Tag Archives: meaning of life

The Road For 2019…

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve’s done and dusted and Day Three of the New Year is already unfurling. If you’re like me and believe you ought to start off on the right foot, by now we should be cruising along at a steady walking pace and getting into the swing of it, whatever “it” might be. However, the more honest realists among us, will have no qualms in admitting that they’re still in the planning stages, especially if you’re currently on holidays frying yourself something silly and going “troppo”!

The start of a new year seems to draw out even the most closet philosophers, keen to jump up onto their soap boxes, espousing all sorts of theories about how to change your life, end all your old bad habits and park your old self in the telephone booth (if you can find one) and ensure a new improved you walks out. As a writer, this is a bit like finishing up your old journal and opening a fresh, blank notebook where there’s not even a mark on the page. In the entire book is as white as driven snow just waiting for you to get started if you dare.

However, I’ve finally come to my senses and stopped dreaming. As the clock strikes midnight, my fairy Godmother isn’t going to going to appear out of nowhere to perform a reverse Cinderella makeover on me. Indeed, yet again as we launched into 2019, I was still myself watching the fireworks over Sydney Harbour on the TV. I wasn’t a princess with a horse-drawn carriage and a book which has not only been written but also published. What a pity, which of course leaves me with the hard yards ahead.

writing

Why act, when you can write about it?

 

Anyway, while coming up with a list of New Year’s resolutions was  once as traditional as singing Auld Lang Syne, these days many people are just coming up with their word for the New Year. Last year, my word was action and in 2019, it’s a case of “play it again, Sam”. Yes, my word for 2019 is still ACTION.

So, being the procrastinating, philosophizing sort, what was the first action on my list? Well, if you’re thinking it has anything to do with putting on my running shoes, active wear and getting stuck into it, you’d be sadly mistaken. Instead, I Googled ACTION quotes. More research required. After all, it takes a bit of a cattle prod to get some of us moving!

This quote particularly resonated with me and my writing:

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

Here’s a few more:

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”

Tony Robbins

“In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.”

Blaise Pascal

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.”

Napoleon Hill

Bilbo sand cliffs Ettalong 2

Life can be bewildering…even for a philosopher’s dog.

However, before you launch into action, you need a plan. Or, do you? I’m not so sure and find myself caught in between these two schools of philosophical thought:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

and

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

One of the underlying considerations is trying to understand just how much control we have over where our life is heading. Are we in the driver’s seat turning the steering wheel the direction we’d like to go while also operating the accelerator and brake at a pace of our own choosing? Even if we can attain full control over the car, what about the environment? Can we control the weather? The people around us? The state of the road or where it is heading? In other words, can we simply set ourselves a goal, write a plan, work hard and stick to the dotted line and know we’re going to reach our destination? That when we get there, we can stick our name straight up on the door, because we’ve finally made it. Or, is life much more precarious than that? Could we get blindsided at any tick of the clock and it’s best not to strut too confidently because we’re only going to get struck down. Is it, therefore, much better to prepare for defeat, or at least a long struggle ahead? If you’re spiritually inclined and believe in God (I’m a Christian), you also have God to factor into your equations. Is God really in control? If so, does that give him absolute power over our lives? Or, does he give us considerable independence, or at least the capacity to screw ourselves up?

Rowena in Florence

There are many roads you can take….in Florence in 1992. 

As you can see, I could easily spend the entire year debating just how much control I truly have over my own destiny and the best-laid plans of mice and men. However, that’s precisely the kind of thinking I’m trying to break out of to get on with things. Turn 2019 into a year of action, not procrastination or philosophizing.

However, this leads me into only another question…WHAT IS IT? WHAT IS THE ACTION? If you don’t define the action before you go and do it, you could go and do the wrong thing. After all, in addition to procrastination, there’s distraction and although both of these words contain “action” in them, they have nothing to do with ticking that thing off your to-do or bucket lists, and achieving that thing that makes your heart sing.

_DSC7001

Some times, you only know which way NOT to turn.

