A Thoughtful Week

Generally, when I go quiet here it is for one of two reasons: flat out or processing something big. 

This week I have been processing. I have also had a cold, then gastro, and then a migraine (which is still here but permitting some function finally). 

Since finishing IVF a couple of years ago, and after my miscarriage, I have had ongoing issues with my menstrual cycle. Prior to fertility treatments, my cycle was regular as clockwork (with only a couple of exceptions in like thirty years).  Since finishing IVF I have experienced two runs of menhorragia (abnormal bleeding) with my last run of bleeding lasting from September last year through to February this year, virtually every day. 

As a result, I went to see a new doctor and he referred me for full blood work. The results came back to me on Monday. 

My iron, expectedly, is low. My sugars are high. My blood pressure continues to be high. 

I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. A bit of a shock on Monday and it has taken some processing. I’m on meds for both now, hence gastro. 

It is reversible and I will reverse it. 

I hadn’t mentioned it here, but last year I attended an information session regarding weight loss surgery. I actioned my health insurance and had my initial consultation with Dr Zarrouk last week. I also booked in the surgery for later this year. 

With lifestyle changes and the surgery, my diabetes is entirely reversible. 

I’m okay with it; it is the kick in the pants that I needed. 

However, the diagnosis also forced me to track my journey to this point. And, as a result, I’ve had to focus on some negative things that cause shame (stupidly). 

There is family history of diabetes and hypertension, so I should always have been more proactive regarding prevention. 

I’ve had to revisit why I wasn’t. I don’t feel sorry for myself but I felt the need to acknowledge how I got here. I asked myself why I emotionally eat, when did it start, why did it start, why did it continue, when don’t I emotionally eat, why, etcetera etcetera. 

Childhood trauma, shame, silence, inability to form healthy relationships, poor life choices, work related stress, being empathic, alcohol, experimentation with drugs, self harm and suicidal tendencies, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, putting others’ needs first, failed IVF, failed fostering, and the list could go on. I don’t emotionally eat when I travel; travel equals happiness and comfort in my own skin. I like me when I travel. 

And as an emotional eater, last year was a horrendous year for me. Diet and exercise just didn’t factor into my choices; anxiety reigned supreme and getting through each day became an achievement. 

I’m an intelligent person. I could have prevented this. But I didn’t. And as a result, I’ve had to work through feelings of shame and fear all over again. Ridiculous, really. 

And I do trust that things happen when they are meant to. So I haven’t cried over this and I’m alright with the diagnosis. For real. 

I’ve modified my diet. I’ve read heaps. I’ve thought heaps. I’m taking my medication. I’m making appointments. 

I know I will beat this. 

My mum was diagnosed similarly at my age and she reversed it with diet and psychological strength. I’m her daughter; I will achieve the same. 

I am regarding this as a continuation of the wake up call I had already given to myself. And, as affirmation that the surgery decision was the right one to make. 

This year for transformation really is becoming a year of transformation. 

I’m blessed, really. 

Season 6 Episode 3 Girls

“I want to write. I want to write stories that make people feel less alone than I did,” Hannah, and Tina. 

But, not the whole point of this post. I dislike Hannah, and not a huge fan of the show, but something caught me when I saw the first episode of Season 1, and I’ve watched every episode since. It’s like a pulling to waste time. I’m weird like that. 

I like the episodes. This one, in particular, is exceptionally clever and Hannah seems to be finally growing up, into herself. I don’t know. Maybe she reminds me of how I once was, am, will be, and that’s why I don’t like it but watch it anyway. 

This episode, number three of season six, targets an issue that seems to be popping up for me in conversations, my friends’ experiences, TED Talks, everywhere. 

Consent, sexual violence, intent, power, imbalance. 

Relationships are difficult enough to navigate, attraction more so. 

I think it is safe to say that more often than not, women need closeness to be intimate whereas men feel closer after intimacy (thank you Kell, for putting it so succinctly). Women feel the attraction and want to know the man, but also feel ‘valuable’ and ‘special’ when men pay attention. It does seem to be the way that we are socially programmed. Our worth is intrinsically linked to the status of the men who ‘love’ us. 

