin Place and even up the hill. I can already hear them saying: “What was she thinking?!!!”

I’d already had a very emotionally charged, exhausting day what with medical tests and having a tooth filled at the dentist and I still had violin ensemble ahead. Yet, I felt drawn to Martin Place, needing to pay my respects and also to try to fathom the unfathomable.

I am walking up through Martin Place, which has a bit of a hill. Up, up, up. I’m not entirely sure where the Lindt Cafe is located but my foot is now starting to tire and I’m wondering if it’s all too much. I’m slowly putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

A famous photo called: “The Dancing Man” was taken in Martin Place at the end of WWII of a man jubilantly dancing in Martin Place near the corner of Elizabeth Street. This photo has come to represent joy and celebration and yet it was almost taken right at the location of the Lindt Cafe…a scene where chocolate indulgence has turned into horror and tragedy. This paradox intrigues me. No one else seems to have made this connection.

Amidst all these questions, I wonder if place has a sense of memory? Does the soil buried beneath metres of concrete also wonder why all this has happened? Why it happened here? Who knows?

Slowly but surely I am nearing the Channel 7 TV Studios, which I know from the news broadcasts, are directly opposite the Lindt Cafe. This, it turns out, was no coincidence.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

St James Church, Sydney. 1836, lithograph. Robert Russell, printed by John Gardiner Austin.

This is the Lindt Cafe.  It’s located on the corner of Phillip Street, metres away from the NSW Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank. At least in Australian terms, this area is steeped in history. It is also metres away from St James Church. St James, with its simple almost austere Georgian lines, was designed by former convict Francis Greenway, consecrated in February 1824 and became a parish church in 1835.

Breakfast At Tiffany's

A Very Different Breakfast…

A block away, there’s Tiffany’s jewelery store and I can’t help but think of the movie and see Audrey Hepburn in all her elegance. Moon River  flows through my heart like a stream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7SI7N22k_A but then there’s this dreadful discordance…a Monday morning and a hot chocolate at the Lindt Cafe…

That certainly wasn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Lindt Cafe is empty. Indeed, it hasn’t reopened since the siege. The entrance has been boarded up and there’s a slide bolt stuck on the front. It’s sort of bolt you usually see on a side gate in your backyard, not on the front of a cafe. It looks very weird and out of place like the can opener my grandfather used to shut his garage door in later life.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

Lindt Cafe, Martin Place: a close-up of the slide bolt on the front door.

The future of the Lindt Cafe is seemingly coming out of limbo. Apparently, it’s being renovated and a memorial will be set up in the new cafe. As much as I’d always wanted to go there in the past, I don’t know if I could go there. Although I’m a serious chocoholic, there are so many other places to go where there are no memories…just coffee and cake. That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t need to be a hero. I don’t need to take such chances. I don’t even need to be brave. With more than enough adventure on my own journey, I don’t need to take on fresh, unnecessary challenges.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

Phillip Street, looking towards the Lindt Cafe, which is on the corner on the left hand side.

That said, I can’t just stay at home either. There’s that yin and yang…the tension where carpe diem seize the day becomes rather blurry. We know the world has changed…especially after events in Paris only served the reinforce the warning yet while need to be vigilant but not afraid.

There is a difference but the challenge is to find it and to stick with it.

XX Rowena

This is the fourth post I’ve written about the siege at the Lindt Cafe, Martin Place, Sydney. Here are some links to previous posts:

During the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/terror-in-australis-the-siege-in-sydneys-martin-place/

At the end of the Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/only-9-sleeps-before-christmas/

This is Our Sydney: Originally posted on kazblah: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/this-is-still-our-sydney/  

Recovering From Trauma: Petrea King https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/recovering-from-trauma-petrea-king-a-must-read/

Send Christmas Cards to Katrina Dawson’s Kids: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/lindt-cafe-siege-sydney-please-send-christmas-cards-to-katrina-dawsons-kids/

Should We Have A Happy Christmas? https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/should-we-have-a-happy-christmas/

A New Year’s Wish: Ask What You Can Do for Your World: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/a-new-years-wish-ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-world/

Repercussions of Being a Cat Loving Dog

Eisenhower was no doubt trying to be encouraging when he said: “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Unfortunately, you’ll need a microscope to find the fight in this dog right now. Indeed, I suspect that I’ve swallowed a chicken in my sleep.

