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!

 

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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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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Plotting, Planning and Perfectionism

Perfectionism is the highest form of Procrastination!

I know, I’ve been down this path before – in LIFE and in the BLOG.

My writing is slowed by painstaking planning. There are two types of writers (so say actual writers who’ve written and published books): Plotters and Pantsers. One does the whole PLOT thing in a rational and methodical way and then does the story writing. And the other writes ‘by the seat of their pants,’ creating as they go along (or being told what to write by the characters themselves!).

I believe most writers fall somewhere in between – on the writer-type spectrum.

I’d love to be the creative type who simply has the story flow out of them. Those writers are sublime beings to me. They’re REAL WRITERS!

I’m on the other end, maybe one point off extreme PLOTTER. I love making notes, researching, reading writing-craft books, listening to authors speak in interviews, following them on Facebook….

I nod my head and take more notes.

I’m amazed that I even have a first draft. If you read it, you wouldn’t be so amazed, because it’s really crap! But that’s okay: it’s in the RULES – a shitty first draft is how it’s supposed to be! Ten points for me!

Now that I’m in second draft stage, I’ve stalled. I’m the plotter, the planner, the perfectionist, and I have a sneaking suspicion, the procrastinator!

I re-did my CHARACTER PROFILES – in extreme detail. They’ve changed a little over two years, and I was getting confused, having to check through realms of notes, even for things as basic as family names. My character profiles are beautiful: tables that have headings like BACKSTORY, QUIRKS, CONTRASTING TRAITS. They’re the kitchen sinks of character profiles! With two vacant rows between each heading! You get the picture? And I have three protagonists, so I got to do three!

Next step: THEMES. Which character expresses what themes? Easy. Done.

Then there’s the CHARACTER ARC, which is another way of saying TIMELINE, in my mind. I can spend days on this! The 10-25% mark where the reader gets a glimpse through the persona at the essence of the character, the dark point at 75% etc. Whoopee! Days of perfect planning.

It might seem like this is all important stuff, and I obviously think it is, because I’m doing it. But is it really necessary? Am I overthinking it? Have I read too many craft books and had too many lessons? Is this just putting off writing the story? Is it PROCRASTINATION?

Or am I the most perfect planner ever?

I don’t know, but I better Post this Blog and get on with it. One day, I might finish the damn book!

Ironically, it’s called The Rest of Their Lives. I won’t say any more!

Follow Your Heart

TOASTMASTERS has been a great life enhancer for me. Not only have I found new, caring, intelligent friends, but I’ve been able to develop my VOICE. This is a WRITER thing but it’s also very human. We all want to be heard, feel valued and understood. Most people join to develop themselves somehow. I joined because I wanted another reason to write. I’ve not only found an outlet for my writing, I’ve found a group of people that encourage me, make me feel strong and interesting. I can speak without fear of judgement and this is a confidence booster.

I’ve included here today, a SPEECH I made a few weeks ago, on my return from the Great India Interlude. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to follow your heart, like I have.

***

Have you ever had a strong desire to do something that’s not totally rational, or predictable or convenient? Something that pulls on your heartstrings despite your mind saying, maybe that’s not sensible?

Six years ago, age fifty, I did something out of character. I packed the dog, hired a motorhome and left the family for a six-week time out! It was a dream that turned into a life changing journey.

Two years ago, I changed the course of my life. I left my marriage.

It was an action that was neither predictable or convenient. I stepped into the abyss and it took courage. Why did I do it? Because I knew, deep in my heart, that I would never be all I could be if I stayed.

Two months ago, I boarded a plane for India. This may have been rational and predictable. After all, I am writing a novel that includes India and I am known as adventurous. But going to India alone was going to be challenging.

I was nervous about being a single woman travelling alone in a country where native women only travel with their family. If alone, they risk being thought of as reckless or having loose morals. I was nervous about getting sick, finding my way, getting accosted.

But the twinges in my tummy weren’t from nerves. They were flutters of excitement. I wanted to be alone in India, to immerse myself in the place, in the crowd, with the noise and cows and colour. That was what was pulling me there.

I’d been there before and travelled like a maharani. But the India I craved, was amongst the commoners. I wanted to connect empathically.