I don’t completely believe this to be true unequivocally but it can be true. Meh. I should process before writing. In this case, trying to process through writing. 

Anyway, sexual violence changes a person permanently. This is true. A person, male or female, is never the same again after sexual violation. What constitutes the violation though? This area can be murky and grey. 

Tom Stranger (video link yesterday) reflects that he believed it was his ‘right’ to violate his drunk girlfriend, and that the culture he grew up in gave permission for this. Chuck Palmer, the writer in Girls, eloquently crafts a story that forces us to question his abuses of college girls and the extent to which he is victim too. 

Our society demonises perpetrators of sexual violence. I don’t this is wise. 

When I wrote the final piece for my Masters, I wanted to really write by exploring a voice that wasn’t mine. I chose to research and write the voice of the pedophile. One scene in particular made me physically ill but to be able to write the character well, I needed to find that part of myself that was a demon, for want of a better word. 

We are all capable of evil, of darkness, of violation. Maybe not in terms of sexual violence, but I remember I once killed a spider with bug spray and took delight in watching it writhe futilely (no, I’m not proud of admitting this). I became disgusted, repulsed, abhorred by my behavior, and don’t use bug spray or kill anything intentionally anymore. 

I learned the value of life in that moment, and the responsibility of power. It was a significant moment in my life. 

On Q&A on Monday night, Josephine Cashman, was quite condescending to the experience of Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger, and of the concept of forgiveness as it relates to sexual violence. I found her perspective way too literal and too rigid. Obviously, her context as a legal warrior has created this; she experiences the darkness of women in domestic violence situations who forgive others from fear only to be abused again and again. 

I believe that forgiveness is vital for mental health. When I hang on to anger, I am unable to live unencumbered. Forgiveness is not for others. Oprah suggests that forgiveness is really just giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. And when you do this, the weight literally lifts from your shoulders. Forgiveness is a gift that everyone who has ever experienced anything negative, any violation, deserves. 

Meh. Many thoughts weaving in and out of my consciousness. 

I think the way forward for all of us extends from people owning their behaviors, out loud and often. When we own our shadow selves, we bring light to them, and this reduces the impact of shame and guilt. The more light, the more voices, the healthier we all become. 

This is why I write this blog. I own my experiences, good and bad. Killing the spider, still seeing the delight I felt as I watched it die, reminds me that I have a shadow that thrives on power. I am vigilant to ensure that I do not abuse the power I have. But it does require vigilance. 

I emerged from a childhood devoid of power, and my natural instinct is to desire and covet power. I have met many adults, and due to dysfunctional pasts, in childhood or adulthood, they claim power against other people all of the time. 

They do this in a variety of ways, but mostly they keep others small by relentlessly putting them down. They stop others from being their best selves with criticism, by silencing their voices, through not creating an environment where others feel safe to just be, warts and all. 

I struggle in these environments, and I struggle to defend myself in these environments (when turned against me). My first instinct is to run. My second instinct is to shut a part of myself down, away from the ‘abuser’. When a person loses power to another, they try to address the imbalance by exerting power over someone or something else. If we just started by owning these times, I think we would all be happier. 

At the core of most sexual violence is the issue of power. 

Let’s light this up. Let’s fix it at the most basic level in all of us. Let’s change our world. Together. With many united voices. 

When you put my beliefs down, it makes me feel worthless and like you don’t care, and then I don’t trust you. When you don’t own your behaviour, our relationship breaks down. When you do own your behaviour, we both flourish. 

The Power of WordsĀ 

Warning:

I don’t want to say too much about this TED Talk; the power is in viewing it. However, it is about sexual violence and could trigger you if you have suffered or perpetrated such acts. 

I love that it humanises both victim/survivor and perpetrator; something I aimed to do when I wrote my final piece for my Masters in Writing a few years ago. 

