Sunday, March 23, 2014

Betty & The Lake

I felt a little sorry for Betty and I could relate to her ordeal somewhat. I knew what it felt like to be misunderstood, to be judged too quickly. She had a history she could not share with me but it was what was inside that counted and I knew from the moment we met that she had more to her than her appearance.
17 years younger than I, her skin made her seem so much older than she really was.  Anyone would think she was at the end of her days.  She looked damaged and beaten up. Tired, used and neglected. The truth was, her heart was younger than her years.

Betty offered freedom and reliability and most of all, new opportunities. I cherished that she gave this to me. And I loved her for it. For this, I took great care of her.

She was only 14 and had hardly seen the world.  She’d travelled as far as the edge of her village perhaps once every few days and no further.

Today was our furthest adventure to date.  The drive was supposed to be easy.  Mostly just one road for miles and then a turn to the left, another turn and you were there. 

I liked how Betty had old school charm, boasting a cassette player that made me want to try and find all my cassettes from when I was a kid.  She was offering to make old things new and exciting again and this made me smile.

Alas, she didn’t have a Sat Nav though…

So we got lost.  I hadn’t really driven in years and when I did drive, I used to have a Satnav. This was old school and Betty, my beloved and newly acquired 1997 Excel didn’t have anything more than her cassette player let alone navigational assistance.  Hell, her windows are even manual.

It is true that when I was younger, I was nick named ‘sniffs’ by at least one friend, because I had no apparent sense of direction and it was said that I must just follow my nose, like a dog. Seeking out numerous paths before finally finding my destination.

So between Betty and I, we both perhaps lacked the technology and skill to adequately navigate to our final destination. Yet with perseverance, a few wrong turns will always eventually lead to the right direction.

It was my day off so I didn’t mind so much that the 25 minute drive had turned into an hour. Betty and I were content in each other’s company. The sun was shining and we were both humming along to “The Hits of Summer 88” on the cassette player.

This day was not only Betty and my longest drive together, but it was also going to be my longest run.  Yes, we were heading out to Lysterfield Lake, somewhere neither of us had ever been before so that I might attempt my longest run.

You see, I knew the roads and tracks around my house like a black ops military operative. The corner of Patty and Balcombe was the half-way point on a 2.5k run, the big tree at Charman was the 3 quarter mark and the railway was just about cool down time. Do it all twice and you came close to passing the 5k mark.

Knowing these way points so emphatically was perhaps not going to help me break any records.  I’d considered that knowing how far I had to go and the complete transparency on the run of what obstacles and challenges lay ahead might not be such a good thing.

So, I had decided to take my challenge to a path I’d never run before. Where all I could do is listen to the queues on my iPhone and run until it told me I could stop. 

The lake seemed enormous. It was like a sprawling sheet of glass and the early morning sun made it flicker a very dark green metallic colour, not unlike Betty’s skin when she might have been new.

Signs seemed to indicate varying distances around the lake which seemed odd.  Odder still was the time indicted to complete one lap seemed longer than your usual 5.5km walk which I couldn’t understand at first.

So, I started my warm up, walking past a few other walkers, the start of this track wasn’t quite what I had expected.  I’d assumed the track would run along the lake’s shore line yet from the onset, it had travelled off through the woods. 

As I started to run, about five minutes in, it occurred to me that the lake was no where to be seen. My legs were only just coming awake and shaking off their initial complaining as they warmed up.  I must have been turning the tail end of the lake by now and I had thought it was probably a very good thing that at this moment, I could not see the lake stretch out to my left.

Ten minutes in, the flat path started to gently rise and the gentle rise eased into a series of hills that came to punctuate the entire far side of the lake.  I’d not seen this when I arrived as the path is obscured by woods. 
These woods kept the lake hidden still.  What must have been half way around the lake, there had only been the rarest glimpse of water. This reminded me of times where I had run around Albert Park Lake and how I’d loathed it, because I could always see how far I still had to run.

For the first time in a long time, I was grateful for having no orientation, no sense of distance and a finish line that was completely out of sight. I had no choice but to let go of where the end might be and what might lie between this moment and the success I ran towards.

All I had was the next step, then the next and I could only give this my attention.  The path surprised me with hills and slopes I’d never have made myself face had I’d known they were there before I set out on my run.  The not knowing and uncertainty had become my greatest weapons in conquering this course.

There was a strength and a power that could be found in uncertainty and not knowing. I was immersed with an appreciation in this realisation and it brought about such relief and calmness for me.  I’d needed to feel this.

As I ran (shuffled) up yet another hill, I considered how perhaps where I’d spent so much energy on worrying about the unknown in life and the uncertainty, perhaps I’d been underestimating it’s place in ensuring success?

If we always knew where we had to end up, if the path before us was completely clear and we knew every obstacle and challenge we might have to face, would we still embark on that journey? If I think back over my life about all the journeys to success I have had, faced with them again, knowing what I was in for, I’d probably take Betty for a long drive off a short cliff.

