helenpowellpens: Inspired stories that draw on a reflective perspective out of real life experiences or object analogies.
8boxes: My own personal adventures while serving in Africa. Funny stories and the hard stories. Come on the trip with me (through my posts). You'll love it!
Some years back now, somewhere on my journey of managing and navigating a diagnosis of depression, I came across an @ and an & in wood, painted white just like these ones sitting on a shelf in an Op Shop. (I’ve just bought and painted these to replace their weather damaged predescessors). At the time of the initial purchase, I knew immediately what they were both about! They were a team, a duo, a double whammy, to become tools in my toolbox of mental health resources as they spoke to me with:
” Where are you @ ,
& What are you doing about it? “
These became like a self-care check point as part of my balcony garden. Not only was it a check point, but it was also a challenge to take responsibility for where I was @ in that moment, & to take action to make any necessary changes. I think it was also a gentle reminder that where I was @ was not the end of the sentence (or my life itself), but merely a comma, a pause, time to think and then consider the next part of the question. Sometimes that meant getting up right there and then to do something creative to change my head space, going for a walk, or whatever task I could pick to create the shift. Other times it meant asserting a boundary with someone. Nowadays it’s more about celebrating where I am @ & ensuring I’m doing what I need to do to stay on track. Either way, wherever I am @, I am the only one that can do something about that for me.
Put the @ and the & together and you get:’@&” or ‘atand’ . . . and a word comes to mind: Atacand. It’s from my nursing background. It’s a medication used in the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure, also called Candesartan. You may or may not know it? You may even be on it?
For me, I believe my diagnosis of depression stemmed from a heart issue. Not my physical heart, but my emotional heart. And so it is no surprise to me, that I find myself here connecting my @ and my & with a word that is indeed medication for issues of the heart.
The analysis continues as my mind pulls the word ‘Atacand’ apart: between the ‘at and the ‘and’ we have two letters: ‘ac’. Knowing the way in which my brain pulls things apart to analyse, to see if there’s any meaning in the smallest of details, I wonder where will this one lead? My first thought is probably the same as yours – ‘air con’ but I decided to google ‘ac’ just to see and I was reminded of ‘alternating current’ – a type of electrical current in which the current repeatedly changes direction.
How true it is:
That my @ and my & are like a current repeatedly changing direction.
Where I am @ can determine what I am doing.
& What I am doing can determine where I am @
So it’s equally important to monoitor both ends of the current.
For some unknown reason, after arriving home having parked in my carport, I often find myself sitting in my car scrolling through my phone, or just staring out my windscreen. I think maybe it’s the feeling of warmth within that enclosed space of my car that holds me there (me being the cold ‘bod’ that I am), I don’t know. But in recent weeks, I have found it to be a space where stories begin. And that’s how this story came about . . .
As I sat in my car, staring out through my windscreen across my driveway at the pencil pine tree that stands opposite my car space, this is what I saw:
And for all the times I’ve sat and stared at this space, today was the first time I actually saw what I was staring at. A smaller ivy like plant has sprouted, and with its large leaves has connected with and started intertwining amongst the much bigger pencil pine. And I ‘felt’ the words:
“Those you stand closely beside, you ultimately grow and intertwine with.”
And I was reminded of something I once read about how our brain chemistry literally changes based on our interactions. And I thought again of the importance of making sure our key connections are with people who result in positive ‘brain changes’ for us, which then ultimately impacts our mental health. This in turn is an influence on our choices for who we are as a whole being which in turn then impacts our life and potentially our overall health.
I found myself intrigued by the large green leaves of Ivy and how they have woven in amongst the branches and spindle like needles of Pencil Pine. And my thoughts went to that of a Christmas tree with Ivy being like a decoration on Pencil Pine.
And again the analogy grew, not that our connections should ‘decorate us’ but I think in some ways the healthy ones do exactly that, as they bring out the best in us, making us shine as better versions of ourselves.
So here we have two healthy plants growing alongside each other, so closely side by side, that one was now growing into the other. But then I noticed some areas of darker growth on Pencil Pine lower down at the base. Getting out of my car to check it out up close, I noticed there is quite a bit of dead undergrowth.
