Respect

Respect has been on my mind a lot lately.

On a personal level, I’ve had cause to respect the efforts of someone close to me, their reaching out with an olive branch, offering peace and a positive future. Also personal, I’ve been scuba diving again, something I do to enhance my self-respect (through effort, learning and courage) and appreciation of the natural world. The reward on a recent trip was to be surrounded by inquisitive and playful seals and inspected by grey nurse sharks, both creatures I have utter respect for and who seemed to respect me.

On a broader level, I have felt respect for the forces of nature, the altruistic actions of those who help despite cost to themselves, those who take a stand when rights are threatened, and for a leader on the opposite side of the world who has remained strong and calm and forceful despite the horrors of war.

So, what is respect?

For the purpose of this blog post, the relevant meaning is a sense of the worth of something: a person, a living thing, a place, an institution, a culture, an inanimate thing.

It is due regard for people’s feelings, wishes, or rights.

It is a recognition of value in someone or something and a demonstration of that.

Of foremost importance is respect for ourselves. We need to care for our own wellbeing, value our own worth, and appreciate our own thoughts and inclinations before expecting respect from others. How can we expect others to value us if we don’t value ourselves? How would we know when we were being disrespected? How would we even know what to respect in others if we didn’t understand and value our own minds, if we didn’t respect our own actions?

Having self-respect guides our morals and gives us strength, enabling us to respect others thoughtfully. Equally, it enables us to remove ourselves when there is no respect coming our way.

Respect is a primary foundation for our physical and mental health, the health of our relationships, and the health of our planet. Without respect, people become destroyers of themselves, others, their relationships, and the environment.

It is good practice to show respect first, to assume other people and places are worthy, and of value. Doing no harm, being polite, actively listening, and being helpful are all good ways to show respect.

I believe respect is imperative in any loving relationship. Feeling and showing respect for a partner, a friend, a child or parent, and requiring respect in return, makes for a healthy relationship.

Once respect is lost in a relationship, unless it can be rebuilt, it is doomed. If someone’s attitudes or actions cause us to think they are unworthy of our regard, the relationship is no longer viable.

I believe respect for the natural world is imperative in saving the planet. Our lack of regard for it has damaged it severely. Learning about it, treating it as important, understanding how we fit within it, immersing ourselves in it, getting our feet wet and our hands dirty, and therefore discovering its worth, is the only way to salvage it.

Finally, showing respect for things we don’t fully understand, for the differences between people, cultures and attitudes, for each other as a general rule and not just on special days, will surely help us get along better, repair what we have broken, and enhance our enjoyment of the world.

I’d like to suggest we keep RESPECT forefront of our minds.

How would that feel for you?

‘Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.’ Robert Tew (American writer)

‘There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.’ Henri Frederic Amiel (Swiss writer and philosopher)

‘If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.’ John W. Gardner (American novelist and poet)

‘You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.’ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German writer, scientist and statesman)

The Pain That Makes Life Pleasurable

I’ve always got a bit of a buzz from doing things that scare me or initially seem too hard. So, when I heard a podcast the other day on the ABC’s All in the Mind on The Pleasure of Pain, I listened with fascination.

Apparently, an element of pain or suffering can give us pleasure through contrast: relief after a horror story, bliss after an ice-cold swim, relaxation after a workout, a happy denouement to a sad movie.

But what I found even more interesting, was that the degree of difficulty, struggle, and effort that went into your pursuit – not too hard, not too easy, but just challenging enough (the sweet spot) – affects how much we enjoy something and how much we value it.

This is true from doing a puzzle, to learning a skill, to playing a sport, to raising kids, to doing our life’s work.

So, it’s not just contrast but a feeling of mastery and control that are key. It feels good to put yourself in a bad or difficult situation knowing that you can take it, knowing that it’s under your control, knowing that you can or are doing well in it.

It’s the incremental progress, the struggle, the journey, that makes life enjoyable and interesting.

For me, personally, this explains a lot.

I like the thrill of a scary movie, or a roller coaster ride, or white-water rafting, or being on a glass walkway, or being in nature in the dark. These are small thrills, fears I conquer easily, but nonetheless, that give me pleasure.

Upping the ante, I have, in the past, liked to challenge myself to jump off rocks into the sea, a pursuit I find terrifying but compelling (only if my kids did it first). It was the sense of victory after overcoming the angst, that made it fun.

