We must stop shifting the burden!

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I read or heard somewhere once that when we do something that has been made easy, it means the burden has most likely been shifted elsewhere. Don’t quote me on that as I can’t find the original statement, but it doesn’t matter. I am sure you get the idea of what it means.

Lately I have been finding myself interested obsessed with our current behaviours in terms of consumerism, waste and the environmental disaster we are continuously creating and recreating. I used to be very mindful of this and for many decades lived according to my values, but for various reasons I stopped doing many of the things I did for years. It’s only been in recent times that I have had the time, energy and resources to commit myself to making sustainable changes in my life and habits again.

Do you remember the movie Turner and Hooch with Tom Hanks? It came out in 1990 in Australia and I vividly recall being gobsmacked when Tom Hanks was cleaning up the mess left by the dog using paper towels, and rolls of them. I could not for the life of me understand why he was using them, to say I was horrified would be an understatement.

Fast forward to recent years and I am ashamed to say that I have been the queen of paper towels. I used to use them for everything. Without even realising it I too had began engaging in the very behaviour that I could not have ever imagined myself doing. Why? Because it’s easy, clean and efficient – for me. Not for the planet or our environment, but boy are they handy. I was shifting the burden.

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This is just America – imagine the rest of the world!

As I have been analysing my own actions at home, I can’t help but see what is happening around me and to be honest I am struggling not to be overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of what needs to be done to save our planet, if we can even save it.

Did you know that every single piece of plastic ever made is still in existence? That barbie doll I threw out in the 70s is still somewhere on our earth. The billions of water bottles used every year are largely still out there, polluting our environment. There are traces of plastic in every single living thing in on earth and in the ocean and marine birds, I’m sure you’ve seen the graphic pictures of animals cut open after their death, literally filled with plastic mistaken for food.

We think it goes somewhere else when we throw it out, recycle it or do whatever we think is the right thing with it.

News flash. There is no ‘somewhere else.’

Wet wipes – for adults and babies. We have become so lazy that we can’t use a flannel or reusable cloth to wipe our babies bums. These do not biodegrade and sit in huge lumps creating a new problem called Fatbergs. Don’t get me started on disposable nappies. Yep, once again we are shifting the burden because cleaning and washing nappies is just way too hard.

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Wet wipes in a Sydney sewer system

I can’t even. The whole situation makes me want to run away and hide, but the reality is there is nowhere to go. So, I am taking charge of my own environment and doing what I can with what I have, where I am.

So…much as I want to hide my head in the sand, and I feel a sense of total despair while writing this, I would like to share some small steps we can all take to make a difference. I could actually write about a thousand steps, but I am starting with the ones I have begun doing and I will add more in a future post.

  1. Refuse and stop using single use – anything. This goes for water bottles, shopping bags, plastic cutlery, plastic dental picksters, disposable razors, coffee cups, straws – anything. Spend a few dollars and buy a reusable or at the very least compostable version of it all. It will actually save you in the long run in some instances. I’m playing a game with myself, that if I forget to take my bags or buy more items than I planned for the bags I have – I need to carry the items, as I am going to carry my own burden from now on.
  2. Buy unpackaged and bulk wherever possible. Why oh why do we package apples, bananas, potatoes and other items? Because it’s easy and we can’t be bothered washing them – again shifting the burden. If people stop buying them, they will stop wrapping them.
  3. When you must buy packaged, try to get it in glass if possible, it’s not always, but there are many glass options.
  4. Refuse wherever you can, even small things such as receipts, (do you know how much BPA is in receipts?!?!) flyers, junk mail, printed invoices, paper bank statements, bills. We don’t need them most of the time, and usually throw them straight into the rubbish and most things can be sent online now.
  5. For the paper towels – this was one of my last changes. I have a combination of things, old clothes, old tea towels I found at a second hand shop, cloths made by a friend and for when I really feel I need a paper towel I have bought a packet of bamboo washable ones. I suspect this will be a short term solution but for some of the things I do in my business hygiene is very important so this is my measure for now.
  6. Toilet paper and wipes – use recycled toilet paper (we use Pure Planet and there are arguments for and against these services so do your research to see which suits you best) If you want to use some kind of wipe, you can try reusables, but you might want to consider installing a bum hose/bum gun/bidet. I have written previously about my love affair with them here. They are amazing!

