Friday, 4 January 2019

Happy New Year...saying "Yes"

January 3, 2019. A new year. Yet where I sit now is so connected, so seeded, so rooted in the latter months of 2018 that I must acknowledge that no year, no month, no day is wasted. It is all part of a life. It is all somehow connected. I haven't been writing because I have been otherwise distracted and entertaining myself. But it is past time as I promised to write a piece on the event that started this most recent adventure. It's fun to look back and follow the string of events that lead to where I am now. Sometimes I wonder where I'd be if I'd made different choices, but then, we all know what a waste of time that is! I am where I am...at any point in my life. It's good to reflect for the sake of learning from the choices I've made, but more important to live fully today and to look forward to new adventures. Today though, some reflection.

In a sense it started back at the start of 2018 when I decided that my brain and emotions were sufficiently frazzled by the trials and tribulations of my most recent years that they deserved some down time and I declared myself on holidays from responsibility for a year. Well, from work anyway, and responsibilities whenever and wherever it was possible to avoid them. Thus it was with some trepidation that I said "Yes" to helping out someone I had met only once to help sell their product at the Deloraine Craft Fair. It was so stressful to make a commitment to something in May, I think it was, and then to find out it was not to occur until November. It freaked me out a bit but I decided to try and ignore it for the ensuing six months until the event was imminent. I had kind of thought I'd make it a year of saying "Yes" to things that sounded like fun, but when it felt like commitment and responsibility it felt really scary.

I've had the opportunity to explore my emotions around making commitments this year. I wonder why other people seem to find it so easy and I don't. I wonder if it is because I feel that if I commit to something I have to see it through. I have been trained (or convinced myself ) to think it is a fault, a misdemeanor, perhaps even a crime, to change my mind about something. I have come to understand that it's entirely okay to commit to something and then, if circumstances change, to rethink. Perhaps it's better to look at commitments as plans. Plans are more easily adapted and changed as time and circumstance decrees. Perhaps commitments are folly. I'm sure there are those that would disagree with me, and others that would cheer hoorah, she's got it! Whenever I find myself with these conundrums I remind myself that I'm a work in progress and it's going to take my entire lifetime to work out what I actually think and believe about things myself rather than what I've been socialised to think and believe by my upbringing and the effects of media on my worldview.

I went on many adventures between May and November and throughout considered my agreement a commitment rather than a plan. Therefore, when the date came close and I got cold feet, I gave myself a firm talking to about the possible fun that might be had, the people that might be met, the necessity to venture out of one's comfort zone now and then and that I had indeed given my word
to someone I didn't know very well and that she likely have some trouble finding a replacement for me at short notice. So I had to go.


As it turned out, I had a lot of fun! I really enjoyed the setting up, the selling, the staying somewhere new and the meeting of the lady's 'market mates'. The atmosphere of the market was exciting; people out to enjoy themselves, lots of action, anticipation of being busy  and the thrill of making a sale. I have worked in family businesses and my dad once said I could sell a donkey it's own hind leg. I guess I like selling people something that would be good for them or improve their day somehow. 

The Rotary Club of Deloraine must be commended on the work they do behind the scenes to put together such a huge event for Tasmania and for their town. The exhibits were housed in several venues around the town and covered everything from working dog trials to glassblowing, theatre, fashion, music and gourmet delights for every taste. Sadly the weather was at times quite inclement, and I believe it probably affected the numbers attending, but parking was organised with studied efficiency and free buses ran between venues at roughly ten minute intervals. Power was provided, marquees set up, tables and chairs for visitors to sit and enjoy food and entertainment. The logistics of managing an event of that size attending to things like health and safety, finances, media and more must be mind-boggling. Yet it is done primarily by volunteer labour. Hats off to everyone concerned. It was pretty amazing.

So, how does that lead me to be sitting in a house across the road from the beautiful sandy beaches surrounding Victoria's Port Phillip Bay rather than being down in southern Tasmania where I usually reside? Well, i guess it was more of that saying "Yes" to things that sounded like fun. At a pub dinner for the market exhibitors I got chatting with a lovely man who was a single parent with a young daughter. He laughingly said if I came to work for him he would pay me better than I was getting and perhaps I might be willing to help with his daughter as a kind of au paire. We chatted for a couple of weeks after the craft fair and decided that it might just work for that to actually happen.
So, here I am, on yet another 'adventure'!

It's been so interesting to live in someone else's home, especially someone I barely knew beforehand. It's fun helping with the market business, bottling and labelling product. I find I particularly enjoy repetitive tasks like that. It is meditative, like knitting or crochet, for me. I don't have to think too much. I like that, and it's been a perfect adjunct to my year of taking it a bit easier on my old brain. Being around to help with his daughter has been interesting and fun too. Whilst it was a busy time with markets and school before Christmas holidays began for her, we have done things like putting up the Christmas tree, shopping for gifts, making playdough for all her classmates, jigsaw puzzles, learning to use a sewing machine (only a first lesson, with more to come), attending a fireworks display and Christmas concert, going to the cinema and much more. It has been fun...and that was the whole point...so I'm looking forward to more.

