An Unfortunate Culture

I woke up this morning to my Facebook feed, as I do most mornings (this from a person who in the early nineties was never going to get the internet because only bad things could come – insert forehead slap here).

Van Badham, an Australian commentator, has shared an article about Don Burke’s predatory bullying and misogynistic behaviour, and how the Channel 9 Television Network took no appropriate action because he was their cash cow. They acknowledge, at the least, that there was gossip about Don Burke’s behaviour, but nothing was formally reported.

Who knows what is true.

In the comments, often the best part of anything on the internet, was a seemingly harmless comment along the lines of, “This is so sad if it is true.” The man, probably thinking nothing much of the words he chose, opened himself up to some not nice responses. In one, he was called a “douchebag.” He tried to defend himself by replying that he hadn’t said he didn’t believe it, but he was erring on the side of caution until Don Burke was in front of a court, rather than being tried on social media alone.

God love him. His argument appears logical. I lean towards agreeing with him. I do believe that any court would find Don Burke guilty; there seems to be a lot of evidence, a lot of reports with similar themes, and a lot of witnesses to the behaviour.

However, it sent me into a tail spin. I was drafting a comment to let him know that I had heard him, but I couldn’t find the words to express it clearly, without sounding like I was supporting Don Burke’s disgraceful behaviour.

That forced me to look at my own potential biases. Where does my need to defend this man come from? Am I being so careful to not become part of a witch hunt that I am complicit in seemingly condoning bad behaviour? What is right and what is wrong?

I get that the man who commented and was then attacked, probably didn’t think his seemingly innocuous comment would unleash what it unleashed. Probably didn’t think. Probably doesn’t need to think. It is obvious from his replies and attempts to protect himself, that he didn’t mean harm and was not condoning Don Burke’s behaviour. The responders didn’t want to see that.

But, our society’s culture did and still does permit Don Burke’s behaviour. Women and girls are still routinely subjected to comments about their appearance, their sexuality, their personalities, their everything, and much of it is demeaning.

We are held to ridiculous standards of beauty and minimalised for our opinions if we dare speak them. For Christ’s sake, our first female Prime Minister was routinely attacked for not being married, for being childless, for her clothing choices, for the size of her bottom and for the colour of her hair. And so many moronic imbeciles condoned this behaviour from the media, and it validated misogynistic behaviours and attitudes from unintelligent people who then felt they had a public platform and public permissionto air this vitriol.

Australia went backwards at this point. Thank you, Tony Abbott and Australian media.

We then had the atrocious behaviours from Harvey Weinstein in the US made public, following the #metoo movement (interestingly, following on from the allegations against Bill Cosby which did not give rise to such a furore – I wonder if colour plays a part here). This opened Pandora’s box. In the US and here too. And, rightly so. For so long there has been none or not enough public condemnation of this type of behaviour.

I used the me too hash tag. I debated using it. I read articles from women who were against it, believing it marginalised men and vilified innocent men. It may have done. It was also argued that no woman should feel pressured to own their abuse/assault in a public forum. I don’t think there was pressure; it was personal choice.

I think it was powerful, ultimately. I think it provided an alternative platform for women to own their assaults/abuse (the distinction being that abuse is longer term). It was empowering. For me, who speaks and writes openly about my life, it wasn’t too big a deal. For others, who don’t, and who chose to use the hash tag, it was empowering and unifying. They knew they were not alone.This enables and empowers healing. It strips shame away. It makes the abuse the focus, not the individual.

And, the hash tag wasn’t gender specific – males suffer abuse and assaults. That is undeniable. The impact of violation does not discriminate; however, for way too long, too many women have endured the shame and guilt that comes with behaviour that is not condemned by our society. And I feel myself checking myself, too many people.

Gender politics. I am a feminist. I have been marginalised because I am a woman. I have fought harder because I am a woman. I have been abused because I am a woman. And, a strong woman at that. Intelligent, compassionate, articulate, informed.

I have also been privileged to work with a therapist who has empowered me to see what I have yielded as a result of the abuses against (for) me. And I mean privileged. So many are not in the position where they can afford or access this type of therapy (Demartini).

For every male student who has disclosed abuse to me, I have had five female students disclose. Neither is supported adequately at the end of the day, despite all of the child protection rhetoric. It’s all about ticking boxes. And this entitled behaviour from all genders needs to stop.

But, we all need to understand that change is a process and learning the right language takes time, and at the end of the day, only compassion and love will move us forward.