Currently, I’m in the midst of two pursuits that are scary, challenging, and involve plenty of pain.

I’m writing a book, which is a painful, difficult, tedious, time-consuming, and challenging process. It’s a high-end struggle that is totally self-inflicted. I get up every morning to an alarm and start the day with writing (and a cuppa to make it easier to do). I put the hours in, tear my hair out and question my sanity. But then it flows. It works. And I’ve written something I’m proud of. And it is so worth it, so satisfying, so valuable, that I strive to do it again. I’m climbing the mountain, a day at a time, and the peak is getting nearer. I know I’ve got this. I know what my purpose is. And the journey is worth it.

I’ve also taken up scuba diving again. I did it a dozen times when I was young, when I had friends who did it, when my husband was my buddy. But there was a long hiatus. Taking it up again on my own, when I’m so much older, has been somewhat stressful. So why did I do it? Apart from the obvious – it’s underwater hiking and I’m a sucker for nature – I think it was because of the challenge, the test of my courage. It’s horribly uncomfortable (all that heavy, bulky gear), makes you look terrible (bad hair, no makeup, googly eyes), and there’s a lot to learn. But the achievement is in staying strong enough, having an attitude of WTF, and knowing how to master all that gear and not die under water. I’m fully responsible for myself, something I’ve struggled with all my life. I am learning to be independent and have faith in my mastery of a skill. I’m losing the fear and it’s exhilarating.

I would highly recommend pushing yourself past your comfort zone and experiencing a bit of pain and suffering, whatever that looks like for you. It will give you a buzz like no other and make your life richer and more meaningful.

Life offers plenty of mountains to climb and we can all climb them our own way.

How will you choose to suffer for pleasure, today? 😉

PS. Remember that it is choice, that it is our own direction, that makes any suffering pleasurable.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/the-pleasure-of-pain-v2/13777806

Despite Intentions

I’ll be brief. Time is of the essence. There is too little of it and so much to do. I just remembered; I have a book to write.

Of course I’m being facetious. Of course I never forgot I have a book to write. But sometimes it looks that way. Despite the great intentions I publicly expressed last month, I have not focussed especially well, nor have I made much headway.

There is so much to do! In the writing of the book and also in every other crevice and crater of life. Life is full of these drifts and deviations and distractions. The internet is not the only thing full of rabbit holes.

Is everyone else experiencing this phenomenon, that of making thoroughly good intentions and then letting them dribble away, as if they were unimportant? It doesn’t make sense. We know what we need to do. We know what’s good for us. Why then is it so difficult? What makes us procrastinate, be lazy, make the decision not to follow through?

The first strides towards my goal were enthusiastic and vigorous. I made good progress. I had a vision and drove myself towards it. But then, it got hard. Hard is the problem. Hard is uncomfortable. Hard is like a great big boulder on the path with seemingly unclimbable sides and no visible way around. Just looking at it makes us stuff up. It makes us notice the flowers on the side of the path, the pretty things within our reach.

The solution is easy. Be aware of the flowers but see them for what they are; distractions that lead us up other garden paths. Ignore them and get back to find a way over, around or through that boulder. Stick to the task at hand.

Persevere. I’ve written about that before too.

Someone once said that a ‘professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.’ I’ve had that in my mind for a long time. It applies to all pursuits and has in the past kept me going. It will now, too.

Maybe the strides need to be baby steps. As long as they’re in the right direction, it doesn’t matter.

Ali Lowe, one of the brilliant women in my writing group and the first to be published, advises, ‘write to the end.’ That’s how she did it. And may other authors as well. It relates to writing but also to achieving any goal. Stick to the task, right to the end.

An inspiring thought. A good intention.

It’s time to get back on track. And keep coming back.

I’ll get there. I’ve got this.

As Liz Gilbert would say, Onward.

Focus. Right to the end. Be present. Do it with intention. Re-commit to what is important to you. Achieve whatever it is you’ve selected to be your goal.

I thoroughly recommend the newly launched The Trivia Night by Ali Lowe.

Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee that you’ll only be able to read this in your breaks. It may prove to be a clump of flowers too irresistible not to steer you from your path.

Time to Begin Again

And now it’s time to begin again.

New year. New resolutions. Fresh start.

Or are you beginning again for a different reason? A door closing. A course, run. A stage completed.

