Sunday, 3 September 2017

Father's Day 2017

Today, Sunday 3rd September, is Father's Day in Australia. On Friday I invited Mum and Dad to come for lunch if they didn't have other plans. They accepted and I prepared for the first invitation meal I've had at my house for quite a while. It's funny because I have a history of loving to entertain and feed people. Barbeques, curry nights, potlucks are my old habit. But of late I haven't felt able to do any of that. 

There are myriad reasons why, and perhaps because of that, the essential one is that I simply couldn't muster the energy to initiate such an event. I've been overwhelmed in many ways (and financially underwhelmed...) so it was just easier not to 'go there'. I've been eating solo for six months now. Apart from the odd occasion I've dined out with friends, or at work where I commonly eat with any from a few to a lot of people!

So today was a bit of a test for me. I thought about creating a roast, a desert, a cake from scratch. And suddenly it all felt exhausting again. I had to choose something manageable. Dad's always been a cheese 'n' pickles man so I settled on a Ploughman's Lunch, created not from scratch, but from the supermarket. A loaf of crusty bread, butter, two cheeses - one blue and one tasty, sweet mustard pickles, gherkins, tomatoes and potato crisps served with a bottle of sparkling apple juice. I forgot the pickled onions, but we managed.

I cleaned and tidied and created a relatively serene space for the visit, and popped on a CD printed with Big Band swing music. Laid the table, gor myself ready - even wore a necklace for the occasion. When Mum and Dad arrived I was able to greet them dancing along to the music and they came in all smiles.

Over pleasant chit-chat we enjoyed our lunch together and then I presented Dad with his gifts; a bottle filled with two weeks' worth of nightcaps and a photo album into which I had placed photos. I wish I had filmed as Dad looked at that album. It was such a lovely and special time. I wasn't entirely sure he would like it but it seems he really did. Photos of events from the end of the 1950s through to the present elicited discussions and stories and memories from all three of us. I hope this will continue to be enjoyed over the coming months or years. 

This year was a little different. Although Dad still popped his signature wit out from time to time, he is changing. My Dad has Alzheimer's Disease and he is slowly but surely slipping away from us all in tiny increments. And so this was an important time. Because next Father's Day he might not remember. He might not know me. He might not be here any more. So I am grateful that I have the memory of this particular Father's Day. 

At the same time I give thanks for the enormous privilege it is to still have my father when I am 59 years old. He will soon be 85. As I grow older, I am grateful for the many lessons I have learned from my Dad. For the time we have had together. I have been so, so lucky in my life. 
Through this day I have also been pained by the fact that my own kids don't have their Dad any more. I wish we could be together to talk about and remember him but that's not possible this year. And maybe it's not what they would want anyway. It's  difficult to know what is the right thing to do. I struggle to find my way in it all. 

Mum lost her father when she was in her early 20s. Dad's father passed away almost 40 years ago. My sister-in-law's father has passed on; my cousins have lost their Dad too. We are a small family. And we are very short on Dads. We  treasue those that remain and the memory of those gone. Each played an important part in our lives . We miss them, of course. I still have my Dad. For now. I am blessed.

A bitter-sweet day, this Father's Day. I discovered that I can have guests for a meal and deliver! I enjoyed so much the time we spent and recognise that each memory is precious as it is created. But I have also been reminded that time for good things will run out. This is life. It's hard. None of us know for sure what happens in an hour, next week or later. We wait and see. Each of us. 

Breathing a sigh of ...resignation? ...relief? Not sure if it is either of those or something else, but I know I will offer more invitations to lunch and dinner. Potlucks will happen again, or at least so I hope. Time alone has been necessary and healing but it is time to begin recreating those relationships that grow over shared meals and cuppas and perhaps a beer or a wine. For a time I set those things aside; I hadn't the energy. I think I'm on my way back.

Each of us has our own 'Dad' story. I know the stories are not all good ones. For those that are able to have a 'Happy' Father's Day, I wish you that. For those not so able, my heart aches.

I wish you Peace and Hope and Healing.

With love

Kerry 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Shangri-La

Woke this morning after an uncomfortable night on the couch...an unpleasant dream adding the final insult to a body suffering from a sinus headache. Over my first cuppa for the day I decided I might ditch my recent idea of travelling to the UK next year because I just feel too tired to undertake such an adventure.

This thought led me to a new idea that perhaps four weeks at a health retreat might be a better use of time and money. My good friend Mr Google made it a snap for me to divest myself of a full Sunday morning drooling over promises of gorgeous treatments - massages and body wraps and exfoliations - and hours in tranquil surrounds having to speak to no one - time to snooze and sleep and snooze some more - and sunshine. I looked at prices and programs and dates and listened to testimonials of transformation.

