Tag Archives: goals

Staying on Course III: Beyond Lost

I Don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha at the moment. It’s 10.30AM Monday morning and I’ve just staggered out of bed feeling incredibly whoozy and disoriented.

Geoff went back to work this morning and was up at 6.00am. I decided to get up and have breakfast with him before he headed back home for the rest of the working week. I did what at least appeared to me to be some amazingly inspiring spiritual writing and then went back to bed for a few hours. I’m now sitting back at my laptop to work through this morning’s writing effort with a cup of English Breakfast Tea and a chocolate chip cookie…part of a batch of biscuits I made for Church yesterday arvo.

Choc Pecan Cookies.

Choc Pecan Cookies.

Just to make sure you don’t get the wrong idea, I’ve never made biscuits for Church before and this is only the second time we’ve been to this little Church in Avalon and technically we’re “just visiting”. I know I sounds like a real try hard but they were starting up a new roster and with all the cooking we’ve been doing lately, I felt drawn to contribute. I’m really pleased I made the biscuits because they were a great ice breaker. After all, don’t you find that home-made food knits people together in a way that the bought stuff can’t? There’s something about making it with your own hands and the love you pour into your cooking that must give it some kind of unique DNA.

Another biscuit…

After all my kayaking and thoughts about goal setting of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about direction and the pros and cons of staying on course.  However, I don’t think that I’ve actually mentioned that I’m directionally challenged in any of these discussions. Indeed, I was even born facing the wrong direction. That’s right. I was born “sunny side up” facing up instead of down in what is called the posterior position. Naturally, I’ve concluded that this dodgy beginning has somehow set me up for life.  What hope did I have?

Geoff will confirm that my sense of direction has hardly improved. I turn maps “upside down” or should I say the right way up to navigate. In this regard, I’m hardly unique and I’m sure many of you will understand my exasperation with Google maps which insists on turning the map back around. They won’t let you hold the map “upside down”. What were those Google people thinking?!! This system was obviously designed by very single blokes who never go driving with women. Supergeeks! I knew it had to be the geeks! Technology and I also have an uneasy relationship and if my husband wasn’t a geek, I’d be totally convinced that the geeks are out to get me. Not that I’m paranoid!

I’m not going to go into the details of some of the navigational encounters I’ve had with Geoff, especially looking for hotels in unfamiliar cities after dark but I will mention Canberra which is generally known as a difficult city to navigate and there was a certain hotel which was supposed to be in Canberra but was actually in NSW which is like a different state and it was on a side road and wasn’t anywhere near where it was supposed to be. We drove passed that hotel at least 3 or 4 times trying to find it. We were seriously hovering on the very edge of divorce after that experience and all the manager cared about was getting the best marketing angle. Grr!

So you can see why I need some extra help with direction not just in terms of geography but also in terms of where my life is heading. It can also be a bit spatially challenged as well.

As much as I have my goals and can be exceptionally focused, like all of us I can also get lost. Sometimes, I get so lost that I can barely find my way home. As you know, I have a lot of medical issues so there are times where I’m seriously struggling on the home front with just about everything and then the kids also throw their hat in the ring. Miss refuses to brush her hair. One or both of the kids can’t find their shoes. They refuse to do their music practice, home work…everything! It is little wonder that I feel lost and my bubble crash lands back to earth with an audible “pop”.

Lost isn’t good but then there’s “beyond lost”.

You see, “beyond lost” is where you are rapidly speeding the wrong direction so completely and utterly focused on your goal that you’re oblivious to your real position…a very, very long way from where you’re actually meant to be. This sort of thing can so easily happen when people get swept up in a new idea and just go for it. Don’t listen to advice. Don’t learn from other people’s mistake. Switch off to anything negative. Just be positive! Ride the wave!

Hello!

Rather than being the exception, beyond lost seems the norm. There are a lot of lost and bewildered sheep out there wandering around with dents in their head.

Procrastination isn’t a good thing either but this is where balanced consideration comes in.

Geoff and I talked about this and it really is very hard to get the balance right. It is difficult to have that sense of direction and focus on a goal and yet also be able to juggle multiple hats. I really need to focus on my writing and getting these books I’ve been sitting on finished. At the same time, I also need to spend serious time with Geoff and the kids and really be focused on my health and recovery. Getting the balance right is going to take some serious consideration and constant monitoring to see that I stay on track. That my kayak isn’t veering off course. This will require a newly acquired vigilance and I think that had better start with replacing the battery in my watch. Keeping a better track of time is my first step. After all, that way I will have the best chance of leading a well-rounded life with the people I love while also pursuing my other passions.

Hmm. I’m sure you’ve probably heard all of this before.

That’s why I have the check list but I am who I am and that’s why it is yet another Monday and the check list isn’t set up and I haven’t even done the first thing on my to do list which is vitally urgent. I need to organise my blood tests for tomorrow. These are the big verdict blood tests…very important and the day is well and truly racing away. Talk about neglecting my priorities, going the wrong direction and dare I say it being “beyond lost” myself.

I guess this means that I am still a work in progress.

Staying on Course II: Husband & Wife

As a writer, I am very good at theory and not so versed in practice. After all, if you use up all your time writing about your dreams, hopes, goals and aspirations, unless you are mighty fast on the keyboard, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for implementation…the doing part of the equation…especially when it comes to spending time with my husband! Hmm….

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo of Geoff and I kayaking together but Geoff is behind the camera in this  shot. Hopefully, I’ll update it next weekend when the kids are here to take the shot.

Monday 20th January, 2014

Well, as usual I was in prime form yesterday morning. Despite desperately wanting to go out in the kayak with Geoff for some couple time and to also show him the mangroves which I’d explored with Mister on Friday, I spent at least an hour writing about Geoff’s tips on kayaking…writing about how to kayak instead of kayaking itself. We live in a tidal area and you have to take the kayaks out at high tide or you can’t get back. There is some leeway but to some extent it is a case of act now or you’ll miss out. You can’t really procrastinate, defer or delay.  You just have to go. As I was philosophising away on my theories, the water was literally ticking away…tick tock, tick tock…dong!

My justification of course was that I wanted to “seize the advice” before it drifted through one ear and paddled downstream straight out the other ear.

Yesterday morning, Geoff and I set out on a kayaking adventure together… an opportunity to put some of my new found paddling expertise into practice. As it turned out, Geoff had many more tips hidden up his sleeve and kayaking also had a lot to teach me about how to achieve my goals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T3RS78Tp58

As I mentioned in my previous post, Geoff is an experienced white-water kayaker. He’s traversed the infamous Corra Linn Rapids in the South Esk River in Tasmania where the original Solo Man commercial was filmed back in 1986. Geoff knows how to operate a paddle and keep a kayak afloat under very adverse conditions so paddling up to the mangroves and back was very elementary. (Geoff also pointed out that the original Solo Man Iron Man Grant Kenny went through the rapids in a “bus” not a real kayak. You see, he might have been the original Solo Man but he wasn’t a Tasmanian!)

I was really looking forward to spending time together and being in our own small couple bubble as we ventured among the mangroves exploring new worlds. We both really love being at one with nature and a million miles away from care, almost melting into the landscape.

Due to my muscle weakness, I find it quite awkward actually climbing on board the kayak. I seem to have two left feet and it’s a bit like trying to do a reverse park with a hill start in a manual. There’s a lot of manoeuvring back and forwards and glancing around between the kayak and my feet to work out what goes where first without tipping the whole thing over. Given the unstable nature of the kayak as well, it is a little daunting but once I’m seated, I’m quite fine and good to go.

Finally, we were out on the water and my kayaking lessons began in earnest.

Geoff had already worked out which way the wind and the current were flowing. This is almost innate to him. He just knows. He reminds me that you start out against the wind and current so you return back with the current behind you when you’re tired on the way home. Energy conservation is a jolly good strategy.

