Weekend Read: Let “Shoulds” Take the Backseat

Welcome to a slightly more relaxed chat this weekend. Thank you kindly for all of the reads, shares, follows and comments from last weeks read.

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There is enough action happening out of obligation in the world. I would like us to reframe our thinking and reconnect with what is important to us. Then our actions will come from a place of happiness and excitement, and not just from the feeling of “should”.

How often do these thoughts run through your mind?

  • I should go to the gym.
  • I should go visit family.
  • I should tidy the office.
  • I should walk my dog more often.
  • I should cancel my medical appointment, I don’t really have time.
  • I should write more.
  • I should listen more.
  • I should think more.
  • I should be more caring.

Sooner or later, all that you should be doing is having a lie down because you’re exhausted from the weight of all of those expectations, amirite?!

But you are the only one that has placed those expectations on yourself (usually).

For one week, trying changing the thoughts to do:

  • I would like to go to the gym.
  • I would like to visit family.
  • I would like to clean the office.
  • I would like to walk my dog more often.
  • I would like to prioritise my health and make time for that appointment.
  • I would like to write more.
  • I would like to listen more.
  • I would like to think more.
  • I would like to be more caring.

When I have a good run of thinking like this, my entire week flips on itself.

I drive in the car getting excited to see my friends at the gym and to workout. I feel warmth when I check in with family to see when they are free for me to visit. And so on.

If you are struggling to make those little changes in your day or week that you know are going to benefit you and make you happy, like carving time at the end of the day to read, try adjusting the words to this, and see how it goes.

The hardest thing is continuing the momentum you can build with a week of good habits or re-framing. That’s part of the reason why I made this blog. The world won’t be falling over if I miss a post, but I like the continued momentum and the feedback I am getting from those of you who like reading these posts.

In that sense, I am really happy to say that the tagline of my blog, ‘community | inspires| momentum’, is playing out for myself as much as what I hope to achieve for anybody else. I am the luckiest person in the world if I can generate my own happiness and inspiration.

I am the luckiest person in the world if I get to share my thoughts with people and one other person has a feeling of connection from that.

I am the luckiest person in the world because I am in such a fortunate position. I am safe on my couch. I am safe in my house. I am safe in my town and my country and my world. I am extremely privileged and the whole purpose of featuring people on this blog is to demonstrate what other people are doing with their own privilege, or indeed despite a lack of it.

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The other great habit changing tool is to replace “I have to” with “I get to”, something I’ve definitely spoken about in the past to many of my friends. This one is great if you are feeling overwhelmed or burdened with too many tasks.

  • I have to pick up the kids early today – becomes I get to pick up the kids early today
  • I have to wake up early to walk the dogs – becomes I get to wake up early to walk the dogs, etc.

This is a really lovely way to reframe what you are prioritising, and remember why it is a good thing that you are doing those things. Things can be both an obligation and a pleasure. The kids have the get picked up, that’s not negotiable. But what is negotiable is how you feel when you get there.

 

 

 

Bonus Post: Reading = Good, Says Science!

At long last my love of reading has been supported by science!

The thing to note here is that the books described in this article are storybooks. Fiction. Fantasy. Escapism. Novels. Stories. Whatever you want to call it. Transporting yourself into the mind of another, or into the world of another, is the key to the good stuff.

I had a discussion with a warm and kind friend that I have who always encourages me to talk in depth about topics, books and worries we share without fear of sounding silly. She also encourages me to explore things that I haven’t fully thought through yet, giving me space to open my mind to itself and come to a conclusion about how I feel about something.

I am very honoured to have this friend.

In this chat the other day we spoke about how important books are for teaching emotional intelligence. We also spoke about why this in effect draws her and myself to fiction and books that explore the human experience, because we crave that feeling of understanding others and it nurtures us.

The cognitive benefits of reading are there full stop. Be it non-fiction, books on hardware, saving money, personal growth, self help etc.

But the gold is in the narrative.

Listen, I’m sure this isn’t breaking news. But giving our brains a break sounds delightful, doesn’t it? I am working on my Immskar Online Book Club and I would encourage you all to comment below or on the book club page with you favourite story for me to fall into next.

Check the article out here:

Why ‘getting lost in a book’ is so good for you, according to science

Speak soon!

Amal Clooney

Those of you who know me will know I am studying the law and I have always been passionate about human rights. It therefore made sense that, sooner or later, I dip into Amal Clooney’s life to see how she operates in her world, external to her husband. I hope you all enjoy my take on her and her successes.

**

I think we all know not to underestimate Amal thanks to Tina Fey at the Golden Globes back in 2015.

  • She is a barrister.
  • She specialises in public international law, international criminal law and human rights.
  • She is of Lebanese-British heritage.
  • She has defended former Ukranian prime minster Yulia Tymoshenko, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. (source)
  • She is a member of the UK’s team of experts on preventing sexual violence in conflict zones. (source)

When I googled “Amal Clooney” the search results revolved around her and her husband, or just her husband, and all of the images were of her at awards nights.

Then, when I googled “Amal Clooney lawyer” boom! All of a sudden we have more “serious” photos of her, dressed as a barrister (often flanked by old white men hovering in the background lolz) and the news articles all commended her on her career, noting her husband as an aside to her success.

It kind of baffles me because her lifestyle is so far out of reach it seems laughable. She escaped hardship, traveling from Lebanon to England as a child, was highly educated and excelled at school. She then followed through various high-profile jobs and the list of those she has represented is huge. I would read the shit out of a memoir should she write one.

After establishing (and excelling in) her career, she found love, got married and had twins. One boy, one girl. Is this real life? As a child I used to dream of this kind of biography. I can only hope that Amal is truly living the life she wants to live, that she is in love with George Clooney and that they are happy.

I always finding it interesting hearing about how quickly people return to work after having children. Everyone is just doing the best that they can, but it often strikes me that those women who return very quickly tend to do so either because they a) have the money and resources to afford and house a live-in nanny or b) have so little money and resources that they must return to work.

Amal is said to have returned to work 3 months after giving birth to her twins. Her work is not without risk – many of the people she has defended are targets of not very nice people, even taking on ISIS when she represented Nadia Murad, a human trafficking survivor. However, after spending so long building the momentum of her career and influence it makes complete sense to me that she would want to get right back into it.

With all of the high profile stuff there are risks. But there is also huge protection that comes with wealth and public profile. So I wish her all the luck in the world, because by all accounts she is doing amazing work and continuing to do so as she builds her life with her husband and children.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: You Make My Skin Crawl

Quick warning for those offended by the swears – I got a little angry writing this one. There are a few nasty words from “nasty woman”.

Talking to one of the lovely humans in my life this week I realised why this bothered me more than other similar experiences I have had. I have previously lived in a very busy city, where people are constantly swilling around each other. If a scenario like the one described below had happened, I would have been swallowed up by other people and moved on in a minute. I would have grumbled and been confronted, but it would have been gone. Now I live in a more sparsely populated place and the open space, coupled with the long time that they could continue engaging with me until I could physically leave in my car. Just an observation, now enjoy the read and let me know if this resonates with you.

