Friday, 31 August 2012

Challenged when you least expect it

After living for almost 35 years I am finding so many of my long held beliefs are being challenged, it is exciting and scary, it causes great internal turmoil and my head is hurting a lot, but I think there could truly be a better way to exist than what I have done up until now, but am I brave enough to explore it further?

Previously I quoted Steve Jobs as saying something along the lines of “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice”.  Have you ever tried to think and live outside the commonly accepted stereotype or expectation people have of you?  I find it really difficult, I feel a bit like a failure, I feel weird and strange and it can be a bit lonely; it seems much easier to go with the flow, the only problem for me is it leaves me feeling empty and confused and lonely as well.

As I blogged a few month ago I was challenged by the concept that you don’t have to do to be, this idea continues to change my life every day.  Now I am being challenged by the idea that as a parent it is not necessarily my job to tell my children, or any other children, what they should or shouldn’t do, or try to manipulate or control them to say, do  and think what I want them to, not even my job to solve their problems for them.  Rather the idea is to provide an environment to help them make the most of their own skills and energy to secure cooperation and responsibility. The objective is to grow confident and responsible adults, that I will share a strong connection with.
Another idea is that when our own needs are met we feel affectionate, confident, empowered, engaged, inspired, excited, hopeful, grateful and exhilarated but when our needs are not met we feel annoyed, disconnected, sad, vulnerable, embarrassed, tense, confused and angry (M.B. Rosenberg).  To meet needs we need to listen to our own bodies and intuition, or truly listen when our spouse or children talk to us.  It takes time, you need to be really connected to yourself and those around you, and it cannot be manufactured or faked and as I am finding you need to be prepared to have your beliefs challenged and you need to be courageous. 

Unschooling is another idea that has caught my attention lately and this challenges a lot of my beliefs.  Unschooling believes that children can teach themselves through their curiosity and eagerness to explore the world. It focuses on real world learning experiences, and it allows the child to dictate his or her education by deciding what they do, or don’t, want to learn about.  This seems crazy to me, but the number of children who struggle through 13 years of formal education also causes me a great deal of concern.

If I looked at my world and saw love and peace and hope and joy I probably wouldn’t see any reason to challenge mainstream beliefs and ideas, but I don’t.  I see lots of sadness, violence, brokenness, abuse, depression, anxiety, worry and fear which is what gets me thinking there must be a better way.  
There is a lot going on in my head and heart at the moment, I am not saying any of the above ideas are the answer, as I approach my birthday so many things I thought I already knew are being challenged, and new ideas are being formed and investigated and I am certainly being extended outside my comfort zone.   Gail Sheehy said “If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living”, and one thing I am sure of is while I am here I want to really live, not just exist.  what do you think?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Living the good life?

What is your vision of the good life?  Have you thought about it, or are you just content plodding through one day at a time and seeing where life takes you?  Watching the Olympic Games I have realised there are a lot of people out there that have very clear and specific visions about winning a gold medal at the Olympics, something I have never even considered and would never have the determination, ability or commitment to achieve.  Whether you have formally developed a vision or if it is just a quiet whisper deep down inside, this vision for your life is what helps you set priorities each and every day.

Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, said “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

I try not to think about dying too much, but I must admit the idea of being an old person in a nursing home motivates me to make the most of this life while I am still relatively young.  Just like Dennis Denuto said in The Castle “It’s the vibe of the thing” and my vision is based on a vibe.  My vibe is described brilliantly by these words, “The work of decency will be peace, and the effect of honesty will be quietness and trust.  You will live in a peaceful neighbourhood, in secure houses, and in quiet gardens.  Those who have well watered fields and gardens with farm animals grazing freely will enjoy a fortunate life”.

Very often my real life does not feel quiet or free or peaceful but  I will continue to reach for my dream, because as Robert Fritz said "If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise."

So what does your dream life look like?  Are you already living it?  Are you working towards a vision set by the expectations of others, doing things because you think it will make you popular, please other people, make you rich, change the world or simply based on all you have ever known?

Christopher Reeve famously said “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”  There is too much anxiety, depression and poor physical and mental health in our world, there is too much violence, injustice and debt, there is too much fear and worry and not enough love and trust.  We all need to dream, to have a vision for our life, and whether we feel like the vision is huge or very tiny; we owe it to ourselves, our family, our community and the entire world, to live that dream.  It will make the world a better place.  What do you think?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Can I wrap myself in happy?

