Tag Archives: God

A Shimmer of Moonlight…Friday Fictioneers.

Engulfed by a grief which knew no bounds, Bernadette refused to light the candle for Jim. No point. Whether God was dead or asleep, he wasn’t there. Otherwise, he would’ve stepped in. Plucked her husband right off the road before the truck hit. He came to rest on the banks of a creek…too late for the kiss of life, let alone a goodbye. She could still feel his arms wrapped around her in an unbroken chain.

The candle stood as still as a statue, while an owl peered through the window, eyes glowing in the moonlight.

…..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt © Janet Webb. 

xx Rowena

Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia.

Yesterday, I shared my serendipitous encounter where I met a group of Gyuto Monks from Tibet at my local beach in sunny Australia, not far from Sydney.

Today, I wanted to share a few more photos and delve further into what the monks are about and why they’re in Australia.

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Photo: Rowena Curtin

After all, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably need to have the details pointed out to i.e these monks wear the the same robes as the esteemed Dalai Lama and “are masters of Tibetan Buddhist tantric ritual and their lives are dedicated to practicing tantric ideals. To be with them, to observe and be touched by their humanity, is to see kindness in action.”

That said, I have read and posted about The Pursuit of Happiness  by the Dalai Lama and Howard Carter in addition to yesterday’s post: Accidents, Blessings & Tibetan Monks at an Australian Beach.

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Much of this is beyond my understanding and experience but I strive to place love, compassion and empathy at the centre of my life…values which are lived and breathed by the Holy men.

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At one with the wave. Photo Rowena Newton at Wamberal, NSW.

I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of surfing as a spiritual activity before but it has to be. Obviously, surfing is intimately connected with the ocean, the waves and nature and being close to the ocean always makes me feeling closer to God, feeling his wonder, majesty and spirit all around me. It blows me away. After all, God occupies our entire universe and isn’t shut inside a building.

In an interview with Australian Surf Champion Nick Carroll,  broadcaster Caroline Jones asked: “Is there something about the moment when you’re absolutely concentrated there on what’s happening, that is, a feeling that as well as being frightening, a moment of great peace, or joy or something very extraordinary?

He replied: “Yes, surely.If you want to put it into a religious framework, Eastern religions deal with moments like that better than what we consider are usual forms of religion because they do deal with cathartic moments. The Zen Buddhists deal with them very well. You get moments where your whole body, soul and mind are just concentrated on doing something in the surf. When it’s very big and you catch a wave and take off there’s usually, on a big wave in Hawaii, several seconds during that wave where you really throw yourself over the brink, you really have to forget about everything, totally, to make it. You have to forget about trying to do something, you have to just get up, trust your instinct and just fall into the wave. It’s during seconds like that that you seem to just  totally disappear, you as a being don’t exist at that moment. It’ hard to express, you throw yourself into the moment that you’re actually inside everything that’s happening, you’re inside the wave, you’re inside your surfboard and what it’s doing. You’re inside all the landscape around you and the ocean as it’s surging, you get totally inside the moment and it’s so intense that time disappears, everything disappears. You disappear, you’re not thinking of you Nick Carroll or whoever. It’s way beyond that.

If you’re going to make a very big wave you have to be totally unified with everything that’s happeneing. You have to know absolutely everything the board’s doing, what’s happening with the wave, where the water is on the wave, how fast the water’s moving up the face of the wave, what’s happening with the wind, where there might be a couple of people in the way, and I don’t think you can know about that if you choose to take the form of thinking that we do in our everyday lives, where I’m very aware of me, Nick Carroll. Your brain just can’t handle it, it has to throw stuff away to fit it all in. And so a lot of what it throws away is the useless stuff, the ego, the “I’m Nick Carroll, I’ve got fears, worries, doubts etc”___all very useless stuff. To take all that information in about what’s happening, to get right inside it, you have to ignore a lot and discard it.2.”

