Novel Commitment

Today’s blog Post will be short and sweet, and a notice that, until the end of the year, it will only be published on the last Friday of each month.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing a novel. I am also doing a one-year course called Write Your Novel with the Faber Academy Sydney at Allen and Unwin. Currently, the stakes are high, and the writing needs to be produced. The novel has become my priority: apologies to my blog readers, friends and Toastmasters.

My mantra has become – Just write the damn book! ­Through discipline and perseverance, and also joyous enthusiasm, I shall. Its working title is The Rest of Their Lives. I plan not to let the writing of it take the rest of mine!

The words of wisdom I will pass on to you today, come from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition by W.H.Murray.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy…The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events raising in one’s favour…unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

Hesitate no longer, my friends. Commit. Persevere. And Providence will provide.

Territory

The road off the highway was red-brown dirt and bereft of signs. The driver steered the mini-bus, sixteen of us on board, through the scrubby bush that lined both sides. Sticks and leaves hit the windows, and rocks clunked off the chassis. We entered a Darwin backwater.

Our host, Patrick, stood in a broad opening, waiting for us to disembark and gather near him. He was wearing Hard Yakka gear: faded navy shirt and drill shorts; ripped Akubra. A gun in a holster and knife in a sheaf, sat on his right hip. His heels were as cracked as drought-dry earth; his toenails as grey as ash, just like his long beard.

When we were silent before him, he greeted us sternly. ‘You’re here by invitation. Do what I say, and you’ll be safe. You’ll learn a lot about crocodiles. Up close. These crocodiles are wild and it’s not like a wildlife park or TV show, which is just entertainment.’

Patrick marched us up to the mangroves. ‘Never look for crocodiles,’ he instructed, checking our eyes were on him, ‘because if you don’t see any, you’ll think they aren’t there, and then you’re in danger.’

We crossed the gang plank, under order, two or three at a time, ‘in case something happens,’ and climbed onto the rectangular, aluminium boat. We sat, peering out through steel mesh which fenced us in. We were shown the holes where we could hold our camera phones. ‘Don’t stick any part of you outside the boat; not a finger!’

Ten minutes down river, we were chugging over to the muddy shore, Patrick having noticed a ‘small’ croc in the water. It followed us, knowing there was a chicken carcass linked to that chugg. ‘I know all the crocs in this area! This is a female,’ said Patrick. Her skin was the colour of rotting autumn leaves: beige and brown and grey; quite beautiful. She thrilled us as she launched herself from the water up to the flying carcass, dangled from cotton thread and a bamboo pole. Our cameras and fingers stayed behind the mesh as we were awed by the insides of her mouth and the number of teeth. Snap. The sound was sharp and definite. ‘She’s got reflexes five times faster than any human,’ said Patrick in his stern voice. ‘Two point four metric tonnes per square inch is her jaw closing pressure; that’s two thousand four hundred kilos per square inch!’ he drawled. Clearly, an inch was a preferred measurement for Patrick. Abruptly, our girl turned and scampered onto the mud.

An enormous male was heading our way and since crocodiles can’t tell the sex of one another in the water, she had to get on shore to lift her head and open her mouth to show her feminine submissiveness. If he’d met her in the water, he would have assumed her to be male and fought her off his territory.

As he took over the chicken carcasses, and the show, she hung back in the shallows. Patrick commented on them both being a bit distracted, and he looked up river. ‘This’ll be interesting,’ he said.

The small female thrust herself into the water, swimming quickly toward an approaching crocodile. Patrick chuckled as the newcomer twisted back and raced in the opposite direction, both crocodiles scooting on top of the water. The big male croc looked back at the boat, more interested in chicken. Patrick answered our questions. ‘He doesn’t care; she’s scaring it off her territory, which is around one hundred metres. It’s probably a female. He’s got anywhere between twenty and fifty females in his area,’ he said, smiling. ‘She’ll ward off small males too; she only wants the alpha around.’

As we watched, the first female disappeared under the water, and just like a cartoon, the surface one sped up. They both emerged, as if stopped by an invisible fence, and engaged in mouth-to-mouth combat. ‘That’s the border line of the girls’ territory, a bit of a no-man’s land,’ Patrick informed us.

