Sleeping chimneys & trees without leaves

It was some weeks ago that I first wrote this post. And while case numbers are starting to drop and with that, restrictions starting to ease, at the time of writing this, Melbourne was in full Stage 4 lockdown. But even as we are starting to regain some sense of normalcy to our lives, my hope is that in sharing this piece, that you would still gain some encouragement from it.

While sitting out on my blacony, contemplating the title, image and more content for this post, I stared out across my neighbours rooftops. And there it was, just like those trees, many of us feel stripped bare of what we once knew as our routine, and our ‘normal’ everyday life. With hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, or reduced work hours, many people are beyond restless for something to do, for anything to do! Many are ‘feeling’ like the chimneys pictured: there but not being utilised in their purpose. Therefore, seemingly without purpose?

As a teenager growing up, the church I went to was (and still is) on Cant Road. In remembering this, it made me think . . . how many of us, in this current time of Covid19, are stuck on Cant Road, or maybe it feels more like being stuck in and unable to turn around to get out of Cant Court? (Yes, it is an actual court in Hilary’s WA).

While not wanting to minimise anyone’s situation or circumstances (because this storm is different for everyone), one thing that has helped me is to:

not look at what
I can’t do
this time.

but instead
to look at what
I can do
this time.

Not to look at it as:
But to look at it as:

For me it’s been an invitation to:
1) Sort, tidy, clean, re-organise and cull all the unnecessary clutter in the spaces and places within my apartment that I never get around to doing, or that just need doing again. It’s amazing that in doing all that, it unclutters my headspace and my heart space as well.
2) Start an online book club with a small group of friends. That’s my way of working through the ‘unread but still want to read’ books on my bookshelf. It’s also another pre-arranged point of connecting with friends, which is especially important for those of us who live alone. Although I must say now that I am allowed a ‘bubble buddy,’ the day I just spent with a friend and her Miss 7 was the ‘BEST DAY EVER’ in several months!
3) Do something crafty. So I am revisiting days from many years past, and experimenting at making cards again. Because in these times, encouragement is one thing everyone is in need of . . . and handmade cards . . . well I think they’re extra special and unique.
4) Write a chapter for another collaborative book. This has since been submitted, edited, and is now in the final stages before being proof read.
And last of all, my favourite achievement this far has been 5) in being able to continue doing a course that has helped me deal with difficult ‘life experience’ from my past, so that it doesn’t continue to negatively impact and influence my present, and also my future. Thanks to technology, this course was converted to an online platform, and as a result I’ve been able to complete three more units, leaving just one more unit til its completion.
But they are just my experiences, as examples that will maybe stir your thoughts to discover your own ideas as to what you may choose to do with this time.

Over the past several months, I’ve also felt the need to keep a check on my language both in my thinking and in my speaking. From can & can’t to will & won’t. In choosing not to look at what I can’t do, I then choose to see opportunities in what I can do. Out of those options that I can do, the choice is then mine as to what I decide I will and won’t do.

Here’s an example of mine:
I can apply wisdom in line with Covid safe practice, to do all that I can to minimise my risk of exposure. After that the rest is outside of my control, and so comes my will and my won’t:
I will exercise my faith in my higher power – God, to look after me through this time, whatever that journey looks like.
I won’t give in to fear and worry. As that just starts the anxiety ball rolling . . . suppressing my immune system making me more susceptible to illness, which is the opposite of what I (or any of us) need in this time. What positive effect does worrying achieve anyway?

I continue to be determined that I will come out of this as a better person for the experience, and not bitter from the experience. I will seek to do that which supports and builds not only myself, but also those that I interact with. And while being aware of the reality of life as it currently is, and all that is happening during this time, I won’t allow my eyes and ears to go to spaces and places that put my mind at risk of falling in, to be caught up in the hype and chaos of mainstream media.

So if you are feeling like a tree stripped bare, or a chimney without purpose, know this, that our feelings are unreliable and ever changing, as they come and go. Trees change through each season, and chimneys are utilised for a reason. As I reflect on the season of Winter when deciduous trees go in to a dormant state (like hibernation), it is in this same season that the chimney finds its purpose. But it’s only a well-functioning chimney that can direct the smoke away from the fireplace, and out of the house. While some things are going into hibernation, others have a fire burning beneath them that in turn requires them to fulfill their function.

So while we can’t control the seasons, weather related or otherwise, as much as is in our capacity to do so, rather than being trees in hibernation, let us seek to be (for ourselves and for those around us) well-functioning chimneys that direct the smoke of anxiety, fear and stress away from the ‘fireplace’ that is Covid19, isolation and all its restrictions.

Like smoke billowing out the top of the chimney,
As if the house is raising its hand to say:
“Pick me Pick me!”
Choose to be a chimney!
(Adapted from words of Sere Prince Halverson)

And in writing about chimneys I just couldn’t go past a Dick Van Dyke classic, one of my childhood favourites: Mary Poppins. As Bert the chimney sweep sings:

Good luck will rub off when
I shakes ‘ands with you,
or blow me a kiss
and that’s lucky too.

While there’s currently no shaking of hands, and blowing a kiss is hidden by a face mask, transference of ‘good luck’ (if that’s your belief) from one to another would seem to be blocked. So I’ve come up with my own version as a self reminder to ensure that:

A blessing rubs off when
I hangs out with you,
An encouraging word
that’s a blessing too!

And so I conclude this post with:
Chim Chiminey,
Chim chim cher-ee
Chim cher-oo!

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