‘The not knowing’ demands the best from us and allows us success on the hardest and longest of journeys as if forces us to focus not on the entirety of that journey but just today and this moment of it.

There is a power in uncertainty that, should you embrace it and come to know it, will fuel your success like nothing else can.

As I ran on, I felt a freedom and that new found power.  My theory which I had applied to this run, I realised can be carried over into all other journeys in life. Let uncertainty be your friend not your fear.

As I reached the dam in the lake, my IPhone sounded the end of my run and the beginning of my cool down.  My legs were burning.  I’d worked my backside off and I realised I’d just run further and certainly harder than ever before.  I was smiling like an idiot and I even got a little teary.

From the Dam, the lake finally had revealed its entirety.  It was huge and amazing. Little sailing boats looked like tiny butterflies kissing its surface far away.

Sure I’d be on a journey around that lake, but it was more than running.  I’d come to learn something so much more. Uncertainty is not what stops you, it’s what keeps you going.

As I made my way back to Betty, I considered the journeys I have made in life, even our journey to the lake.  Not knowing where I was going had never stopped me. 

Betty and I drove away from the lake and the cassette clicked and cackled into life. Bobby McFerin’s “Don’t worry, be happy” hit from 1988 came on and I knew exactly what he was singing about.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Eschatology of mine.