And so the anology continued to grow . . . while our connections may look healthy on the surface, what about those hidden parts? Is there dead (or dying) growth at the foundation?
In any and every relational connection, whether I’m Ivy or Pencil Pine (or anywhere in between) I continue to challenge myself as to:
Who am I ‘intertwining with? Who am I ‘attaching’ myself to? Who is ‘attaching’ themselves to me? Is it healthy? Is it in line with brain chemistry changes that will benefit me, and also benefit them?
And so, especially in this time when connection is limited and yet so vitally important, I encourage you to consider your own connections and to pursue those that benefit your mental health. Those that result in supporting and developing a better version of you, and the ‘you’ that you seek to be.
Yesterday while out getting some groceries, I stopped to support my local (and my hunger) in buying a chai and a muffin for breakfast.
In looking for a place to rest my chai so I could enjoy that muffin, before continuing on with my grocery shopping, I eventually found an empty bench seat. But on such a nice, warm, sunny day, my bench seat, the only one I could find space on, was in the shade. So I stood eating, while staring out across the road at the sunshine on the other side of the street, wishing there was a seat over there, or even just a ledge to put my cup on, so that I could stand in the sun, rather than just look at it.
As I bent down to pick up my chai for a drink, I noticed a lady (maybe in her 70’s) had sat down on ‘my bench’, with the seat of her 4 wheel walker carrying a couple of grocery bags.
So I said “Hello” and started a conversation. In just a few minutes I learnt that this was the first time out of her house in 2 months. She lives alone & didn’t know about the ‘bubble buddy’ system. Now she does.
I asked her how she’s been filling her days: She loves to play cards and board games, but of course she has noone to play them with. So she plays a lot of patience.
She’s recently finished chemotherapy treatment and is now in remission. That’s why she took a seat – to rest for a breather (as the chemo has resulted in some heart failure), before continuing on to the train station.
I’m now so very thankful that I couldn’t find a seat in the sun, because I believe this seat in the shade on the way to the train station was meant for ‘Nola’ and I to share those minutes of connection. That I would have the opportunity to chat with her, encourage her, and bless her as she went on her way. In the days to come I hope she sits back with her much loved cup of tea, and reflects on our conversation.
My high school motto was ‘carpe diem’ (seize the day).
In these days especially: I’m lookingtosee the opportunity, and seize it. Because I’m blessed to be a blessing!
Sometimes we don’t get what we wanted. Because if we did, then someone else wouldn’t get what they needed.
Christmas has been a long time coming . . . and while I don’t usually have a Christmas tree, I do have a ceramic nativity set I painted as a project with two friends, some 25 years ago.
But for a couple of months now, I’ve had the idea that I would like something resembling the symbol of a Christmas tree, but with more of a rustic feel: I like the idea of a tree branch to stand decorated in one corner of my lounge room.
So I asked around a couple of friends, and was told of some public land I could explore for a little ‘seek and may you find’ adventure. So that was my Sunday afternoon adventure a couple of weeks ago . . . at the end of a winding road, with only a couple of houses, I pulled up at a locked gate, accessing the public property by carefully sliding between the locked gate and what looked like an electric fence.
Walking along the track, scanning the area for a suitable branch, I came a cross a tree with some fallen branches, some still attached to the tree, others completely broken free. After careful inspection for undesired company, I pulled on the end of one branch, separating it out from the other fallen branches and all their dead foliage. This would be the piece!
After trimming the branch of all its dead foliage and many of its finer twigs in order to remove the excess, I carried it to the car. Should I paint it silver? No, on closer inspection I like the colouring of the wood in its reds and browns and even some black areas, as if it’s been struck by fire at some time, but it all adds to the overall look.
And so we have the Christmas branch:
In thinking of a tree, every branch has its own ‘reach’ out from the trunk, be it primarily so, or secondary, via another branch. A branch only has the reach that it has by way of its growth and the strength with which it extends out from the trunk. While much of the tree was still standing, some of those branches that had fallen (like this one) were completely separate from the trunk, while others though fallen, were still attached to the trunk. And just like this piece I bought home, some branches are still marked by fires experienced in years past.