To begin again, to make a fresh start, we need intention. We need to acknowledge, accept, and move on. We need to shed our ways, preconceptions, and habits. And try something new.

Like a dragonfly crawling out of the pond, struggling out of its larval skin, and taking flight.

My fresh start is a combination of new year objectives and new stage-of-life possibilities.

On New Year’s Morning, I decided that presence, friendship, and focus would be my intentions for the year.

I need to be more present. I am too often planning and arranging, projecting myself into the future. That’s my nature and my habit, but by acknowledging that I lack presence, I can reign in the plans and sit for a while, linger, be more in the moment more often.

The moment, after all, is the life we are living.

Friendship has always been a priority of mine and I believe I am a good friend: someone who makes the effort, who can be relied on, trusted. But friendship’s importance has been magnified since becoming single, since my children have become adults, since becoming a writer, since social distancing and lockdowns. Friendship has become sacred. I intend to pray at its alter with even more vigour.

Friendship is in its essence, love, and is vital to thriving.

The third objective is to focus on writing my book – homing in on the message, conveying the point, getting it done. I aim to get it right and submit to a publisher later in the year. This year, I have a good chance of doing that. I have completed a challenging stage of my life; I have experienced a marriage breakdown, a move, a death, and a renovation.

Now I can move onto a new stage with a mind free to focus on something that is of utmost importance to me.

In the last few days of January 2022, I can honestly say I’m ready to begin again. Now it is time. Now, is a great time.

Whatever your stage of life, whatever your circumstances, each year can be treated as a fresh start. So can each day. So can each stage.

How are you starting 2022? With intent and resolutions? Or with tying off loose ends? Are you ready to shed your skin and begin again?

Picture courtesy of http://www.kidsdiscover.com

Trainer, Mentor, Tribe: Helping Us Achieve Our Goals

Trainers, mentors and tribes are terrific tools in helping us achieve goals.

These days, these three are found across many fields of interest and disciplines, from the sports world to the creative or corporate worlds, to simply, the local community.

Personal trainers in exercise have become hugely popular amongst fitness-oriented, ordinary people, because they work. Find a good one, that is, one who’s qualified, has good interpersonal skills and who we can connect with, and we’re far more likely to be consistent in training and reach our goal, whether that be short term, I want to lose belly fat, or long term, I want to be fit and toned. Their involvement increases the intensity and quality of our efforts and therefore, the results. And they make it more fun. The number of times I’ve laughed during a workout is countless – I think good PTs dream up some exercises to challenge our brains as much as our bodies.

Mentors have been around since humans first talked. A mentor is a guide, a teacher, a guru. A good mentor is someone who is more experienced in our area of study, career, spiritual practice, or hobby than us, and helps us improve in that area by giving advice based on their understanding of our personal, individual challenges. Once again, if we find a mentor we connect with, they’ll be able to see our needs more objectively, point us in the right direction, and keep us on task. They can help us learn and help us achieve.

My last blog post described my writing style and the angst I suffer because of it. I expressed my fear that novel writing might not be for me, considering how long it takes me to write. At the end, I decided I needed to do something different – after all, if you repeat the same action and expect a different result, then you must be crazy, right? So, I took a step back, away from the computer, and returned to basics. I used coloured cardboard, index cards and felt pens, and had some fun. I played with my characters and their stories and analysed what I had. I found a clear message, the truth, the essence of my novel. And on the computer, a lot of words – 176,000! The story ran like a film in my head but was still not expressed in all those words. So, it finally dawned on me. I need help. I need a mentor. The moment I engaged one, I felt lighter, less fatigued, and my enthusiasm soared. I feel like I’m going to succeed.

The final tool in the shed of helpful resources is the tribe. When we find one, we’re never alone, we’re supported, and we feel part of something bigger than ourselves. When we’re connected to others through values, interests and sensibilities, our minds and hearts are nourished. We’re also encouraged in our personal pursuits.

My writing tribe frequently makes my day brighter. They’re there to share all things writerly – serious or funny – and also to support one another; in times of need (writer misery) and times of success (writer bliss). Thanks to The Twinklings 😉.

My other tribe is my community. Talking about big and small issues together (over afternoon tea), being active together (in walking shoes or kayaks), and pulling together to achieve a common goal, or just help someone out, makes each of us feel integrated and important. Being a part of community, amongst like-minded people, a tribe, gives me a sense of value, of enhanced self-worth. Anyone who feels like that, will be far more likely to achieve their goals. They’re also good enough to share my blog. Thanks to Sussex Inlet Pals😊.

