An iso exit strategy . . . Pt 2

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:

That’s one way to hitch a ride! I guess there was no room in the cabin.
Boda Bodas (motorbikes) are the most common form of transport in Uganda, and were often entertaining for what they transported.)

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.

An iso exit strategy . . .

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!

Author Unknown

#helenpowellpens #covid19 #coronavirus #isolation #ISO #pandemic #wellness #wellbeing #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #anxious #anxiety #anxietyrelief

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!

An Iso Adventure

This all started out as a way to make walks with Miss 7 a little more exciting, and while it’s different to my usual style of post, I decided to share it anyway.

I have a friend (new to Australia in January of last year: 2019) who is a single parent mum of a 7 year old. In this time of isolation and all its restrictions, living in neighbouring suburbs has meant that we have been able to continue our regular catch-ups in the form of the allowed 1 hour of exercise. And it’s been great for all of us, especially for me!

Then one day I had an idea that while mum can’t leave Miss 7 alone to go for a walk, I could take Miss 7 for a walk as just the two of us. Then mum could have an hour to herself, which I imagine every parent needs at some point.

But as we had found on our walks as the three of us, while mum and I enjoyed the exercise, Miss 7 was not always so keen (even with her bike or scooter), especially when confronted with playgrounds wrapped in tape. In my wanting Miss 7 to enjoy our time together, I felt the need to make our 1 hour out (which could only be for exercise), somehow into an adventure.

Then came the idea (it must have been divine inspiration, because in all my years of working with children, I’ve never done this before) for each of us to have a small box and find 5 things to fit in it. Then with those 5 things, we create a story out of them to share with each other the following week.

It was Miss 7’s choice that we should each create a story out of our own box, as opposed to swapping boxes. And so we went walking about the streets of her suburb, chatting about all sorts of things, while we looked for things we could fit in our boxes, to then use in our story. It was an hour of discovery and exploring our imaginations.

In the week ahead while I had initially planned to use photos, I decided I should stay on equal playing ground with Miss 7, get over my inability to draw, and buy myself a packet of coloured pencils. And so began my own story telling adventure with my own ‘artwork’ of which the perfectionist within struggles with sharing for so many reasons. But so be it . . . it was never about the artwork. And so I’ve called this writing adventure (for however many times we ‘create’ it):

Outta the box!

Once upon a time there were three friends:One Two and Three. They were best of friends, always together.

They would often walk down to their favourite spot to sit under Pinky the pink peppercorn tree and enjoy the shade. Under Pinky the pink peppercorn tree was Lorry the log.

And so One, Two and Three would bring Green Leaf blanket with them, to spread out on the ground near Lorry the log, where they would sit. One and Two loved to sit on Green Leaf blanket while leaning their backs against Lorry the log, enjoying the shade while sitting under Pinky the pink peppercorn tree. Three, well he loved to just lay on Green Leaf blanket while looking up at the pink peppercorns hanging above, and looking at his friends as they all talked.

On this day, another boy came walking by. He didn’t look like them at all, and while he wasn’t one of their friends, they knew him as Rocky. Rocky was by himself. So One, Two and Three moved along Lorry the log and invited Rocky to sit with them, to join in their conversation.

What would Rocky do?

So Rocky choosing to accept their invitation, sat down on Green Leaf blanket, leaning his back against Lorry the log, under the shade of Pinky the pink peppercorn tree.

And so the four boys talked and laughed and told each other stories as they all sat on Green Leaf blanket, against Lorry the log, while enjoying the shade of Pinky the pink peppercorn tree. And that’s how friends are made . . .

The End!

In finishing sharing my story with Miss 7, she loved it! Especially my drawings, with such comments as: “Wow! They (the three friends) look just like them!” and “You can draw really good! You should be an artist!” I laughed out loud, but appreciated her sincere tone saying: “You really think so?” I have however decided not to pursue such artistic expression, but instead to stick with words and writing. Lol !

Introducing the original cast members:

One, Two and Three 3 friends always together – haha !
Pinky the pink peppercorn tree and Lorry the log (because lorries carry logs).
Good times with Green Leaf blanket!
Introducing Rocky!
The making of new friends!