Personally, I reached my WHAT for 2019 via a typically circuitous route. As many of you will be aware, it’s been a long-held goal of mine to write a book and get it published. Indeed, my mission for the last ten years has been to write  a motivational book about living with and overcoming adversity. However, while it was all tracking perfectly in my head about 6 years ago, I had a massive setback and wasn’t sure if I was going to pull through. Not unsurprisingly, I had to rethink and reassess all of that. While we all know the simple laws of gravity and what goes up must come down, it’s quite a different thing to experience that yourself and crash land on your head Humpty Dumpty style wondering how to put the pieces of yourself and your life back together again. For me, that wasn’t a quick fix. Indeed, there wasn’t a fix after all. More of a realization that life is complicated and you just need to make the most of every day regardless of your circumstances. That what really matters is loving and being loved, being a part of community ideally on many levels and having that give and take. For me, there’s also having a faith in God. A faith which not only acknowledges that he exists, but also that he loves me and isn’t trying to destroy me when the shit hits the fan. I’ve also had to accept and acknowledge that I’ve shot myself in my foot at times, and have brought about my own troubles. There’s also just bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Moreover, sometimes we just don’t know why bad things happen to us but we owe it to ourselves to try to get on with living and find a way out. Not in terms of denial or avoidance, but via a potentially more painful yet ultimately rewarding path of personal growth. Learning our life lessons, especially before they get repeated because we’re slow learners.

vintage-1970-s-mego-wonder-woman-12-action-figure-superhero-doll-w-red-boots

Here I am as Wonder Woman…the female version of Action Man I suspect.

Well, it;s taken me almost 2000 words to say that I’m going to get that book written in 2019. I guess that could well explain why I’m a writer and not a female incarnation of Action Man. If I just got on with it, no matter what it happened to be, I’m sure I wouldn’t have as much to write about. I’d be doing it instead. So, you could say that inaction is an occupational hazard.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2019? What is it? Or, perhaps you’ve come up with a few resolutions, perhaps even including not to make any resolutions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this. It’s been quite a mammoth effort getting through this and it’s now Wednesday night. Indeed, even Wednesday is starting to expire. I’m supposed to be getting the kids packed for the Scout Jamboree. They leave in the morning. It seems I still have a lot to learn and that my ACTION steps are going to begin with sewing on the last of those Scout badges.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 12th February, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, what do you feel like today? I’m not sure I can deliver, especially if you’re used to more complex beverages like a “pumpkin spiced latte”. Nothing like that exists around here, but I do have Twinings English Breakfast Tea and a coffee machine. I’ve been virtually coffee free for a few weeks now. It was reeking havoc with my digestion, although I succombed a few times when Zombie Woman needed a caffeine hit.

Perhaps, that’s what I needed today because after waking up at the normal time, both of the kids were sick and I was feeling whoozy and went back to bed. I woke up at 3.45PM struggling to move. I’ve been under a lot of stress in the last week, and it’s gone straight to my muscles. Need a crane to get around at the moment. Anyone got a spare?

 

The highlight of the last week, was writing a philosophical/humorous post about searching Ebay for the Meaning of Life. On one hand it seems a little bit out there, but on the other hand, I’ve been wondering why I didn’t think of this before. My way of thinking is pretty off beat and turning to Ebay for the answers is the sort of random thing I’d come up with. I was feeling pretty distraught at the time and the really quirky side of my brain so this invitation. Ebay said you could “search for anything”. What about Hope? Do you think I could find hope on Ebay? Well, Ebay doesn’t promise that you’ll find what you’re looking for. When it came to hope, Ebay delivered bike parts.

If you’d interested to see what else Ebay offered up on the important questions of Hope, Despair, Optimism, Pessimism, Love, Hate, the Meaning of Life, the Meaning of Death, I love to hear your thoughts: Life According to Ebay.

The kids are settling into school well. They had school photos on Friday, which were a lot more painless than expected. I thought it might’ve been difficult to get my daughter out the door. She’s just into her second week of high school, but I’ve seen school photo day up there before and you could call is “Look at my hair day”. All the girls seem to take giving their hair 100 brushes out in the sun to a whole new level. Wow! I can’t remember when I last went to the hairdresser, not that that’s a good thing. The hairdresser I was going to closed down and change isn’t something I tend to do well. Besides, as you well may be aware, a hairdresser doesn’t just cut your hair. They’re your psychologist, psychiatrist, philosophical advisor and ego stroker. It’s a demanding job. So, I’ve been left to fend for myself.