Abuse, assault, bullying, aggression, unkindness, violence – it all stems from the same place – disconnection. We need to work together to change this unfortunate culture, not against one another.

A Rollercoaster of Emotion

Well, it has been a while. Today, my brain won’t let me do anything else until I have blogged. Not sure I am quite ready to put down the emotional rollercoaster that is my brain every year at this time, but meh. What can you do. I must blog so that I can achieve other things lol.

I cried myself to sleep last night. Unexpectedly.

A friend of mine had commented on a Facebook post by Em Rusciano. Em was due to give birth yesterday, but miscarried earlier in her pregnancy. It was such a heartfelt post, something resonated, and I just released. No prize for guessing what the next thing will be to work on when I return to therapy in January. I will, under guidance and not by myself, Demartini the mother out of my miscarriage. This morning I awoke feeling emotionally hungover. I can feel the cogs turning in my mind, a lot of processing happening, I can’t access most of it yet.

I head back to my permanent teaching position in ten sleeps. Yes. I am counting down. Why do we do that to ourselves?!

I have had a phenomenal year. My goal was to heal from the investigation, and for the most part, I have. I do not think I carry any anger anymore, especially towards the people that I used as a symbol for all that went wrong last year (and not the people you would expect). I feel quite calm about returning to work from that perspective. However, this year has really solidified for me the people that regard me as a concept and those that value me. This is a good thing moving forward.

I carry concerns that I will fall into past patterns at work upon my return. I have no desire to be the person I was when I left, almost a year ago. I no longer desire to mentor any adults in the workplace; I no longer want to be the ‘go to’ person for all and sundry; I no longer want the long hours and excessive workload, watching those that I have supported drive through those gates to liberation before me.

My life has moved. I have moved. My values have changed. I am no longer the person that I was; I have liberated myself from the cage I had imprisoned myself in.

I think I felt a lot of shame and a lot of guilt. I had always wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t stop to think that teaching takes many forms and doesn’t necessarily just happen in a classroom. I was, and am, grateful for all of my years in formal education. I grew into myself, forged new paths, and inspired and empowered many. My legacy in education may not have reached award status, but my impact has been significant. So, I felt guilty thinking I may have outgrown it, shame that I wasn’t being grateful by needing to move away from it.

One of my clients had to watch a TED Talk to use as a related text for an assessment on “Discovery”. We were deconstructing it on Wednesday. It spoke to me on so many different levels.

Emilie Wapnick’s “Why Some Of Us Don’t Have One True Calling”

It sort of sums me up. I think I am a multipotentialite. I am a teacher, but I think my main calling, and this has been a recurring theme in how I teach, what I teach, and in who I am as a teacher, is that of healer. This year, even in my tutoring business, what I am really doing, ultimately doing, is healing the fragments within all of us that we carry with us every day. My multipotentials come in the myriad of activities I have engaged in through teaching and outside of teaching. I am always doing many things.

So, the shame and guilt I have felt have given way (or are in the process of giving way to) an acceptance that in our society, living and moving unexpectedly, requires courage. And, I am courageous.

When you are unhappy in life, and we all have moments – mine just became a long term series of moments, it is imperative that you do something to change it. It takes courage, even to mix it up a little, let alone to take leave to see what else is out there. I have always said that all change takes twenty seconds of courage. Thank you eternally, We Bought A Zoo.

We can all do twenty seconds.

It will take the same courage to go back, to be authentically me, to stand by the changes I have made this year, and to remember that I am worth putting me first. And, I can do it; I know I can.

This year has been successful beyond measure, a true legacy to my friend Natalie. It took me a while to make my promise to you real, but I will live with passion and energy. I will not waste my life, because I know how much you would have given to still be here breathing and living yours.

I firmly believe that our souls find peace when we are walking the path we are supposed to walk. My soul had been restless and scared for years. She liberated herself this year and she will not go backwards.

I do not know what the future holds for me. I know that I return to my school full time in a week (ten sleeps) and then five days a fortnight next year. I know that my tutoring business is going to be fine (most of my clients have already re-booked for next year – humbling and surprising to me – such is my naivete, and I have new clients booking). I know that the outline and focus for my book found its shape yesterday. I know that I have some ideas for an online business to source and build during January. I know that I am excited to start programming for my school students and to be back in my classroom next year.

I am moving forward. I am where I am meant to be. I am not stagnating again. I will continue to wholly love and breathe, embracing change and the moment with passion and wonder that I could be just this blessed.

I should stop there. It was inspiring and empowered and strong. However, this post is a true example of my brain, my rollercoaster. Be grateful you don’t live in it lol.