Stay tuned for Miss 7 and her story coming soon! My very first guest! Miss 7 has accepted my invitation to launch her own story writing here on my blog platform. I’m so excited, as I believe you’re going to love it! There’s a message within it, from a child’s perspective, which I think will encourage you in this time of isolation.

#makingfriends #adventurewalks #iso #isoideasforkids #story #storytime #storyteller #storytelling

Paper Planes & Shadows

On Father’s Day I was trying to create a post on social media to wish all the Dad’s a “Happy Father’s Day.” But I wanted it to say more than that, not just to the Dad’s but to men as a whole. Because regardless of your status as a biological father, I believe that men (without discrediting the role of Mother’s and women) are such important figures in the modelling of the next generation: today’s children.

Anyway, as I struggled to find the right amount of words to articulate my thoughts for such a post, my thoughts went to seeking an image from the options provided. In looking for something masculine, I felt my options were very limited. I started out with cactus, but then decided ‘prickly’ is not very endearing for such a tribute. Skulls? Nope! Then I found it! Paper planes!!! That’s the one! Then came the analogy that follows, and my limited word count was now out of control. So I didn’t post anything on social media, but sent a few private messages instead.

So this post is for all the men in the world, regardless of your status as a biological father it is attributed to you for the man that you are. It is my attempt to encourage you in the influence you have over the children in your world, be they still young and small, or growing up tall.

While at work a few weeks back, in the midst of our current lockdown under the Covid19 restrictions, my bosses organised a paper plane flying contest. Everyone took a piece of plain A4 paper and began folding. At that moment, a distant memory flooded back. One from my childhood of my brothers having a book on the art of folding paper planes. But I could only remember the most basic 5 fold step paper plane. Then as I saw others revealing their various creations, more of those memories were triggered, but not enough for me to actually be able to implement those skills for myself.

For my creation I had used the full A4 piece of paper. But some of these other creations by my work colleagues had obviously been torn down to a smaller size, and then carefully folded with the aim for each plane to have the best aerodynamics to fly the furthest, in order to win the prize.

In thinking about all of this, I thought of how much this parallels with our influence over the children in our world. We all start with a child: a ‘blank piece of paper.’

Some of us have books on how to do it right, and some of us don’t. But if we are to equip and prepare our ‘paper planes’ for their best flight, then we need to equip and prepare ourselves to be able to do so. Because the knowing ‘how to’ isn’t necessarily built in to us, and maybe that’s in part due to it not being modelled well for us. But for whatever the reason we may be lacking in ‘know how’, the reality is that for the ‘paper planes’ in our world to have the best chance at being able to fly the furthest they can (as they set out to achieve all that they desire in life), all starts with us knowing the best way in which we can ‘fold’ them.

Just as some of my work colleagues knew how to tear and fold their pieces of paper to create a plane with maximum aerodynamic capacity, we need to know how to separate right and wrong, good and bad, (without tearing down) as we navigate the attitudes and behaviours of those under our care, and in our circle of influence. All this in the hope of establishing them to be model citizens that go on to live a life that contributes to society in such a way as to benefit themselves and those around them.

I’m reminded of an outing last week with Miss 7 for an hour of exercise. As we walked along, she was a few steps behind me, jumping this way and that along the fence line of houses, when she called out: “Hey wait! I’m trying to stay in the shadow, but there’s no more. Can you step this way so I can walk in your shadow?” And so I adjusted my position in order to move my shadow for her to be able to walk in it.

Then her statement echoed in my mind and I reflected on her words. Whether it’s in fun or in life itself, children are looking for shadows they can play, walk, and run in. So I’m challenged to ensure that my own shadow is one that is safe for her to follow in. And that my shadow, my reflection that she sees, will inspire and encourage her to be the best version of herself that she can aspire to. So that the influence I have in ‘folding’ her as she journeys life plays a positive part in setting her up to be a ‘paper plane’ with the right aerodynamics that can take her as far as she desires to go, in all that she desires to do.