I hope that anyone trying to achieve a goal, succeed in an undertaking, or fulfill a dream, would consider getting themselves a trainer or mentor or joining a community to find a tribe. You’ll reach your goal faster and have more fun along the way. I’m so glad I did. Will you?

Writing Isn’t Easy – This Writer’s Struggle

I am the world’s slowest writer. I believe that no other writer could possibly struggle as I do, choosing each word as if it were an artisan chocolate, arranging words as though they were precious stones in a glorious Bulgari necklace, sequencing sentences like layers of finely ground nuts, cream and sponge cake in an Austrian torte.

If the results of my efforts were as impressive as any of these, I wouldn’t mind. But they’re not. They might be, one day, but I’m still learning, refining my skills, being the apprentice.

With the amount of experience I have, I should be writing like a landscaper makes a garden, planning, digging, shovelling up words as if they were pebbles and laying them down into paths. It’s much easier to fill a garden with beautiful plants once the structure is there.

This would be the logical and rational approach, even the more creative one. But I’m stuck in a rut. Called perfectionism. Sometimes the struggle to be perfect is so overwhelming that I want to walk away. I wonder if this novel-writing gig is really for me.

But then, I want to tell the story. I’m compelled. I don’t seem to have a choice.

I write this blog between scenes of my novel. It’s a way to communicate, give me a break and actually publish a piece of work. Once a month I get that little buzz of satisfaction that I have produced something. It reminds me that I have something to say. Something I believe in. Something worthwhile.

The idea for this post came to me as I struggled with a difficult scene, one in which extracting the idea was like sorting through a rubbish dump. I had rewritten the first few paragraphs several times, rearranging the words and the sentences. Literally moving things around to find the essence. The needle in the haystack. The point of writing anything. When the writing is challenging like that, distractions creep in. Anything, everything else, seems more interesting, more manageable, more urgent. Even other writing.

I complain about my writing style and yet I continue it. I battle myself, sometimes, to change my ways. Occasionally, creativity flows. But then I see a flaw. And I attempt to fix it. And I’m back where I began. At the end of the day, it’s only perseverance, sheer determination and self-discipline that will prevail. And a belief that my story has value. And needs to be told. And eventually, it will be close enough to perfect.

I reassure myself that it’s not only the hare that can cross the finish line. So can the tortoise.

Credit: Artwork of The Tortoise and the Hare by C A Harland

Worry is Wasteful

Worry is a waste of time since it achieves nothing.

It is a waste of energy since it produces nothing.

It is a waste of possibility since it fills our minds with doubt and fear, leaving no room to dream.

It eats away at our strength and leaves us weak.

Worry takes what is good in life and hides it!

We all worry to some degree at some point in our lives. It is a human trait. We have imaginations and our minds wander, dwelling in the past where we consider our mistakes and experiences, or rambling forward to what might happen in the future. We deliberate over choices, imagining the consequences of taking path a or b, on repeat.

The dictionary definition of worry is to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts; to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems.

We don’t learn anything from worry. It is not helpful in resolving problems as it only hinders rational thought and logic.

Recently, someone close to me said I seemed ‘to be worrying a lot.’ Considering what I think about worry, I was dismayed. At first, I laughed it off and defensively replied that I was getting old, as if this would excuse me.

I don’t even think old people worry more than the young. They just worry about different things.

But then I considered the statement. Was I worrying a lot? I do seem to be worrying about the future of the world and what condition it is going to be in for my, as yet unmade, grandchildren. I do worry about the effects of Covid-19 and the people of war-torn countries. I believe many people share these thoughts and that they are reasonable. The key is not to dwell on them. And I don’t believe I do.

I recognise these thoughts are not useful. They limit my ability to be present and enjoy the now. And so, I’ll move on.

The exercise taught me something. It revealed the difference between worry and concern.

What my friend perceived as worry was, on reflection, concern. I was concerned about her well-being. And that is a good thing. Concern shows that we care. It is a positive thought process since it leads to something that is actionable. If she was not okay, then perhaps I could do something to help.

It also revealed that I am prone to the same mistake. I react badly when I think someone is worried about me. It gives me a feeling of inadequacy, like they don’t think I can manage. It is disempowering. But I now see that I too may be perceiving concern and care as worry. I will now look at it differently.