Life on the Mornington Peninsula is quite different from home in Tasmania. It is busy with holidaymakers, the traffic fairly constant from early morning going to workers until the 3am revellers finally make their way home. It seems a little bit crazy to someone who only sees traffic on infrequent trips to Hobart! Shopping! Oh my goodness! Every conceivable shop and service within a very short drive. So convenient. It's a very different way to live. I've become very used to not having access to major shopping that it is actually shocking to me to see how much of everything is for sale in the shops. It reminds me that the overwhelm of stuff in our consumer society is very real. I wonder if the average person has developed some kind of immunity. I suppose it's just a way of being or a way of thinking that gives me a this point of view. Perhaps I worry too much. I do love the proximity of so many great op shops, which no doubt are a symptom of such healthy consumerism and the much larger population here. Am I still complicit if I buy second hand? Hmmm.
 
All too soon it will be time to return to Tasmania and prepare for the upcoming school year. Yes, it's back to work for me in 2019. My year off will come to an end on January 15th which was my last day of work last year, if I remember correctly. A whole year to learn how to have fun and enjoy myself again. Importantly that will come with me to work when I go back. Working with children demands enormous energy and if we don't take time to replenish and restore regularly, we can become truly drained of that joie de vivre. I knew it was still there, deep within, but I had become unable to access it. I am truly grateful for help from friends and family who allowed me to stay with them so that I could take this time to look after myself. I can't imagine how else it would have been possible to do this.

I wonder sometimes about what life holds in store for me next, but for now, I make a commitment (yes, a commitment) to give my all to work for the hours I must spend working. I also make a commitment to ensure that I make time...not as an afterthought, not just now and then but regularly...to have fun. For me, that means travel and reading for pleasure, long walks and long coffee dates with friends, time with family just being, Netflix (how did we ever get by without it says she who grew up with black and white tv), easy jigsaw puzzles, easy handcrafts, drawing, journaling and writing, trying something new. Simple pleasures. Simple fun.
 
I don't have a five year plan or a ten year plan. But I do wonder what might be possible in a year. Guess I'm about to find out!

Happy New Year to you. May it be filled with the things you want to do for yourself. Filled with fun. There will be other stuff for us all. Not fun stuff. Stuff that will stretch us and make us grow. But in between, sew seeds of fun and enjoyment. They will help you make it through.
I'd love to know what fun means for you. Let me know what you do to keep up the 'fun' element in your life. I might just get some inspiration for my 'trying something new'.

What will you be saying "Yes" to this year?

With love
Kerry

Friday, 9 November 2018

Feelings and the wisdom of the Sooty Oyster Catcher

I'm in a bit of a pickle and sometimes for me the best thing to do is write things down. Somehow getting them out of my head makes them less troublesome. It's time I wrote here so I thought maybe I could 'kills two birds with one stone' but without killing any birds! 

Yesterday afternoon on the beach I encountered a pair of Sooty Oyster Catchers. I managed to 'shoot' one of them but attempts to get them both in the frame close enough to create a worthwhile photo were fruitless. Still I enjoyed trying and I loved watching these delightful maritime avians pottering among the seaweed looking for snacks. So free are the birds. 


Sooty Oyster Catcher - not worrying
I wonder if they have the capacity to worry as we humans do. No doubt they respond when danger appears, but I wonder if they worry about danger when there is none about. That's what we do isn't it. We worry and agonise over things that are not currently happening in our vicinity and may not ever happen. I'd love to become more like the birds and focus more on enjoying life as it unfolds and responding only when danger is imminent. Compared with living in a state of constant expectant fright, it sounds pretty good.


Sooty Oyster Catcher - still not worrying
So, my feelings have been getting the better of me. Haha, just thinking about it, when I was on the beach and watching the birds and looking for a 'shot', I was concerned about nothing else. Perhaps there is a lesson in that for me. Be in the moment. Being in the moment happens without us even realising it sometimes. We just become engrossed and forget about everything else. It's called flow and entails a single-mindedness about the task or experience at hand. When I'm out with my camera at the ready, I am totally present and not thinking about the concerns I entertain when I'm less engaged by the world around me. I really could imagine a whole life just snapping the wondrous corners and titbits of life I see wherever I go. I'd be happy as a pig in poo. 