I think everyone should watch this, think about it and talk about it. 
Our story of rape and reconciliation https://www.ted.com/talks/thordis_elva_tom_stranger_our_story_of_rape_and_reconciliation

Crisis of Confidence

I finished last year on such a high. My Indian experience truly transformed my life by empowering me to integrate the different aspects of self and identity roles. I was unable to return home and not make significant change. This was a process. By following the signs and saying yes to different opportunities, I finally opted to take leave from permanent full time teaching this year. A massive decision. My identity as a teacher has sustained me for many years. 

During the last four weeks, my identity labeling has shifted. I am now considering myself as more than a high school English teacher. And man, that is terrifying. 

But today, interestingly and ironically, Mike Baird has resigned as Premier of my home state, New South Wales. He has cited the necessity to spend more time with his family as his main reason. I hope there isn’t a scandal waiting in the wings because his reason has impressed me. 

As a people, we seem to have surrendered the important things in life for work, addiction, fear. It doesn’t seem that many of us are living our best and most authentic lives. Most people I speak to feel a yearning, irrespective of how small, for something different. And most of us use fear as a reason for not seeking it. 

I am feeling that fear every day. I am so worried that I won’t have enough money for all of my adventures, then not enough time for everything I want to achieve. Bloody fear. It won’t stop me from walking this path. I have paid many deposits for a variety of travels and have paid in full my flights to Perth and Minnesota/Las Vegas. I will write my book and I will empower my business to do what it needs to do, but I am scared. 

Today I pulled out a Butterfly Affirmation Card and I giggled: 


I have faith that all will be well and that I am exactly where I am meant to be. I just want to acknowledge out loud that it isn’t easy. I am hoping that disclosing it will calm my mind and pacify my fear. 

You have to laugh. 

Mike Baird answered questions at the end of his resignation speech. The journalists attacked him, expectedly. Why did you promise to continue as recently as December last year? When did you make this decision? Where were you? Why are you doing this? 

It takes courage to stand against expectation, to walk a different path, your own organic path, to put yourself first, to create a new reality for your life, but I think it costs the soul more if you don’t. 

Kudos to Mike Baird today, for his resignation has reminded me that my choices are right for me. As a result, this upcoming year of transition, transformation, and discovery will continue to permit growth, and enable me to live fully and authentically. 

Scared but infinitely blessed. 

šŸ™šŸ»

Identity

I have been so busy. I wanted to make this year The Year of Living. I wanted to trust that the universe would provide what I needed to make my life happen. I wanted to reconnect with the people I love and adore. 

And, I have, am and will be. 

I saw the new year in at Eden, on vast acreage, overlooking the coastal towns with Donna, John, their cats Odin and Loki, and my two boys. Max didn’t cope with the wide open space or the cats so surprisingly, found himself happier on the lead whilst Sammy was fine to roam. I spent a few nervous moments thinking the eagles soaring and protecting the property would swoop and steal Sammy (thanks to The Proposal for this fear) but settled eventually. 

The three of us started planning a retreat we hope to host in June/July with building a scarecrow one of the feature activities. It sounds weird, but the mindfulness required and the act of creating something tangible and useful was highly therapeutic. Meet Hilda the Healer …


I drove home on the 3rd feeling hopeful but nervous. I love Nimmitabel, a village out of Cooma. I want to buy land there, lots of land. At the end of this year, it may easily be do-able. I’m excited about this. 

I am surrounded by reinforcers and inspirers. Ginny and Marcus, also moving in different directions, are also hoping to host and run retreats in the Mountains eventually. In a sense, we have been building our own community and seem to be on the verge of auctioning it all. Again, exciting. And terrifying. 

Lunch with Amanda, Nathan and newborn Brody, and when family has babies I no longer feel that sense of painful longing. I possess an inner acceptance of where I am and where I am not. And their willingness to accept me back has been a real blessing for me after a few years of necessary hibernation and healing. 

An then an important shift started to happen for me. I am seeing myself less as a high school teacher and more of a small business owner, life teacher. I am loving how the transition in identity feels. It is wholly empowering. And today, I’m feeling less terrified and more excited. 

Birthday celebrations for Karyn and more catch ups. Quality time with quality people, reinforcing old bonds. 