**

Two weeks ago, when walking back to my car, I passed a group of young guys skating out in a public space. I had every right to be there. They had every right to be there. All was well in the world.

As I walked past these boys it started.

“Daaaamn.”
“Aaron, you can’t even handle that booty!”
“Fuck girl, how do you keep that thing so tight?!”

Yes that last one was actually said. Commence communal eye roll.

As I had walked near to them, I had felt their gaze on me. I knew something was coming. It could have gone a few different ways, as the women reading this will be all too familiar with.

Those words could have easily been words to bring me down.

I wasn’t wearing make up. My hair wasn’t all that flash that day. Had it been a different group, with a different vibe, they could have had me feel unsafe in an entirely different way. Shit, they may not have finished watching their buddy doing his sick ollie or whatever until after I had walked past, leaving my ass the only thing for them to notice and comment on.

In that moment, I went from being a 27 year old woman in a loving relationship with my husband, surrounded by friends, family and pets that love and care for me to feeling like I was nothing.

I felt my skin crawl, knowing that there was no “off button” for those words until I got in my car, locked my doors and drove away. I couldn’t remove their gaze. I couldn’t do anything.

Yes, of course I thought about flipping them off. I thought about yelling a solid “fuuck yooouuu”. None of it would have had the desired effect. All that would have gotten me is

1) “why are you so uptight?! Stupid bitch can’t take a compliment”

2) some form of attempt to physically touch me

3) insert further escalation of the situation here…

Why can I say those options with complete and utter conviction? Because they have ALL happened to me on separate occasions in the past.

On one occasion a man told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. I was 16 and standing outside a super market. He was maybe in his mid-50s and smelt of alcohol. I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms and mumbled “thanks”. He put his arm around me and started asking me something else but I pulled away from him and walk off, eyes down, feeling my skin crawl.

On another occasion I turned around from picking up my bag at a club to find a group of men surrounding me. I was 22 and they looked to be in their 30s. One stood physically over me and said “don’t think I can let someone as cute as you get past me”. I went cold, steeled myself, looked him dead in the eye and said “I’d like to see you try to stop me”. He laughed and looked at his mates and said something like “bitch” (I honestly can’t remember) and stepped away. I went to the bathrooms and cried.

I could go on and on and fucking on.

Listen, I get it, we have all seen movies where the guy says “I just had to stop you to tell you. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen”. Great. Good for that dude. Good for that FICTIONAL character in a MOVIE where the plot is PREDETERMINED and the woman’s response is SCRIPTED.

Women do not work like that.

So here are my tips for those men out there who think it’s a good idea to call out to women in the street, or attempt to physically control how they can navigate the space they are in.

  1. If you are about to open your mouth to yell at someone you do not know, in a public space, and you are about to single out something about that person’s physical appearance just take one moment, close your mouth, turn back to your friend, and continue as you did before.
  2. Don’t do it.
  3. Fucking don’t do it!

Well done, you have nailed it!

Your day will not be ruined because you didn’t shout at someone that they looked good.

But if you do, hers most likely will be. Maybe that’s giving you too much credit. But it will likely piss her off at the very least, and at most make her feel entirely unsafe in her world, even for a moment.

Surely, surely, that is not the emotion you are looking to insight when you yell at women… surely?! If it is, well… fuuck yoooouuuu!

 

Bonus Post: Lee Lin Chin Resigns from the SBS

Quick update to say Lee Lin Chin has announced her retirement from the SBS. Timely given her recent feature in my feature this week.

After a 40 year career this absolute boss has refused to identify the ‘why’, saying she may do so one day but for now she didn’t wish to.

At the end of the day she has had a damn good career and she must be happy with all she has achieved.

In a Tweet she said she has ‘resigned, not retired’. She also said in an interview that working was getting in the way of her drinking at the pub, something that won’t be a worry now.

She is the best. I wish her all the good vibes and am looking forward to seeing her pop up for the odd cameo here and there.

Thank you to the following sites:

Lee Lin Chin

On proofing this, I see that I have thrown in a lot of “Aussie lingo” to this post. It seems Lee has brought out my little bogan country girl that lives in my heart. Should you require translation, let me know! 🙂

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Lee Lin Chin has been reading the news since before I was born. I guarantee if you are in Australia and you own a TV you have flicked across to her on SBS more times than  you can count.

Lee migrated to Australia in 1980. Her media career was already underway in Singapore and after working as a translator in Chinese movies (Cantonese, Mandarin and Fukien) she had become a newsreader for SBS by 1988 (source).

Lee doesn’t have a mobile phone. She has been Australia’s spokesperson for Eurovision. She is cheeky, she is strong-willed, she makes jokes about sleeping with men and going out to get drunk.

Australians have a rubbish culture of pulling women down that act like I’ve just described. So how does she get away with it?! I am truly fascinated by this idea. We interview her and watch her on TV and she says things like “Hello Australia, this is your Queen”. Imagine if someone like, oh I don’t know, Jennifer Hawkins tried to do that – people would be throwing a fit!

Is it because Lee is unapologetic? Is it because she is non-threatening in how she presents herself? Is it because she has flirted so perfectly with that line between taking the piss and pushing the limits of fashion? Is it because she came to Australia as a skilled migrant, then earned her place in media by slogging it out as an interpreter first?

Lee is a serious, deep-voiced, stern newsreader. Lee also happens to enjoy outrageous fashion – I still remember turning on the TV one afternoon to a full screen of her face in fluro coloured glasses. And perhaps this is the key – Lee is Lee. She just is. She doesn’t apologise, she bites back when challenged in a cheeky and light hearted way. She does a damn good job in the newsroom and then brings amazing colour to her other projects.

Thank you to the following sites:

Guest Post – Attention is the Rarest and Purest Form of Generosity

Thank you to my beautiful guest for contributing this post. Leave a comment for her below and show your support for her lovely post.

We are all trying to strike a balance between reclaiming ourselves/doing things for ourselves and remaining connected with the friends, families and contacts in our lives.

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“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity” – Simone Weil, 1942

While these words were spoken by a young woman more than 76 years ago, I suspect they have never been truer or more needed to be said.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be fully present; to resist distraction, to listen without forming answers, to sit with someone else and take in every word they have to say, curious, captivated, alert.

For an outgoing, bubbly and friendly introvert, this does not always come easily to me. And spoiler alert: that is precisely the point, but more on that later.

A very dear and special friend came to visit me this last weekend. An all-round loving, generous woman and a fabulous primary teacher, she drove 300kms in one direction to spend precious school holiday time with me, stay the night and then drive those 300kms back the next day.

Having completed that drive myself, more times than I care to remember, I know how draining it is, especially done in such a short window of time.

She arrived on a sunny winter morning, bearing gifts of blueberries, strawberries and coffee-flavoured dark chocolate. We sat in my cosy flat and drank tea, freshly steeped in a pot, from fine pink and white china cups. We ate cake, homemade lemon, coconut cake and enjoyed the moment. We talked, catching up on life, sharing philosophy and faith, laughing about ourselves and our families in only the way friends who have known each other many years can. This time was a rare gift in our busy and distant lives.