 

I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers this week. That was quite a lof of fun and my flash transferred the usual travel debacles into the realms of teleporting… Not the Taj Mahal

How has your week been? I hope it’s been great.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Life According to Ebay.

“Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Although I routinely turn to Google to answer to life’s questions, I’ve never thought of asking Ebay before. However, tonight while searching for an electric recliner, I had an epiphany. Ebay claims it will “search for anything”. So, rising to the challenge, I decided to put Ebay through its paces and see what kind of wisdom it offered on some of the great issues of life: Hope, Despair, Love & Hate, Faith & Doubt, the Meaning of Life & and Meaning of Death.

Search 1: “Hope”.

“The road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination.”
― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fall of Atlantis

Hope

Hope 180mm Floating 6-Bolt Disc Rotor Orange

Although I’m a pretty lateral kind of person, even I found Ebay’s take on Hope obtuse. Hope is a brand of bicycle parts. I’m not sure that Hope is what I’d want to associate with riding a bike, especially a high performance one. Thoughts like: “I hope you reach your destination” or I hope “I don’t get hit by a car’ come to mind. Yet, when I had a closer look at the Hope 180mm Floating 6-Bolt Disc Rotor Orange, it did seem rather profound. Indeed, I’m sure there’s some kind of weird, esoteric meaning in there somehere. Well, at least I can sense it.

Search 2: “Despair”

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”
― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Not unsurprisingly, there weren’t any bike parts called “Despair” on Ebay. Rather, we ended up in the realm of books.There was Kierkegaard’s Concept of Despair by Michael Theunissen (Paperback, 2016). There was also Noam Chomsky’s Optimism Over Despair, which provides: “An essential overview of the problems of our world today — and how we should prepare for tomorrow. We can either be pessimistic, give up, and help ensure that the worst will happen. Or we can be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist, and maybe help make the world a better place.1”

In addition to the books, there were also a few CDs…Abysmal Despair recorded by ODYSSEY, and a thrash band, DESPAIR, whose debut single was History of Hate and this album was Beyond All Reason. I wonder if their message is all about hate, or more about love? I wonder if I should listen and find out…

Search 3: Love 

 ‘I love you more than words can wield the matter, Dearer than eyesight, space and liberty’

Shakespeare: King Lear – Act 1, secene 1. 

“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”

Euripides

Love on Ebay seems to be much about decorating wedding receptions, or buying someone you love a token of your affection. That when you love someone, you buy them a necklace or for something novel, you could even give them some love coupons (whatever that entails). Surprisingly, or at least to me, Romeo & Juliet didn’t top the list on our search for love. There were customised lasercut wooden names for the Bride & Groom, jewellery…”I Love you Mum”, “I love you to the moon and back”, a pack of 100 wooden hearts in four sizes. Love is also available in helium balloons, and as a little love bird on an Australian stamp.  BTW no books cropped up on my fairly extensive scroll through the results. So, sorry Romeo & Juliet. You lacked out.

Search 4- Hate

Leonard Cohen

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

To be perfectly honest, I felt quite uneasy entering “Hate” into Ebay. Hate really isn’t part of my vocabulary, and it just felt icky typing in the word and like: “Don’t go there”. I didn’t even want to dip my little toe in. Get away. Leave it alone. It was a really strong force deep in my gut.

So, I was a relieved when the results weren’t all sinister. Indeed, there was an album Songs of Love & Hate by legendary Leonard Cohen near the top of the list. He’s an inspiration, not a force of darkness. Phew!

Hate Everybody

Then, there were the t-shirts. If Hope belonged to bicyle parts, despair belonged to books and the philosopher. Love was all about jewellery, hearts and helium balloon. Hate belongs the T-Shirt where indeed hate becomes humour. How can that be? We humans are weird, perverse even.

Search 5…Optimism.

“Optimism that does not count the cost is like a house builded on sand. A man must understand evil and be acquainted with sorrow before he can write himself an optimist and expect others to believe that he has reason for the faith that is in him.”

-Helen Keller

helen-keller-beyond-the-miracle-1600x500

Helen Keller

When it came to unveiling the goods on Optimism, books again rose to the top of the list. There was Helen Keller’s Optimism: An Essay, which is still sitting on my book pile unread. As when I’ve bought so many of my books, I was overly optimistic about my reading capacity. There is also Voltaire’s Classic: Candide or Optimism.  and Scott Adams (writing as Dilbert): Optimism Sounds Exhausting. I love Dilbert, by the way.

