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

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.

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.

So Much To Do, So Little Time

If you are a busy type of person, there is never enough time in the day.

Have you ever found yourself unable to say what you did all day, simply because your day was so full you just can’t think? I have.

I wonder if a busy type of person attracts more tasks. I used to be a busy homemaker and now I’m a busy retiree. I am a busy type of person. Sometimes I feel like I’m a magnet and all the jobs are iron filings.

I never fail to have a plan for the day. I get up early, pre-alarm. I start the day well, with a cup of strong tea and my bum on the seat in front of the computer, and I write for an hour. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing a novel and when you’re writing a book, you need discipline.

With discipline, I write schedules; I allocate time for writing, exercise, reading, social engagements, appointments…

The schedule starts to deteriorate at about 8.30am.

Because I’m busy. Jobs appear like spot fires and I run from one to the other, fixing, solving, extinguishing. Between appointments.

Appointments are the time markers of the day. I have booked in the PT at the gym, the Pilates session, the doctor, the hairdresser, the whatever, just to keep my feet on the ground and vaguely on course.

Between those appointments are the tasks that are of such priority they have made it to The List: Bunnings seems to be my second home but there’s also the Two Dollar Shop, the supermarket, the Aquarium…

At home, there are the daily crop-ups: the usual things – the washing, the gardening, the rearranging; and the usual unusual things, those jobs that you did not plan but suddenly shine bright as a beacon as the thing that needs to be done next – cleaning the pond, weeding the front path, painting the wall…

Because I have only been in my house seven months, I am still in a frenzy of getting it set up the way I want it. It baffles me that I think it will be done if I just do that one thing, but as soon as I’ve done it, another one appears as imperative. Electricians, joiners, locksmiths, tilers, builders, handymen, plumbers… all march through my house doing their job and making a mess. I always think it will be finished next week and then I’ll have more time.

Self-deception.

My life resembles an Aboriginal artwork; the landmarks in circles, are the appointments and priorities; the many dots flowing in lines around them, the paths, are the pop-up jobs that begin and end the day.

The day that doesn’t have enough hours in it.

I publish this blog on the last Friday of each month. That’s today. It is 7.25am and I’m typing. I got up at 5.30am to do it because I’m disciplined. I just had to pay one bill and answer one email before I started.

But it’s done now.

I’m off to Toastmasters. Today is another busy day.

Featured Image: Artwork by Tammy Matthews

Extreme Start to 2020

I was in India when the bushfires were ravaging Australia. Even in an ashram in a tiny village in Rajasthan, news reached me that the coastal town of Sussex Inlet, where my beloved river house sits, was in danger. Fires were out of control throughout the South Coast of NSW devastating bushland, National Parks, and towns.

Over December and January, at least thirty-four people and a billion animals died; 186 square kilometres of tree-covered land including 5900 buildings, were destroyed; people lost possessions and livelihoods; wildlife lost their food.

It’s depressing to think that some things won’t recover. The fires were too vast and hot. That which will recover, will take a long time.

But feeling depressed doesn’t help. There’s too much to do.

People are rallying to help. Communities are growing and bonding over the effort. Solutions are germinating, just as plants will.

Ironically, I was in the ashram to talk creatively about the environment. Despite the huge environmental problems in India, it is a place of such spiritual energy at its core, it’s inevitable that seeds of recovery are sprouting there.

The ashram was the location of a conference-like festival called Utasava Maa, ‘a transformative all female festival, uniting extraordinary women from across the globe to share, inspire and collaborate in response to the ongoing international repression and violation of the earth and her daughters.’

Women, the traditional carers and protectors of the communal environment, joined heads and hearts to create ideas about change, starting with ourselves and the most basic of local levels.

Like many of the other Western women, I was attracted to the festival by the passionate motivator, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic. This woman’s capacity to inspire and rejuvenate others is at goddess-level. To be in her company, and of others like her, for nine days in a soul-stirring environment, was life-changing.

On the eve of the end of 2019, Western and Indian women danced together. It was barefoot and free. We sat around the campfire wrapped in thick, woollen shawls, and listened to the guitar and the tabla, and the voices of those who sang or had something to say. We wrote things on paper, things we wanted to let go of, and burned them in the flames. We said goodbye to unhelpful things. It was a ritual that closed off the past and wiped the slate clean for the future. It was cleansing and uplifting.

Except, at home, the fires burned. The contrast was poignant.

I’m concluding that getting back to the ancient ways is a good place to start restoring health. But I’m not going to turn this Post into an opinion piece.

Despite the euphoria I felt at midnight on the other side of the world, reality is problematic. Since I’ve been home in Australia, the positivity I felt coming into the year, has been attacked several times.

Issues that lay dormant over the Christmas/summer holidays, have seeped through the cracks and emerged, persistent. Normal life is uncomfortable. It’s bills and emails, shopping and cleaning, responsibilities and duties.

Reality has a way of slapping you in the face if you get too carried away with dreams. A very dear friend, a passionate, loving, shining light of a woman, lost her struggle with cancer and died last week. Her light has gone out and she didn’t want it to. She had life to live.