Next, Geoff starts working on improving my stroke to get more power. While I thought I was paddling along okay, Geoff advised me to hold my paddle more vertically. I also needed to sit up straight. We were using the Power Stroke. This was a bit of a struggle with my limited arm strength as well as being a new, uncomfortable position but I persevered. I wanted to learn how to paddle properly and become a Solo Woman myself. Building on the Power Stroke, Geoff then advised me how to use my feet and push with the foot on the side of the paddle so that I was using my entire body to move the kayak forward instead of just my arms. This would really give us more momentum.

While we are paddling along, Geoff is “reading the water”: looking out for obstacles such as shallow water where we could get stuck and tracking the strong headwind. He is enjoying the ride and also looking out for fish. A guy on a windsurfer shoots past and that looks pretty fun too.

As the more experienced and stronger paddler, Geoff compensated for my weakness and there were times where I had to stop paddling and rest and he carried my load. This was much appreciated because reaching the mangroves was beyond my capabilities but we pulled it off because he compensated for me and we worked as a team.

Such detailed advice isn’t always appreciated between husbands and wives. Just consider a parallel situation of a husband telling his wife how to drive a car. You can really feel the sparks fly. Yet, a bit of constructive criticism really should be welcomed on board, acted on and seen as an opportunity for growth, not viewed as an attack, put down or condemnation. I really appreciated Geoff’s input which came from his much greater experience of kayaking. I had the opportunity to learn, grow and improve from my husband and it didn’t cost me a cent. Moreover, we had the opportunity to spend some time together on our own doing something together which we both enjoyed.

From this experience, I could definitely appreciate the value of having a coach to help you reach your goals. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and you can fast track your progress by coasting through on the wake of their experience.

There is also greater strength in numbers and while there are times where it’s great to be the quintessential Renaissance man or woman…the all-conquering individual…there are also times where you don’t want to go it alone. That is a tremendous relief to have a problem shared and such pleasure in sharing the experience and having your horizons broadened through someone else’s eyes and vision. We all see something unique and different even looking at the very same spot. This is the exciting and challenging thing of being a living, breathing, flexible and integral part of community.

However, for the full benefits of a coach to be fully appreciated, you also need to be coachable. Willing not only to listen and act on that advice but know how to handle constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for growth instead of a perceiving advice as a personal attack. I have experienced fairly intensive advice and criticism in my violin lessons and it has made such a difference. Remember, I received that A in my preliminary exam…a result I achieved because I listened and acted on advice instead of being “precious”.

Unless you are open to criticism, correction and inhaling and implementing advice, you’ll never grow. While it may be less confronting to read a book of life lessons and apply them to your life, it is far more effective to heed the advice of someone who knows us well and loves us and applies that personal but probably more painful touch. This is probably the greatest gift we could ever receive. Yet, rather than being thankful and appreciating the inherent risks of speaking out, we’re more likely to beat our loved ones over the head with a stick or go off and sulk. Somehow, we need to learn to be more gracious and  listening, accepting feedback and find ways of implementing the required changes to grow. Become the very best person we can be.

I am now coming to appreciate that personal growth and change is an ongoing life-long process. We are constantly refining and refining ourselves in a never-ending process of growth. Growth which isn’t a striving towards an oppressive perfectionism but rather the joy of feeling yourself extend beyond what you thought was possible and to enjoy fresh green buds and emerging flowers and feel your entire being come alive and you step out of the chains of bondage. For me, this means being able to love and give more freely because despite what’s going on in my life, I am fine. I might not understand what is happening in my life or why but somewhere it is all integrated into a larger whole and God is walking with me guiding my path taking me on an exhilarating journey.

After all, none of us is set in stone.

Rather, we are a seed.

The funny thing about seeds is that they usually don’t just fall straight out of the tree and instantly start to grow. Rather, there is usually some kind of journey involved and these adventures usually aren’t very glamorous at all! An animal eats the seed transporting it a very long way from home and it takes time before the seed can sprout. Many seeds go astray. Just think about how many kids find an acorn and stick it in their pocket? Of course, the child doesn’t know what they’ve done. That they’ve taken all that awesome potential and stuck it on hold. The acorn simply can’t grow into an oak while it’s sitting on the shelf. Of course, the acorn probably gives up and thinks it is the end of the road but there is always hope. The acorn is still a seed and perhaps it is just a matter of time.

We need to embrace our own journey and then plant ourselves, our goals and our dreams in fertile soil and nurture them with sun and rain. Then we can become oaks with soaring branches deeply rooted in love.

I should also point out that the ultimate purpose of all this personal growth and refinement isn’t about the self-indulgent pursuit of personal happiness and fulfilment. It is actually geared towards being a fully functional, giving part of our community with a body, heart and soul which is able to give and give abundantly. Becoming the wondrous oak tree in the park providing shade and shelter to birds, insects, children with its strong and sturdy branches stretching up to the sky and absorbing the sun.

Finally, Geoff and I had a really lovely paddle together. Geoff seemed to be focused on looking for fish while I loved looking at the reflections of the mangrove trees on the water. Geoff always seems to see so many little things which I miss like the oysters growing on the trunks of the mangroves. I did see many, many little fish among the mangroves. That was very encouraging because I do wonder just how many fish are in the ocean these days and whether they are running out.

Unfortunately, I can’t share any photos with you because I didn’t want to risk the camera getting wet. It hasn’t learned how to swim yet.

We are a living breathing work-in-progress constantly changing and never standing still.

PS Tuesday 21st January, 2014

I would like to remind you that I am currently going through chemotherapy and also having high dose infusions of prednisone. These are drugs just like any other kind of drug and I know they are very definitely influencing and shaping not only my writing but also my vision…what I see. A lot of my friends who have been on high doses of prednisone talk about going on cleaning frenzies and I am starting to wonder whether that is as much about seeing what’s around them more clearly as much as having the added steroid energy boost.

I have definitely found a level of clarity and insight that has been quite staggering and intense. At times, it’s been like a thunder bolt has hit. I see something so clearly. I can see something in someone else so clearly that it is mind blowing. Now, I can’t always test these insights out and know if they are real or just the drugs talking but it is certainly interesting and you see those kids with cancer on TV and they get very profound and it is profound when you are facing your own mortality but there are also the effects of the chemo and I don’t know what they are.

As a bloggers, I think most of us are seekers. We are looking out there for insights into life and hopefully how we can become better people and collectively make the world a better place. We can’t experience everything in life and face it, who really wants to go through the chemo experience. However, this has been my lot, my journey and I am trying to share it with you as earnestly as I can. Putting you in my shoes. You can come to chemo with me and the good news is that neither of us are going to lose our hair!

xx Ro

Another PS: I just chose the title for today’s post and thought it deserved a bit more attention. I chose to continue the staying on course theme from my previous post and it is about kayaking and goal setting but staying on course is a serious difficulty in any relationship. When I was a kid, you’d hear stories of couples having another baby when their marriage was on the rocks to bridge the gap. I don’t know if that happens anymore because I most of us realise that as much as having kids draws you together as a couple, it also divides. Add years of living with a chronic, life-threatening with all it’s inherent medical emergencies and it is very difficult to invest enough time, energy and nurturing into that relationship to keep it fuelled. Fortunately, my parents took the kids for yet another night while Geoff was still on leave and we were able to get out there on the water kayaking together despite my incessant writing and we were able to go out for dinner just the two of us two nights in a row. We were about to feed our relationship and help some of those ragged nerve endings grow back. Our relationship needed to rebuild its neuro pathways as well and reconnect.

Perseverance

When it comes to endurance, perseverance and overcoming hurdles, I’d never put learning the violin in the same category as marathon running but that’s all changed.

As much as I love my violin, it is also hard work, endurance, perseverance. Never giving up.