We moved further along the river, coming to another bank, this one sandy and edged with thick scrub. Another female, lolling in the water, took to the chicken, and gave us another chance to see deep inside her mouth as she jumped up to meet the unpredictable, flying carcass. Suddenly, she aquaplaned onto the bank, the same male having followed us. The females obviously felt fear, despite Patrick’s comment that crocodiles had no emotions. ‘They might know the sound of the boat and associate it with the chicken, but if I fell in the water, I wouldn’t be spared. There’s no attachment, no love. If they bite the propeller it’s because they’re testing it for eatability. They let it go. Anything organic, they eat it; your bones, your teeth, but not your knee replacements or your fillings.’

Good to know! Crocodiles are only interested in territory, feeding and mating. There’s no happy, no sad; just pissed off, hungry or horny! Any similarity to man is coincidental, and if you know a man like this, unfortunate!

 

Have you ever met any pre-civilised creatures who fight over territory, mates or tucker? Be careful who you smile at!

 

Persevere: One step at a time.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Walter Elliot.

This piece of advice recently popped up on the Facebook Page of Australian Writers Centre, on a day I really needed to see it! ‘Perseverance’ has been my ‘go to’ word for the last couple of years, whenever I’m faltering, tired, fed up, impatient or losing heart. It’s a Post It note on top of my jumble of thoughts. So, when I saw this reminder, on a day when I felt like giving up – in this case, the writing of my novel – I thought, ah, that reminder is for me. That’s serendipity!

When things are difficult or unpleasant in our lives, we tend to put them off. Doing the easy things first is a good option: we clear our environment, our schedule, our minds, so that the difficult task can be focused on. This is my favoured technique. The problem with it is, we can keep putting off the difficult task. That’s procrastination! That’s when we need to persevere!

What I like about this quote is that it’s a reminder that perseverance itself, can be broken down into achievable chunks. If we keep going until we reach the next step, we’ll get through to the end. Think of perseverance as a journey with many stops, not just destination. Reach the step, enjoy it for a moment, breathe, and carry on.

Anything worth doing is worth persevering for. Make the struggle count. Make the most of it. Success will taste so much sweeter in the end. But pause along the way and enjoy the steps too. Make it a lifestyle.

Writing a novel is a mammoth task. 90,000 words is not the only task: they need to be the right words, in the right order, to make the right story. It’s daunting, to say the least, especially with the demon, Doubt, sitting on the writer’s shoulder, whispering – or yelling – who do you think you are? Or, your writing is rubbish! The only way to get through it, is to break it down, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, word by word. Persevere until the demon, Doubt, gets the message!

Life is also a mammoth task. It also needs to be stepped through, broken into chunks, lived in scenes! Perseverance is required for each stage, each goal, each battle. Don’t race to the end without stopping to appreciate the passing of each one, the beginning of the next one, and where you are right now.

Perseverance requires patience. It requires stamina. And it requires the ability to appreciate each step before we move on to the next one.

 

More brilliant advice:

“Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.” Rob Bell.

Being Disliked and Not Needing Praise: The Benefits

How do you feel about being disliked?

If you answered, ‘I couldn’t give a stuff!’ it’s likely you’re being defensive. Let’s be truthful; we’re social animals and we’d all rather be liked.

But there are benefits to not minding, and maybe you’ve worked that out already.

When we’re children and we want to please our parents. As school kids, we want to please other kids: the cool kids, the smart kids or the sporty kids. We want to fit in.

Many adults still strive to please; the daughter who studies accounting instead of art, the husband who chooses the secure job instead of the one that excites him, the friend who keeps quiet instead of declaring a different opinion, do so in order to please others.

They fear causing an argument. They fear rejection. They fear being disliked.

They strive for acceptance and recognition and end up living a life according to someone else’s idea of how they should live.

We have no control over what someone else thinks of us. Others don’t have control over what we think of them.

We can’t make people appreciate us or agree with us. So, isn’t it better to be honest? Isn’t it better to choose the life that we believe will make us most happy? And, isn’t being honest a better way to form true, solid relationships with people who like us for who we truly are?

If we can accept ourselves as we are and recognise our own ability and limitations, if we’re not always seeking recognition and praise, we will be able to live life in accordance with our own values.