This year of 2020 and Covid19 has been like that of a ‘through the fire’ experience for all of us in different ways, but some more significantly so than others. And not forgetting or diminishing the actual fires that devastated so many towns just prior to what ‘they’ call a pandemic, 2020 is one we won’t forget.
So in this Christmas season, but at any time really, I encourage us all to consider : Where are we on the tree? Are we still strong and attached? Or are we still just barely hanging on to some degree? Or maybe we are one of the fallen, completely separated from the trunk?
If you are somehow ‘faliing’ or ‘fallen’ and needing to reach up to someone, make the reach that you can, where you can, however you can. Seek to find your trunk again. Whether that’s by reconnecting back in to a space or a place you were, or in finding a new space and place of connection. But don’t let disconnection be the thing that blocks you from moving forward to discovering your next adventure.
My fallen tree branch is now a Christmas branch, so what more for you? Just because you disconnected, doesn’t mean it’s all over!
If you are one that is still strong and attached to the trunk, then I encourage us to consider the extent of our reach out to those who may be in need. Those whose shadow we are under, those we shadow over, and wherever else we have the ability to reach. What do we have to reach out with? (without over extending ourselves financially or emotionally, how can we reach out beyond ourselves, to look out for another?) Who can we reach out to? (that our words and actions might have influence for both good and God.)
Don’t breach your reach (but with the capacity that you have, do something) But reach your preach! (that you would encourage and bless someone in need)
As I contemplated about what to share today, I had no idea other than to look through some of those analogies sitting in a folder on my laptop that I have not yet posted. But first it’s time for breakfast, and in making the decision to have it in my local cafe (as opposed to my original plan of take away), I spent that time replying to a message from a friend.
As the music played in the background, along with the muffled sounds of cafe activity as breakfast preparations were going on, and the sound of the coffee machine doing its thing, I was deep in thought with our conversation back and forth via sms, as I wrote about my current feelings of ‘indecision.’ The result of that conversation led me here . . .
Indecision is a % ! * & # ! When you don’t know what to do, because you want to do it right, but you can’t decide which is the right way to go with it, and so you don’t do anything. But to not do anything is in itself, a decision. And at the root of that indecisive decision is fear. I know it well. Fear of so many things, but ultimately fear of failing at what I set out to do. And yet, to stay in that place of indecision, is in itself setting myself up for the very thing that I fear: to fail.
Obviously, I don’t know what your battle is with, but for me it’s a lack of belief in myself to be able to do it, to be able to learn it, to be able to remember it, and ultimately to be able to know it and retain it for future reference. Then if I overcome all of that, what if it doesn’t work? What if it doesn’t go anywhere? What if I invested all that money, time and effort for nothing? And so I don’t do any of it. Or maybe I might start, but then I’m not consistent enough in order to see the results I hope to see come to pass. And so I self-sabotage, thereby ensuring my efforts fail . . . and it all becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, that what I’ve already invested was indeed a waste of money, time and effort. OMG ! ! ! Isn’t that all very discouraging and depressing ! ! ! Or as I learnt while living in Uganda Africa:
. . . and so the word that keeps coming to mind over the last couple of days through prayer and meditation is this: ENOUGH !
I am ENOUGH! As a woman of faith: God is ENOUGH! So ENOUGH of doubting, procrastinating, and anything else that holds me back. It’s time for ‘doubting Thomasina’ to move out. It’s time to recognise FEAR for what it is: False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s time to stop FEAR ruling my decisions as it convinces me to Flick Everything And Run. It’s time to stand up and back myself first, believing that it is (and I am) worth the money, time and effort to at least see what happens when I give it my best shot.
In my pursuit to Face Everything And . . . there are so many amazing ‘R’ words to encourage and inspire me in to action so that I can see what might happen when I Face Everything And Run with (not away from) what I have in mind to do . . . And in doing so: FEAR becomes an acronym for:
Face Everything And Release (the power of indecision). Face Everything And Realise (the potential within). Face Everything And Recognise (the achievements). Face Everything And Reveal (endless possibilities). Face Everything And Rise (to each challenge). Face Everything And Reign (over fear itself). Face Everything And Rejoice (in success, whatever that may look like).