Just like new babies look so sweet but makes some truly dreadful sounds, my violin also has its own theme and variations of the “witching hour” something akin to a Tom cat howling at the moon while being grabbed by the throat.

Two years ago, I took up the violin by default. I’d had no dreams, aspirations or even vague thoughts of taking up an instrument midlife. I didn’t like music. Didn’t even listen to music. I was a writer, a photographer and music interfered with my thoughts. It was at best distracting but mostly annoying. Turn it down. Switch it off. Although much of my family is incredibly and even professionally musical, I was musically stunted…the runt…despite many, many years of piano lessons.

That said, despite my best effects, I can still play the first page of Moonlight Sonata and play it whenever I visited my parents on their Steinway grand piano (the piano of serious pianists!)

Anyway, my daughter has always shown a strong love of music and when she started school, the big moment of choosing an instrument finally came. I was all set for her to start off on the piano but she wanted to learn violin. Was quite insistant on the violin. I wondered if she felt some kind of special connection with it and decided, against my own council, to let her have a go.

When we arrived at her lesson, the teacher said I could sit in and it soon became apparent that I needed to be more than just a taxi driver. She needed hands on encouragement. We pulled Geoff’s grandfather’s violin out of the cupboard and I joined in on her lessons.   I didn’t know it at the time but Suzuki actually believed the mother should learn the violin first in order to encourage the child and I was unknowingly following in his footsteps.

I actually had some background with the violin. My brother had learned Suzuki violin for many years and had actually performed at the Opera House a number of times at annual concerts. I had learned for a couple of terms but had abandoned violin in disgust when I couldn’t hold the bow properly. So whilst I couldn’t remember much about playing the violin, I wasn’t a rank beginner and could actually help.

Miss and I practiced well together through term one but after not practicing during the holidays, she sounded terrible when we went back to lessons. She had a few colossal meltdowns and I decided to keep her spot warm until she was fit to return. I never doubted her love for the violin. She just needed a bit of a break.

Another term went by and by this stage, I had fallen in love with the violin, despite all its quirks and difficulties. I read that it took 10,000 hours of practice to become a concert violinist and worked out that it would take something like 28 years at one hour a day and I joked about making my concert debut at the Opera House using a walking frame.

Playing my violin at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay

Playing my violin at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay

Meanwhile, our musical school put together a violin ensemble and we performed at the end of year concert at Lizotte’s, a local rock n’ roll venue. January, I packed up my violin when we headed to Byron Bay and had Geoff photograph me playing outside the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse. Well, I wasn’t actually playing. Just posing. I wanted the shot.

While I still had my heart set on my debut as a concert violinist, I first had to sit for my preliminary exam. This is the first and most basic exam and to be perfectly honest, you usually sit for your preliminary exam at the tender age of something like 5 maybe 6 years old…not 44! To further put the pressure on, I had scored an A in my preliminary piano exam when I was around that age and I couldn’t recall doing a lot of practice. Therefore, logic argued that I should easily score an A as a more mature violinist who had actually bothered to practice. That is practice for at least 30 minutes every day and not just under duress.

However, as I said, the violin’s middle name is perseverance. While preliminary should have been easy, a piece of cake and my “A” almost automatic, it was actually hard work. I really struggled to get a true and pure sound without even the faintest squeak creeping in. In a real act of contrariness, my violin would play two strings when I only wanted to play one but when I was trying to play two strings simultaneously for double stops, I would only play one. Infuriating!

We all know how easily love can turn to hate…

Yet, at the same time, my violin was teaching me so much more than just how to make music. It was teaching me how to stick at something I found difficult and to keep practicing and practising until I got it right, instead of simply giving up at the first sign of trouble. That was a huge leap forward for me. When I couldn’t do something in the past, I’d simply say it wasn’t me and give up. “I couldn’t do it” but now I had the example that if I really wanted to do something and if I put the hours in, I could probably do it or perhaps I could find around my hurdles.

Here I am skiing at Perisher.

Here I am skiing at Perisher.

I really put this into action on the ski slopes when I found the whole skiing experience quite overwhelming. I remember sitting on the chairlift which I really, really loved wondering why I was putting myself through the stress of learning how to ski when sitting on the chairlift was so much fun and so effortless. Yet, at the same time, I found the challenge invigorating and it was great to learn a new skill and improve. As I was tackling the mountain, I reflected on how perseverance and practice had worked for the violin and these principles would also apply to skiing. I had private lessons with my instructor and practiced inbetween and I really started to improve. I become a skier. I was immensely proud and when we arrived home, I was really chuffed to hear my son tell the Deputy Principal that Mummy had gone skiing even though she was afraid. That hopeful told him volumes.

Getting back to my violin, I was working towards my exam and the end of year concert when I developed pneumonia and spent 3 weeks in bed. No practice. My auto-immune disease had also flared up and I lacked the muscle strength to hold up my violin. The first day I returned to ensemble practice, I made a zillion mistakes and it sounded like cat claws traversing the strings. It was disgusting and soul destroying. I wondered whether it was all just too hard. That trying to learn the violin while battling a life-threatening illness was all too much. Was I pushing myself too hard? Should I just relax and fall into the easy chair and stop?

You know what it’s like when you’re down on the ground and you are facing that fork in the road. Should I keep fighting or just quietly let go of the dream?

I didn’t know.

My Dad mentioned something about it being good to have goals but what was the point if I couldn’t breathe?

He had a point.

I was still coughing and coughing and coughing…the pneumonia leaving a nasty legacy.

Still, I was slowly improving. Practicing again and as yet, we hadn’t received any notification of my exam date. That probably meant I had a good 3-4 weeks of practice up my sleeve.

I hadn’t given up yet.

Then the date arrived and I was scheduled to be at the AMEB offices in Sydney at 9.15am. I live about 2 hours away and I couldn’t see how I was going to get there. While this could have been a sign to withdraw, instead I wrote a letter asking for my exam to be moved to Gosford. Mentioned my health and disability issues and was given special consideration and my time moved to 2.55PM. After this kindness, I felt I had to front up…even if I failed!

I found an accompanist.

It was on.

My violin and I caught the train down to Sydney and I had lunch in the park watching the Ibis prey upon hapless office workers. As much as I love my trips to Sydney, I couldn’t relax.

I turned up to my exam half an hour early. There is a practice room but apparently this is only for tuning your instrument. I had left home early so I could warm up and I needed at least a thirty minute practice beforehand. My body doesn’t work well at the best of times.

A selfie of me playing my violin in the bus shelter, Sydney.

A selfie of me playing my violin in the bus shelter, Sydney.

My violin and I exited stage left. There we were on Clarence Street in the heart of Sydney looking for somewhere, anywhere, that I could practice my violin with even just a modicum of privacy. Office workers were rushing back and forwards and lanes of traffic crawled past. I investigated a few brick walls outside a couple of pubs but then spotted the bus shelter outside the AMEB building and set myself up. I know that any decent musician would have been too self-conscious to play but I was desperate. I had to get my fingers moving. My teacher had emphasised long, smooth bow strokes and I tried to picture her long, flowing blond hair moving slowly through the water like a mermaid. It seemed to work, even surprising myself. I was quite impressed and thought that at last I had finally “got it”.

Not on your life. I wasn’t overly nervous about the exam but at the same time, I knew I made many mistakes. I just wasn’t comfortable and that’s the hard thing about the violin. When you stiffen up, your bowing goes jerky. Your fingers don’t move properly and I was mixing up C and C sharp. I just wanted to escape.

I told my teacher that I thought I’d got a C but harboured fears that there was also scope for a D.