I experience this myself through my writing, photography and also through playing the violin. I know that sense of merging and oneness and it’s incredible.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed riding the wave with the Tibetan Monks of Gyuta, even if it was only from the shore. Unfortunately, we left before they hit the waves…not in their robes but in the safety of board shorts and life vest.

To view TV coverage of the event and of the monks surfing: http://www.nbnnews.com.au/2016/10/05/surfing-monks-create-waves-in-umina/

Have you have any experiences with the Dalai Lama of the Tibetan Monks of Gyuta? I would love to hear your experiences and how you felt.

xx Rowena

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Hopefully some of his calm brushed off on me.

Sources

  1. About the Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia

2. Caroline Jones, The Search for Meaning, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1989 p. 56.

M-Mary Stevenson “Footprints” Replies.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for sharing how my poem has touched your heart and helped you through difficult times. It sounds like our Lord guided you to Heidelberg and gave you the love and community you craved. I don’t know much about hydrocephalus but it must be such a relief that you finally found out what was going on and had the surgery. I can’t imagine what it would have been like being so far away from home with that time bomb ticking and having no idea what was going on. You have great courage.

Our Lord understands us better than we could ever imagine and leads us through dark valleys and into the light, filling us with his strength. I have never understood why bad things happen to good people but I trust that our Lord will carry us through it all.

You have probably read this passage from Isaiah 40 before but I find it so encouraging

The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Love and God’s richest blessings to you and your family!

Mary Stevenson

M:Mary Stevenson: Footprints Poem

Dear Mary,

As a young 22 year old Australian backpacking through Europe, a friend I met along the road gave me a much treasured copy of your Footprints poem. Despite being a Christian most of my life, I’d never come across your poem before. All of a sudden, it was like all my matches had been lit at once, sparking such a fire. Naturally, the poem was particularly poignant being a traveller at the time. I felt understood…a very rare experience for me at the time!

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While backpacking is supposedly about seeing and discovering the world, it can also become a journey deep inside yourself. Without the structure of a schedule, having no fixed plans, being far away from family, friends and any kind of personal history and simply drifting with the wind, you could easily feel like an atom drifting through space. Such freedom is incredible and indeed, I didn’t even have a watch but it’s all too easy to slip into some kind of existential angst.

Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is this nagging feeling inside which I can’t quite explain? When am I going home? What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

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Of course, the quest to find true love, weaves its tentacles through all of this.

Personally, I also had a pool of excess fluid sloshing around inside my brain, which I sort of knew was there although I didn’t know what it was. I simply turned to my faith, writing, philosophy, psychology and the humble cup of coffee for the answers I desperately sought.

Overseas travel is quite different for young Australians. Given the high cost of getting to Europe, many of us save like crazy and then try to stay away as long as possible. While this makes for a grand adventure, it can also mean serious homesickness and dislocation. At least, it did for me and I wasn’t alone. I heard quite a few Aussies hanging out for the scent of gum leaves. I had a an Australia $5.00 note stuck up in my room in Heidelberg where I lived for about 6 months.

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin 1992.

As you could appreciate, I came across your poem at an intensely confusing and vulnerable time and it fortified me. Gave me such strength, knowing I wasn’t alone. That God was walking along this path with me and when the going got tough, he picked me up and carried me on his shoulders, just like a parent carries their child…right out of the quagmire. It was truly transforming. While The Bible is the word of God, somehow you translated its complexity into something I could understand, bringing alive God’s infinite love for me.

Thank you so very much for that. I know your poem still speaks to so many, possibly at a time when it might feel like the light’s gone out. Helping the broken-hearted to rekindle that light is  life changing.

I hope that I share some of that light with those I meet and through my writing. It is not that easy for me to have that physical presence but I try to share what you gave to me all those years ago…hope!

Love and God’s richest blessings,

Rowena

 Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

– by Mary Stevenson

This is the latest installment in my series of Letters To Dead Poets for the A-Z Challenge. Please click  here to catch up on Letters A-H. This list will be updated on Sunday.

Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment!

For so many with a passion for compassion, there can come a point where we need to reassess our vision. Admit that we have over-extended our scope or perceived list of responsibilities beyond our sphere and have actually gone too far. Moreover, although we not be thinking about compassion fatigue or burnout, we need to pull our heads in before we implode. Otherwise, instead of being able to help and support others, we risk needing help ourselves!

I would suggest that if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.

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There comes a time when especially the most compassionate souls need to re-visit their priorities before it’s too late.

 

I have been putting a lot of thought into compassion since I signed up for the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion Movement where on this day Friday 20th February over 1000 bloggers worldwide have signed up to write a post about compassion on their blogs.

Here is a link to the project: http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=497564&fb_ref=Default

Today, is the United Nations Day of Social Justice. Thanks to my husband and has his particular way of challenging “stuff”, I would just like to stress that “social justice” has nothing to do with society taking justice into its own hands, mob rule or the formation of such abhorrent organisations as the Klu Klux Klan. Rather, it’s about giving everyone, as we Australians put it: “a fair go” and fighting against all forms of discrimination…even the insidious, invisible ones!!

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Bloggers Around the World Unite: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Writing one post about compassion for me is impossibly difficult. It’s like taking me to the most sumpuous smorgasbord restaurant (all you can eat)  and being told: “You can only eat one thing!”

WHAT THE???!!

My husband would tell you that’s impossible. That I could never, ever go into a smorgasbord restaurant with all those tempting tables of every kind of Chinese, Thai, Italian, Mexican etc etc food each piled up as high as Mt Everest and all those tantilising aromas ticklooing my senses coaxing me to completely pig out: “Eat me! Eat me! I know you want to eat me.” THat’s before we even get to dessert and I can’t even think about chocolate without salivating, even in extreme heat when most mortals find the concept of molten chocolate abhorrent.  They want something cool.

THerefore, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I’ve never left a smorgasbord restaurant without feeling incredibly ill and being reminded of that infamous restaurant scene where Mr Creosote explodes in Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Unfortunately, my poor brain just can’t cope with sooo much choice and its default mode is:

“I’ll take the lot, thanks!!”

So with that graphic image of over-eating firmly etched in your brains, you’ll understand just how hard it is for me to write about just one aspect of compassion. There are literally limitless possibilities out there and a bit like Mr Creote, I could spew all those fabulous anecdotes and reflections out in the post, which would just be counter-productive….not to mention messy and very, very smelly, stinky and downright repulsive!!

MY instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Giving me a helping hand: my ski instructor helping me up the magic carpet on my first ski lesson in 2013.

Just a few of the anecdotes I’ve considered revisiting today include address the love of a stranger and the compassionate support I received from my ski instructors who skied back down the mountain lugging my skis, boots and poles so I could take the chair lift back and conserve my small reserves of energy. Their compassion and using their physical strength for good, enabled me to ski down the best slope for my ability and give me the experience of a life time. It would not have happened otherwise and I would never have left the “magic carpet” or beginner’s area. Moreover, my testimony of skiing down the mountain for a second time after overcoming a flare up of my auto-immune disease, pneumonia and chemotherapy would not have happened.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

I also wanted to write about some of the ways people actually treat people with disabilities with anything but compassion. Things like parking in disabled car spaces without a permit, crashing into people using a walking stick and how there is the completely inadequate social support to allow people with disabilities to live with dignity. For example, despite have a muscle-wasting life-threatening disease, it took me five years to get any domestic assistance and that is completely inadequate. There are also no long term supports for parents of young children who might be dying or living with severe, disabling illness and who require ongoing child care but lack the second income to pay for it.

Just to compound this sense of paralysis through analysis and compassion overload, I started looking up inspirational quotes about compassion.

Some were beautifully poetic:

“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”

Rumi

“The dew of compassion is a tear”.