Much love …

A Modern Day Witch Hunt?

Western society is currently experiencing a flood of Entertainment Industry sexual abuse/assault claims. A flood. One after the other coming out to share their story, either in support of others or to point the finger at their own perpetrators.

I think that any victim finding their voice and minimising the shame that victims experience is brilliant. As a person who has experienced sexual abuse, I find it refreshing that the media is shining the spotlight on the issue. However, I am not sure that shining the light is all that is required, but more on that later.

I was at a Trivia Night on Saturday. One of my best friends said that she didn’t believe that a couple of men who have been vilified are actually guilty of what they have been accused of. I couldn’t believe it. I think, in my disbelief, I may have made her feel less than. I hope not, but I shall discuss that with her later. Ultimately, I don’t know. Maybe they are guilty. Maybe they aren’t.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of my other best friends about the proliferation of claims when she asked me why I thought it was happening. We discussed reasons why and where we thought this might all be leading (hopefully, towards enlightenment and transformation on a grand scale).

This morning I read and shared Facebook posts written by Ellen Page and another by Caitlin Johnstone about this issue. And then, I paused.

George Takei is the most recent to be accused and he is emphatically denying the allegations. I don’t know whether he is innocent or guilty. I like George. I love and follow his Facebook page. And so now, I understand why my friend has reservations.

And, then I started a dialogue with myself. How do we know who is guilty or not guilty? After deliberation, I discovered the answer: the volume of claims made against an individual. Yep. That’s how we know.

And, then I had a flashback to one of my all time favourite plays by Arthur Miller: The Crucible. Abigail managed to manipulate many fraudulent claims and then the witch hunt (literally) started. From there, I made the natural leap to the McCarthyist era in the US and in Australia during the fifties and sixties.

And, realistically, the volume of complaints used as a barometer of innocence or guilt could only make many ‘normal’ people, without a massive media platform, feel disenfranchised because they have no means to assess the volume of victims who suffered at their abuser’s hands. Myself included.

So, how do we know?

We don’t.

It is important to validate the experience of victims. It is also important to exercise caution in our judgements as the momentum continues to spiral. Some people facing allegations levelled against them will be innocent of those allegations. And, their lives will be impacted as much as the fabric of our society will be (hopefully in a good way).

As for the light that is flooding on the issue now, that is not all that is required. This is a first step. The next step must be education and support and resources and real change in the attitudes of people who use sexual behaviour as a means to power and control over others. No human being is the toy of another, or the property of another. And sexual behaviour, should never ever be used to control or marginalise another.

I am sorry, NS.

Returning Home

I arrived home in the early afternoon on Friday. I had an amazing time in Kampuchea and then in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I was travel tired before leaving, or so I thought. Upon return, and the reality that this wonderful year draws to a close in five weeks when I return to teaching full time temporarily, I think my pre-trip feelings were more about me not wanting this year to end rather than me travelling again. Meh.

I fell asleep at about 3 on Friday, rose to go to work on Saturday morning, and was asleep again by about 3.30 on Saturday afternoon. I slept most of Sunday too. There is only a four hour time difference. What the.

The last two days I have managed to not nap during the day. Last night I didn’t get to sleep until 2.30 this morning. I woke at 6 and fell asleep again until about 9.30. I’m really tired now and hopefully will be in bed at a normal time, like in half an hour. Fingers crossed.

In my waking moments though, during the weekend, I felt a real loss and a sadness descending. A loss of direction, a reluctance to go back to a life that caused me so much pain last year, a fear of returning to what is infinitely easier but less fulfilling. Meh, again.

When I woke yesterday morning feeling the darkness biting, I watched a clip with Oprah and Wayne Dyer about manifesting what you want. He said, “If you want to be happy, decide to be happy.” I scoffed. Like it’s that easy. But I still tried it. Within half an hour the darkness had dissipated. At first I could feel me deciding to be happy and the fog lifting, but by the end of the half hour, I was just normal me again.

And, I haven’t looked back.

I just decided to be happy, and to trust that I am exactly where I am meant to be, and that the universe will direct me where I am meant to go when I am meant to go there.

It was that easy. I have been training myself for years I think.

In Transit

Waiting to check out, then we will be waiting to check in, then to board, then to get home. This is my least enjoyed aspect of travel. I am not a happy flyer. I tolerate it. I understand it is a vital part of the journey, but it is my least favourite.

Being in transit though provides time and space for reflection.

