Saturday, 4 March 2017

Family, laughter, and the things that bring us together

I read an absolutely BRILLIANT article today that totally resonated with me on many, many levels.  It described one of the blights of our society's structure... Social isolation. "The world is getting lonelier". Indeed.

I look around, and I see so many of us who live on our own, whose kids have left home to step into their own lives; I see those who (like me) moved away from their 'home-town' for work purposes or life-style choices. I think of other dear friends (and family) who found themselves suddenly living alone after the death of a partner.  So many of us, for so many different reasons, living a life that isolates us from those we call family, from those we hold dear in our hearts. 

One of the observations the author made was how "we need places to bump into each other' - and not just with those who are 'like-minded'.  How, having places that we can 'bump into each other' with a friendly smile / hello / chat helps us develop communities, to feel connected to each other, to feel we are 'not alone', and to really appreciate and value the diversity of those in our community.  To recognise each other as someone more than just that person from up the road. .

Remember when you used to drop your kids off at school, and you'd chat with the other parents outside the classroom as you waited for school to finish, or you'd bump into each other at various school events etc.  And then, as your kids get older, that whole 'mum walking me up to the classroom' thing just gets a bit embarrassing for our kids and they 'ditch us' on that score.  And our connections with that community can just slowly and almost invisibly slip away.  And then our kids leave school altogether, and that sense of connection to our local school community is just gone.   And there's a hole there, a gap, that for some of us goes unfulfilled.  Our sense of connection to our community becomes a little more tenuous.

And yet, it's that sense of community, that sense of belonging, that we draw on when times are tough to give us our feeling of resilience, of strength, of support. That was one of the really good things that came out of the Chch earthquakes. The solid bonds that were re-established and strengthened within our various communities. These are SO vital to our health and well-being, on SO many levels.

And yet for many of us, these bonds and connections are really lacking. 
 
Nearly twenty-six years ago, I moved from my home-town in the North Island down to Christchurch to progress my career, leaving behind ALL my family.  It was only going to be for 'five years'.  ;-) 
Twenty-six years and 10,000+ earthquakes,  I'm still here.  ;-)  

And then at the beginning of last year, my daughter left home to go and pursue her studies in Wellington, leaving me living on my own. After she left, I **really** noticed the isolation and gaps in my sense of belonging, my sense of connection to my local community.

So I resolved to strengthen them. :-)   Sure, I could move back up north.  But I love my home.  I love Christchurch, even in it's on-going 'transformational state'. ;-) I love the climate it offers, the diversity of people, opportunities, lifestyles, the beach on my doorstep, and the mountains too.  There is something magical about this place that winds it's way into your heart and just refuses to let go.  This 'big town that masquerades as a city'.  Yeah.  It's home now. :-)

So instead, I found ways to re-connect with the people who gave me that sense of belonging, of community, of 'family', here in my adopted home-town. 

For me, Laughter Yoga is one of those places. It's a place where I can be myself, laugh and be silly and 'let go' without judgement. With others who also see and understand the benefits of that too. With people who understand that when the chips are down, laughter really IS the best medicine, but for those of us who live alone it can be REALLY tough, almost impossible, to find ways to generate that laughter for ourselves.  There is a wonderful diversity amongst the people who go there, a wonderful acceptance of self and others just as we are, where we are, who we are. A recognition that we are all just doing our best to get through a life that isn't always fair, that can be pretty darn tough, that isn't always a bed of roses. To be amongst people with that perspective on life is so refreshing and reaffirming. And over the years I've been going, there have been some absolutely delightful and deep friendships that have blossomed into life, that continue to nourish me to this day  :-)

This group of people and this 'practice' have been my support over the years when I've really needed it. Through thick and thin (and there has been LOTS of 'thick and thin'), they've given me a very much appreciated ability to find light in some very dark tunnels, a feeling of support, and community.  A sense of belonging, and a reminder that I am not alone.

So, wherever it is that you find it, whatever it is that gives it to you, find your 'community'. Find whatever / whoever it is that gives you your 'sense of belonging', and embrace it. Be it Laughter Yoga, a knitting group, a dance group, a choir, a walking group, a tiddly-winks club. Whatever it is, find it, and then have the courage to reach out and embrace it, like it's family.  It'll keep you going when you really need it.

And here's a link to the article that provoked this thinking.   Thanks heaps, Lucy Hone, for the reminder about the importance of belonging.




Sunday, 13 November 2016

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..........

So, as I watch and listen to the various news coverage and footage of the aftermath of the quakes in New Zealand, I am shocked and saddened to see the state of various roads, homes and buildings. Roads I used to love driving (the Kaikoura coast road is an absolute TREASURE as is the road to Hanmer).... 