But life has tossed me other things to think about and I have created some pretty negative feelings in response to some of those. I need to give myself a mental overhaul to get unstuck. Do you ever find your thoughts going in circles around a subject? And then when you extricate yourself from that round-a-bout it finds another issue to do the same with. And another. At present my mind is a showground comprising the following round-a-bouts (how honest can I allow myself to be here? how vulnerable?): 

  • money - my supply is dwindling fast. I took a year off and well, money in a bank account only goes so far. Why haven't I won the Lotto yet? Hence,
  • work - to do some supply teaching? (am I ready to go back to work yet?) 
  • work - I have a job ready to begin in February which is exciting but also daunting until I get my head around the details. It will be part-time so there will be room perhaps for...
  • business - am I brave enough to launch into massage therapy again? I have only to secure insurance and I'm pretty much ready to go. But feeling fearful is getting in my way. Do I have the energy to give to this?
  • work - could I work in retail for a while just to get some cash flow? Can I get a resume up and send it to some retailers (everything is online these days or I would have done this earlier). Currently my computer doesn't have Word so I haven't put my resume together. I could do this at the library. I have to return some books today. I could do this today.
  • home - is currently with my mum. It is so kind of her to have me here. I look forward to one day having my own place again. But I have to be working to even entertain this idea. And I've needed to rest.
  • health - I am stronger and more resilient than I was at the start of the year. I'm not sure yet if it's enough. I find it easier to manage my health when I am in one place. It requires my constant attention to create an environment for healing. I am too easily distracted from my goal of optimum health. I self-sabotage often, but I am on the right track generally. On, on with this one. It is the foundation for my life.
  • relationships - with family, mostly great. One very sad separation from my son and this has continued for almost two years now. It is hard but I understand. I hope for re-connection in the future. My daughter is almost 28 and I love her dearly. I appreciate every time we are able to spend time together on the phone or when I can visit her on the mainland of Australia. Mum is amazing. I am 60 and back home with Mum. It's not what I expected from life. I've learned you don't get what you expect, but I'm also learning that there are things I have control over and mostly that is how I respond to life. I'm smiling more at this end of the year than I was at the beginning so that's a good thing. I am so grateful for the hugs, laughs and conversations I have with other family, both close and extended. I am lucky to have you all in my life.
  • relationships - with friends, interesting. I don't have a great many close friends and many of those live distantly from me. I know a lot of people and embrace them as beautifully human and sharing this life journey bumping in and out of my life. I love it when I see them. If there's time for coffee and chat, great. I'd love to spend more evenings chatting around a campfire, outside. I have been single for a long time. Relationships with friends change when you don't have a partner any more. It's something I've noticed. Sometimes it's hard. But mostly it's given me a massive opportunity for personal growth. I'll be a better partner if there comes a time, simply because I have grown so much from being alone.
  • men - feelings. fear. excitement. fear. fear of what exactly? change. commitment. loss. grief. I've spent a lot of years building walls and recently started dismantling them. It's scary as hell but there is more of life to live, and being inside a fortress might be safe...but how limiting. I like men. I like their company. They are good people. Most of them. Most of the time. 
  • vulnerability - there is a lot of talk about being vulnerable. As a woman I have to keep myself safe. it is not safe to be vulnerable. There is a clash here of sensibilities. One must be safe but to be safe one must not entertain risk. relationships. the nature of them is risk. risk being hurt. risk suffering loss and grief and that soul-sucking loneliness that follows. That feeling of not being good enough or of being knocked down again. I am the one that leaves. I have to learn to trust myself again. To know that what I have learned is that I can ask questions and risk the difficult times in order to grow in a new way and to stay. I am wiser. But I need to learn to trust that wisdom. 
  • shiny things - this is my metaphor for all the things on the periphery of life that grab my attention. They take my eyes off the prize (whatever that is) and split my energy into ever smaller fragments. My passion, if you like, is learning. I am interested in almost everything that shows up and like a bower bird, collect bits of paper, emails, addresses, phone numbers, course numbers, print-outs, ideas, ideas, ideas, ideas and other things and then feel constantly frustrated by an overwhelm that brings me to a standstill and I don't get to do any of them. I sometimes wonder if a bullet journal would help. Or is that just another shiny thing that I would use for three days and lose on my desk and feel guilty about (wasting time setting it up, spending money on it, etc)?
  • travel - I'd love to do more. I've been a bit of a gypsy this year and I love it! But I need...return to top of list. 
So, I have a poster I made up titled 'How to Stop Overthinking'. I can't remember where I got it from now - I made it as I listened to a pod-cast I think. There are 11 tools to help me. I look at it often and sometimes it helps. I share them here for those that might get some help from them and with due respect to the original author. I may have re-worded in some cases but it is not entirely my own work by any means. 
  1. Look at the big picture - what could go right?
  2. Set a deadline - any action is better than no action.
  3. Start your day right - have a morning routine.
  4. Take action - paralysis robs us of living our lives.
  5. Accept that there are things beyond your control - centre and focus on what you can control.
  6. Ask for the time to think - use time productively.
  7. Don't get swallowed up by your fears - fears almost never come to life.
  8. Exercise your way to a clear head - go for a walk.
  9. Sleep - equals time to process information and work on solutions subconsciously.
  10. Make an effort to be present - if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  11. Be mindful but don't fill up your mind - deal with one thing at a time.

Wise advice and all of the above apply to me. I torture myself on a daily basis with circular thinking around my troubles and it can be utterly exhausting. Thanks to the person who came up with this list. It really is very helpful. (If anyone knows who the author is please let me know and I will give due credit).