Time at Swansea, revitalizing my love for camping, and more quality catch up time with more extended family. And my obligatory summer burn. Once every year. I never learn. A childhood longing to be brown. 


Home to more catch ups on a bloody hot day …


And, this weekend working on promoting my first course for the year, assignments, planning before another week of catching up before cruising to see January out. 

My cousin comes to stay in February. I am heading to Perth to see one of my soul tribe from India. And somewhere in there I need to work to raise money to fund this new life. 

It is liberating. I had a vision for the life I wanted to be living. I’m heading there. The journey is happening. 

I am blessed. And exceptionally grateful that the trauma of last year has forced me to liberate myself. I feel alive. I am not just existing. Life is transition and flux and chaos and the unknown. I will not have regrets. 

Namaste šŸ™šŸ»

The Times They Are A ChangingĀ 

I think that it must be normal that your childhood heroes start to die as you age. They are that little bit older than you, and most have lived hard lives. It does leave me questioning though, who are the childhood heroes today? 

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go is my first choice funeral song because I imagine the people I love in tears, and then wryly laughing as the music kicks in. I’ve had an amazing life, and more often than not, feel blessed and grateful. I have experienced so many incredible things and known amazing people. 

Not that I intend dying today. 

Carrie Fisher has died today (US time). The trailblazers are passing this year, in droves. The people that inspired me to be real, to stand up, to fight for what I believe in, are dying in the year that shackled me. The irony is not lost. 

For a young girl growing up during the seventies and eighties, Princess Leia was a mainstream, socially acceptable, strong woman. Carrie Fisher embodied these qualities in her own life, maybe not always socially acceptable, but definitely authentic and real, fighting the good fight. A true role model, a true hero. 

Emma Watson is a positive role model for young girls. I think I’m struggling beyond her though. Maybe I’m just too old to appreciate what young women offer. 

I was also blessed to have had exposure to the life and work of Audrey Hepburn, an attitude that subconsciously pervaded my role as teacher. Especially relating to where I choose to teach. Her elegance and grace touched me, not necessarily with the language I choose to use. I’m more Carrie that way. Lol. 

I have been blessed to have been touched by female celebrity as much as by real women in and through my life. Strong women who never give up, even when they want to. 

My mother is there. Not always right, but always fighting to survive, to look after us girls, and to live her life. She has been hurt but has never given up. She is real. Her struggles have been real. She endures. My first role model. 

My second took the form of a friend’s mother, becoming my second mum. She struggled with mental health issues in a time when mental health issues were nowhere near as acceptable and understood as they are today. She was there for me, validating my experiences, my reactions, my existence, when all I felt was awkward and insecure. 

Most of my female friends are strong women, living their lives the best way they know how, battling and surviving their demons. 

My third role model is one of my closest friends. I often denounce her wisdom initially, so that I can process it before embracing it, but I acknowledge that that is what I’m doing. And acknowledge this to her. I’m a rebel at heart. Lol. 

Like me, she grew up in dysfunction. She is strong and she is a fighter. She is strong willed and strong minded, whilst being vulnerable in moments of, for want of a better word, defeat. She is unashamedly and unapologetically, her. And she has stood by me, even when I’ve pushed her away, consistently. 

She, too, has been fighting her employer, and through that fight, has confronted herself many times over, resolving little pieces of life struggle triggered by the present fight. Similarly to George Michael and Carrie Fisher, her heart has struggled with the enormity of her fight, but thankfully, her heart has not succumbed. 

I continue to be blessed. I surround myself with strong women who are real. I grew up in a time when it seemed more acceptable for women to not just be tits and arse. And I have been open to the power of love and the desire to survive. 

It is women like my mum, Anne and Donna, and Carrie, who have forged paths that empower and inspire others, that I am most grateful for. And it is important that all of us women who follow, forge our own paths so that we may become beacons for those that follow us. 

Nothing ProlificĀ 

Anxiety and fear have passed. Gone. Faith in the universal order has been restored. Friday, my last day at structured and guaranteed work for a year, felt surreal. Yesterday, I hosted a partial family Christmas. 