In two days this time last year, I would be boarding a plane to join others for a retreat in Varanasi, India. This time last year I had no real idea of how dramatically my life would change after that trip; no idea how much more and how fast I would move into myself with ease and comfort.

Twelve months have almost passed. My life is not what it was. I am grateful. I am blessed.

It hasn’t all been easy, and it hasn’t been without drama or pain. I set the intention to heal and healing is never easy. Having said that, healing hasn’t been as difficult as it could have been either.

I made myself a deal that anything I felt called to do, I would do. As a result, I have been drawn out of my comfort zone many times this year. Each time, I acknowledged the fear and then ignored it. And, as a result, I think I have had the happiest and most productive year of my life.

I am financially poor, but emotionally and experience rich. I know which I prefer. Bank accounts that were full no longer resemble that. I have met so many incredible people this year and have consolidated, in my heart, my existing people. I have no idea what my future holds and where I am headed, and I am at peace with that; content to be present and holding complete trust in the universe.

I am not healed; I am healing. I have not experienced anxiety in ten months and have not experienced any depression this year. I am in control of my life as much as any of us can be; it is fluid control and not dictatorial in nature.

I no longer feel shackled. I am liberated. A series of decisions and choices, mixed with naïveté as much as courage, pulled me from the mire I had been drowning in. It is an amazing gift to give to yourself. A gift that will keep giving.

I am excited to be coming home, to hug my kids, to start work again, and to continue healing and growing and moving more into the life I chose prior to this incarnation. I am happy.

The Beauty of Aging

I woke up this morning, after some yucky dreams, reflecting on aging and getting old. I have had the very real pleasure of spending almost two weeks with some people who are fifteen years and older than me, people of my parent’s generation. Collective wisdom in bucket loads. Completely inspiring.

Here, in Asia, generally, older family members are celebrated and nurtured. A very real understanding exists regarding the use and relevance of the wisdom of an aging generation. Something that I do not believe is valued in western culture. Definitely not to the extent that I believe it should be.

Val and I had lunch at a local restaurant here. It is across from the hotel (Sunrise Resort) here in Hoi An, and it is simply called Simple. It is owned by a young woman, just starting, who cooks beautiful food. We ate as a group there last night and rebooked for tonight.

Anyway, the young girl who manages or owns the spa next door and helps out the owner of the restaurant, was ducking off to check in on her father who is dying from cancer. She then came back to continue working. There was/is a nobility in her attitude that I don’t see as often in Australia.

Val and I then discussed death and nursing homes and retirement villages. My dad and I had discussed the importance of purpose and feeling useful before I left for Kampuchea. How easy it becomes to feel overlooked and uninspired when we feel we serve no purpose to anyone, and are just waiting to die. Val recently lost her husband, misses him, but feels the need to keep moving forward. Here, in Asia, we have been told repeatedly how the elderly teach the young their ways. Old wisdom and understanding works in partnership with youthful vigour, and society progresses.

In education, I don’t see this sort of reverence for older workers. As a result, older teachers become cynical about the system and vital corporate knowledge is sacrificed. Younger teachers are regarded as treasures and opportunities are piled onto them, suffocatingly, because they are not given the time to adequately hone the craft of teaching itself. They end up burnt out or not very accomplished where it counts, in the classroom.

Western culture reveres the ‘purity’ and ‘naïveté’ of youth above the wisdom of the old, to its detriment.

I have met many women who become infinitely more beautiful as they age. I am one of them.

There is magick in the lines in a wizened face; a majesty of experience, knowledge, pain and happiness, never seen in the young who have not had the time necessary to experience the rich tapestry of life.

There is truth in the words of the old; consideration, reflection, wisdom and understanding, never seen in the young. Again, because the young have not had the time to experience all that life can offer.

There is the real compassion that comes from surviving much pain, and the confidence to share stories to empower and inspire the young. To reach out a hand, to give a hug, to truly heart connect with others. The young have not survived enough yet to feel the conviction that survival brings.

There is the truth of life reflected in many different ways of choosing how to live, and honesty even in the shortness of impatience that we can all learn from.

Wisdom, real wisdom, comes from the many experiences that a long life has had access to. It comes from the time taken to experience and process life’s many realities and extremes.

Older people don’t care so much how others view them, even though they are often invisible, and with that comes freedom, a real freedom. Unseen, we can really embrace every second, uncensored. There is an honesty and rich authenticity in this. A freshness that youthful vigour does not, cannot, possess.