For me specifically, I like that as part of my journey in pursuing my ‘crafts’ in writing and essential oils, that list of ‘R’s also extends to include: Face Everything And Rehabilitate Face Everything And Repair Face Everything And Restore . . . each of which has already been evident in my own life and expressed in feedback from many of my readers and also my clients. That is the (Face Everything And) Reason why I initially started on this journey . . . because I saw the (Face Everything And) Results that it bought forth in my own life, that I then believed by sharing my story, my knowledge, and my experience, that it could also move beyond myself, to helping others.
So be encouraged, whatever it is that you FEAR to do:
Just do it!
And one more thought, even better still:
Faith it! as you Face it! Because I’ve heard it said: the opposite of faith is not doubt or unbelief, but in fact fear!
And with that comes another thought . . . while I was never a fan of George Michael, I did like his song ‘Faith’ released in 1987. While the song and video clip obviously have nothing to do with faith in God, as I read the lyrics and listen to the words, it’s a step back in time. But for the purpose of this analogy, I think ‘Baby’ that he refers to here, can be interpreted as being fear itself in physical form.
Here’s an extract of the words from the original lyrics:
Well, I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body I know not everybody has a body like you But I gotta think twice before I give my heart away And I know all the games you play because I played them too.
Oh, but I need some time off from that emotion Time to pick my heart up off the floor Oh, when that love comes down without devotion Well, it takes a strong man baby But I’m showin’ you the door.
Cause I gotta have faith I gotta have faith Because I gotta have faith, faith, faith I got to have faith, faith, faith.
Baby, I know you’re askin’ me to stay Say “Please, please, please don’t go away” You say I’m givin’ you the blues Maybe you mean every word you say Can’t help but think of yesterday And another who tied me down to loverboy rules.
Before this river becomes an ocean Before you throw my heart back on the floor Oh, baby, I reconsider my foolish notion Well, I need someone to hold me but I’ll wait for something more.
I’ll just have to wait Because I’ve gotta have faith I gotta have faith I’ve got to, got to, got to have faith
There is definitely no other body like that of fear, and many of us have our hands all over it, or rather fear has its hands all over us. And still we think twice (or not at all) before giving our heart away to it. Even though we know its tactical games, we can still find ourselves falling in to join with fear in its pursuit to pull us down.
There is no love or devotion in fear, thus the need of time off from its emotion, to be able to pick our heart up off the floor from where fear threw it. But fear doesn’t let go easily, of course it wants us to stay by its side, even though it’s giving us the blues, making us believe every word it says, as it reminds us of yesterday. And yet we allow it to tie us down in all its limiting rules. We sleep with fear like it’s the love of our life, when really it shouldn’t even be a fling. All of that is reason enough as to why we really do need to be strong, and show fear the door.
If we allow it, fear that started as a river then grows to become an ocean, throwing our heart back on the floor (even deeper, crashing us under what started as a trickle has now become waves), UNLESS we reconsider the foolish notion of fear, and in refusing to hold on to it, choose to wait as we push through fear, for (that) something more. As we seek the faith that we want and desire to have, and actually need to have, in our pursuit for something more, sometimes it’s a matter of repeatedly and emphatically saying the words out loud: “I got to have faith!” in order to remind ourselves to persistently pursue that faith and what we desire to see.
In the video clip George is wearing a black leather jacket with ‘Revenge‘ (in white) on the back. So it stands as a matter of black and white (haha), obvious for all to see, except (in the case of fear) sometimes for ourselves. But as you read above, now knowing all that fear holds us back from, how is it we can still stand so closely by its side? I think we could do with taking some REVENGE on fear and all that we allow it to stop us from accomplishing in life. So . . .
In following on from last week’s story by my young friend Camila Miranda (if you haven’t already, check it out), because while I don’t claim to know anything about the psychology of children’s minds, I found this conversation that followed, very enlightening into her thinking and processing of this current time declared as a pandemic.
In talking to Camila about her story and how it came to be she explained it like this: “A lot of movies are about going on a mission, so this would also be a story about going on a mission.”
When I asked her how each of her characters came to be who they are, she replied with this:
The bear in the cave featured because of a movie she watched about bears hiding a crystal ball (that held the control of the water supply) in a cave. And the ‘magic note’ was just an idea that she used as the messenger who had known the world before it lost its emotions and colours.