Surrounded with reasons for gratitude. There was a moment that I sat back, and just soaked in the conversation around me, and felt truly grateful, peaceful and like, yep, this is what life is about. 

Nothing else really matters. 

It was my first Christmas being really present after Natalie’s death four years ago and my miscarriage three years ago. 

Time. Weird concept. There hasn’t been a single day where Nat hasn’t been in my thoughts. Her passing doesn’t feel that long ago. I try to honour her life by trying to live my best life. I’m not always successful; I am human, after all. 

Sixteen years ago, on the same day I miscarried three years ago, I woke up and went to work as usual. When I arrived, the day of Year 10 Graduation, we were all informed that one of our Year 10 students, one of my students, just hadn’t woken up. The kids, the staff, her family – shock doesn’t describe it, and then the grief. My. She, Erin, has visited my classroom through the years. Some of my more sensitive students have felt her presence and one heard her call out. An interesting lesson that was lol. 

Like Nat, life cut short way too soon. And then Luke and Steph, followed by Jamie, Nich and then, last year, another Nicholas. Lives all ending way too soon. 

In my head, it has become important to honour their lives by living. I think, in part, that inspired me to take leave for next year. I also promised myself when I stopped all fertility treatments, accepting that I wasn’t going to be a birth mother in this lifetime, that I would really do something in my life, beyond the every day; my legacy would not be in the realm of birth children. I would travel and have adventures. I would create a different life. 

A Tina type of life. 

One of the ways that I have already started to do this is by saying yes more, and making plans. If someone asks me or suggests to me something, and it feels right, I don’t pause to think of the practicalities, the anchors, I jump and am trusting that the universe will provide or know that my savings will be lost in travel next year. 

One of my inspirations for this is another ex-student, Justine. Justine was one of Erin’s friends. She created a bucket list of sorts, things to have done before she turned thirty. What a rich life she has lived in honour of herself first and foremost, but also in honour of Erin. Amazing inspiration. 

There are always ways to make money to pay the rent šŸ˜³šŸ™šŸ».

Hehehe. 

So, I’m going to write my book, I’m going to grow my business by sharing my strategies for healing and living, I’m going to travel, and I’m going to host game nights at my house. 

Living is more than safety, more than routine, more than working yourself to the bone. My ‘gap’ year is going to explore the potential for my life, for me. Not as youthfully as it would have when I was eighteen or in my twenties, or even in my thirties, but ‘appropriately’ for now. I will foster the things that I love and see where it leads me. 

Jumping is scary, dying unfulfilled and without passion for life though, well, that’s terrifying. 

Lessons from IndiaĀ 

I have been home for just over a week. Every day, it becomes more apparent to me that something deep inside of me has shifted. In some ways, I almost feel like I have recaptured the enthusiasm/idealism/passion of my younger years. In my twenties I possessed a fighting and partying spirit. I had formed a community of like minds around me, and I felt purposeful. 

I have also lost my patience for shit. In all of its forms. My soul is crying out for difference and I need to nurture this. 

The most significant place this is appearing is at work. And I knew I would struggle with school after being in India.

I have always believed that education solves problems. It saved my life by providing me with opportunities to escape and break a cycle of dysfunction (even though some may argue I am still dysfunctional lol). I see similar attitudes outside of the privileged west. And, so, it kills me when I see education and opportunity taken for granted. Ask my kids, they’ll tell you I’m not lying. 

And, all hell broke loose yesterday when I stood on chewing gum that transferred itself to my dress, my beautiful dress. I screamed the block down, somewhat humorously, but the frustration was real. How selfish must one be to spit gum on the ground when there are bins everywhere! 

I’ve lost my ability to put on a mask or play ‘the’ game. 

I’m playing my own. This is who I am. The real me. A crusader for ‘right’. 

It’s been 39 weeks since I found out I was under investigation. For the most part these days, I am okay. However, it doesn’t take much to trigger a relapse of sorts. In fact, now that I am consciously reflecting, it’s been a massive week, beyond just going back to work, jet lag and illness. Significant shifts. The reinforcement of lessons. 