I know what makes me happy so is it possible to spend a whole life wrapped up in happy?  I love spending time with and chatting to my beautiful sister and my wonderful friends, I love listening to my daughters as they make up poems and songs and I love watching them giggle and play, I love being with my husband especially when he smiles, I love walking in the paddock at Golden Hour when the setting sun makes everything shine bright orange and yellow.  I love watching movies with cheerful songs and bright and colourful images and happy endings, I love being with people and reading the bible, praising God and talking about Jesus.  The list of things I love is extensive, I love being happy.

The great thing is when I do these things often all the more mundane tasks become so much more enjoyable, maybe not enjoyable but bearable.  However, my happiness is quickly robbed when I step outside my bubble of people and things that make me happy, and my instinct is to quickly retreat back to happy.  Is this childish, maybe it means I can’t cope with the world, am I serving my life purpose by just wrapping myself in happy?  Does happy pay the bills and put food on the table?

Obviously there are things out of my control that will make me unhappy and that is life, I get that, but even during these times often there are things I can do that will make me happy.  Is there a rule that says as a serious adult I must consciously and actively go out and do things that make me unhappy?  Do I owe it to my family, my community, my family and friends to do things that make me unhappy? 

I’m not talking superficial, instant gratification happy, I’m talking about the happy that makes your body tingle with delight, you smile involuntarily, you have a peace and joy that settles on your soul, love and kindness exudes from your heart and your words are gentle and encouraging. 

Our children wake up so excited each day ready to experience all the wonderful things that lay ahead of them, how many of us wake up dreading all the tasks that must get done that day?    

The concept of just surrounding yourself with things and people that makes you happy sounds simple, but it isn’t, trust me, I’m trying and it is hard to find a definite line with happy on one side and unhappy on the other.  There are things that are really important to me and good for me but sometimes devoting time and energy towards these things can rob me of my happiness, so what to do?  There are things that I have never done before that might make me happy if I give them a try. There are people that I love that might not actually make me happy but it would make me unhappy to exclude them from my life.

It can be complex but I do know I am here on earth for a short time and I want every day to be mostly happy and enjoyable, so I am going to keep trying to wrap myself in happy and I guess I will just see how it all works out in the end.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Sorry ... we don't support religious organisations

Stand back, this isn’t going to be pretty.  There will be hand waving, a few heated words, maybe even a little bit of name calling, I might even accidentally spit a little as I get caught up in my tirade and I am not going to draw breath for the next minute or two, so watch out ...

We live in a world where discrimination is not acceptable.  That is totally cool, so tell me why is it that many businesses, organisations and funding bodies have a policy whereby they will not support religious organisations?

Let us for a minute have a look at the type of services religious organisations in Australia provide, looking at the ones we see every day in our own town.  Anglicare provides much needed support for our elderly people, they provide help at home, nursing and a range of services that enable people to live in their own homes longer, they coordinate foster and kinship care for vulnerable children, they offer disability, youth, mental health and family support services and so much more.  Imagine our community without this care and support for our elderly, vulnerable, lonely and young.  Who in their right mind would not want to support the work of this organisation?

Then we have St Vincent de Paul, an organisation committed to addressing poverty in our community.  Their website says “There is no magic solution to poverty.  It takes compassion, commitment and money” and that is what Vinnies offers.  Not only do they have their donation centres they are committed to social justice.  They literally “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, protect the rights of those who are helpless. Speak out and pronounce a sentence of justice, defend the cause of the wretched and the poor." (Proverbs 31:8-9).  Again, imagine society without people dedicated to the pursuit of social justice and overcoming poverty.

Thirdly we have Salvation Army.  Who is at the heart of every emergency and disaster in this country?  It is the Salvation Army.  Did you know that across Australia in a typical week the Salvation Army provides 100,000 meals for the hungry; 2000 beds for the homeless; 5000-8000 food vouchers; 1000 people with assistance to find employment; refuge to 500 victims of child abuse; assistance to 500 addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling; several thousand people with counselling; 3000 people with aged care services, 40 people in the court system with chaplaincy programs and family tracing services which locate 40 missing family members.  This is just one week.  Again, why would you not want to support this wonderful work?

I personally know of dozens of Christian organisations in Australia who help our brothers and sisters all over the world.  They save babies from pit toilets, rescue young girls from sex slavery, feed starving babies and mothers, provide life changing surgery to women who would otherwise remain shunned by society and offer clean drinking water to remote communities.  These religious organisations, who will not be funded or supported by numerous organisations and agencies, make the world a better place.  Often they are the only ones brave enough to address issues that other people shy from.  They are not without their problems, just like every other organisation they are not perfect but surely no one can argue the work they do isn’t worthwhile and worthy of financial support.  What do you think?