“If you look at our prime minister at the moment where he has $270 billion to invest in missiles to displace people, why doesn’t he have billions to house people with dignity and safety? Why isn’t that part of the Covid-19 stimulus package? … here’s your chance to do two things, put billions into social housing, keep Jobseeker at the rate it is now and don’t return people to poverty. Because if you’ve got no way out, if you’ve got no income security and no housing security, that’s how you get those high-rises. They shouldn’t even be there anymore, should they?” Kon Karapanagiotidis, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre commenting on the lockdown in Melbourne’s public housing high-rises on The Briefing podcast, Thursday, 9 July 2020.
If you’re in Australia right now, the Corona situation is starting to feel shaky again. With much of one state on lockdown, many of us are wondering, will it be our turn next? Certainly, in the global scheme of things, Australia has suffered very lightly indeed, so far. Can we continue to be the ‘lucky country’ when it comes to Corona?
At the moment, I sometimes find myself unconsciously holding my breath then unexpectedly sighing it out. It’s a reminder of the stress I’m carrying in my body – a stress I know is not exclusive to me during these unpredictable times.
Some in the spiritual community talk of this as a time of rebalancing the planet and we have a few more years to go yet. When my mind grapples with that concept I feel…challenged…despairing…resolute…hopeful? My feelings shift like the sands on a windy beach.
Then the Universe steps in and sends me a gentle reminder of where I should focus my attention. Today it came through the words of Kon Karapanagiotidis – he was interviewed on The Briefing podcast earlier this week about the public housing lockdown in Victoria. For those of you who don’t know about Kon, he is a community leader who supports and advocates for refugees in Australia. He founded and still runs a charitable, not-for-profit called the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre which is entirely community-funded and has never taken a cent of government money – this is a deliberate strategy to ensure their advocacy remains uncompromised.
I have no doubt that Kon makes many politicians shift uneasily in their well-padded seats. He and his team, along with supporters and partners within the refugee advocacy sector, successfully lobbied for the Medivac Bill which guaranteed people seeking asylum (human beings) transfer to the mainland for medical treatment when assessed and referred by doctors. I still find it gobsmacking that in our ‘lucky country’ we needed a bill to ensure sick people could receive the medical assistance they needed…as instructed by doctors. Equally appalling is the fact the government couldn’t wait to repeal the bill when they had a chance. But let’s face it, even a cursory look at how successive Australian governments (from both sides of the political spectrum) have treated refugees for decades is enough to show just how low politicians will stoop for easy votes and out of sight/out of mind expediency.
I’m sure many politicians would love to dismiss Kon as just another bleeding heart but they couldn’t sustain this argument for long because he is also a well-educated, articulate pragmatist. And that makes him difficult to dismiss or silence.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that he and the ASRC team had stepped in to provide food for the people on hard lockdown in Melbourne’s public housing high-rises. I also wasn’t surprised to hear him encourage people to donate to other local charities for this cause instead of than the ASRC. He feels that supporting the organisations who work with the affected communities in the long-term will have a greater impact. To hear the head of one charity diverting donations to another charity is highly unusual, even in a sector based on giving.
As someone who has long-worked with low socio-economic communities, Kon has used his platform this week to point out one of the issues that Corona has starkly unveiled – the inadequacy of public housing in Victoria. While I don’t live in that state, I don’t doubt the legitimacy of his statements because the evidence seems to indicate he is right.
More broadly, I think Corona is exposing many of the social problems that have been unaddressed for far too long across Australia.
Up in my hometown of Brisbane, a friend says many children from a local school did no work during the last lockdown here – they had no internet at home and their parents either couldn’t get to or couldn’t be bothered to travel to the school to pick up the hard copy work sheets. Some children did no schoolwork for many weeks. This highlights existing socio-economic problems where teachers and schools provide a lifeline for kids who otherwise slip through the cracks. This is not a new problem and reminds me of when they added fluoride to the water here in Brisbane. The government told us it would help prevent rising levels of tooth decay in children and the community. Certainly, over the years, I’ve heard horrific anecdotal stories from dentists who practised in some of the areas most affected. But adding fluoride to the water felt like a bandaid measure. The government added another unnecessary chemical to our water supply instead of addressing the underlying issues of poverty, education and lack of community support.