In some ways, I expect a lot of these issues will resolve themselves once I take action. Too much time sitting and stewing is not a healthy thing. So here I am, sitting and writing down what might otherwise do my head in today. Can I consider myself free now that it is done? Perhaps not as free as the birds, but at least a little freer than I was before I began. Writing always helps.

Wishing every one of you a fabulous day. Let me know in the comments what you think...or are you lucky enough not to be stuck in your head? Can you just 'Let it go, let it go'? If you can, I think you're one of the lucky ones!

Cheers for now

I'm off to have a cuppa with a gorgeous friend...
and maybe then I'll go bird watching again.

Kerry :)


Monday, 22 October 2018

Making Marks; the creative urge lives on

I went to Sydney. To see my daughter share her words on stage at the NSW Poetry Slam, part of the Performing Writers' Festival. I watched and listened as finalists from all our Australian states and territories pierced the air with words sharper than swords, straight to the heart like the hunter's arrow. Words shouting "Here I am!" "This is me!" "This is my experience!" "This is our future!" "This is our now!" Marvelous words tumbled from the deepest recesses of our thinkers' hearts. 

Thank God for our thinkers and our poets. Thank God for our writers. Writers create not just prose; they create more thinkers. This is the miracle, perhaps the miracle that drives us to record our thoughts. Our images, whether word pictures or snaps taken with our phones, share thoughts and ideas. Why, we might ask, does that picture exist? What does it mean to me? For me? Oh, lovers of words and of images, purveyors of truth, what richness and depth you add to life.



I went to Sydney. Before my daughter arrived, I fell in love with the State Library. Oh, the magic of that place had me in its spell as soon as I stepped through the great doors. Or perhaps it grabbed me sooner, wafting tentacles of delight sent forth into the Botanical Gardens to catch my heart and reel me in. A storm loomed large, lightning split the sky and booming thunder warned of its swift approach. The Library promised refuge. It was not hard to be tempted. What wonders I found inside. A mere hour before the galleries would close, the doormen cautioned me. That's fine I said, I can come back tomorrow if I want to. I lost myself many times over as I sauntered the roomy corridors and read a word here, a passage there. Gazing upon the gilt framed oils, I had to take some photos to share. Further on I listened to the narratives of Aboriginal elders and saw memorabilia from their lives; anchored in a great history, through a time of great loss and mourning, thriving in the modern world.




This image taken from a booklet in the library 'Sydney Elders Continuing Aboriginal Stories'


Later I wandered through to a second exhibition, one of diaries and poems and glass-plate photographs. As I read some notes written painstakingly by men in the trenches during wartime, it occurred to me that we just can't help ourselves. We have to make marks. We have to make our marks. Our mark. Leave a legacy. Share our story. Share our horror and our humour. Share our thoughts. We have to make images. We have to create. We do it for others but I wonder if in the end we really do it for ourselves because we have to. We just can't help it. The creative urge? The insistent need to prove that we have in fact existed? Invisibly connecting ourselves to others as we imagine our marks being read or our images observed and pored over - is that what drives us? Perhaps it is just for the doing. I don't know. But it became clear to me that day that through the ages there has been that drive to make marks.





It's easy to see that it's nothing new. Hieroglyphs in Egypt, scrolls in the Middle East and rock art here in Australia and in other parts of the world left by ancient people millennia ago are evidence that this urge is part of the human condition. We need to communicate. One with another. The hardest part of it all is to slow down enough to really look and listen. 

I went to Sydney. I entertained some memories of times past. Mine and those of others. I saw new things and opened parts of my heart that hadn't seen daylight for a while. I'm glad I went to Sydney. It was just what I needed and I think it's left its mark on me.

With love

Kerry

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Not So Intrepid Travel Adventures


Wondering where to begin telling the tale of my Not So Intrepid Travel Adventures, I fell upon the idea of creating a  word cloud. Sitting and thinking about all the things I'd done and places I'd been created a bit of a bundle from which to create a post. I didn't keep a diary each day, though at the start I thought that would be a great idea, but there is enough stored in my memory to do some justice to the subject. After all, I was there.

To put it all in a nutshell wouldn't be so possible if I'd 'done' all of the UK, or even all of England herself, or if I'd 'done' a furious ground mashing tour of Finland. But it was a holiday in the true sense of the word for me; one where I most importantly learned to sleep again. It was so wonderful and so worth all the effort for that simple achievement alone. Not something I set out to do, but a wonderful and so welcome surprise that came to me entirely by accident. Getting away - properly away - from all that you are generally party to, gives you the permission to sleep again like a baby. Oh, and I did! It didn't matter where I was staying, deep, restorative sleep accompanied me on all but two night of the 37 I was away. This is a miracle to me. 

Since the day I had my first child back in 1990 and perhaps even before then, I've barely had a proper night's sleep. I had a lot to catch up on. And then I got home. Jetlag. None traveling the other way but coming back was a nightmare. Day and night. My body hadn't a clue. I almost undid all that good holiday sleep in my first 3 weeks at home. Despair fell upon me as night after night I was bright as a button and even for the mornings. Bleary-eyed afternoons gave way to evenings where I held off sleeping until bedtime. I finally booked a trip away again and scored some really good sleep again in New South Wales! So, it seems my body hadn't forgotten how to sleep again. It just needed much longer to adjust than I had expected. Or perhaps, just to be away from home.