I remember those Late February days.  It was always bone cold.  God help me if the grey of everything didn’t just drown the world and suffocate us all in the process. This was London in late winter.
I remember so many times, I had looked into the sky for a sign that this drought of sunshine might be breaking. Endless months of this greyscale city. How I yearned for technicolour. 
The Sun might as well have shouted down to me, that it was not interested. It was the palest yellow, only just showing through a layer of cloud which, had I reached up and pulled it down, might have made the thickest duvet. God, I had wished I was safe beneath my own duvet still on those mornings.  No wonder the Sun didn’t want to let it go.  I knew how it felt. The only consolation was the warmth and hour-long bus ride from Clapham to Trafalgar Square that awaited me each morning. ‘What the hell was I doing here?’ We all thought this in February but the feeling would pass as the weather eased and London transformed from greys to greens and blues in Spring.
Winter in London was certainly a time of contemplating the uncertainty of life. What I had left behind in Melbourne.  What I might be missing. What would my life have been like if I had gone home, or perhaps never have had left at all?
I chose to catch the bus from Clapham all the way to work each morning.  I could take the Tube and save myself about 20 minutes, but I preferred to spare myself the drama of Brixton and the changing from bus to tube. Changing at Brixton interrupted my reading and my people watching and was all too much effort for that time in the morning.
In my red double decker bus, I would sit at the back, always on the right.  From here, I could see everything below me. I could watch without actually being immersed in daily migration of London’s millions on their way to work. Up here I was at safe distance from the chaos.
The Double Decker Armada bobbed and rolled, swayed and swerved along London’s rivers of asphalt, the tube stations serving as their ports and harbours along the way. My port of exit was Trafalgar Square.  From here, a short walk up Charing Cross Road and I was at work.
As the 159 to Westminster rolled into Brixton each morning, I would always imagine I was on a sailing boat.  The swaying and rolling of the top heavy vehicle was just enough that, should I close my eyes and turn up my music on my iPod, I could be back at home in Melbourne, on the bay in a sailing boat. I would close my eyes and imagine the gentle sun seeping into my face. I’d remember the smell of the sea, the sound of the water.   
I still remember the sense of connection and longing for the sea was magnified over my time away.  I missed it like a friend. I’d grown up on those beaches.  There were times where, as the storms rolled in, I would run down to the beach and feel the magnificence of being the only one on the entire beach, totally embraced by the power of the storms.
Sometimes it hurt to open my eyes and remember I was ten thousand miles from home.  No idea at all when I might be by the sea again.  My London days were perhaps the first where uncertainty and perhaps loneliness became familiar adversities on the road to learning to become a real adult.
Although I never stopped missing home, I never took for granted the accomplishment of my London life, my amazing job and colleagues. This city.
Each day, my journey to work took me past the stuff of children’s dreams.  Toy soldiers with black furry hats and red suits, palaces and cathedrals, dungeons, MI5, Ferris wheels and Big Ben. The childhood song, ‘pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been?’ I remembered it from when I was a child, I’d wondered too of the place were that Pussy Cat had been as a small child and here I was. This was it.
Winter in London might have pressed me, but nothing can compare to the pressure of uncertainty when I had first arrived…back then I’d have been thankful just to have a job and be able to pay for my bus ticket.
I had arrived in London so ill prepared. So na├»ve.  I was so quickly broke, unemployed and struggling to find a job in a strange country so very far away from home. I was determined to make this work though.  Besides, I was so broke I couldn’t go home if I had wanted to.
I had gone to London, having taken up an offer to work on cruise ships.  Training was in north London. After about a week, it didn’t at all seem like what I wanted to do and I was suddenly overcome with a raw realisation that being stuck on a ship for 12 months dealing with fussy tourists might not be as ideal as it once seemed.
I panicked and left with what little money I had left. Now stranded in London, scrambling to come up with a plan B, I phoned my brother in South London.  Devastated, feeling foolish and completely lost, I somehow made my way to the few people I knew in a house-share in South London occupied by my brother and a handful of his friends from back home.
For the first time in my life I knew uncertainty and it was devastating. I could only keep moving forward though. As full of fear as I was the path of uncertainty was the only one I could take. 
Those first few weeks, I came to know what it was like to really struggle.  There were those times when I considered whether I buy another can of mackerel or a bus ticket to a job interview. Eat, or invest the money in a trip across town for the possibility of work.
You see, mackerel was the cheapest form of nutrition you could possibly fit into one can for under 50p. Full of protein, vitamins, minerals and calcium and stinking to high heaven of cat food. I hated the taste and the god awful smell but thankful that I could survive on possibly £1.50 a day.  I found triumph in having established that as a matter of fact, the local corner store sold cans of mackerel for on 42p, about 8p less than everywhere else. This left me with 24p for some 2 minute noodles.
Thankfully my mackerel diet didn’t go on for too long.  I got my first job in London soon enough.  My job was to open mail.  That was it.  I sat with a knife and opened mail.  Insurance claims too, nothing worth reading at all.
Thankful for having an income, I would sit and open my mail, listen to the radio back home via the internet and contemplate the very uncertain future that would unravel before me.
After a few days, even with my imagination and ability to escape into my mind, the monotony of opening mail was starting to get the better of me.  I remembered though, that this wasn’t the worst job I’d ever had. 
My first ‘foot in the door’ to a real job as a kid had been at the local supermarket where I had begged them for six months for a job.  They finally relented and employed me to clean all the shelves in the supermarket one by one.  I took off every can and packet, cleaned the shelf and put everything back. The whole supermarket and every single shelf. But I did it and then they gave me a proper job serving customers.
Whenever I got bored, or started to complain to myself about opening the mail, I would remember that first job and the fact I didn’t have to eat mackerel anymore.
Thankfully my mail opening only lasted a week and then I was promoted to handling claims. I didn’t have many skills and didn’t really know what I was going to do as a career, but I had ambition and I had drive and I knew I was better than just opening mail.
I took what little experience I had from back home and packaged it together and re-positioned ‘my product’. I re-wrote my CV and marketed myself differently.    I soon landed a role as a HR advisor and fast forward 1 year later, I was working as a HR Manager in the West End for one of the world most famous retailers. 
I might not have always known where my life was heading. In fact much of my London experience can best be explained as ‘unpredictable’ but I had somehow made it work, somehow achieved a level of success.  In the end, the uncertainty I’d always felt perhaps didn’t deserve the attention and tears I’d given it. 
In my last days in London, I recall having a conversation with my Boss.  I had packed up my London life, I had but days to go and I was heading to Thailand for 4 months to immerse myself in the art of Muay Thai before finally heading home to Australia. I was excited and I was able to look back over my shoulder at the 4 years I had in London and I knew I had changed, and I had grown, and I had achieved everything I had ever wanted in this chapter of my life.
I had said, as my final days came to close and I looked back over all I had achieved in London, ‘I wish I hadn’t worried so much about the uncertainty.’ That my days in London had taught me that I had the raw materials to make it work, and that I would come to succeed anyway – as long as I had faith in myself, drive, determination and resilience.
That conversation, I embrace it at this time in my life like it’s the only buoy in an ocean of storms, the likes of which I let myself go in back home.
Now, many years later, I look back on my time in London with fond memories.  Sure they were hard sometimes, but I perhaps wish I’d had a little more faith in letting each day be its own and enjoying the time, not always worrying about tomorrow and the uncertainty.
Fast forward almost ten years and uncertainty still haunts me.  Overwhelming thoughts about what I should have achieved, the things I still need to do and see. As I sit here plagued with fears of uncertainty, I think about the first days in London, the mackerel, the red buses and how scared I’d been and it had all worked out in the end.
What I had in London was drive, ambition and determination.  I had those raw materials that lead you to success. I had lost those for some time, but I know I have found them again and although I have a long way to go and the path in uncertain, I know it’s not certainty that one needs to succeed, it’s the ability to take one’s path without it that truly matters.
I pray to hold onto my own private Eschatology. That I might not forget what I learnt as I left London.  That it is not the beginning or the end we need dwell on, but the path we walk each day. That we must walk it with uncertainty at our side, our fears at our back and the unknown in front of us. Then and only then might we walk in happiness and success with each step we take. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Everything I need to tell you

It was somewhere between sleep and my dreams.  That place where profound thoughts and the things that rest on the ocean floor of your mind come to the surface for that brief moment of time.  Perhaps 11pm maybe later. 