All these thoughts and many others ran through my head as I listened to Kon’s words and I took away the following Universal message.
When we feel like things are darkest and we don’t know what is coming next, turning our attention to how we can help our communities is one of the most important things we can do. Doing this takes our anxiety and uncertainty and channels it into action to make the world a better place. Find the causes that you feel called to, then find a way to help – donate funds, give your time or increase awareness by talking about the issues on your social media channels. Do whatever you can.
We have a lot of social problems that need to be sorted out. They aren’t new and they aren’t very sexy. But they need to be addressed. Covid-19 and the lockdowns are simply exposing in sharp relief the problems that many were choosing to ignore for too long.
Whatever you are struggling with right now, there is always someone else who is struggling too. Perhaps this time of upheaval is showing us this more clearly so we reach out more often and live more in alignment with that saying, “We’re all in this together”. Our ability to pull together in this way, to make things better for everyone, is what makes us the lucky country.
When I was a teenage girl, I read almost every copy of my mother’s collection of Georgette Heyer novels. Set mostly in pre-1800 England, the romantic tales included balls, confused women with love in their hearts, and sometimes ruthless men who softened in the end. It depicted a fantastic world full of chivalry, silk and honour. It was light years away from my very ordinary 1980s life in Australia.
In a most contradictory fashion, my late teens saw me increasingly outspoken about feminist issues. I was and am still a woman who believes passionately in feminism. I believe in equality. Women would not have the rights we do, without feminism.
It has been 30+ years since I started reading Heyer and learning about feminism. In some ways, things have changed a lot during that time. In other ways, not so much.
As an adult, I realise that Heyer’s romantic stories veiled a time when women were usually nothing more than chattels with few, if any, rights of their own – if you’d like a horrifying look into that world, I recommend you watch The Duchess, a film about the life of Georgiana Spencer (let me know if you notice any similarities between Georgiana and the life of her later relative, Diana).
My teenage self thought women would have equality by 2020. I imagine her beside me now – she has disappointment written all over her face.
There is still a long way to go before the scales are equally balanced. Women are still treated as property in many countries throughout the world. Too many women are still treated like that in Australia too – take a look at the domestic violence statistics for the evidence of this.
Women still don’t have equal representation at the top levels of industry or government – we are still greeted by a sea of mainly male faces leading major companies across the globe and dominating our parliaments. Why are women still such a minority? And don’t tell me it’s because women have to leave work to have babies because Jacinda Ardern has busted that myth wide open. In her case, instead of trying to conform to a way of doing things that was established to suit the needs of men, she’s adjusted things to equally suit the needs of a woman.
Despite the evidence that we have a long way to go, I often hear women say they do not identify as being a feminist. But if you want equality for women, by definition, you are a feminist – please visit a dictionary if you don’t believe me.
But the word ‘feminist’ feels too radical for some, it seems. It’s too disruptive. It conjures up…oh, I don’t know, images of screaming women, burning their bras. It also comes with images and stories of women being targeted and harangued by enraged men seeking to maintain the status quo through covert and even overt threats.
If you are a woman and you want equality, smiling nicely and playing within the existing structures and according to the rules and structures that we didn’t create, is unlikely to get you there. It hasn’t got us there yet – why do we think doing things the same way will change anything?
I’m not anti-men and I’m not anti-romance either. I still love a good rom com film and highly value chivalry in a man.
