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Being Kind

There’s been a lot of discussion about mental health lately.

A couple of weeks’ ago, Australian billionaire James Packer resigned from his public company boards, citing mental health issues. A few days later, Professor Patrick McGorry published this opinion piece. In it, he discussed current government initiatives in the area, and what further steps need to be taken to ensure that all Australians have access to appropriate and necessary treatment.

Prof. McGorry is correct, of course, mental health should be afforded the same concern and care as physical health in terms of government support and services. But it also made me think about what we as individuals could do to bolster both our own mental wellbeing, as well as that of those around us.

And I realised that…we can be kind.

We can be kind to ourselves.

I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life. Looking back, I suspect it was exacerbated by being a severe asthmatic at a time before Ventolin existed, but there is also a clearly identifiable anxious gene which runs right through my dad’s side of the family. Most of the time, I think it’s quite well managed (Pete might not agree), but over the years, I’ve experienced several bouts of that gut-wrenching, wish-I-was-dead, internal turmoil which is almost impossible to explain to folks with calmer dispositions. “Just don’t worry about it” is their usual, well meaning advice.

Over time, I’ve learnt strategies to maintain my balance, but I know it’s a work in progress (and trust me, the menopause hormones aren’t helping). More importantly though, I’ve learnt to be kind to myself. I no longer see my anxiety as a weakness – it’s simply part of who I am – so I no longer beat myself up about it. I’ve long ago accepted I’m never going to be willowy thin…or always calm.

We can be kind to others.

Ironically, first world society is hard on all of us. We are constantly bombarded with bad news, struggling to keep afloat financially, and trying to live up to peer pressure and the expectations of family. Most of us no longer need to worry about where our next meal is coming from, but stress can be very real and debilitating nonetheless.

There is probably little we can do to change society at large, but I think we can make a small difference by actively trying to be kinder to others. I know it sounds trite, but saying “good morning” to my fellow bay run walkers brightens my day, and I’d like to think it brings them a little cheer too. Stopping to acknowledge someone asking for coins, actively building neighbourhood communities, saying thank you – any small act of kindness might bring a moment of happiness to someone else’s day and improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. It will help ours too.

Let’s cut strangers some slack – if the waitress is grumpy, don’t let that spoil the meal. She might be having a rough time, and getting her in trouble with her supervisor won’t help anyone. Let’s try not to slam a fist on the horn when someone cuts us off at the roundabout. It will raise both their blood pressure and ours. Stuff is going to happen all the time that we have no control over – all we can do is respond in as gentle and considered a way as we can manage. It’s not worth taking any of it personally, because most of the time, it’s not about us.

Even more importantly, let’s do what we can to shelter and empower those we love. Big Boy and Small Man are now 25 and 21 respectively, and both trying to find their way as young adults in a competitive world. Society places enough expectation on them without Pete and I adding our own, so we try (I’m not saying we’re always successful) to give them as much space as we can. We try to provide them with a home where they can feel unconditionally loved and completely at ease. We try to offer advice and guidance without expecting it to be actioned. And seeing so many young people struggling to maintain their equilibrium in this fast moving and stressful age makes us determined to try even harder.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter. May it be joyous and calm and stress-free! ♥

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Happy New Year!

In 2018, let’s do MORE.

Let’s laugh and explore and play and eat and drink and create MORE.

Let’s forget about moderation and minimalism, even though they’re in vogue at the moment.

Instead, let’s bake and cook and sew and grow MORE than we need so that we have plenty to SHARE.

Let’s build our communities and break bread together.

And let’s find more TIME, for ourselves and for others. Time to sit and be quiet inside our own heads. Time to marvel at the wondrousness around us. Time to be kind…and time to LOVE each other more.

Happy New Year! ♥

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This Guy…

This guy…is going to be annoyed with me when he sees these photos…

It’s his own fault, of course, because he found this cool app that scans old photos very easily using a smartphone. Which means you all get to see what a hottie he was at nineteen…

I can’t tell you how well he looks after me. Or how grateful I am that he’s still in my life 35 years after we met, and that occasionally, he looks at me like this…

…and this…

As some of you already know, he’s had a rough time health-wise these past few years. Please don’t ask about it, as it’s not really my story to tell. But sometimes watching him in pain overwhelms me. I remember asking him years ago, in a weak moment, why so much stuff was happening to our family. Just as we were coming up for air after Small Man’s cancer and other health issues, Pete’s illness pulled us back under again.

My zen, philosophical husband was genuinely puzzled by the question.

“Babe, I think we’re very lucky. Our lives are perfect..” he said.

“You and I are closer than we’ve ever been, our sons love us and are still at home and want to spend time with us. We have a place to live, good friends and food to eat. What more could you ask for?”

I cried and cried, because he was, as always, completely right.