I’m one of those people who likes to please. It disturbs me if someone is upset with me or dislikes me. I suffer if I feel misunderstood and I will keep quiet rather than argue. I like to be praised and recognized for my achievements and will adjust my behaviour in order to get it.

But lately I’ve been wondering if it’s worth it. I’ve even been wondering if my trying to please indirectly contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. If I’d had more confidence in myself, would that have made a difference to my relationship?

Trying to please is hard work. A desire to please comes from a place of uncertainty. Am I worth it? Am I good enough? Will he still like me? Are we even sure what someone else wants?

If we’re trying to please, we’re trying to obtain praise, recognition, acknowledgement. The very desire to receive praise comes from a place of need, to have our self-worth reinforced.

It betrays that we’re not doing something purely because we want to. And it’s requiring someone else to behave a certain way. Expecting reward makes us even more vulnerable, and invites conflict.

Trying to please is not living the way we honestly want.

Are we being true to our values and beliefs if we’re worrying about what others think of us? 

Living life trying to please others, or even one other, is not a rewarding or free way to live.

Accepting ourselves as we are, fulfilling our tasks to the best of our ability without needing someone else to tell us we’re worthy, and following our own path, are surely better ways to find happiness.

With these thoughts in mind, I’ve been endeavoring to achieve self-acceptance.

I was advised to read a book called ‘The Courage to be Disliked’, by the Japanese philosopher, Ichiro Kishimi and the writer, Fumitake Koga. The book portrays the philosophy of Adler, one of the three giants of 19th century psychology, alongside Freud and Jung.

Adler states that all our problems are interpersonal relationship problems. That means, how we live our lives in relation to other people.

One of the first principles is the separation of tasks, that is, knowing what is our own task and recognising the boundary of someone else’s task.

My behavior is my task. How someone responds to that behaviour is their task.

Adler says that knowing and not crossing these task boundaries is the gateway to harmony in our lives. Crossing the boundaries causes conflict.

Imagine that your mother-in-law has ‘tidied’ your linen cupboard while you were out. Or your friend suggests it’s time you repainted the house, disciplined your child or lost weight. Do you think you’d be delighted with their recommendation? I think not!

The reason there is conflict when someone encroaches on another’s task is because there is the implication that they know best: they’re superior, you’re inferior. A feeling of inferiority or superiority comes from a vertical vision of relationships.

A fundamental principle of Adler’s philosophy is that all interpersonal relationships be horizontal, that is equal. The housewife and the company executive are equal, just not the same. Economic superiority has no connection to human worth. If people are equal, there is no need to compete with others. It is not about being better than the next person.

It is about being self-reliant and the best person you can be.

Without a feeling of superiority or inferiority, it is easier to live your own life and not encroach on others. When you recognise your own ability and limitations, you can find the courage to change what you can change and improve yourself. You can move forward without worrying about what the other person is doing or what they think of you. It allows you to contribute to society while at the same time being yourself.

When you contribute to the lives of others, committing to your own community, you come to accept your existential worth. To have self-worth you need to feel that you are of use to someone.

 If you feel that you have purpose you will feel that you are contributing.

Happiness is the feeling of contribution.

It will result in seeing others as comrades and knowing that you have worth equal to others. People wish to belong and have a feeling of ‘it’s okay to be here.’

Being disliked by someone is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom.

It is a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.

Being disliked by people is inevitable, just as it is inevitable that we dislike some others.

Living your own life the best you can, choosing the best path that you believe in and your own lifestyle without blaming others or trying to please others, is all you can do.

What another person thinks of you, if they like you or dislike you, is that person’s task, not yours.

In conclusion and in the words of the author,

“Learn to delineate your own task and what is another’s. Contribute, knowing your own worth, not for praise or recognition, but for having a sense that you are beneficial to the community. An awareness that ‘I am of use to someone,’ gives us the courage to live. Accept ‘this is me.’ Having the courage to be disliked is having the courage to be happy.”

 

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/self-help-practical/The-Courage-to-be-Disliked-Ichiro-Kishimi-and-Fumitake-Koga-9781760630492

 

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Am I a Product of Childhood TV?