The ocean is a deep black like crude oil, a reflection of the midnight sky. It dances though. Small ripples make the starlight flicker across its surface, giving away the water from the sky.

As I lay there, those sea monsters brake the surface, ducking and diving, never really showing their heads, just their long black bodies and the spikes along their snake like spines. They tease me, brush past me and splash behind me.

I wondered why they were there. They only come when something is wrong.  And as I wake myself from my drowning, I come to know there is indeed something troubling me.
In the silence of my empty space, somewhere between this world and mine, I searched for the source of my trouble.

‘What’s wrong?’
“It hurts’?
‘In my chest’
As I explored this troubling feeling, that voice told me, ‘just say it, and they will go away.’
‘Say what’
‘Say everything you ever needed to say’

I can’t explain the sense of knowing that washed over me in that moment. I took a breath and disappeared. Floating away in my ocean and I fell asleep.

The next morning, when I woke, barely having climbed from my dreams, I found my notepad and at the top, I wrote something that was so profound, that my eyes became blurry with tears before I could finish.

At the top of my page I’d written “everything I need to tell you’.  What followed was a list of simple dot points. One-liners to myself. Some were statements, others admissions and some were fears.  Some were directed at myself, others were directed at the rest of the world.  The only thing they had in common were they were all brutally true.

As I wrote, all I knew was I needed to be totally honest and I just wrote them all down, no matter how silly, or weird.  

There were some that made me cry.  There were some that made me smile.  Then those that particularly made me anxious and perhaps some I cannot mention.

I’d had a very honest, perhaps confronting conversation with myself. I’d bombed that ocean with a light that exposed all my fears, things I needed to accept, things I needed to let go.

I’d like to tell you that this honest conversation and acknowledgement solved all my problems, but it didn't. If anything it perhaps just brought everything to the surface. A little like fishing with dynamite. All the fish come floating to the top…

What I can say though is that there was a sense of relief in the acknowledgement, some ability to grasp certain worries, and reign in some of those fears.

The ocean of my dreams is plentiful with the serpents of my fears. And those serpents grow and multiply in an ocean left not fished.

Some of those serpents might live to see another day. Slip through the net of hesitation and anxiety but I’ll keep on trying, and the more I try, the better fisherman I will become.

The thing is we all have a million things that swim around in our own private oceans between sleep and our dreams.  The only way I know how to harness them is to confront them, call them out, pull them out of the ocean, pin them to a specimen board –every single one of them. Big, small, those with gnashing teeth and spikes, and even the goldfish looking ones.

Sometimes I need to drain that ocean or at least pull those monsters out.  I need transparency and an acknowledgement of what actually is swimming around in there.

That ocean is mine alone, my serpents and goldfish. Of course I share my worries and perhaps some of the serpents with others, but those are the ones that are easy to catch – they float around the surface like fat slow gropers, just begging to be caught. It’s the bottom dwellers, the ones that come in the dark that I might only catch when I cast a net of honesty and bait it with the shattered remnants of hesitation, excuses and fear.

‘Everything I needed to tell you’ was a conversation I needed to have, and one I will continue to work on having more often with myself.

Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.” - ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I will strive to be master of my ocean and all that lies within its depths. Embracing the heart of my ocean. Poseidon, all conquering in my dreams.

Friday, January 3, 2014

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Be A Fat Walrus And Start the Year off Right.

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Searching for walruses – view of Beaumaris Beach from the Lfie Saving Club