Dilbert Optimism sounds exhausting

Search 6: Pessimism

Like hate, pessimism is another one of those nasties that we don’t want to own up to. Rather, we’re supposed to “think happy thoughts” and “live happily ever after” in La-La Land. However, behind closed doors there’s at least a touch of pessimism in each of us. However, it’s how we respond to pessimism, which makes the difference. Some of us put on the boxing gloves and fight for our lives, while others silently slip under the bus and wake up as road pizza.

Studies in Pessimism Schopenhauer

When it came to pessimism, Ebay dug up German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the father of pessimism…

“The attainment of a goal or desire, Schopenhauer continues, results in satisfaction, whereas the frustration of such attainment results in suffering. Since existence is marked by want or deficiency, and since satisfaction of this want is unsustainable, existence is characterized by suffering.”1.

Search 7: Faith

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith Hill Cry

Well, if you go looking for faith on Ebay, more than likely you’ll end up with a CD by Faith Hill, than a copy of the Bible.  Here’s a link through to Tim McGraw & Faith Hill: The Rest of Our Life

I was actually expecting something more spiritual along the lines of Matthew 17:20:

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I guess that just goes to show, that just because you can “look for anything” on Ebay, it doesn’t mean you’ll find what you’e looking for, or what you need.

Search 8: Doubt

Mrs Doubtfire

Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire. 

Like Google, Ebay also has a sense of humour. When I entered in doubt, Mrs Doubtfire immediately popped up. I had to smile. For those of you who don’t recall the movie, it starred the great Robin Williams who played a troubled divorced Dad who wanted to spend more time with his kids. He dressed up as an older British woman and convinced his ex-wife, Miranda (Sally Field), to hire him as a nanny. It’s hilarious. This is a case of Dame Edna Everage meets Mork. Yet, like every movie starring Robin Williams, there are so many levels to this movie and it ‘s ripe with food for thought. After all, you could say that humour is the best way to impart the most challenging life lessons of all.

Here are a few poignant quotes from the movie:

1) “Did you ever wish you could sometimes freeze frame a moment in your day, look at it and say “this is not my life”?”

2) [Trying to get false teeth out of glass]

Mrs. Doubtfire: Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth.

Search 9: The Meaning of Life

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.” 
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

Monty Python

When it came to searching for the meaning of life on Ebay, again I was in for a few surprises. Perhaps, I’m just getting old, but I thought Monty Python’s film: The Meaning of Life would’ve been top of the list, but it was in fact a sad omission. So before I move onto what I did find, I should leave you with their take on the Meaning of Life, which I must say is the abridged, sanitised version:

“Well, it’s nothing very special. Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

Another, conspicuous absence, was Douglas Adams famous series which started out with The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Universe and included Life, the Universe & Everything. Even if you haven’t read the series, you could already know that the answer to the meaning of life, is 42.

Meaning of Life Grieve

The Bible or any other religious creed was also conspicuously absent, but Bradley Trevor Grieve’s book: The Meaning of Life made the cut. Perhaps, you need to stick a frog on the cover to get a look in.

Search 10: The Meaning of Death

“Life asked death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’ Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.”

—Author unknown

Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that through all my searches, it was only when I searched for the meaning of death, that Ebay coughed up any references to God, Jesus or eternity. So, it seems that Ebay is just like us humans and when Ebay is facing death, it also turns to God. Ebay beamed up Barry Smith’s The Meaning of Jesus’ Death: Reviewing the New Testament’s Interpretations. There was also Adrian Chapman’s The Meaning of Life A Dangerous Mix of God and Science and  Julian Young’s book: The Death of God & the Meaning of Life.

Conclusion

So, while you might be able to search for anything on Ebay, it’s quite clear that the response is quite random. You might not get what you are looking for, but like any lucky dip, you might get a pleasant surprise, and a whole new world will open up for you. Yet, there can also be that huge frustration, and even despair, of not finding what you need. Yet, expecting Ebay to have all the answers, is a folly. There are better places to look. However, who hasn’t tried retail therapy, and found a true and legitable joy? An escape from one’s pain-filled inner labyrith, even if it is only temporary?!! I’m guilty as charged.