As I reflect on this encounter, the thing that stands out to me most, is how she listened. Deeply and with undivided attention, my friend listened and was present.

I’m the first to admit that I can be an unreliable friend, as much as I hate to do so. I forget to reply to messages, I bail on social events, I don’t reach out as often as I’d like, and then sometimes when I do I’m somewhere else, thinking of all the things I have to do and all the things I should say. It’s not the kind of person I want to be and it’s not something of which I’m proud, but it’s the truth.

If I’m honest, I sometimes feel too tired to be generous, too worn out from the grinding routine of work, chores, sleep, repeat. I’m a sensitive soul, that I’ve known for some time now. I take things on, they weigh me down. As a family friend once said, “you think too much”.

While the plight of the over-thinking, intuitive introvert is sometimes a burden, I think I owe it to myself and those around me to remember the hidden blessings it can bring.

In my thinking, I’ve been wondering if perhaps we are losing a sense of what it means to sacrifice. In a world where everything comes easily (convenience stores and fast food, online shopping and endless entertainment at the click of a button), I can’t help but ask, are we becoming reluctant to put in effort, especially if the rewards are not so obvious or immediate?

It’s against this background that recently, I decided I want to work on being a better friend. And the first thing I’m going to do is focus on giving my undivided attention, freely and generously.

Where popular culture teaches us to focus on ourselves and always put our needs first, the simple act of paying attention is a radical one.

Weekend Read: Start small but dream big

I am so thankful to the increased traffic coming through my blog. I love knowing you are seeing my work and I hope that you are enjoying it! If you like a particular blog post be sure to share it with your buddies and share the joy!

If you would like to write a guest post for this site, or you would like me to do a piece on a particular topic, please email me at janemadden17@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

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They say there’s no good sitting on the couch doing nothing. So I find myself sitting on the couch writing this weekend post for you all. In a world full of noisy and non-stop social media, horrific violence and terrifying social problems that seem so big that we can’t even engage with them, I am choosing to start small.

Continue reading “Weekend Read: Start small but dream big”

Aya Kamikawa

I love Japan, but there are challenges to the society and the culture that must be spoken about. Just like Australia. Just like America. We can’t stay silent on what is uncomfortable, because otherwise those who are held back from achieving their goals because they are different will never get a chance.

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There are so many positive elements of Japanese culture, tradition and society that I love. I could go on for days. Sometimes, however, Japan and its citizens get a little tripped up because there is so much pressure on what is referred to as the “front facing” persona – the personality you put out to the world.

Japanese society can be responsible for what seems like outlandish or shocking trends:

At the same time, Japan is one of the most traditional, modest and conservative societies on the planet.

  • Traditional views of marriage and relationships, both in policy and socially
  • Women traditionally leaving the workforce after pregnancy and childbirth
  • Entrenched traditions and cultures from Buddhism and Shintoism such as respect for the elderly, in-house shrines and of course the beautiful temples and shrines throughout streets and cities.
  • And on and on and on it goes.

What goes on inside your own house has little to no impact on what happens when you go into the office on Monday morning, so long as you don’t bring it to the attention of others.

So what happens when your “inward facing” personality becomes your “outward facing” personality? Aya Kamikawa is a transgender woman. Depending on the type of Japan you are familiar with will change how you think this should impact her life and career.

In 2003 Aya Kamikawa became the first trans-woman to be elected to win an elected office in Japan. Aya’s success was largely due to her platform being directed at helping the elderly and repairing public spaces such as libraries. She stood outside train stations with a microphone and told people passing by that she was trans. She was bold, she was strong, she connected on a policy-platform that resonated with people and she won.

I find this nothing short of incredible. I am so privileged in my own hetero-normative and gender experience that I know nothing of the hardship that Aya surely endured before, during, and after that win at the election booths. In order for transgender people to transition in Japan, they are required to be labeled as having a mental disorder.

Japan has this funny way of being simultaneously accepting of variations of the norm whilst at the same time stopping those variations (i.e. human beings) from getting too far out of control. This happens , for example, by putting transgender women in the entertainment or comedy industries and not the political sphere. It even happens with citizens who have one parent from another country, as you are often to be seen as an “other” even if you are born in Japan and have lived there your whole life.

But through the persistence of Aya, another transgender person, Tomoya Hosada, has been able to be elected to City Council. Perhaps in the coming years those from the trans community will continue to break into these “serious” social roles and find themselves just an everyday part of Japanese society.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: How do we stop inviting the trauma in?

This is not an anti-social media post. This is a PRO-self investment post! Get on the comment feed and tell me what you do to reengage with the world and reconnect with yourself – I can’t wait to hear from you! Happy reading!

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[If I asked you “what brings you joy?” what would you say?]

We live in a hectic world. You wake up to breaking news, you have your day interrupted by tragedy, you might even stay up late reading about problems in the world that are erupting everywhere you turn. Eventually, you emotionally burn out. You put the phone on the table and look up. But then what?

**

You are sitting on the couch or in bed at the end of the day and you are exhausted, strung out, fatigued.

The TV flicks on and you binge on violent, explicit, dramatic, angry and intense shows and movies. At the same time, Facebook gets pulled up and you scroll mindlessly across people’s lives, their joys, fears, anger, stress, holidays, posed and filtered photos… once you hit content you have already seen, it’s straight to Insta… then Twitter… then Snapchat… and on it goes.

You look up and its 9, 10, or 11pm. You are exhausted but you haven’t moved in hours. You feel strung out and like you need to move but you are falling asleep where you sit. You sluggishly make your way into your bed (if you aren’t there already) before realising that you are now wired and couldn’t possibly sleep.

You sit and scroll past ads or reviews of books you wish you were reading, you click ‘interested in’ events you know would love to attend but know that you never will, you feel jealousy at others on their beautiful holidays and feel trapped even though you have all the control around your own actions which then makes you angry that your actions aren’t “better” somehow.

You look up from your phone into the darkness of the room. You are bleary eyed, confused, maybe a little hungry, trying to work out what happened. Then you see the time. Shit. Now you are stressed that you are only looking at four hours of sleep before the alarm is going to go off. You are meant to be waking up to go to the gym/meet a friend for breakfast/do your mindfulness/write in your gratitude journal/get a head start on a busy work day and all of a sudden you feel a sense of panic wash over you.

You are going to be exhausted. You are going to be cranky! So you turn your alarm off or push it back to your regular wake up time before falling asleep in a slump of exhaustion. You wake up feeling lost and out to sea and when you sit down at your desk all you can think of is what you were supposed to do that morning but you slept through instead. Now you’re mad at yourself, you’re even weirdly mad at everyone on Facebook, as if you were forced to scroll. You are sad that you never make time to invest in yourself.

You get to lunch and when you sit down your phone comes out and the cycle starts repeating itself, this time it’s ahead of schedule and you’re going to be distracted all afternoon after seeing a horribly violent news story in your Facebook feed.

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WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OURSELVES?!

[If I asked you “what is your hobby?” what would you say?]