And then I remember, actually, there are PEOPLE whose lives will have been devastated, traumatised, upheaved and impacted in many, MANY ways by these events. I know from my own personal experiences of the Christchurch 2010 / 2011 earthquakes the mayhem that will be unfolding right now...

So, take a moment, spare a thought for the PEOPLE whose LIVES have been thrown into chaos and disarray, whose emotions are in turmoil... People just like you and me.  People who, when they went to bed last night, thought they would wake up the next morning to their 'normal' daily life and routine. People whose lives will now be forever changed, whose lives will now quite likely be divided into 'pre' and 'post' quake. 

Spare a thought for these people as you go about your 'normal' daily life and routine when theirs has been so unexpectedly turned on it's head. 

Breathe quietly into your heart  and on your out-breath, send them prayers of love and tenderness and calmness and support. Repeat as often as you are able. If we can do nothing else, we can do this. Trust me. They need it right now. <3 <3 

 
#breathingoutlove #peoplemattermore

Sunday, 21 August 2016

A Cliche of a Day

Some days, I just can't be bothered with people's shit.... Most days, I'm a lot 'kinder' and more gracious / engaging than that..... Today was one of the former kind of days. ;-) 

So I went down to one of my favourite cafes (that'd be Beat Street Cafe), said hello to two gorgeous souls who were there (and who were very graciously understanding when I said I just wanted some 'me time' (thank you very much for not being offended, both of you :-) ), sat down with a cup of lovely Manuka Mint tea, and just started writing.... 

It's been a while since I wrote anything that wasn't song lyrics falling out while I doodled about on the piano. Having said that, I have a rather large accumulation of poems I've written over the years.  But even so it was quite refreshing to get back into writing poetry on many levels....  ;-)

So, I figure it's not quite a 'blog post' in my usual style, but some days I just have nothing to say.  
So here's a poem, a bit of a cliche. ;-)

======================================

A Bit of a Cliche


So if all else fails
Where would we be?
At Wit's End, a Loose End
The deep blue sea?


A smouldering wreck
On a steaming shore
All else has failed
But still we want more?


Sadist or Masochist
I guess you might say
Attempting to fight
Another day


But what if I said
To the voice in my head
"Fuck that, my dear"
Would I be better off dead?


I think not, dear friend
There's still that spark
That glimpse of hope
that launched the ark


Some might say
Why keep on trying
Didn't Andy Dufresne tell us
To get busy dying?


But he also said
To get busy living
And maybe he'd encourage us
To be kind and forgiving


So maybe if
All else has failed
All hope is lost
The wind's prevailed


Keep your hands in your pocket
And act not so strange
For sure as eggs
the wind will change.


;-)


======================================

Monday, 18 July 2016

Deke Sharon, Queen Street and a young man called Michael...

What a week!  

I've been absolutely blessed to be in Auckland watching my daughter compete in an International Barbershop Quartet / Chorus competition.  That in itself was divine!

As part of that incredible experience, I got to watch an incredible leader in action.  A guy by the name of Deke Sharon - the musical genius behind the "Pitch Perfect" movies. He totally blew me away with his commitment and passion to music AND people.  Watching him coach, lead, encourage and inspire a massive 'all-comers' choir was one of the highlights of the week.   The way he talked, laughed, humoured, encouraged and cajoled magnificence out of this group was amazing to watch - specially for me, as a coach.  ;-)

And he talked to the audience the same way.  He reminded us all of the power of music, acapella music especially, to bring people together.  That acapella music especially has the power to remove all status, judgement, division. When we sing together, we ARE all one. One voice, one people.  We are all the same.

But this post isn't about my experience with Deke Sharon. He is not the man in the title of this post. 

This post is about what happened AFTER that.....   And perhaps because of that.....

On the way home from the first day of the barbershop festival, walking down Queen Street, I encountered a homeless man. To most of us, "the homeless" are invisible, bludgers, wanting a hand-out, victims, it's their own fault. We see them as hopeless, beyond help, lost. 

This is SOOOO not true.

WE need to see past that story, past that bullshit, past the illusion / delusion that society has spoon-fed us and has convinced us is true. 

"The homeless" are still people.  Sure, they may be different from you, from me.  But they are STILL people.  And just like you and me, all they want is to be seen, to be heard, to be listened to, to be treated like human beings.  Like people.   Just like you and me. 

How do I know this??? Cos a young man called Michael told me so.  And who's Michael?  An interesting young man I met on the streets of Auckland last week. 

On my way to the barbershop competition on a chilly winter's morning last week, I'd smiled at Michael as he sat on the footpath, and he'd called out a warm and cheery "good morning". I responded with a 'good morning' back - as you do, and he smiled and wished me a good day..  Just like anyone else would've done.  Just like you or me.  

That evening on my way back from an incredible day, including the mind-blowing workshop with Deke Sharon and his reminder of the power of music to bring us together as human beings IN HARMONY, I saw Michael again. He was sitting on the sidewalk, now wrapped in a blanket. The sun had set and it was starting to get cold... 

I stopped to ask him how his day had been and we chatted for a bit. As you do when you meet an acquaintance on the street...  After a few minutes, I became aware of how uncomfortable I felt talking 'down' to him, so I squatted down beside him and we carried on talking... After a little while, that became uncomfortable, so I sat down beside him. On the footpath. And listened as he told me about his day, his life on the street. 

He wasn't looking for sympathy, for money, for a hand-out.  He was simply looking for connection.  Wanting someone to simply "see" him as a person.  Without judgement, without trying to 'fix him' or his situation.  Just to listen, to make eye-contact, to connect and talk with him like a human being. 

We talked for ages. It turned out Michael is from Christchurch too. So we talked about the earthquakes, the rebuild, familiar places now lost.  Within minutes, we'd found our "commonality".  It hadn't taken long, or taken much effort at all on my part. It had just required that I look past his current situation, and see him as a person. As a human being. As a man whose current 'address' is different to mine.   To simply give him my time, my attention, my humanity.  And to notice and acknowledge his. 

I didn't quite understand all the events that had lead to Michael being on the street, but they didn't matter really.  Somewhere along the way, our society had let this young man down, and his current situation made it hard for him to 'get back up', to find work, to find somewhere to live.  But he was still trying.  And he was still hopeful. 

I asked him what his dream job was. Without hesitation, and with a sparkle in his eyes, he told me he wanted to be a sound engineer. We talked about his 'why'  (I'm a coach, remember?), and I asked him what was one thing that he could do towards that while he worked towards changing his current situation.....  He came up with FOUR things!  

He just needed someone to listen, to believe in him, to "sing his song back to him when he forgot it".  To remind him that he is a PERSON. And to treat him like one.  

He told me that I was the first person all day to stop and sit and talk with him.  How awful!!  As someone who has recently become an "empty-nester", I could TOTALLY relate to Michael's situation, and how isolating and lonely that must be.  He's really not so different from me. Or probably you, either.

I wanted to buy him a hot, nourishing meal, so I told him my intention, and asked him what he would like, and then went off down the road to get it for him. While I was waiting for his takeaway meal to be ready, I was thinking about the things we'd talked about, about how homeless people are so often ignored and treated as 'invisible', and the thought occurred to me that I'd given him my time, but I still felt a sense of disconnection.  There was still a 'safety-barrier' up (from my end).  

I asked myself, what was the one thing I could give him (apart from my time and a hot meal) to really connect.  And it hit me like a flash of lightening. SO simple, and something we do every day when we meet or are introduced to someone new....

We give them our name.  At that moment, Michael came into the take-away. The people in there were a little apprehensive on seeing him. I just smiled at everyone and said "it's alright.  He's with me".  The whole room relaxed. 


Then I reached out my hand and shook his hand and simply said  "I'm Sally. I haven't introduced myself to you yet".    He beamed and responded "Hi Sally, I'm Michael".  Just like you or I would do when we meet someone new. 

And that was that.  

Michael's meal was ready, and he went off to find a place to settle in for the night, and I went off to catch my bus.  

Sure, this encounter had made me late home.   But it had been SUCH an incredible experience to connect with this young man, to hear his story, to "see" him as a human being, to connect with him and help him remember he too is a human being.  Just like you.  Just like me.  

It's just that the eyes I saw him with that day were open and kind. Perhaps because of the compassion that Deke Sharon's session had stirred in my heart.  Who knows. 

I like word-plays and puns and such... Thinking about this encounter with Michael and our society's perception and treatment of 'the homeless',  it occurred to me that there's only ONE letter difference between  'HOMELESS'  =>  'HOPELESS'. 

It struck me that it's up to US ALL to ensure that our 'homeless' don't become 'hope-less'. 
We ALL have a part to play in that.  And all we have to do is give gift them our time, our attention, our humanity.  Even a smile and a simple hello will do.  Think about how often that changes your day.... When someone gives you a smile and a 'hello'.  And you don't even live on the street! 

Give  =>  gift.      It makes such a HUGE difference when you change "give"  to "gift". 

