Apocalyptic movie or documentary?

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The promise of a movie night, with a simple dinner and a little sugar-filled treat we had bought for later. All seemed in place. She picked an apocalyptic movie – humanity’s only survivors from a climate disaster on a train to nowhere under the control of the greedy in power.

Twenty minutes in and I’d had enough. The portrayal of violent, selfish and evil people causing pain and suffering was too much for me to handle. She said I was ‘soft’. I laughed. “I don’t need to see the horrors humans can inflict on other humans”, I said.

If he had been here, I would have been mocked for the ‘loss’ of movie night. He wasn’t, and there was no loss. We decided to watch David Attenborough’s “Planet Earth”, again.

And what a pleasant gratifying experience that was!  To be reminded that
• our vast world still sustains us, even as we humans continue to test its limits;
• the natural world still holds many mysteries and wonders so let’s be humble;
• we ought not lose sight of or interest in this world we inhabit for it has much to teach us;
• we and the world beyond the boundaries of human-made structures are inter-dependent, and the survival of one is reliant on the other.

Sitting with her on the couch watching this documentary felt right. I had moved away years before from “indulging” in pain and suffering, the overcoming of which is worn as a badge of honour. No. There is more to my life than that. And no, I was not avoiding the reality of life.

I am aware of the trauma that can be life. I have experienced some of that. I am also privileged not to have experienced the worst of it. But as was told to me by a wise woman those years ago, “where you expend your energy, that is what you feed”. The media creation of need to consume the worst of humanity, the normalising of voyeuristic, and perhaps narcissistic, tendency to feed upon the plight of others – not where I intend to be.

As James Redfield said, “[E]nergy flows where attention goes.” And so where I can help, I do. Where I can’t, I choose not to energize.

But I told her none of this, only relaxing into the moment of a Saturday evening at home. We discussed natural history and geography, theory of evolution, the behaviour of the male species in the animal kingdom (humans included)… 🙂 and much more.

I was content that we were not expending our energy on a movie focussed on the darker side of the human condition, which propagated the narrative that fighting is the way to success and freedom, and being physically tough and psychically hard were the only ways to be. She wasn’t, not in that moment, further indoctrinated into the cynicism and distrust that can fuelled our existence.

Granted “Planet Earth” had its gory scenes of predator and prey, life and death. I was fine for her to see the cycle of life, the natural order of things if you like. To appreciate the black, white and grey areas of living. It gave me great comfort that nature knows what to do to survive, so long as we humans do not impose our will on it.

I was not ‘soft’, not in the sense of being weak and scared. I was perhaps just tired of the perpetual narrative of fight, dominance, ‘toughness’, and pessimism on the inevitable plight of the human experience. I have no wish to spend more minutes on negativity and pain. “Be like water” comes to mind. Flow and leave your mark.

Maybe I was over-thinking it, putting words to the experience. The feeling of my body constricting during twenty minutes of the movie, in contrast to the sense of peace and inspiration of the documentary, the choice was clear.

So I am soft, in choosing to be positive, to expend my energy on matters which lift and on creatures of beauty, to contribute to a positive consciousness.

What would you do?

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

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Positivity is change

Ripples
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If we are 100% certain everything will remain as is then there is no need for positivity, or negativity for the matter.  If ‘things’ are great now, then it’s fait accompli.  The same for the so-called ‘bad stuff’.  Realistically, there are few things that are truly ‘bad stuff’, rather perspectives.

Experience is not what happens to you – it’s how you interpret what happens to you.   Aldous Huxley

Life is dynamic, like the ebb and flow of the moontide, our life smiles at us and it grimaces too.  Life changes. Not just the so-called ‘life-changing’ events but rather, the miniscule changes in our lived moments that in most times we missed until their cumulative effects are finally felt. Such as a simple putting off writing for one day which, as the days go, becomes a habit.  Then the psychological barrier of ‘it’s a habit so it must be difficult to break’.  It is not, just begin a new habit with one day

So it is that we employ tools to deal with change – through thoughts, words and deeds.  We think positive thoughts to lift us, to propel us forth; we re-frame the stories we tell, we encourage; we reward ourselves with a good book, a walk… to improve our sense of wellbeing.

By the way, we cannot manage change. Change is not an object we can manipulate or mould. Even as we grasp hold of what change is, it has changed once again. What we can is choose how we are in the face of change.  And then perhaps we can influence the change in the next moment by having been aware of how we are in the previous moment…

I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.     Anna Freud

Ultimately it is how we respond to change. Your and my responses to change differ, and they differ for the many situations we find ourselves.  Our responses today will also be different from our responses tomorrow for a similar, not the same, situation.  The statistical or scientific illusion of ‘all else being equal’ … well, things are never equal.  We can only measure what we know and can measure. There is a mystery to everything else… how exciting!  But I digress.