When it came to asking how she came up with the storyline, she seemed a bit coy and couldn’t answer, so I ‘broke the ice’ with “It reminds me of now and how things are with the corona virus.” She smiled sheepishly. I asked her who would the bear be? She replied: “The virus.” And if each of the characters are people, then who would she like to be? Camila replied: “I would like to be Honey Flower distracting the bear with my pot of delicious honey so people can find their emotions and colour again.” And how would you do this? I asked her. “By helping people to know the right thing to do.” she answered.
I love her characters and their various roles. And so this is what I came away with: Daisy the Flower was the leader who reached for the ‘magic note’ and took up the challenge. We all need a ‘magic note’, to remind us how things used to be, what we need to get back, and to warn us if they see any traps involved in the process. Then we all need friends that we can call on, who will journey with us on our mission. Just like Daisy the Flower and her friends, we need to be careful of the traps, but not be afraid of the dark. Grab a torch and shine a light into it, and see what you find . . . Use your gifts: if you’re a torch, be a torch. If you make delicious honey, then make delicious honey. Raspberry Tree was the rescuer! Be a rescuer (so long as you’re fit and healthy for the task), because at some point in life, we all need to be rescued. While Raspberry Tree rescued Emotion Rock knowing its purpose to restore emotions and colours to the world, we don’t always know the purpose of the person that we rescue from their cave, whatever that looks like. But in my experience, wherever there’s a rescue story, there’s a comeback story to follow. What a comeback story for Emotion Rock and its purpose!
In reading how Daisy reached, Honey Flower set the scent of the environment, Yellow Hairy Torch shone, and Raspberry Tree rescued . . .it kind of reads like 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 Verse 6, that we all have our own part to play in life. And in Camila’s story, it was because of each other that they each got to play the parts that they did in the rescue of Emotion Rock.
And then the story concludes with friends experiencing the joy of spreading all the emotions and colours of Emotion Rock around. I’m thinking that moment would look like (and feel like) everyone in a ‘colour explosion’ fundraiser fun run.
But wait! There’s more . . .
While I was busy capturing her words, young Camila presented me with another picture she had drawn on a post it note as we were talking. When I asked her to tell me about it she said it is a rainbow tornado. When I asked her to tell me more, she said: “Well it started out as a rainbow cup, but then it didn’t really work, and so I started doing this bit going around and around (the black at the mouth of the cup) and then it became a tornado taking all the colours out of the world!”
Same same (message), but different. Again, I find it interesting that she started out drawing something that we fill, only to feel that it wasn’t working out, so it became something that takes away as it destroys. Something that was going to add to the colour in our world, became the theft of colour from our world.
Isn’t this how many are feeling in regards to this year of 2020? A year with so much promise of what we would put into it, a year of vision, 2020 vision, only to see none of it working out, to becoming something that has taken away so much in its path of destruction, leaving many of us feeling void of our emotions and colours.
Two stories: Choosing to do something, an element of taking control. OR Total chaos and destruction Completely out of control.
But not wanting to finish on such a gloomy note. Here’s a few thoughts I’ve considered: 1) Could it be that this year has been one of bringing 2020 vision, just not in the way that we thought it would? And for all its devastating losses, maybe the reason as to why (which we may never know), is still completely unclear, because we’re not yet in a place (on the other side of it) to be able to see it with the perspective of true 20/20 vision yet. 2) Using what we have within us, how can we each be one of Camila’s story characters in someone’s day? Through reaching out, joining with on a mission, to pack some supplies, to shine a light in a cave, to sweeten a ‘sad and grey’ day, to help someone come out of their cave, that they might rediscover emotions and colours they once knew. 3) And last of all, in as much as is possible, to be one that does what we can to flip someone’s rainbow torpedo upside down, but right side up, to that of a rainbow cup. That our words and actions would be like bursts of colour in someone’s world.