When we are constantly letting other people choose what we see (people sharing videos and news articles and algorithms spitting out what you are predicted to like) we feel out of control because we are. We aren’t choosing what we see, we are just being exposed to things that others have pushed towards us. It is not empowering, it is not even particularly engaging.

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BUT JANE, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?!

I want to encourage you to reclaim your hobbies!! Maybe that is movie watching – but can you make it through a movie in your house without looking at your phone? But maybe your hobby is drawing. Maybe it’s jogging. Maybe it’s woodworking – I don’t know, it’s your bloody hobby!! But if the scenario above resonates with you, and you feel hollow and empty at the end of your night, I can tell you for a fact that reclaiming some time for yourself will go some way towards filling yourself with joy.

We choose how we engage with the news. With other people. With ourselves. So let’s have respect for ourselves, for others, and for our time. When you see someone’s holiday photos you should be able to feel joy for them, not jealousy, because you have filled your own time with things that make you feel joy.

**

Last year I realised that I was not doing something that has always brought me intense joy: reading and writing.

I have always written diaries. I have always devoured books, sitting for hours and hours just churning through stories. Thinking about it, I realised just how much time in my day I was spending staring blankly at a show I’m not that invested in. Just how long I spend scroooolling scrolling scrolling down my social media feeds.

So now, about an hour before I want to sleep I stop engaging with my phone, wrap up what I’m  doing, go do the nightly routine and make my way to bed. Then, once in bed, I read until I feel relaxed and sleepy, then without checking the time I turned the light off, roll over, and relax until I snooze.

Bliss.

I sleep better. I wake more relaxed. I feel like I empty my mind of my worries and get carried away in a story not my own off into my dreams.

**

[If I asked you “are you happy with how you spent today?” what would you say?]

 

Kiran Bedi

Let’s dive straight into Kiran Bedi – the first woman to join the Indian police force.

Here is a quick summary of Kiran’s life:

  • Kiran was one of four daughters.
  • Growing up, her father disobeyed traditional expectation and educated all four daughters.
  • She has an undergraduate degree in English, a master’s degree in political science, a law degree and a Ph.D. in social science (focus: drug abuse, domestic violence).
  • Kiran was a professional tennis player (winning Delhi’s first ever women’s festival sports title in 1975)
  • In 1972 Kiran became the first female police officer in India.
  • Kiran was sent to work in the prison system and used this as an opportunity to introduce a volunteer education program, including a meditation program.
  • In 2003 Kiran was appointed to the United Nations as a civilian police advisor.
  • Kiran has been awarded the President’s Gallantry Award (1979), the Asia region award for Drug Prevention and Control (1991), the Magsaysay Award for government service (1994), the Joseph Beuys Award (1997), the Mother Teresa Memorial National Award for Social Justice (2005) and the Serge Soitiroff Memorial Award for drug abuse prevention by the United Nations.

You can listen to a fantastic TedTalk by Kiran here (you may be picking up that I do love a good TedTalk – I am always happy to take suggestions!). In the talk, Kiran speaks about her approach to policing and how influential (and alternative) it was to the system she was entering. She sees policing as having a preventative role, not just the traditional role of response to acts and corresponding punishment.

There is a wonderful story she speaks of where she once gave the Prime Minister a ticket. The absolute inner-strength and conviction in justice is outstanding. After this happened, Kiran was shifted into correctional facilities, which was a common move for “problem” officers. I am certain she would have felt at times a feeling that her career would be over with that move. But instead of allowing that to happen, Kiran instead set up educational services for prisoners. She found people to volunteer their time and donate their goods to help those prisoners learn to read and write and up-skill.

I found it interesting to read about how Kiran condemned the government banning of a BBC documentary about a 2012 Delhi gang rape.

“The film… provides evidence of community indifference, weaknesses of justice system, ill equipped enforcement mechanisms, and of outdated mindset… ‘Hiding (banning the movie) is not the answer. Confronting the stark reality is the answer'” (Source)

Kiran is a strong and powerful activist and has had a hugely successful career  from police service into activism and politics. A lot of her achievements are put out in articles and it all reads as this incredible, trail blazing smack down of inspirational goal kicking progress. What I like about her work, however, is that she offers internships to young women and is constantly encouraging women and girls to get out there, be bold, take risks and take on the world.

What this does (in my opinion) is start breaking down the “but how do I do any of that?!” feeling that springs to mind when you are so overwhelmed by all of the glory of a person’s career and you have no idea how they navigated each hurdle.

I do believe she brushes over things, particularly when asked about starting in the police force. The 50’s and 60’s would have been a shocking time for her to be starting in the police force as a woman. She would have suffered tremendously. I hope that she does tell-all one day when she is ready, but I do respect her right to silence on those matters that she perhaps feels are no longer relevant to her story.

Thank you to the following sites:

Guest Post – An Open Letter: Why we are more powerful than the problems we face.

Thank you to my beautiful friend for writing this entry. You are a kind, clever and inspirational human and the things we are going to achieve knows no bounds.

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An open letter to the change-makers, to the hopeful souls and to the perpetually afraid.

Dear human,

I guess it’s about time we came clean. We are tired. Tired of fear driving all conversations, embedding itself in our central operating systems, like that one friend who comes to your house, steals your TV remote only to declare reign over bad re-runs of ‘The Ghost Whisperer’. And we have a feeling that you might be growing tired of being afraid too.

Why?

Because fear breeds our greatest challenges. We also live in a world that feeds us an ongoing diet of media telling us what to fear and who to blame. In many developed economies, inequality has risen and the public fears that social compact is broken, leading to a backlash against globalisation, humanitarian assistance and immigration, to name a few. This has caused people to disconnect and turn inwards to their own communities, to themselves. We have never before been so technologically connected in history, yet so disconnected from a real understanding of the lives of others. But fear doesn’t serve us, at least not anymore.

What was derived from an evolutionary survival mechanism, we have come far enough to have long outgrown our need to consume fear on a daily basis. Fear spreads like disease and over time conditions to become hate. But we need to remember that hate was once fear, just now dressed up in a swanky, oversized coat. Many use fear as a platform to dehumanise others in order to justify most inhumane actions. They need fear to do so, because we as humans are biologically hardwired against hurting our equals; ourselves. So fear created the concepts of superiority and inferiority to serve alongside them. These ideas were then passed down and so procreated many of the events in the world that are unfolding.

But if fear is taught, then it can be untaught. If we can re-write the factory settings for fear, then we are more powerful than the problems we confront. What we need is a new framework; a new mental model. They say that Trump received so much public support in the US presidential vote not necessarily because of support for him, but because those who were vulnerable to his suggestion were shouted down and shamed for being so influenced by fear (which only further fed their fear and multiplied unto others). Imagine if we used compassion as a weapon against the seductive control of fear on the human psyche instead of vilification, by stepping into an empathetic space with those in a learned state of unconscious fear. I will always believe that human impulse towards a greater good will eclipse those that make us vulnerable to suggestion. Above all, I believe that intelligence and compassion can be one’s greatest assets, because what we know matters, but who we are matters more. We can defeat fear – but we need everyone to do so.

