Friday, 28 July 2017

Until You Understand...

So last night, I went to the launch of the Green Party's Aoraki and Te Tai Tonga campaigns. 
I listened to some pretty powerful speeches as all the candidates spoke about the various focuses and policies that the Green party is campaigning on, and I heard Metiria Turei speak about the massive changes that we so DESPERATELY need to turn this country around.

And there were AMAZING musicians performing, and lots of opportunities for getting involved in our local communities. All very inspiring stuff!  :-)

Afterwards, I had a VERY deep, thought-provoking, insightful conversation with a very special friend. And we explored the question about how to take it 'out there'.  How do we take it from a wonderful, inspiring group of speakers and musicians in a hall, and take it OUT there. How do we 'make it real'.  

Those who know me well, will know I am a big fan of analogy.  My friend and I used the analogy of a waka  (think 'canoe', for those who don't know the term). We talked about how to get more people 'in the waka'.  And then we realised, it wasn't about getting more people in the waka....  A waka can only hold so many people before it capsizes, right? 
It's not about more people.  It's about MORE WAKA. And how do we make that happen???

We talked about who it is that we need 'to reach', and I mentioned my own daughter who is voting for the first time, and the conversations we have had about the upcoming elections here in NZ.  I'm not going to tell my daughter how to vote, because that would be to inflict MY political views on her.  Instead, I'm encouraging her to think about the things that are important to HER, and to inform herself and seek out the party that most aligns with those things and vote for them. 

I left the event last night, pondering the question "How do we reach out and get people, specially our young people who may be voting for the first time, to THINK about what really needs to happen, and realise that we EACH have a responsibility to play in our upcoming election.  To THINK about what needs to change to bring our country back to an 'even keel', to change the direction of our waka to head for a place that honours our land, our seas, our people.... 

And today, it came to me.  We need to make it personal. We need to talk about it in ways our people, particularly our young people, can understand.  We need to make it REAL.  The issues that we talk of, the state of our rivers, our seas, our land, our food, our communities....  Many of our young people WON'T know how it was 'before'.  For many of them, the way it is 'now' is all they know.  So how can they understand the extent of the damage we have done, and therefore the extent of the changes we must make to overcome that damage???  How can they understand, when for them, it isn't 'real', it isn't 'personal'.

And while I pondered it some more, the beginnings of this poem came.....   And as I wrote, the rest of it came out in a flood.    So here it is....

"Until You Understand..."

Until you understand
How our rivers used to be

You cannot understand
The damage that I see

Until you understand
How this land used to thrive
How can you understand
How it hurts to watch it die

Until you understand
We didn't intentionally do this
How can you understand
The shame I feel about this

About the damage we have caused
And the land that we have wrecked
And the rivers we have filthied
And the seas that now are fecked

Until you understand
The changes we've inflicted
On a planet we should love
You can't know why I'm conflicted

Why there's guilt and shame and sorrow
And why sometimes I cry at the sight
Of the lands that we have blighted
And "the coming of the night" 

Until you understand
That you ARE our only hope
That without a massive, MASSIVE change
Our planet will no longer cope

With the shit that we have thrown it
With the damage we have done
In the name of evolution
And of progress, and of fun

Until you see that things MUST change 
And know you HAVE a voice
Until you understand 
That our future is YOUR choice

Until you understand
That it's YOU that can change our course
And the direction of our waka 
That we CAN be a mighty force

Until you understand
That without you, we can't change this
That this broken land before you
YOU can help to save it

Until you understand
There is no time to waste
You really have to understand
The difference you CAN make.



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.