I will leave it at these six suggestions for now, as small sustainable steps are the best way forward and less overwhelming to incorporate into a new daily routine.

If we can all take just one small step a day, collectively we can make a difference. Our future, and the planet we are leaving our generations to come are depending on it.

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51 times around the sun

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Today at lunch with my love

Today is my 51st birthday. Even as I write this, I still can’t quite fathom it. All of the regular cliches come to mind – time flies by so fast, it only seems like yesterday, life is short, where did the time go, I’ve heard myself say them all and with great frequency recently. Seriously where the hell did 2016 go? I swear the planet is spinning more rapidly this year and it’s not just me who feels this way.

But – it’s true. I am 51 years of age. I have been on this spinning blue planet for 51 cycles as it circles the sun. In my head I still feel just as I did when I was in my teens, of course with more wisdom and knowledge and I only have to look in the mirror to know that I am no longer 19. I still feel like everyone on TV and in the media is older than me, but the reality is they are all younger than me, or mostly anyway.

At 51, I am proud to have raised two incredible men, Josh now 30 and Matt who is 26. I am grandma to two amazing human beings, Ella 5 and Jake 3 – me, a grandma! Seriously? In my day grandmas wore petticoats, stockings and frocks, had blue rinses and never left the house without their face on. No matter my age, I can’t see myself ever doing any of those things.

At 51 I am freer than I’ve ever been, happier than I’ve ever felt and think I finally know what I want to do when I grow up. Well, maybe anyway. One of the great things about living life with freedom and curiosity is that anything can change at any time. I might find something new and exciting that calls to my heart and I might do that instead. Who knows, and how awesome is that!

At 51 I have nothing to prove to anyone other than myself.

At 51 I have all that I need. I live a simple life, surrounded by simple pleasures that bring me great joy. I don’t want for anything. I am rich beyond measure; in love, health, family and friends and experiences that teach me lessons that I could never have learnt at school.

At 51 I am content.

At 51 I am wise. I am free. I am loved. I am happy. I am enough.

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11 days of down time…

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I have been back in Bali for 11 days and I’ve done pretty well two thirds of nothing. I’ve only written one blog post prior to this one and I’ve almost finished reading one book, I haven’t even had a swim.

So what have I been doing? Sleeping (at least 10 hours a night!), chatting and posting on social media, talking with friends and my hubby, catching up with good friends here, watching nonsense I downloaded on my laptop, pottering around, a tiny bit of shopping, relaxing, eating, having massages and treatments, and that’s about it.

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When I came I had grand plans that included finishing writing one of my books and breaking the back of another one, planning my business offerings for 2017, going to yoga and meditation, walking for kilometres each day and I have done none of those things. Not one.

But it’s ok.

It’s really ok.

The negative should part of my brain tells me that I could have done these things at home, but in reality I wouldn’t have.

The positive part of my brain tells me that I have done what I needed to do for me.

And I have.

What I needed to do was nothing. Time out, quiet time, nothing time, to relax and decompress.

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You see before I came here, I had had a crazy few months of flat out work, travel, a trip to Africa to start building a women’s shelter and a whole lot of craziness and stress leading up to it, too much busy-ness, one very unpleasant experience that impacted hugely on my ability to fall asleep, leaving me with about five hours of sleep a night (I am a minimum eight a night girl) and to top it off I had bronchitis for almost four weeks. By the time I left home I was beyond exhausted. I was so tired I didn’t even know myself.

Being back in Bali has, as usual, been wonderful. I feel so at home here and I easily slip back into the laid back tropical lifestyle that only Bali brings me. It only takes a day or so and I feel as if I am breathing out, and time doesn’t matter any more.