My book is the story of three women who have the courage to start again (any similarity to me is coincidental!) and one of them lives in India for a year. I wanted the trip to be my version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, maybe Bollywood style.

So, despite my fears and friends’ words of caution, I embarked on my journey. In transit, in Hong Kong, I faced my first challenge. I missed my connection! This was stressful and I wondered if the trip was really a good idea!    I appealed to the gods, asking if I really needed such a lesson. I pulled myself together, found my offloaded suitcase and figured out how to get to Mumbai that night. Arriving at 3am, there was no one to meet me. I had no cash and I needed a taxi. With the help of a kind Indian man, I figured out the foreign ATM machine. Then I set off through the dark, quiet, deserted streets with a taxi driver who spoke no English. Friends’ words of caution were firmly blocked out.

After this initiation by adrenaline infusion, things settled down. My days of research in Mumbai were glossy with success. The help I had was beyond my hopes. Nothing was too much trouble. I found where my character lived, shopped and cremated her husband.

The next part of the journey was a nine-hour train trip to Goa. Another example of facing my fear and doing it anyway (thank you Susan Jeffers) Online horror stories of women-solo-travellers on trains and the cautions from friends had me alert, but concern was unwarranted. At 5am I was escorted by a guide to the right platform and the first-class carriage. The carriage was comfortable and fellow travellers looked agreeable. No scoundrels in sight. The most unpleasant part of the trip was the man on his mobile, shouting ‘hallo, hallo,’ every time the signal cut out.

Goa is a seaside resort town and very relaxed. On my first night, I settled at the garden bar of my resort to listen to the traditional Indian band.

A bellydancer wove through the tables and grabbed my hand. I leapt from my chair, my inner bellydancer coming out to play. Travelling alone is liberating because there’s no-one you know to bear witness to your actions.

As I returned exhausted to the bar, a fine-looking English gentleman sung my praises. I was charmed as we chatted, especially when he told me he bred and showed spaniels. We ate dinner together and laughed at our stories.

I began to think I’d met my soul mate. I was quite besotted. And then he said four words that changed everything. “As a gay man……”

After I recovered, we went on to have dinner together every night.

Determined to never think of romance again, I concentrated on spirituality. One evening in Udaipur I attended a puja, a Hindu ceremony.

I mimicked the worshippers: hands together, sitting cross legged, lining up with the ladies to run holy water through my hair and accepting flower petals. As I made my way through the little alleyways back to my hotel, I almost skipped.

I could tell you twenty other stories: of conversations with women, of feeding dogs and kissing cows, of lascivious looks by young men in villages, embarrassing massages, disturbing road accidents, Bollywood movies with no subtitles, falling a little in love with my guide in Varanasi, clever beggars, and trudging through the snow before dawn to watch the sun                          rise on the Himalayas.

But I’ll just tell you this one. I wanted to get some advice from a traditional Hindu doctor. I had a hand drawn map from my guide in Varanasi and I was told it was an hour-long trip. I was deliberating as to whether it was worth it and was sharing these thoughts with a Swiss woman at my hotel. She looked me straight in the eyes, touched my arm and said, “You have nothing more important to do today!” So, I went.

As I stepped around the cows and into the white building, I was greeted by the doctor. I shared my concerns. His final words were, “You’re fine. You have everything you want in your life. Meditate, fast and you will be well in body and mind. Concentrate on writing your novel.”

Some of life’s greatest moments come when you’re not totally rational, or predictable, or comfortable. They come when you feel that pull on your heartstrings and you go with it.

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I Want To Be Free

Have you ever felt like life is a school that’s handing out too many tests? Like there’s too much homework to do and you just want to go out and play? I have! Right now! I’ve had enough!

Life isn’t bad! It’s a good school: the grounds are picturesque, and the building is comfortable. The food is healthy and classmates friendly.

But I feel like I’m running the same circuit and the tests, the hurdles, just get shifted around.

I want to run free. Cross-country.

I’m currently trying to end one stage of my life: that stage where I fell in love, got married, had children, raised them, then found that the air I shared with my husband had gone stale and didn’t sustain me, or him, anymore. Some people can keep that air fresh and invigorating. That wasn’t the case for me. The window was closed and I had to break the glass to jump free.

