Death becomes us…

Shooting Star

2016’s Sky Full of Stars

2016 serves as a clear and present reminder that no matter who we are, or what amazing feats we bring to this earth, death eventually becomes us all.

I recall back to January, as I was preparing for a conference and putting the break playlists together, including many of Bowie’s classics, as the news of his death had just been reported and I, like so many of us, found myself needing to listen to and find comfort in, the sounds that formed much of my youth.

The list of influencers “checking out” continued throughout the year and I have now created a 2016 ‘ode to’ playlist.

In honour of Carrie Fisher’s memory, last night I sat and watched “Star Wars – A New Hope”. I remember sitting in the theatre for the first time in absolute awe of this movie and as a 10 year old girl, looking at that feisty, beautiful, Princess and thinking that taking some of her resolve on board, could only serve me well.

I didn’t feel grief re-watching the movie, I felt tremendous gratitude.

And I suggest to all of you who may be lamenting over so much loss in the global creative community to follow suit. Take all the beauty, inspiration, comfort and joy found in the dearly departed’s art – and tuck all those memories and emotions, safely in your heart.

So I thank 2016 for reminding me to enjoy every sacred second of this beautiful, crazy, life and I extend a warm “Aloha” to 2017, infused with  the beautiful energies of excitement, peace and hope, as for those of us still here…the adventure continues.

 

 

 

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Are we out of the Hood yet?

bigstock--122869370

Twenty years ago today, I remember holding my baby girl and 3 year old son and weeping with shock and disbelief at the devastating news about the Port Arthur massacre.

35 people killed, 23 wounded and a stunned nation – where things like this, just didn’t happen.

I remember seeing the young father, ‘Walter Mikac’, who had held his wife and two little daughters  bodies, on the side of the road, where they had been gunned down.

The deep grief  and anger our country felt at the senseless loss of life and the madness and confusion surrounding the events, made for a gaping wound in the fabric of our society.

This morning I read an interview with Walter, marking the 20 year anniversary of this catastrophic day. The man shows an incredible strength of character. Instead of reliving the rage, loss and anguish, he has forgiven the evil perpetrator.

In the end, he said he simply had to. Otherwise, he would have spent the rest of his living days as a victim. Already having paid the ultimate price of losing his family, Walter has taken this moment of hell and with time has  become a symbol of hope for others in desperate circumstances.  The charity he established in honour of his girls, The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, has raised  in excess of $50 million dollars and assisted more than 1.5 million children who have been victims of violence.

The power of forgiveness is a force to be reckoned with, a force that asks us to step out of victim hood and transform the carnage left behind into hope.

Blessings, prayers and thoughts go out to all of the Port Arthur victims and their families today and indeed to any poor souls currently caught in malevolent crossfire around the globe.

“Forgiveness doesn’t fix the past.

Though it soothes the present in such a way, that the path of life is prepared for a hopeful future.”

 Janet Parsons

 

 

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PURPLE REIGN – OVER AND OUT

Lightning Storm Over City In Purple Light

Heaven’s band has a new shade.

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through  this thing called LIFE.”

The opening lyrics to Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ from both the movie and album, ‘Purple Rain’, accompanied by that funeral-like organ solo, has always given me goose-bumps.

Never so much as the wee small hours of this morning, when I heard the news of his passing.

In 1984 in  the Russell Street cinema, I recall being stunned, witnessing this man of diminutive stature – unleash a huge powerhouse of musicianship and talent.

I went straight out and purchased both the album and the cassette (which I played constantly in my car, to the max and wore it out).

The radio stations are all pumping out tributes at the moment and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ came on just a few minutes ago in my car. I ask that you all to listen to that song today and ask yourselves this simple question:

“What am I doing with my dash?”

Meaning the line between your year of birth and death.

In 2016, we have lost a whole lot of incredible talent –  so we need to encourage each other to get up, get talented and keep the magic and music of life going.

Thanks Prince for sharing your dash with millions.

Heaven’s band just took on a whole new shade of purple.

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Befriending Bad Habits

Old Habits - New Habits signpost with sky background

Old Habits – New Habits signpost with sky background

When my Dad gave up a 40 year, packet a day, smoking habit, I recall being totally perplexed that one of his coping strategies was to always carry a lighter, ensuring that if anyone was in need of light – he could oblige.

Mind you, in his mighty deep and generous pockets, Dad always carried a clean handkerchief,  a Swiss army knife and plenty of loose change and notes for those in need.

In hindsight, his willingness and sense of care for fellow being, came from a sound and wise upbringing and this was fortified during his active duty in the 37th/52nd Infantry Battalion  in New Guinea, during World War Two,from 1942-1946. It was only in his later years, that he revealed some of the tales of intense ‘mateship‘ and the trials and pain of war. Like many soldiers, his smoking habit began on duty, as cigarettes were issued as a staple part of their rations. 