Fortunately, the results were due out after Christmas and so I could get through Christmas lunch and not feel I’d brought total disrepute on the family. I was always so proud of my goals and so determined to achieve them but what with the pneumonia and my auto-immune disease playing up, I figured that it was okay to fail. Walk away. Focus on my writing. Be a writer. After all, that’s who and what I really am. The violin was only second fiddle and certainly not worth dying for.

Well, the results didn’t wait until after Christmas. I received a very nice, very surprising early Christmas present…an A! I couldn’t believe it and re-read my teacher’s email several times before I believed it.

Perseverance did pay off after all!

I’m a violinist!

Surfing the Dream

Have you ever had an experience where your feet somehow walk ahead of you? That you suddenly wake up and you don’t know how you’ve got there? That something which has slowly been percolating away at the back of your mind has suddenly jumped out in front of you like a kangaroo in the headlights and bam. You’ve suddenly hit your dream head-on and almost had a fatality. You’re in shock. You just can’t believe how all your ducks have suddenly lined up all at the same time. How is this so? It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any more sense that when bad things happen to good people. There are just mysteries in this life…questions which are never going to be answered.

Coincidence is one of these great mysteries.

For the last few weeks, I have been working pretty flat out on my poem The Surfer’s Dog. This poem was inspired by a dog I saw at Whale Beach in Sydney something like 20 years ago. I photographed this particular dog lying on the beach staring out to sea watching his master. He seemed to be waiting and waiting for hours just lying there in the sun. He didn’t go to sleep or move a muscle. He just lay there waiting patiently for his master to return. He had such loyalty, devotion. His master was his entire world. I remember ebullient excitement when his master eventually emerged from the surf and then they walked along the beach together back to the car. The dog was in heaven.

That dog has stayed with me. He was the epitome of loyalty, devotion and love and yet I wouldn’t advocate putting your life on hold like that or revolving your life around someone else either. Phrases like “get a life” come to mind. He was an adorable but quite a lone figure on the beach…almost like a ghost…as he waited for his master to come back.

The Surfer's Dog...hardly a glamorous breed but tough.

The Surfer’s Dog…hardly a glamorous breed but tough.

Surfer’s dogs have always seemed a breed of their own…rough and tough and certainly not at all fluffy. Perhaps, they might have a touch of kelpie or working dog but certainly nothing glamorous. I’ve certainly never seen a surfer with a fluffy, white dog like the one in the My Dog commercial.

Whale Beach, Sydney

Whale Beach, Sydney

Last October, I went back to Whale Beach for the first time in about ten years. It was a strange experience because in so many ways, time had stood still. Nothing much had changed. In particular, I noticed that the surfers were still out there in the surf bobbing up and down like seals and it just seemed like they have always been there. They’ve never left. They were caught up in some kind of time warp. It was like they weren’t real…more iconic.

That inspired my poem: Surfing Through the Hourglass, which is still a work in progress but I’ve posted it as part of this story.

In the original version of the poem, the surfer’s dog was more of an image…an icon rather than being a real dog. The dog has been there so long that he’s become part of the spirit of the place.

Then I came up with a stanza about who feeds the dog. How does it eat? I mentioned that to Geoff and he said that if there was a dog on the beach people would be feeding it. As a result, the surfer’s dog became more of a community dog. I thought about him being a bit like a barperson who listens to everyone’s problems…a friend to all and yet at the same time, the surfer’s dog only has one master.

At this point, I was pretty sure that I’d finished the poem but I took it in with me for a final proof when I was having my regular blood transfusion of Immunoglobulin. These transfusions take about 4 hours so it’s a great time for me to write and catch up on some reading. Well, The Surfer’s Dog took another U-Turn. Instead of just passively waiting for his master to return, he was now wanting to learn how to surf. However, because he’s never seen a dog surfing before, he chickens out. He’s afraid. Doesn’t want to make a fool of himself. He has his pride. He is the surfer’s dog.

By the time I’d reached this stage of the poem, I was living and breathing The Surfer’s Dog. I was editing and re-editing the poem for hours each day and the surfer’s dog was my constant companion.

Then about a week ago, I had another revelation about the poem. I was the surfer’s dog. I have desperately wanted to learn how to surf most of my life. To me, surfing has always been the epitome of freedom and that sort of merges with my dream of taking off in a kombi. I realise now that my mythical Kombi has always had a surfboard strapped onto the roof and we’re heading up to Byron Bay. I can already feel my hair blowing in the wind,the sand between my toes and the waves calling me.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf but I’ve only been surfing once about 20 years ago and I’ve never forgotten just how amazing that felt. A friend of mine had come down to my parents’ beach house at Whale Beach and had brought his board along. I only went on it once. I didn’t stand up. I just lay on it and caught my first wave….my one and only wave. I still remember how good that felt…the exhilaration, the power of the wave. It was just amazing!! I could have surfed for the rest of my life. Yet, for some strange reason, I never went surfing again. The surfboard rider and I were supposedly “just good friends” and we all know what that means so there were no more surfing lessons from him. We lived just across the road from a legendary surfing beach and yet we had no surfboards. It all seems a bit insane now. After all, what is a beach house for????

So there I was a week ago having spent hours and hours and hours living and breathing as the surfer’s dog sitting on the beach inside his scruffy, sand-encrusted coat when I realised that I desperately wanted to surf. That I’d always desperately wanted to surf and here I was 43 years old and 20 plus years later and I’d done nothing whatsoever about it. The eyes of my heart had been opened. The scales had been lifted and I could finally see things clearly. I had to learn how to surf…especially as I only live 700 metres from the beach now. I’ve been living here for 11 years and I haven’t even tried out the kids’ boogie boards. It really does paint me as a bit of a sod.

It was time to get moving!

The morning after this great revelation, I left for an Adventure Camp at Nelson Bay with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. They support me with my auto-immune disease as it affects my muscles. We were just settling into camp when I looked at the program. What was the first thing on the program…learn to surf! I couldn’t believe it! It’s taken me more than 20 years to realise just how much I wanted to surf and then hey presto I’m going to surfing lessons the very next morning.

I was so stoked but I was also gobsmacked. My dream had been hand-delivered to me on a silver platter. I couldn’t believe it!! It was all a bit surreal and too much of a coincidence.

It was meant to be!

I was going surfing. Me… the middle-aged mother with the dodgy muscles was actually going surfing! It was so bizarre especially after working on that poem so intensely.

I was reminded of a quote by Oscar Wilde: Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.

Yet, before I experienced the exhilaration of actually surfing, I still needed to clear a few minor, major hurdles.

Firstly, I had to squeeze into my wet suit. These things might look fabulous on a very fit, young body but I had serious trouble getting into mine. They seem to be two sizes too small and it’s pretty tricky squeezing all this whale blubber into such a confined space. My balance isn’t the best so I also needed a bit of assistance to climb in and it really did feel like I was climbing inside some kind of very thick and inflexible second skin. This was when I found out why surfers strut. Wet suits are so stiff, you’re moving like a robot!

Sadly, even in my tight, constricting wet suit, I didn’t perfect the strut. I was still me.

The second thing they leave out of the surfing brochures is just how much a surfboard weighs and you can’t just stick them on a luggage trolley and pull them down the beach. No, to be a true blue ultra cool surfie dude, you need to have your surfboard casually tucked under your arm like a piece of cardboard. Ha! Surfboards are heavy. I guess that’s how surfers develop all those lovely, well-developed muscles. My muscles don’t work that well so I had to settle for assistance. One of the carers very kindly carried my board down to the beach. Once there, I lugged the thing awkwardly by the neck while the poor tail dragged along through the sand. I had no poise or grace whatsoever…and certainly no strut!

Surfie Chick...ha!

Surfie Chick…ha!

But so what if I didn’t look cool?!!  I didn’t care! I was too blissed out living my dream to care about the mechanics. I just wanted to surf! The surfer’s dog was finally going to catch a wave.