Personally, as a Christian, I don’t believe life is altogether random and yet I don’t go so far as saying “God is in control”. You see, if God is control of it all, that includes good and evil and ignores the fact he gave us free will. Moreover, we clearly have the capacity to make “our lot” better or worse. Yes, in your quest for wisdom, never doubt the power of shooting yourself in the foot.

You can’t blame God for that.

Sources

Noam Chomsky “Optimism Over Despair”

 

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 14th January, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

If you were to come over to my place for coffee this weekend, I’d be apologizing for the preponderance of crates, and random flotsam and jetsom all over the loungeroom , and recommend we head out for coffee today. I’m sure you know how it is. Once you let all that compressed clutter loose, you have a monster on your hands and it’s a massive effort to divide and conquer and finally get rid of the piles. It feels like this is all I’ve been doing in January, but that isn’t quite the truth. At least, I hope it’s not. What a way to spend the Summer holidays!

dog beach zoom

Dog Beach: my daughter inscribed this with a stick in the sand.

Just in case you’re living in the land of snow and ice, you might want to get changed into something a little more comfortable, and we could well head for the beach. If you’re feeling energetic, we coud also take the dogs…Lady, Zac and Rosie. Zac and Rosie are 6 month old border collie x kelpie pups and they’ll definitely raise your heart rate. They love running and are so sleek, graceful and beautiful to watch speeding through the sand. From this, you’ll understand that they’re off the leash and truly able to let themselves go. Fortunately, they are well attached to us and haven’t disappeared chasing a seagull down the far end of the beach. It happens often enough down there and it is quite a challenge to retrieve your charge. .

We’re not planning to foster any new pups at the moment. The new school year starts in a fortnight and I’m working flat out to get the kids and the house ready for the new school year. Can we get it sorted this year? We’re in much better shape than previous years, when we’ve arrived back from holidays the night before and winged it.  That was much easier back in primary school, when the kids were younger. Our daughter starts high school this year and that’s all new uniforms and we’ve had to wait for the skirt to come in. Yes, I have made myself a note. With so much going on, I’m sure my brain’s run out of RAM.

I don’t know if you’re into research at all. However, as much as people talk about being focused to succeed, research is more like following a random goat trail through the wilderness. That said, you need to leave some flags, markers or pebbles along the track, so you can find your way back to the fork in the road where you darted off.

This week, I’ve dug out my research on the Johnston’s of Islay, which I haven’t touched much for the last 15 years. This is an exploding file and I’ve achieved quite a lot on this line. Yet, there were still quite a few deadends all those years ago, which were worth revisitnig now that so much material is available online.

Of most general interest, the Johnstons of Islay were whisky distillers, and dare I suggest, heading back into the not so dark ages, that they were whisky smugglers as well. Now the story is really starting to get interesting, especially when you start hearing about distilling operations concealed in deep limestone caves. No pirates required. These were my ancestors. By the way, the Johnstons founded Laphroaig and Tallant Distilleries.

I’ve never been to Islay and a trip isn’t on the cards any time soon. So, I’m doing my best to try and get a feel for the place. Part of that, as an Australian, is getting my head around what it’s like to live in a small island community, when we live on an island CONTINENT…a land of sweeping plains.

Image result for Islay historic photos

Above: Map of Islay, Scotland. Ireland is to the South.

Trying to get some appreciation of Islay’s size, I did a bit of a comparison. Islay has an area of 619.6 km² Now, here in Australia, we think Tasmania is small. It’s also an island and Geoff’s grown up there and so we have a reasonable understanding of what it’s like to live there, adjcent to the Australian Mainland, and infamously being left off the map. Moreover, when we were taught to draw the map of Australia, I’m pretty sure that Tassie went into a one cm gap. That’s small. It’s much larger when you get there and realize there’s a hell of a lot squeezed into that deceptively small space. However, compared to Islay, Tassie’s a giant…a whopping  68,401 km². Not a useful comparison after all. Even Bali’s  more than double it’s size at 5,780 km². This leaves Singapore being the closest size comparison, measuring in at 719.1 km².