I want to start the next stage. The only thing is, I’m still not free. I’m still stuck in the grounds! I’ve been here for two and-a-quarter years, trying to scale the boundary walls and only getting part way.

The tests have been emotional, physical, psychological and legal. Sometimes they stand alone and sometimes they’re mixed together.

I’m not going to go into details until I’m well and truly out of, or in, the woods! I may be legally divorced now but the legal and financial proceedings go on.

What do I want to do when I get to go out and play?

You may be wondering: Do I want a new partner? No! (Unless I was offered Kevin Richardson, Lion Whisperer.) Do I want to travel to obscure places that no partner would want to go? No! (Unless you call the Australian Outback and country towns, obscure.) Do I want to be a cougar? I’m too old! And No, anyway!

I just want to be me! I want to follow any path that intrigues me. I want to learn new tricks. Make discoveries. Achieve greatness in my own mind!

I want to be free to make decisions for myself, learn new skills and make each day count towards a fulfilling life.

The most fulfilling thing I could do right now is write, every day, towards completing my novel. The story and three characters consume most of my good thoughts. Those thoughts make me happy, even when I’m struggling! Those thoughts are play! (The other good thoughts are privately to do with Kevin Richardson)

So, Life! Here’s a plea. Can we get the tests over with? Can we say, enough with the homework, go out and play?

Go! Run! Be free! Yehargh!

 

Disclaimer: I apologise if Kevin Richardson is married! I haven’t actually stalked him to find out! 😉

www.lionwhisperer.co.za

https://www.instagram.com/lionwhisperersa/?hl=en

Tolerance

Self help books on motivation, reaching your goals, understanding yourself and others, finding your path and getting things done are what I’ve been thriving on for the last few years. They advise to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, leap and the net will appear, commit and Providence will assist etc.

I love these books and they all contribute some part to my makeup, thoughts and actions.

But sometimes, they just don’t work. Or more correctly, I can’t do what they say!

I’m motivated to reach my goals. I want to write every day and have a book written by the end of the year. But menial tasks get in the way. Like the washing, or car service, or answering emails, looking up files, organising handymen, preparing tax documents, going to the dentist….

I understand myself: I know what drives me, what I value, who, what and how I love, what I need for a peaceful and joyful state of mind. I’m pretty good at understanding others. I have empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence.

Considering this, you’d think I’d be a hotshot at self-management, staying calm and focused, getting along with everybody, not being disturbed by change or noise or people’s behaviour.

Well, as they say, scratch the surface…

Thankfully, my surface has thickened over the years – in both senses! But in the sense of being calm, tolerant or impenetrable, it’s not thick enough yet!

Barking dogs drive me crazy and interfere with my otherwise laser-beam concentration. They cause so much interference on the receiver of my mind, that I can’t hear anything else. (This is ironic, considering dogs are one of my favourite things on earth.)

Requests for information, administrative tasks, problems with phones, computers, internet, health issues, legal issues – they all irritate and interfere with the big picture. They’re a different kind of barking dog!

And then there’s those people in your life that simply press your buttons – those buttons that make you feel tense, anxious, snappy, unkind, and absolutely seething. Hopefully none of these feelings escape the thickened skin, and you remain looking magnificent. But they might. Because the skin was penetrated in the first place. Those people have teeth, they’re biting dogs. And, in this blog, shall remain nameless!

This blog post was a spin off from frustration. I’m venting! My lessons haven’t been learned well enough yet. My tolerance is not as high as I would like it or as high as I thought a few hours ago. I’m not ZEN yet. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop trying.

Obstacles are good. They teach us what our shortcomings are. They show us that we need to try harder. They push us to be clever and find ways around them. Another lesson –  the journey would be bloody boring if it wasn’t for the obstacles. (Talk to anyone that’s driven across the Nullarbor.) We just have to learn to go more slowly, breathe, notice the view and figure out the best way to pass them.

I feel much better now. Writing it down has always helped me re-establish calm. I feel tolerant again. I feel like I’m a better person: kind, compassionate, focused and driven.

Until next time!