On Wednesday, I was concerned for the welfare of one of my students, and as a result I referred her, correctly, to the Learning Support Team (Year Advisot and Counsellor too), and I informed the parents of my concern, so that they could keep an eye on her at home. I documented all of this. Our LST Co-ordinator jumped on it straight away. She and I had a conversation to clarify what could and could not happen immediately. Perfect. 

However, last period of the day and I am on class, knock on the door and I am asked to have a word outside. The person asks me to speak to them privately before I leave for the day. My body reacts like it did 38 weeks and 6 days before when a different person had a very similar conversation with me, and I walked back into my classroom, filled with anxiety and dread. I had only been back at work for three days, who could I have possibly offended in such a short time! Like, WTF! 

And, so I went to speak to the person. The parents had contacted the school and this person was blind sided. It isn’t our process to notify the person I failed to notify. And I had a small window to operate in because I was teaching four periods and Head Teacher on duty the rest of the day – I only had ninety minutes off. That was when I referred the student. I apologised profusely, and genuinely; I do not like causing other people pain. 

But, upon reflection, I became indignant. I did my job. I followed process. I shouldn’t have been spoken to. It’s ridiculous. And, ego driven. This is not my future. 

The child was happier on Thursday. And I have lost considerable respect for a lot of things. I cannot tolerate a lack of humility and integrity. We need to know ourselves as adults, and function accordingly. I can’t abide people in positions of power who do not know themselves. Effective leadership never extends from ego. 

This isn’t rocket science. 

Yep, still angry. Lol. 

And then yesterday, another student needed support. Followed the process. More ego unleashed. And I wonder why education is so troubled at the moment. Again, though, child will receive support. So ultimately, two wins this week. Yes, I am needed in education. But, it isn’t what I need any longer. 

I am valuable. I am beautiful. I am deserving. I am of the divine. I am worth something, everything. 

These are my lessons from India. Thank you to my soul sisters and Richard for empowering me to integrate these lessons. These are the lessons for all of us. If we aren’t being respected, valued, adored, then we need to move to an environment where we are. We all deserve abundance and prosperity and soul bliss (thank you Alana and Lakshmi).

Simple. Trust it. 

PS. I am writing letters tomorrow. My fight continues. I never want someone else to have to endure what I have endured this year. It is criminal. 

But today, well, today is my day. Gardening, decluttering, feeding my soul. Being in my bliss. Being home. In my head, my heart, my soul, my location. Yep, today is my day. 

Oh, and I have decided my next tattoo. Lakshmi. 

What a day!Ā 

I really needed to blog last night I think lol. Oh, what a humbling day yesterday was.

It started the same way most days here have started for me. Deep discussion at breakfast; however, Australian politics rather than spirituality or personal growth was our topic of choice. 

Then I meandered down to the shop to wait for the tailor to be measured for a dress. That happened, lots of measurements and I pick the finished product up this morning – excited. Chatted to the young man there about why I’m not married at 45. Here, a lot of the marriages are arranged and he has a baby girl. I told him that I make poor choices so I needed someone to arrange the marriage – we both laughed but he definitely agreed that that should have happened. 

Three brothers own this shop, and another in town plus a factory. They are only young and Muslim – part of the 35% here. I imagine they are quite wealthy. Three brothers work the shops. The youngest is absolutely smitten with my friend, Mel. Every time she is near his face lights up. And when she haggles, when she says the price isn’t low enough and his brother refuses to lower it further, he looks to his brother, absolutely horrified, that his brother won’t just give it to her. Gorgeous. They are good boys. 

It was then time to catch the bus for a while. I am still in love with the traffic here; I could watch it all day, sit in it all day, would love to drive this way. There is such a profound flow. Whilst we haven’t seen any accidents, the dust covered wrecks that congregate in pockets at the side of the roads, suggest they happen. And, frequently. It is no surprise. Walkers. bikes, rickshaws, tuk tuks. Cars, vans, trucks, dogs, goats, pigs, and cows all use the roads at the same time, at different paces, wanting to get somewhere different. More often than not, with patience and a mindfulness for one another. Sometimes though, that isn’t enough. As we all know. 