Music is the space between the notes.  Claude Debussy

So reflect upon and explore our responses to change:

  1. Do you recognize change as it happens? Are you aware of the ripples in your life? Our body knows, at least it can provide some signals.  Is it the tingling down your spine, the shortness of breath, the tensing of your shoulders, the denial in your mind, the grin on your face, the sigh of relief, the involuntary exclaim… What helps you identify change?
  2. How do you react and why?  Is your initial reaction one of drama, quiet confidence, excitement, dread or …? Is it because we are feeling threatened that we say those hurtful things? Is it because we are happy within ourselves that we can give so freely?  Is it because we are reminded of our past that we re-act intensely to the situation? Is it because we have always had ‘good luck’ that we leap into this?
  3. What choices do you make in response to change? I use the word ‘response’ as opposed to ‘react’ because for me, response comes from awareness. After the initial feeling of doom (a reaction!) and being aware of your ingrained habit of maintaining the status quo, do you follow through with negativity or do you choose to be open to the possibilities?

Away she hurried, not beautiful, not supremely brilliant, but filled with something that took the place of both qualities — something best described as a profound vivacity, a continual and sincere response to all that she encountered in her path through life.   EM Forster

Namaste!
– FlorenceT

© 2015 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Lighthouse and other musings

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Lighthouse

I love lighthouses… what a realisation! I cannot recall a time when I had missed an opportunity to explore one… and this time, I am dragging my children along.

Approaching the lighthouse, the inescapable sense of ‘big’…perhaps the vast blue sky and roaring ocean in the background add to the sense of magnificence. Irrespective of its size there is something comforting about a lighthouse that calls to me each time.

And in typical me fashion, I ask ‘why’? Why lighthouses? According to some, it is merely a structure and usually similar in design and aesthetic.

Perhaps it is where this monolithic (in my mind) structure stands – precariously it seems on the edge of a cliff, tall and proud. I have an affinity with the ocean – the hypnotic sound of the waves, soothing no matter its volume or rhythm. An island girl at heart :-).

Perhaps it is the romantic stories I weave in my mind about its existence, a beacon to ships out in the dark, guiding; providing a sense of security that there is land even if treacherous. Its light a warning, to protect; not an invitation to draw near. Solitary.

Perhaps it is what it symbolizes. Despite constant assault by pounding waves and ferocious winds at its very foundation, it stands resolute against the elements, strength. And with only the forces of nature as its companion, solitude.

The vision of self-contained strength even when alone and separate has been my companion for many years. No wonder the lighthouse analogy resonates! So now I know. Interesting how long it has taken me to make this connection.

As I write this post, the song ‘I am a rock’ pop into my head. This song, which first introduced me to Simon & Garfunkel, seems apt. Listening to it again, it occurs to me that the song does not compliment but rather, provides a good contrast to what I was talking about. The rock metaphor in the song is merely a defensive mechanism to protect self. It is a belief derived from fear…fear of pain and sorrow.

I realise this no longer hold true for me. For I am older now and a little wiser. My vision of strength has so radically evolved. A defensive measure like that can only shrink my world, reduce me to merely existing and feeds the fear within.

I realise, instead of fear, I choose love. I choose to take the risk of sorrow with the joy, pain with happiness. Because in love, I grow, I am more, I become me. The strength I have now is one of resilience – I do not need to be super strong at all times, just strong enough to hold the complexities of life, to move through pain, to sit with sorrow; and to also dance with joy, celebrating happiness with a bit of silliness and a whole lot of sass. Because I am strong enough, I can also be vulnerable.

Tell me, is your ‘strength’ borne of fear, keeping you from being fully alive? Or is your resilience a product of love and the knowledge that you are enough?

For those interested, this is ‘I am a Rock’ by Simon & Garfunkel.

Wishing you true strength,
FlorenceT

 

© 2014 Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Work-life balance

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“How do I structure my life to be at peace with who I am, & comfortable with what I’m doing & not doing?”                Elizabeth Grace Saunders

‘Work/life balance’ – a mantra often heard in the quest for happiness and general well-being. Much literature has been written about it. I have certainly attended my share of conferences or seminars, where the phrase has been thrown around as if I ought to understand it.  Yet something about this phrase fails to resonate with me.

I was facilitating a group of lawyers on mental health awareness and self-care when I was asked to provide some ‘examples’ on how to maintain work/life balance.  And out of my contemplative mind, I replied, “But there is only life”.  Then the the penny dropped.