Aside from chasing whiskey smuggling ghosts and trying to get ready for the new school year, I did watch a great movie…It’s A Wonderful Life. I hadn’t heard of it before but it was on display in the supermarket and I’ve been enjoying re-watching my stash of DVDs, some of which, have never made it out of the plastic.

Have you ever seen the movie? Despite my ignorance, it’s considered a classic Christmas movie and one of the most watched American films. Well, I’m Australian so maybe that’s why I haven’t seen it. Or, perhaps I’ve just been living under a rock. ore likely, I was out celebrating Christmas, and not stuck at home watching the box. After all, Christmas is in Summer here.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t focus on the Christmas aspects of the film. I was more interested in the plight of George Bailey who is among the town’s brightest and can’t wait to leave this one horse town and explore the world. He has big dreams of world travel, going to college and he worked dime by dime to put the money away, but there was the competing pull of the family business and helping people out. This is a pull I relate to myself. The need to be here and look after the family versus writing, travel and becoming all that I could be in myself, which could very well come at a high price. Relationships versus achievement? Do we have to make a choice? Or, can we have it all? That, I believe, is one of the great questions of our generation.

Here are afew great quotes from the movie:

Pop: I know it’s soon to talk about it.
George: Oh, now Pop, I couldn’t. I couldn’t face being cooped up for the rest of my life in a shabby little office…Oh, I’m sorry Pop, I didn’t mean that, but this business of nickels and dimes and spending all your life trying to figure out how to save three cents on a length of pipe…I’d go crazy. I want to do something big and something important.
Pop: You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
George: I know, Dad. I wish I felt…But I’ve been hoarding pennies like a miser in order to…Most of my friends have already finished college. I just feel like if I don’t get away, I’d bust.
Pop: Yes…yes…You’re right son.
George: You see what I mean, don’t you, Pop?
Pop: This town is no place for any man unless he’s willing to crawl to Potter. You’ve got talent, son. I’ve seen it. You get yourself an education. Then get out of here.
George: Pop, you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy. [to Annie, listening through the door] Oh, did you hear that, Annie?
Annie: I heard it. About time one of you lunkheads said it.
Clarence Oddbody
  • Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
  • [Inscribed in a copy of Tom Sawyer] “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”

Mr. Henry F. Potter

  • [to George] Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world! You once called me a warped, frustrated, old man. What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk, crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help.
-+-

Anyway, I clearly enjoyed the movie and got a lot out of it.
Any thoughts?
Well, it’s Sunday night here and I have one pup chewing a pencil to bits and the other up on my lap. He’s managed to cohabitate with the lap top and is draped over the right arm of the chair while the laptop is perched on the left with a good gap from my cup of tea.
This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. Eclectic Alli is hosting a coffee share and Here’s the link up. Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!
How  has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great week and I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to in the comments.
Best wishes,
Rowena.

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

Meant to Be… Whale Beach Revisited.

Recently, I had the strangest experience. One of those freaky coincidence experiences that really makes you wonder how the universe operates and how these seemingly unrelated cogs suddenly end up whirling together in unison.

Whether you believe in God or not is almost irrelevant because it’s hard to believe that God who operates on such a grand scale such as creating the universe, would have time to be bothered with the minutiae of things. But then something happens that makes you question all of that. God strangely seems to have all his fingers in your pie, guiding and directing you in such small and subtle ways that it’s all quite mind blowing.

I use the word “serendipity” to describe these moments. Sometimes things happen that are just too slick for any kind of explanation and I guess you’re just left with what was “meant to be”.

Only the night before, I’d been discussing serendipity with a friend. Since I’ve sort exited the rat race  due to my health issues, I’ve ended up in a spot where to some extent, I can let my life go with the flow a bit. I am a bit more flexible and can respond to changes of direction instead of being stuck on the old railroad track. I’ve had my plans but I’ve also been on some fabulous goat trails which have extended me so far beyond what I ever considered possible. This has included starting to learn the violin this year.

As John Lennon said:

Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans…

Just for the sake of honesty and disclosure, I am a Christian but I’m not a ram it down your throat Christian. I experience a spiritual God who actively guides my life even when I’m focused on other things. I am a human, breathing miracle just like every other person on this planet.