I love this story by a friend’s daughter: Miss 7. It is the result of our hanging out under iso restrictions, by way of a weekly walk for an hour of exercise. We started this idea of finding 5 things that fit into a small box, to then create a story out of them. NB: in editing Miss 7’s story, it was an insightful lesson for me as to how my own editors might feel when I as an author want to keep a sentence a certain way, but they see a better way. So through the process of discussion, I was allowed to expand (a word here and there) on the original story for the purpose of clarifying context, thereby making it an easier read. And then so as to honour the way Miss 7 wanted her story to be read, I had to put aside my own OCD-ness (and as my editors do with me) love that she is comfortable enough to be able to say: “No, I want to leave it like that.” And so I did. Here’s her story . . . .
Problem: They have to find Emotion Rock Solution: If they find the rock the world would feel emotions. Setting: cave, woods. Characters: Raspberry Tree, Daisy the Flower, Emotion Rock, Yellow Hairy Torch, and Honey Flower.
Once upon a time there was a mad world with no emotions and colours. People were sad and grey, which was not good.
One day Daisy the Flower was walking down the hill and caught a magic note flying around the air and it said out loud: “You need to go on a mission to make the world happy and with colours, but you need back up. So you need to find Emotion Rock. It is in the one and only cave, but be careful because there are traps. Do you want to save the world?”
So Daisy the Flower went to get her friends Raspberry Tree and Honey Flower as her back up to go on the mission. They packed some supplies and began their mission. Then they walked through the forest and found the deep dark cave. Daisy the Flower took Yellow Hairy Torch and they all looked around the deep dark cave. But they had to be careful because just as the magic note had said, there were a lot of traps.
Then they saw Emotion Rock and it was beautiful, but there was a giant bear lying between them. But he was sleeping. So Honey Flower distracted the giant bear with a pot of her delicious honey, and he continued to sleep (as the pot of honey sat by his nose), licking his lips dreaming he was eating it. This gave Raspberry Tree the time needed to get Emotion Rock and then get out of the cave.
Then they spread all the emotions and colours of Emotion Rock around the world. The world was happy and with colours for one more time.
The End !
Check out next week’s post to read about the conversation I had with Camila as we explored her ideas behind her story, and what that revealed . . .
A couple of weeks ago I shared about a zoom chat with my Master 6. He had told me about being nervous at going back to school, and that he didn’t really want to go back. He couldn’t articulate why, other than that he liked being at home with mum. So we talked a bit about his school friends and remembering the fun times they had shared earlier in the year. I had hoped this would serve to encourage him and reduce his nerves about the prospect of school.
It was after that conversation and feeling like I lacked giving him a tangible solution, that I was challenged to consider my own feelings about coming out of isolation as the restrictions ease. While we don’t always have/or have to have ‘something tangible’ for everything as we seek to help another, I think at times (in my experience anyway) that sometimes we are unable to ‘help’ because of our own challenge with the topic or situation at hand. And so I considered this thought: of how the benefits of being an essential worker, having a few friends in my 5km radius, and now having a Bubble Buddy, I feel quite blessed. But then I wonder about returning to bigger environments, higher demands on my time, and how to redistribute the allocation of what (and even who) is an important priority to utilise my time for.
Over the course of time, some restrictions have become quite convenient, while others are far too restrictive and inconvenient. For some, we’re quite happy to have the excuse to stay at home on Friday night, rather than having to make the effort to go out. But then on the other hand it would also be great to be able to catch up in person for some direct social interaction with all those who are significant in our world.
After several months of living under these restrictions, I think it’s going to require of us a new energy and a new effort, to find a ‘healthy state’ (pardon the pun) of interaction again. While ‘iso’ has shown us some things we don’t really need and can therefore continue to do without, there are other things we will need to step out of ‘convenience’ for, and make the effort to reintroduce.
At the time of considering all this while writing the original post, two memories came to mind. The first one (as shared there) was the process of entering the water at the beach. Now here is the second one:
It could be said of any of my return trips from Africa, but most significantly so that of 2014 after a year of living in Uganda, that what caused the most angst in me was getting back out on the road as a driver. While I drove in Uganda, it wasn’t like driving here, and as I only had opportunity to drive around town and between towns, 80kms/hr was as fast as I got. For the most part 60kms/hr was about where I sat due to the condition of the roads in some areas, not wanting stones to connect with my windscreen, and not knowing who or what might step out onto the road from behind the bushes along the roadside.