Wait! Before we actually hit the surf, we had a surfing lesson on the sand. This lesson just took us through the basics of surfing like the parts of the board and attaching the leg rope to your stronger leg. I took special note of the leg rope and was determined not to trip over it!!

Then, off we went.

Wow! I caught a few waves. It was awesome.

Then it was time to really get stuck into it. We were back out on the sand learning how to stand up. This was getting serious. Could I do it? Could I actually stand up? I wasn’t holding my breath although it would have been out of this world to pull it off and rather amusing. Mummy learning to surf at my age…ha!

Standing up was proving seriously difficult. As I mentioned before, I have muscle weakness. Moving from sitting to standing isn’t a quick, seamless manoeuvre on land. It takes time, thought, effort. The instructor was quite encouraging suggesting that the water might help to lubricate the board and make it easier but I wasn’t convinced. I had a go in the surf and nothing budged. But the instructor wasn’t to be deterred. I started off in a kneel and then tried to manoeuvre my feet to get me up but they wouldn’t move either. My movements were just too slow and awkward. I’d need a good hour to laboriously move all my body parts into the right positions and by then the wave would be history.

Standing up wasn’t going to happen at camp but I didn’t dismiss it as a never ever. I might just need a bit of practice. As much as you need to push yourself to reach a dream, you also need to know when to stop and defer things to another day.

Surfing was hard work and had what Beatrix Potter would describe as a soporific effect. I went back to our cabin for a snooze.

Instead of waking up feeling like an iron woman the next morning, I felt like quite the geriatric. Almost every muscle ached but it was worth it!!! Rowie had finally caught some waves.

Wahoo! I was finally surfing my dream.

Now, perhaps there’s even hope for the surfer’s dog!

Check out these very cool surfing dogs…

19th April, 2013

A Line in the Sand…

I apologise for taking the easy way out today. I usually go to great lengths to provide a striking photo or image to illuminate my posts. However, I had a big day yesterday so I’m just making do.

That’s a story in itself.

Living only 700 metres from the beach, you’d think that I could just hit the beach and draw a real line in the sand to get a great image for my blog. After all, the beach is so beautiful. It’s hardly an effort! Our beach has stunning views across to Palm Beach and Pittwater with the beautiful Lion Island majestically rising from the surf.

The Beach

The Beach

Surely, going to the beach isn’t a chore?!!

I even have a few ideas about how I could draw my line in the sand if only I could get down there.

I’m thinking driftwood. Driftwood sounds so poetic. I can’t help wondering how far that precious lump of wood has travelled or where it’s come from. Of course, I’m assuming that it has come from somewhere really exotic. It’s journeyed thousands of kilometres enduring sun, rain and storms to get here. I can see it now… that small piece of wood bobbing up and down being tossed by the waves as it traversed the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It’s travelled all the way to Australia from one of the Pacific islands like Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands. Or maybe, it’s from South America or even deepest, darkest Peru. That sounds even more exotic. However, given the direction of the ocean currents, it would have needed a good outboard motor to get here! It would be drifting against the flow.

In all likelihood, however, my precious piece of driftwood probably comes from Woy Woy and hasn’t travelled far at all. It’s just a scraggly piece of eucalypt and doesn’t have much of a story to tell. Gum trees might be exciting if you’re a koala bear or you’re not from around here but for me, they’re “common”.

Getting back to photographing my line in the sand, I could also be very pragmatic and just draw a line in the sand with my finger or photograph a tidal mark where the ocean has etched its own line in the sand.

As I said, it wouldn’t take long and it wouldn’t take much effort for me to just jump in the car and take a few photos. I wouldn’t even need to walk.

However, today I’m recovering from a hectic trip to Sydney where I somehow managed to squeeze in Les Miserables before I had my transfusion at the hospital. It was a very long day and I’m feeling like a flaccid balloon lying flopped on the sand. I’m spent. It usually takes me a few days to bounce back from these treatments.

So you’ll just have to put up with my photo of a line of sand drawn onto a boring piece of computer paper instead. You’ll have to apply your own imagination today.

Have you ever thought about what it actually means to draw a line in the sand? Yes, I know it means making a permanent change in your life, a turning point. However, it now seems strangely ironic referring to a permanent change in your life as “a line in the sand”. I mean, poetically speaking, the beach usually represents fleeting transience where dreams, like sandcastles, are washed away even before they’ve even been made. We’ve all been there and experienced that heartbreak.

I quite like Kahlil Gibran’s Sand and Foam:

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Anyway, I have drawn a line in the sand only my line is permanent…etched in sandstone perhaps!

I am no longer going to worry about things that don’t need to be worried about. I’m not saying that I’m eliminating fear and worry from my life completely. It’s just a case of no more worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about.

You see, yesterday I worked myself up into such a worried frenzy over catching a bus to the local train station, that I realised I need to make some drastic changes.  I am tempted to humour you a little and say that I’ve decided to avoid catching the bus but I won’t. I’ll behave.

In many ways, yesterday’s stress was self-inflected. My transfusion was at 2.00PM and I had plenty of time to get down to Sydney. I didn’t need to stress. However, I’d decided to squeeze in seeing Les Miserables on the way and I would literally be squeezing it in too. The movie went for 2 hours 38 minutes and when I checked the train time table, that only left me ten minutes to walk from the station to the hospital.  I’m a slow walker and there’s a very steep hill right at the hospital which is just great for sick people…especially sick people who are running late!

There was also a much bigger problem with squeezing in Les Miserables. I had to leave home at 8.30AM to catch the bus which meant getting the kids to school half an hour early. School starts at 9.00 AM and we have been unofficially late all term. I’ve been sneaking the kids into assembly or even worse, catching up with the class when they go for their run. Although they’re technically late, they haven’t called the roll yet so they’re “on time” by the skin of their teeth. This means they don’t need a late note. The kids don’t seem to mind being late. They can stall and procrastinate as much as they like. I’m the one who is going to get busted by the powers that be somewhere high up in the Education Department if these late notes start mounting up. We don’t need a visit from the inspector at our house! No! No! No!

If I was more pragmatic, I would have waited for Les Miserables to come out on DVD. However, I’d decided that I really wanted to see it on the big screen. I don’t get to the movies very often and I very rarely buy a DVD. Moreover, I haven’t watched many of the DVDs I’ve bought. There have been movies which I’ve really wanted to see that have just passed me by because… There usually isn’t a good reason. So this made me really determined to get to Les Miserables…especially as Hugh Jackman used to be the local heartthrob when I was at school and I really wanted to hear him sing (ha!).

But like so many things in life, getting to Les Miserables and to my transfusion was going to take military planning and precision. Sadly, I’m no General.

Step 1…Getting out of the house.

Thank goodness we made it out of the house on time and despite a few last minute protests, I managed to get the kids through the gate with only minutes to spare.

Step 2…Catching the Bus.

Somehow, I managed to turn this simple step into a network drama.  I should have listened to Lao-tzu: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…not with a flapping panic attack!

The drama began when I noticed that Bus 53 was already across the road at the bus stop when I pulled up. Yes, I knew it was the wrong bus at the wrong time but there was still this doubt. That “what if”? Instead of sticking to my guns, I started to doubt myself. Doubt the bus. These doubts only got worse when I realised that there were two bus stops across the road from the school and I didn’t know which bus stop was right. My confusion further intensified. Fortunately, there was a time table and yes, bus 70 did stop here. At that point, I should have heaved a sigh of relief but no. When it came to visiting panic stations, today I was travelling all stops. I started to wonder whether my watch was on time. That bus 53 was still bugging me as well. Had I made a mistake? Was I in the wrong spot? Was bus 70 ever going to turn up? Was I going to miss my train and miss the movie? Was this going to be the very end of my life?