Browsing Facebook the other day I came across a Post, shared by a friend of similar age, that showed a compilation of the many things that the Skippy, Aussie star of Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo, could do. https://www.facebook.com/abcnews.au/videos/298065574306482/

This fantastic collection of show snippets had me laughing out loud and led to a lot of reminiscing of all the shows that I had watched as a child. I realised that they were all about talented animals, magic and adventure, and I wondered what sort of effect this had had on me.

Am I a product of my formative years’ TV watching?

The first TV show I remember is The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. I have a memory of the star, a handsome German Shepherd, who was very clever and often saved the day. I think he belonged to the boy and they loved each other. Rinty did courageous and clever things to help the US Cavalry keep things in order. I’m guessing I was about three when I saw this re-run in Australia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_nclUG-0SQ  I went on to be an ardent dog lover and as a child had three German Shepherds: Rommel, Kaiser and Max. Rommel was my fearless fun friend and protector and would entertain the kids at my birthday parties with tricks like climbing the super-tall slippery dip ladder and sliding down. He would have given Rin Tin Tin a bit of competition.

Around this time, I also watched The Mickey Mouse Club but I only remember the spelling of Mickey Mouse and the opening song, with Donald Duck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4C_lUy58Rw Animals that talked and wore clothes, even animated ones, gave me the sense that it was okay to anthropomorphise all my stuffed toys, and I still do!

My first real television watching was Skippy. Every Australian child who had a television must have watched Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo. She was as adept as any human in understanding instructions, opening doors, passing tools and undoing ropes. She was also great at jumping on villains and finding Sonny, the Head Ranger of Waratah National Park’s son. A real hero. I love watching the roos in my yard, especially when they play-box. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hByob-5pPEs

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Then, of course, there was Flipper, the friendly dolphin who went out of her way to assist the boys, the other main characters, with their tasks and adventures. She had a talent for communication, could pull boats and play tricks. I still get excited to see a pod of dolphins catching waves with the surfers.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azEOeTX1LqM

All the human lead-characters in these shows were male which didn’t register with me at the time. I related to them just as well as if they’d been female. But I wonder if the example set, that the boys took the lead, were more important and had the fun, affected the way I saw myself in relation to boys. I like to think of myself as adventurous, but I have always relied on a strong male, or a protective dog! I’ve used licence here to call Skippy and Flipper, female, for a bit of balance.

Lost in Space was pure fantasy to me. I never was one to dream of space travel and wasn’t science oriented, but I loved the robot and Dr Smith’s performance. Strangely, I only now realise that the robot’s sidekick was a boy too! Damn!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJrw6imp7f8

Mr Ed, the Talking Horse was funny because, he was a horse, of course! He had a jaunty attitude and a ridiculous dialogue with his keeper, Wilbur. Ed was beautiful, a palomino, and I didn’t stop to wonder what was making his lips move. I just assumed he was talking. Why not? Maybe horses are smarter than dogs and dolphins and kangaroos!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkksL5KYC_c

Finally, I Dream of Jeannie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eAwLoHInLk and Bewitched https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9jbX8GX83E took over as I got a little older. Both highly attractive women could create magic, be perfectly groomed and achieve anything while being sweet. Sounds just like me!

I fancy that I can communicate with any animal (or stuffed toy), have adventures as exciting as any boy, spell well, detect Danger in alien environments, and look like a domestic goddess while juggling critical tasks and averting catastrophes.

I’d say I am a product of the magic of these childhood TV shows. And I wouldn’t have it any other way! How about you?

 

 

My favourite childhood reading was Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven. The series had plenty of adventure, girls and dogs. But that’s another blog. https://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/secret-seven.php

 

 

 

Today is Another Day. Be Grateful.

The ability to connect with nature is one of the most basic and important aspects of modern life. Many people are losing this connectivity, through lifestyle, man-made distractions and lack of mindfulness. I believe they are losing their souls and sense of peace.

Taking ten seconds to notice the outside world as we wake each morning can enhance our appreciation for being alive. Look out of the window. What do you see? What do you hear? Can you open the window and feel it? What does it smell like? You are connected. You are alive.

I’m fortunate; I’m free, healthy and live by a river in a small Australian coastal town. There is a lot to be grateful for right there.