A good road in the dry season, but a stone could spoil that for your windscreen. Here’s a couple of funny pics:
So coming home and being allowed to drive on our freeways at 100 – 110kms/hr was like a head rush for me. I couldn’t do it. So my first drive on a freeway was usually a week or so after an adequate amount of suburban driving. And even then there was a process of mental preparation and self encouragement in the lead up to making the journey on a freeway I was familiar with.
That first journey on a freeway would begin with me sticking in the left lane and driving at 60kms/hr until the tightness of anxiety in my chest dissipated, and I could slowly increase my speed. If no one else was around me, then as I comfortably reached the speed limit, I could then move out of the left lane, knowing full well that if I didn’t like it then I could jump back to my left again! As cars joined me on the freeway, there were many times when I felt anxious about the speed of their approach coming up behind me, for them to then weave in and around the traffic, and so I got back into that left lane, sitting in convoy with those moving at my pace.
But then once I found my confidence behind the wheel again, got used to the feel and sound of my own car at such speeds, and the speed of the traffic, those feelings of fear and angst would dissipate and be replaced with feelings of freedom and excitement in anticipation of where I was going, and who I was about to see. Sometimes it took just one drive, and sometimes it took a few drives to find my ‘driving niche’ again. But I would encourage myself with: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to find it, just that I keep on seeking it, until I do find it.”
And so I relate driving my car with driving my life out of ‘iso’ and all its restrictions. It’s the transition from 60kms/hr to 100kms/hr. It’s the difference between rough and rugged dirt roads, and those that are sealed and smooth. It’s recognising that I can go at whatever pace I choose to, and if that means travelling in the very left lane, then so be it. I will be travelling with others who are also comfortable with that pace, without blocking anyone else from travelling at what is comfortable for them. And then as I’m ready to, I can pick up speed and move out of that left hand lane, not forgetting that I always have the option of returning to it if I need to.
So as with my Master 6, while at first I also could not articulate my feelings, now as a result of our conversation, I’m processing them. I guess the evidence and effectiveness of that processing will be proven when I have to outwork them, when and as restrictions ease. But to keep in mind there is always a left hand lane to get back in to, if and when I feel the need to. So here’s my little ‘ditty’ to remind myself:
Be it driving or in life Neither is a race Choose your destination And travel at your pace.
Recently while on a zoom chat with a young Master 6, I asked him how he was feeling about going back to school. His reply was to the effect of: “I’m nervous. I don’t really want to go back.” So we talked a little bit about what he was feeling nervous about, and why. He explained to me that he liked school (for the brief experience that he had been there) and that he had made some friends, but that he was still a bit scared, although he couldn’t really explain why, other than that he likes being at home with his mum.
I didn’t really know where to go with that . . . other than to focus on the positive aspect that he had made some friends at school. So I asked him to tell me about some of the fun things he remembers doing with those friends, in an attempt to encourage him with the idea that in remembering those times maybe that will help him to be less nervous about returning to school, because he can enjoy those friendships again. Our conversation ended shortly after that.
Afterwards, as I reflected on our conversation, contemplating why I had not found anything more tangible to help Master 6 in his dilemma, I was prompted to consider my own feelings around the ‘coming’ ease of restrictions and realised that maybe I needed to ask myself the same questions I had asked of Master 6.
For me I’ve had the blessing of going to work three days a week, a weekly connection with friends who have their own grocery shop, a selection of friends to hang out with one at a time (in my 5km radius) for an hour of exercise, and now as a single person I get to have a Bubble Buddy. But in the anticipation of restrictions easing, I find myself contemplating how will I ‘navigate’ bigger environments? The ‘onslaught’ of the masses in and around me, be they with me and for me, or just passing by me, am I somewhat just like Master 6, nervous and not wanting to ‘go back?’ Have I become somewhat ‘used to’ and as a result ‘attached to’ being at home on my own, only connecting in person with one at a time?
On one hand it’s been quite convenient not having to go out for evening meetings after a long day at work (social and fun as they are), but instead to be able to just log in online. Then once the meeting is finished, not to have to drive home (especially in those winter months of the rain and cold) but instead just move from one room to another. And yet on the other hand, the benefits that come with eliminating travel times comes at a cost of eliminating in person connection and communication. While online interaction can sometimes be hindered by a poor internet connection, it is always hindered by way of the fact that technology cannot provide for us to the same degree what ‘in person’ interaction can. So do the benefits really outweigh the costs? I think not!