In case you haven’t realised, I don’t catch buses very often. We’ve been living here for 12 years and I caught my first bus 3 weeks ago so I’m not used to them at all. I much prefer trains. Trains run on tracks. Rightly or probably wrongly, I feel a train has to turn up eventually whereas buses, being more free range, seem more unreliable. Not being on a track, they can do whatever they like and I don’t feel entirely 100% confident that a bus is going to turn up. I know that’s silly, especially when the trains are notoriously late and rails are nowhere near as reliable as they seem!

So there I am standing at the bus stop. I’m not jumping up and down on the spot or anything else that would betray my inner frenzy but by this stage all this worry was going round and round in my head like a Greek dance. You know how the music starts out soft and slow at first but speeds up getting faster and faster until it reaches fever pitch and the music is flying! Really flying! I was caught up in a frenzied vortex of pure fear…all about waiting for a stupid bus which wasn’t even late!

Of course, I forgot to breathe deeply.

I also forgot all my relaxation visualisations like picturing a smooth calm lake.

All I could see was a drowning woman. A woman drowning in waves of utter panic. That woman was me.

My goodness…all this stress over a stupid bus! A bus that isn’t even running late…yet!

I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

I can usually relate to The Scream by Edward Munch

Then, I spot a plover across the road. It steps off the curb and plants itself in the middle of the road and it’s strutting its stuff defending its turf….no doubt against any passing cars and of course, my bus! The plover looked absolutely ridiculous. It was taking on a battle it simply couldn’t win. I mean a plover versus a bus…it’s a bit of a no brainer!

Just in case you haven’t encountered a plover, these territorial birds are a bunch of thugs which have invaded our school playground. They’re vicious, mean and nasty and they have poisonous spurs in their wing tips. To be fair, however, the kids persistently chase the poor birds so it’s hardly surprising they’re hostile. It’s war!

Yet, there I was waging my own war which was equally ridiculous. Had I missed the bus? Was I waiting at the right stop? Would the bus pull up on time? Would the bus arrive at all? It was madness.

As I stared at the plover taking on its invisible foe, I saw myself in the mirror especially when the bus turned the corner right on time and pulled up at my stop. I climbed on board without incident. Nothing blew up or went terribly wrong. The bus also stopped at the other bus stop further down the street and it even arrived on time at the station with minutes to spare before my train pulled in.

I had been through all that self-induced stress for absolutely no reason…no reason at all!

At that point, I drew a metaphysical line in the sand and decided that in future my worries had to be real. That I wasn’t going to allow myself to worry about non-worries ever again!!

You might recall my story about the bird which became trapped in my house and how it reduced me to a quivering, shaking lump of jelly.

I thought I’d moved forward on the fear front since then and that I’ve been doing really, really well. I’ve driven to Morpeth. I’ve even driven over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I can’t help thinking it’s a bit crazy that this whole situation of waiting for a simple bus brought me down. I’d have no trouble playing my violin or even singing in public. It’s not like I’m afraid of my own shadow or even that I’m afraid of all the usual things that freak people out. I’m not even bothered by spiders. For some reason, it’s perfectly okay and socially acceptable to have a crippling phobia of spiders but it’s not so cool to be afraid of missing the bus.

This is going to be an interesting journey of discovery. How do I distinguish between a real worry and a fake worry? What steps am I going to take when I encounter a fake worry to ensure I don’t take it onboard and catastrophise over a total non-event?

I don’t know.

Actually, I do know a few things like practicing my deep breathing and doing my relaxation visualisations. I can also watch my self-talk and try to nip the anxiety spiral in the bud. I could also ask myself whether this is a life and death situation. What is the worst that would happen, for example, if I had missed my bus? Not much! I could have driven myself to the station and I might have even found a parking spot. I could also have asked just about anyone from the school for a lift. Most people would have been happy to help. I might have missed out on the movie but I would still have had plenty of time to get to the hospital. Missing out on Les Mis would have been a disappointment but it was hardly a matter of life and death.

Step 3: Les Miserables

Yes, I actually managed to see Les Miserables on the big screen. I loved the movie but it was very, very sad in parts. I particularly enjoyed Ann Hathaway’s performance as Fantine and Hugh Jackman was great. Russell Crowe’s character was so despicable that I can’t really look favourably on Crowe’s acting ability.

I managed to buy myself a pie en route to the station. This wasn’t just any ordinary pie but for all the wrong reasons.

Step 4. Catch the train from Hornsby to St Leonards.

This is where the real life and death stuff actually took place.

I was eating my meat pie on the train when I started to choke. I’m not just talking about a little choke either. I think I’d inhaled some of the pie into my lungs and due to my muscle weakness, I was having trouble clearing it out. I was barking and barking trying to clear my chest and nothing was working. I was coughing and coughing and coughing. I had a bottle of water in my bag…a standard inclusion for long trips. The water probably helped but I was in real trouble this time. The coughing just wouldn’t stop and we’d gone through several stations. I think we’re talking about something like 10 minutes of solid choking by this point.

Anyway, there I am on the train. It is early afternoon so the carriage is almost empty. I am sitting on my own so I couldn’t just reach out to someone easily to get some help. In many ways, I was trapped inside myself, which would have been quite awful if this sort of thing hadn’t happened to me before. I haven’t choked quite this badly in the past but I wasn’t really worried. I just wanted the coughing to stop.

I’m still coughing. I feel like I’m going to be sick, possibly the only way to dislodge this thing. At the same time, my nose is starting to run in sympathy and the situation is desperate.  You know how it is when your nose screams out. It demands immediate relief!

So there I am coughing my lungs out and trying to hold my nose in while the girl sitting in front of me is applying her mascara. I can see her peering at her eyelashes in a little hand mirror. She doesn’t seem perturbed by my coughing at all. She doesn’t flinch and certainly doesn’t turn around.

Now, I could make a bit of a judgement call and say that she doesn’t have much of a social conscience and certainly doesn’t apply the Golden Rule (or even the Inverse Golden Rule). I could also make some comment about how you could die on a train in Sydney and no one would offer to help you. That might all be very true but I will be more charitable. If you weren’t medically trained or if you didn’t have any experience of choking yourself, would you know what to do or how to respond? It’s only now that I’m writing about this experience that I have remembered the Heimlich manoeuvre. This is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person’s airway (windpipe) becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object. I haven’t thought about this since Mothers’ Group. When I Googled it both to remember what it was called and the procedure, I found out that you can actually perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on yourself. This was a great discovery which is very empowering for me and also helps to reduce a source of real, very legitimate fear. Knowledge is power and for me this knowledge could save my life. Remember, I have muscle weakness so this is good to know.

Anyway, even though I am sharing this story with you from the comfort of home and you already know that I’ve survived, myself the character is still choking on that train and is about to have a serious nasal explosion.

So we must return and please bring a tissue along with you.  I still need it.

Next, I did something truly disgusting. Something which I wouldn’t even confess to one of my closest friends, let alone broadcast to the entire World Wide Web. I blew my nose on the white paper bag which had housed my pie. I will emphasise that the paper bag was clean. It looked like a tissue and it was a much better option than my sleeve. I didn’t have time to get off the train and I just didn’t feel that I could ask anyone on the train for a tissue. I don’t know if that’s a reflection on them or on me. It was just how I felt at the time.

I’ve now made a mental note to put a packet of tissues in each of my handbags. This is not the first time I’ve been caught out and it’s time I learned.

Another line has been etched in the sand.

Step 5: The Hospital

Somehow, I arrived at my transfusion pretty much on time. All that stress had all been rather superfluous. Superfluous in terms of me getting anywhere on time but not in terms of having detrimental effect on my wellbeing. Stress in itself is a killer.

But I’ve now drawn a line in the sand, there is no turning back. I’ve raided my bookshelf and it’s time to finally read: Susan Jeffers: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and Dale Carnegie’s: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

The Secret to a Happy Dog!