Please excuse my less than positive outlook. I know I’m not exactly upbeat at the best of times and have more of a realist’s world view. However, my current state is low even by my fairly unambitious standards.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon's message still rings true: Give Peace A Chance. The trouble is how to maintain the peace when there is still so much evil in this world.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s message still rings true: Give Peace A Chance. The trouble is how to maintain the peace when there is still so much evil in this world. Not so easy…

Since I last wrote, I’ve been forced into hiding in the deepest depths of my canine laboratory since launching my twitter campaign: # cats and dogs are friends. Rather than building bridges between two age-old foes and turning hate into love, my efforts have backfired and focused the hatred of both species onto their new found common foe… me!

“And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am”

Goo Goo Dolls: Isis

Now, I am a wanted dog and as you could appreciate, it’s sadly for all the wrong reasons. My situation, as it stands, is therefore rather dire.

Hence, this could very well be my very last post.

If only this placard could be true.

If only this placard could be true.

You see, after advocating that dogs and cats should become friends and flying a flag saying: “I love cats” from the roof of my kennel, I’ve attracted hoards of haters…the very thing I spoke out against a few posts back.

Sadly, that often happens when you try to change the world and fiddle with the status quo.

Still a long way off.

Still a long way off.

So, I guess this means I won’t be collecting my Nobel Peace Prize any time soon.

All the dogs think I’m a traitor. That I’ve sold out and joined the enemy. Although I didn’t quite go as far as saying: “Je suis chat”, it seems that by trying to love cats and be their friend, I have crossed an invisible line. I’ve seemingly betrayed the very essence of being a dog. Apparently, hating cats is as much part of being a dog as barking, chewing bones and chasing balls.

Hence, dogs are quite literally trying to kill me. Indeed, a campaign of pure hate is spreading like wildfire on Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere: #Hate Bilbo, #Bilbo is not a dog… and it gets worse.

Not so long ago, I was living the very uneventful life of a garden-variety backyard dog. Yes, I admit I was also dabbling in dog philosophy and this has somehow become a crusade. It is this crusade which has got be into my current predicament.

Despite these sinister threats, I’m not about to hate. That goes against everything I believe and everything I stand for and certainly is the very antithesis of the Golden Rule. I can’t even kill my own fleas. The family always takes care of that. I am a peace-loving dog whose only crime was to try to change the world for the common good. Now, I’m a dog staring into the headlights of a truck called “Red Rover”. That is, an in “it’s all over red rover”.

It would appear that you only try to change such entrenched age-old values at your peril. So much for appreciating a bit of vision!!

Such is the fate of a lone dog trying to overcome age-old hatred to create a new world order.

However, just because the dogs all hate me, don’t think that I’ve somehow managed to win over the cat population. The cats hate me as well. Rather than seeing my efforts as some kind of bid for world peace, they’ve accused me of being a cold blooded killer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and have dug up terrible stories about my past treatment of cats. These have been rapidly circulating throughout all forms of media. Like humans, cats simply can’t believe that old dogs can learn new tricks.

So while I’m trying to stay inspired and feel the love, I’ve retreated right into the very depths of my beloved laboratory and Lady, my canine companion, is putting her food thieving, road kill retrieving skills to good use. Thankfully, it turns out that she’s not just “decorative” after all. She’s also become a very loyal friend, standing by me when, as I’ve said, every other dog wants to kill me. We’re in this together for what could well be a very long haul.

Thank you very much for reading, liking or perhaps even following my posts and for trying to step beyond your comfort zone to explore what is truly possible when we all learn to love instead of hate.

