Thank You to My Sister

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A bee rolling drunkenly in magnolia stamens that I saw on a walk through my neighbourhood

At the end of January my sister raised the challenge of participating in FebFast and giving up Social Media for a month with her. I agreed – I knew I could do it (as I have before), I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to.

The first week was hard. President Trump was making news and I was unable to see how my network of friends were reacting. I began obsessively watching You Tube to see how comedians were interpreting the news and then I started reading the news in newspapers.

I think it was Seth Meyers who commented that he was glad he had young children as it meant he didn’t have to explain this world where Trump was president. It took some time but I disagree. I’m glad that I am able to discuss the varying viewpoints with my teenage children. My obsession with the Trump presidency led my daughter to ask, “Mum, what’s happening in Australian politics?” A question she has never asked before.

The discussions that we’re having at home revolve around the topics of bias, journalism, democracy, freedom of speech and the art of distraction. President Trump’s outrage at the level of accuracy in reporting by the major media outlets has led me to the Fox News Channel to view the world through a different perspective.

My viewpoint hasn’t changed. The issues that I care deeply about are still a priority. I continue to be appalled by select individuals who brush off Trump’s style and lack of regard for accuracy or truth – hard to express outrage when my political heros have been guilty of the same sins.

What changes have I noticed in myself while fasting from social media?

I spend more time discussing in person rather than online – I am more engaged in discussions in the actual rather than the virtual.

I spend more time reading news articles rather than opinion pieces and rants on my news feeds. With so many of my close friends overseas, I do miss these interactions and will join them once again when March rolls in. However, I feel less irate and more balanced in my views when the encouragement to maintain the rage has been removed.

So I thank my sister who inadvertently gave me the opportunity to explore current issues in my own mind. xxx

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The Temptation to Hate

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I saw this on Humans of Judaism‘s Facebook page. Original source: Power of Speech by G

There are so many things I want to say and I feel as if I have been holding my tongue forever. 2016 has been a defining year where I have questioned so many of my values and been tested in my thinking … how strongly do you believe?

The big ONE … everyone has the right to their opinion … even where I don’t agree … even where I think the opinion is uninformed/prejudiced/SO!!! wrong. If I was prone to gambling, I think I could win a small fortune. I bet that this belief was tested in each month of the year. Each month, the temptation to deny someone’s right to an opinion (and even more to express it) was sorely tempted. Each month, I had to take a deep breathe, then I would rant, breathe again, rant some more, breathe SO DEEP that I was at risk of never breathing again, and, finally, I would agree with myself that yes I do still believe, even though … <breathe> … carry on.

At some point in the year, I even tried to improve my technique and cut down on some of the ranting. I haven’t taken a look to see how successful I was … and no, I am not asking for anyone else’s perspective 🙂 – acknowledgement is always the first step.

And now, in the middle of November, the breathing is quite deep, the sighs are quite long and my mind is being blown daily as I attempt to put it all back together from the day before.

And I know I’m not alone.

However, I don’t want to dwell, I want to learn. My hope is that the analysis of ‘how this happened’ will lead to a discussion on ‘how to move forward’. There is acknowledgement that the rise of dissatisfaction is not isolated to one or two nations but is felt across the globe – this we know to be true.

We need to acknowledge that we are all tempted to hate and I fear that the temptation rises more often than we admit. We need to to get better at acknowledging its existence in our country, our state, our neighbourhoods, and our living rooms. Acknowledge it even when we see it in the darkest recesses of our hearts.

If we don’t acknowledge it – if we try to pass it off as anything else – then we give it room to grow. As hate grows, it pushes out and leaves no room for grace nor Love.

Consider what belief is more important to us than the rising xenophobia and prejudice. In a world where politics is often about the extremes, what position might a party/person take that would leave us conflicted with no clear idea of how to cast our vote.

Before we cast the stones (and believe me, I have cast quite a few recently), consider what our position might be if the candidates we were faced with were unpalatable. How would we then decide – would we vote out of fear? Would we vote for privilege? Would we value the unborn more than the living? Would we place our value in individual greed or social good? Do we value education for all rather than the few? Would we know which was better longterm and which was worse?

There are still so many thoughts fighting in my mind, trying to find some traction and still no sense to it all. I know I don’t know the answers but I do believe that I there is a path to follow however often I may stray.