As I’m typing this, there’s a song that comes to mind. A web search tells me it’s been recorded by more than 100 artists. And while I’ve only ever known it as a faith based song by such artists, I’ve now learnt that the music and lyrics were originally written by an Irish-Norwegian band: Secret Garden. It was first sung as a tribute to band member Rolf Lovland’s mother at her funeral. That song is titled: You raise me up.

My own interpreatation of the lyrics is this: that regardless of the role we have in the life of the children in our world, we are there to raise them up so that they can stand on mountains, whether that be in the form of attaining high achievements or conquering and overcoming difficult times. And that we would instill in them such resilience that they would learn to walk on stormy seas instead of drowning in the storms of life that may come. That they would know our shoulders are there for them to lean on when they need such support and strength. All the while raising them up (stretching their growth) to more than they can be. Because as the lyrics go: in their times of trouble and burden, they sit and wait in their silence (in the hope), that we would come and sit with them awhile.

So to all the men out there, whatever your Dad status, I congratulate you on being the men that you are, as you seek to establish the children in your world as ‘the most aerodynamic paper planes’ to fly into their best future.

Happy Father’s Day


He wasn’t social distancing . . .

Over the last few months or so I have noticed an increase in incidents of drivers running amber and red lights at a main intersection on my way to work, as well as a number of near misses with passengers for the tram as drivers fail to stop. I don’t understand why people are rushing to get to work in this time of a pandemic, but seemingly they are.

So as a result of my observation, when the lights signal green for me to go, I have taken to delaying entering the intersection. I double check again that any traffic present has come to a complete stop, and then I enter the intersection with extra caution, just in case someone should run the red light via an empty lane.

This morning it was 6:20am, when I pulled up at the intersection described above. It’s still dark and the road is wet from the early morning rain. On my left there are no trams, there is traffic in both lanes at a complete stop, and there is no traffic on my right. Their traffic light is well and truly red, and mine has been green for some seconds, so I drive out entering the intersection to turn right.

In that moment while I’m in the middle of the intersection, crossing the tram tracks, I see the blinding headlights of a vehicle to my right, on the inside lane, coming straight at me FAST ! It all happened so quickly and yet it felt like I was in a slow motion scene of a movie. His (or her) brakes screaming, his wheels smoking! As I saw him sliding through the intersection I caught a glimpse of his vehicle, a utility tray truck coming straight at my driver door of my little two door hatchback.

something like this.

In that moment, feeling ‘cool as a cucumber’, I remember thinking: “Gently accelerate and get out of his way.” which in hindsight is a surreal memory, because I think my usual response under such circumstances would be to plant my foot in panic. But on a wet road across tram tracks, who knows where that might have landed me. In any case, my gentle acceleration meant that we each continued through the intersection, in our opposite directions, without making contact.

As I pulled up at the next set of traffic lights, my witnesses soon pulled up behind me. I wanted to get out and say “Did you see that !” (because obviously they had) but I remained in my car.

Further along on my way to work, while stopped at another set of traffic lights, I noticed the number plate on the car in front of me:

. . . and I thought . . . indeed WHY ARE YOU ‘ERE, I do not know? Other than that I am ‘ere, sitting behind ‘you’ on my way to work – which I’m currently very thankful for. But I do know HOW I am here . . . by the grace of God and His armour of protection around me.

I know this because in the moments before this ‘near miss’ took place, I had just started my morning prayer – an audio recording of ‘The Armour of God.’ Since the start of the pandemic this has been something I like to put on every morning on my way to work. Because I believe that after doing what I can do in applying wisdom to follow the hygiene guidelines, the rest is up to God. All the things that I don’t have control over in this time (in any time), I have faith to believe that God is in control, and so this is one way that I seek His help through this prayer of declaration.