During the days away from home, I had a grand time. If we ignore the fact that I fell down the stairs bruising my coccyx at my cousin's house during my second week, and had trouble sitting down and standing up thereafter, it was pretty jolly. Most of the time I stayed with my aunt, and she doesn't drive. I wasn't game to drive overseas (that level of bravery will have to wait) so we went here and there on the bus. That was quite a novelty for me as buses are few and far between at home, and I drive myself where I need to go. It was a bit wretched after the fall because it took me so long to raise myself to disembark, it was a bit embarrassing. I thought people watching probably thought I had piles or something. I stood up like I had a full nappy. I don't wear a nappy, just for the record, but I hope that gives you some idea of what it might have looked like. Despite all that though, the bus was great fun because I got to observe the locals in their native habitat and it was so entertaining and a super way to understand myself more because this is where I've come from. Good old England. I guess there are differences in traditions and culture as you go from place to place, but still it was enlightening. The buses are normal bus size and the roads and like alleyways or lanes. Drivers must show a level of patience, kindness and forbearance I doubt would be possible in Australia. Fortunately the Poms are a polite race, not least on the roads. 

In fact, I've never heard people apologise so liberally for everything under the sun. Sorry, sorry, sorry. It was a bit amazing. I thought it was weird and was heard to say on one occasion something like..."Well, I'm not sorry. It just took that long to put the shopping in the bag. Have a nice day." It felt to me a bit like everyone was apologising for not being super-human. Like sorry it's taken me a normal amount of time to pack my shopping. Because yes, like at Aldi, you had to pack your own. At Sainsbury's you did, at any rate. But you know, it's not about that. It's cultural. One must apologise. And so now, I must apologise for taking the mickey about apologising. Sorry. Thus proving that I am indeed a Pom! They might pack for you at Marks and Spencer's but I only bought one thing there - my birthday cake in a box - and it didn't need a bag, so I guess I'll never know. Unless I go back.

Shopping in Finland was a whole other thing, not least because although I coped quite well with converting Australian dollars thinking to British pounds thinking, I hadn't learned how to say numbers in Finnish. So I can count Euros in English, but I can't hear how many you want from me. I kept smiling apologetically and using English with a shrug that was meant to say "Sorry I didn't bother to learn any of your language before I came and visited your country. I'm an arrogant idiot." The Finns are generous people and accommodated my lack with kindness and a smile on every occasion. But really I was most shocked with my ignorance of the fact that not everything everywhere has English subtitles. Now I know how to say kiitos - thank you. Not a lot else. But it is just better than nothing. It was great to see some familiar products on the supermarket shelves, and certainly I didn't look like starving at any point, that's for sure. My Finnish hosts, friends I'd only met online prior to visiting them in their homeland, were generous, kind and forgiving and I shall be forever grateful for them taking me into their homes and showing me their way of life. They also kindly curtailed their enthusiasm for wanting to show me much more of their beautiful country, in deference to my trouble with sitting in the car for too long hours. 




Finns are also very polite and generally somewhat introverted it seems. I came across an amusing set of postcards titled Finnish Nightmares. They depicted simple line drawings of what I presume are typical Finns in horror situations like wanting to get off a bus and having to ask someone to move, or standing in the rain at the bus shelter because it is already occupied by one other person. Being an introvert myself, I understood completely, but I did have to chuckle to myself. I so enjoyed meeting friends and family of my Finnish friends, and also seeing places of significance to their family. I was so lucky to experience a smoke sauna and then to swim in the crystal water of the lake which was a very respectable 21.5 degrees C. 

Finland gave me the opportunity to make a fool of myself on a number of occasions, and that can be a terrible thing for an introvert in a strange land. Fortunately by this time of life I am able to laugh at myself and my faux pas'. Like going around the back of a restaurant to use the ladies room, finding an open door going in to find the kitchen on the left and the bathroom on the right. Coming out to find the staff all standing agog as I emerged from the bathroom where all their handbags were. Luckily I'm honest so they had nothing to worry about. We all laughed when I saw my mistake. I had walked past the door with the little 'ladies' silhouette as I had my hat on and I didn't look up. I had thought to myself on entering the bathroom, gosh, these Finns are very trusting. Whoops!

Lakkar and Guinness deserve a mention. Lakkar is a delicious liqueur made from beautiful yellow cloudberries which grow in Lapland in the northern part of Finland. I also drank Jacob's Creek wine; sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir in Finland after being assured that it is good for the brain. Great advertising Jacob's Creek. Maybe it's true. In England I drank Guinness well watered down with soda or mineral water. The bartenders wasted a lot of Guinness because it kept overflowing when they added the soda. But they unflinchingly kept at it until the glass was full, alas then with mostly soda. It can be done better but I guess they're not used to such a request. The thing about the alcohol was that I really haven't had much at all for many years, and it was nice to be able to have a few without ending up with a blinding headache. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

I ran into an old and elusive love in Porvoo...amber. I've been ogling amber jewellery in a little shop in Hobart for many years and there it was again on a market stall in Finland. I looked. I admired. But because I was nervous about the money and I thought I might pass out when the stallholder told me the price if I asked, I didn't bring any home with me. In memory of that encounter, I ventured into the Hobart shop just this week and purchased myself a ring and earrings. I adore them and wonder why I couldn't find my way to do this sooner. Before my trip away I couldn't do it. After my trip I could. Something has changed.