It is to treat one another with grace and love – that same grace and love that I would like to be treated in turn.

It is to focus on the things that I do wrong and fixing them before detailing the extensive list of faults that any other must address.

It is to be aware of my privilege, the great wealth that has been given me, and to find a way to share it with others rather than store it away.

It is not to hold others to my own values but to love them where they are at.

To allow people choice and control over their life. (No? Is this not what God desires. That we love him – not through fear or lack of choice but out of wonder for all that He is.)

To be a light … not the darkness.

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We’re I’m At…

Taken while walking with the puppies, the kiddies and the hubby

Taken while walking with the puppies, the kiddies and the hubby

Life’s good. I’ve just finished up an evening with my neighbours chatting about life, about wine and about God. It’s pretty cool and highlighted how well I think I’m travelling.

This blog started as an attempt to document the next transition that I was facing. That is, moving back home to Australia. We had been overseas for 12 years and, to be honest, I was somewhat apprehensive. We’d left Melbourne the day after our wedding. It was as if we were returning as adults to a place where we’d only ever been kids.

I had no idea what to expect and little experience to draw on. It’s nearly three years (shy one month) since we arrived. So much has changed, so much is still the same. Life is still life. I think we’re travelling as we always have done. We are flourishing as are our kids. We’re navigating the bumps, we’re riding the waves. We swerve every now and then but manage to get back on track.

Our network remains international with new local flavours. We’ve managed to settle into a new unknown community a stone’s throw from where we grew up. We’re learning the art of community – how to plant ourselves and let our roots grow deep.  I still skirt the edges a bit while my husband does the hard work of warming up the crowd. The kids are carving out their own niches while holding on to identities formed in varied communities.

Like I said, life’s good. I couldn’t have planned it better.

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Mercy …

I don’t remember many of the prominent news stories of my childhood. I didn’t grow up in the age of the first moonwalk or Kennedy being shot – news that impacted the minds of a generation. I remember the Bicentennial. It was huge in 1988 and we all received medallions at school. It was more like a school event that the rest of the country decided to be involved in as well.

There is one news story that I do remember and, like the moonwalk or Kennedy’s assassination, it had a profound impact on my thinking. It was the case of Barlow and Chambers who were sentenced to hanging in Malaysia for heroin trafficking in 1986. Today, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran face a similar future in Indonesia if mercy is not granted.

I’m trying to remember my 12 year old self. It’s pretty confronting as there is a 12 year old girl living in my house. She’s opinionated, she’s loud and she’s not shy. I spend most days convincing myself that I wasn’t like that. People who know me spend most days laughing at my delusion.

What did I think at 12? How did I feel about two men being hung for the crimes they had committed? I doubt that I will ever remember my initial thoughts and feelings. However, I do know which arguments influenced my thinking and made me the product that I am today.

I do not agree with the death penalty. I believe that it is wrong, that it is not our place to take the life of another. I believe that two wrongs do not make a right. Murder should not be punished with murder. I am proud of the fact that I live in a country that abolished the death penalty. I believe it is a standard that other nations should follow. In recent days I have come to realise that there is an hypocrisy in my stance and the fate of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has shone a glaring light upon it.

If you read the comments beneath any article in recent weeks on this topic there will be those who advocate mercy and there will be comments made that echo the feelings deep within me. These men knew what ALL Australians know. If you take drugs into Asia you will be gaoled and you will face the death penalty. Everyone of us who grew up in the 80’s knows. It’s one of those things that falls under the heading “It’s Not Rocket Science.” We grew up understanding that we needed to respect the laws of other nations. We may not punish with death but others do. If you do something stupid such as smuggling drugs, you will be caught, you deserve to be caught, and you will die for your crime.

And I was ok with that.

This week I have been forced to face the hypocrisy within myself. My two selves have faced off one against the other. The Kim who believes in life. The Kim who believes in forgiveness. The Kim who believes that lives can be turned around. The Kim who believes in others. The Kim who is against the destruction of life in all its forms.

The Kim who believes that all sin is equal and we are all sinners in the eyes of God.

She has been up against Kim the Hard Liner. The Kim who believes in reaping the seeds that you have sown. She may have some compassion however, she’ll tell you, at the end of the day, you knew. You knew the consequences and you decided to go ahead anyway. It’s time to pay the piper.