The Secret to a Happy Dog!

I think the dog must have read these books already. He’s quite a happy dog and he’s had a great day. He went for a drive in the car and had some leftover pizza for dinner. He may not be getting any thinner but he’s happy!

He's a smart dog. He even managed to get it on sale.

He’s a smart dog. He even managed to get it on sale.

xx Rowena

PS I found this photo on file. Not a bad line in the sand after all.

A line in the sand quite different to what I'd envisaged.

A line in the sand quite different to what I’d envisaged but I like it.

A New School Year

Once upon a time, New Year’s Eve was the beginning of the New Year…the turning point…that line in the sand with bad habits clearly in the past and only good habits ahead.

These days, New Year’s Eve is pretty quiet and we just stay home and watch the fireworks on the TV. That is life after kids. I’ve never even tried to get a sitter. After all the pre-Christmas running about followed by actual Christmas, by New Year’s Eve we’re too dead to even think about goals. We just want to see the New Year in.

I also have to confess that I’ve lost the faith or perhaps it’s the naivety to believe that your whole life is going to change just because a new year has begun. Seriously, how much can one life really change overnight???

These days, I also can’t presume that the New Year is going to be any better than the old year. We don’t know what lies ahead and these days I’m feeling a bit more cautious about crossing that line. No one has a crystal ball.

These days I know it easily could get worse…not that I’m a pessimist or anything.

I know I should have faith but God doesn’t promise us a bed of roses either. Just ask Job!

Tomorrow is the beginning of a whole new year for us…a new school year. For me, these days it’s the school year that’s important, not the real year. Our lives are now carved up into term time and holidays.

Tomorrow, a whole new school year begins. Mister will be going into Year 4 and Miss goes into Year 2.

Today, I was trying really hard to make the most of the kids’ last day of school holidays but couldn’t really get it together. It’s rained solid for the last few days and while it’s not flooding here, we haven’t been able to go outside. After a day in the car returning from Byron Bay and then two days indoors with the rain, the kids were ratty. They have been playing Minecraft on their ipods and they play games online together so it’s a social thing but being trapped inside wasn’t doing them any good. While they were playing games, I somehow became sidetracked and worked on my blog. There was talk about making a cake, going to the park and before we knew it, we were off to music lessons. We squeezed the park and the cake making in around dinner but we did it.

The kids were in bed late.

The dishwasher has broken down.

I can’t find Jonathon’s school hat but both kids have shoes.

My daughter’s school uniforms have been sitting on the couch for a couple of days. I was going to buy a new one but hate sewing up hems and was delighted to find a stitched hem when a let her uniform down. I hate sewing hems up on principle…what do these people think mothers are for? I have tried that hemming tape but it fell down last term and I had to resort to my personal school hemming solution…the stapler.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I don’t know whether 2013 is going to be a good year or a bad year at this point. We all hope for good teachers and I have been more than satisfied with the teachers we’ve had so far. We hope our kids keep and make good friends and are happy. Above all else, we hope we are all well and here to enjoy another year next year and that is a lot more tenuous than we would like to believe.

My ambitions for 2013 are quite simple really. I just want to get the kids to school on time with both shoes on their feet, their bags on their backs and hats on heads. If the nits can stay away, I’ll be a happy woman and if I can enjoy a coffee with a friend, I’ll be ecstatic!

I know that doesn’t explain my ongoing battles with my violin and getting the kids to practice their instruments and go to their activities week after week. It doesn’t organise our house, clean their rooms and improve their manners.

Yes, I do demand a lot out of life. I do squeeze it tight and try to get the most out of each and every day and yet somehow I need to allow just enough space for me to stretch out, relax and unwind. I can’t keep going and going and going without breaking down.

I have to admit that I am feeling quite ambivalent about school going back tomorrow. On one hand, I’ll get my days back and I can actually get something done. I will be able to walk out the door and just go anywhere I please without going bananas. But we’ve all had fun in the holidays and while part of me is keen to send them back, I’ll also miss them. I’ll miss all our little adventures and activities and their interesting slant on things. It will just be me and the dog and James, our automatic vacuum cleaner and after school it will be back to the mad rush of after school activities.

I know all this is sounding like some chronic whingefest but tomorrow is all feeling rather daunting. The clock has just hit midnight and I think I’m ready. I feel psyched up to face the morning but there is still this overwhelming sense of pending doom. I’ve forgotten something. Something is going to go wrong, majorly wrong but I just can’t quite work out what.

Hmm. Sleep deprivation has never solved anything so on that note, I’m off to sleep on it.

How do you feel about the start of a new school year?

Wickedly Sweet…my cupcake awakening!

You want me! I know you want me! I know just how much you want me! Take me! I’m yours!

Those damn cupcakes were calling me. Whispering sweet nothings at me and I was quite powerless to resist. The temptation…all that temptation was all too much. I succumbed. Not just once but twice. A greedy little glutton without any willpower whatsoever, I had two cupcakes and I didn’t even care if someone else missed out. I needed my fix! I was a woman possessed!!

Eating two little cupcakes is hardly a crime but that all depends on the context.

You see, I was at a business lunch.  Just before lunch, I’d shot my mouth off to a colleague about all my great health goals and objectives. I’ve lost ten kilos this year. You can achieve a lot of things but losing weight is almost the Holy Grail. Then, as everybody knows, there’s the battle to keep it off…to somehow maintain the rage. That’s where I’m struggling at the moment.  So far, I’ve been able to sneak in a few treats and get away with it but I could always lose more. Also, horror of horrors, I could always put the weight back on!

Whatever else happens, I certainly don’t want to go backwards. I’ve even thrown out all my old fat clothes and have drawn a very determined line in the sand.

I am a new woman.

Yet, there I was stuffing my face full of cupcakes. With my all-important credibility and self-respect hanging around my ankles like a pair of saggy, baggy undies with broken elastic, I had well and truly shifted gears from winner to loser and I knew it. But did that stop me? No, I still went ahead and ate that second cupcake.

Why did I do it? Why was I so weak-willed…especially in such a public situation?

I don’t know. I’m not a bad person. I don’t smoke. I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t do illegal drugs. I’ve never shoplifted and I’ve certainly never left my kids in the car while I’ve gone to the casino. I don’t really pig out either but those little things I’d given up are sneaking back in. They’re only small but it’s a bit like joining up the dots. They all add up, creating something big and rather scary in the end.

But you’d think that when my health is so precarious, I could stop at one cupcake. I have such a huge incentive for staying on track. You’d think that I’d be able to give up cake, chocolate and sweets without a second thought. Eating junk food when you’re battling a health issue is so ridiculously stupid like smoking in front of your obstetrician when you’re pregnant. It’s a no brainer and yet, I persistently persist.  “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence!!”  I just wish I could harness this persistence for good instead of evil!

After all, I’ve had the wake up call. It’s now time to get out of bed. Burst out of my cocoon. Get moving! But who hasn’t pressed the snooze button, ignored the alarm and gone back to sleep? Who hasn’t heard the alarm beeping again and again and again but left it to the very last minute to get up?  I’m only human but this sort of thinking isn’t going to help. Instead, I need to find some seriously superhuman willpower… tough love even!

So if I know all of this why can’t I just go ahead and do it?

I would like to blame the devil or even the cupcakes for leading me astray but the bottom line is that it’s me. I am my own worst enemy. I am constantly shooting myself in the foot. Indeed, my feet are so riddled with bullet holes, they look like Swiss cheese. I could even eat them on toast.

This was a bit of a revelation because I certainly like to think of myself as a “good person” and my enemies as being external not an insider and certainly not myself!

