Anticipation – going roller skating tonight

It’s a week night but I am going out after dark! To the skate rink for adults-only skating – Woot!

In a minute I will pop on a pair of stripy socks, grab my skates and dash out the door. At the rink, I will see my friend Emily who encouraged me to give roller derby a try a few years ago. That was fun (and totally worth the final exit price of one busted-but-mostly-recovered-knee). But tonight Emily and I will skate round and practice our backwards crossovers out of the view of the teenaged hockey boys and fall on our bums for sure and have a good laugh. Then we will get up and do it again 🙂

Ah – I can’t wait!

I love Dr Melissa West, yoga teacher

Melissa West is a yoga teacher. I have never met her, but she has hundreds of beautiful yoga videos available on youtube. For free. Her yoga is for real people with real bodies so people like me with a blown knee can do it. And people like me who aren’t skinny all over and smooth bodied and smooth faced can do it too. And if you are a person like me and you do Melissa’s yoga, you will soon know again that your lumps and bumps and squishynesses are perfect and beautiful and as deserving of a nice swimsuit as anyone else’s.

But really Melissa’s yoga is about real life too. Yoga for courage to apply for the job and attend the job interview. Or to ask for help, to acknowledge a mistake. Yoga for grieving – to say goodbye, to feel it, really feel it, and let it be for a bit, or even let it go. Yoga for going inwards and remaining strong when the world shouts that you are too old, too wrinkly, too fat, and not enough of this and this and that. And yoga for having a go, trying your hardest and collapsing in a heap, a giggling heap, laughing your head off as you realise that some big drama in your life is not such a big bloody deal after all. That was my favourite yoga moment.

Or maybe my favourite yoga moment was when I did a twist and grasped my wonky knee and encouraged by Melissa’s philosophy was gentle with it and placed it just so and felt a real rush of love and admiration for my bony old knee and all we have been through together and gave it a little pat – there there old girl. That was nice too.

But maybe the best bit is that it is those moments that keep me coming back – not weight loss, age reversal or the general yogarobics crap. Just me, loving me and loving the body I’m in.

Thank you Melissa West

I love my job

Things are hotting up at work. Semester starts in two weeks and new students are visiting every day to check us out, to collect their writing guides, id cards, to get directions to all over the place (because librarians know everything), to get advice and referrals, or just for a chat with someone friendly.

I love it. I am being paid to be a ‘know-all.’ I am being paid to chat. I am also being paid to teach people who want to know about what I want to teach them, and hang around to say thank you that has made a difference after the lesson.

Sometimes I do wonder whether the risk to take a redundancy from my safe, financially well-rewarded previous position (and my very own door with my name written on it) and start again, at the bottom, in a new field was worth it. Was it worth two years of struggling on low/casual/part-time wages and a two hour and a half commute (each way) for the first 10 months?

Pinch me – it was! 🙂

Queensland election fun

This Saturday I took my almost-90 year old Granny to vote at the state elections. Gran votes for the Liberal Party (the right), which is what any sensible Ukrainian refugee from ‘communisms’ does. I vote for the Greens, which is what any sensible person who wants a healthful planet does. We argue about it a bit, but in the end I am really proud of her for caring enough to vote, and she will forgive me my transgressions because she loves me.

After taking Gran to vote and voting myself, I handed out how-to-vote cards at the local polling booths for the first time. I had a blast. I was the only Green at the gate with three Libs and two Labour supporters. Did we argue and insult one another? No, we did not, we mainly chatted and joked together. When the big party members pushed in and gave their cards out first, I slipped mine on top – hahaha! We included the voters in our banter, I hope they shared our sense of fun. There was a hail storm in the afternoon. We all helped each other move our gear into a sheltered position, and one of the Libs gave me her phone so I could call my partner and ask him to put my car in the shed 🙂

At the end of the day we helped each other pack up our signs and said see you at the Federals (like it is a sporting event or something!)

It’s rare that I would say I’m proud to be Australian, but I certainly am now. How fabulous it is to be able to participate in government with a sense of peace and fun! How fabulous to share a day in the company of people who are passionate about Inala (my electorate), and about the country and the people. And how interesting is the prospect of a hung Parliament – wouldn’t it be marvelous if the parties could get together and work it out like their supporters can… bloody marvelous!

Experiencing the full self expression of others

Central station, waiting for the train home. A young man, a total stranger is looking at me intently, like he has something to say. He takes a gulp of air. Fuck yeah I just voted! Ha! you know what I wrote on the ticket? Fuck you Campbell Newman you fuckin arsehole get fucked! And I numbered every square and put LNP L-A-S-T last! He takes another breath and smiles wide, completely lit up. A brief concern flicks over his face. Oh, you don’t like Newman, do you? ‘Hell no,’ I say. His smile returns, he nods. Yeah fuck, I love voting. I told them LNP pricks they were supporting a bunch of areseholes too! ‘The guys handing out the how-to-vote-cards?’ Yeah – arseholes, I told them! Hey – you know you could go and vote right now – you don’t need to wait till Sat’day!