As humans, we are hardwired for curiosity, creativity and above all, connection. What we create here exists only because of how it impacts on others, and how others including ourselves, connect to it. The success of everything we do in our lives depends on our ability to meaningfully connect with others. I encourage you to collect the autobiographical stories of humans that you may now explicitly (or implicitly) fear and to let them profoundly remind you that perspective matters. Let them be the authors of their own stories. I have learnt more about resilience, about generosity and about how to find the beauty in everything from some of the world’s most ‘poorest’ (not inferior) people. I deeply believe that every single person has something in them that the world needs. I also acknowledge the sobering truth that every person has a story that could bring you to your knees.

We craft courage from failure when we understand that showing up, being here and holding an empathic space with others is our greatest power. We are all made of both struggle and strength and we are intrinsically connected to each other through the messy and complex experience that is being human. We are resilient and we will achieve, not because of what we are supposed to be, but because of who we are. All I ask, is that you show up and continue to be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Yours sincerely,

A friend you haven’t met yet.

Weekend Read: You Are Such an Old Soul

Please let me know what you think of the new weekend reads! Thank you so much for those who have been reading my entries and engaging with me. I love hearing how my entries have influenced you.

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I love reading and hearing about people who have “done their learning”. I spent sooo many days, full days when I was growing up in the care of my grandma and listening to her stories. Listening to the learnings she had along the way, the silliness of this life and the perspectives she came away with.

Since I can remember people my age have called me an “old soul”, those older than me have said things like “oh you don’t seem [insert age at time of comment]”. It became something that I strove for, that comment. That compliment! It felt like I had a “one up” on those around me, and I think the warmth I would feel when a friend or family member who was older than me said that to me became addictive.

I have often felt anxious to get to the next step, to move to the next stage in life and achieve the next goal. I use that word “anxious” very deliberating because it does manifest in anxiety.

I am realising that this is all closely linked to my desire to please others. I want to sacrifice all that I have for those around me. To support them and help them and make them see that I am doing my best for them. All the while, progressing at a rate equal to if not faster than them.

In essence, I often don’t feel like I am doing this ‘life’ business right if I am not jumping forwards in leaps and bounds.

Anxiety is an absolute coward that hides until there is nobody around to help you move through it.

So if you strive to make those around you impressed with your progress, what are you meant to feel when you are left with your own thoughts and reflections? Often, it leads to stress, to anxiety, to fear of failure.

I wrote about the way this fear of failure can manifest in friendships last Saturday in my Open Letter to a Fading Friend.

It is all really confusing. I feel like listening to the learnings from others is essential. Those that can teach me, guide me, help me and push me further along in shaping my own story. It means that I am curious, I am respectful and I am grateful to hear those stories when they are shared.

But I need to work on being conscious of how it manifests in myself. I do not require the validation of another to know that I am progressing in this life just as I should be. At this moment, in this instant, right now. I can pursue the topics and pursuits that fill me with joy, I can engage in meaningful conversation with those who fill my soul to the brim with happiness, love and affection and I can share my fears, doubts and worries with them.

But I do not owe it to the world to be at a place that I am not yet meant to be at. I can’t help that I haven’t had that life experience. I can’t help that I have not suffered in the way that you have, nor should I ever strive to experience it for the sake of learning.

What I can help is how I take your story, your warning, your guidance, to bolster my understanding of you, perhaps influence my expectation of my own future, and the way in which I will continue living in this life alongside you and those around me.

Karen Dolva

I love hearing about entrepreneurs and how people have taken a simple concept or a “gap” in their market to achieve fabulous things. Please leave me a comment if you have a link to a start up or fabulous individual making positive waves in their community through their clever thinking and proactive attitude! Happy reading!

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Today I am focusing on Norwegian Karen Dolva and her company, “No Isolation“. This one is exciting to me for a very simple reason: Karen is doing what I am doing – trying to connect people! Karen attacked this topic with business savvy, elegance and simple authenticity. Even more exciting, No Isolation was directly influenced by the same story that I was in forming this blog.

Karen founded No Isolation in 2015.

“Our mission is to reduce involuntary loneliness and social isolation by developing communication tools that help those affected.” (source)

The concept of “involuntary loneliness” gets me. Not only because of my own experiences in life, but also so many others. We all feel lonely some of the time, even though we are going to and from work, interacting with friends, colleagues, family and strangers. Feeling disconnected is not abnormal, but it is also not a complete and total emotion that you are “stuck” with and have to live with forever.

Adults feel hopeless, isolated and overwhelmed by these emotions, so how on earth do children manage? On top of that, burden that child with a long term illness. Or an elderly person who makes it “difficult” to engage with because they can’t seem to make the iPad work. Suddenly we become overwhelmed and unintentionally walk away or shift our attention elsewhere. We are uncomfortable. It’s “too big”. We shut down.

Not Karen. Karen’s company has developed a robot that can engage with the world on your behalf, when you cannot. You can see a lovely video about it here. We sometimes get worried about the impact that technology, and particularly robots, is having on the world and will continue to have as it evolves and develops. No Isolation is specifically targeting a small population of the community because Karen is doing in depth research, in depth interaction with her target group, in depth testing and in depth development and management of her product. Listen to this TedxVienna speech to hear how she found her mission, narrowed in on her target audience and developed her product.

No Isolation also aids the elderly, through the product Komp. Karen is giving autonomy to groups who are physically or emotionally isolated, in a time when our online footprint is expanding constantly and literally knows no boundaries. I love the simplicity, the inclusiveness, the warmth that she has inserted into this concept. I love that Karen is shifting the focus of new technology creation in a virtual world to those who still wish to contribute to society but are somehow limited.

Traditionally, people study at university to enter into an industry that has operated for a primary social purpose, or pushes people in a series of seemingly predetermined directions for the “best chance of success”. There are always outliers, and there are always those who are willing to take rests (not to mention financially able!).

But just because you are studying IT, or marketing, engineering, anything! Does not mean that you have to conform to those notions of what your career will look like and how it will play out. You are, of course, so very welcome to follow that path should you choose to, and indeed we need you to if you are excited to do so!

However, if you are searching for “more”, for “something bigger”, for “something different”, and you see a “gap in the market”, then fill that gap. There are thousands upon thousands of resources that you can tap into so you can get started thinking about who you need to connect with, where you need to guide your path, when and how to make “pivots” and “shifts”, “leaps” and “risks”… It’s all out there, piles of it for free and mountains at a low impost.

Karen inspires me. She links community and fights loneliness in a way that is simple and effective, has capacity to grow and drills into the ability for IT to impact social change No Isolation challenges the current and projected place IT holds in our society and I flipping love it.

Thank you to the following sites:

Weekend Read: An Open Letter to a Fading Friend

If my article has brought up any challenges for you, I want you to always feel welcome to reach out to me for help. Whilst I always welcome contact I must stress, however, that I am not a psychologist and I cannot offer you professional help. Please reach out to your GP for access to a clinical psychologist should you need that help, or else you can of course reach out to Lifeline for immediate contact. Treat your mental health as you would your physical health.

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To a Fading Friend

I am writing this letter to say I miss you.

