Tag Archives: overcoming anxiety

Clean Up Australia Day 2015

Last Sunday, we joined hundreds and thousands of Australians donning yellow rubber gloves and grabbing a rubbish bag for  Clean up Australia Day, where the community comes together to remove mountains of rubbish and trash from our sparkling  waterways and gloriously golden, sandy beaches.

“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

Ian Kiernan AO

Ian Kiernan AO

Clean up Australia Day , Clean up Australia whose mission is “To inspire and work with communities to clean up and fix up our Earth”, is the brain child of Ian Kiernan AO. In 1986/87 Keirnan represented Australia in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race and during this event he was disgusted by the huge amount of trash he observed floating around in the world’s oceans.  In particular, having waited years to see the Sargasso Sea’s legendary long golden seaweed, Kiernan’s excited anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.

“Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin. He saw it first when it jumped in the air, true gold in the last of the sun and bending and flapping wildly in the air.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

You see, the Sargasso Sea is the huge, slowly rotating eye of the North Atlantic Gyre, where the currents not only attract the beautiful golden seaweed but also the world’s trash. While not as big as the Pacific Trash Vortex, it’s still not pretty and yet another reminder of humanity’s brutal impact on our beautiful, precious and increasingly precarious planet.

You can read about blogger Sebastian Smith’s trip to the Sargasso Sea here and appreciate it’s beauty: http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/Swimming-in-the-abyss-of-the-Sargasso-Sea

Fired up on his return to Sydney, Kiernan took action and launched a clean up of Sydney Harbour. Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydney siders joining in to help. Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne. Success fueled success and the following year, Clean Up Australia Day was born.

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

Scouts heading out to Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

Scouts heading out to Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

I actually met Ian Kiernan back in my past life working in environmental marketing  and Ian Kiernan presented the awards at a function I’d organised. I was in my 20s at the time and had to ring him on his mobile to confirm and I was shaking in my boots. Imagine ringing up the man Australians fondly call “Mr Yucky Poo”. He was lovely but I was more than just a little nervous!!

Fast-forwarding to 2015, I was thankful we were doing Clean Up Australia Day with the kids’ scout group.

You see, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t know where to start cleaning up.

Our house would be a great place to start. We could sure use an army of volunteers to clean up our backyard. Then, we could move onto our attic, where a more diverse array of stuff than the Pacific  Junk Vortex, lies in storage.  Every now and then we look up and say a few prayers hoping all that stuff doesn’t feel overpowered by gravity and comes crashing down through the ceiling, yearning to get back down to Earth.

These  troubles are beating me on the home front. So, when it comes to cleaning up the entire country, it’s pretty intimidating. Overwhelming even and just the sort of thing that will get me catastrophising in all sorts of ways which aren’t pretty.

Miss Cleaning Up Australia

Miss Cleaning Up Australia

After all, Australia isn’t exactly a tiny little speck in the ocean. Oh no! It has an area of about 7.692 million square kilometres and the Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,876 km (22,292 mi) with an additional 23,859 km (14,825 mi) of island coastlines.

That’s a hell of a lot of cleaning up!!

“How do you eat an elephant?

One mouthful at a time.”

Also, left to my own devices, I could also be tempted to head down to our national capital, Canberra, to clean Australia of some of its politicians and even more so, the media which is probably generating most of the rubbish spewing from these quarters. I’ve been particularly unimpressed this week that there has been further debate about the national leadership while two Australians in compassionate circumstances, are about to be executed in Indonesia. I would hope that this isn’t the only pressing matter our government should be dealing with right now either. Meanwhile, they should all be sent back to primary school where they could learn how to get along. (Perhaps, I should introduce them all to the Golden Rule?!!)

Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of the rubbish our politicians are spewing out at the moment. Our NSW Premier is in the throws of selling off the State. I’m surprised that he hasn’t sold off  his own suit. Indeed, I suspect all of our public toilets are about to be privatised and we’ll all be left busting in the lurch…not just Little Johnny!