Around lunchtime I looked up from my intensive investigation to notice that the beautiful southern Tasmanian winter sunshine was blazing onto the carpet inside my sliding doors. First revelation - I can lay in the sun here and now (if I'm quick). So I rearranged my flanelette pj bottoms and my t-shirt nightie (I'm all for elegant nightwear obviously) and put a significant amount of my bod into that sunshine. I stayed there until my back started to turn from pasty to pink and it felt a-maz-ing.

While I was laying there I remembered that I live in a tranquil place in the bush...trees, birds and today, frog song. I don't get many visitors so I don't need to speak if I don't want to. Further pondering and revelation number two showed up. The only reason I'm not living a gorgeous resort lifestyle is because I've been choosing (unwittingly) not to.

I can choose to live as resortily or retreatily as I like! I am home 3.5 days each week and 7 nights - in this tranquil place where I am rarely disturbed (some might argue this point) - where I can CHOOSE how I spend my time.

So I created myself a resorty poster outlining all the lovely activities and options I can choose from. It is not exhaustive but you know those resorts and retreats - there are always a few surprises (like fresh flowers or beautiful soaps or bonus speakers). I've posted it on the kitchen wall where I can see it at cuppa time (that means often).

Tomorrow morning my brand new resorty and retreaty life begins. I hope this means I'll have more fun things to write about soon!

Lots of love

Kerry

Saturday, 27 May 2017

When help is not helpful

I like to write to inspire or to share wisdom or insight but of late I am so tangled in a mess of emotions that insight is missing, perhaps lurking hidden in shadows of hurt and pain. Wisdom, elusive as a wolf in the wilderness, watches while I struggle to make sense of my world. Inspiration; it has fled into the twisted torture of loss and bewilderment.

I am torn by relief and longing. It gives me no rest. I rationalise that emotions have no power over me. That I can be strong and live in peace and harmony with myself, my past, my present, my future. And then I have a day like today. Teary, conflicted, bewildered. Wanting to act but overwhelmed by fear of consequences. Damned if I do and damned if I don't. I'm not alone in this. I know there are others out there who feel the same. I am not unique. I am not special. I am human. Having a human experience.

Desperately I look for what the lessons are in all this. If I can pluck a gem of revelation that will allow me to make better choices in future, perhaps I won't need to tread such a path again. There is a school of thought that we bring experiences to ourselves until we 'get' the lesson. Dear God let me get it. Let me get it so I can be free of making mistakes.

I can't write about situations or circumstances because there are people I don't want to hurt. I don't want to add to anyone else's pain or anguish. Let them choose their own if they need it, but let it not come from me. What use is this then?

There is something I can say that might be of use. Here it is...and I can't claim it as my own because I know I've picked it up from something I read one day. I can't remember where it came from but just know that it is not mine. What is mine is the knowledge that it is right and true and really, really important. It is this. Only offer help if you are sure you can give it. You must know how. You must have a plan to follow. Winging it is likely to end in disaster.

Offering help from a compassionate heart is good, but if you can't follow through with giving the particular kind of help that is needed and beneficial, then you actually complicate the whole issue. Because you get in the way of either allowing a person to suffer through a difficult time and grow, or you get in the way of the help coming from elsewhere. And you will be responsible for creating a mess - and likely blamed for it too.

Maybe that is my lesson. Observe. Offer encouragement. Offer understanding. Offer empathy. But do not offer help. Wait and see what happens. People are generally incredibly resilient and resourceful and most often will begin to find their own answers to problems. In person-focused counselling it is recognised that people are more likely to act on ideas to improve their situation if they have come up with them. If someone else offers solutions they are not as likely to take them up.

It is important to listen. It is important to hold space for people. It is also important to know yourself and how you value yourself in any relationship. It is important to know what you will tolerate and where you will 'draw a line'. If you choose to offer help, make sure you can take care of yourself as well. Bad days are inevitable, but if we can take something away from it all at the end; if we can reflect and find some learning in amongst it, then it is not without purpose and value. I walk through my life thinking to myself that my heart is so full of love. I have so much love to give. But for now there are walls up. Still I can send the love and hope for peace and forgiveness in times to come.

The human condition is such that we agonise over things we cannot change. We can always work on changing how we view a situation and how we think about ourselves.

There is much to be gained by choosing to be present in the moment. It's a simple philosophy and makes more sense than living in regret or fear. I can be happy when I am busy and focused and when I have a plan for the day. Being outside in nature, regardless of the weather, leaves me feeling alive and more at peace.