On the whole I would sum up my trip by saying that it was a great experience and one I am so very glad I embarked on. I learned a lot about myself and other people. I learned that I could feel completely at home when far from home. I learned that I can still get a great night's sleep. I learned that I might do a few things differently next time I travel. Yes, I hope there will be a next time. 

My travel tips:
  • The long-haul flights suck. Do what you can to be comfortable without infringing on other passengers' space. 
  • Carry medication for headaches, nausea and diarrhea as a minimum self-care package. Be wary of wipes as you might react to them. I did. Take your own.
  • Pack light and buy what you need when you get there if you're staying more than a couple of days. I packed for cool to warm weather and it was hot. Hot. So I had a suitcase full of stuff and used very little of it. I lugged that case up enough stairs in London to know that I won't do it again.
  • Learn the basics of the local language so that you can at least look like you're trying. Numbers, money, please and kiitos. It is polite to do so. Sorry Finland.
  • Have some idea about setting up your phone to work where you are without it costing you the earth. I bumbled my way through this but think further research would be helpful. Thanks to friends who gave me a few tips before I left.
  • Get to know a bit about local culture before you go. Surprises are nice, but it feels good to have some idea what's going on around you.

Did I mention that the morning after the stairs accident I woke to find one eye looking like Kylie Jenner's lips (I had to look that one up). I had used wipes again, the plane incident being insufficient to deter me, and had once again reacted. I remember what they say about donkeys and mistakes. Hee-haw. So with a bruised backside that made it hard to sit and an eye I could barely see out of, I was glad to be staying with friends and family who loved me better. I don't know if any of them will read this but if they do, thank you all for making my holiday a wonderful and memorable one. I loved almost every minute. 

Cheers for now

Kerry

Circles

With some trepidation, after attending the Men With Heart exhibition on Thursday, I put my name down for a mixed 'circle' which was to take place the following night. It meant another trip to town, and staying overnight because I avoid night driving here; there are too many of our precious native animals that are nocturnal. Too much roadkill. So, I was challenged because it was going to cost me to do this. Accommodation, fuel, time. But I really wanted to be part of it so I went for it.

I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure what to expect. I've read a bit about women's circles and have thought about how much I'd like to attend one or even learn to run one myself. So I was really interested in going along to find out more about how they might work. I was nervous about what might be required of me. I was nervous about being embarrassed in some way. I was nervous about hearing things I didn't want to hear. I was nervous about being looked at. I was nervous about being found lacking in some way. I guess it's like any of us trying anything new. Insecurities raise themselves up and old stories we tell ourselves get stuck on replay again. 

On arrival I found a circle of chairs in the space right inside the front of the building. Large glass windows. Dark outside. Passers by could see in. The circle would essentially be 'on stage' although I trusted what was being said would not be heard outside. I moved in tentatively and placed my bag under one of the chairs that was remote from those occupied; the other side of the circle. I didn't sit there but was engaged in conversation by a lovely man who proved to be the one who wrote for the grant that funded the exhibition (which, incidentally, took some three and a half years to bring to fruition). He was so friendly and welcoming and I soon felt much less nervous and more 'at home'. Other people came in dribs and drabs and before long most of the chairs were filled. I took a deep breath and moved to where I had put my bag, now flanked by two men I'd never met before. Brief introductions ensued and we waited for things to begin.

The facilitator took his place and outlined a few rules of conduct to ensure confidentiality and safety for everyone. We were asked to answer three simple questions; What brought you here? How are you feeling? What do you hope to take away from this? Participants were invited to speak one at a time when they were ready. 

To be in a group like that with the invitation to speak creates some angst. Do I jump in and go first to get the ball rolling? When I was younger that is what I would tend to do, in part to get it over with  and in part to make it easier for everyone else. I've grown some insight over the years and now usually choose to wait and allow others to speak first. I waited.

Both men and women shared their answers to those simple questions, and in so doing, also shared parts of who they were. Life experiences and perspectives were laid on the space within the circle while we, the not-speaking people, the listeners, watched and waited. Of course I am not at privilege to share any part of any of those stories, but I will say that they touched my heart and perhaps opened it a little. I was reminded of how very human each of us is and how vulnerable we are to the ups and downs of life. I was also reminded of the vital need for each of us to make and feel connection with others. Some of those words spoken that night might not have reached the ears of a fellow human before. How humbling it was to be part of that. 