Thank goodness there’s an election coming up. Ciao bella! We’ll give them all the flush.

By the way, my apologies to the majority of politicians who make a tireless contribution to our community and aren’t trying to bring about leadership spills!

Our Scout Group at Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

Our Scout Group at Pelican Island, Woy Woy.

So without any detours via Canberra or NSW Parliament House, I was on location with the scouts signing people up and handing out gloves and bags to cubs, scouts and families and our token community volunteer. The scouts have an inflatable rescue boat which we used to ferry the volunteers to Pelican and Riley Islands in Woy Woy to clean up. As my broken foot is still tender, I was on deck chair duties while Geoff helped set up the Gazebo and BBQ and started cooking the snags. He did a very good job too. Australian sausages are usually incinerated charcoal but these were cooked to perfection.

Geoff on BBQ duties cooking up a snagalicious lunch.

Geoff on BBQ duties cooking up a snagalicious lunch.

While the sausage sandwiches might have filled them up, the scouts were attracted to my homemade choc-chip cookies like flies to a BBQ. I’ve since decided to throw out my copy of How to Win friends & Influence People and just hand out cookies instead. Who knows, I might even make it in politics?!! Indeed, could the humble cookie lead me on a path towards world domination. Who knows but I’d certainly get the scouts’ vote. Shame they’re all under 18 and can’t vote.

Mister zooming off to Pelican Island

Mister zooming off to Pelican Island

I don’t know what sort of junk you expect to find doing such a clean up. However, I would not have expected the kids to find hundreds of golf balls so far away from any golf course. It’s looking like there’s some sort of clandestine golf tournament being held somewhere along the waterfront at night. Given the number of golf balls found, this thing must be drawing quite a crowd. However, I can’t held wondering how the poor unsuspecting fish feel when a flying golf ball suddenly belts them on the head. They’d have trouble swimming in a straight line after that!

The scouts also found some Coke cans dating back to the 1980s. That’s well before any of those kids were even thought about let alone born. I was their age back then so it really does go to show how long this rubbish hangs around polluting our natural environment. Yet another reminder of the negative impact humans are having on our precious environment.

However, these Coke cans could be recycled.

Apparently, 80% of the rubbish salvaged from Clean Up Australia Day is recyclable, so all this junk could and should have been recycled instead of chucking it into our waterways. However, now that it’s been salvaged,  it also means, I would presume, that all this rubbish is now off to the recycling centre. Good stuff!!

Meanwhile back at Pelican Island, our scout group sure knows how to carpe diem seize the day. The kids were out in the kayaks, playing beach volleyball and yes, scoffing all those choc chip cookies. The sun was intense and in between swims, there was the challenge of trying to catch little peoples on the run and apply sunscreen over wet skin dripping with seawater. Oh yes…and trying to keep hats on heads. One of these days, the freckles will cease to be a case of join the dots if we’re not vigilant.

Now that the sun has set on Clean Up Australia Day as good as it was for our scout group to get out there and do their bit, my inspiration goes back to Ian Kiernan. He was one person facing a huge job of trying to get the rubbish out of our oceans and the first steps of this incredible visionary have been replicated right around Australia for the last 25 years showing just what is possible when humanity comes together for good. Who would have thought you’d be able to motivate the masses to get out there and fish foul rubbish, syringes, broken glass, stinky cigarette butts out of the water without being paid a fortune? It’s quite incredible!!

Before I head off, thought I’d share Greg Bray’s thoughts that every day needs to be Clean Up Australia Day: https://gregbraywriter.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/everyday-is-clean-up-australia-day/

Now that I’ve seen that we can change the world, I wonder what it’s going to take to clean up our backyard.

Hmm, perhaps I need to offer hose Scouts some more choc chip cookies!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving Myself Crazy…Day trip to Morpeth, Australia – Part 1

Yesterday, I did something almost devilishly wicked. I booked the kids into after school care and went on a day trip to Morpeth in the Hunter Valley, almost 2hours drive each way from home. It was one of the best things I have ever done!! It felt like Alice’s journey into Wonderland. Morpeth is that kind of place.