I was panting like a dog in a hot car. My heart was thumping so fast, you could’ve wired me up to the grid and I’d have lit up half the town for the night. Huffing and puffing like I was actually giving birth to the New Year myself. 2014 was going to be my baby alright.  There might be pain, there might be some crying, why not some hyperventilating to add to the drama of this monumental event.
There were a few couples sitting on the table in the park by the shore, and a mob of teenagers huddled together in their swaying, drunken herd, everyone watching the curvature of the bay, its lights twinkling in anticipation of the year to come. A few premature bursts of fireworks went off like small contractions, just desperate to finally bring in the New Year.
It is about 11.58pm and I’d wondered if maybe I should have waited another minute before I started dashing off into the night like an idiot.  As I ran, the thought went through my mind that I run slower than an elephant. I’m not really built for this, in fact most animals would have mauled me to death if I were running for my life.  Then it occurred to me that even a Walrus, who actually doesn’t even have legs, he too would probably be able to out run me, but I might have a chance against a really fat pregnant walrus. With that thought in my mind, I raced along and finally, the cheers went up and the towns dotted around the bay exploded in light and magic. It was 2014 and I had run like a pregnant walrus, ran as hard as I could, right into the New Year.
As I stared into the night sky around the bay, I felt really different to most New Years’ Eve’s.  Most years, I felt sad and nostalgic.  This night usually reminded me of uncertainty, confusion and a yearning for happier times.  It highlighted that another year had come and gone and I had remained standing so very still.  Nothing had really been achieved, my life mean nothing, I was alone. Some years I would prefer to go to bed early so as to not have to deal with the reminder that yet another year had ticked on by and I remained the same.  That nothing had changed for me.  I was the human statue. But not anymore, I had a plan.  I’m on fire and 2014 is a buffet of opportunity and I’m a very hungry fat kid.
This morning, I woke up and I still felt buzzed about this New Year.  It was warmish, but overcast and threatening to rain. It was eerily quiet and dark even by 11am, as if the whole world was recovering from the birth of 2014 and had kept oh so quiet and tucked up in sleep.
Not me though, this was annoying. I felt at odds with the world.  Today was special, I was excited!  I wanted to do something extraordinary! Given it was warmish, I thought, ‘I am going to go to the beach and swim in the bay!’ It would be symbolic and wash away the past and bring in the new. Besides, I’d never done that before. Never had I gone swimming in the sea on January 1st.  I liked this idea, I had two new rituals. Two remarkable acts to herald the birth of this New Year.  I would now always run into the New Year and I would wash away my past mistakes and worries in the sea.
As I finished a few emails and got organised for the day, I noticed the temperature had dropped.  The weather had gone from ‘do not disturb’ and sleep-like to a beast slowly turning and waking. Maybe this was not such a great idea.
By the time I was ready to leave my house, I pondered whether, considering I was about to walk to the beach and dunk myself in the bay and get absolutely soaked, should I really bother taking an umbrella? I was only going to get wet anyway….
I had reached the beach and I was soaking wet even with the umbrella.  The rain was torrential. The beach, desolate. The water, still as the chest of a corpse. A desert of blue glass.  It wasn’t particularly cold or even windy.  Just extremely wet.
A desert of blue glass – photo doesn’t show the torrential rain…
As I marched the 50 metres from the steps to the water’s edge, I told myself, ‘just don’t stop – whatever you do, don’t stop and think about this buddy.  You are going to walk up, put your stuff down under your umbrella, strip off and dive into the water.
‘Standing still’ I had recently learnt meant not achieving anything. If I stopped to think about this I would procrastinate and come up with some Aristotle-like theory on why I should abandon this stupid Idea and get the hell home before I caught a cold. ‘Standing still’ was dangerous and destined to lead to backing down and not having achieved anything.
I’m a very shy person when it comes to being semi-naked or such in public but here I was, now knee deep in water, in my undies and then I dived in. My head went under and suddenly, before I knew what had happened, I was bathing in the bay on New Year ’s Day, in the pouring rain all by myself.
It was surprising. It was no colder in the sea than in the rain.  I paddled around in my blue glass desert all on my own with rain bucketing down on me. I felt electric, alive and crazy. This was outrageous! People would think I’m mad! Then, I knew in my heart with a profound sense of achievement, that this was what it was meant to be.  This is what ‘extraordinary’ feels like.  I’d accomplished my first extraordinary feat for the year.
It’s ok my friend, you are extraordinary…
As I clambered out of the water, far off down the beach I noticed some lifeguards sheltering under the club’s rooms.  They probably had their binoculars out, straining to see through the torrential rain, far down the beach and wondering, had a pregnant walrus just come out of the water and up onto the beach? I didn’t care.  I was elated. I felt like I’d cracked a code. It was the first day of the New Year and I had ‘ran’ into it, I didn’t stand still, I wouldn’t stand still. I ran like a fat pregnant walrus and I swam like one too and I knew, this year was going to be extraordinary.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Towards the Year of the Extraordinary

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A few weeks ago over coffee, a friend was telling me about some incredible stuff he had lined up for 2014.  He had a new, really exciting job amongst other things.  This guy’s on the B team, (B for Brodie - discussed in earlier blogs) so his success is a win for the team and this guy is kicking goals all over the place.  I was proud and excited about where things were going for him.

Then suddenly he stung me with the question 'What does 2014 have in store for me.' He’d just finished telling me about some amazing stuff he was up to in the New Year so, in contrast, this question caught me by surprise - my head went down, my eyes looked into my lap and I think in my state of mental-asphyxia I might have murmured 'I'm not sure'. 

I felt like I might have let myself down and perhaps my coffee companion.  The truth is I had a number of short term goals over the next month or so, but I didn’t have a firm vision for 2014. I really had no idea what I was going to do with work amongst other things and the burden of uncertainty had been weighing heavily, sometimes making me quite anxious about where my future was going.

Inspiration and motivation that can’t immediately be channelled in a particular direction is very frustrating and what goes on in my head in situations like this can somewhat be compared to letting off fireworks in a small locked room…and my brain is inside it. That small locked room I now call Cuber. I’ll explain in a minute.

I went home feeling a bit unsettled and anxious.  If only someone would tell me what to do. Lay it all out for me like an Ikea instruction manual and off I’d go.  I would promise to follow those damn instructions to the letter! Alan key and all, bring it on, I’d make it work no matter how many nuts and bolts were in that damn packet and how many were left over at the end. Just tell me what to do!