Of course, I said my few words eventually, when the time felt right. I felt heard. I felt listened to. I felt seen. It was good. Because even though the questions were simple, there was an invitation to share a story. It was good to share and have my story respected and honoured by the telling and the receiving. Nodded heads and acknowledgements. They meant a lot to me.

The facilitator was the last one in the group to share. It was only meant to be an hour, but it took longer. We might have stayed longer and asked more questions of ourselves, but this was only a glimpse; a chance to try this thing on and see if it fitted somehow.

Fifteen random people came together (if I've counted right - each face remains a treasure in my memory) and got real for the hour and a half it took for everyone to share. I can only imagine the depths to which circles can take us if we remain for longer in that space and give people the time they need and the questions to help them explore and express their experience of being human. This is 'round the campfire' stuff. When we feel enfolded by the dark, cosy arms of circle and focus on the light space in the middle where we meet on common ground, we can share secrets and longings that don't meet easily with the light of day. There is no doubt it brings us closer both to others and to ourselves. Circles are not something new, but perhaps they are something we lost. It's good to see them coming back.

I'm on the list for possible future mixed circles. I have an invitation to join with a women's circle. Perhaps I will explore the idea of starting one close to home. The potential for personal growth is huge. The relief of sharing a story that weighs heavily can be huge. The bonding with other humans without the veil of alcohol or pretense is huge. I'm feeling excited for the future.

What experience have you had with circles? I'd really love to hear.

Much love

Kerry




Friday, 12 October 2018

Men With Heart - changing times

There are times when scrolling idly through Facebook can pay off big. On Wednesday I noticed a post about an exhibition in Hobart titled Men With Heart. I clicked on it to find out more and knew immediately that I must go. The pull? Bill used to say "There is so much out there for women but there is nothing for men." This movement had been active in Tasmania for 21 years, commencing the year we departed Tasmania. Most people won't have heard about it because it's been 'underground' for all those years; only now have they decided to venture into the public arena. Obviously Bill wasn't the only man seeing and feeling a need to get together with other men. I was so excited to know this was happening, but so sad to think that it was a little late in coming for him. So I was curious to find out more; to find out what he might have discovered if he'd had the chance. To consider how it might have changed his-story.

I felt a little intimidated as I approached the doorway of the Mawson Pavilion, as there was a group of men standing inside and no women in sight. I asked gingerly if it was okay for me to come inside. Yes, of course! Everyone is welcome! I was greeted warmly with a handshake and a brief overview of the layout and the best place to begin. And so I dived into the world of the TMG (Tasmanian Men's Gatherings). It was a journey of the heart for me, an emotional one. There were tears. There was comfort offered by kind hearts willing to listen as I shared what was happening for me. I was overwhelmed by the privilege of being given these glimpses into the lives of men. I was heart-broken for the men in my life - my father, my son, my partners over time, and friends who I know have felt isolated and alone and have not known how to connect to their hearts or themselves and other men in a way that gave them peace. Where did it all go wrong? When did we lose place for men to gather and to nurture one another without getting pissed or high? 


Men are not that different to women once you take off all the gendered conditioning our society loads on them. This idea was presented in one of the videos where men shared their experiences at the gatherings and how it had impacted on their thinking and their lives. Men are human beings with insecurities and fears and the need to be accepted just as they are. Just like women. Just like kids. All human. Musculature might be different but hearts? No.  

The photographs, the work of Paul Hoelen, were striking in their rawness and simplicity. The men were real. Some faces smooth and youthful; some wrinkled, deeply carved by the wretchedness of life and the passage of time. All together. Eyes sparkling with the joy of companionship and a sense of belonging. Eyes shining from the souls of these men. Everyday men from all walks of life. Some fathers and sons. Many alone and longing for the companionship of other men before finding their way here. Many isolated in our society where a man is expected to be know what to do. To be strong. To be independent. To get on with things. But these men, the ones in the photographs, have found a way to pause and connect with their hearts through spending time with other men and sharing their stories and their struggles. They are slowly pulling down the facades they live behind in daily life and discovering who they really are, perhaps for the first time. Connecting to themselves. To others. Heart to heart. The photographs convey such tenderness it is almost shocking. 


Most of all, this exhibition and the fact that it is happening at all, signals for me the changing times. The time has come for men and women to take a step back and look at where we are at. There has been so much focus on women and their rights. Things needed to change. There is still a way to go. But I wonder if some of the problems women have, especially those problems related to men, exist at least in part because men have become isolated from good male role models who can guide them into being great men who love and know themselves first. I wonder if it is time for men to make it their business to become part of this growing movement to become better fathers, husbands, uncles, sons, partners and friends. Get involved. I hope it signals a time when we might all start to take responsibility for connecting with and supporting one another. Women, support and encourage your men to start this journey to the heart if they are not already on the way. They need it. They do. 



If you're in Tasmania and have the chance to get along and experience this exhibition I would strongly recommend that you do. There is the opportunity to make comment by writing on tags and hanging them on the wire fencing on which the photos are displayed. 

Fences. We build them around our hearts. It's time for them to come down.