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.

 TS Eliot; The Hollow Men.

xx Bilbo

PS: If you are interested in reading my research into the Golden Rule, my posts start here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/greetings-from-good-dog/

 

If you are interested in hearing from Lady, click here for some of her posts:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/my-dog-post-lady-at-palm-beach-sydney/

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/portrait-of-a-lady/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.

Hippolyte Taine
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_pet3.html#WbTjMwQhRvQBozEu.99

 

 

# Cats and Dogs Are Friends

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

Daniel Boone

The last few weeks have been terribly confusing for yours truly. We all know about the dreadful events which have taken place right around the world. Being quite the philosopher, I often wonder what the humans are doing to our planet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they either blow us all up or we all get fried to a crisp.

It’s hard being a bystander. I had hoped things would improve in the New Year but it’s only got worse.  But what can I do? I’m only one dog. Yet, I am not any ordinary dog. I have magic powers. Well, that’s what I call being smart and finding solutions to age-old problems. That has to be a sort of magic.

Rewinding the clock, I considered what I could change in the New Year. As we all know, a new year is a clean slate and anything is possible. Of course, like all good dogs, I wanted to put my best paws forward. However, as I’ve had no luck with dieting and I’ve never smoked or taken drugs, I was stumped.

That was until Mum heard about this new idea of choosing a word to define your year. Mum’s word for 2015 is “love”. That sounded very inspirational but being my usual enthusiastic, over-achieving self, I decided to aim a little bit higher. Why settle for just one word when I could achieve so much more with these three words:

Change the World

Earth viewed from space.

Earth viewed from space.

I know you probably think that I’ve set myself the ultimate in impossible goals. However, quite frankly, it has to be easier than losing weight. These love handles of mine have definitely become permanent fixtures.

It was this quest to change the world which launched my journey into the perplexing field of philosophical research. From there, the Golden Rule certainly seemed to be the best way forward but further analysis confirmed that there is indeed an exception or challenge to every rule. For me, it was cats.

There was also the matter of my canine companion, Lady, who chews up my tennis balls without any consideration about my feelings at all!! This travesty posed yet another challenge to the Golden Rule. As I said, the Golden Rule works well when everybody follows it but when someone bucks the system, where’s the justice then?

Or, do we just hope karma intervenes?

Being somewhat jaded and disillusioned, I briefly turned to the dark side , investigating a different ideology: Do unto others as they would do unto you. While I could see that this approach could result in both good and bad outcomes, I thought it was all too easy to just start living for No. 1. That was definitely NOT where I wanted to end up. After all, while I’m not responsible for the actions of others, I do have to live with myself!

So it seems that my ideological journey went around in a great big circle and I was almost back to the beginning again. Back to the Golden Rule and trying to work out how I could be nice to cats.

Somehow, Odie pulled it off.

Odie loves Garfield but what does he get in return?

Odie seems to love Garfield unconditionally.

This was all well and good in theory but like all of my philosophical theories, difficult to put into practice.

To be nice to a cat, I actually had to get near a cat and even that was impossible. You might be surprised but I’ve never actually met a cat let alone tried to converse or conduct any type of meaningful dialogue with one. The closest I ever came to fraternising with a cat was when I bailed up that wretched thing, I mean, the nice cat from next door. I’d had that cat cornered until Dad suddenly appeared, grabbing me firmly by the collar, allowing my guest to escape before we’d been properly acquainted. Needless to say, she never came back.

Cats aren’t exactly innocent either.

"The cat next door" slashing Snoopy's doghouse

“The cat next door” slashing Snoopy’s doghouse

Firstly, let me mention my friend Snoopy and his encounters with the  savage cat next door to him. He is an extremely vicious cat who terrorizes Snoopy and Woodstock. Whenever Snoopy mocks the cat from across the yard, the cat slashes and Snoopy’s doghouse or sometimes, him. Charlie Brown usually ends up having to buy another doghouse, as a result.