But, I digress. My friend, Elizabeth and I, discussed a little of her life story as we rode. It is not my story to write here but she is an inspiring soul; a woman who has conquered many obstacles with grace. I could listen to her speak all day. 

And then, our first stop. We walked past a school that promotes, in its core philosophy, that nationality, religion, gender are all limiting labels. It proffers that all children need to be taught holistically and aware that what is important, is that our hearts should approach the world open (my interpretation of what our guide told us). It resonated for me. 

Teachers should teach children first and foremost. It is our role to inspire, motivate and empower them to enact change in this world to create a better world, a more compassionate world, a more tolerant world. Yes, that is the role of a teacher. And, if need be, the teacher should fight, as a role model, to ensure that they have the conditions to achieve this. It is our responsibility as leaders of our children to ensure this for them; it is our only gift of value. 

Preaching today. Humbled yesterday. 

And then, a kilometre walking meditation through a village, retracing Buddha’s steps. In silence, a line of women followed their guide, in silent reverence for the blessing of this. Being silent whilst walking, silencing the mind, allows you to focus on the small, usually unnoticed things that surround us every day. It permits grounding. Profound appreciation for breath. For privilege. I can only see from our perspective but the locals were intrigued by the diverse and silent line of women walking through their village. 

And I truly found it blissful. And is so often the case, towards the end, my mind turned to Gandhi. And as soon as I stopped being wholly present, the divide between the road and the dirt caught me, and ungracefully knocked me back into the present. I knew I was falling. Pain screamed through my ankle. In slow motion I saw my body start to crash and was helpless to stop it. Landing with a massive thud I tried not to laugh. A passing man stopped, concerned, and the girls behind me rushed to me, asking if I was alright. I told them I was, in few words; we weren’t meant to be talking. Yep, that was my focus. No talk. Typical Tina. Don’t break the rules – shaking my head in disbelief lol. I hobbled to the finish. No broken skin on my knee and a swelling ankle. 

Returning to the bus, sweat coating my skin (in climates like this one should not have to be covered), I continued my conversation with Elizabeth. This time about weight and what it can represent. It resonated and I am still processing. Ultimately though, to lose weight requires one to be integrated and living in joy, doing what makes one happy. 

And it is funny. The girls here have showered me in love. And, I believe I am worthy. I am enough in every moment just as I am. Integrating the deserving has resulted in a shift in how I see my body. It is divided from my soul and I see the incongruency and for the first time ever, can say that I strongly desire my body to represent more accurately how I see my soul. I want it to be healthy, strong, the excess I’m carrying, shifted. And I can achieve this. 

Then, to Sarnath. The first place Buddha taught. Serenity. Once you switched off the nagging requests to purchase souvenirs from the many sellers surrounding you. The bonus, the singing bowls are demonstrated, making it easier to be present in that than the selling. No, with a smile, does work, eventually – patience is the key šŸ˜‰.

Again, tracing Buddha’s steps, standing where he has stood, sat, reflected, thought, taught – hmmm – perfection, and an amazing segue into my upcoming journey to Dharamsala – the Tibetan community in exile and the Dalai Lama’s imposed home away from home. And, my beautiful friends being concerned for my welfare and me, graciously accepting their help rather than dismissing it (like I usually do). Gestures are a gift, reminding us that we are worthy and that we can only function wholly (holy) when we function together, each of us being permitted, enabled, empowered to fulfill our role. I am grateful. 

Home for lunch. And, after a shower and hobbling up two flights of stairs, my scarf caught on the handle of a boiling hot tea pot, yanking it to the floor, and scalding the bandaged foot. Yep. Apologetic, I could only wryly grin. What am I not hearing? 

After lunch, another adventure. Mel had organised a car for us to visit a local school. She had brought clothes to donate, plus cricket sets, and together our driver stopped at a stationers and we bought pencils, crayons, colouring in books, sharpeners, erasers and a game set. Our driver helped us. The exhilaration was palpable. Service is the key. 