I have to forgive myself because I can't live in the chaos of my own un-forgiveness. Our days are numbered. I don't want to waste a single one. 

Wishing you love and peace of mind and heart.


Kerry 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Escape hatches in motor vehicle roofs...no more drownings!

This morning I woke up with something very sad on my mind. It's weird where my mind can take me in those early waking moments, and obviously this has been sitting on my subconscious mind and waiting for an opportunity to be explored. 

During the recent floods associated with Cyclone Debbie, a car slid down an embankment and into a river resulting in the drowning deaths of a mother and two of her three children. One escaped and ran for help, but alas nothing could be done to save the others. I saw a short snippet of the funeral broadcast on the news and watched the bereaved remainder of this little family; father and 8 year old daughter. The sense of loss was unbearable, unspeakable, unimaginable.

Since them some articles have circulated on Facebook about the need for a plan to get out of a vehicle quickly when it lands in water. The suggested protocol would be 1. Undo seat-belts 2. Open windows 3. Help children out, the older ones first. It's good to have a sense of what is the best and right way to go about attempting an escape should the need arise... and in saying that, I don't mean to make light of it for a moment. This is the thing that must have been playing on my mind as I slept or as I came to this morning.

What I felt as I lay there was the sense of urgency. I don't think I'll have any peace until I share this and let it go to take flight. So here are my thoughts. I hope you will add to them and share them until something is done. Or give me some hints about where I could take this next. 

I imagined sliding into a river or waterway. I imagined that loss of control of the vehicle. I imagined the downward slope as the heavy motor took the front of the car deeper and I imagined the force of gravity working against me as I tried to remove my own seat-belt and that of my children. Having lived on a sailing boat for some time, I am well aware of the difficulty of moving about in a situation where things are not on the level. Can you imagine trying to get to your children in the back seat as gravity is putting all your weight first against your seat-belt making it difficult to undo it and then having to fight that pull to try and scramble into a position where you could undo those belts and set your babies free. They might be heavy against their seat-belts too and perhaps struggling with their distress.

I imagined the impossibility of it all. I don't know how that one little girl managed to get out of the car but somehow, I'm guessing with her mother's help, or under her mother's instruction, she found her way out. Imagine the panic as the water level is rising and the seat-belt clip refuses to release. In a crash situation it might be the thing that saves a child but in this case perhaps it was the thing that caused people to die. Just consider how very difficult it might be to get out in a hurry. 

I woke and my mind was grappling with what needs to happen to give people more time in those situations. I know it probably doesn't happen all that often, but with a potential increase in extreme weather events, it could happen more often in the future. So car manufacturers, this is a call to you to start looking at accessories you can design that will help to slow the submersion of a vehicle in such a situation in order to give people a bit more time to get out. 

One idea that came to mind was an inflatable device (similar to airbags) that might neutralise the weight of the engine, allowing the vehicle to float upright for longer. Another was enough positive buoyancy built into the structure of the vehicle so it would not sink. Another was for some downward thrust to counter the effects of the weight of the engine, perhaps in some kind of canisters that could be easily activated. Keeping the vehicle level in the water might make it easier to get out. And finally, the installation of a weatherproof deck-hatch (similar to those on boats) in the roof of the vehicle to act as an escape hatch; it would be easier to go up rather than out the side perhaps. It might be something that could be engineered to fit existing vehicles and might not be too expensive to install. 

I wondered to myself if Dick Smith or Richard Branson or even our David Walsh here in Tasmania might be willing to put up some money to encourage designers to come up with something effective and affordable to help avoid these tragedies in the future. 

Well, that was my morning. I think it's important to talk about this. Maybe it will save lives in the future. I'd love to hear your ideas - please put them in the comments. Please share this as I hope it might get to someone who will take it further and maybe create something that will really help. 

Here is an ABCnews video about how to get out of a sinking car. There are others online if you look. You will see the value in trying to extend the time people have. There is no time to think if you are not already prepared.

Thanks

With love

Kerry

Monday, 13 March 2017

Reflection

"You haven't been writing," said my dear friend Christine, "so I've been going back and reading some of your old writing." I'm so humbled by this confession. So here I sit, having just showered at 12.30 on a public holiday. A beautiful day that I've taken little enough notice of. I've showered and dressed and now I'm sitting here and wondering what to write about. I love to write. It is joy. It is relief. It is celebration of life to me. Yet I've been cut off from this 'life-blood' because of life itself. How strange. Things I as yet choose not to write of. A conundrum. 