It’s important that we live knowing that time isn’t endless. Not only is our time here on earth restricted, but it can be extinguished way before we’re ready.

My point is, that we should use each day well. Be positive and step forward. Do the things that you plan to do, despite the difficulties, the fear and obstacles; despite the chaos of real life. Think about the future, yes, but live each day with vigour, concern for others and care for the natural environment.

In National Parks, the motto is, leave nothing but footprints. But a national park is like an ashram. It’s the ideal. Ideas grow into deeds like seeds grow into trees. In the real world, leave your mark. Even on the smallest level, do something to make the world a better place. Raise the children to be community minded, grow a garden, lend someone your strength.

2020 is going to be another life-changing year for me, starting with moving house and ending with a publisher for my book. I do more than hope. I do something each day towards my goal; despite the everyday hassles and drama; despite what anyone says. My dreams mix with reality. They merge and flow and continue to grow with any fertiliser thrown at them.

Be uncomfortable. Be active. Do what you need to, to make 2020 a good one.

In the words of my guru, Liz G, Onward!

 

What will you do to thrive in 2020?

 

 

Shedding

It’s the end of the year and that’s a great time for shedding. I’m not suggesting you slither out of your skin. And I’m not saying you should go build a man or woman cave. I’m referring to letting go, leaving or removing ‘things’ that are no longer good for you.

Those ‘things’ can be objects in our homes that no longer have purpose or give joy; or clothes we no longer choose to wear because they don’t make us feel good.

They can be actions we take, mindlessly, because we have always done them. They are patterns of behavior that don’t serve us anymore and keep us from moving forward. If there is no reward, why keep doing it?

Some habits are detrimental to our health. My weakness is for sweet things: cake, chocolate, ice cream. And crisp white wine. Neither are good for physical well-being and professional advice is to cut them down. I need to shed the habit of such indulgence, and make it a treat now and then.

Shedding relationships is much more difficult. And sometimes a relationship is the most important thing we can let go of. Whether it be parent/child, husband/wife, friend/‘friend,’ if it makes us feel bad, drains our energy, generates self-doubt or keeps us from being ourselves, it should go. It can be almost impossible to divorce ourselves from a relationship, but it can be most liberating.

Being true to ourselves is one of the hardest things to be. Social norms insist we’re polite and behave according to rules of our culture, family or social group. We’re all brought up to be ‘good,’ and it can be challenging if we discover that being ‘good’ doesn’t serve us well. We learn to wear a mask, even with our loved ones. But how can someone love us truly if we’ve disguised our true natures and desires? Shed the mask and we might lose a few friends, but we might also gain truer friendships.

Let unfavourable things go at the end of the year. It makes psychological space for the entry of more favourable possibilities in the new year. Shed, and put fresh skin in the game.

PS. On a personal note, I was the successful bidder, last month, on a small house (see the Take a Chance blog) and therefore I have begun the shedding of things, with enthusiasm! It also means that I will be thinking of new things next year. All that I keep and all that I gather, will serve a purpose and give me joy.

2020 will, for me, be a fresh start. I hope it will be for all of you too. What will you shed now to make space for good things in 2020?

Take a Chance

I’m a chance-taker. It makes life more interesting. It changes life and takes it forward. Sometimes, taking a chance can take all my courage. Sometimes I get my fingers burned. And sometimes, I fly. Today I’m taking a chance. Today may be a life-changer. Today, I’m bidding on a house!

Is that all? you might say. That’s no big deal. Been there, done that! Ah, but this is different. It is a big deal! It’s the first time I’m making a major life-changing decision since I’ve been on my own. I’m planning to purchase before the sale on my current house has settled. That’s the chance. That’s the tricky bit; the unsavoury, scary, thorny bit. I could lose my deposit if fate turns bad.

Leaving my marriage a few years ago, a relationship of thirty-seven years that had started in my teens, was the biggest chance I have ever taken. It was complicated and I was fearful that ‘taking a leap of faith’ so dramatic, could be devastating. But I could also see how I might thrive, instead.

That’s the difference in taking a chance over a risk. A chance has possibility. It incites, carries with it feelings of hope, anticipation and excitement. Risk has a negativity. It warns, threatens, forebodes. It screams, stop, don’t do it, run! The consequences of taking a chance and a risk may be the same but taking a chance enables us. The idea of taking a risk can scare us so much, it stagnates us.

I could fail. I could lose money. But thinking that way will shackle me. Chances are, I won’t fail. Chances are I’ll win. I’ll go into the next stage of my life in a home of my own by the sea. I see myself there. A little bungalow in a quiet suburb with a yard that backs onto a clifftop golf course. Not a fancy one, but a scrubby, natural kind of one. Just how I like it. A bit rough around the edges. A place I can walk with my dog at dawn or in darkness. A place with a yard where my future grandchildren can play. There’s a lot to win in taking this chance. I see myself winning.

And sometimes, that’s all you need to make life worthwhile.

 

What chance are you going to take to improve your life?