So a couple of years after Dad stopped, I felt ready to let go of my smoking habit by going cold turkey. Although nowhere near as long and heavy a smoker, the first couple of weeks I experienced the usual suspects  – withdrawal and craving symptoms.

These physical afflictions eventually passed and as Robert Frost says “the best way out is through“.

For many months to come at work at morning and lunch breaks,  I would still head outside with the smokers, regardless of the weather, and stand with them while they indulged.

They say the worst anti-smokers are the reformed ones, however I found that like Dad before me, to not judge or condemn those still smoking and spend time with them, actually helped me to stay away from cigarettes. As I watched people lighting up and inhaling, it made me question everything about smoking and why on earth I had thought it a fun thing to do.

Hanging out with and keenly observing my old behaviour, drove it home for me that there were better things to do with my body, time and money.

Next time you decide you are ready to leave a manageable (obviously, certain heavy duty drugs and psychological  behaviours aren’t manageable) habit behind, instead of pushing it away like a mortal enemy, focus on watching it’s effects, like a silent witness and a wise friend.

 

 

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Blink 182….no actually, Blink 18…20

Blink 182….no actually, Blink 18…20.

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Blink 182….no actually, Blink 18…20

shutterstock_131897774JJJ have been playing the Top 40 lately – Top 40 years.

In the office the other day, “This is Growing Up” – Blink 182, came on and I was immediately transported to the live gig and said out loud,
“I remember slam dancing to this”.

The kids in the office laughed and a “Pfffht – pay to see that” was overheard.

Yep, that was 20 years ago.

Music is moments.

The playlist on my phone looks like a multitude of separate people have had a go at putting in their songs.

As the youngest in the family of 13 kids, my influences spread over years.

I remember in first grade, when Abba was enjoying the height of their Australian success, excitedly opening a birthday present (album shaped) only to find UK rockers “Status Quo – Piledriver”.

It had always been that way – I was fed a constant stream of whatever my older siblings were into and I learned to appreciate and love a million different genres.

From early Rolling Stones, Moody Blues, Beatles, Bowie, Sinatra and lots of 50’s & 60’s jazz & blues tunes, through to Blondie, Rikki Lee Jones, Joy Division, The Cure, Stranglers, Skyhooks, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Madness, Paul Simon then onto Green Day, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Offspring, The Verve, Blink 182 and on and on it continues.

Evolving with every moment.

Having married a muso 26 years ago, I would have to say that music has always and continues to be a series of defining moments in both our lives. We have written, recorded and performed live together, some of these excellent memories.

A couple of weeks ago I added a new tune to my playlist, “Zorba the Greek’, in honour of my beloved friend of 30 years, Effe, who left this life way too early!

Effe, I play this tune and I remember you teaching me Greek dancing at a myriad of memorable venues and events and I rejoice in the fact that I got to be a witness of your life, a life of joy and dance – and your magnificent “Effervesence”.

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Six Inches – The difference between success and failure

I am currently writing a workshop on the difference between success and failure. Researching both of these topics has been a journey of layered revelation, as to why some people have the ‘Midas‘ touch with all of their pursuits and others seem to have to wade through waist deep mud.

Some are born into conditions that are gilt edged from the outset, some are in middle-income, well educated positions and others are born into homes of abuse, neglect, poverty and at times – apathy.

Your background scenario does not guarantee one’s success or failure.

People who have inherited the ‘birth- right baton’ of finance and knowledge have shown that some will continue to grow the empire for generations to come and some will blow the empire in a sea of poor decisions.

Just as certain people from ‘middle of the road’ upbringings reach heady heights of success and others seem to be rowing backwards. At times, the folks who have had the toughest beginnings, use this as a catapult to outshine the lot and yet others who have shared their struggles remain in the mire.

Success to some people is the house they live in, the car they drive and the money and possessions they accumulate.  To others, it is the ability to form and sustain amazing relationships or  and for some people success can be as simple as getting out of bed to face another day – at times, even drawing their next breath.

Success is entirely personal and not tangible. Failure is always a learning, and learning is brilliant.

Both success and failure are feelings.

Whatever success means to you, I wish you a grandiose dose!

Anyway, back to writing, but before I go, you may be asking what ‘Six Inches’ has to do with the difference between success and failure?

The answer to that is everything.

Six inches is the average distance between your two ears.

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Lost in Translation

shutterstock_192451649

My friend Effe’s ‘Yia-Yia’ had a saying that when your house is chaotic and frenzied that the ‘house was dancing’ – the pace and depth of that chaos over the past year at our house has seriously catapulted that dance, into a RAVE.

Amid this tumult, we welcomed a lovely Japanese exchange student into our home. Ayano stayed with us for the past ten weeks while studying English at a nearby university. My eldest son who is proficient in several languages, Japanese being one of them, was a terrific help during the first few days of her arrival.