But if you believe feminism isn’t needed, you’re not looking at the truth of the way things are. If you want equality for women, then you are a feminist. This means you also need the tools and support to allow you to speak up, stand out and be disruptive. Because, yes, you will need to disrupt the way things have always been to create a world where power is more evenly distributed. We need to create new ways of doing things that don’t just support the way things have always been done.
It all started in the early hours of New Year’s Day when a very tall and very wide bloke (you could say he was built like a brick shi!house) decided he give out free hugs in the nightclub. He said he’d had to bulk up so he could “keep up with the boys back home”. Then he proceeded, in his rather inebriated state, to lean all his bulk into me while he hugged me. My spine curved into a C-shape backwards and I felt a tugging sensation in my lower back. My stilettoes were more than three inches high and didn’t give me a solid base. Later, as I stood in the inevitable line waiting for a cab, my back felt a little sore.
Over the next few weeks, I had a bit of physiotherapy and then continued on with my life as normal. I was in a full-on, senior role in a high-pressure work environment and had a frenetic social life that matched a single woman in her 30s who loved to meet people, dance and have a good time.
Then, somewhere between ANZAC Day and Easter, I bent over in the shower and felt a sudden, sharp and very painful feeling in my lower back. I could barely stand back up again and can remember feeling fearful and panicky. Aside from my much-loved cat, Super Puss, I lived alone. I called in sick and somehow managed to lever myself into the car to drive to see my physiotherapist, Anne. I remember the look on her face when she came into the waiting area to greet me – she knew something was very, very wrong. I was in so much pain.
It turned out I had a desiccated disc in my lower back. As someone with hyper-flexible hips who danced Latin but didn’t have much core strength, my back didn’t have enough support. I was also highly stressed. That guy and his hug had triggered a weakness and begun a trajectory that led me to Anne’s office.
Ironically, I’d never really understood when people said they had back pain. I mean, I was compassionate to a point but a small part of me always thought maybe it wasn’t really that bad. Ha! Turns out I was definitely wrong – thanks Universe for that lesson.
I had to give up all the things I wanted and valued – my yoga, my dancing, socialising, my stilettoes (going to work in sandshoes everyday felt humiliating by my standards). I went to work, came home, went to physio, came home and that was about it. Most movement was painful most of the time. Getting out of bed was a challenge that required strategic thought and concentrated coordination. Anne was incredibly supportive during this time – every step of the way, she encouraged me, propped me up and was firm when needed. She was a godsend.
However, I wasn’t always gracious and accepting of my situation. It’s incredibly hard when your body decides to do something you don’t want it to do. There were times when I felt so resentful and frustrated. I can remember being halfway through a rehabilitation Pilates class for people with back issues and thinking, “I don’t belong here with these back problem losers!”. I felt so full of anger that I started to cry. I got up (slowly) and left. My exit was a concern to Anne and later, when I told her what was going on in my head at the time, she didn’t say a lot but she didn’t recoil from me either. It wasn’t my finest moment but I guess she’d seen people caught in the lows of the healing process before. It sucked.
But while I was in all this pain, stuck mostly at home, feeling, resentful, lonely and wondering if I would ever get back to where I wanted to be, something interesting happened.
For years I’d been talking about writing a book. I’d written ideas and anecdotes on random, scrappy pieces of paper, post-it notes and in notebooks. They were shoved them into a box in my office and left there. Then were also notes in journals and on my computer. I was going to write a book…someday. People told me I should definitely write a book. But it never quite happened.
Suddenly being forced to stop, be still and stuck at home with nothing else to do, I found myself wanting to pull all those notes together. At the very least, I could compile everything into a single Word document.
Over the following weeks and months, Super Puss and I spent a lot of quality time together as I sifted through all those random thoughts and typed them into the computer. But hey, it’s not as if I had somewhere else to go. Being stuck meant I had nothing else to do – so I moved on something long overdue.
Eventually it was all in one document and eventually too, my body started to heal and I was on the road to recovery. Dancing still wasn’t really on the cards but my sexy stilettoes were back on my feet.
A year or so after that awful day in the shower, I was fortunate enough to obtain a lucrative voluntary redundancy. I could be self-funded for a year and in my mind were two things – I could finally tutor at the university part-time and write my book. I did teach at the university and completed the first draft of my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, just after my birthday in October that year.
Why am I sharing this story now? Honestly, I’ve been feeling very resentful and irritated. I am here in Brisvegas when I had planned to relocate to Italy by now. By 30th June I would have obtained my 12-month student visa to study Italian and would be moving into my apartment in Florence. But due to Covid-19, I am not doing these things and instead, I feel stuck. Freaking incredibly and frustratingly stuck.
I’m in the process of accepting that I won’t be moving there for at least 12 months. Of course, I am grateful to be in this country, safe and with all the bounty we have here. And I know a lot of people are in far more desperate situations than I am. I recognise that I am lucky, so very lucky. But I am fighting an internal rebellion with my Soul – she longs to be in Italy and is always called back there. Unfortunately, 2020 has a plan and an energy of its own that, let’s face it, is turning everything we all planned and hoped for, on its head.
I was musing on my frustration and feelings of stuckness this morning and then recalled that time when I hurt my back. That injury led me to take my writing and my book seriously. If that bloke hadn’t pushed all his weight onto me, I may never have written my book at all. One thing leads to another and another but it doesn’t always lead to what you plan for or necessarily want at the time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels stuck right now. We’ve all got things that we want and can’t have at the moment. Sometimes I feel like a bird locked up in a cage – all I want to do is fly.
But when I recall how my first book came together, I’m reminded that the Universe will often force us to pause when we don’t choose to do it for ourselves. In these times, the Universe is saying, “Wait. Now is the time to focus on all the things you’ve delayed because you were too ‘busy’ before. Wait. There are more things that need to shift first before that other thing can occur. Wait. Be patient. Focus. Just wait.”
I’ve got books to finish and a business to keep building. I will get to Italy, just not when I planned to. This breaks my heart. But I realise there is always a reason for the unplanned and unwanted delays we experience.
We just have to be patient and wait for the Universe to reveal the answers when she’s ready.
You can get your copy of The Men I’ve Almost Dated at all good online bookstores or via Lucretia’s Book Store.
I was thinking today about how quickly life slips through our fingers. One moment we’re in school then suddenly we’re out in the world, studying, getting our first job and doing all the ‘adult things’ we were longing for.
But, often there comes a moment when we realise the adult life we were told to work for, isn’t quite what we want. And that throws everything up in the air because we don’t know what to do next.
There is a great line in the song, Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, where the singer asks “How did I get here?” The song tells of looking at your life and knowing it looks great on the surface but it has no meaning.
Without meaning in our life, why live it?
For me, meaning comes from doing what I know I’m here to do. Part of that involves constantly unthreading the blocks and beliefs that hold me back so I can step more fully into my purpose.
Even if you don’t know what your purpose is yet, look for the things that feel meaningful for you, then do more of that. It doesn’t have to look sexy to someone else. It doesn’t need to make world headlines or meet the approval of a single other person. It only needs to have meaning for you.
If you’re doubting your direction, go back and pick up those things that have meaning for you. In doing so, you will reconnect to what your Soul is longing for. And that is far more valuable than any prescribed ‘adult’ path.
I’ve been struggling to process what’s happening in the world this week. I don’t usually choose to turn off the news. I know a lot of sensitives and empaths choose not to watch any of it because they find it too distressing. And I get it. But I’ve long considered myself to be a global citizen and therefore, it’s important to me that I stay in the loop about what is happening. So, I rarely turn away.
But this week I’ve had to a few times. On Tuesday my emotional overload from the images on my screens almost undid me and I had to retreat. I sat quietly and sketched for hours – the creativity blocking out the world while I regained my emotional and energetic equilibrium.