Our driver had no idea where he was going and stopped every two minutes for directions after we moved out of his familiar territory. The sun started to set. The paradox that the bright red and very beautiful sun is created by the pollution of man – perfect harmony? Hmmm, probably not. 

We stopped outside one school that was locked. No response on the phone. But a mother was sitting on her front ‘porch’ preparing rice. One son was with her. Melanie engaged them in conversation. The smile on this woman’s face – no English, her son translating – was so broad and generous. These people. My heart soars. Gratitude. The second son came out. The first was sent to buy biscuits and tea. People with not as much as us, willing to give. Humbling. 

And we had to go. Photos were taken. Gratitude shown. And back into the car to find the right school. 

Yep. A German tourist, nine years ago, started volunteering in India. The school was rundown, almost non-existent,catering to  street kids. Now, it is a school that caters to 130 students every day, and a hostel catering to thirty children around the clock. The love is the first thing that you notice when you walk through the gate. 

The classrooms are small concrete rooms, very minimally resources. No desks, no chairs, no boards. So much is achieved with so little. Kati is building the capacity of the team as well as the students. The majority of students are indigenous, meaning that they do not even register in the caste system. They feel the worthlessness of their existence, most having been abandoned by their parents. Given a chance to find a way here. 

Mel and I spoke to the children. But I fell in love with the older sister of the girl Mel was talking to. She doesn’t know her age – there are no records – she couldn’t even hazard a guess. She loves to learn but doesn’t believe she can. She and I argued, in English, about her ability to speak English. Her sister wants to be an English teacher, similarly believing that she can’t. We had similar discussions with both. 

We weren’t there long. It was dark when we left. Renee, this is our project. 

I cry when I think about this. This is my highlight of the trip. And there have been many. Kati’s devotion is humbling beyond measure. I want to help. I said I would never come back to Varanasi; I would explore the rest of India. Never say never. 

Man, overwhelmed. 

The Happiness ProjectĀ 

Last week, when I stayed overnight in Sydney for training, I went to Dymocks Books Store and bought a couple of books. One of them, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, kept jumping at me from the different sections of the store so I followed my intuition and bought it. 

As a side note, I then spoke to a friend about it who said that she had been meaning to get a copy, and so she did. It was meant to be. 

I returned to my hotel after my purchases, ate dinner, and decided to have a bath to start reading this book. I don’t like baths. Baths are definitely not a thing I think I should ever do ( the whole sitting in your own filth thing). But, to start this book’s journey, I needed to have a bath, soaking and reading, and I loved the experience. 

The book though. Weird choice. I consider myself a reasonably happy and grateful person. I did not understand why a book about happiness had jumped out at me; I am happy. And in the introduction, Rubin says the same thing about her project. She is happy, why does she feel the compulsion to engage in this project. And I was hooked. 

And I still am. Ten days later I am savouring each chapter, reflecting on it and how I engage with that aspect of my life. It is a refreshing process. 

Rubin’s first idea is that clutter in our physical space gives permission for mental and emotional clutter to thrive. True. So, her first step was to attack and reorganize the physical clutter. I haven’t spring cleaned since I moved in fifteen months ago. As a result, my spare room and garage have become dumping grounds, and as a result of that, my life hasn’t felt free to do other things. 

Today, I tackle those two rooms. 

Interestingly, I made an event in my calendar to show that I was busy to ensure that it got done. But I felt guilt saying no to two other things I had been invited to. However, I made this appointment with myself prior to the other invitations and needed to maintain the appointment. I had to give myself permission to do this. I’m still feeling a little bit bad but I will feel significantly worse if these two spaces remain cluttered for another three months. 

It’s been an interesting week. I am living more consciously. I make plans and I see them through. I have structured in solitary down time, and made appointments with myself to put my needs first at times. I feel more in control, happier. I am meeting my needs as much as I am meeting the needs of others, and the balance feels good. 

Onward. I will keep you posted. A significant challenge arises when I return to work next week.