So often we miss what God is doing in our lives or don’t understand that suffering is necessary for growth and as much as we don’t like adversity, it is part of life. Ironically, without adversity, we do not build resilience and we lack backbone, inner fortitude and we fall apart at the first sign of trouble. Adversity is as essential to personal growth as air is for breathing.

That doesn’t mean I like it but life is what it is.

Anyway, yesterday morning my daughter was competing in her first physical culture (physie) competition down at Terrey Hills. She had to be there at 8.30 AM so we stayed at my parents’ place in Sydney the night before and we had a 6.30AM start. That’s incredibly early for a pair of night owls.

Physie is a combination of march, dance and gymnastics set to music. The girls have to remember quite detailed routines and it strikes me as being very precise and disciplined. My daughter does it with her friends after school and our club has a fabulous sense of community and fun as well as encouraging the girls to apply and extend themselves.

As I mentioned before, this was Amelia’s first competition and although we’d had a trial run the week before, it was still quite nerve-wracking as it is when you try something new. I usually chat to my friends during physie and miss the gist of what’s going on. Hence, I had to a buy the regulation leotard in a stressful, last-minute panic. I also remembered hearing something about the hair and curls and being being able to buy some kind of twisty doobywackers to do the job. Not being much of a hair person myself, I didn’t bother filing that thought along with a thousand and one erroneous pieces of paper which are floating around this place like lost swans. You know how it is. You just get completely overloaded!!

In the end, her hair looked  gorgeous in a straight ponytail and I thought I was Mighty Mum just because I’d managed to get a hair ribbon in a matching colour. I’m just trying to keep things simple, especially for our first competition.  You can get dreadful performance anxiety as a mother. Not because you’re worried your kid is going to screw up. You just have this awful sinking feeling you’ve forgotten something and that you will be the weakest link.

The performance part was almost an anti-climax. There was no big catastrophe.  She remembered her routine. She didn’t get a place but she was happy with her pink participation medal. It was all over quite early and we had the rest of the day ahead of us.

Now, any sensible “sick” person would have gone straight home to bed after all of that excitement but not this little black duck.

We were off to Whale Beach.

I know this plan sounds somewhat insane given that I’m currently on 50mg a day of prednisone and my muscles are starting to waste away. Instead, you would think that I would have a nice, quiet day instead. But I am who I am. Carpe diem… seize the day. Tomorrow, I can crash. Besides, on this much prednisone, I’m like a Morris Minor with a V8 engine. I’m zooming along with all sorts of bits falling off. I’m probably about to combust. But I literally can’t stop!!

This was the first time I have driven down to Sydney myself in at least 8 years. I can’t even remember the last time I’d driven down to Sydney myself. So there I was in Sydney with the car halfway to the Northern Beaches and a trip to Whale Beach made such perfect practical sense.  I have only driven past the house once or twice since we sold it over ten years ago. That place was like my heart and soul being turned inside out and painted onto an enormous canvas. I desperately wanted to go back. See the house. Go and sit on my rock and absorb the waves. Share it all with my little girl! It would be so, so special!

Recently, I had realised that Whale Beach has dropped out of our family narrative. We’ve  moved on and I didn’t think the kids knew much about it at all. You can’t live in the past but I want them to know me. Experience me. Whale Beach has been such a significant chapter that I couldn’t leave it out. It’s still etched into my fingerprints, my heartbeat, my very being.

So our adventure began. Driving up Mona Vale Road past the Baha’i Temple, I slipped back in time. I have driven up and down this road hundreds of times before and even though it’s been a very long time, I still know it  like the back of my hand. I am going home. I am so excited but there is a little bit of caution too. What if they have knocked the place down? It’s been over ten years…a long time when you’re a 1960s shoebox shack with million dollar views.

As I park opposite the old house, I notice some people outside and wonder if they’re connected with the house. I don’t know what I was really thinking at this point. I was just grateful the house was still there.

When we first bought the place, it was painted primer pink and the cupboards were filled with all sorts of relics from the 1960s….old Women’s Weeklies, an old porcelain jug, empty Chianti bottles. There was even an ancient bottle of Detol.  There were all sorts of funny bits and pieces tucked away all over the place and we kept them. They were fascinating.