What bothers me about the phrase is the dualistic standpoint accorded to work and life. ‘Work/life balance’ pits ‘work’ (let’s read jobs, career into this as well) against ‘life’. It suggests if we could only manage work, we stand a good chance of being happy and healthy, right? Is ‘life’ distinct from work? Does one necessarily take away from the other? What is this ‘whole’ to which work and life belong? Worse, ‘work/life balance’ is served up as an ultimate goal, for which we each ought to work towards. It necessarily also implies meanings to ‘work’ and ‘life’ that are none too functional. It somehow suggests our life is not right. perhaps we are not enough, unless and until we attain this elusive ‘work/life balance’.

My take is this – there is only life. Your life, my life, along which each of us journeys – sometimes with a skip and a hop, sometimes with drudgery, sometimes with joy, sometimes with pain. And along this journey, we parent, we love, we enjoy, we learn, we work. And we make choices – big ones and little ones, every moment in our life.

We can only appraise and make appropriate choices regarding the composition of our life including the degree of significance work ought to be at this moment. ‘Appropriate’ being subjective, there is no judgment here.

Embrace this life you are in!

Response to loss

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Grief is an overwhelming emotional response to loss, which can be expressed as anger, sorrow, anguish, despondency, mortification… to name a few. At times, it is recognizable. Yet there are many instances when ‘it’ does not resemble anything we have been led to understand – the gaiety, the risk-taking, the impassivity perhaps.

Recognizable or not, we grieve. Not only in times where through death, we lose a loved one, or the loss of a career or a home – these are obvious losses. A wise woman once told me life is about loss. In time, I have come to agree, and not in a morbid way.

While we are socially permitted to grieve for the obvious losses – in fact if we don’t or do so in an unconventional way, we would be considered odd at the least – we somehow ignore the less conspicuous yet significant losses in our lives. We are advised to count our blessings, but are we encouraged to acknowledge our losses?

Loss suffered through the passing of time, of the road not taken, from the demise of a dream or an ideal, or when you lose the appreciation for beauty and nature, when you lose your sense of self. And just because these are less obvious (perhaps others scoff at your ‘sensitivities’ should you speak of them?) do not make them any less meaningful in each of our lives. And how do we deal with these losses? Have they made you cynical, distrustful and wary? Have they made you fearful?

Grieve and know that what happens in our lives can enrich us – spiritually and emotionally – if we allow it.

The key is thus in our response. When someone abuses our trust and we lose our innocence, when we feel betrayed and we lose our faith, when the demands of life are relentless and we lose hope – how do we respond? I have no answer except this – CHOOSE a response that makes you a more compassionate person, brings you closer to fulfilling your potential, lifts you up, expands your awareness.

So I share with you a much-loved quote, from an inspirational man who survived war atrocities through his choice of response. This is a quote I return to time and time again, when I am uncertain of the choice to make, when I sense dis-ease and not know why, and so I look to a vision of ‘growth and freedom’.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”                    Victor E Frankl

The right time?

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“How did it get so late so soon?”     Dr. Seuss

Sometimes we have to take time. To snatch what we can instead of waiting for the ‘right time’. Amidst the hustle and bustle of life going by, we put aside certain desires, delay conversations we ought to have, waiting or looking for the ‘right time’.

To measure our lives against the illusory concept of ‘time’ – how bizarre I’ve often thought. ‘Time’ used to be observed through the light of dawn, the angle of the midday sun, the glow of dusk; and the passing of seasons. Yes, not too accurate but sufficient for human activities. Do we truly need to measure our moments in milliseconds?

‘Time’ is merely a measurement, and it is not a universal constant as Einstein’s theories of relativity would attest. It is not concrete. Just as ‘2’ is not concrete but a symbol of the count, a concept for measurement. In fact, quantum physics have suggested the possibility time may not exist! Conventionally, reference is now made to ‘time and space’ in scientific circles, rather than just time, suggesting its mutability. But I digress.

The modern age has crafted a notion of ‘time’ as a commodity. How often have we been troubled by ‘the right time’ to forge a career, to get married, to have children, to travel, to relax, to rest – which premised upon us eventually having or owning this ‘right time’. Interestingly, or perhaps ironically, we recognize this ‘right time’ usually after the moment is lost.

Age and experience have taught me life is rarely about the ‘right time’ denoting a planned future time. The time for guidance and support is when my child unexpectedly wishes to share her concerns, not when I choose to listen at the appointed ‘right time’ just before bedtime; the time to write this post is when I am inspired to put my thoughts on paper, not whence I have set aside a ‘right time’ to do so; the time to share an intimate gesture with my partner is in that moment, not at the ‘right time’ of ‘date night’ (although that happens too!).

In short, life happens and how we respond to it then – with flexibility and grace, or rigidity and stress – is a choice we make.

Put aside the mindset of the ‘right time’.  Be ‘right’ in the moment!  Where are you now?