I don’t usually do this sort of thing. The only time I ever run away from home, is to go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival once a year. That said, I do have a lot of medical appointments in Sydney and I have been known to get a little “lost” coming home but we’re only talking a minor deviation…not an epic adventure!

Mind you, I have to be honest and say that the main reason I don’t escape isn’t ideological. I have a bit of a thing about driving. I wouldn’t call it a phobia because to my way of thinking, a phobia involves an irrational fear. My fears, on the other hand, are perfectly logical… rational even! I get lost easily and the same kind of spatial issues which make it difficult for me to follow maps, also make it difficult for me to park my car. For some reason, I can’t work out where my car is in space and I usually leave room for an entire Olympic swimming pool both front and rear. I’m not great at reversing and I also get lost easily as well. On top of all of that, I get extreme fatigue which strikes at unpredictable moments. So while I can be full of beans and bouncing all over the place one minute, the next I could conk out completely and need to go to bed immediately…not great when you are driving long distance. You could say that it’s deadly even.

So as you can see, my fears are more than justified!

On the other hand, I want to explore and experience the world and not be stuck in such a small, minute part of it. In my early driving days, probably just after I got my P’s, when I had even greater driving anxiety, my Dad asked me: “Does your licence say you can’t drive anywhere? Well, no one’s stopping you. You can drive anywhere you like!” Dad’s words often come to me while I’m driving and somehow empower me! I can go anywhere! Do anything! I just need to convince myself!

But the local geography around here doesn’t help the situation. You see, we’re surrounded by water and there’s a steep hill with a bit of an annoying road between here and the freeway to Sydney. I broke down on that road once and subconsciously, that hill has become some kind of barrier, a boundary, a line in the sand I don’t cross. It’s even come to define me: “I don’t go up the hill”.

Of course, it’s only now that I’ve been up the hill and beyond that I’ve realised just what a mountain the hill had become… a complete blockage to growth and exploration.

After all, mountains are meant to be climbed not just left in the way! They should be stairways to heaven and the stars not roadblocks stunting our dreams.

I had already conquered the mountain recently and had almost driven to Newcastle. I was almost sure I could reach Morpeth.

Campbell’s Store, Morpeth. This is home to fudge tasting, coconut ice, peanut brittle as well as the MorpethTea Cosy Challenge.

I first visited Morpeth about a month ago. It wasn’t a planned trip and I met up with my cousin with husbands and kids in tow, which made it very difficult to explore Morpeth in any depth i.e. look at anything much or spend a lot of money. I did manage to buy a new dress and a shawl literally trying them on over my jeans on the run. We also managed to taste test the ginger beer and the fudge. We actually saw a lot but I also saw so many beautiful things in all those tantalising old shop windows that my eyes almost popped out of my head. I had to go back…alone!

Home to the famous Morpeth Sourdough

I also had another imperative…visiting the annual Morpeth Weird & Wonderful Novelty Teapot Exhibition and the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge, which is held in the last two weeks of August.

You see, I collect antique and vintage teacups and saucers, plates, table cloths. I love an authentic retro tea party. Not a high tea and not something stiff and starchy either. I just miss cups of tea with my grandmothers. More than cups of tea, I miss their love, their warmth, their smiles and almost getting lost inside their huge, warm hugs! There is nothing else in this universe quite like a grandmother’s love. I can almost feel their love when I surround myself with all this old world finery. Both of my grandmothers had collections of bone china tea cups and it was tradition to choose your own cup. My grandmother should have had her kettle wired into her doorbell because as soon as anyone walked in the door, the kettle went on and we all had tea. I bought a number of exquisite Shelley teacups with money from Mum’s parents. My grandma would have loved them but she would have put them safely away in her sideboard. She never ever used her special things.  I use some of mine but I do reserve the Shelley ones for rare, special occasions. Some of them are over 80 years old and have become fragile little old ladies. Of course, I don’t know if tea cups actually develop osteoporosis but they can’t take calcium supplements either so I just have to be careful.