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I am heading home tomorrow and have planned to do almost no work until the end of January and I aim to keep it that way. I am taking this opportunity to reassess my schedule, look at different ways of working and reintroducing myself to the hardest word of all for me to say – no. 2017 is already shaping up to be very busy and I want to enjoy all it brings me, while maintaining optimal physical and mental health.

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I plan to do a closing off ceremony for this year and look forward to taking time to reflect and give thanks. 2016 has been one of the most challenging, difficult and yet exciting and wonderful years, full of growth and opportunity, filled with so many contrasts and for all of them I am very thankful.

So, as I head off to sleep for the last night in my beloved island home, I wish as you much rest, relaxation, breathing out and down time as you can take.

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Self regulation?

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Yesterday a client came to see me and had her two teenage sons with her. Their family home schools, read tons of books, play loads of games and choose not to have a television, though they do watch movies. It was actually really lovely to see her two boys playing a card game rather than looking down at phones or screens for the time they were there.

After a couple of hours one of them asked me if he could turn the TV on. Of course I said, assuming it was OK with his mum. He said to me “we don’t have TV at home”, without any hint of regret, resentment or anything remotely other than matter of fact, and clearly based on the things they do in their life, no sense of missing out on anything either.

My instant reply was “oh I wish I didn’t have a TV either”. I imagined all of the things I could get done; books from my massive reading list that could be finished, projects completed and writing and study accomplished. It’s not that I watch TV all day, but as we have a smart TV and I work from home regularly, I will often turn it on to Netflix or YouTube for company and background noise, but find myself distracted and abandon whatever it is I’m working on at the time and get sucked into the shiny sparkling vortex, a lot like the black hole of Facebook.

I left my husband in Ghana about four weeks ago and in my mind I was filled with all of the wondrous things I would achieve without his presence to distract me.  I was wrong. I downloaded a few of my favourite TV series and rather than read, I started watching them for company in bed each night.

Anyway back to my “oh I wish I didn’t have TV” comment. I realised as the words came out of my mouth that it was an absolutely ridiculous statement. It’s not as if the TV turns itself on and forces me to sit there glued to it. It’s not as if it calls me, entices me or reminds me of its presence, as chocolate and biscuits do regularly. I can hear them calling from the pantry – is it just me or do other people find that too?

So I got to thinking. Why I don’t I act like I don’t have a TV for a bit? When I am in Bali I never watch it, I never turned it on in Ghana and I never watch it when with friends, unless I am there on holidays. Clearly I like it for company and it makes for a great procrastination tool, you can read more on some of my hot tips for avoidance here. I also like music, but there is something about the instant gratification of mindless TV that seems to hit the spot.

Self-regulation is not one of my greatest strengths, and it was interesting when I completed the unit on strengths when studying positive psychology to have this confirmed by one of the instruments we used. I completed the VIA strengths inventory and was not at all surprised to find humour to be my most often used strength and self-regulation sitting right at the bottom as my least used at number 24. This applies to all areas of my life and something I am well aware of.

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So, I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to go back to turning on music and not getting sucked into mindlessly watching TV. I’m going to pretend, at least during the day that I don’t have one and see how I go. I am sure I will be much more productive and enjoy the things I am doing as I will be completely present to them all, so I’ll let you know. You never know I might just start using my office that I completely overhauled recently.

However, my biggest distraction returns home tomorrow –  let’s see if I can regulate myself when he is back too.

Wish me luck!

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Only the Good Die Young

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Megan – the embodiment of joy, love and light.

I’ve lost too many wonderful people in my relatively short life. Amazing souls taken much too soon. They are always the bright ones, the shiny ones, the ones that light up the world.

The ones that make us better people for having known them.

Cancer, suicide, accidents and illness have stolen them from those who need them the most.

They are the true earth angels, brought here to show us the way, guide and teach us what we need to know.

Today I am feeling so sad at the loss of yet another beautiful soul who truly lit up the world. From the moment we met, Megan and I connected, and as we were on a personal development course, we shared some deep truths, pains and growth with each other. I felt privileged to have been able to share that space, time and healing experience with her and from then we had a beautiful heart felt connection.