After a number of days of serious thought and about as many firecrackers going off in my brain perhaps equal to the arms stockpile of a small and angry communist country (Cuber, I mentioned ealrier not to be mistaken with Cuba – think square box here) I’d become bogged down in the tasks and independent goals I hoped to achieve.  This really frustrated me because some of the biggest goals… I had no idea how I was going to achieve them. For example – ‘I want a great job and earn lots of money’ What job? When? Is that fulfilling your calling? Will you be happy? These types of questions devastated my ambitions. I couldn’t overcome them and I was stuck.

I decided I was getting nowhere with my current thought process. Small angry communist country was winning. So what did I do? I stepped out of Cuber, I stepped outside the box.
So looking at Cuber from the outside, away from the distracting fireworks and obstructive dead ends– I was able to put aside all those questions, take a big step back, breathe really deep and have a conversation with myself that didn’t involve Cuber and its firework crisis.

The conversation went something like this:

“Ok, so you feel frustrated. Forgetting Cuber, where’s this all coming from?”

“I have fire, a determination, but I don’t know where to put it.”

“Sure, well first, let’s just chill out and take a moment to acknowledge how that in itself is a major achievement.  You didn’t have that 6 months ago my friend.  Remember? Look at how far you’ve come – you prayed for this moment buddy. You made this happen and what’s more, you are making this next step happen- that’s awesome man!”

“Yeah but I don’t know what to do. There’s a war going on in there!’ Points in general direction of Cuber…queue sound effects: explosions, missiles, box-heads running for their lives.

“Ok, so think really broad here – zoom right out on that google map my friend. When you go to write about 2014, what word would define that year – what’s it need to look like?’

“Well, now that you put it like that, if I’m going to be writing about it, it has to be interesting, or no one would want to read it.  My life needs to be worth reading about. Besides, I need writing material if I’m going to bring my passion to my life.”

“Ok so, what’s a word you would use to describe the type of year you want to have?”

“Well, it needs to be the opposite of ordinary. It needs to be Extraordinary!”

“Here he is! Ok, so you are complaining about the War in Cuber…”

“Yeah, I’m the President and even I can’t stop the missiles. It’s carnage I tell you.”

“But you can my friend, just zoom out. Don’t get down in there and get all dirty. Be up here, looking down from far away. See? No noise and you can’t see anything but pretty geens and blues. Everything’s clearer. Now, that you’ve done that, remember how you got this far my friend? You know the answer here my man…Remember? Remember the Chevy?”

“Oh crap…”

“No kidding – it’s the title of your blog…seriously man…”

And then ladies and gentlemen, it hit me. Here I was getting all giddy as a good Christian on cider battling the ‘ifs’, the ‘yeah buts’ and ‘what ifs’ – when I realised, I’d been on this same damned ride before…this was Stuckville, best buddy of Cuber. So damn entangled were they I hadn’t seen Stuckville hiding there.  Bloody sneaky Stuckville up to its old tricks.

Time to bring out the big guns…Operation ‘Kick start a chevy’…it didn’t fail me before…(Yeah yeah, I know you don’t ‘kick’ start cars but in this case it’s all about the kicking and shoving) When you don’t have the immediate answer, or know which direction to take, just move -take any! Just get that damned rig moving!  Even when there’s no engine – just push that beast!  “Just keep moving” don’t be paralysed by the war in Cuber.  If you fight that fight, you’ll be stuck in the trenches forever.  Move, don’t stop!

The key is, when you don’t know what direction to take, take any or all of them but never none. Never stand still. Opportunity and enlightenment are the children of experience. 

You’re not experiencing anything new if you are just standing still, and therefore you are not allowing the birth of opportunity and enlightenment. Action causes reaction and what happens as a result of your actions, will provide the ability to take further positive actions.
So then it struck me like lightening – do it all! The more I could get involved in, wherever I saw a stepping stone to move forward, I decided to take it.  I have no idea whatsoever where I will be or what I will be doing in pretty much all aspects of my life, but I do know, that success comes from seizing opportunity so take every last one you can –even if you can’t see where it is going.

I’m not saying abandon all sense of strategy and planning, but that will evolve as you start to move. Kick start that Chevy! As that old bastard gets momentum, you’ll find your plans really start to take on shape pretty quickly. You’ll be drawing progress charts all over your wall in no time.

As far as hoping someone else will tell you what to do, sorry there’s no Ikea instructions –that’s just not the answer.  No one can tell you how to live your life.  You have to make those decisions for yourself.

So I worked out, I had a vision for 2014.  It is going to be ‘the year of the extraordinary’ and all I have to do is fill my year with things that just aren’t ordinary or the usual for me. It’s a year of raising the bar, taking risks and pushing the boundaires.