I am writing this letter because I am stuck and  sometimes writing things down helps me navigate those emotions and find clarity.

I am writing this letter publicly 1) in the hope that you will read it, and 2) in the hope that I can start a conversation (or keep it going) around friendships: how they begin, how they flourish, and how horribly painful it can be when they end.

You sprung into my life like all good friends do. One minute I was nervous and feeling out of my depths in a new environment, the next I had made eye contact with you and I felt immediately welcomed and invited and I was instantly drawn into your aura. In hindsight, I see now that instantly looked up to and idolised you. This, over the coming years, perhaps led me to think you didn’t see me as a “friend”, but more as a mentoree. So I tempered the way I reached out to you, scared that I would “over step” the boundaries.

I often felt “less” than you. I often felt like I was searching for the right words around you. I often felt like I was one word away from shutting you down and forcing you away from me emotionally. It was like I didn’t have the words, the life experience or the intuition/skill to engage with you in the ways that you needed. Yet when you showed me love, you showered it on me and made me feel strong, smart, in-tune and like I was getting it right. So I persisted and I continued working through my own discomfort even when I felt like I wasn’t a good “friendship fit” for you.

From you, I felt like I had a friend who “had my back”. You told me when I needed to stand up for myself in another friendship. You comforted me when I was overwhelmed and you told me your own stories of anxiety, stress, and distress throughout life. I spent a lot of time talking, and found myself “out of balance” sometimes when I walked away from a conversation. “What is going on with her?!” I would realise, it dawning on me that I had been so selfish as to never ask you, or even worse, to allow you to “brush it off” and flip the conversation back to me. I acknowledge that tactic to be your own, but I was not perceptive enough to realise it was happening and it lead to a build up of potential miscommunication and misunderstanding, of potential threat and danger to the threads of our relationship.

Sometimes I would speak to you daily. Sometimes you would be the person that I would think of straight away whether it be something happy, sad, exciting, funny, it didn’t seem to matter, I wanted to share that with you. In this respect our relationship really did feel like a “courtship”, something that has definitely been written and spoken about before around the early days of relationships. But the thing that doesn’t happen (often) in friendships as the relationship buds is the “blow ups”. Those little niggles of irritation, those little frustration that would eventually snap out of one partner or another in a sexual or romantic relationship through necessity of closeness and breaking down barriers.

When I felt that tension I often felt you might “need space” from me. If it looked like your life was going downhill, sometimes I would also be experiencing my own stress. Sometimes I would realise that I wasn’t giving you the right “stuff” and it would lead to me not checking in with you, you not checking in with me, and then all of a sudden 6 weeks flying past and me realising I had no idea what was happening in your life. This is my own anxiety, fear of rejection, fear of failure and inability to confront challenging or uncomfortable “vibes” in a friendship.

So I let it sit. I let it sit, and rot, and simmer and eventually boil over. The hugs felt wrong, the responses over text felt clipped. But I didn’t have the words. “I feel there is some tension here. Is there something wrong that I have contributed to or caused?”

I became selfish. I started projecting and thinking things like “I am having a hard time, too. I need your support too.” I got angry. I became justified and I began managing the energy that I could invest. But the feeling of fatigue, the feeling of distress, the diminishing self-faith and the constant pangs of at times physical stomach drops and pains led to me continuing to do nothing. Stupid, I know.

I am so sad to say that you are not just one friend. There are multiple beautiful, strong, kind, ferocious and wonderful women who, for one reason or another, have faded from or combusted out of my life. Sometimes it is a series of events, sometimes it is a change of events or purely time and distance. But it those ones that I knew were flickering, spluttering and struggling. And yet I did nothing. It felt uncomfortable, it felt awkward and it felt wrong. And yet I let happen, and I am sorry for that.

So, my friend, please know that if this letter resonates with you, either in your relationship with me or with another, please just know that you are loved and missed and your time and energy and money and skill and effort was valued. It still is. And whilst I will continue to reach out to those friends who have shown a willingness to reconnect or rebuild, I will not be so presumptuous as to think that you are willing or wanting to continue a relationship with me. Therefore, I will not force that continued communication on you.

Know this, though. Should you ever feel the desire to reach out, you will be welcomed with warm arms and a gentle understanding that whilst we may never have the same relationship we shared in the past, reconnecting with you would fill my heart with extreme warmth.

I love you, my friend.

 

Beth Chatto

Leave me a comment about what your passion is, and how you let it contribute to your “legacy“. Read on to find out more!

I am turning my attention this week to a topic that I am so attracted to but, like so many others, tend to fail miserably at: gardening. But what brought me to this topic and in turn our guest this week, Beth Chatto, deserves a little bit of unpacking.

I often think about my “legacy“. I think about the “impact” that I am having on the world and how I will be remembered after I am gone. Of course there are the most straight forward things:

  • I have friends who I believe that I am making an impact on, and who definitely have an impact on me.
  • I have family who make me feel loved and to whom I try to give all of my love and good energy.
  • I work with colleagues who inspire me and I believe I inspire in turn.

As we get older, that question must surely feature more prominently in our minds. It’s scary though, because as we age we lose our family members. We stop working so we lose contact with colleagues. Inevitably, in the end, we start losing friends to illness, disease or misfortune. So what is the legacy left behind then? Children is one answer, sure. But what if you don’t have children? Or you have also had the severe misfortune of losing them or losing contact with them?

It starts feeling all a little too big. But I think it’s important to realise a few things.

  • It is still your legacy that you helped those around you when and as they needed.
  • Every action you do in your life has value. Every conversation with a stranger on the train, every message checking in on a friend you haven’t seen in a while, every hug you have given in affection, reconciliation, support or happiness.
  • These days, we all have some form of electronic social footprint. So the news articles we share, the think pieces we write, the posts we put up about our lived experience, they all matter and they all contribute to shaping others’ life views.
  • If we are mindful in how we navigate our life, we are leaving smatterings of “legacy” as we go, just by virtue of living and engaging with our society.

Our long term legacy is the tricky bit, and I think this is usually achieved by following a passion. For Beth Chatto, our feature for today, that passion was gardening.

Beth never formally trained in horticulture, but joined her husband in his passion (he was a fruit grower) and soon became a neighbourhood hit as she was able to grow lovely garden beds in seemingly inhospitable conditions. She wrote books, maintained friendships with artists and writers and by all accounts was a well maintained, exemplary community member. I would note that it absolutely seems Beth was blessed with many things in life: a partner who shared and encouraged her passion, exposure to people with influence, and clearly some form of financial safety net that allowed for the scenes such as this:

“Her garden and nursery, on the gravelly soil at Elmstead Market, soon became a mecca for keen gardeners. Her willingness to share her own eloquently expressed beliefs and her personal charisma made visits unforgettable.” (source)

I acknowledge her privilege, but I do not begrudge her for it! Beth created a “gravel garden” in a car park! She seemed intent on taking the harshest of environments and inserting beauty and life. Her whole life centered around gardening; promoting and encouraging others to garden.

I feel like Beth is a fabulous example of someone who has discovered her passion and allowed it to define her life, and ultimately, her legacy.