As I was reading and processing this devastating news, through my tears I found myself reading that yet another beautiful earth angel I’ve been inspired by is soon to make her departure from this earthly plane.

It’s unfair and it makes me sad, angry and so many other emotions I am unable to adequately express.

Losing earth angels is always devastating and hard to recover from. We grieve, cry and talk of the unfairness of it all. We feel the deep pain that grief gouges into our hearts and souls, leaving scars, deep wounds and gentle reminders of love, life and lessons never to be forgotten.

We use platitudes such as “life is short” “do what you love” “live each day as if it’s your last”. I use them myself, but how many of us truly live this way?

Whenever I’ve lost someone, and as I said it’s happened too many times in my life, I take the opportunity to pause and reflect and ask myself some questions. What am I doing to make a difference? Does what I do every day help others? Does the way I live my life adequately serve others? What impact can I have in the short time I’m here? Does everyone in my life know how much they mean to me? What else can I do? What else can I learn? Who else can I help?

So today, while I am incredibly sad and feeling the loss of yet another earth angel, when my heart is ready, I will ask myself these questions and see what it is I need to do next.

As Mahatma Ghandi so wisely said; ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever’. Because you just never know.

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So much to be thankful for!

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This is one of my favourite photos. This little girl was just sitting like this when I came out of a hut in a village. It is perfection in every way!

I’ve just finished watching Mary and Martha, a movie on Netflix about two women brought together by tragedy. My GP recommended I watch it when I was debating whether or not to take anti malarial medication when I head back to Ghana this week.

After returning from Africa for the second time, Mary (played by Hilary Swank) is sitting amongst her friends, one of whom is annoyed about the fact that her husband decided which type of second car they buy, a Mercedes or a Lexus. She is unable to relate to anyone and they seem oblivious to her struggle. She stands up to leave and when asked why says “The honest answer is I’m not ready to feel this normal again. I’ve just seen some terrible things and I’m having a hard time getting worked up about one great big car versus another great big car.” A friend says “Mary, don’t go crazy on us.” Her reply “The way I see it now, you’re the crazy ones. we spend every minute of our lives obsessed or angry about things that don’t matter at all.”

She is shown experiencing the kind of existential angst I found myself feeling when I returned from Ghana and suggests to her husband they sell their large home to buy something smaller so they can make a difference in other people’s lives.

I get it, I really get it. It brought so many memories back.

While I didn’t suffer the type of terrible tragedy that her character did in the film, I absolutely know the feeling that goes with thinking that nobody around you can possibly fathom what you’ve seen, where you’ve been and what you are feeling.

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The same village as the girl above, no electricity, no running water, just this pump – but happiness, community, family and connection abounds.

This was me in July 2011, and this feeling lasted for about six months, maybe more and some aspects have never left, but they are the aspects that inspire me and give me the impetus to try to bring about change. I have tried to explain it to people and found it really difficult but in a nutshell it was like this.

I should have been happy to be home and yes I was, really super over the top happy in fact. It was so good to see my kids and family, my granddaughter was due at any moment and all of the wonderful things that I missed about home were so delicious. I wrote here about some of the things I vowed never to take for granted again and to this day I haven’t.

However I found some things to be a huge struggle. I mean how many types of milk, bread, cereal, coffee and every other consumable do we need? How many pairs of shoes does a person need in order to be happy? How many pairs of jeans, t-shirts, handbags, necklaces should one person have in their cupboard and must they change every season?  Do we really need to change our phone every time a new one comes out and don’t get me started on how wasteful we are with food and every other single thing as a society.

I couldn’t give a damn about the latest fashion, when I’d lived amongst people who didn’t even know where their next meal was coming from. I couldn’t care less about a new pair of boots when I’d seen people die of curable and preventable illnesses. I had held my mother in law in my arms as she died in the most excruciating pain imaginable, due to grossly inadequate health care.