Perhaps this simple act of committing to write something will begin to stir my creative energy. I choose to trust that opening myself up just a little will allow my veins to carry this decision to each of my cells and bring healing and joy back to what has been crusty and shrivelling for too long. My life has been consumed for too long with itching and scaling and shedding and peeling and flaking and moisturising and weeping and fear that this affliction will be upon my skin forever. Yet I challenge that belief knowing that I, for years, was free of it. Eczema. It fills my waking moments. Every thought, every action is underlayed with constant irritation or pain. I grit my teeth and smile. Or cry.

I have allowed this to dull the pleasures I usually find in life. Is this depression? I don't know. My wellspring of joy is still there. It is there but it sits deep. It feels hard to reach. But the great thing is that I know it is still there. It needs me to nurture it. Anxiety creeps in. It was overwhelming when I went through the 'change of life'. Every breath a torment taken through a strange burning weight on my upper torso. For months. Perhaps years. I am strong. I got through that time. Now I am mostly free from my old fears. Or my hormones have settled enough that anxiety is a rare visitor and not a constant companion. Thank all things good for that. But it is back now. And I am tired. Of being uncomfortable.

You know, I had a bit of a revelation the other day. I realised I have been so focused on everything that has happened to bring the eczema back into my life. It started three years ago with a simple Asian dish containing prawns. Prawns are a trigger for me. But I didn't want to upset or disappoint the person who made their special dish for me. So I ate it. Of course, it was delicious. I enjoyed every mouthful. But it set the scene for three years of suffering. Because, strange though it may seem, after that it was one thing after another that seemed to not quite allow me to heal and be strong again. It's a little crazy. What is the lesson? Why did I allow this to go on for so long? And it led me then to consider, this revelation, what was I doing differently in all the years I was free of eczema. I will go back to doing those things and slowly my skin, and my life, will improve. Makes sense. 

It occurred to me that I have spent much of my life pleasing (or at least, trying to please) others. I have said things that were what I thought I was meant to say in certain circumstances. I feel so much like an actor on the stage of life that it sometimes seems utterly surreal. The end of my sixth decade on this planet, in this life, is fast approaching. Eighteen months away. And I feel as though I need to stop doing that. Saying what seems right. Doing what seems right. I feel as though I need to slow down enough to ask myself what I want to say and do. I need to listen to myself. My soul. And not the scripts that have been fed into me over my lifetime. I'm tired. Of filling a role. And yet even saying that feels somehow terribly wrong. But I know it's not. We've been duped.

This confession. Of weakness or struggle or not coping. It is barely the tip of the iceberg, but to be writing is good. I do not need you to know all of what has transpired. I just need you to know that I am back, albeit a little battered and scattered, ready to nurture my soul back into wholeness. Talking to you is part of that. Baring my soul, tortured though it is feeling right now, buried under a thick layer of what might be helplessness (but I am not sure yet). It is hard to do. I am scared. But I am also tired. And I need to find my energy for life again. 

Writing from a point of joy and wonder is what I love to do. It feels like I am gifting others with the same excitement I usually feel for life. Oh. My. God. It is so very wonderful. To be alive. To be me. I am grateful to have this experience of life and to know that in sharing my experience, it can help someone else to understand their own. How precious that is to me.

There is not much more for me to say right at this moment. I feel overwhelmed with my lack of doing. Yet I have not the energy to do. My sink sits full of dishes awaiting my attention. My old car waits to be sold. A generator waits for attention to get it going. I have not the tools to do it. I have a buyer for it. This is good. But he wants to see it going. Of course. Anxiety will leave as I get these things done and free myself from my list of to-dos. My hands play on the keyboard with their raw fingers and tragic appearance. This is what they want to do. Healing is mine. Wholeness is mine. I breathe and go on. The fog is thinning. Soon I will be able to see my path again.

Always with love

Soon with joy

Kerry

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Hands-On Happiness


Today was a day of treasures for me. Firstly I got myself up to town this morning, full of excitement, to meet up with a woman I had known 46 years ago at school. We have been in touch on Facebook for the past few years and as she lives in the United Kingdom, we have exchanged snail mail and had a few 'chats' online and that has been lovely. I knew she was visiting mainland Australia and hoped to come and visit Tasmania one day and then suddenly, out of the blue, came a message that she was coming to Hobart for the day with her sister, brother-in-law and one of their grandchildren. They planned to visit Salamanca Markets and would I be able to meet up for lunch. How exciting! 