It was just as I was entering the intersection that I was saying: “I put on the helmet of salvation” and then the ute was there, having come around what is a slight bend in the road, at top notch speed. I find it interesting that that prayer then goes on to say: “I will not be overcome with fear and anxious thoughts . . . “ and that was my experience. For all the times I’ve declared those words on mornings past, they were with me this morning as I had felt no fear or anxious thoughts, just surprise that he (or she) was suddenly there, and how fast he must have been driving to be so. I had no adrenaline response ‘jitters’ as an after effect, just a feeling of extreme thankfulness for the covering and protection afforded to me in that moment.

Then I remembered the night before while experiencing some angst about some situations and decisions I need to make. A teary conversation with God while doing the dishes, added to the water level in the sink. And I pleaded: “God I really need You to show up for me tomorrow! I dont know how You’ll do it, but I’m trusting that You will.”

Then later in looking up the message for the day, it was 1 Corinthians Chapter 2 and in the midst of reading that passage is verse 9 which just happens to be: “God has prepared things for those who love Him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.”

Well, He had certainly proven true to His word on that already this morning. For all the caution I had taken, and my moments delay, I had no idea that ute was coming around the bend still another moment later. And so that set me up to believe that God could and would show up for me throughout the rest of my day.

And I can say for the whole of my day . . . God continued to show up, answering my prayers (about those situations for that day causing me angst), in ways I did not think was possible. For all the options I wanted to take to escape those situations, but I felt challenged to show up to them, so as to give God a chance to demonstrate how He would show up for me in them, to now be able to share this experience, that is WHY I am here!

And so as per the title of the 2006 comedy:

“Thank God you’re here!”


Skin Hunger

Some weeks back while scrolling through social media, I came across an advert, a Doctor/Author looking for people experiencing ‘skin hunger’ as a result of the current restrictions and isolation due to the pandemic, who were willing to share their story.

That was the first time I had heard of the term ‘skin hunger’ but I identified with it . . . thinking “Is that what I am experiencing?” ‘It’ actually has a name! And so I sent a message to find out more.

As a single person living alone, no children and no pets, I knew that as a result of the first lot of ‘contact restrictions’ apart from missing the intentional hugs, Hi5’s and so on, I was also missing the ability to be my usual self in mucking around, giving a shoulder bump or a physical ribbing here and there. It took me a little while to remember that such things are no longer acceptable in this time, and so there were many awkward moments where my approach was met with an awkward facial expression, a hand up gesture of ‘back off,’ or a quick leap back to increase the distance between us. Then I’d remember, and apologise. Doh !!! Now I think it’s sealed in my memory bank.

So began the journey with Doctor and Author Evelyn Lewin as she interviewed me via phone for the article. At first I struggled to articulate my thoughts and feelings into words. I felt like there were a number of long awkward silences before I was able to get my answer out . . . but we did it. Then the editing process back and forth via email to ensure that her written words reflected the truth of my spoken words. And now, here we are with the article published and in print . . .

To read the article as featured in the Sunday Life Magazine (The Age) on August 16th, click on the link below.

The storm of Covid19

I’ve heard it said:

We’re all in the same storm,
but we’re not all in the same boat.”

So as we each seek to navigate our way through this time . . .
I hope this does something to encourage you in some way:

the action or process of causing so much damage to something that it no longer exists,
or cannot be repaired.

the action of building something, typically a large structure.

Someone once said to me in a ‘rubble’ time of my life:
“When you’ve got nothing left to hold on to,
hold on to God,

even if you dont want to.
Because it’s especially so in such times,
that we all need to hold on to something.”

In this time when so many are struggling with so many losses, as well as the loss (or deterioration of) good mental health, I know (for myself) the importance of protecting my eyes and ears from what, when, who and how often they see and hear from. While many of our choices have been taken away from us, this is one choice we still have. So let’s choose wisely.

My tip:
When I hit a pothole in the road . . .
When I go from feeling fine, to feeling low . . .
When I find myself reacting to a situation, instead of responding . . .
I reflect on the immediate moments before that, to see what triggered the change in me:
What was I doing?
What was I thinking?
What was I saying out loud in conversation, or silently to myself?

There I find my answer, and with that the opportunity to adjust to a better thinking space.

None of us have been through a pandemic before. There is no manual. There is no right way or wrong way. But the only way I know is through wisdom, faith, and prayer. So within the restrictions of the law, we need to (for our own sake) make intentional and active choices that build us up, not tear us down, so that when we come out the other side, we will (as people) be better for it (as best we can be), not bitter from it.


A ‘short cable’ story . . .

Some months back in the process of tidying up my apartment, tired of all the excess cable length lying around while plugged in to various devices, I bought a super short cable for my phone to charge while sitting upright on its stand on my kitchen bench. It was a stretch, but the cable just made it from the power point to the charging port on my phone.

Long story short . . . what I thought to be just long enough . . . was creating tension . . . and I rogered my phone’s charging port.

The phone charging port (behind the pink dot) is not a stand alone piece.

So I had to return to using my original long cable, so that I could lay my phone down on the bench, with something thick enough under the tip of the plug so as to create counter pressure to ensure my phone would charge. As time went on, that wasn’t enough. Now I had to increase the counter pressure by putting something weighty on top of my phone.

Due to the unstable connection, my phone would beep every time it lost its charging connection, and again when it found it. The beeping was annoying, not to mention having to constantly re-jig the connection. Even when it was successfully charging, I had to keep checking the connection, or as had already happened, it would charge, and then in the unstable connection (and not hearing the beep), it would drain that charge.

What was supposed to have simplified my space . . . had complicated it.

So now here I am, months later, having sought out a repairer. I had been advised by my telecom service provider, I need to take it to a phone repair replace: “One of those pop up shops.” they said. But due to the pandemic, any I knew of in my local area and surrounding suburbs were now closed. I was advised to go to a major shopping centre, and given I have no land line (just one reason why my phone is an essential item), I felt justified in going there.

So I ventured out to seek this service. Unfortunately the tech repair guy was ‘enjoying’ his day off that day, so I was advised to come back on another day. I returned on that day, and unfortunately, he had been called to another job, and didn’t know when he’d be back in store. So they gave me a business card to call before my next visit. I was told that due to the pandemic, his in-shop hours are ever changing, and so getting my phone repaired was looking like an unpredictable, ongoing saga.

On my way home that same day, I needed to do some grocery shopping, but I live in one of the ‘hotspot’ suburbs, and the current guideline is: Where possible, shop within your suburb. I was dubious about going to my first choice supermarket due to it being near a particularly hot spot cluster, and so I considered going to another supermarket within my suburb. While I didn’t want to give in to fear, I questioned myself: “Is this fear? Or wisdom? Maybe I should just go to that supermarket anyway?” I decided to go with wisdom, and my second choice supermarket.

As I entered this small shopping hub, there on my right I saw a new pop up store selling phone cases and such, so I stopped and casually asked: “I don’t suppose you do phone repairs do you?” She said yes. And so it was, they checked out my phone, organised the part I needed, and in less than an hour I had a new charging port (with a 3 month warranty) all done for a cheaper price than the other place had quoted me.

While I felt guilty for avoiding going to one supermarket, because I (rightly or wrongly) perceived it to be a potentially higher ‘contact risk.’ It was that perception that then directed me to my second option supermarket, to find in the shopping hub, exactly what I needed, but didn’t know was there.

In believing my steps are directed by a higher power – God, I could only conclude that He knew what I needed, and He directed me to it. And so (relevant here and for life itself) this thought came to mind:

Maybe it’s not so much about:
What you’re steering away from
As much as it is about:
What He’s steering you toward.

If hearts were tiles . . .

While out for a walk on Saturday, thinking about the current pandemic and all the media and discussion surrounding it, I passed a small pile of 5 tiles that had been discarded on the nature strip. I saw them and kept walking. But then came a thought, and so I had to turn back and return to them.

What are you writing, on the tile that is your heart?

and then later . . .

What are you writing with, on the tile that is your heart?

Whether it’s your own words or the words of others, let all that is for one’s benefit be written in that of a permanent marker. Anything else, may those words be like that of a whiteboard marker, completely wiped away with a damp cloth.

From Psalm 45:1 “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”

What words is your tongue ready with?