Aging is beautiful. It is rich. It is empowering. We need to learn from the older ones so that we do not lose their collective wisdom, and so that we can forge a better world in years and for generations to come.

Khmer Lessons

It has been a year since my trip to India kickstarted massive transformation in my life. My life and I are unrecognizable lol. It is awesome that I start and finish my travel in an Asian country.

What have I learned …

That travel is education. When we travel, we learn. I have learned so much about Cambodia: it’s history, culture, lifestyle, politics, and peoples. I love this country. I have some fears that it may not remain a ‘democracy’ much longer, but I hope that I am wrong.

That I can achieve anything I decide to achieve. Those 352 steps, one way, are staying with me. I did it. I took breaths as I needed to, I didn’t compete with anyone else, I was lacquered in my own sweat five million times over, and I did it. Fitness is an obstacle for me. I have chosen that. Since the steps, I have chosen otherwise. Every activity, every chance to walk, I have taken. Because I can if I decide to.

That people are basically the same. We all want to belong, to connect, to fit, to be valued, to be seen. Age, gender, socio-economic status, none of it matters at the core. At the core, we are one.

If you choose to give to beggars, especially children, you become part of the problem. Children who earn more money begging than going to school, will not go to school. Education is vital to break cycles, and to improve the condition of our planet and us. Find another way to assuage the guilt of privilege.

That my passion for teaching exists deeply. I have no time for the politics and admin. Enough said.

That those of us living in the first world have no idea what poverty and suffering is, evidenced by our overconsumption and misery. People here have nothing but smile broadly. We should learn from that.

And I have learned that girls from Campbelltown can become something, anything, everything. I am truly blessed.

On to Vietnam.

The Magick of Kampuchea: Pol Pot

The Khmer are a resilient people. It has been just under thirty years since Pol Pot died and his specific regime ended. Our current guide lost most of his family during this time.

It hits home how blessed we truly are in Australia to have not known long term war or totalitarianism on our shores. We have been involved in the conflicts of others, but not on our ground. No comment to make there.

It also makes me even crankier that some Australians take their freedoms and their right to vote for granted. It isn’t hard to do the research on google to make an informed vote. Enough said on that.

We haven’t been to the museum; I don’t think we needed to. We were informed by our first guide that we wouldn’t see many elderly people, especially in the cities. Very true. A whole generation of people is missing or very underrepresented.

In the rural areas, we have been privileged to see life how it is. People that have little, but are happy. Consumerism, especially overconsumption, tends to not bring very much long term happiness. I know that myself from my experiences this year. It is important to be able to live, but money does not bring happiness.

The Magick of Kampuchea: Battambang

We are achieving so much every day; I really need to be blogging more to capture it all. Thank god for photos.

I am feeling a strong connection to place here. I’ve started entertaining the thought that one day I might come here to teach English for a little while. We stopped at a temple near an English school yesterday and I became absolutely mesmerized by the children’s chanting of language. I have been feeling a strong sense of the unknown long term future; maybe a new path is being etched in other places.

We were also blessed to have been blessed by a monk in another temple a couple of days ago. It was amazing. We gathered around him and his fellow monk, closed our eyes and ritualized respect, before I was transported to another world through their chanting. My hands remained on fire for the entirety of the blessing.

And, then yesterday, proof that the mind is more powerful than the body. My unfit body managed to walk up and down 352 uneven steps because the mind wanted it to. The reward at the end of the walk was well worth it.

Opening myself to this experience wholly. Oh, and I accidentally ate some chicken yesterday at lunch – oops. I thought it was tofu. A small sliver about 1 x 2 cm. Couldn’t taste it. Felt it was going to happen. It did. I survived. Lol.

Ahhhhhh 😢

I had an amazing day today. But I can’t write about that at the moment. It’s 9.55pm here, and about 2am at home. Sporadic internet for me, but when it connected earlier tonight I received the very sad news that an ex-student had passed away.

I don’t really have many words. His funeral is tomorrow, and if I had been at home, I would have attended. Way too young to have died.

Life truly is short. That is the lesson I am taking from the last week. There is a massive world out there and big lives to live. As we drove along today, I scanned the lifestyles of the Kampuchean people. They have very little, some of them, but they greet you with a smile.

Life truly is short. Pain is temporary. I urge you, implore you, try travel before checking out. Reach out to someone, everyone, before checking out. Do something different to change the result. But, do not check out.

There is so much beauty in this world, so many blessings to receive, and so many things to explore. Do that first.

Much love to all who are in pain at this moment; I assure you, it definitely is temporary.