  • She used her passion to give her a place in her community.
  • She used her passion to educate those around her and give them a feeling of connection.
  • She inspired others to start their own gardens by distributing her knowledge through books, conversations and engagement.
  • She leaves a legacy in the footprint on the gardening community, but also on this planet, inserting greenery in a world so often brutalised by concrete, construction and artificial creation.

I found reading about Beth and her life gave me space to reflect on how I let my own passions define, influence and express themselves in my life. I am slowly giving myself the space to let this happen, but I still have a ways to go.

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If you have a “budding” passion for gardening after reading this, head to the following sites to get started:

Honestly, Pinterest is your friend! Just start your search and let the influencers guide you! 🙂

Thank you to the following sites:

Sister Ellen Savage

I know so many selfless, helpful, kind, and generous people. They work as social workers, psychologists, doctors, emergency services personnel, policy writers, carers – the list goes on. I love all of these people and try to emulate their unwavering efforts to help others in my own work and daily life.

The nurses I have in my life (even those no longer working) are hard working, kind – firm but fair. They are straight shooters who always have a plan of action and will pivot and shift their plans to suit the moment with no fluster and buckets of grace. I feel like it is very much a case of ‘once a nurse, always a nurse’.

Even in our current time, nurses are not paid enough. They are not respected by their colleagues on the ward. They are yelled at, assaulted, questioned and belittled by their patients. They work horrific hours, sleep for 3 hours then get up and do it all again. They do all this with grit and determination because nurses are not in it for the glory. They will clean your sores. They will dress your wounds. They will brace your broken bones and change your fluid bags. Even 10 hours into a shift they will still crack a joke, have a giggle with a colleague about a burst pustule or put their half eaten sandwich down to rush to help if you are bleeding out or crashing. Heck, they’ll put their half eaten sandwich down to get YOU a bloody sandwich, forget about it, then have to throw it out 4 hours later when they realise they never got back to eating it.

During the 1900s, nurses were still just as essential, but their conditions were even more challenging than they are today, both on shore and abroad. Whilst this post is about one particular individual, I would note that there are thousands of Australian nurses before and since whose stories could be told.

Ellen Savage was an Australian Army Nurse (AANS) from 1941 to 1946.  Ellen was on a hospital ship called the Centaur in May of 1943 when it was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. Ellen’s injuries were extensive: she suffered severe bruising, a fractured nose, burst ear drums, a broken palate and fractured ribs. Despite this, she managed to swim to a makeshift raft, concealing her own injuries so that she could support those with extensive burn injuries. She boosted morale, managed the rationing of food and water and ultimately aided the survival of 64 survivors.

Ellen was the only nurse on board to survive, and was awarded the George Medal for ‘conspicuous service and high courage’. She was the second woman to receive the award. An incredible quote from Ellen is as follows:

“Merle Morton and myself were awakened by two terrific explosions and practically thrown out of bed … I registered mentally that it was a torpedo explosion … In that instant the ship was in flames … we ran into Colonel Manson, our commanding officer, in full dress even to his cap and ‘Mae West’ life-jacket, who kindly said ‘That’s right girlies, jump for it now.’ The first words I spoke was to say ‘Will I have time to go back for my great-coat?’ as we were only in our pyjamas. He said ‘No’ and with that climbed the deck and jumped and I followed … the ship was commencing to go down. It all happened in three minutes.” (Source)

In 1943 Ellen returned to nursing. This line regarding how she was seen by those around her made me laugh:

“She was respected and somewhat feared for her insistence on high standards of discipline and knowledge” (Source)

If anyone has known a nurse, or like me was raised by one, this one rings so true! Fiercely competent, strong, fearless and determined to succeed, nurses are among the strongest men and women in the world. To think that Ellen was able to return the world of nursing after suffering such tragedy and loss is incredible to me. But it isn’t surprising. Just like all of those nurses I know in my little world, Ellen put her own pain aside to continue helping others.

Ellen was founding member, council-member and president of the College of Nursing. Sadly, Ellen passed away in 1985 after attending an ANZAC day reunion, and like all of those who fought and aided in the war efforts, Ellen is gone, but never forgotten.

Thank you to the following sites:

 

Aung San Suu Kyi

Welcome to yet another human that is both revered and distrusted by the international community. Today I am introducing you to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her background is as follows:

  • Suu Kyi was born in 1945
  • Her father, Aung San, was assassinated when she was two years old
  • She was educated in India and the UK
  • After returning to Myanmar in 1988 she became increasingly politicised and began participating in the democratic uprising bubbling in the country
  • Around 1990 she was detained from participating in elections and then held under house arrest until 1995 then again 2000 to 2002 (if you want to read about the history of Myanmar check out this source, it’s too much to get into here).
  • In 1991 she won the Nobel Prize for Peace
  • Since then Suu Kyi has been attacked, re-arrested, threatened and had those around her murdered
  • At present she is state counselor of Myanmar and has been in this position whilst extremely controversial incidents of state- and civilian-led violence have lead to huge numbers of refugees fleeing Myanmar

So this brings us to today. Many awards she received in her formative years have been rescinded and there is a wavering confidence in her ability to achieve peace in Myanmar. I mean… it seems a big ask… to achieve peace for a country… doesn’t it? But I do get it. For so many years, she was seen as an icon for peace and hope and democracy and it appears that now she is in the position of power that would potentially allow her to make some of these changes, she has backed away from those ideals.

I’m not sure how I feel. She does appear to be making attempts to broker peace between the quasi-civilian military and the Rohingyan Muslim minority (source), but has been met with resistance. I don’t sit on either side of this fence simply because it would take a few more googles, possibly some form of academic paper if not a phd to get around it all, but I do wonder if we maybe set our expectations too high for her – was it ever realistic to think she could stop a systematic, slow genocide of a group of people just by being in the position of councilor?

I mean, when I read this quote in an article I nearly yelled with anger:

‘Nearly a century of British rule left the foundations for democracy but Myanmar “like many countries in Africa, wasn’t able to translate these into an enduring foundation for sustainable democratic governance.”‘

This, to me, seems to speak volumes about our criticism and where it is coming from. I feel quite certain that if we asked the population of Myanmar how British rule left them, they wouldn’t say ‘we feel like those colonial white men really set us up for success!!’… I mean we have seen in country after country the impact that colonial Britain had, destroying existing social and political dynamics, stressing the natural resources and methods of working the land, exterminating animals and wiping out minority groups (socially/culturally/at times physically) in favour of their own method of operation. To say that Suu Kyi has failed because she didn’t achieve democracy as modeled by the British just seems… jarring at best.

I speak a lot to my friends about how complicated it is to ‘help’ other countries, particularly those with a diverse, dynamic and unique cultural, political and social make up. Sometimes, the democratic method that we know is the not the correct one for that place, and the best way to achieve peace, end suffering and increase the overall health, wealth and well being of civilians of a particular country may be a combined method of democratic ideals with local execution of those ideals.

I might have lost you at this point, because at the end of the day what does this all matter if people are still be slaughtered? Isn’t it more important to stop that??