Mum and Dad had bought Whale Beach, well our little patch of it anyway, while I was still at uni. As a uni student, you really couldn’t ask for anything better. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drive at the time so there were grueling trips from Wynyard Station on the 190 bus and a hellish climb over the hill to reach paradise. Of course, there were parties. New Year’s Eve  staying up all night at the beach by the campfire and watching the sunrise over the water…a new beginning. For some strange reason, I still believe that life starts over on January 1st each year. Silly me!

There were also many, many hours of deep contemplative reflection, atomic angst and bust ups, broken hearts. The storms weren’t always over the sea.

But ultimately, it was a place of healing. Sewing broken hearts back together. Writing, journaling, working through stuff as I watched the street light twist and turn like a snake shining across the waves down the southern end of the beach.

Anyway, as I get out of the car, this young bloke calls out to me and asks if I could give him a jump start. From my point of view, he’s just asked me to perform open heart surgery on his vehicle. I can feel myself starting to panic a little. I really want to help but this is way out of my league. As anybody who knows me knows, I am not technical. I am certainly not mechanical and I’m really not practical either. The only thing I know about my car is that it’s blue and it has a luggage pod on top and that’s how I find it in the car park.

I am also a reformed nervous driver. I have realised that I have serious spatial deficits and it’s all about parking and manoeuvring the car in tight situations that’s the problem …not the actual driving itself. This doesn’t help me with the jump starting.  I will need to jiggle the car into position and this is looking very tricky indeed. Jump starting this car on windy narrow beach road presses all my alarm bells but I am feeling strangely confident. After all, I am on 50mg of prednisone and it really does make you feel like you can do just about anything.

The bloke senses my hesitation and asks if I’m in a hurry and then asks what I’m doing there. Not in an interrogative way but it’s not the tourist end of town. I tell him that my Dad used to own the house across the road. He tells me that his Dad currently owns the house. Suddenly, we are no longer two strangers passing by daylight. There is this link. Suddenly, the seemingly impossible becomes a reality and I am suddenly standing inside my parents’ old beach house and he is taking a photo of my daughter and I standing on the balcony with all of Whale Beach stretching out behind us. I am in absolute heaven.

I had never thought in my wildest dreams that this would ever happen but I can also  hear my mother saying: “only you Rowena”. I am always meeting strangers and establishing strange coincidences.

But we still haven’t jump started the car yet. Of all the people this poor guy had to ask for help, he must have picked the worst. Just turning the car around was a challenge and I no idea how to open the bonnet. I felt like such an idiot but we can’t be good at everything. I offer an emotional philosophical breakdown service. I’m not the NRMA but I came through. He got his car started and our paths deviated once again.

Mummy on the rocks.

I was on top of the world gushing with so much thought and emotion seeing the old place again but I still wanted to show Miss my rock down on the southern end of Whale Beach. The rock overlooks the surging waves and I just sit there watching them smash against the rocks exploding into a million million water droplets. The waves sound deep like there is some kind of underground cave. I am impressed by the sheer force and power of the waves…the energy. I can almost hear them breathing.

Miss is collecting blue periwinkle shells and lining them up and watches the snails stick their tongues out below and wiggle their tails. She is mesmerised. She runs off with the video camera and starts filming her own documentary. She is wearing a black vinyl jacket and looks very much the film director…just gorgeous.

I find some rock pools filled with squiggly snail trails. I remember photographing these many years ago and show them to Miss. I want to photograph her feet next to them. She tells me that “snails make the best drawers” and she films her feet while I take the photos. I can’t help looking at her and seeing a glimpse of my own reflection. She has told me before that I have stolen her hair and we look quite similar but she also sees the world through the lens and finds herself stranded on a rock surrounded by the waves with the video camera in hand. She is crying. I can’t reach her but a stranger comes to her rescue. She was never in any danger but at that moment, I knew she had the bug. She’d do anything for the shot!!

Anything to get the shot.

It was hard to leave Whale Beach but Geoff and our son were arriving on the Palm Beach Ferry. They’d been to football and were meeting up to go back to my parents’ place for my birthday party.

Family portrait at Palm Beach Wharf

This was my last day of being 42. If you have ever read the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, you will know that 42 is answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. This day kind of finished things up rather poignantly. I was satisfied…content. I could move forward.

I am now wondering, now that the mystery has finally been unraveled, what I’m going to do with the rest of my life?

That’s right. Now, I just need to find out: “What was the question?”