During her time with us, Ayano proved to be an ideal house guest – quietly reserved, clean, polite and good natured. I often wondered what was going through her mind as she witnessed the whirlwind of noise and activity that takes place in a household of seven people and a myriad of pets.

As the weeks passed, her English improved consistently and I found that having a conversation one-on-one at a slower pace was the best way to communicate. Each night at the dinner table however, where there are always at least seven people talking – often over each other – proved a much more difficult arena.

It was always a challenge to gauge how Ayano was feeling, as our son had explained that in her own culture, a reserved nature was common. We watched her quietly witness all of the usual unfolding, unguarded spectacle of our home life and remain consistently unruffled.

We had all assumed that Ayano would be extremely glad when her time to return home arrived. Her quietude had translated into a sense of homesickness from our observations.

Today, as her driver arrived to pick her up, she handed me a beautifully hand written four page letter. Inside this letter was a heartfelt outpouring of emotions and an intimate insight as to how our “RAVE” was perceived.

To Ayano, our home life was enthralling, energising, amusing – full of life, love and adventure. She took the time to give a reflection about each of us and just how much joy she had experienced. She shared how treasured her memories of this trip would be.

It is a wonderful thing to see your situation afresh through another’s eyes. We as a family have taken great solace in her viewpoint. Thanks for the visit and for the uplifting insights into our world.

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Mother?

I remember in first grade our class were making Mother’s Day cards and we were to draw our mother on the front of the card.

I recall the teacher instructing that if our mother was not around, another important woman in our life would be a great choice.

My mum had died when I was four and a half and for the past eighteen months my dad had been the mothering force in my life. He had kept all nine of us children together and  while working full time had taken on motherhood as well.  I drew him in bright colours in his suit and glasses and me holding his hand,  with flowers ready to give him.

My teacher suggested I also draw my Grandma, as the little gifts to accompany the card were for mainly for women and perhaps dad would prefer the Father’s Day gift.

“My dad is my mum” was my response to this. Circa 1974 this was an unexpected revelation, however I continued my card and it was certainly tailored for my dad.

And indeed he was my mother. As were so many.

We moved to city after mum’s death and into the bank residence where dad worked. I remember my Uncle Herb, a  gentle, six foot four giant, who had already retired,  taking my tiny hand and walking me to school. I remember my brother David lovingly brushing my hair and putting it into pigtails with ribbons for school. My older brother Stephen and male cousins, reading bedtime stories to me from Tolkein to Dickens. At five and six they were possibly not your usual bed time story choices, however they ignited in me a passion for great literature. 

Dad remarried when I was eleven and Marj took on all nine of us as well as her own four children. A remarkable mothering achievement. Dad could again share the load with this relentless parenting game.  

So this Mother’s Day, to all my “mothers” and to all the mums, dads, adoptive parents, same sex parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, cousins, teachers, neighbours and friends who have ever taken the time to care for another – I salute you.

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Just a dash?

Looking at the imprint page for one of my books in the library cataloguing area, I see my name and the year of birth, followed by a dash, a space and a full stop .

There, right before my eyes is the omnitude of life.

That dash indicates my life-line. The space awaits my year of death.

In international Morse Code, the length of a dot is one unit and the length of a dash is three units.

Therefore we can visualise the dash or life-line in three units – youth, middle-age and old-age.

Sadly, some people’s dash will of course, stop with a dot. Those who leave this plane in infancy or youth. Leaving for their remaining loved ones, an unfinished masterpiece full of limitless possibilities and painted with incredibly rich and fascinating potential.

As they are now not earthbound by the stumbling blocks that will inevitably show up during a human’s life time, we imagine their futures would have been unblemished, graceful and only joy filled.

The souls who echo in the perennial lyrics of Cat Steven’s song:

“Oh very young
What will you leave us this time
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while.”

Our imagination can complete their lifeline here and savour their precious memory.

Some of us will reach two dots of our dash. Middle age allows us to experience more life adventures on our earthly realm.

Influencing many lives and contributing in helpful ways to our society. Hopefully, if we have learned well from the lessons of our youth, these are positive influences and memories.

“Middle school is for being like everyone else; middle age is for being like yourself.” – Victoria Moran

Unsure about the middle school bit, as personally I never felt the need or desire to fit that mould. I do need to add to the second half of the quote… “Middle age is for being like yourself…and loving it.”

Finally, some of us will reach our third dot in the dash – “Old Age.” A time for sharing your wisdom and reflecting on your life’s journey. The following quote sums it up nicely:

“Old Age is not a surprise, we knew it was coming – make the most of it. So you may not be as fast on your feet, and the image in your mirror may be a little disappointing, but if you are still functioning and not in pain, gratitude should be the name of the game.” – Betty White

In closing, I ask that you type out your name and year of birth follow that with the dash, a space and full stop.

Put it somewhere you can see it and let is serve as a reminder to you to ensure that your life line, whether it be one, two or all three dots making up your dash – is one to be celebrated.

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