With much love and gratitude to the men who allowed their photographs to be taken and displayed, and to those who spoke their hearts on the videos. You are all champions in my eyes. Gratitude also to Paul Hoelen who gave permission for me to include some photos of his work here for you. 

For more information: https://tasmen.org.au/


Until soon

Kerry


Thursday, 19 July 2018

The not so intrepid traveler

A year ago I was out walking one day and had the idea that it might be awesome to be back in the town of my birth on my 60th birthday. My eyes welled with tears when the idea struck me, so I figured it probably carried some weight and ought to be acted on. Travelling half way around the world was something that last happened to me when I was a mere six years of age. Since then, I've traveled primarily within the bounds of my island homes; mainland Australia and then Tasmania. The single exception to that rule is a three month long voyage back in my early twenties, from the east coast of mainland Australia to the islands of New Caledonia. That was a long time ago, and it seems I'm not quite as brave or fearless as I was back then. So taking the plunge and booking my ticket to fly 'home' to England took quite some courage.

My nautical adventure was undertaken with my partner of the time, on his self-built steel yacht. She was home to us for a number of years, and taking home with you when you travel is somehow different to shrinking one's life to suitcase size and stepping aboard an enormous aircraft where one does not know the person at the helm. Or understand the workings of the airborne vessel.

Funny that this is such a big deal to me. I apologised to mum this evening (yes, I'm staying with mum for a while) for behaving as if no one has ever done this mad thing; getting on an aircraft and going somewhere that requires 14 hours in the air and then some. I know there are millions (I guess that probably is not an overstatement), or at least hundreds of thousands of people in the air at any one time. Logic announces that this is really nothing to be excited about. Everyone does it all the time. But it is a big deal. For me. And I'm filled with feelings of excitement, anticipation, apprehension; all the things!

I started packing at about four o'clock this afternoon, in true master procrastinator style. I wonder if it's a sense of disbelief or pretending that it wasn't really happening that kept me from beginning earlier. It doesn't really matter. It's done now. Only a few minor tweaks in the morning before heading to the airport and I'm ready! 

When I booked the ticket I immediately had a torrent of plans for self-betterment before I faced friends and relatives overseas. Like I needed to be an improved version of me to be presentable somehow. I wrote schedules for everything from daily meditation to covering the miles to Heathrow on my exercise bike (hahahaha!) and of course, achieving my ideal weight. I would have clear skin, a taut body and would be so calm I would be like a black hole sitting in space -beautiful and mysterious. Yeah. None of it happened. I'm so good at scheduling but I suck at following through. So here I am, probably a lot like I was a year ago. Too late to change now!

Along the way, I've decided that I just have to do what I can, and what makes me happy on the day. On any day. Twenty-eighteen is a year I've taken off to repair, rest and revitalise. I didn't know that would be the case when I booked my plane ticket or for six months thereafter. So I teased and taunted myself with visions and dreams of a 'good enough' me to take on my grand adventure. Then I kind of crashed at the end of last year and it seemed a good plan to take some time off. And then all the visions went to hell and I just stayed with myself in the here and now. And it's been good for me.

I've lost a little weight and gained a little weight. I've meditated when I felt like it, listened to some great teachers about being human, and have written intermittently in various journals about what it's like being this human. Me. I love that I see this experience as being all about learning. The human experience. I grow in wisdom as I sit in this and see that all the stuff that goes on around me, that beckons for me to entangle myself in it, is not the real stuff. It's beautiful to understand that. I'm still me, but I feel like I'm starting to 'get' it. I feel more loved and more lovable. That's gotta be time well spent.

So here I am, at one a.m., recognising that sleep might be a good option at this point, but knowing I don't need to start too early in the morning, and that maybe it's time to start writing. It feels right to write. It feels good to write. 

I'm looking forward to the adventures I have ahead of me. I am super excited about going back to my roots and to maybe understand myself better by doing that. I have friends traveling overseas even now, in Norway, Denmark, France, Georgia, the islands of Indonesia, the USA; friends recently returned from traveling in India, the United Kingdom, Cambodia, Cyprus, New Zealand. Many of my friends are world travelers. I enjoy catching glimpses of their travels on social media. I have friends living in Tonga, The Faroe Islands, Finland, such far-flung places. I am eager to find out first-hand why my friends travel. How it has changed them. I am eager to find out how this journey will change me, for it must. I feel incredibly privileged to have this opportunity and thankful to myself for acting on the idea of going home for my birthday. 

Otherwise, I might still be thinking about it. Or worse, writing up schedules for getting there 'one day'. Perhaps there's a lesson in all this for me. Getting on and doing something, even if imperfectly, is acres better than all the scheduling and planning in the world. It's knowing when the paperwork is useful and when it's an excuse not to act. So maybe I'm becoming a little braver again as I'm growing older, a bit like the adventurous spirit that threw off the ropes and headed seawards with nary a backwards glance. On, on to new shores (and old), blue sky above and below, new sights, new sounds, smells and tastes. New stories, new people, new friends, new experiences. I can't wait, and now I don't have to. 


Until soon

Kerry