I couldn’t contemplate the fact that people at work were arguing about the new EBA that was in the negotiation process where I felt we were extremely well paid, I just could not engage myself in the conversation whatsoever. You cannot begin to imagine my feelings when our recently overhauled office was gutted again and renovated with a ridiculously expensive fit out, when I had just come from a place where children don’t even have a desk or chair to use in schools, not to mention toilets. Did you know that most schools in Ghana do not have toilets and girls, if they are lucky enough to be able to attend, can’t go when they’re menstruating? I could go on and on and on and on.

I never wanted to bring people down and still don’t, so I didn’t talk about it much. Most of my personal struggle was internal and unshared, even to this day, but the reality is that most of us never have the opportunity that I was blessed to have, which is to see life from a very different perspective and truly appreciate what we have and how much we have to be thankful for.

So, like Mary in the movie; I do what I can with what I’ve got and do my best to make a little bit of a difference, no matter how small it seems.

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This beautiful lady hand dyes all of this gorgeous batik and tie and dye fabric.

I haven’t written any more of my book about my year in Ghana since returning from Bali in June, I kind of lost my mojo for a while but now this movie and the fact that I’m heading back has me feeling inspired to get into it again, and I’m sure I will get more juicy goodness this next few weeks away.

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Colourful fishing boats in Cape Coast

That question!

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I’ve been having a bit more trouble than usual with my neck and shoulders lately and my trapezius were tight as a drum, which was excruciating, so this week I decided to try Osteopathy. I’m a big fan of all physical modalities and have tried almost everything out there, but for some reason I’d never tried Osteopathy, though I’ve always heard good things about it.

Osteopathy is a bit like a blend of physiotherapy and chiropractic and the result from the treatment was actually really good and I got instant relief.

The reason for me writing about my experience is not to extol the virtues of Osteopathy, although I’m definitely going to go back, it’s more about the conversation I had with David, my doctor.

As usual when attending a practice for the first time, I completed the patient information form. The usual questions were there, along with the lifestyle ones: Do you smoke? No. Do you drink? No.  Then the question I always dread – do you exercise and if so, how often? It’s always no, but I have the urge to write “but I’m working on it” or “I’m about to start” or “I used to, and am starting again soon”.

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Confession time: The truth is I’ve never really had a regular exercise routine. I’ve had fits and spurts and periods where I’m an enthusiastic walker, attend yoga or dance classes, but never anything long term. My best effort was about nine months. How embarrassing. I am almost 51 (though sometimes in complete denial about that too) and I’ve never engaged in regular exercise on a long term basis.

I teach it and preach it in terms of the benefits for mental and physical health. I realise how important it is for all of the reasons we all know only too well – but for some reason I don’t seem to be able to keep that momentum. I go to bed every single night with the best of intentions, only to find excuses the next day as to why I can’t go. I love walking and when I’m out there I always ask myself why I don’t make it a regular habit. When I am overseas I walk all day long. I actually really do love it.

I see friends posting and talking about their gym, runs, workouts, practices and I’m so inspired, but nothing seems to push me out that door into doing what I know I need to do.

When I was in the appointment with David, he went through my health background and then came the question again about exercise. My answer – I always plan to but I never make it happen. He asked me the most simple yet profound question in just two words “Why not?” I couldn’t really answer that, I really don’t know why I don’t do it. I said I just supposed I was lazy. I don’t really believe I’m lazy, but it’s all I could think of. He challenged me to exercise the next morning and asked me to get out my phone so we could both set our alarms together. Nothing like a bit of pressure and accountability, which I actually respond really well to.  Oh I can’t possibly do that was my reply, I’m working tomorrow, starting at 8:30. So was he, starting at 7. He set his for 5:30, I set mine for 6:30. He said he would be up doing weights, I said I would be up walking.

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You can probably guess who succeeded here and who didn’t. Can I use the shitty Adelaide once in a 50 year event storm for an excuse? Yes I think I can get away with it for today and tomorrow, but after that I think it’s time I began to adult.

I am writing this post as an accountability check for myself. I know better, I teach better, it’s time I do better.

So here goes. I will start walking regularly starting Saturday. I will walk for at least 30 minutes at least four days a week. I will also resume yoga classes on my return from Ghana.

Watch this space as I finally get my shit together and walk my talk – literally!

Who wants to join me?

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