And now we are both laughing. The middle-aged-librarian-lady and the young-worker-bloke. My train comes. I look at him.

Nah, I’m goin’ to Ipswich.

Thinking about this now, I just feel so proud and excited. Go Ipswich! Go young people! You give me hope and inspiration, you really do 🙂

Full self expression – be careful what you ask for

Last week I was all love and unicorns about setting intentions and how they can unexpectedly manifest themselves. Yesterday, I had that experience when I was looking at potential homes with my partner and full self expression arrived unannounced.

During the week, Dave had painstakingly made a detailed list of ten houses that appeared to fit our exacting criteria, including one that was open on Saturday. So on Saturday morning we ventured out together to do some sticky beaking. The first few houses that we drove past looked pretty good, were located in pleasant streets, and close to transport. We then went to the open house. This house was quite a drive away. I became concerned about the distance from public transport. When we arrived, the house appeared tidy but not particularly inviting. It was placed at the bottom of a valley and surrounded by other homes that looked directly down onto it. The inside was tidy but not at all nice – the carpets did not match, and the bathroom was old and daggy. I did not like that the back deck had not been certified by Council. However, I could see that Dave was becoming very enthusiastic about this beautiful deck and about the awesome solar set up.

As we left I was preparing a ‘diplomatic’ speech in my mind. It went something like, “Oh well, that place was nice, the deck was good and solar is what we need, we will keep it on the list.” But something very different came out of my mouth in a most emphatic tone…

Well, that’s a ‘no!’

For a moment I felt I had been invaded by an alien. And I experienced some confusion. And then Dave and I had a little squabble. And then I offered him genuine appreciation for all his work on making the list. And he graciously accepted. And then we were able to move closer to a shared understanding of what we want in our new home. So it ended very nicely, and he is right now sitting beside me, engrossed in making a new list of houses to look at in a week or two.

And I am now wondering just what life would be like if I said what was on my mind directly instead of beating around the bush, dissembling, distracting and outright lying… Can I be that brave? Can I trust myself to be able to create something new and beautiful in the chaos and discomfort that can arise in the wake of honesty?

I think I might.

my 2015 to come

Ok, this is a ramble by the end I get to my intentions and how I made them – that’s probably the interesting bit, but I liked the rest too so left it in anyway 🙂

The 2015 intentions setting (not resolutions) all started in the stress and hubbub of December 2014, when one morning I noted that instead of doing an online yoga session and feeling balanced and awesome, I had (once again) got diverted to facebook and was feeling scared, angry, hopeless and had a headache too. I knew it was time to Slow Down With the Social Media and after thinking about it for a few days I …

  • put facebook on holiday with no time limit or immediate plans to reinstate
  • started reading my personal email just once a week, and
  • took a holiday from blogging while I figured out what I want to accomplish and what I want to invest.

I got some pretty immediate results, some being…

  • I excised for at least an hour every day (and lost a kilo over Christmas)
  • I walked and caught public transport to work (and reduced my carbon footprint)
  • I sewed 5 dresses (and am well on my way to wearing only clothes that are made equitably and mindful of the environment)
  • I caught up with a neighbour I love but hadn’t made the time to see in months and also with some other old friends, in person – so satisfying! And,
  • I created a new vision for me and my blogging

So, my new intentions are

  • to connect
  • to contribute
  • to be fully self-expressed
  • to experience ease, and
  • to have some fun and play

I like intentions better than the usual ‘I will do this,’ or ‘I won’t do that’ resolutions stuff. Intentions allow flexibility and are thus more likely (for me) to be accomplished. For example, I once set the resolution that ‘I will run every day’ but then got stumped when I got really sick, had to have an operation and wasn’t able to do any real exercise for two months. So I got depressed and angry, hurt myself trying to get back into running too quickly, became a burden for others for longer than necessary and comfort ate and put on a bit of weight. But if I had the intention of ‘valuing my health’ I could then have come up with an alternative, like resting and doing the very gentle exercises given by my physio until I was well enough to ease back into walking then running. Dammit, I could have even bobbed about in a pool for a bit. Sigh…

The other thing I like about intentions is that they are a bit magical, in that they often start appearing in unplanned and unexpected ways, and all I have to do is say ‘yes.’ Like when in Kuranda I set an intention of ‘community’ and almost tripped over a habitat group while walking to the library a few days later. Following intentions may also lead to unexpected and magical results – like the time when I set the intention of ‘being considerate’ and so slept on the verandah lounge instead of waking my family in the middle of the night when I forgot my keys and woke to a beautiful sunrise and serenade by magpies – an unforgettably magical morning really.

How I made my intentions (probably the good bit)

I made the intentions using a list of universal human needs. You can find such a list here. I highlighted the needs that were important, then of those kept the ones that seemed most important (while reassuring myself that they are all important) until I got to just five. And these five make me feel warm and optimistic and content too. All good feelings to be having 🙂

With thanks to the New York Centre for Nonviolent Communication who are responsible for the needs list – and many other awesome things 🙂

On maybe possibly being distantly related to greatness

Now and then through my life my Dad would mutter at me Bertrand-Russell-cousin-your Great Grandmother. And I always whatever-who-cares back at him. Until a few months ago, during a particularly slow night shift in the library and after I had exhausted every blog, news service and hobby I could think of, I finally googled the name.

