Travelling and Blogging…

I’m off journeying again!

Am keeping this blog for the minute for occasional more personal posts – but if you’d like to follow my travel journey, pop over to Don’t Panic, and Carry A Towel 🙂

A Little MJ Inspiration

But The Heart Said No

They saw the poor living in cardboard shacks, so they knocked the shacks down and built projects. Huge blocks of cement and glass towered over asphalt parking lots. Somehow it wasn’t much like home, even home in a shack. “What do you expect?” they asked impatiently. “You’re too poor to live like us. Until you can do better for yourselves, you should be grateful, shouldn’t you?”

The head said yes, but the heart said no.

They needed more electricity in the city, so they found a mountain stream to dam. As the waters rose, dead rabbits and deer floated by; baby birds too young to fly drowned in the nest while mother birds cried helplessly. “It’s not a pretty sight,” they said, “but now a million people can run their air conditioners all summer. That’s more important than one mountain stream, isn’t it?”

The head said yes, but the heart said no.

They saw oppression and terrorism in a far-off land, so they made war against it. Bombs reduced the country to rubble. Its population cowered in fear, and every day more villagers were buried in rough wooden coffins. “You have to be prepared to make sacrifices,” they said. “If some innocent bystanders get hurt, isn’t that just the price one must pay for peace?”

The head said yes, but the heart said no.

The years rolled by and they got old. Sitting in their comfortable houses, they took stock. “We’ve had a good life,” they said, “and we did the right thing.” Their children looked down and asked why poverty, pollution, and war were still unsolved. “You’ll find out soon enough,” they replied. “Human beings are weak and selfish. Despite our best efforts, these problems will never really end.”

The head said yes, but the children looked into their hearts and whispered, “No!”

by Michael Jackson, from Dancing The Dream

What is more noble.

She came in again yesterday. Once she would have marched into the store, this time she limped painfully and slowly. The hair that she used to so often fuss about is gone, replaced with a small akubra adorned with a floral scarf.

I often find myself sighing when I see my chatty and fussy regular customers heading in, as I cast a glance at the pile of paperwork and orders waiting to be dealt with. I am polite, friendly even, and always helpful; I like to do my job well. But I am normally so eager to return to my errands so that I can gain the satisfaction of simply checking them off my to-do list; so I don’t normally prolong any irrelevant conversations.

But here she was again, dramatically altered by cancer in just a few weeks, and suddenly the paperwork wasn’t so urgent and her complaints not at all irritating. It wasn’t pity that I felt; it was appreciation, for this person, just as she is, and for the fragility of life.

Why is it that we need an acute awareness of our own mortality to wake us up to what is really important? Why do I so quickly forget the same lesson over and over?

This year, I have known three young people pass away tragically. In each case, it wasn’t their achievements I thought of when I remembered their lives, how academically qualified they were or how big their houses were or how efficiently they did their paperwork; instead, all I thought of was how they influenced others lives.

I have always carried a sense of urgency about life with me; however, for me that urgency has translated into ambition and drive. So I now drag behind me a trail of top university marks (2 subjects ahead too!) and checked off to-do lists and savings in the bank and a sense of failure at not being more successful in life (you know, successful as in I should be writing my fourth book while running a multi-billion dollar corporation that I founded that uses its powers to help bring transformation to injustices within the world while leading an active social life, pursuing my interests in music and circus arts by gigging and fire twirling each weekend and then clown doctoring at the children’s hospital at least twice a week followed by. totally realistic).

But given my current energy restrictions (that a part of me still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge), this single-minded drive has also cost me many friendships, evenings spent laughing rather than staring at a computer screen for hours. It’s led to my poor family having to deal with me tired, cranky and antisocial on a regular basis, and it has worsened my health.

Fair trade off? I think not.

Nothing wrong with working hard…I so appreciate the opportunities we have here. But maybe it’s time to finally take the advice that everyone keeps offering, and cut back on work/study (whoa! scary.) and try to enjoy the journey a little more…so that hopefully I can help others enjoy theirs, too, rather than spending the whole time thinking of my stupid to do list until I arrive at the end of my journey with all my paperwork properly filed and my bucketlist unexperienced and no friends in sight.

So forgive me if I take Billy Joel’s advice some time soon and:
“Slow down, you crazy child.
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.
It’s all right you can afford to lose a day or two…”

And to the friends that I have neglected due to my overly zealous commitment to study and work, forgive me. Lets have coffee.

“It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.” – Dag Hammarskjold

Need inspiration?
Read about how Henri Nouwen left his job at Harvard to care for Adam, a severely disabled man
Or Mindfulness – the art of conscious living.
Or how a stranger gave me flowers in Guate just when I needed them
Or ask me about the most incredible, resilient girls I once lived with in Guatemala…

xoxo.

The First Australians.

A must watch: First Australians (really!! a must must must. amazing series.)

A must read:

A must-listen-to:

Must visit: Koori Voices – Melb Museum (free for students!!)

worth attending:

or even better…Garma Festival.

I have so much to learn.

Acceptance.

[this is a post regarding my life living with ME/CFS – to see more posts regarding this topic, click.]

“I need to know what is causing it! And why it’s worse again!!”

Consoling my close friend, who has sadly just been diagnosed with ME/CFS after several years of ill health, was more difficult than I thought. I watched her grapple with her new limitations after previously living an athletic and energetic life; I watched with concern as she sat so subdued in social settings…vastly different from the vivacious and outgoing person I knew; I watched her as she adjusted her diet to perhaps the healthiest sort that could possibly exist, cut back on her activities and rested extensively, and yet saw no improvements to her health. And I had so few answers for her.

