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.

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

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?

Ethics of a Eulogy

I had to write a eulogy last week, for my Dad.

I had never written one before and was unsure about how to approach it. Do I just say a few nice words about Dad’s life from my perspective? Anecdotes of moments I shared with him hardly seemed enough. Dad was eighty and he had lived far more moments than those I knew.

A person’s child, even one as old as me, has a restricted view, even if it is intimate. Siblings and friends also have limited views. We only really know aspects of someone that are relevant to our relationship, and few of us know the story preceding us.

My father’s wife, his life-partner from the time he was thirty, was happy to share heartfelt words about their lives together. That freed me up to share my perspective – memories of being my father’s child – and the knowledge I had of his childhood.

Fortunately, around five years ago, I took an historical interest in my father’s story. I asked him about it and took notes. It was a tough story. How much was appropriate to tell in a eulogy? What was important for a good understanding of who Dad was?

What should be known?

Within the confines of people’s attention spans, I chose to reveal his harsh realities in order to communicate what a success Dad had made of his life. I was not sure about the ethics of this decision.

I knew I could upset some people in the room, both family that were connected to my father in childhood and anyone that prefers euphemisms to bitter truths. My father had an unhappy childhood, would be correct but it would be unclear. It would not explain his base line enough to convey the heights of his achievements.

Dad was motherless at eighteen months old. He was mostly raised by his mother’s mother, which started out okay but became a problem as she became unstable and preferred to keep him home rather than send him to school. His mother’s youngest sister still lived at home and disliked him, depriving him of toys and friends and taking to him with a rope strap. He lived with other relatives for short spells when he was fourteen, some good, others bad. By fifteen he had left to make his own way in the world. At twenty-two he was married with a baby – me – and along with my mother, worked hard to put food on the table. This marriage only lasted seven years and was tempestuous.

In the eulogy, I gave details that made Dad’s story real. I wanted people to know the improvements that Dad made in his life; achievements that reflected on his character. Dad did not dwell on his childhood, but his experience did shape who he was. He was not a victim and he did not become toxic. Instead, he was responsible, ethical, capable, and loving.

Despite beginnings that included little love, he learned to love. He met a young woman who became the love of his life, whom he considered first and foremost, whom he adored for fifty years. Despite no education, he learned a skill and went on to develop his own financially successful business. Despite deprivation, he had an eye for quality and beauty, and collected art and antiques. Despite not having an active father, he managed to become a good one.

He died, loved by many.

The eulogy I wrote took six minutes to say. It was a brief history but a true one. Some people may have been upset or offended, but those that spoke to me afterwards, said they appreciated my candor. I knew I had done the right thing when my own son said he had learned things he did not know before, things that explained some of my father’s character to him.

Which begs the question, do we share enough truths while we are living? Are we too scared of upsetting or offending people to reveal ourselves fully? Do we live too much shielded by euphemisms?

Why wait until we are dead to have our stories told and appreciated?

To Be An Activist

What Does it Take to be an Activist?

It takes courage – courage to believe in yourself, courage to face opponents, courage to be able to argue the facts, and stand up to those who try to undermine you.

It takes anger – anger against what you believe to be wrong, harmful or unjust.

It takes confidence – confidence to stand alone, lead or support a minority, confidence to stand with those who are weaker, discriminated against and less powerful, confidence in your own judgement.

It takes knowledge – knowledge of the facts, of what is hidden, of what is manipulated, knowledge of the injustice, knowledge of the consequences.

And it takes time – time to gain a thorough understanding, time to plan, time to gather troops.

Activism is difficult. It can be uncomfortable, alienating, dangerous and time consuming.

To be an activist is to be clear on what is right and wrong.

Simply standing up for those around you who are discriminated against – a senior person, a junior person, a fearful person – is activism. Making troublesome choices that care for the environment, living creatures and society – is activism. Joining a group for the betterment of the community is activism.

Those activists who go beyond their immediate world and challenge those with the power, those who lead a cause that affects others, will often be persecuted. They are presented as troublemakers, irrational, stupid and wrong. Their act is misrepresented and undermined by deflection, by the cause itself being manipulated or the action being scrutinised to overemphasize the faults.

There have been many activists in history who have suffered greatly for their cause. They have been jailed, tortured, demoralised, lied about, joked about and killed.

The point of this Blog Post is – activists should be respected, whether you agree with them or not. Because, they are not fighting a cause to be famous or rich or to have something to do. They fight to achieve what they believe is right. And if you look back in history, what may have started out as something trivial, laughable and irrational, has turned out to be something important.

The Bishnoi people of Rajasthan India, back in 1730, were the original “tree huggers.” They died trying to save their forest. This literal, but derogatory term, is used frequently to belittle defenders of the environment, even in “environmentally conscious” Australia.

At one time, in the southern states of America, Eleanor Roosevelt was told, “You have ruined the niggers. They weren’t race conscious until you started hobnobbing with them.” This outstanding humanitarian of the 1940s and 50s was maligned by sexual allegations and malicious jokes, totally designed to undermine her.

The fight against cruelty to animals, discrimination, the decimation of biodiversity, food wastage, water pollution, mining in sensitive areas, and air pollution, are all examples of just causes. We need to do our best to do no harm, to contribute to the betterment of the world’s health, to think as a member of society and the global community, and not purely as an individual.

But if we wish to make a large impact, we need to have the qualities and skills of an activist. We need to focus on one issue. We need to care so much about that issue that we don’t care what people think.

Young Greta Thunberg hasn’t chosen a small issue or a straightforward one. It is one of the most complicated and controversial issues of our time. The discussion around climate change is both scientific and emotional. I used to say I wasn’t a fan of Greta’s. The sixteen-year old embarked on her mission when she was thirteen. She is a child, easy to use, belittle and dismiss. I have read the arguments against her, the hypotheses and the scathing accusations. I wasn’t going to be manipulated. Then a friend, disappointed in my assessment, gave me the book of her speeches. Her desire is straightforward: Adults and World Leaders – listen to the scientists, read the data, inform yourselves and act urgently to stop the increasing temperature of the earth. If you agree that the earth is warming, there is good reason to act urgently. If you agree with the scientific facts that she refers to, there is good reason to act drastically.

Greta is told to stop being disruptive, stop scare mongering and go back to school to finish her education. She says she will, as soon as the leaders start taking action, because without that, there is no point.

Look at history. Don’t dismiss what Greta says before thinking and learning about it. And don’t hate her for being an activist.

The humanitarian, Urmi Basu, recently advised me, “If you really want to know what’s going on in a place, find out what the activists are doing.” Those few words have changed my entire way of thinking.

It’s not likely I will ever be a leading activist. But I will do my best to contribute to the world’s well-being. I vow to remain open minded, curious, community minded, environmentally careful and more courageous than comfortable. My form of activism will be small and spread wide. I will write about issues that I care about. And in that way, I will call myself an activist.

Will you be one too?

 

Reference:

Greta Thunberg No One is Too Small to make a Difference.

“Everyone and everything needs to change. But the bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty.”

Urmi Basu, founder of New Light India, a refuge for children and young adults at risk in the red-light district of Kolkata. www.newlightindia.org

Brene Brown, Research Professor, public speaker, writer and social worker who says, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, American first Lady 1933-45, diplomat and humanitarian, activist until she died in 1962, for child welfare, housing reform, equal rights for women and racial minorities.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

Animals Australia https://www.animalsaustralia.org/ Photo credit.

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.

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.

Follow Your Heart (2)

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!