With so much to look forward to, you can understand why I was so determined to overcome all my driving hurdles and just get to Morpeth.

But fear is a strong thing. If you have read my post about the bird flying into my house, you would already know that I have some huge issues with fear. I’m not just talking about anxiety but serious jelly-legged, hyperventilating, debilitating fear. It’s the sort of fear that leads to total avoidance and locking yourself up in an awfully restrictive cage…a cage you really need to break out of quick smart before it becomes your home, your comfort zone and you even forget how to fly.

But then I heard about brain plasticity. You are not set in stone. You can even re-invent yourself. The more you do something, the better you get at it. You might not get rid of your weaknesses altogether but with a bit of effort, you can certainly make them better. Now, if you didn’t have to live with your weaknesses, if there was any possible way of getting rid of them, if you could just somehow open the door of your cage and somehow spread your wings and fly free across the open sky, wouldn’t you just do it?!!  Wouldn’t you move both heaven and earth to experience the liberation of unfettered flight?!!

I would and I have.

I put my key in the ignition. Turned the key. Moved my foot off the brake and shifted it onto the accelerator. I was a little nervous but I wasn’t afraid because slowly but surely, I’ve been unconsciously building up to this moment by going on more and more driving excursions, building up what is referred to as “resilience”.

My main strategy for handling the long drive was to break it down into smaller, less daunting chunks…a series of small drives instead of one very long and winding road. There was the stretch up the hill. My next stop was Ourimbah. The end of the freeway represented another break in the journey and then there was the drive up the New England Highway into Maitland and then the turn off to Morpeth. It also felt good checking out the road signs and slowly but surely watching the kilometres count down.

When I left home yesterday, I had no idea whether I could actually make it to Morpeth but I was so determined to get there. At the same time, I was kind to myself. Said that I just needed to try. I didn’t have to get there. If I didn’t make it, it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always next year.

But all the positive thinking in the world can’t make something happen and I am also responsive to that. The night before, it was looking like my trip wasn’t going to happen. After a difficult afternoon with our son, I crashed in bed almost unable to move. Then the weather went haywire. The rain was pouring down. There were strong gusting winds and Geoff rang to say that a tree had even fallen across the railway tracks and he was going to be late home. It was really looking treacherous outside  and there was no way I was going to drive through that. I was starting to wonder whether I should just have a quiet day in bed and rest instead! That’s what any sensible “sick person” would do but not this little black duck.

But when I woke up yesterday, it was all sunshine, blue skies and I was out of here. All the doors opened up. All the obstacles disappeared. It was meant to be!

I pulled up in Morpeth quite chuffed. I wouldn’t say jubilant because the drive was that easy that it barely rated as a challenge in the end.

Stepping out of the car, that unmistakable smell of fresh cow manure hit me in the face like a fragrant rose. I was in the country. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. Walked through the back of an old wardrobe and found myself in mystical Narnia. I was Cinderella dancing at the ball.

That’s right. I was Cinderella. I might have driven kilometres away from home but I was still on a relatively short leash. I had to pick the kids up from after-school care by 6.30PM and had to allow for contingencies.

Carpe diem …seize the day. Today is my day and I am going to seize each and every single second and squeeze it til it’s dry.

Go Ro! The world is my oyster and I am its pearl!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: I will take you on a tour of Morpeth in my next post so please stay tuned.

PPS: I should point out that although I’m a wary driver, I’m no recluse. I do spend a fair amount of time “working from home” doing my writing and more recently painting but most of the time, I’m out and about. When it comes to going to Sydney, catching the train just makes good sense. Sydney traffic is just dreadful. The roads are so choked up that they’re little more than car parks. I honestly don’t know how anyone gets around without taking a packed lunch and a good supply of water just in case!