And what is it that music gifts us??    
It gifts us ourselves.  It gifts us connection, community, a sense of belonging and 'fitting in', a sense of harmony in our world, and the world around us.

It gifts us hope.  And without that, we have nothing. 

Don't be the voice of reason....  Be the voice of hope.  Be the voice of humanity. 
THAT's what we need more than anything right now. Especially people like Michael.




Sunday, 19 June 2016

All in a Coin Toss...


(The flipside of living an authentic life; of living in vulnerability). 

What's sitting with me as I write this, what I'm "soaking in", in the washing-machine of life (that’s another blog-post coming soon - watch this space!) is how, when we connect with others in a deeper heart-space connection, we might expect it all to just flow perfectly, smoothly, all "rose-petally".  :-)  

And sometimes it doesn't. While those connections might be formed for growth and for the fulfilment of a deeper or “higher” purpose, sometimes that takes a completely different shape than we expected...

And why not?

Isn't even the smoothest of roads, on closer examination, actually pitted and holed and full of jagged edges and lumpy bits, that, were we significantly smaller, we might stumble on and fall into? 

Even the most authentic, higher-purpose connections will have their 'blips', their pot-holes, their jagged edges. That’s how we grow, how we stay humble, how we remember we are perfectly IMperfect.  How we learn not to take ourselves too seriously. ;-)

And as WE are perfectly IMperfect, with our faults and our flaws, so too are those with whom we are in connection. And we need to remember that they too are learning, growing, sometimes stumbling. That their path too, no matter how smooth and perfect it may appear, also has pot-holes and uneven surfaces and jagged edges. The grass is only greener on the other side if it’s genetically engineered. ;-)

And when they transgress and cause you an affront, when they stumble and slip up or fall, when they have a moment of mindlessness as we all do, we need to remember that they too are learning, growing, sometimes stumbling, on this path of life.  That they too are perfectly IMperfect. 

And rather than waiting for an apology they may not realise you're expecting, you could be the magnanimous one and forgive them, even when they don't know they 'need it'.  ;-)

Didn't Christ also say "forgive them, for they know not what they do?"  Or was that just in the musical. ;-)

So forgive them. Actually, don't just forgive them. Thank them! (Either out loud or just in your thoughts). 

Thank them for giving you the opportunity to practice patience, tolerance, kindness, compassion, humility. Whatever quality it was they helped you to strengthen. Forgive them, thank them, and remember, they too are human. They too are perfectly IMperfect... 

There's always going to be lumps, bumps, stumbles and falls on this journey we all call life. How you respond to those challenges all comes down to a coin toss. 

And on that note, I've got some thank-you's to "send".  :-)


That’s my two-cents worth. You could say it's "just a wee heads-up".  ;-) 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

First words from This Womans Voice....

So, welcome.  My first blog. Ever.  If it feels like I'm still learning how to do this, it's because I am.  ;-)   So, all I ask of you is a little kindness as I endeavour to polish my blogging skills so that I can ditch my 'training wheels'.

That seems like a wonderful metaphor for life, really.  Aren't we always just trying to 'polish' something so we can become practiced and skilled at it?  So that it becomes 'second nature' for us?  And all we ask from those around us is a little kindness and compassion and patience as we 'polish' our skill?    Yeah....  I love metaphor.  You'll get to know that. :)

The reason I wanted to start this blog, well.... actually, there are many.  But mostly, it is because over the last couple of days I have been reminded (by both men and women!) how important it is for us to have and use our voices as women.  That what we say and think matters. As women.  For women.  For men.  For the planet. For humanity. That we need to remember that the wisdom we hold, simply because we are women, has a rightful place in this world.  And right now, it seems to me that it is more necessary than ever.

And it's not to deny the rightful place of men's voices in the world.  Men's voices are also much needed in this world.  Especially the voices of those men who are all about bringing 'the divine masculine' (for want of a better phrase) to this world.  For helping men to remember who  THEY are in their authentic, divine masculinity.  For helping men to see and value and STRIVE to  bring THAT to life, in the same way that we, as women, are striving to bring our authentic voices to life too. And have them valued and heard.

So, welcome.  My posts will be spontaneous, some might say 'sporadic', but they will be because I feel that 'this womans voice' has something she wants heard and valued and listened to and considered. It doesn't matter whether you agree with what I write or not. It doesn't matter whether the listener be male, female, or anything in between.  It doesn't matter.  This womans voice just wants to be and 'feel' heard.  And I don't pretend to speak for all women. I simply, and finally, speak for THIS woman.

Have a beautiful, heart-felt day. And sure, stop and smell the roses, but more importantly, stop and listen.  LISTEN to those around you, with your heart.  <3