Lord Byron

However, reading through compassion quotes became quite challenging and rather than concentrating my compassion into some kind of manageable, bite-sized portion, it expanded the scope exponentially:

“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Let us fill our hearts with our own compassion – towards ourselves and towards all living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”

Ellen DeGeneres

Okay. So after reading all of these quotes, I’m starting to think i should go back to the ant I saw this morning lugging that mighty big crumb and offer it a lift. After all, an ant is one of these living creatures we’re been calling on to assist!!

Ouch! Double ouch!! My brain hurts. Really hurts. This compassion fatigue seems terminal!!

But to add further salt to the wound:

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie

That’s why I decided to write about compassion fatigue. Not the clinical version but just the garden variety which anybody with even just the smallest social conscience can experience. After all, each of us only has so many gold coins we can put in the collection tin and some of us, especially those living with any form of severe chronic illness, can feel like we could warrant some charitable donations ourselves. That’s particularly after paying for prescriptions, a medical specialist or about ten or when all our household appliances decide to breakdown at the same time. Moreover, if you have kids, you are the charitable institution. I remember my Dad telling us that: “Money doesn’t grow on trees”. “Kids, I don’t have a money tree, you know.” I don’t know whether we ever believed him. However, I still kind of believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy and given their generosity to kids worldwide, there has to be a money tree or at least a magic wishing tree out there somewhere!!

However, all this takes me back to what has almost become a cliche:

Think global: Act Local.

We can not help or save everyone but the chances are that we can help our neighbours in small, little ways that don’t really cost much such as giving people a lift, mowing their lawn and you know what I value the most: a smile and a hug. They are absolutely free and we could keep on passing them on. Well, we would be able to send and smiles and hugs right around the world if Australia, as our national anthem so ridiculously put it, wasn’t “girt by sea”. Gee, that ocean can get in the way at times!!

That’s been my modus operandi for awhile and while blogging and recent world events have extended my scope, I will still focus on the home front. After all, “charity begins at home”.

” I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Theresa

I almost forgot to mention this but unlike Atlas,  we  don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The state of the world, the environment and all the people and animals in it are not our responsibiity alone. While as individuals we might be ineffective on our own, when we collaborate we can move mountains. Moreover, through the power of prayer, we can also call on divine intervention. Never under-estimate the power of prayer!! Miracles can and do happen although I must also admit that sometimes for whatever reason God seems to be deaf…just like our kids.

Here are some of the other posts I have written about compassion and tomorrow I will post a selection of posts which were part of 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion.

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/brain-plasticity-two-australians-on-death-row/

The Aftermath of the MH17 Tragedy: Compassion in Action!! Sowing those precious sunflower seeds: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=sunflower

Emotional versus Physical healing: The Struggle To Heal The Broken Foot & the Sydney Siege: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/the-struggle-to-heal-the-broken-foot-and-the-sydney-siege/

Love of a Stranger: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/?s=love+of+a+stranger

Skiing: Back to the Mountain Almost: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/back-to-the-mountain-almost/

Have a wonderful International Day of Social Justice and I’ll start the ball rolling by sending a smile and a hug to you!

If you have participated in 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion, please leave a link and even a brief intro to your post in the comments here for inclusion in a follow-up post.

Love & blessings,

Rowena

Martin Place: Only 9 Sleeps Before Christmas…

As you would probably know by now, the siege in Martin Place ended tragically with the deaths of two hostages and the gunman. While the siege has been coveraged in ample detail in the media, I wanted to offer a tribute. I didn’t feel I could just keep blogging about our Christmas and dance and christmas concerts and making Christmas cake with my son under the circumstances. I wanted to honour the victims of the Martin Place Siege and send my love to their families, friends and colleagues and as a mark of respect.

Tori Johnson, 34, was the Manager of the Lindt Cafe. Like most of us, he’d simply gone to work but he never came home. Johnson was killed attempting to disarm the gunman.