I have watched and read and read again. The interviews detailing lives transformed have not moved me as much as I would like to think. In owning up to my hypocrisy it is very tempting to replace it with more. I do continue to struggle with clemency based on changes after the fact. I understand that Andrew and Myuran are having a profound affect for good in the lives of those around them. That’s great … but … you knew the consequences. Why should Indonesia’s policies and practices change because of the changes that have occurred within you?

And this is the crux and what I need to remind myself. I don’t agree with the death penalty. Period. That is why I would argue against it ever being reinstated and for its abolition. I believe in life. I don’t believe in an eye for an eye. I believe in grace. In redemption. I believe that judgement belongs to God.

I believe that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran deserve mercy because I believe in life that gives people a hope and a future.

Visit mercycampaign.org for more information.

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Paging My Inner Librarian

Pretty in Garden

                     Pretty in Garden

I was walking down the street this morning after dropping my kids at school. Not a regular occurrence anymore. I had said goodbye to my son who was leaving on his first camp (a happy, sad moment) and was on my way to the city to see the ‘Italian Masters’ exhibition.  All was right with the world. Little did I know it was about to get SO much better.

In one of the front yards was a little house, on a stick, filled with books. There was a sign on its front inviting us to ‘take a book, leave a book’. I didn’t have time to take a look as I had a train to catch. However, the image stayed with me all day. 

I love books. I love reading and, like all book lovers, have some books that I love as much as I love some family members (I’m not stating who). As a recovering gypsy, I am still adjusting to the idea of permanency and all the many possibilities that are now open to me. Including a Little Free Library coming to live in my front yard.

One of our moves involved a massive culling of my book collection so that we could fit all our stuff into our new abode. The crazy thing was that we were moving from an apartment to a house!! In any case, I left 200 or so books in the library of the apartment building. It may have been the last time that they agreed to allow someone to leave a ‘few’ books behind. It was a traumatic moment as many of those books were beloved and had helped me through many lonely moments.  I’ve never seen those books since and can only hope they went to good homes.

It is a little known fact that I actually studied to be a librarian. Even one of my closest friends found out by accident – I happened to mention that my husband had wanted to be an actuary. Her husband quipped, “he should have married a librarian.” To which I replied, “um … that’s what I studied at Uni.” He nearly choked on his breakfast. It’s not a secret, it just never comes up in conversation. It’s amazing how few people in the expat world ask what the significant other used to do.

So here I am, my gypsy days behind me. My dreams of running the State Library are also buried in the dust. However, there is still a dream within my grasp and that is to build my own little book haven. I have been madly googling free libraries this afternoon. I also began googling gumtree.com.au in the hopes of finding an old boxy thing that can be converted into my Front Yard Library. 

The brightest moment was when my dear, beloved husband responded to my mad descriptive text with the words, “Great idea.” He truly is wonderful. 

So stay tuned. The idea has been planted and roots are madly sprouting. One day soon there will be a decorative box in a prominent spot in my front yard. It will be full of books and you will be invited to ‘take one, leave one’.

I can’t wait.

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Fear is …

In my neighbours yard

In my neighbours yard

Fear is ...

Paralysing – a man I work with is confined to a wheelchair. As part of an education course he is doing, he went on an outing to a supermarket. He was paralysed with fear as he was afraid he would fall out of his chair going down a very mild slope. With support he conquered his fear and can’t wait to go shopping again,

Destructive – read Waleed Aly’s article in The Age as he describes how our collective fear is manifesting itself in the lives of others on Manus Island. How we have allowed those with power to prey on our fears and urge us towards a situation that we are no longer comfortable with. And if we are ok with it, then we really should begin to question some the ways we describe ourselves and the image we like to project to the wider international community.

Abusive – imagine a young man with little self esteem. He is limited by his experiences and does not know how to behave so that others are drawn to him. So he acts out and engages in behaviour that pulls people in, pushes them away, pulls them in again only to be injured on their way back out again. Imagine a woman with a hearing impairment. She has a limited social network and feels threatened when a close friend befriends another. Unable to adequately express her feelings, she expresses them through frustration leading to another’s physical harm.