We have a really horrible neighbour who is probably my only “enemy”. He is what I describe as a nasty piece of work, specialising in intimidation. I just see him and feel horrible. Yet, as much as he drives me crazy, I have to admit that I’ve done more to hurt myself than he has ever done. He isn’t the one making me self-destruct. That’s me. I am doing that to myself and bringing myself down. I can’t tell you how creepy and uncomfortable this makes me feel.  I don’t like it. I really don’t like it at all!  This new perspective could actually be the thing that changes me once and for all!

But how is this all going to change? How can I convert good intentions into lasting, meaningful results?

The first step, of course, is just to get started and so far, I’m cruising. You see, the morning after the cupcake incident, I caught a very nasty gastro bug from the kids and was sick for about four days. I was very, very ill and feverish and obviously couldn’t eat. As bad as it sounds, I couldn’t help thinking that this terrible bug might be just the thing to get me back on track. Yet, when it comes to developing more willpower, being too sick to eat doesn’t count! I need to work at it.  So in a sense I’m ahead but the reality is that I’m still just as behind as ever.

Lasting change is going to take some serious effort.I also need to plan. Be strategic. Identify my strengths and weaknesses and be prepared.

Alternatively, I could just say “no”. That would be a novel concept.

The trouble is that I’ve now spent most of my available time blogging instead of doing. This could be interpreted as a more sophisticated form of procrastination or perhaps a terminal case of paralysis through analysis. Yet, even though I’ve missed my walk and managed to do nothing, I’m looking on the bright side. I’ve been too busy typing to eat and surely all of  this typing and thinking have burnt off something?!!

Stay tuned… the battle plans are coming. In the meantime…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

 Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

Hmm… I wonder if blogging about it counts?

In the meantime, at least I now know who to watch out for.

It’s Me, Myself and I!

xx Rowena

Tai Chi and the Fork in the Road

I don’t know about you but most of the time, I miss the huge fork stuck right in the middle of the road and just keep driving.

With my head up in the clouds or all my thoughts wrapped up in some creative project, it’s not surprising. I’ve been accused of living in my own little world…my own bubble…often enough.

This week, on the other hand, the fork was so big…so glaringly obvious that even I couldn’t miss it.

In my last post, I wrote about my daughter wanting me to take up physie. After she suggested we go roller skating together, I’ve since realised that she just wanted us to do things together and so I’ve been let off the hook.

So while I’ve scratched physie off the list, going through those thought processes made me realise that I really need to pick up some form of regular exercise. Exercise is quite problematic for me so choosing something suitable isn’t easy.

You might recall that I actually mentioned Tai chi in my last post.

Well, the very next day, I was driving home and I saw a huge sign in front our local community centre: “Beginner Tai Chi Classes”. I couldn’t believe it. It was like that sign was put there just for me and I knew it. The classes are even on during the day at a very convenient time. Moreover, just as I was wondering how I could possibly remember the phone number, I realised that it was only two digits different to our phone number. How easy was that?

When things are meant to be, they are really meant to be. Everything comes together so smoothly without any effort like a huge enormous present just left on your doorstep. Freaky!

Today, I even called the number. That was an achievement!

We all know that it’s one thing to see a sign. It’s another thing to know that glaring neon sign was put there for you. But it’s a huge, enormous step to actually pick up the phone and make the call!

I did it!

Now, I’m on my way only I can’t get there for two weeks. This is a serious hurdle. Everyone knows that when you close the deal, you need immediate action…no time or space to back out and reconsider…or forget.

I have to remind myself that I am committed to doing anything to improve my health and when I say anything that means everything. No holes barred. It means being 100% focused, which for me is going to be almost impossible considering I’m spread pretty thin at the moment but I can only do my best.

If Tai Chi only lives up to half its claims, things will be looking up. The Australian Tai Chi website suggests:

‘From a psychological point of view, Tai Chi helps release emotional tensions, increases concentration and awareness and decreases stressful psychological and physiological reactions… One becomes more centred, more at peace with oneself and less subject to outside influences.” http://www.taichiaustralia.com.au/TaiChi/Benefits.htm

After some of the clashes I’ve had with my son lately, being less affected by outside influences sounds absolutely fabulous!!

Tai Chi will be a dramatic shift for me.

For anyone who knows me, the thought of me doing anything relaxing that requires silence, concentration and no talking, is mission impossible… a complete joke. I even manage to strike up in depth conversations with my dentist during root canal therapy. I get restless waiting for trains. I just can’t sit still. I’m always moving, talking, thinking, planning, pondering. I have no idea what it’s like to just BE!

I need to find out! This really could be radically life changing. I know that. I need to keep reminding myself of that like a mantra so I’ll really take it seriously:

 

Rowena you are going to go to Tai Chi.

You are going to go to Tai Chi.

You are going to go to Tai Chi.

I know I’m sounding very serious and committed to this new direction but I’ve had very good intentions in the past. I’ve had the proverbial fork rammed right up my nose and yet still I’ve managed to ignore it. That takes serious effort and real commitment.

The Neon Fork.

Last year, I had every intention of getting into yoga and meditation. One afternoon a week, I used to take my kids to swimming lessons where I chatted poolside with a yoga instructor. If ever there was someone who needed to do yoga, it was me a year ago. Despite all these good intentions, I never quite got there. I even wrote a poem about these good intentions…about how you find the acorn. Put it in your pocket with every good intention of planting it but the poor old acorn gets left in your pocket. Goes through the wash. Gets left by the bed. It goes on a grand royal tour but never finds its way into the ground.

That’s me. Great intentions but I struggle with implementation!

But that’s the old me. This is the new me and the new me is working overtime to convert good intentions not only into concrete actions but into life changing commitment. Change is all about the long-haul to be effective….perseverance in other words!

I am so good with all this motivational talk stuff but now I have to walk the talk or in this instance…Tai Chi it!

I am so determined to follow through on this, which is going to be difficult. As I said, I can’t get there for the next few weeks. It is hard enough to start a new path, especially one involving exercise but how can I possibly stick with it when I can’t get started straight away? This is going to take some serious willpower. Determination or perhaps a huge sign in my diary. “Tai Chi starts today”. I have to keep reminding myself.

This brings me to the following question… “If we know what we should
be doing something, why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we stick with it?

Does it mean we haven’t really decided? We still have a foot in both camps? Are we just lazy? I’m sure there is some fancy scientific equation for all of this. It might be Newton’s Law of Inertia? I like a law of inertia, by the way. I can be very inert at times although
you’d never know it. Everyone always comments on how I never stop but perhaps that is also a form of inertia. Bouncing around not doing the things you really ought to be doing.

It’s definitely avoidance.

Avoidance was a great thing in the days before we found out about brain plasticity. You could just decide that something wasn’t your thing and be done with it.

Now, we know that when we avoid something, that part of our brain is actually shrinking, putting us under enormous pressure to perform. Nobody likes the idea of a shrinking brain…especially when it’s your own brain that’s wasting away!

Avoidance isn’t the end of it either. When you avoid something, your brain shrinks but when you overdo it, your brain produces this superhighway of cabling. So you can’t just go and have a panic attack and get away with it anymore either. You have to be calm….otherwise your brain will look like an LA freeway with layers and layers of criss-crossing freeways looping around and around each other into a great big tangled knot of fear.
This is all very scary stuff.

That’s why I have just put a glaring note in my diary. Tai Chi starts today…Well make that the 12th of September. It’s written in red pen and I’ve committed myself with the World Wide Web as my witness. Now, I really do have to go ahead and do it.
Just two weeks to go…

Of course, as soon as I put the note in my diary, a meeting changed but it has brought things forward a week but put in a gap. Now I’m now wondering whether I should just wait three weeks so I can just get into some kind of rhythm. No Rowena. Don’t wait. Get started. This is exactly the sort of thinking that killed off yoga.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

I wonder if he did Tai Chi…

How do you overcome procrastination? I’d love to hear your comments.

xx Rowena