My thoughts have been jumbled and confused as I’ve watched people speak their truth across social platforms with the intention to help change things, to add their voice to the collective who are seeking a transformation of the way things are, to create something equitable. Certainly, racism is also a scourge in Australia just as in the United States although we don’t have the widespread gun use which seems to, from the outside looking in at least, make things so much worse.
There is always more we can do, more we can say, more times we can speak up against the racist commentary and actions that still finds its way too frequently into modern society. I know, despite my own work and advocacy for Indigenous and multicultural communities in the past, there is still much more I can do and say. I haven’t done enough. I’m owning that. There is always more that I can do and I’m committed to that.
But, in light of all this, what came to the surface for me today as I tussled with the morass of chaotic thoughts in my head was the phrase, “The fish rots from the head”.
Right now, in the US, Trump is the head but he has been created by the rest of the fish. And the rest of the fish is rebelling against itself. I don’t feel like a lot of people get that yet. I think a lot of people voted for Trump and are now protesting for a better world, yet still don’t fully understand that they created the world they are protesting against. They voted for a man who promised to “make America great again” yet he also openly preached division, sexism and racism. He didn’t stand on a platform that appreciated diversity of thought, speech, beliefs or race. Yet, otherwise right-minded, kind and compassionate people voted for him. Try as you might, you can’t dismiss the millions who had their own good reasons for their decision at the ballot box. They can’t all be mad right-wing, survivalist, religious zealots, surely.
Yet, just as surely, many of those right-minded, kind and compassionate people are now protesting in the streets against levels of racism that are reprehensible and unacceptable.
I wonder if they see the connection. I’m guessing some of them might. I’m hoping they do.
From what I’ve observed, 2020 is a time of our shadows coming to the surface and what is happening in the US is part of that process.
The truth is, the enemy isn’t “out there”. It’s not some nefarious one percent of the richest people in the world manipulating the rest of humanity. It’s actually not about money at all. Money is only an energy and some people create and use it ethically while others don’t.
It is the shadows within all of us that we need to address and bring out into the light.
When you allow people like Trump to flourish and you give them power, you create an environment where division is the name of the game. Because the name of the game is power not humility. Ego not wisdom. Control not compassion.
Whether you voted for Trump or not, whether you are in another country observing the destruction from afar or not, we all need to realise that he is a symptom of the whole. And we are the whole. We have created this situation. And it’s time to fucking own it.
There is no mass conspiracy by an unnamed few. There is only us each as individuals, part of a collective of humanity, refusing to look at our shadows and seeking to blame others when we should be looking at ourselves a lot more closely.
Racism and discrimination is wrong. Murdering a man in broad daylight is wrong. This is a no-brainer and we all need to do better.
But turning away from our shadows and pointing out there, is not the answer. It’s time to look at ourselves and own the fish we have created. Then make different choices.
I’ve been thinking about integrity – the line we each have within us that we don’t want to cross. It’s a line that marks who we are; our honourability in a world that often feels increasingly dishonourable.
There will be times for all of us when we will be tempted to breach our line of integrity. Some of us will do so – we will cross the line, feel the discord within ourselves and quickly reverse our path. Others will cross the line and keep going because they feel it is too difficult to turn back.
It is your ability to understand where your integrity line is, and adhere to it, that is a sign of your courage and fortitude. Sticking to this line is difficult in a world where you’re told you must conform, you must keep the peace and you must keep other people happy.
When you cross your integrity line to appease others, you are compromising yourself and often the well-being of others. We only have to scan the global horizon right now to see how a lack of integrity by some, is compromising the health of many and leading to the death of others. Terrible things happen while good people do nothing.
Integrity doesn’t mean taking the easy or most expedient path. It doesn’t mean acting from a place of fear or anger. It means having character, being honest about your own actions and motivations, and then acting in accordance with what you know in your gut is right.
Integrity. I can’t help but think we need more of it. What do you think?