Then there’s Garfield who constantly berates Odie.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

I guess it’s probably due to heated moments like this that humans have decided to keep us separate: dogs here, cats over there. Even when I go to the vet, cats are inside, dogs outside. As I said, we live in divided worlds.

However, how is separation and ignorance building bridges between cats and dogs? Bridging the gap and trying to overcome our differences? It’s not.

The time has come to start bridging the gap uniting cats and dogs through love, understanding and forgiveness to create a better world. To achieve this, we  at least need to interact and get to know each other better. After all:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

The trouble is how do we break the ice and get the ball rolling?

All I do know is that if I want to change the world, it all begins with me. I have to be the change.

Back to the lab… A protocol is definitely required to improve relations between dogs and cats.

How to Become Friends with Cats

  1. I drew a picture of myself being nice to cats and stuck it up inside my kennel. Perhaps, if I could visualise being friends with cats, that could be a start.
  2. I keep repeating “I love cats” over and over and over again. I’ve even stuck a flag on top of my beloved kennel: “I love cats”. While I still make the occasional slip of the tongue, surely, it must sink in eventually.
  3. Feed your enemy. As everyone knows, the easiest way to the heart is through the stomach. I retrieved a dead fish from the beach and shoved it under the fence. I had thought about sharing my bones and even throwing my ball to the cat next door but I soon realised that cats don’t value either of these canine pursuits. This is what’s known as the Inverse Golden Rule “Treat others as they would like to be treated”.
  4. Find a dog who lives happily with a cat and request an introduction. After all, a dog just can’t approach any old cat and say hello. I’d be torn to shreds by their dreaded claws.
  5. Start small by taking very small steps.  Cats and dogs have been fighting since forever. It’s going to take time for things to change:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”- Lao Tzu

6. Learn from the past but make a new beginning.

7. Forgive.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain

However, while I thought I was a real genius putting this protocol together and was expecting a Nobel Peace Prize for my efforts, a cat appeared in my backyard last night. I don’t know how much you know about dogs. Although we try to be good,  we’re actually reactionary by nature. We act first and think later. So despite all my philosophical research and heartfelt desires to be nice, I failed. I still took off after that cat at full speed, barking with the same vicious growl that I usually reserve for the posty. Yet again, I’d fueled the war between cats and dogs despite my best intentions.

Back to the drawing board.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

This time I decided to try social media. Suffering from creative block, it took awhile to get the creative juices flowing. However, inspired by Bruce,  the Great White Shark in Finding Nemo. I developed my own hash tag:

“# Cats and Dogs are friends”.

Now, I just need to get the word out.

That means Mum has to learn how to twit or was that tweet? I can’t remember but I know it had something to do with those wretched feathered things that keep invading my backyard and tormenting me so much.

Well, she’s always telling me that an old dog can learn new tricks. Now, it’s her turn.

Wish me luck. As always, I need plenty!

xx Bilbo

 

Old Self…New Year: Beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

If you, like me, decided NOT to make any  resolutions at all on NYE, you could also be in for a rude shock. Just because you objected, that doesn’t mean those resolutions won’t come running after you. Now, that NYE is almost a full week behind us and we’ve almost been lulled into a dream, it’s just the right time for the Big Bad Wolf to come knocking on your door when you least expect it:

“Little pig. Little pig! Let me in”.

That’s right. The Big Bad Wolf will huff, puff and blow your house down. That is, if you refuse to respond and open the door to constructive change.

I have to admit that I’d seen the Big Bad Wolf out on the horizon but thought I’d got a step ahead by taking up the One Word Challenge: http://myoneword.org/.

Love...my word for 2015.

Love…my word for 2015.

Indeed, you might have read that I have chosen “Love” as my word for 2015https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/new-year-my-one-word-for-2015-and-why-i-cant-leave-2014-behind/

“Love” seemed the only choice for me after the week of horror which took place just before Christmas. After all that hate in one week along with the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 earlier in the year, I really felt we all needed to come together in love to cleanse our world of hate.