The killings must be stopped. That is non-negotiable. The biggest win that could be had right now would be to get the rifles put down. I don’t have the answer as to how that happens because hell, if someone like me did then it would have been done by now.

What I’m saying, however, is that a lot of the backlash that people have against figureheads, against democratic ideals, all of this stuff that makes people viciously angry and lash out, is a fundamental feeling that if they allow Suu Kyi to come in and impose her values/systems/methods of social practice onto them, they will be no better off than under the former regimes. If you are oppressed time and again by your government, why would you be trusting of an emerging one?

Ah guys, I don’t know with this one… I feel like Suu Kyi is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and whilst she is ABSOLUTELY responsible for the decisions she is making in her position of power, I am unsure as to whether she should be vilified because she is not making the hoped or success that we expected of her. Thoughts? Feelings? I would love to hear them!

Thank you to the following sites:

Martha Abari Bartholomew

It has taken nearly 10 years but I am slowly coming to realise that it truly is small business, entrepreneurs, social activists and industry experts with business and marketing savvy who possess the greatest ability to ‘agitate’ for the change they desire.

Martha Abari Bartholomew is a South Sudanese entrepreneur and I will use her own words to articulate her intent:

“It is not about personal business but it is about what you do to transform South Sudan. For the country to reach a better status, we must have a good environment of entrepreneurship – entrepreneurs are the ones who will build this nation… It’s not about the government, it’s about us standing on our own feet. If we can all stand on our own, we will prosper. If we are depending on the country to hold us up, we will all fall. I want to make sure every person around me doing business are raised together to develop this nation.” (source)

I found out about Martha because she participated in UNDP’s Entrepreneurship Training and Business Development Services workshops and is featured on the UNDP website as a leading example of a young person successfully building a business in South Sudan. There is little else I could find online about her, asides from some stunning photos on her Instagram (see featured image). She is a vibrant, enthusiastic and capable member of her society. For this fact, I think we should know she exists in this world and feel hope that she is helping others to stand up independently and take control of their own futures.

Martha faces broader hardships than the standard young woman taking a risk in small business. South Sudan is plagued with social problems, drought, famine, economic crisis, political instability, honestly the list goes on (source, source, source)… It would be easy to think it was all just too hard to break through these hardships, and find yourself in the standard ebb and flow of society. But Martha has utilised international aid to benefit herself and her goals, and reclaim control over her business. She is clearly blessed in being (relatively) safe in her community, potentially wealthy, and in a position to participate in training to further her education. This is not the reality for a lot of women (and indeed men) in South Sudan, there are literally droves of being migrating across the country away from famine and persecution.

I believe sometimes this can lead to a negative view of people like Martha and I think this is misguided. We should not feel anger or like she ‘doesn’t deserve it’ or that she has it ‘easy’. She is still working bloody hard and we should give her the credit that is due to her. In addition to that, where we should be directing our anger is at the sanctioned violence, government corruption and military-driven violence that is perpetrated against innocent people. We shouldn’t bring Martha down in the pursuit of raising others up.

So let’s celebrate this beautiful human being for standing tall whilst digging deep into the entrepreneurial pursuit of self-betterment and social change.

Thank you to the following sites:

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a South African activist during the Apartheid. She had a career in social work, she was an activist, she was the President of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League and was elected to Parliament in 1994. She was also the wife of Nelson Mandela.

Winnie passed away on the 2nd of April 2018 and I would like to explore her life and contribution that stood separate to her husband, because she herself had an intense career as a social activist worth discussing. I have to note here that she was also a deeply flawed human being and by all accounts facilitated horrible things and associated with some horrible people.There is a timeline and listing of faults, charges and incidents here.

The general run through of her life is as follows:

  • Winnie studied to become a Social Worker at the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work in Johannesburg in 1953.
  • At the time, South Africa was in the midst of Apartheid – a time during which Indigenous African people experienced extreme violence, segregation and mistreatment whilst those of European descent experienced access to privilege, wealth, and health.
  • Winnie was the first black social worker at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg.
  • Winnie met and married Nelson Mandela in the 1950s – he was already deeply political at this time.
  • During her husband’s extensive periods of imprisonment Winnie continued surreptitiously working towards the defeat of Apartheid as a member of the ANC.
  • Winnie herself was tortured and detained in solitary confinement for a year, was placed under house arrest and had her house firebombed.
  • Her arrest was as per the “1967 Terrorism Act, No 83, which allowed the arrest of anyone perceived to be endangering the maintenance of law and order. It stipulated that anyone could be arrested without warrant, detained for an indefinite period of time, interrogated and kept in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer or a relative” (source).
  • Throughout all this, Winnie continued to publicly speak out against the mistreatment of native Africans, including through engagement with international media.
  • She was constantly harassed, imprisoned, restricted, raided and intervened with by government officials and police. She was even banished from her own country for a period of time.
  • In 1994, in the same year that Nelson Mandela became president (the first black president of South Africa), Winnie was elected into Parliament and appointed deputy minister of arts, culture, science and technology.
  • She was removed from this assignment in 1995 (by Mandela) due to her rumoured  and proven affiliations with radical groups and ideologies.
  • After this time, Winnie was convicted against charges of human rights violations. My understanding of this is that she set up guards to torture and kill black Africans who were assisting the Apartheid.

There’s a fascinating quote by Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe that I read, on her marrying Nelson Mandela: “The decision in itself was a big decision‚ because she got married to the trouble itself … That is a major decision. It reflects the character of the person”.

She got married to the trouble itself… It’s such a unique way of looking at how her marriage with him set up the events that happened throughout her life. It makes me sit and wonder what her life would have been, had she continued on as the social worker at the hospital. Clearly she was a strong willed, brave woman not willing to bow down to social norms, but how that would have manifested is interesting to ponder.

I have to identify that it would be foolish for me to believe that I could understand what it took for her to survive during the time of Apartheid, known by the government as trouble and with a husband away. It’s why I’m worried about commenting on those elements of illegality that tarnish her life. Was it a case of kill or be killed? Does that matter? I’m not sure and I am not informed enough to make any kind of statement on that.

Winnie was married to her husband during his imprisonment spanning nearly 40 years. So for nearly 40 years, Winnie did what women do best: she got on with it. In the same way that has happened thousands of times over throughout history, she dug her heels in and she continued pushing forward while her husband was away. This is a particularly unique example of that scenario, but it is what it boils down to. She had to make decisions for her and her family, like sending their children to another country to board for their safety, that impacted on her life drastically and that would have surely taken a great personal toll.

She lived a lonely life both in her marriage and her friendships, with many people entering her life to be later discovered as spies. She did in fact do social work until 1965, when government restrictions placed upon her movements meant that she was no longer able to travel to her place of work. What this must do to a person is anybody’s guess. At one interrogation it is reported that she was kept awake for five full days and nights. The impact on her well being must have been monumental, and I wonder what part this played in her later actions.

I could keep musing on Winnie all day. Just like every human on this planet, Winnie contributed both positively and negatively to this world. I believe, however, that it is important that we learn of her story, of her faults and her power and bravery, and try to approach her story with curiosity and compassion.

Thank you to the following links: