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24 hours before, it was looking like a disaster. For the entire week before, I had loved my life with an increasingly elevated level of stress. I got to the stage where all I could think was, "I can't wait for it to be over." But till it was, I had a multitude of things to do, a myriad of decisions to make. And I don't like decisions!

Book launch booksThe Book Launch: I had dreamed about it for months, well, actually, it was probably years. Although I had no idea what a book launch was supposed to look like, I had imagined a huge celebration that would be born out of years of hoping and dreaming and striving and working. And when I dream about things, I tend to forget about the practicalities.

Oh, the practicalities. 

There was the venue. I had about two weeks to organise the event after my books arrived. When it takes one week for a venue to get back to you, it doesn't help the stress. And when the venue you really wanted wants to charge you nearly $600, you start to see that it might not turn out quite as you expected it would. Somewhat like life.

Group reading

Then there were the guests. Originally planned for a Friday night, when it was changed to Saturday to avoid a clash, it seemed that there were a million new clashed. All of a sudden, everyone who had said they would come was pulling out. It seemed that the guest list was getting smaller and smaller and my desperate texts to friends getting more and more frequent.."can you come on Saturday?", "can you bring about five friends?", "can you change your plans???" By mid week, I was convinced there would be four or five people, including me.

Then there was the entertainment. What's a celebration without music? I asked a few musician friends of mine: some were busy, some didn't have their own sound equipment, some were out of town. Two days before, it looked like I would have to be the entertainment (which would have been incredibly unpleasant for all involved, though I do a great version of Disney's 'Let it go'. In the shower.)Completely Covered
Then I had a brainwave that seemed so obvious that I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before..my friends, Ryan and Geoff, who I knew from South Africa days, who were coming anyway (with Ryan's wife and my great friend, Shelly), who I knew were amazing musicians . A couple of calls later, they were available and willing. Over that speed bump, onto the next roundabout.

The Cyclone. All week, the news was everywhere. The warnings were stay inside, prepare for the worst, prepare to lose electricity, stay off the roads. That, of course, set the alarm bells sounding in my brain" would people stay at home just to be safe? Would the band be able to make it down from Auckland? Would the plastic windows of the garden bar blow in?

HappyThe day before, I was ready to give up. It seemed that everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. I was ready to sit down in the middle of the road and burst into tears. I emailed the venue manager and asked her if I could keep my deposit if I changed dates. She told me that I could, but I would have to decide in the following hour for staffing reasons. That hour was the fastest and most full of panic of the whole journey. I texted a few key people (thank you and I'm sorry if you were one of them) to ask for advice. I basically wanted someone to make the decision for me! A few helpful replies later, I took a deep breath and went for it...we were sticking with the Saturday night. 

I don't think my heart stopped pounding for the next 24 hours, especially inthe half hour before kick off. I felt possessed, staring at the door, willing people to walk through it...

...and they did.

PrologueThank The Lord. They did. As the night progressed, my smile got bigger and bigger. People came, and not just people, but people who were important to me, people who had made a huge effortto be there, people whose support I valued, people whose friendships I cherished.

The anxiety faded and it was replaced by excitement, joy, the feeling of being overwhelmed and humbled by support, by relief, and by amazement that despite all the lessons I had written about inmy book, I was still surprised by the speed bumps and roundabouts.

 

Book launch reading

**Big thanks to Completely Covered for the music, Ruth Gilmour for the photos and Iguana
for the venue as well as everyone who came. 


Behind the mask

Posted by pip on February 16, 2014

People are starting to read my book. My personal, vulnerable, honest book. I love that people are starting to read my book. It was, of course, the plan all along. But also, well...also, it scares me.

When it was just me and my computer, it was really easy to be honest. It was easy to pour out whatever was on my mind, whatever I was feeling, whatever was in my heart.

My dad has been working hard at selling copies. He kept a list of some of the people who had bought them and as he read me some of the names, a lot of what dominated my thoughts was along the lines of, "argh!! They're going to know that about me and this about me and about when I did that and when that happened!" Many of them were people who have known me since I was a little girl. People who, when they asked me how I was, I would always give them the standard answers, the positive spins, the good things. Am I ok with them knowing that much detail?

I had to take a bit of a step back and remember my goals and purposes for writing. One of the main reasons I wrote what I did was because I get fed up with masks. I get fed up with hiding behind a shiny, happy face and pretending I'm perfect . I get fed up with being surrounded by shiny, happy perfect people. I get fed up with feeling like I can't show any weakness. It's exhausting, just plain exhausting.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we should all go around telling every person we meet our deepest, darkest secrets and issues. All I'm saying is that it's ok not to be ok. If things aren't going well...if you're having a bad day...if you're sad...if you're hurting...if you're angry...if you're confused...if you're lost...chances are that half the people around you are too. 

Because we all wear masks at one point or another...masks that say, "I never mess up", "my life is always good", "I never fail", "I cannot be hurt", "I'm not scared".

What if you let your guard down for a second? And what if, by letting your guard down, you started a chain reaction: a chain of honesty, a chain of vulnerability, a chain where no one wears a mask, a chain where everyone breathes a sigh of relief, where everyone says, "finally, finally I can be me, finally I don't have to put on my perfect face, I don't have to pretend."

I'm not sure if that's how it will work, but that's my hope. I hope to hear lots of relieved sighs. It isn't easy being vulnerable, it isn't easy admitting you're not perfect, but, the thing is, we kind of already know you're not. So, go on, admit it. When you do, you might just find you give someone else the permission to do the same.


The first print copies of Speed Bumps and Roundabouts!

Posted by pip on February 1, 2014

SBAR_first_copies.jpgI can't even really explain how exciting it is to see this. It's been a long process, but here it is - the first print copies of Speed Bumps and Roundabouts.


How big is your but?

Posted by pip on January 27, 2014

(Sorry, couldn't resist a bit of bottom humour.) 

Let me ask you a question...

What's the one thing you've always wanted to do?

I don't necessarily mean what you want to do for the rest of your life, but if I asked you about that one thing, one dream, one goal, what would you tell me? That thing you would do if there were no obstacles. Would you sail around the world? Run a marathon? Sing in front of hundreds of people? Start a charity? Quit your job and go back to university? Learn another language? Be a mum or dad?

 Can I ask you another question?

What's stopping you?

What are your buts?

(Ok, so that was two questions)

What stops any of us? I'm not going to argue that there aren't valid reasons that prevent you from doing certain things. I know it's not that simple. But let's just talk about some of the common things that stop us, the common "I would do it, but..."s 

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FEAR - could this be your biggest excuse? Would you admit it if it was? Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of losing everything. It's scary to step out of your snug and warm little box of comfort, of financial security, of having people you love and trust around you, of knowing what the future will look like. And I'm not saying those are bad things. No, sometimes they are the best of things. But what if, to achieve the thing that makes you come alive, you have to give those things up for a little while?

 LACK OF DISCIPLINE - you have a goal. That's a start. but making a goal, however specific, however noble, however selfless is pointless unless you're prepared to work for it. It's not going to fall into your lap just because you want it so badly, or even because you really deserve it. It takes practise, discipline, sacrifice, even pain. Decide if it's worth it, then decide to work. 

SETBACKS - so you tried once before, maybe twice, maybe more. It didn't work. That's OK, pick yourself up, try it again. Try it another way. Try it better. The only time when you really fail is when you stop trying.

 

Your buts can keep you from even crossing the starting line. So, how can you shush your buts?

ACCOUNTABILITY - it's harder to go back on something when other people know about it, when they keep asking you about it. Talk to some people about the things you want to do. 

GOALS - I hate it a little that I'm referring to my physio training but here it is. When we make a goal for a patient eg. Patient X should have 180 degrees of shoulder elevation in their right shoulder in four weeks, it has to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timed). If your goal is big, break it down and tick off the parts as you achieve them.

ANALYSE - Why is this so important to me? Why do I want to achieve this? Before you start, work it out, write it down and keep going back to it when the buts get too big.

This world needs people to come alive, to do the things they're passionate about. Too many people just survive day to day, but imagine the changes that could happen for you, for those around you, your community, your city and on and on and on if you decided to silence your buts and do that thing that makes you come alive. 


If it's right, it should be simple...right?

Posted by pip on January 17, 2014

Sometimes, you just know when something is right.

...a job change...a relationship...a big move...  

Sometimes you have reasons for knowing: it fulfills a dream, it gives you a chance to use your skills, it's in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you don't, sometimes you just can't explain it.

When I got made redundant from my first job in New Zealand, there was a lot of uncertainty: jobs, money, visas. I didn't know how it was going to be resolved. But what I did know was that I was meant to stay where I was, that Hamilton was the place for me, for that time. People all around me were asking me if I thought the redundancy was a sign that I should go back to Belfast, or that I should move to where more of the opportunities were. And logically, those seemed like better options. But I just knew, unequivocally, in a way I can't define or explain, that I was going to stay.


That knowledge didn't necessarily make things easier. I had to write up a CV, get references, deliver my CVs, look into my visa options, make a budget to work out how long I could manage if I didn't find another job straight away. It was a busy time. It was a time of mental, emotional, physical strain. But it was right.

I think, somewhere inside me, I feel that if I make the right decisions, 
the good decisions, it's all going to be easy, it all should be easy. 
I feel that God should clear the way, 
knocking all the obstacles out of my path.

 

But, just because something is right does not mean that it is simple, that it's not going to take hard work.


As I've been thinking about moving overseas to study a Masters next year, I have felt that it is right. The timing feels right, the process feels right. I can see events in my life that have led to this point. I have had affirmation from people I know. And I assumed that everything would fall into place like jigsaw puzzle pieces fitting together.

I didn't think about the sacrifices. The sacrifice of money: course fees, living expenses, travel expenses. The sacrifice of leaving New Zealand, for who knows how long?  The sacrifice of a career that I've worked hard at for six years, that, no matter how I feel about it, is still something that a lot of my security lies in. The sacrifice of change, of knowing that nothing will ever be the same again.

It's going to be hard. Even the practicalities of it: selling my car, my bed, my washing machine, finding somewhere to live in Amsterdam or Edinburgh or Durham, adjusting to being a student again. When I found out that the course in Edinburgh would cost a lot of my life savings, my initial reaction was disappointment. I instantly assumed that meant I just couldn't do it. But then I started thinking, "if it's the right thing, maybe that's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make." Just because it's right doesn't mean that someone is going to hand me a few thousand pounds. Just because it's right doesn't mean it won't be hard work.

We are a generation that give up too easily. We give up on friendships when they no longer serve us, on relationships when they reveal things about us that we don't like, on jobs when they're just too difficult, on where we live when the grass is greener on the other side. But what if the thing that is difficult, the thing that seems like it is a mountain to climb, the thing that seems impossible, what if, despite its difficulty, it's still the right thing. 

That's the shift I've had to make in my mentality. Yes, you hear those stories of people who just walk down the street and everything they need falls out of the sky and lands at their feet. But they are the exceptions. And if you know something is right, isn't it worth some work and sacrifice?


Faith or foolishness

Posted by pip on January 17, 2014

 

I'm in the process of making some big decisions. When I say big decisions, I mean "complete turnaround, no turning back, are you in or out, letting go of all life as you know it, stepping into the unknown" decisions. Let me tell you a little about my thoughts over the last few months. Well, I guess that actually, it's been years in the making.

Ever since my second year of university, I have known that I don't really want to spend the rest of my life being a physiotherapist. I don't hate it, but I have always had an inkling that it's not what I'm made for. It's not what makes me come alive. My problem, the reason that I have stayed in it is that I haven't really known what I actually want to do. I have known what my passions are, I have had glimpses of the things that make me come alive, but they have never seemed to come coherently into a career or a purpose. I mean, what do you do when you love writing but don't want to be a journalist, when you're fascinated by people but don't want to spend all day every day with them, when you're interested in the theory of health but aren't necessarily gifted at putting it into practise, when you love learning about other cultures especially first hand?

Degree certificateI can't tell you how I came across Medical Anthropology. I can't actually remember. All I know is that, from the instant I discovered it, it's got me hooked. I'll save you a google search and tell you what it is...basically, it's the study of how health and healthcare are affected by culture. And it combines the things that I'm interested in. I started researching it further: places I could study it, what that would involve, what I would need to do. And I started the ball rolling...

So, the last couple of months have involved filling out application forms, finding my degree certificate, asking old lecturers to write references, making enquiries about funding and a little bit of freaking out!

This morning, I got an acceptance from Edinburgh University. It's exciting! It's terrifying! It would involving moving (back) to the other side of the world after six years in New Zealand. It would involve leaving an amazingly supportive and enjoyable work environment. It would involve saying goodbye to friends who have helped hold me together. It would involve (temporarily or permanently) giving up working as a physio. And it would involve A LOT of money (we're talking about just about enough to put a deposit on a house, just for the uni fees).

I'm standing on the edge of a cliff. I feel ready to take a step off it, but what I'm wondering is, is that faith or foolishness? 
I am trying to work out if this huge step is brave or stupid. 
This is a Master's course that lasts for a year. After that, I'm not sure. At the moment, I feel like I won't actually know the next step until I take the first one. From the outside, I could see why many would think I am foolish...giving up a life I have built in a place where I am comfortable, with a stable job to pay a large amount of money to move to another city to study something that doesn't have a defined career at the end of it. Am I crazy? But on the flip side, just filling out the application forms has made me excited about it. 
When I look over the edge of the cliff, I see the darkness of uncertainty, 
but I also see the light of possibility that is shining through it.

Do you think you should take a risk just because it feels right? Is that faith? Or is it foolishness?
(This is not a rhetorical question...any thoughts are appreciated.)

What the World Needs

Posted by pip on January 17, 2014

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. 

Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. 

Because what the world needs is people who have comealive."

Kay iPhone recording

Howard Thurman

I spent Saturday afternoon with my good friend, Kay, starting to make a video to publicise my book when it finally comes out. The afternoon involved rolling balls of yarn, filming with an iPhone controlled by an iPad, working out how to make a question mark shadow and setting up a mini studio in Kay's lounge. 

It was not straight forward. It involved going where no ball of yarn had gone before, and I'll admit, I was a little lost. I knew what it was we trying to do. I had no idea how to do it. Kay, on the other hand, was in her element: running around with tape and cardboard and really large sheets of paper and camera equipment. If there was a problem, I could see the cogs turning until the problem was fixed.


There is something inspiring and encouraging in watching someone come alive doing the thing they love.


Balls of woolWhat do you love? What makes you come alive? Think about it...and don't just give the answers you think you should give or the answers you think would be expected from you. What is it that really makes your eyes light up and the cogs in your head start turning?


Is it talking to people? Playing rugby? Knitting? Looking after kids? Learning? Reading? Thinking big thoughts? Working out ways to make the big thoughts become reality? Cooking? Making money? Solving problems? 


I knew it was writing for me one Sunday afternoon. Sundays used to be my writing time. After a family Sunday roast, I would go to my room and start writing. At that stage, I was writing about my experiences in South Africa. I would write and write and write and I wouldn't notice the time go by. One Sunday, all I remember is looking at my clock and seeing that it was 9pm and I had no idea where the day had gone. I had been writing for about seven hours and loving every second of it.


I've tried to fit myself into little boxes where I think my passions should belong. As a physio, I should love listening to people's problems, I should love fixing them, I should be a problem solver. But honestly, more often than not, I struggle with those things. They don't, in any way, come naturally and they definitely don't make me come alive. I wish they did. It would make my job so much more enjoyable if they did. And for so many people, those things are the things that make them come alive. But the box they're so comfortable in is one I cannot squeeze myself into. 


Especially lately, I've seen that I actually love to learn and I love to use my writing in that. If there is something I am passionate about, I can easily sit down and write an essay or an article about it. 

I've been filling out application forms for universities over the last week (more details to come on that!) and that involves writing personal statements about why I want to study this course. It involves writing essays about current issues. It involves writing research questions. And I've actually been loving it! It makes me dream, it makes me see possibilities, it makes me see ways that I can make a difference. It makes me see that I don't have to try to fit myself into someone else's box - there is one designed for me.


And honestly, I think I am going to be of far more use to the world doing that than I am as a physio, because there is passion behind it, there is a desire to make a difference, there are dreams of changing the world. 


But that's me. I think the world needs me to learn, to research, to write. What does the world need you to do? Maybe it needs you to sing. Maybe it needs you to travel. Maybe to take photos. Maybe to play football. Maybe to make new friends. Maybe to make videos with balls of yarn.


What makes you come alive? 

DO THAT! 

That is what the world needs. 


 


What can I do: Give

Posted by admin on November 10, 2013

You probably knew this one was coming, right? So, if you got past the title, well done, please stick with me a little longer.

 You've probably all heard the statistics about wealth, about how much we, in the developed world have, about how little those in the developing world have. I'm sure you've all seen the appeals: the ads on TV, the emails.

And I'm sure a lot of you find it pretty easy to ignore. 

 I'm not going to try to make you feel guilty about that. That's not my goal here. Frankly, if you don't want to give anything, I know that nothing I say will change that. So, I just want to tell you some things about giving, things I've learned.                                                               

New Zealand dollars

1. I think one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is

"I'll do it when I have more"

When I'm not a student, when I'm not paying off a loan, when I'm not saving for a house or travel, when I have a better job. But, I can almost guarantee that if you don't start with however little you have, you won't start when you get a bit more, or a bit more, or a bit more. Because when will it be enough?

 2. You can't give to everything. There are opportunities to give to orphans, to animals, to earthquake victims, to tsunami survivors, to refugees,to the blind, to hospitals. The options are as numerous as the problems in the world. And maybe that's one of the things that stops you. What should you give to? There's no right answer to that question, just as there's no answer to "how much should I give?" What do you care about? What are the issues that make you angry? What are the things that you want to see gone from the world? If you don't know, start thinking about it - start reading the news articles, start finding out what the issues are. If that doesn't motivate you to give, I don't know what will.

3. Keep your eyes open to what's around you. You might find that there are people in your town, in your neighbourhood, maybe even in your friendship group, that need your financial help. Just because they can't develop big advertising campaigns and may not even ask for help, doesn't mean they don't need it. 

I've done a little research and here are some sites worth looking at. There are many, many more, but I don't want to overwhelm you with a million options that you'll never look at, so here are just three sites that are worth a glance.

 Charity Navigator

...this is an American site, but is useful to look at how charities rate in terms of how much donated money goes directly to those who need it, accountability, transparency etc. I just like the thought that giving doesn't have to be blind, that you can know what exactly is happening to your money.

Kiva 

...micro finance is fast becoming recognised as an effective way to give money to people who need it. It usually involves giving small loans to entrepreneurs who don't have access to banking so they can set up their business and lift themselves out of poverty. With Kiva, 100% of the money you donate goes towards the loans, which can be to farmers who need to buy fertiliser or seamstresses to buy a sewing machine or drivers to repair their vehicles.

World Vision NZ 

...World Vision in NZ has a similar programme. You can donate $25 towards a loan, which can get used over and over again. Because it is a loan, once the entrepreneur has made money with their business, they must repay the loan and then your money can be put into the next loan.

There are so many options and really, it's easy.

You can make a difference just sitting in front of your computer. 


What can I do: Explore

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

I don't think there is any point in looking at what you can do to fight injustice if you have no desire to fight injustice. I doubt there is much that you can do if you have no knowledge of the issues and no will to see them eradicated. And it's so, incredibly easy to live our lives, our comfortable, secure lives, as if the issues don't exist. 

But they do.

And because they do, I don't think we can afford to let ourselves not care.

I am going to suggest specific ways that we can help, but I'm not going to suggest many, because I think that the way each of us will help will depend on who we are, on our skills, on our opportunities. And from the articles I've read, talks I've listened too, often I'm hearing the message that the traditional ways in which we look to help may not be working as well as we've thought they would. There have been large scale aid projects to set up irrigation in remote villages, but that haven't then been concerned with maintenance so, after a year, the village is back to square one, with no clean water. Or else, projects that haven't looked at the practicalities, for example, an organisation that provided computers to an area that had only sporadic electricity.

I don't want to sound negative, because the negativity is one of the things about these articles that gets to me. What I want to say is that we need new ideas, we need to get creative, we need to think out of the box.

So, instead of suggesting a whole lot of ways to help, I want to bring it back to one thing you can do: you can explore. 

                                     Belvoir forest park


I think that one of the most valuable things that each of us can do is to read about the problems, to talk to other people, to watch TED talks about social injustice, to watch movies or TV programmes that change our perspectives and make us open our eyes.

If we can increase our passion, that is when the ideas will start to flow. 

But it has to start with the passion.

For me, this journey was ignited almost like an explosion when I started reading "Half the Sky", a book written by two New York Times journalists on the greatest moral challenge we face in the twenty-first century. I don't know how to define what it was that lit the match that sparked the fire, all I can say is, read it and maybe you'll find out. 

If you don't want to start with a whole book, just start with the news. This week, in the New Zealand Herald, I read a story about a young girl in Pakistan who was raped and buried alive, only to dig herself out, and the police wanted nothing to do with it! I think I'm more aware of articles like this now, where previously, I probably just skipped over them and read the report on the latest All Blacks game or looked at this week's best and worst dressed. We don't have to look far for these stories, we just have to open our eyes to what is actually right in front of them. 

It seems that TED talks are all the rage now. I've only just started exploring them, but I have found some amazing, inspirational speakers out there, and hey, if reading isn't your thing, try watching instead. Don't know where to start? Here are a few I've discovered recently...

Sunitha Krishnan talks about the fight against sex slavery, having been gang-raped by eight men when she was fifteen.

Sheryl WuDunn, one of the authors of "Half the Sky" tells some of the stories of the women she has met, and where the solutions need to come from.

Kevin Bales talks about combatting modern day slavery. And if you're a more visual person, watch Lisa Kristene's talk, in which she shares photos that she has taken around the world that show slavery as it is happening today. 

So, this week, here's the challenge: watch or read just one of these things with an open mind, letting it lead your thoughts where they want to go. Let yourself be inspired, let yourself be educated. 

Maybe it will be the beginning of a new solution. 

(I'd love to know how you go on this and your thoughts...let me know how the week goes in the comments section here, or on my facebook page :) )


What can I do: Go

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

I don't believe that there is anything that will stir your heart and build your passion for justice and freedom than looking into the eyes of the oppressed and enslaved.

When I was seventeen, the summer before my last year of school, I went with a team of young people to the Philippines for a month. We were going to work with street kids. And how noble that sounded: heroic with a hint of undercover glamour and romanticism. 

I had images of the photos I would show to people when I returned - photos of myself surrounded by cute Asian kids as I polished my halo. 

I was going to make a difference in the world!

It didn't take me long to realise that the difference was going to be made in me. Driving to Alay Pag-asa, the home for kids rescued from the streets, after a ridiculous number of hours on a plane, the first things I noticed were the noise, the people, the chaos, the smells. Ah, the smells. Most of them, I couldn't identify. Most of them, I didn't want to. 

That month was a struggle.

One day is etched in my mind. It was over ten years ago, but I can play the scene as if I just lived it. I can remember the feelings as if they still have a hold on me.

On that day, that oppressively hot day, we followed our guides, people who worked in the Alay Pag-asa to a place where some of these kids hung out. They explained to us that mostly, these kids had run away from home, away from worse situations. The better option for them was to live on the streets.  

We first stopped in a beautifully air-conditioned mall to buy them food. The place where they hung out was at the back of the mall, beside an abandoned petrol station. As we walked towards it, they saw us coming and, recognising our guide, began to come to us. They seemed to emerge from everywhere: they came over fences, they appeared from behind walls. And just as I was getting my loving missionary face on...it all changed.

These young boys were, I would guess, between 6 and 16 and they were all wearing clothes that had so many holes in them that they may as well have not been wearung them. We noticed that they would keep ducking their heads under their threadbare shirts and as we got closer, we saw that they were sniffing glue. I remember, so clearly, the looks on their faces when their heads popped back up from their shirts vacant, glassy expressions in their eyes, eyes that looked through us rather than at us. Eyes that have no place on a 9 year old's face. 

I knew that I should have felt compassion, I knew that I should have loved them. I knew that's what I was there for. There I was, "working with street kids" and all I wanted to do was get as far away from that place and those kids as I could. I'm not proud of that feeling. And I desperately want to tell you that I overcame it and changed lives that day. But I can't, because, that day... mine was the only life changed. 

I think I have seen a swing in how we think about that kind of overseas trip. At that time, it almost seemed like a fashionable thing to do. But I noticed that, as I went through university, there was almost a feeling that it was just a lot of money that could be better spent on sending to the organisations who were already doing the work, there was a feeling that these trips were just glorified holidays, there was a feeling that maybe the trips didn't even do much to help the locals.

And I don't think that mission should be a selfish thing, but I have seen first hand the ripple effect it can have. It may have taken me years, but when I put myself back in that scene, the feelings I feel now are anger that there are not systems to help those kids, pain at knowing that 8 year olds are addicted to drugs and fire to do something about it. 

I'm not saying that I have done great works since then. What I am saying is...GO. Get on the plane, go to those places, meet those people, smell those smells and feel the pain that they are feeling.               

Northern Ireland from the skyBecause I think that may be one of the best

ways to begin changing the world: 

putting yourself in a position where 

you first allow the world to change you.

 


 

What's going on out there?

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

As I write I'm sitting on my big double bed with the cat asleep on my lap. I've just had a big breakfast of three different types of cereal and some freshly ground coffee. Later, I'm going to take a drive out to the beach, go for a bit of a walk. On Monday, I will go to work, in a good job. I live in a country where there are systems in place that mean I will be looked after if unimaginable things happen. 

 

Life is comfortable.

I know I can't make generalisations and I don't know the situations facing all of you who read this, but I imagine that most of you are living in similar circumstances. Most of you have a bed to sleep in, most of you had a good breakfast this morning. Most of you are surrounded by stuff: some things that you need, a lot that you don't.

 

And often, in the midst of that, it's easy to 

 

forget that there are millions of people 

 

for whom reality looks very different.

 

In India, there is Meena, who was kidnapped and taken to a brothel when she was 8. There, she was beaten with sticks and rods and threatened with death if she didn't do what the brothel owners told her. When she escaped and went to the local police station, the police mocked her and sent her away.

In Ethiopia, Woineshet was kidnapped and raped by a man who wanted to marry her. This is common practice in Ethiopia for men who know they will not be accepted by the girl's family or cannot afford the dowry. The rape disgraces the girl, making it unlikely that she will be able to find someone to marry, therefore almost forcing her into a marriage with her rapist. The law says that a rapist cannot be prosecuted if their victim later marries them.

In Congo, the soldiers see it as their right to violate girls. Dina was in her mid teens when she was raped by five men, and then had a stick shoved inside her, causing horrendous internal damage.

In Cameroon, Prudence had no prenatal cate. When she came to give birth, the baby couldn't come out and after three days in labour, her birth assistant sat on her stomach to try to force it out. This caused Prudence's uterus to rupture. She was eventually taken to hospital but her family couldn't afford the price of the emergency caesarean. She and her baby died.

Even as I write these things, the thoughts that enter my mind are along the lines of, "maybe I shouldn't say that, maybe that's too brutal to tell, maybe that will make people uncomfortable", but what I'm realising is that maybe we need to be made uncomfortable. It is too easy for us to switch off, to block those things out because they are not in front of us but we need to know what is going on in the world, this same world that we live in.

Through most of these stories, one of the things that overwhelms and kind of scares me is the lack of help from the authorities. Here, in NZ, I know that if something terrible happens, there are systems of justice, systems that help. But in many of those countries, there is no one. And I think that's one of the reasons it is so vital that we get involved. Someone has to help. Over the next few weeks, I'd like to look at what that looks like. 

For now, if you take nothing else from this, take this: horrendous things happen every day to people who are people, just like us. Those things have to stop and that means that we have to stop ignoring them. 

 


*Stories taken from 'Half the Sky' by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Read it.

 


A Reluctant Advocate

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

Social justice: this is going to sound bad but, for a lot of my life, those words have made my mind switch off. Hearing about the problems of the world has not sparked any interest in me.

I'm not really sure I can explain what has happened, but right now, my mind is very much switched on. 

Maybe it's after seeing 'Mr Pip' this week (great, if horrific movie about the war in Bougainville in the 1990s), maybe after reading 'Half the Sky' (an engrossing book about changing the world), but whatever it is, it's been a week of thinking, wondering, analysing how it's possible not to care about what is going on in the world and my role in it.

I still have a bit to think about and a lot to talk about, so I'm going to take these next few blogs to look into this. If you can relate to what I said about switching off, please stay with me for just a moment. 

I'm coming to see that this is far too important to ignore.



Human trafficking. 

            Child soldiers. 

                           Slavery. 

    Violence against women. 

               Sex-selective abortion.

                                  Honour killing.

...why don't we care?

Here are some of the factors that I think have caused me to push those things to the back of my mind in the past:

RELEVANCE

How does a woman being sold to a brothel in India relate to me and my life? It's so far away and unlikely to ever have any effect on me, so why should I bother? As I write that, it sounds so, incredibly selfish that I hate to admit that I've ever felt like that. But, even if it's a struggle to admit it, is there a chance that it is the most common reason for not caring? It's so much easier to be concerned with your exam results or the fight you had with your friend or your money stresses.

As I walked out of the movies on Tuesday after seeing Mr Pip, after watching a portrayal of the crimes against people, the one thought that I couldn't escape was, "those things happen". Maybe the story wasn't true, but it was based on true events and I guess, was a fairly accurate depiction of what happens in war. THESE THINGS ARE REAL and if that is the case, we need to look beyond ourselves. Your struggles are important, but I would guess that most of you have the support systems to be able to deal with them. That is not the case for most of these people. Who will help if we don't?

POWERLESSNESS

I am one person. I have no special skills. I could have all the passion and drive in the world, but what does it matter if I can't do anything? 

This is something I hope to find more answers for over the coming weeks. Because I think that there is some way in which every person can help. I'll be honest, I'm not completely sure what it is yet, for you or for me, but I want to find it.

I am only one, but still I am one. 

I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; 

and because I cannot do everything, 

I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

Helen Keller 

APATHY

Every time you turn on the news these days, you will see a story about starving children in Africa, or the war in Syria, or terrorists in Afghanistan. So, rather than the issue of knowing nothing about these problems, we often are so bombarded with them that it's easy to say, "just another report on mass murder, just like the one last week." 

We aren't shocked by the images anymore, we don't even see the faces of these people. All we see is a mass of people who look different from us, scenes that could as easily be from the latest block busting movie, situations that we will never find ourselves in.

Maybe it sounds brutal, morbid, but put yourself there. Imagine yourself in that crowd as the bomb goes off, imagine the sound of gunfire, imagine the feeling of having had no food for days. Can you still ignore it?

INADEQUACY

When I've heard people speak about the great things they've done, the money they've raised, the trips they've been on to third world countries, the people they've influenced, I often haven't been inspired. Instead I've thought, "I am not like them, I couldn't do that." And you know what, maybe that's true! 

But just because I can't do what they're doing, doesn't mean I can't do anything. And the fact is that those people, they can't do everything either

Maybe they are amazingly talented speakers, but when it comes to organisation, they can barely plan what they're having for lunch. Maybe they have the vision and a plan to end human trafficking but don't have the resources or desire to commit the money to it. Maybe they can stir thousands of people to action, but wouldn't know how to cope if a victim of a land mine was at their feet. Each of us has our own gifts and abilities...each of us must use them.

I hope you'll stick with me as I get into this more, as I look at the need and what I can do and what you can do. If you have questions or thoughts, please let me know. Leave them on my Facebook page and I'll see what I can do!


When the hard words are the best words

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

Every time I watch the movie 'Taken', there's one scene that really gets me. After proudly telling everyone within earshot that Liam Neeson is from Northern Ireland too, the same thought always strikes me during the kidnapping scene.

Brief  summary of the storyline: Liam Neeson is a 

former CIA agent whose daughter goes to France 

for the holidays. There, she is kidnapped by a group of 

Albanian human traffickers. Liam goes to Paris to find her and, 

using his very particular set of skills, tracks down the kidnappers and...

I won't spoil it all. 

 

Liam's daughter is on the phone to him when the kidnapping happens. She runs into a bedroom and hides under the bed, terrified. When she tells him what is going on and that her friend has been kidnapped, he tells her simply, "you are going to be taken". When he says those words, I stop for a second and think...woah, woah, woah, um, don't you mean, "it's all going to be ok"? Or "don't worry"? Or even "stay strong, you'll be fine"? 

I want him to reassure her!

I want him to take away her fear! 

I want him to make her feel better! 

And isn't that what we usually all want? Or at least, think we want...for someone to tell us that it's all going to be ok, that our choices are the right ones, that what we're doing is fine. 

But what if those words are not the ones that take us where we need to be? 

What if the ones we need to hear are the hard ones?

 

If you are about to enter a relationship 

and all around you can see is going to end in hurt, 

what if everyone tells you they're happy for you 

when they can clearly see that you're headed for disaster?

If you're making choices that make you happy 

in the short term but are ultimately going to lead to pain, 

do you want your friends to smile with you in 

your short term happiness or make you confront your long term prospect?

If you're on the other end, in the middle of disaster, 

do you want your friends to give you a token, "don't worry, it'll be fine", 

or would you prefer them to say, "actually, it's going to be hideous, 

it's not going to easy to get out of this, 

but here's what we're going to do about it"?

While Liam's daughter is still on the phone, after telling her that she is going to be taken, he tells her that, as they take her, she needs to yell out all the details about them that she can. These details are the keys in Liam's hunt for the kidnappers, so ultimately, the things that save her.

It's difficult on both sides:

It's difficult to hear the hard words...

...and it's difficult to say the hard words.

But I'm becoming more and more convinced that sometimes 

love means being honest even when it hurts. 

I can recall particular instances when friends have told me to snap out of self-pity, or told me that it's actually not going to be ok and I need to deal with that, or warned me against something that I'm happily falling head over heels into. And in those times, I've been angry, I've looked for reasons not to believe them, I've wondered if they are really friends. But I can tell you, the people in those instances are people whose friendships I now have no doubt of, the ones I want to keep around. 

Truth hurts... but surely there can't be love without truth. 


The way we work and why it matters

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

Let me ask you a question...which is more important: the job you do or the way you do it?


In my final year of university, I was 95% sure that  wasn't going to be a physio once I graduated (ha!) and I decided that I was going to make every effort to just enjoy that year. The previous few years, I had worked ridiculously hard. I had studied for exams weeks in advance, I had handed in assignments early, I had sacrificed social events to get work done and I was over it. So, I decided that I wasn't going to strive for great marks any more, because, as long as I passed, did it really even matter? 

The problem, I discovered, was that, the way I worked seemed to be engrained into me. I couldn't not do it. Maybe I eased off a little, had a bit more of a social life, but I still worked, I still studied. I didn't want to put my name to anything that I thought I could have done more on.

Through school, uni, work, rugby, I have seen a vast variety of work ethics. On one side are the people who get up at 5:30 to train or study and never complain about it. On the other, people who put in the bare minimum and spend most of their time being negative about their job, their co-workers, their boss. 

I am the most guilty of this at times, and I've been challenged about that lately. 

I can point out the things that are wrong and make excuses for my attitude: I'm stuck being a physio when I really want to be a writer, other people have it easier, I have to listen to people complain all day, I have to stand in the rain for a rugby match...but good work ethic has little to do with your position and everything to do with your perspective.

What is it it that makes a good work ethic; how can you tell the difference between someone who has a strong work ethic and someone who doesn't have one at all? I think there are many factors:

                                                  integrity                              

                                                                honesty

                                              commitment

                                                       responsibility

                                                initiative

                                                            reliability

                                            discipline

                                                             respect

                                                cooperation


Over the years that I've worked with rugby teams, the variations in work ethics have been blatantly obvious. I see the boys who show up to training early, who respect the coaches (no matter who is listening), who take the responsibility for their injuries (and show up on time to their physio appointments!), who actively seek feedback and learn from criticism, who are in it for the team. And then I see the ones who hang around the changing sheds until the last moment before they have to go out to train, who come to me two minutes before kick off and tell me they've had a sore shoulder all week, who train at half the effort after being told they're on the bench this week, who blame the coaches when they've played a bad game, who never put in the extras and who only put in what is required when someone is watching. 

And I've seen that 90% of the time, work ethic is a key determinant for success.

                      Hautapu vs Marist


I'm not saying that you have to work yourself into the ground. That's not ok. When you look up people who show examples of great work ethic, you find a whole lot of stories of people who work 100 hour weeks, who never take time off (even on the weekends), who haven't had holidays for 7 years. But I actually don't think that is admirable, because I think that, part of a good work ethic involves taking responsibility for looking after yourself. Working crazy amounts of hours is simply not healthy. 

A few years ago, I was training to run a half marathon. You would think, being a physio, I would be sensible about it, but no. I ran every day, pushing myself. A couple of months into training, I started to get pain in my shin. Usually though, if I could get through the first five minutes of my run, it would go away...until I stopped and could barely walk. But I convinced myself that, since I could run through it, it didn't matter how sore I was after. Until I realised that I couldn't walk down one step on a good day. I eventually got it checked out, discovered a stress fracture and had to give up the running for 8 weeks. Pushing too hard rarely leads to success. 

To finish off, I want to share one of my favourite quotes, said by Martin Luther King Jr.:

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well. 

Whatever your job, whatever you do in life, do it well.


The world is your lobster (the final part)

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

Where to go? What to do? Who to be?

I would love to be able to give you the answers to all the questions about the right thing for you. Unfortunately, I can't because really, what works for one person will not work for another. But I'd love a shot at suggesting some tools to use to help with your decisions. 

First, find the balance between relying on people and their opinions and ignoring them. Think about who you trust, who is invested in you, who cares and has a genuine interest in how your life turns out. Maybe it's also appropriate to ask yourself how much you believe in their wisdom. Have they made good decisions in their lives?

Cape Reinga LighthouseSecond, don't discount options because they seem difficult or a bit left field. Don't rush into them either. 

Thirdly, work out what is important to you and remember that that is not necessarily what is important to those around you. And that's ok. Is it a place to settle? Is it opportunities to travel? Is it being with a lot of people? Is it constant stimulation? Is it working for justice? What is important in your life? 

Do that.

Fourthly, work out what you're good at. This is difficult because often we can't see the things we're incredibly talented at because they just seem like second nature to us. On the other hand, often we think we're good at something till we discover that our singing voice is very different in the shower than it is in front of an audience. Ask other people, people you know will be honest with you. Be prepared to hear truths.

Lastly, work out what you love doing. What can you do and not notice the time go by? I realised I wanted to write one Sunday. I had started writing some thoughts down after lunch and look up, what seemed like 10 minutes later, and realised that it was 9 pm and was pitch black. If you don't know what that thing is, try something new. Or lots of somethings new! I'm not going to say that you will love every job all the time, but it's worth a shot.

 The best career advice given to the young is: Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it. 

Katherine Whitehorn


The world is your lobster (Part 5)

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

Balance

sh_thumbnail.jpg This is going to be one of those posts that, as I write, I feel like a little bit of a hypocrite. One of those posts in which I believe what I'm telling you and know the theory, but when it comes to the practise, I'm not quite there yet. I'm better than I used to be, but I have a long way to go...

So, how do you find that balance? How do you stop yourself from being worked into the ground? Is there a correct amount of work?

 When I first came to New Zealand, I started working straight away, and I didn't stop. I was working 8-5, 5 days a week. 2 nights during the week, I would continue work at rugby training and then, every Saturday, would spend most of the  day working at a rugby match. For a few weeks of the year, I would work with 2 rugby teams, meaning 4 nights of training per week plus Saturday games. And I was exhausted. I had no physical energy left, let alone mental or emotional energy, so, when it came to spending time with people, going to church, writing, doing anything other than work, I had nothing left to give.

Three years into that pattern, I realised that something had to be done. I couldn't carry on as I was. So, I decided to cut out a day of work. Since that time, I have worked 4 days instead of 5, and I may not be there yet, but it's a start. Having that day gives me time to think, time to breathe, time to exercise, time to go to the post office, time to spend with the people I want to spend time with, time to write.

 That was part of the solution for me, but your solution (if you need one), may look very different. I think the first step is looking at why we get so busy. One person's reasons will not be the same as the next, but ask yourself these questions: is work an escape - a way to run away and hide from life? Do you secretly praise yourself for your busyness? If you had no job to go to tomorrow (and money wasn't an issue), what would scare you most? Does your work define who you are in an unhealthy way? What is important to you in life? Does your work allow you to honour those things?

 The answers to these questions might give you a hint as to whether something needs to change and what that something is. But, don't leave it till it's too late: till you're on medication to control your stress, till you have no close friends, till you have no hobbies, till your work has defined you so much that you don't know who you are. Don't keep on going until you're forced to stop.

Find your balance. 

It may be one of the most important things you do.


The World is your Lobster (part 4)

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

Risk and the 10,000 hour rule

Change vs commitment


Things are different these days.

 It used to be that you would leave school and enter a career, or a course of study and that would be the thing that you would do for the rest of your life. It seems that, these days, people can and do have several jobs or careers throughout their lives. You can study one thing...take a gap year and do another...then get a job for a few years in another...after that, who knows? There are more options, easier transitions and more plentiful resources for whatever you want to dowhenever you want to do it.

I think the key is finding the balance between change and commitment. In this world where there are new options presented with every corner you turn, it is far too easy to give up on something and go to the next thing. Having said that, it is also easy to stay in a job that is slowly destroying your soul just because you are scared to change.

 When my mum was in her fifties, she gave up a career in teaching, which she had been doing for about 30 years, to run a bed and breakfast. She was a good teacher, but after a while, it just didn't excite her, so she left her job and worked towards the one thing that she had always wanted to do. She was a good teacher, but she is a great B&B owner. Strumhor B&B, under the Connel Bridge is beautiful. The rooms are comfortable, the home made bread is the best smell to wake up to and the conservatory provides some awesome views. I love this place. And my mum is happier than I ever saw her when she was teaching. 

Sometimes, change is ok. More than ok. Sometimes change is necessary.

I also know of people who have jumped around from career to career. As soon as one job gets too hard, or they have a bad day, or they feel a little bored, they look for the next thing.

I have to admit, I've been tempted by this. 

The times when I most want to change careers are the times when I feel like I'm not a good physio, when it just feels like there is too much to know and I've just scratched the surface. I hate not being amazing at my career. I hate feeling not good enough. In those times, I've looked at many options: going into research, completely retraining in costume design or journalism, stepping into a management role.

And maybe someday, that will be there right thing, but I've recently been reminded of the 10,000 hour rule - a rule that states that the key to success in anything is practising it for 10,000 hours*. Being in the middle of that 10, 000 hours is difficult, but if you want to get anywhere, if you want to be successful, it's key.

 So, find your balance. Don't quit because it's too hard or you have a bad day, but also, don't avoid change because it's too risky or you're too scared.

 

*Malcolm Gladwell in the book, "Outliers" 


The World is your lobster (part 3)

Posted by pip on November 10, 2013

What we hear and when to listen


When your mother asks, 'Do you want a piece of advice?' it is a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway.

Erma Bombeck

 

 

When you're trying to make up your mind about your career, or the next step in your life, there will be many people who are willing to give you their opinions. With some of them, it won't be so much willing, as forceful. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has advice...and you will get to hear it all. The important question is, "who will you listen to?"


Parents. Friends. Teachers. Society. Spouses. Talk show hosts. The neighbour's cat...all of them, to some extent may try to influence your choices and tell you what they think. And sometimes, that's what you need, what you want. But sometimes, it throws a distracting arrow onto an already confusing signpost.


When you're deciding whose advice to take and who to listen to, I think there are two main things to consider: how invested is this person in me and my future (and as a result, how much do they care) and how affected will this person be by my decision? 


For example, society may want you to fit into its mould of becoming a rich, successful business owner perhaps, but society doesn't really care who you are and in the grand scheme of things, isn't really affected by your decision. On the other hand, if you consider your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, they are a part of your day to day life and hopefully your future life, and as a result, they care about who you are, what you do and what it means for you. If they are a part of your life, your decision will also affect their life. So, what you hear from them deserves more time than the messages you get from society.


When I was at school and at the stage of deciding what I wanted to study at university, I felt quite a strong push from teachers. I wanted to do something in health/medicine. My thoughts were that I wanted to be a speech therapist or a physio. But I got good grades, grades that were high enough to get me in to study medicine. And that is the direction that I was pushed in. Because, frankly, it looked better for my school to have a past pupil who was a doctor than a physio. They were affected (although only a little affected) by my decision but not really invested in it, not for the right reasons anyway.  


It's good to get advice, but be aware of the motives behind it. Ask advice from people you trust, people you know are invested in helping you get to where you want to be.

 

Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.

Joan Rivers


The World is your Lobster (Part 2)

Posted by admin on September 29, 2013

Image079.jpg

Is there a career I'm designed for?

If you look online for advice on finding a career, you will find a lot of articles and even the odd quiz that tell you how to find the RIGHT career, the job that you were meant to do.

As a side note, I decided to do one of these quizzes. 
Amongst the list of my ideal careers were a mobile 
heavy equipment mechanic, 
a  heating and air conditioning installer 
and a transportation equipment painter.
Um, what?!?


Is there a right career for each of us? Something that we are meant to do for the rest of our lives? 
What, then, if we miss our calling or go down the wrong path?
What if we end up doing something we hate? 
What if we could be amazing at one thing, but miss the boat or choose the other thing, at which we are only mediocre?
 

What if? 

 
It's an easy thing to think. But it is completely counter productive, at any stage. If you are trying to decide on a course of study or a career, you will tie yourself up in knots if, at every decision you come close to, you second guess yourself, wondering if there could be something better. And if you're in the middle or approaching the end of your career, if you are thinking about what could have been if you had just done this or that, you will drive yourself crazy.
 

There are a couple of things I'm trying to say here. Firstly, don't over think it - if there is something you're interested in, that you think you could enjoy and be good at go for it. Don't always look for something better. Secondly, it's not too late. If get a few years into your job and realise you hate it and you're not very good at it, that's ok. Change may not be easy, but that doesn't mean it's not possible
 
I think there are some things that make us more suitable to some careers. For example, if you don't like working with people, don't become a physio. If you don't like animals, don't become a vet. If you don't like conflict, don't become a lawyer. If you're not good with numbers (or calculators), don't become an accountant. And if you're tone deaf, don't become an opera singer!
But I don't think there is just one career that is specifically designed for each person. There may be a lot of things you could flourish in and that could benefit others, but don't waste your time looking for the absolute perfect fit. There probably isn't one. Every job will have good and bad days.
 
Make your choice and do it well.
If it doesn't work out, that's ok, try another option.
 
But no more "what ifs" please.

The World is your Lobster (Part 1)

Posted by admin on September 29, 2013


Doctor. Nuclear physicist. Teacher. Circus performer. Dog groomer. Plumber. Bee keeper. Privateinvestigator. Tattoo artist. Ice cream van driver. Crime scene cleaner....

The list goes on, the options are plentiful and there is something to suit even the craziest of personalities (professional skydiving, anyone?) So, how on earth can we even begin to decide what we're going to do with our days. And why does it matter? Why do we even have to work? And if we do, can't we just do something that pays the bills, enough for us to enjoy the other parts of our lives?

The average human spends 91250 hours working in a lifetime. That's a lot of hours, so surely it's important to work out what we actually want from those 91250 hours. Money? Growth? Fun? Ladders to climb? Relationship? New experiences?DSCF1295.JPG

People say they want to work to live, not live to work, but the fact is that, whatever way you put it and whatever your motivations, you're probably going to have to work for a significant proportion of your life.

We are not made to be idle. In my job, I see a lot of people who have been off work for significant amounts of time because of injuries. Most of them enjoy the first couple of days off work, after which, they start to mildly lose their minds.

We are made for stimulation, productivity, challenges, interactions, growth.


With the amount of time we spend at work, it has a huge influence on who we are and how we live. On the way we see things. On the way we treat people. On our energy, health and mood. On the decisions we make. So it is worthwhile making sure that we're in a place that affects those things in a good way. If your job makes you tired and grumpy and that then makes you avoid people or be plain rude to them, maybe it's not the right one for you. If your job excites you and fulfills you, chances are life will be much better for you and those around you.

So, I know I haven't told you what you should do to find that excitement and fulfillment, but this has to be the first step: realising that what you do matters, so answer a few questions for me...how do you feel about your job? What kind of person are you when you're doing your job? Is your job leading you to where you want to go?

The answers to those questions may give you an idea of  where you are and where you should be.


The world is your lobster

Posted by admin on August 15, 2013

When I was growing up, I knew my life would be broken up into three stages: school, university and the rest of my life. The rest of my life: that 40 odd years when I would be working in a career that I had to decide on when I was 17.

Ten (ish) years later, I'm reassessing that whole concept. Because now, I'm still not really sure what I want to do with "the rest of my life".

At that age, I decided that I was going to study physiotherapy. To be honest, I didn't put a great deal of thought into it. I sort of wanted to have a health related career, but I didn't want to be a doctor, and I wanted to do a degree that led to one career, so that I wouldn't have to make more decisions after I finished university.
With those thoughts in mind, the forms were filled out and the process started.

Ten years down the line and I almost feel like I'm back at the start, back at the decision making stage. ........And it's got me thinking.......
 How do we decide what to do with our lives? Why does it even matter? Is there something we are meant to do or designed to do? 
I want to take a few blog posts to look at this because it's a huge topic and deserves some attention. So, watch this space over the next few days; I'll look at commitment vs change, the things that affect our choices and which of them matter, how we work and study in a healthy way and why this is all so important. If you have anything related to this that you think needs to be discussed, feel free to post a comment (on here or facebook) and we'll get things going (love a bit of audience participation!)


With regard to the title...I have a good friend, who will remain nameless for the sake of his dignity. He is a really smart guy, really. When he was leaving school, he was discussing the future with his headmaster (feel free to correct me on that, mate ;) and told his headmaster that the world was his lobster. Close. Lobsters, oysters, all the same, right? (Thanks for the inspiration).

There is a huge world out there, with more options than ever. Oysters, lobsters, starfish, dolphins, whatever...we have choices to make. If you're in that place, even if you're not right now, I hope the next few posts will make you think a bit, help you see the options that are there for you, help you see the things that matter. Watch this space...


What is your foundation made of?

Posted by admin on August 10, 2013

A man gets stuck in a pit. He's not sure how he got there, but is sure that he is stuck. 
When he looks up, he can see the daylight, but he can't see an easy way to get to it. When he looks down, he sees loose ground. 

He is a fit man, a healthy man and he is a man with two choices. 

One: He can sit down and stay there. As he sits, he is filled with a cross between boredom and panic and frustration and regret and fear. At first, they are manageable, just about bearable, but as time goes on, those things start to eat him up, to play on his mind, eventually sending him into a frenzy. He starts to dig, to shovel with his bare hands, desperately trying to find the end, the solid surface, the way out. After a while, the daylight gets further and further away and all he sees, all he knows is the darkness around him.
Or, two: he can use his hands to climb. He can use any roots or stones as footholds and he can use all the strength he can muster to pull himself towards the light. When he reaches the top, he collapses at the surface, catching his breath, with a smile on his face that says, "ah, light, freedom, breath, solid ground." And now that he is out of the pit, he wonders anxiously about how to stop himself falling in again.

There have been times when I've felt like I'm in a pit. Most of the time I haven't known how I got there and in those times, it's been a long struggle back. Some times, I have sat there for months, making my home in the pit, ignoring people who want to throw me a rope, kicking at the ground, saying "it's not fair". And it's taken a fight from deep within, a change of circumstances, the right person at the right time.

Since I got offered the publishing contract a few weeks ago, I've been floating slightly off the ground. I've been delighted, thrilled, excited. And scared. Scared that when the exciting feeling fades, I could go back into the pit.

I always seem to be aware of it when good things happen, when circumstances make me smile, because I think I'm aware of how temporary those things can be. And I don't want to live life from high to high, dream to dream, only being up when something good happens. Because that is a shaky ground to walk on. 

I want to have a more firm foundation, a foundation that is on more than good news and fun times. I want it to be based on faith, hope, joy, love...permanent things...things that remain.

I think that's a choice. I think those are things that are always there, always on offer, but  we have to choose whether we want them and how much we let them form our foundation. If we have a foundation based on how other people treat us, how many friends we have, how we look, even how we feel, we are going to encounter a lot more pits that are a lot harder to climb out of.

The more solid the foundation we choose, the fewer pits we find ourselves in and the easier it is to pull ourselves up out of them when we do find ourselves there. 

Choose the important things, the firm things, the things that remain when all else fades. 

Fire (burn, baby, burn)

Posted by admin on August 2, 2013

I had been staying on a sugar cane farm in South Africa for several months before I actually saw a cane fire. Mostly because they tended to be lit early in the morning, when I tended to be in bed. When I did manage to drag myself out of bed for my first cane fire, I was overwhelmed.


During the harvesting season, the farmers would burn patches of the cane to get rid of the extra bits (the green and dry leaves), to make it easier to harvest.

Early morning cane fireThe farmer would light the fire, starting with just a couple of matches, around the edges of the section and within a matter of minutes, the fire would take off, with the flames racing to the centre of the section to fight for oxygen.

The first time I watched a fire, it was from the top of the water tanker (a key component for controlling the fire!) I remember the feeling of awe as the heat from the closest flames flooded over my previously freezing skin. What started as a small crackle echoing in the chilly night air, quickly became the sound of hundreds of fireworks giving off oppressive heat. The line of fire travelled quickly through the section, forming a barrier between the burnt and the yet to be burnt. It made a difference: from what was there before to what was left. Within such a short period of time, the section of cane had been transformed from leafy, green, living plants to a scorched, brown expanse. And it was ready. 
From a field full of detail and substance, it was broken down into something that could be harvested.

Camp FireI've always been a little bit scared of fire. Maybe that came from seeing the scars of many of the farmers. The power of the fire scares me, its ability to bring change, the speed at which it spreads.

But, how I want to be like it. 
 
Not just my writing, but in my life. 
 
Each of us has something in us that has the power to change. Each and every one of us. 

For me, I think it's the ability to use my experiences to help and heal and encourage and grow people. And I don't want to keep it to myself; I want to stand up and light that fire. I want it to be visible for miles around. I want to take what I have and I want it to spread. I want to form a line between the impacted and the yet to be impacted. And I want that line to move as if it is desperately chasing oxygen. 


What do you have? What is the power in you? How can you impact the world, starting with those closest to you? This is not just for some of us, it's for all of us. But how far you want your fire to spread is up to you.


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