And I remembered that this was what I’d fallen madly in love with. It wasn’t just that he looked like a rock star at nineteen, or wielded a razor sharp wit that made me laugh and cry at the same time. It was his incredible mental discipline that appealed to my scattered, anxious, melodramatic nature. His strength under fire, his almost unfailingly positive outlook on the world, and his willingness to accept whatever life throws our way.

Over the years, we’ve faced our fair share of adversity together. I frequently quote that line from the final episode of M.A.S.H. where BJ tells Hawkeye…”I can’t imagine what this place would have been like if I hadn’t found you here”. Because whenever things have become too big for me to deal with, Pete has always been there. He was the one who held our screaming baby down inside nuclear imaging machines; he was the one who sat with my dad in hospital when Mum and I couldn’t cope anymore.

Then there’s this photo…

Big Boy was only six months old at the time and Pete was completely smitten. He used to come home from work at 7pm every night and wake him up to play – it drove me mental, but how could I say no? He’d missed a whole day’s worth of father-son time.

I’ve never known any boys to adore their father as much as mine do. They don’t actually need to say anything, because they’ve both tried so hard to be him. Which is great for me, because it means that they treat me as Pete does, with gentle teasing and great affection. And as you can see from the pic below, I appear to be nothing more than a cloning chamber…

So as I sit here, looking at all the old photos we’ve been scanning, I keep asking myself… how did this great and amazing thing happen? How did I meet this gorgeous man at eighteen, get to spend a lifetime with him, and still be completely besotted with him all these years later? It had to have been a miracle. ♥

. . . . .

Westley: Hear this now: I will always come for you.
Buttercup: But how can you be sure?
Westley: This is true love, you think this happens every day?

The Princess Bride, 1987

 

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Loose Change Smiles

Yesterday, I walked from one end of Sydney to the other.

I started with lunch at Spice Alley with Big Boy and then walked all the way down George Street to buy a hat at The Rocks. I think it’s pretty cute…

As I walked down the main street of our busy city, I was struck by the number of homeless men and women asking for money. Most were sitting, staring at the ground – a couple were bent over on their knees, holding a cup above their heads. I felt sad and guilty, because like everyone else passing by, I’ll often pretend not to see them. It’s too confronting and discomforting.

We’ve all heard the warnings…

“They’re just using the money to buy drugs or alcohol”

“You’re perpetuating the problem if you give them money”

“It’s a racket, don’t fall for it…”

But yesterday, the little voice in my head was saying…

“You’re walking down to buy a hat you don’t really need, and stopping for a $4 coffee on the way..”

So I pulled all the loose change out of my purse and stuffed it into my coat pocket. As I passed each person, I dropped a few coins into his or her bowl. Without fail, he or she looked up, smiled and said “thank you”. I smiled back, and said “good luck to you”. Serendipitously, I had exactly the right number of coins to take me all the way down to Circular Quay.

I don’t have enough money to fix anyone else’s life, nor the emotional strength to shoulder their burdens. I think that’s where the guilt comes from – we see pain and suffering which we can’t fix, and then we feel bad because our lives are comfortable and easy by comparison. So we turn a blind eye, or explain it away, or worst of all, discredit the person suffering to try and make our more fortunate situations seem less unfair. All because we feel unable to make a meaningful difference.

Yesterday, I realised there was something I could do.

If you’re sleeping rough in a major city, my loose change will make very little difference to your financial situation. But what it will do is give me an opportunity to look you in the eye, and to wish you well. It will give me a reason to exchange a smile and a few words, and to interact with you as a fellow human being rather than walking past you, trying to pretend you don’t exist.

I rode the train home yesterday, in my new hat, remembering the faces of those I’d met that afternoon. I hope today is an easier day for all of them.

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Light Show

When the sun is shining and our timing is right, Big Boy and I get to experience this magnificent light show on our morning walks. It’s created by the sunlight on the wind-driven waves bouncing off the concrete pillars on the underside of the pedestrian footbridge. If it was a contemporary art installation at the MCA, I’d happily pay to view it, so you can imagine how chuffed I was to be standing in the middle of it!

It  was particularly glorious earlier this week, so I took a video to share with you. This is exactly as my iPhone captured it – I haven’t added any filters or special effects…

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. . . . .

In case you’re having trouble figuring out all the angles, here’s a photo taken this morning from the outside…

…and a middle of the day pic from a couple of months’ ago…

dw6

. . . . .

Pete suggested I upload the wider video as well, so you can see a bit more of the bridge (click on the fullscreen tab on the bottom right of the video for a better look)…

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If you’re walking the Greenway or the Leichhardt side of the Bay Run in the mornings, the best time to catch the light show is around 8.30am, on sunny, windy days when the tide is high (I’m adding that info for you, Greg!).

Wishing you all light and happiness every day!

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