His parents released a statement describing their pride in their “beautiful boy”:

“We are so proud of our beautiful boy Tori, gone from this earth but forever in our memories as the most amazing life partner, son and brother we could ever wish for,” the statement released through 2GB presenter Ben Fordham read.

“We’d like to thank not only our friends and loved ones for their support, but the people of Sydney; Australia and those around the world for reaching out with their thoughts and prayers.

“Our deepest gratitude to the NSW police, armed forces and paramedics for their tireless efforts.”

Former colleague Genevieve Collier posted on Facbook: “R.I.P Tori Johnson, at times we both hated each other, and at other times we’d be hysterically laughing. You gave me so many chances even when i was a little s*** eating all the lindor balls and pretending I was a barista. You had a good heart, and I knew you were in there protecting everyone.”

Source:

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/martin-place-cafe-siege-police-storm-cafe-and-kill-gunman-sheik-man-haron-monis/story-fnhnv0wb-1227157498633?utm_content=SocialFlow&utm_campaign=EditorialSF&utm_source=PerthNow&utm_medium=Facebook&nk=85b48321ae410590e37671c1f7b4d9f4

Katrina Dawson, who died protecting her pregnant friend, was a wife and mother of 3 little children aged under 10. Like all children, her kids would be counting down the number of sleeps before Christmas and then suddenly…

Katrina also had a brilliant mind and was a very respected and successful Barrister.

She loved her husband and her children with all her heart and no doubt that love helped sustain her during those 22 hours…along with her concern for her pregnant friend also being held hostage. She also had a mum, a Dad, a brother, friends, colleagues. I have a 10 year old son and an 8 year old daughter, so naturally I relate to her very strongly as a Mum and a wife and like everyone else, am thinking of and praying for her husband and kids.

Barrister Katrina Dawson was simply having much loved hot chocolate before work.

It was just an ordinary Monday just like any other Monday.

There are signs hung outside the Lindt Cafe wishing a Merry Christmas. These same signs were above the windows where the hostages were forced against the glass. The media blurred their faces but we could see their hands so clearly right underneath that Merry Christmas sign.These same signs were intended to spread Christmas cheer and good will to all mankind…along with a box of Lindt chocolates, of course. Indeed, I have 3 large boxes of Lindt chocolates in my cupboard…some intended as gifts and others for personal use. Lindt is the ultimate in convenient chocolate luxury.

Ooh!!! Right then my 8 year old daughter just appeared with a Lindt Chocolate and it seems while I’ve been immobilised with a broken foot and compassion for this awful tragedy, the kids are raiding my Lindt Chocolates. This just reinforces the awful paradox of what happened in that cafe. Lindt chocolate are heaven and that siege was hell… 22 hours of pure hell and a lifetime of heartache for the victims families and friends.

How do you reconcile that? Lindt Chocolate heaven, Merry Christmas and a gruesome siege where two innocent, very much loved people who were just going to work and drinking coffee were killed? The love that our community feels for the victims and their loved ones, versus the hate which drove a lone wolf to attack Sydney at its heart?

You can’t.

Yet, at the same time we have to keep believing that love can triumph over hate, good over evil!

Despite what some of our community leaders are saying, many of us can’t just get on with it as though nothing has happened. We’re not made of stone. We’re living, breathing, loving human beings who want to do something, somehow to show we care. That such acts of terrorist violence are not acceptable. That we will stand up and fight …if only we could work out how. There’s one thing I do know. It certainly doesn’t mean picking on innocent Muslims and becoming what we despise.

Perhaps, we just need to keep following the Golden Rule. Treat others as we would like to be treated. Perhaps, it really is that simple, after all! Child’s play.

This is not the first time that Australians have been affected by terrorist violence this year. On the 17 July, 2014 38 Australians were effectively murdered when Flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine. On the 24th September, 2014 an 18-year-old man who was being investigated over terrorism was been shot dead after stabbing two police officers in Melbourne’s outer south-east.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as being geographically isolated from such evil, we have now well and truly lost our innocence. We are no longer immune if, indeed, we ever were.