We would all benefit from being more aware of our thoughts and asking ourselves if they are beneficial. If we recognise that they are not, we have the power to change them. If we ask ourselves, is there anything I can do about this? and the answer is no, go outside and smell the fresh air, listen to the birds, feel the breeze, contemplate the flowers. If the answer is yes, then do it.

And see where that takes you.

**********

Helpful Quotes by Others:

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. Swedish Proverb.

Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey. Barbara Hoffman.

Worry does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing. Healthyplace.com

Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose. Eckhart Tolle.

Most of the things we worry about, never happen.

Writer’s Block in Lockdown

There are so many thoughts going around in my head, I can’t think of what to write. Perhaps it’s because I feel there is no way out.

Sydney in lockdown. An oxymoron. I am free but I am not.

It is a privilege to live in Sydney, a safe city where people move around without fear or restraint, a city where business thrives and social gatherings swell. Until now.

Now, suburbs have borders, workers and businesses are in crisis. There is financial distress and emotional distress. Society is contained within one’s own home, non-existent outside.

I miss sharing a meal with my family. I miss dropping in on a neighbour. I miss going to the movies. And I feel unusually lonely. I feel trapped as if I am caught in a cage.

I am one of the lucky ones. I, at least, have a meal. I can meet with a friend to go for a walk. I can move around my 10km circle, and I am not going to lose my home. And yet, I too am suffering. Just by having restricted freedom. I can’t imagine what true loss of freedom might be like and I sympathise with those people whose lockdown is worse. All I can offer you are words. And right now, they are stuck in my head, my own sub-conscious lockdown.

Thoughts need space. They need time. If I choose to stop suffering and instead appreciate how lucky I am, then surely the thoughts will settle, and the words will find their way out.

No matter our lockdown experience, we would all do best by selecting our thoughts. Weed out the damaging ones and feed the healthy ones. Give them space. Give them time. Find things to be grateful for.

Sydney may be in lockdown. But in our minds, we are free.

Today’s lockdown goals: Go for a walk in my suburb and find a blooming wattle tree. Sit with my thoughts and create an abundance of blossoms. Write.

What are yours?

Grieving for India

India.

Bejewelled, glorious, soulful India.

Heart of my heart.

Soul of my soul.

I hear your cry, your prayers, your calls.

No time for cymbals or sandalwood.

Where is the rose water?

Why no pindas, offerings to the gods?

Where is the priest?

Why is there no puja, no ritual, no garland?

Just grief.

Smoke.

The kaws of the crows.

The trees must come down.

There is no more wood to burn.

My heart aches for you India.

Blessed India.

Beleaguered. Bereaved. Bewildered India.

By Carla Simmons.

Life is a Juggling Act

Juggling many balls is the way I run my life. It is often not conducive to a calm state of mind or a good night’s sleep, and I have tried to juggle less to achieve both, but I am an addict for cramming as much in as possible and so I always go back. Lots to do is the stuff of life.

If the world operated according to my plans (that is, my diary schedule), if external events, and people, could be controlled, there would be no problem with this, but as much as I try, the world goes on around me following its own agenda and my control extends no further than myself. In truth, even that is unreliable!

I am writing a book, planning renovations, and trying to stay socialised and healthy.

That’s quite a lot but with proper scheduling, it should be possible. After all, I have all day! It’s just peculiar that all day goes so quickly! And everything takes longer than a day!

Writing a book requires the discipline of sitting on a chair in front of the computer for hours each day, in my case split between morning and evening. Health requires exercise – a trip to the gym, walking 10,000 steps, a swim – which also takes a couple of hours. Social health means lunch with a friend or dinner with the family.

Then there’s self-care, cleanliness, and chores, all consuming more time, repeatedly each day; the background of our lives.

In my case, I am also a sucker for travel. I love to discover new places, have experiences and adventures, on my own or with friends. This is the final ball that can unbalance the flow and set all the balls falling. And yet, it is irresistible to me.

But creating something, having a purpose, doing the things we need to do for an emotionally and physically healthy life, doing things that excite us and challenge us, that fulfill us, and make us joyful, are essential, in my opinion, for a well-balanced and full life.

And if that means, occasionally, that I am juggling too many balls for a calm, Zen state and a good night’s sleep, then I can live with that.

We only get one life. Stuff it full. Push the boundaries. And try not to drop the ball.