So yes, today we met up for the first time in 46 years and it was wonderful. She is a treasure and I feel very lucky to have such a beautiful and caring friend. We shared stories about our lives, of course, and laughed and smiled at some memories...but best of all, we didn't run out of things to talk about and we'll be able to catch up again when she returns with her husband later this year. New friends are silver, old friends are gold. There is something precious about rekindling friendships from the past. Shared history and all that. It's really nice.

Too soon the time came for her to leave, but I had kind of made a plan to take myself on an artist's date to the museum with what remained of the afternoon. Julia Cameron speaks of the importance of a weekly artist's date to help unleash creativity, so I'm all for that! After a hurried farewell to the travellers who were heading up to Richmond on their way to the airport, I wandered over to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Ah, what a glorious place it is. Another priceless treasure that I have not visited in recent times. 

The cavernous interior, accessed via almost tunnel-like timber clad corridor, expands upwards and draws one into its mysteries with the beckoning of sight and curious sound. It's delectable to the senses. How can a person not be enthralled? It holds treasures too...and you never know what you might find! I had remembered hearing or reading something about a patterns exhibition and being a teacher of young children, patterns are of infinite interest. I was thrilled to find it was still showing and couldn't wait to see just what it might be. It was wonderful. More than I could have imagined. A feast of fun!

There were a number of people enjoying the exhibits and I asked them if I might photograph their hands to show what they were doing. I have included them here and must note that each individual was thoroughly engrossed in what they were doing and hardly paused to give me the okay. Hopefully they will look in some time and find their hands here. Hands-on happiness was what I saw. It was lovely to see and although I didn't make or do, I shared in my own way by recording it with a few snaps. Joyful time it was.
Collage on disc to go on spinning disc wall
Another collage disc underway
And one more. The discs could be put on a turn-table similar to a record player to see how the patterns looked when they were spinning. Many were mounted on vertical spinning turn-tables on the wall. It was pretty spectacular!
Two more sets of busy hands creating pattern art
There were calico bandannas ready to stencil with bright patterns
More hands working on another bandanna
The lovely Museum staff member who showed me how to make the amazing kaleidoscopes work. How fascinating they were, all along the wall and all different, changing as she moved her hand across the sensor.
This was part of a huge collage. I think I'd enjoy doing something like this one day!
The designer of the exhibition. How wonderful it must be to give people permission to play in this way!
Patterns in nature were not overlooked. There were many more beetles sporting vibrant metallic patterns as well as less gaudy examples such as spots on quolls to help camouflage them at night in the moonlight
 I'm not going to show you any more as if you are in Tasmania it will be much more fun for you to make your way along to the exhibition and have a look and a play for yourself. I'm so glad I went as I came away inspired and looking at patterns in a whole new way!

Right next door to the Pattern Bandits was another exhibition that drew me to wander through. Migrant Women...that should be interesting, I thought. I enjoyed looking at furniture and home decorating reminiscent of my early childhood and teen years. Eventually I found my way to a film booth and sat entranced for an hour listening to the stories of women who migrated to Tasmania during the 1940s, 50s & 60s. They had travelled as young women from England, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Poland. 

Their stories were fascinating and as they described the photos that they had carried carefully to their new lives in Australia, and those taken during the years after often to be sent home to families in their countries of origin, I noticed parallels between them and the photographs carefully hoarded in my own family. The familiarity was somehow shocking and comforting all at once. It gave me new insight into how it might have been for my own parents who migrated back in the early 60s. More treasures. Knowings. Understanding unfolding.


I remind myself that I can find treasures in all sorts of places when I take the time to go looking; to stop and watch and listen. It has been a most satisfying day. 

Where do you find treasure in your life? Are there places not too far from home that you've been meaning to visit, explore or revisit? I'd encourage you to get to it. Life is short. It is also pretty amazing if amazing is what you're looking for.

Oh, and if you're a local, do get into the TMAG - you won't be disappointed! ... and it's FREE!



With love

Kerry x

ps I did buy a book...one that told all about the patterns used in the exhibition...marked down to $9.95! A treasure and a bargain to boot!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Sharing Something Really Important

I've never done this before, but reading this article this morning, I found that the author has put my heart on paper. So I am sharing it here. 

In the Absence of a Village, Mothers Struggle Most

Every day the struggle is there. For a long time I have been saying that our society with it's insular family set-up...one house, two parents, x children, a dog and a cat...where they have only each other most of the time; it is unworkable. The stresses from trying to manage alone are overwhelming. It's a fairly lengthy article, but well worth a read.

Sharing with very much love to all the people out there who might not even realise it is a village they need. This is to let you know that you are not a failure but have been doing life in an impossible situation.

Be gentle with yourself. 

Find a village or make one. 

Everyone needs you.

And you need them.

Kerry x