Addressing Fear is …

Liberating – a mother spoke at our staff meeting this week of the fears she has for her son. The fears that she has had from the day she first knew he would navigate this world with a disability. She listed and described her fears. She then detailed how she refused to allow her fears to limit the choices of her son. She thanked us, those who work with him daily, for giving him the opportunity to work. For giving him the opportunity to continue to study. For giving him confidence. She encouraged us to continue to push her son to try new things and test what he can and can not achieve. She encouraged us to not let our fears and assumptions to limit his choices in the future. She expressed her hopes that his stay would be temporary as he developed the skills he required to step out into open employment.

I started working a year ago last week. The first time I toured the production floor, I felt the first stirrings of uncertainty. I didn’t truly believe that I would be able to work with people with disabilities. I didn’t believe that I would be able to befriend them. It never occurred to me that they would enrich my life with greater capacities for love, understanding, acceptance, empathy. It never occurred to me that I would find common ground with and enjoy the company of the people I would be surrounded by. How much joy I would find in this new world.

There were times that I considered allowing my doubts and my fears to overwhelm me as I did have the luxury of giving up. But I didn’t. I’d like to claim noble qualities pushed me through the hard times but that’s not the case.

Admitting I couldn’t do it was not an option as I have pride and am stubborn. I wanted to work and didn’t relish searching for another job opportunity nor having to convince one more person why I was the perfect fit for their company. Working ten minutes away from home is a gift that I will not easily relinquish.

My fears in life are not great big ones that loom over me and would make a Goliath tremble in fear. They are little bitty ones suited to my own quirks and insecurities. Others might say that they are easily conquered. I don’t think so. Each one seems an impressive boulder to pass.

However, each one I pass gives me the courage and resources (even if that resource is stubborn pride) to pass the next slightly larger boulder. The boulders I face as I approach 40 would seem to be mountains to the girl I was at 20 and, hopefully, will seem as pebbles to the woman I hope to be at 60. They stretch me, drag me out of my comforts and lead me to develop into a person with more depths and more strengths than I ever thought possible.

We need to encourage others to do the same as we lead by example. Encourage to move past their limitations and embrace their strengths. To support them through the process of addressing and overcoming their fears. Give them grace when they fail and take steps backwards and encourage them to get up and continue to move forward. Celebrate the small infinitesimal steps towards success.

We need to do this within our immediate sphere, our national sphere and encourage others to take into the global sphere. We need to strive to be greater than the limits our fears would like to hold us. To strive to be as great as we would like to think ourselves.

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New Year … New Start

IMG_5282The last post I wrote was in September … it’s been quite a while. The intention to write was there but I never managed to sit down and put finger to keyboard. Ideas would begin to take fruit in my mind and then drift off never to be seen again.

2013 was a big year in adjustment for me. Starting a new FULL TIME job threw a huge spanner into my life. While I worked through this new aspect of life into my routine I pushed huge chunks of myself to the background.

Working was a huge mental adjustment – my brain was activated in new ways and some of the cogs were a little rusty. It was a huge physical adjustment – my job requires me to be on my feet for the majority of the day, lifting stock, moving pallets of stock as well as getting up before 7.

On top of the physical and mental, there was an emotional adjustment. For the first time I was putting my children in care. It took some time for the three of us to get used to that. The children missed the time that they ‘perceived’ they were now missing. As I explained to my daughter, I finish work at 4:30 and pick them up at 4:45. Prior to my working they would drop their bags at my feet and run off to play with their friends (or by themselves) for 45 mins or so. Leaving me to sit on my lonesome as the playground emptied. The amount of time they were missing was less than half an hour.

In mid november I realised that we were approaching the eighteen month mark of our repatriation. That was the starting point for the estimated number of months it takes before you begin to feel normal again upon returning home. And I have to say, I feel settled. I feel less and less as if I am visiting and more and more as if I belong. Working has helped place me here as it has provided a defined structure to my life that was missing in the first six months. I feel less dissatisfied with our house and more satisfied as I am able to plan changes, see them implemented and know that I will be here to enjoy them in the long term.

So 2014 looks to be another year of new beginnings. This is the year I plan to weave the different strands of my life and personality into a thread. Where I find time for more of the things I wish to do. It may also change the direction of this blog as I focus less on who I was as an expatriate and more on who I am as an individual.

Let’s hope I manage to post more often as well. Happy New Year.

 

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