I look out of my window or step onto the deck. The river glistens and teams with visible life. Water hens, ducks, pelicans and cormorants cruise and dive, fishing amongst the seagrass. I can hear the flapping of large wings splashing water as black swans groom.

Before the river are tall Eucalyptus trees, as high as five storey buildings. Magpies, currawongs, kookaburras, corellas and galahs come to rest and socialise on the branches. The antics of the pink and grey galahs make me smile and I understand that it’s natural and good to have a sense of fun. I remember to lighten up.

In winter, some of the Eucalyptus trees burst into creamy white flowers like little tutus on Snugglepots and Cuddlepies. Hundreds of small white butterflies flutter around the tree and thousands of lorikeets jostle to feed on the nectar. The combined tweets and squawks are as loud as the ocean on a stormy day.

Underneath, on the grass, kangaroos munch and hang about enjoying the morning sun. Joeys follow their mummas, eating alongside, trying to get back in the pouch for a quick milky snack or a rest. She lets them until she’s carrying a new one which may be a while if the weather is too dry. In that case, a large joey will still climb in, legs poking out awkwardly and at such strange angles, I wonder how it can contort so. It’s like a teenager that’s outgrown its single bed. Eventually, it will fall out and meet up with a friend for a round of play boxing.

I smile. I breathe. The air is clean. I am free to watch. And I am grateful for another day.

Will you spare a moment to be grateful for the day?

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The Dilemmas and Ethics of Decluttering

Moving to a new house and downsizing make for a perfect opportunity to declutter. I’m a fan of decluttering and have rarely regretted discarding anything. Now that I’m nearing grandparent age, that large tub of Lego, though, is one!

The Marie Kondo technique of holding an object to decide if it gives you joy, will help in the decision making. And her advice to turn the focus from what will I throw out? to what will I keep? is brilliant!

Sometimes you can pick something up and feel intuitively that it has no place in your life anymore. My stunning, velvet, classic line, pants have been sitting in the wardrobe for years, unworn. That’s because my lifestyle has changed. It’s a rarity to need to dress up so much and I have other choices. I love them but don’t need them. My rational self has been a meddler in the decision to get rid of them. Maybe I’ll need them one day. Well, that’s not good enough. Someone else can benefit from them now. Thinking of yourself as generous may help this process.

Clothes decisions can be difficult but they’re manageable when you mean business and just do it.

For me, the kitchen stuff will be easy. I’m not going to need ten microwave dishes or twelve overly tall champagne flutes anymore. Who wants to entertain on that level? Likewise, do I really need fifteen vases when I only like having a small posy on the kitchen bench?

The difficult objects are those with emotional value: family heirlooms, wedding gifts, memorabilia. However, the same ruthlessness should apply. What can be passed on? What will the kids want?

On a here and now basis, what about the gifts from good friends, that you don’t use? Some of these might be from Christmas twenty years ago. Some from last birthday. If it’s a knickknack in a cupboard, an accessory not really your style, or one of a thousand bracelets you don’t wear because you only wear your favourite five, it is time to move it on!

And here is the ethical dilemma! What do you do with them? The last thing you want to do is offend a friend. They love you and have given you something they love. So, do you fess up and offer it back to them, declaring that you really enjoyed your time with it but now there is no room? Or do you stay silent and pass it on to someone else you love? Or put it on eBay?

To coin a cliché, this is a first world problem. And one exacerbated by affluence. I don’t know what the answer is, but the cowardly approach is looking good.

I can live with that as long as I’m not a coward in the decluttering.

My lifestyle has changed. My house size is changing. I’m getting old. I don’t want the shackles of being tied to things anymore. Decluttering will make me lighter and freer. And therefore, it needs to stay!

 

 

To my friends (who read my blog):

I really have loved all the gifts I’ve received and I’m keeping many. So many, that I don’t want any more! Your presence is all I need to keep me happy on my birthday, and maybe, the occasional luxury hand-cream or chocolates. 😉

 

I liked this blog when I was reading about Marie Kondo’s advice in her book, ‘the life changing magic of tidying up.’

https://www.onekingslane.com/live-love-home/marie-kondo-book-declutter/