It also means learning to leave Cuber and Stuckville behind – these are places for block-heads. Sometimes, the smarter we are and the more we think about things, we all end up becoming our own President of Cuber battling a war of ‘maybe’s, could of’s and what if’s’ and the train from Cuber goes express to Stuckville.  It’s exhausting, frustrating and achieves nothing. When you hear one of those obstructive phrases, take a big step in any given direction. Just never stand still.

Cuber and Stuckville are full of philosophers and deep thinkers.  If you are like me, you need to know when to reign that in an focus more on your actions rather than all those big questions. Keep it simple – just bloody move. 
In my next blog, I’m going to talk about how I took my vision ‘the year of the extraordinary’ and started to plan my year for success. Look forward to keeping you posted!!

As my life evolves, so too does my blog, and I am very proud to announce we are moving to a new blog site and title.
As the New Year lies before us, please come with me.  Jump on the site and subscribe – you’ll get an email confirming your subscription and you just hit yes.

I promise 2014 will be a trip, I’ll take you with me.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Put Back the Broccoli & Walk Away

I have a real problem with ‘Supermarkets’...I went into one yesterday just to buy my favourite bread (Taylors) and gave in and decided to purchase some other essentials - some broccoli, salad, ham...and the whole time I felt like I was walking around inside one big conspiracy. 
Why am I buying this ham that tastes like crap from this e-coli cabinet from some guy who clearly doesn't want to be there any more than I do?...Where is this broccoli from and what poor farmer has been bullied into producing it at the cheapest possible price by the Conspiracy Cube Company? I felt sorry for the poor farmer and put the broccoli back.
I usually buy my veggies at my local grocer - family owned, locally sourced produce and I buy in season, in our country. Sorry New Zealand, but I even turn you away! Avo's at $3.48 each in Woolies yesterday and they only had these New Zealand ones.  
I don't trust supermarkets.  There's about 10 isles of things no one should be consuming and the rest force you to purchase in excess of your needs and generously do their best to focus on price and value as opposed to your health, what you are doing for your community and your country. Two for $6 or 1 for $4 is not a bargain - you are getting ripped off for buying one, when you only need one. Buying ‘two’ forces excessive consumption and promotes gluttony. Not ethical shopping habits any of us need to be encouraged to embrace.  Bad for our health, bad for the environment.
It was the first time in a long time I'd been to Conspiracy Cube Co. (CCC) and I felt guilty, confused and had an overwhelming desire to purchase as little as possible - vowing to go back to my grocer.  In the end, I purchased my bread, having put other things back and left. Am I a new breed of consumer?
I buy my meat in bulk online once a month - it's ten times the quality of the supermarkets at equal to or better prices and they deliver it...The essentials and dry goods I also purchase monthly and online.  Perishables and fresh produce come from the local grocer down the road.  
I’ve discovered some key factors since changing my shopping habits some 12 months ago.  The first being you can actually have ‘better’ quality at a good price. Do some research online and find suppliers that are happy to give you wholesale prices for a monthly shop. Meat2U out at Tullamarine have a great, easy to use website for ordering and their meat and poultry makes a bloody mockery of the excuse for meat served up at CCC.  Scicluna’s in Mentone also do delivery runs, but I prefer to buy daily and their produce range is so much more diverse than the CCC and every single day, they deliver great quality fruit and veg at very competitive prices.  Yes, I’m on to it – I cross check their pricing against CCC still to this day because I can’t believe I can have a better shopping experience and better quality and range at the same, if not better pricing.
What I fail to understand is when people say they don’t have time to shop at more than one place.  In this day and age – that’s just not true. The majority of my shopping is done once a month and delivered to me. Apart from that, I might walk through Scicluans for some milk or veggies on my way home from work but that’s pretty much it.  I shop like this because I don’t have the time, nor do I want to spend the time, walking around in CCC.  That’s at least 2 hours of my weekend wasted.  It’s not an efficient use of time, promotes poor consumerism, used to cost me a fortune and is generally not a positive experience – I prefer to self-serve at the checkout, because the service is better!
For me, changing my shopping behaviour was about controlling my budget – shopping monthly allowed me to budget for the month. This then led on to finding that the quality was actually much better and it was a healthier way to shop. Not only were there no temptations but now I was supporting my neighbour’s businesses and family run shops.
This duopoly over our consumption feels so sinister to me. It’s only going in one direction really isn’t it?  CCC faces the challenge of driving up share pricing in an already over consuming environment. Any value they add to their shares is either coming from our pockets, or their suppliers. So we are either slowly paying more and more or the goods we buy are becoming cheaper and cheaper to produce – often through the use of synthetic fertilisers and other means which yield a lower nutritional product. 
Maybe it’s time we all got back in touch with our community, our land and our neighbours and started really challenging the way we shop. Go meet your local grocers and tell them you want to support them and if they don’t already offer the type of service you need, tell them, talk to them about it.
I truly believe that changing our shopping habits is an underlying opportunity to tackle some of our society’s key issues at the moment. Obesity, the environment, the lack of community and social engagement with our neighbours and even time spent with family.
Take the time to sit down and develop a domestic consumption strategy. Even develop a home mission statement for your family’s consumerism and identify key objectives to fulfilling that goal.  Then identify your suppliers and a shopping strategy that underpins those objectives if you really want to bring back good old fashioned home economics!
My point is, we are not controlling our consumption, and we are handing it to CCC on a platter. What we buy, what we eat, how we cook what we spend and even how much we buy is being dictated to us. It’s time to take back control and put the broccoli back.