Two things shocked me. First, some of the photos of the great man showed some resemblance to my Great Grandmother. Second, was his long list of achievements, connections, and honours. Since I was already in the library, I popped into the catalogue and noticed that not only did we have a few copies of his works, but some of them were checked out! Others, we held as e-books. To me, this means that folk are still interested in what this man had to say, despite how long ago he said it, and how far away he was at the time.

In my break, I grabbed a copy of Russell’s work that included a couple of autobiographical essays and started to read. I felt an instant sense of connection with this slightly pompous (to my Australian ears) but clearly warm and witty man. It was somewhat like listening to my Pop, or my Great Gran speak (Oh! She was a tiger!) And my Dad too. I was in the company of a sharp intelligence, one that has considered a topic, thought about it from many angles and now has a clear confidence, (despite a hint of self-depreciation and doubt) in what is being expressed. It was also somewhat like listening to myself, in a depressingly rare moment of eloquence, the kind where my mind is slow and certain and clear enough for my tongue to keep up with.

So, the next day I rang Dad and told him all about it. He was circumspect … Oh your Great Grandmother’s mother was a Russell and I’m not sure how close the connection might be, but she was very proud of him. Then it dawned on me that Dad had whatever-who-cares his Gran (the tiger) about Bertrand Russell. So I got to babble for quite a long while about the Russell Tribunal, and a Nobel Prize, and holding true to his beliefs, despite imprisonment and the terrible impact on his career and reputation.

But what does it all mean, really – this tenuous connection?  Nothing at all – and yet – something. When I think of it I feel somehow comforted, somehow more at peace with myself than I was before, somehow safe. I have always spoken up at meetings to say what I think needs to be said, even though I struggle with the vulnerability of that, and my voice does shake. Now I sense that I have more substance to draw on – I perhaps give myself a little extra room to breathe – and continue on. I am, just perhaps, in part, a Russell, and this is what we do.

Being in contact with Russell’s philosophy has made a bigger difference to how I feel about myself though. Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. It has almost totally banished my feelings of failure. Somehow, I am enough. My struggles and my accomplishments are enough. I have not wasted my life by not following the prescribed path. When I removed the guilt I felt toward my ‘wasted years’ when I did ‘nothing,’ I could – and can – acknowledge that during this time, I got to know myself well, and to develop substance and courage enough to be able to make some difference in the world, even though I am scared. And that this is no ordinary thing.

I think I even feel proud of myself. I do. I do feel proud.

Jo Spark

You took me under your wing a bit at boarding school. Took me out to stay with your Mum at Gatton on weekends and we played tennis at the university, reassembled Nolan’s Trial jigsaw puzzle and tried for hours and hours to ride your Mum’s Penny Farthings. Laughs! And remember your stepdad teaching us to change a tyre by putting your car up on blocks and taking the wheels off? The first, second, third, fourth (and last) tyre I ever ‘changed!’ Ah.

At uni you introduced me to Akiko. So that the two of us odd balls could keep ourselves occupied while you studied. It was a perfect match. You were a very good and kind girl, Jo. A sensible girl. But I do have a vague memory involving Teacher’s Whiskey… and another time you came with me on a Straddie camping trip. And befriended a couple of 15 year old boys – nice boys who sat on the cliffs with us one evening and apologised for their dad’s pervy nocs and asked you whether girls liked boys who didn’t drink. You said something kind and wise for sure.

Then you went to London and I moved up and down the East Coast. After a few years, you came back and visited me at Newcastle and I was embarrassed about my life of babies and welfare so it was awkward. But I remember first that you were calm and kind as always, and second that you were having the age old difficulty transitioning from a London to a Brisbane life.

When I heard you were so very ill I was so scared, I was paralysed. Cathie gave me your number. Dave made me call even though I didn’t know what to say. But you were perfect Jo. You were calm and kind, sitting with your feet in the bath, splashing your baby girl, breathless but with such love in your voice for your kids, your partner, your brother, your stepmother, your friends, your past, and hopeful for the future. I didn’t have to say anything but tell you I love you and wish you well. Jo, I hope you had at least one friend to share the crap with too. No, I know that you did.

After that conversation I prayed hard to all the gods I don’t believe in that I could give you a year of my life. A good strong vibrant healthy year. Not because I am a good person but because you deserved at least that. And though I hadn’t seen you for years, I could – and still do – trace the impact of your kindnesses, your infinite patience on my life in all directions.

A Christmas and a half later I got another call from Cathie – operation, complication, didn’t wake up, funeral. And such deep deep sorrow.

Jo, in your presence my words stopped jamming up then running together and tripping over themselves and coming out stupid, though when they did you still listened so carefully. In your presence, I was first able to slow down and just breathe.

Thank you Jo.

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