I can’t get into the city to leave a wreath of flowers thanks to my broken foot so I decided to put this memorial on my blog.

Little people like us might feel powerless when confronted with such evil and tragedy but together goodness is a mighty chain and we must all join hands united against terrorism, violence but also discrimination…not just against the Muslim community. Right now, that includes accepting and helping Muslim women and other mainstream members of the Muslim community feel love and accepted.

It also means not turning people with mental health issues into the villains here either. Truth be told, who hasn’t had mental health issues at some time and certainly some are worse than others and there was Port Arthur but over all have mental health issues doesn’t make you a crazy terrorist gunman.

We know that this guy wasn’t a lone wolf. There are others out there. Not just in Australia but also around the world. Reports today told of Muslim community members who are reporting extremists and have been unhappy with the response from authorities. I pray these people are flushed out before history repeats itself somewhere else and more innocent people are put through this severe kind of anguish.

My blog is about my life and what’s going on around me and I just felt I couldn’t keep writing about all our Christmas festivities without acknowledging this dreadful tragedy before I moved on.

We sent our love and prayers to the families and friends of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson. May God hold you in his arms and wrap you up in his incredible love.

xx Rowena

 

Back to the Mountain…Almost!

The interesting and often challenging thing about being part of a family is that you not only get to go on your own adventures and do your own thing, but that  your family also takes you on all sorts of journeys to places you would never, ever consider going. As a result, you find yourself stretched, pulled and even contorted in all sorts of directions you never thought possible and if you don’t snap somewhere along the way, you actually stretch and grow so far beyond your perceived limitations and you emerge your own personal super hero. I understand that you might not have seen my lasoo, but I am Wonder Woman by the way!

Quite often,  I at least, find myself thrown in the deep end, way out of my depth on these adventures. Thrashing my arms around in the swirling vortex, I feel myself about to go under and yet  I somehow find my strength and go on to exceed even my wildest expectations. Amazingly, the frightened little mouse emerges from her ordeal a lion, even if my roar is still a little soft.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Family Portrait 2012- I had serious breathing troubles climbing up the hill.

Given my struggles with my autoimmune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs, these challenges can be terrifying and intense. However,  my fear is counterbalanced by my intense desire to be an active part of our family and be able to do things with them. Sometimes, these challenges involve relatively simple things like taking the dog for a walk, walking to the shops or being able to go the park after the school. However, every now and then some big challenges come along and it doesn’t get bigger or more terrifying for me than our annual ski holiday.

The rest of the family are mad skiers who have been checking the snow reports for a few months now and started crossing down the days to our next ski trip as soon as they exited the slopes last year as green oases were opening up and the alpine streams were flowing fast.

Enjoying a Toblerone Hot Chocolate at Mid-Station, Perisher.

Enjoying a Toblerone Hot Chocolate at Mid-Station, Perisher.

I, on the other hand, prefer traveling up and down Perisher’s Front Valley on the chairlift, stopping off at mid-station for a decadent Toblerone Hot Chocolate served with a marshmallow snowman on a swizzle stick and walking through the snow taking photos. However, there was also something about the allure of skiing which sort of drew me in…no doubt, seeing how it made the rest of the family glow!

Two years ago, we took the kids skiing for the first time. They, and of course, my husband had a mad time and came home totally ski obsessed. I didn’t go skiing that time thinking that it wouldn’t be possible. This idea was challenged when we met the para-olympic ski team training down there and they put me onto the Disable Winter Sports’ Association. I don’t use a wheelchair and so there are some things they can do that I can’t.  I wasn’t sure if I’d make it down the hill in a sit chair and didn’t think I’d ever be able to pull off conventional skiing until I met my instructor. Yet, this meeting provided the initial spark.

Thank goodness  you don't have to take on the mountain alone!

Thank goodness you don’t have to take on the mountain alone!

This spark grew into something of a determined flame.

A dream was born.