Take back control and shop smarter for better health, for a better community and environment and you will wonder why you didn’t do it years ago!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Streets of Glory

There's a song I heard a long time ago now. It's called 'Streets of Glory' by the very beautiful Paloma Faith. This song tells a story that nestled into my consciousness like a leaf on a tree. It was just supposed to be there, in my soul tree. It told a story that unravelled over time, revealing more as I myself grew and found new levels of inner strength. 

 The song is said to be about leaving bad relationships and when I first heard it, it spoke to me of having a courage I did not at that time possess.  I admired the song and the singer for possessing a strength to move on, to protect herself, to know when to walk away.  What really imprinted on me though was this concept of perhaps one day being able to confront, or meet again with ones demons and be so free from them that they no longer get inside you. The lyrics were emotional for me to listen to and often conjured a sadness and aching somewhere in my chest.

Back then, when first I heard the song, not that I knew it at the time - but I had wanted to walk away too. I was frustrated and upset, shackled to my own demons. I went to sleep each night with my demons right there with me. They were so real, worse than monsters under the bed, these ones were there in the room with me and in my head, my heart and my body all at the same time. Some were there to taunt me, others to haunt me and some pretended to be my friends but they just wanted me all to themselves.  The more I cowered in their company, the worse I got. Their presence was so profound. At night as I would lie alone, but not alone, I would contemplate a lifetime like this and could I possibly bare it? I felt so trapped; unable to leave but unable to contemplate a lifetime like that.  I didn’t have the answers, couldn’t see a way out. 

The songstress sang with a determination, walking away from her demons and looking back, now at arm’s length from the darkness in her life. I wanted to applaud her.  She was a fictional hero and her little story in lyrics soothed me as I went to sleep. 

‘It may hurt to leave but it’s worse to hold your hand’. The point at which I came to know this was a very scary time, and I know of ‘hurt’ in more ways than I can count on two hands which I encountered along the way.

The Streets of Glory is a place where I might cross paths with my past and my old demons yet they won’t be able to hurt me anymore. It’s the crossroads like when you run into an x-lover and it’s doesn’t squeeze your heart like a lemon anymore.  It’s a chance meeting in the street with someone that caused you a lot of pain, and you no longer fear them.

The streets of Glory is a place where finally I am free and those things can’t hurt me anymore. ‘Maybe on the streets of Glory’, ‘maybe one day’ we might meet again and there will be no darkness anymore, no more pain.

I know now that to reach the streets of glory, I have to take more than just a few dimly lit alleys and it’s not just around the block. There are no shortcuts, no freeways and it might take time. Oh and there’s definitely no maps.  Yet, I would never reach those streets unless I made a choice to go there.  No one whisks you off your feet and takes you there.  Those streets are yours but that journey must be yours and you must take it for yourself.

As daunting as it sounds, I didn’t need to know how to get there, but I did need to say goodbye and turnaround.  Say goodbye to my demons and the people that have hurt me and turn around and walk the other way. The streets of glory are paved with the triumphs of my courage alone. Glittering with the light of my hopes and dreams.

For some of us, we hurt ourselves, our demons are within us.  For others, they are other people. ‘While we are flesh and blood and I still bleed; I know you are bad for me.’ I knew all too well so many things and people were bad for me. I let them in and let them walk all over me and they could have destroyed me; and I waited for someone to save me and no one came.  In the end, I came to know, I’d have to walk to those streets alone.

I will come to the Streets of Glory many times in my life time, and I will perhaps walk by the ghosts of my past and feel fearless and care free, but only if I continue to shrug off the darkness that clings to me by forgiving, sometimes forgetting, sometime letting go and sometimes saying goodbye. 

The sins of others are not my own and the judgments of others are not sins for me to wear.  To those who throw that cloak over my shoulders, I say goodbye ‘but maybe on the streets of glory, I’ll see you on the streets of glory, all those glittering streets,’ and I’ll smile as I walk on by.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ode to one from Coffin Bay

In the Smith one told me his whole life story. 
The cold hard salt and the dark saphire water its blood and glory, 
It left a prelude upon my tongue, and a truth upon that plate, 
A hundred souls submitted a hundred brothers to his same fate, 
From the waters of Coffin Bay to a moment on a street so High, 
It's shell is all that's left; his body past by the vesitbule of I,
I've not forgotten you, not forsaken you, just betrayed you, 
Yet I'll tell the world of you and who you really were, 
A penance paid for thee, ocean lilly, my sea fleur, I will tell your story.