In order to do this, we somehow needed to learn to “love our neighbour as ourselves”.

Not just our neighbour either.

We also need to treat our nearest and dearest the way we would like to be treated. Or, better still, by having the empathy to treat them the way they would like to be treated. This is so much more than a platitude. I take this word extremely seriously and see this as no warm, fuzzy, soft option. Indeed, the decision, the commitment, to love is a serious undertaking and also involves a word that I’m seriously not good at…”patience”. I failed patience a long, long time ago.

It also involves stopping, which is another concept I’m not that good at. Stop writing and being busy and spend some quality time with those I love…so easy in theory but surprisingly difficult in practice. We all lead busy lives but eventually that excuse wears thin.

With love as my over-arching word for 2015, I already knew that I had my work cut out for me. That love was a sufficient challenge, goal, personal development project for 2015.

Ha! Like so many of us who make plans and goals, these soon get dashed on the rocks. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t given up on love. It’s just that resolutions for the New Year are slowly but surely finding me and they’re being very insistent. I don’t think I have any choice about doing any of this. It’s sink or swim time and of course, I and the rest of the family are wanting to swim. We don’t want to drown.

So once again, I’m left quoting John Lennon:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

So while New Year’s Eve has been and gone, we are still on school holidays in Australia and my real NYE will be the 27th January…the night before the kids go back to school. By then, I’ll have to overcome my sins of the past 12 months. I must… especially if I love my kids and I truly want them to reach their true potential. Grow up into themselves, without being stunted. I want my kids to grow up into mighty oaks or even eucalypts… not being constantly cut back and cut back into some imprisoned bonsai which never grows up to reach the sun!

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or "gum" tree.

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or “gum” tree.

Sure, I was pretty crook last year. You know my story  or can read it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can justifiably blame the chemo for screwing up my already challenged organisation, I can only blame chemo for so long before I need to act. Do something. As I said, we don’t want to sink…especially in a sea of miscellaneous paperwork and school notes. We want to swim. Be in  the race…not drown.

Improving my health is another non-negotiable this year. This really is something I can’t mess around with.

Now, I’m needing to develop the infrastructure or scaffolding to keep us on track until the chemo brain wears off. These are the sort of tedious changes that eventually get thrust upon you when there is no other choice ie when the Big Bad Wolf has all but gobbled up the sweet little pig.

So while I am also making big plans for my writing, my blog and work in 2015, I’ve also been force to accept these New Year’s nasties:

  1. Develop a detailed schedule and routine to improve organisation and arrive on time.
  2. Keep better track of upcoming events using diary, planner and wall chart.
  3. Lose 10 kilos. This will improve my breathing, reduce the worsening heartburn and improve my general health.
  4. Exercise 3 x per week. This reduces the risk of a respiratory infection…the greatest risk to my health. It will also help to keep me mobile and improve muscle strength.
  5. Declutter the house for an hour a day. I cleaned my desk up recently and I felt so much better. Need to extend those open spaces.

Despite my best intentions, this list of nasties seems to be growing too.

Of course, it goes without saying that I will still be writing, writing, writing. “Working” on my blog and even though my camera is suffering from chronic over-use, I can’t see it sitting home alone either!!

Out Taking Photos

Out Taking Photos

That said, even though I’ve taken these resolutions onboard under duress, that doesn’t mean I have to love them…even if that’s my word for 2015.

Even this ambitious little pig who is building her house out of brick, has to be prepared.

How are things looking for you in the New Year ahead? If you are struggling with it all, how about you listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPtlSF4TlJE

Try

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
[1]

 

All the best with the best laid plans of mice and men and of course, it goes without saying, beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

xx Rowena

[1] Writer(s): Michael Busbee, Michael Ford Busbee, Benjamin West
Copyright: BMG Platinum Songs Us, Hello I Love You Music, Legitimate Efforts Music, Jam Writers Group