So then, what am I nervous about? I don’t really know. So then as with Master 6, I think about my friends I haven’t seen ‘in person’ since February (or longer because Christmas, New Year, School Holidays and then starting the school year is a busy season), but I remember the good times we have enjoyed together. The hugs and Hi-5’s as we meet, the stories and the laughs as we catch up over coffee, lunch or whatever the arrangement may be. Then there’s all the incidental interactions as a result of being out and about in various spaces and places. Not to mention the idea of being free to travel wherever and whenever I choose to. Maybe it’s a bit of overwhelm at what I (and all of us) have gone without (physical touch for one and the resulting skin hunger), and as a result feeling somewhat depleted, and yet at the same time while wanting such restrictions to ease, it stirs up feelings of angst as to how to reintroduce those aspects back into my life without feeling over indulgent and overwhelmed to the point of regret. Sort of (but not really) like a belly ache at the end of Christmas Day.
While there will be many who are ready to launch straight back in to all that ‘no restrictions’ (or significantly less restrictions) means we can take up again, I wonder how many are out there like me, contemplating how to navigate their path at their own desired pace.
In a world that is used to moving at such a high speed pace, to be brought to a grinding halt, to then be released again, I wonder how much faster will the world be as it seeks to catch up on all that it has lost through this time declared as ‘a pandemic’ and all its resulting restrictions.
What about the positive aspects (for many) that have been gained from the experience as a result of being forced to slow down? Will we quickly forget them and thereby lose those gains, in exchange for other gains (material or otherwise) that we perceive to be greater, or maybe just more necessary or essential? Yet it was in losing access to the latter (through restrictions) that we discovered (or rediscovered) some basic foundations, and in those things found a new and deeper level of meaning and value.
In considering all of this, two memories come to mind. Here’s one:
In 2013 I was a volunteer / missionary in Mozambique for 5 months. I lived in a beachside town, with ‘my house’ literally just metres away from the shore line. Through the night I could hear the sound of the water as the tide moves in and out, and the voices of the night fishermen singing as they work. It was like having my very own sleep/meditation crew.
As I searched through my photos, once again I found myself thinking I didn’t click that camera as many times as I thought I had. But I’m fairly sure this image is one of ‘my beach’ with ‘my house’ being at about midway along on the other side of the trees.
But my point is this, many times as I swam in this water I was amazed at its temperature which allowed me to walk straight in without hesitation, like that of stepping into a bath. A stark contrast to the beaches here in Australia, that regardless of the time of year, I never walk straight in to, but instead rather hesitantly and slowly dip my toes in and out a few times, until I can wade in up to my ankles, slowly walking in as the water level works its way up my legs. Then there’s the big move of going in up to my waist (unless you’re one to go ‘all in’ at that point), which some do, but for me I’m a ‘bit by bit’ kind of person. But then I have also been known to surprise myself, call on those 15 seconds of courage, and just ‘dunk’ myself in. But however we do it, what matters is that we each get there in such a way that we can then be there comfortably, with the option of getting out if and when we choose to do so.
Whether it’s in regard to navigating your way into the icy cold waters at the beach, or the warm welcoming company of friends and acquaintances, do it in such a way that you are comfortable with. If you’re ready to just jump straight in, then enjoy that as you do you. But if that’s not you, then try dipping your toes in and out a few times as much as you need to, then when you’re ready to, wade in a little deeper, all the while knowing that you are free to leave if you choose to. How deep you go, how far you go, and at whatever pace you go, is your choice, and 100% up to you.
And so my iso exit strategy is a strategy to enter in . . .
Here’s some advice from the ocean:
Be shore of yourself. Come out of your shell. Take time to relax and coast. Avoid pier pressure. Sea life’s beauty. Don’t get tide down. Make waves!
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 IN this time.
but instead to look at what I can do WITH this time.
Not to look at it as: a RESTRICTION FROM But to look at it as: an INVITATION TO.
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!