“Why??” She complained, and then stormed off to eat the cake and chocolate she had so long been depriving herself of, as not eating it didn’t seem to make any difference anyway.

And as I watched her emotional upheaval, I started pondering the idea of acceptance.

How with situations such as chronic illness that are so far out of your control, you simply have to get to a point of accepting that you won’t find answers, accepting that this is how it is for now, accepting that you really don’t know what the future holds, and then choosing to make the most of what you’ve got.

Easy, right?

I confess, I suddenly felt a little proud. I’d accepted it. I’d dealt. This was my bitter pill to swallow (sometimes literally…you should smell some of the supplements I’ve tried!). My mountain to climb. And here I was, staying well on top of my uni work, taking loads of rest breaks, sticking to my dietary restrictions, being ‘mindful’, balancing my social life – I was in a good place. A great place. Plus, things were looking up – was feeling the best I had in months; surely, this was just the beginning.

Cos I’d accepted. Hooray, I’d figured life out. On the up and up.

And then came an outbreak of hives (what the hell?? didn’t even know what they were before). And a particularly bad reaction to some new treatment. And a significant relapse.

And bam. I realised, acceptance is a journey. A process. You don’t arrive. It’s continual.

Cos honestly, right now as I’m spending yet another evening in bed with aching legs and an aching head and a truckload of unfinished uni work that my brain refuses to focus on and a jumble of illness-induced stress and anxiety, I don’t want to accept this.

I’m not where I want to be. Literally.

But I’ll remember that good place I found. Take a breath. Take that step. Grab the hand of my friend and together…we’ll find our peace in this.

CFS/ME readers, what have you found has helped to bring you peace/acceptance on your journeys?

Quarter of a Century

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”- C.S Lewis

Today. 25 years ago. I made my early arrival into this planet, popping out so cold that the nurse had to wrap me in foil to try to warm me up. 25 years later, I am told that my brain is now fully developed (so this is as good at its gonna get, friends!) and, I am still just as cold. I have now however moved on from foil to more sophisticated methods of keeping warm such as clothes, electric blankets, heat packs and piping hot tea.

25. Big number. Half way to fifty. 5 years off 30. Wowzer. But the amazing thing about this birthday, is that I am not actually freaking out. Good friends will testify that for years (since around my 13th birthday) I have played the role of a buzzkill on many of my birthdays as I have freaked out about gaining another year, terrified that my life was flying by far too quickly and I was failing to achieve everything I wanted and failing to squeeze the maximum life out of each moment that I was possible. (Proof in point: see my post from my 23rd birthday.)

But for some reason, this year…the big 2 – 5 …I’m ok with it. More than ok, I feel excited. Am I where I thought I’d be? No. But am I content with where I am? Yes.

I am…

…getting grounded again in who I am and want to be after losing my footing for a couple of years, caught up in a world of questions and also trying to please far too many people.

…rearranging my priorities. Realising that being a study/workaholic really doesn’t do you any favours. time to invest far more in relationships and smelling the roses.

…seeing progress (slow, but progress!) in my health, definitely an improvement from last year’s birthday.

…realising anew after my Timor-Leste trip how amazingly blessed, secure and fulfilling my life is. So genuinely GRATEFUL.

So. 25. Hello. Wrinkles and all, let’s be good friends.

To all my wonderful family and friends…THANKYOU. so, so glad you’re in my life.

Timor-Leste Diaries #1 – First Impressions

It seemed we had only just left Darwin before our little jet commenced its descent into Dili. Barely 600km from Australian soil, it was immediately clear that Timor-Leste was, in fact, a whole world away. Steep and striking mountains towered above us as we taxied along the Dili runway past multiple UN and ADF helicopters.

We lined up for immigration on a covered path surrounded by gardens (unlike any immigration I’ve encountered before!). And bam, there was my first collision with the language barrier.
“How long are you here for?” he asked from his little booth.
“16 days.”
“OK, 7 days,” he said, scribbling 7 days on the stamped visa in my passport.
“No, no, sorry, I need a 30 day visa.”
“One week? Yes? 2 week?”
This confusing but friendly conversation last for quite some time involving a comprehensive discussion about weeks and days and a bit of counting on fingers until I got my passport back with some scribble that I hoped spelled out thirty days. I get so frustrated and feel so rude when I am unable to speak the language of a nation.

We then threw our luggage into the back of a small truck and clambered in on top of it, much to the horror and embarrassment of the driver who couldn’t believe we’d prefer to sit in the dirty back rather than in the dual cab with him (oops. we didn’t know this offended him until later!).

As we weaved and honked our way through the heavy traffic past banana trees and cinder block houses, I was acutely aware of the smells…a pungent aroma of sea air, fruit, petrol fumes, rubbish, the tropics and animals all combined. Strangely, it invoked strong memories of my time in Guatemala…similar climate perhaps.

It was good to be here. Awake since 3am, exhausted, sick with a bad cold and sinusitis, mentally tired from a very busy semester, I was feeling a little apprehensive about surviving the next couple of intense weeks learning about peace building, state building, security sector reform and development. But in the back of that truck in the glow of the morning sun with the tropical breeze on our faces and countless children waving from the side of the road, the fears began to melt away and yes, it was good to be in Timor-Leste.