I was going to turn my mountain around. Instead of climbing up the mountain like so many garden-variety adventures, I was going to do my own thing and ski down the mountain instead. I was initially going to do it as a fundraiser but in the end decided that it was too much to organise and that I was better off just making sure I reached the bottom on the mountain. You could just imagine organising some kind of huge event and then being too scared to go down and instead of being the all-conquering hero, being rescued rather red-faced by ski patrol in the ski-do.

Anyway, you’ll read in a previous post that I actually made it down to the bottom of the mountain. Of course, I didn’t feel like the conquering hero at the time. I was too busy shaking in my boots and relieved it was all over. Yet, I’d done it. I had conquered the mountain!!

However, instead of this achievement being the finale for what had been an amazing year of personal achievements, it actually signalled the beginning of a serious fight to save my life. While down at Perisher, I developed the beginnings of the chest infection which developed into pneumonia  and this pneumonia became seriously life-threatening. My lungs were almost cactus according to my specialist. The pneumonia meant new CT scans of my lungs and these showed that the scaring or fibrosis associated with my auto-immune disease had progressed and was now “established” not “mild”. This development resulted in some very serious medical appointments but then I was offered chemo which, at the time, felt like a life raft to a drowning soul. The chemo worked but it has been a long road and I’m not back yet. Lungs have improved from 43% (the worst was unrecorded) to 60% and my lung specialist was “impressed”. I don’t think he’d expected that. My muscle strength is also pretty good. Most of the problems I had relating to my auto-immune disease have improved significantly but ironically I’ve been battling “chemo brain” and have dreadful troubles with my memory and any sense of time. Multitasking of any sort is impossible. I am dependent on lists, alarms and the occasional cattle prod from Geoff, the kids or the pile of school notes.

After going through all of that and I must admit that I somehow successfully managed to squeeze my violin exam and Christmas in between it all, I am rather apprehensive about returning to the snow this year. I remember all those awful out of control feelings as my skis took off seemingly well ahead of my body and the absolute nail-biting horror of looking out from the top of the mountain and seeing the village way, way down below. I felt like I was perched on the very edge of the world about to fall off. Do I really need to go through that level of fear all over again? Isn’t doing it once and knocking it off my non-existent bucket list, enough?!!

Of course, I have replayed that horror over and over and over again as I prepare for my return to the mountain. As much as I feel like letting that fear engulf me and running as far away from the mountain as my ski boots can carry me, I’m also determined to show that mountain that I mean business. That it’s not going to get me again. I can beat the mountain and I can also take out the muscle disease, the dreaded lung disease and I am going to be so much more than a survivor. I am going to be an almighty conqueror. I’ll put in a little prayer request at this point because I need to acknowledge the one who is the wind beneath my wings. I know prayer has helped to get me where I am and I’ll certainly need it as I conquer the mountain again!

Out walking the dog preparing for our ski holiday.

Out walking the dog preparing for our ski holiday.

So I ask you to think of me as I keep walking the dog to get myself fit for this latest challenge on my journey. I have already taken so much more than the first step. I have conquered the mountain before and now all I need to do is go back. That is what it means to be brave!

I can do it!

I can do it!

I can do it!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: To all my overseas blogging mates who have real mountains to climb, you might find my angst about skiing down what could be seen as a “hill” a little petty but where I live, it is flat so even a little knoll seems significant. We can’t all have Everest in our own backyards (although I must admit, I’m sure Everest lives inside my head and challenges me each and every day as I stagger out of bed!)

PPS. I should point out that while I am more afraid of tackling the mountain this time because I have been down there before, at the same time,  I have been able to reassure myself that I am in pretty good physical shape and I can also reassure myself that because I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I will also have my instructor to help me. It’s great to know that we don’t have to conquer our mountains alone.

I am also looking forward to skiing more with Geoff and the kids hopefully beyond the learner’s magic carpet this year.

Gee…now I really am starting to sound like Wonder Woman and I might even confuse myself.