Life Interrupted – 4

I am not as upset as I should be about being unable to go to church over Easter. While these services are always great, this year, I have enjoyed the quiet contemplation of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection at home. On my own.

The experience for me was deeper and more meaningful; communion was with what I had on hand a hot cross bun and cup of tea, I was awake early and saw the sunrise. I read the story of the women who were the first to preach the good news and deeply felt their confusion, sorrow and joy.

I often think about the women in Jesus’s life. Mostly because when I was growing up we never talked about them, it was always Peter running to the tomb, Jesus appearing to the twelve, Thomas the doubter, the walk to Emmaus. But right there in print (and in all four gospels) – the women who went to the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’s body and found the stone rolled away. They ran and told the disciples and became the first people to tell of Jesus’s resurrection.

In the world of Judah 2000 years ago, the women who followed Jesus must have be remarkable but we know almost nothing about them. A few are named but you only heat more about three of them Mary his mother, Martha and her sister Mary Magdalene (my biblical hero) who once sat at Jesus’s feet to hear him teach rather than serving him.

I wonder what attracted them to Jesus. Maybe they knew him through brothers or husbands and joined his movement this way. Or maybe, I’m speculating here, they threw away conventions because they saw the same thing in Jesus as I do 2000 years later and wanted to follow him.

My Jesus is deeply human – laughing readily, crying just as much; he was a loner even though surrounded by friends, he felt the pains and sorrows of others and just wanted to love them until it was better. If hugging was a thing, he would have been great at it, with just the right amount of arms and enfolding (think David Tennant in Doctor Who).

He also had an edge, a sense of power about him that could silence the most unruly mob with a look; he was unconventional, hanging out with outsiders. I love that he was a  nuisance to people in authority and didn’t hold back telling them what he thought or when they were wrong, which may or may not be my inspiration to do the same.

In an isolated pandemic world, where there are so many sorrows, the Jesus who wept over Jerusalem and was so distressed before his arrest that he sweated tears of blood is the message I need right now. That Jesus is so human that he completely understands where the world is and wants to sit with us, hold our hands and tell us it will be alright.

The Jesus I encountered this Easter is less about sin and more about radical love and compassion. Less about eternal life and more about using whatever talents I have to work towards the transformation of this world. For all the hardships in this current situation, I wouldn’t exchange this gift for all the church services in the world.

 

 

 

Life interrupted – 3

The subtitle to this edition is: nice things during self-isolation.

As a single person you kind of get used to your own company, but in the first week of self-isolation it was a struggle, I didn’t know how I was going to do this for months on end. Now, I’m kind of loving the peace and quiet and the more gentle pace of life. It feels like a gift and a time out of time to pause, reflect and just be.

I’m lucky though, I live somewhere with a bit of space around me. I’ve got a backyard and right opposite my house is a wetlands area with walking paths, frogs and birds. Side note: anyone else noticed the quiet and how lovely that is?

Like most people, I’ve been trying to do nice things to help get through the difficulties. Nice things for me make me smile or laugh, give me soul a little lift and remind me we are all in this together. I’m grateful to all the people who are lending their talents to entertain and ease my anxieties during this time.

So here’s a list of things, I’m finding that is bringing me joy during these hard days. (Will periodically add to this list as I come across things).

  1. I can’t go to the Ballet at the moment but I can stream it, thanks to The Australian Ballet streaming their productions for free.
  2. Samuel West is reading me poetry every night. He has a soothing voice and I am loving the ability poetry has to capture a moment, a feeling, to give hope and  perspective on the world. (Who’s Samuel West I hear you ask? – Mr Elliot in Persuasion and a bunch of other stuff too)
  3. Patrick Stewart is reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets and I can’t tell you how much I love this, it’s unedited, he makes mistakes and starts again and it’s completely delightful. You can find that on all the socials.
  4. During an afternoon work break, I sat in my reading chair and rubbed Heminway’s tummy for ages. He was enraptured and so I was.
  5. #ThorntonThursday – rewatching North and South with a bunch of likeminded humans on Twitter. I’m aiming for Wentworth Wednesday at some point too.
  6. Getting to make a pot of tea and drink out a tea cup every morning. Usually reserved only for weekends, I now have the time to make a pot of tea with leaves and drink it from a tea cup.
  7. Mozart – always
  8. Marigolds they are stunning with their orange and burnt umber flowers.
  9. Meeting some new trees in my neighbourhood
  10. Watching families together out for walks on my estate
  11. Having time to read
  12. Jigsaws – it feels very much like we have gone back in time and it’s utterly charming
  13. The place I bought roses sent me their brochure and can I just say I’m going to need more roses in my life.
  14. (New nice thing) Anyone notice how beautiful the autumn leaves are this year. Particularly loving the claret ash and their magnificent colours.
  15. (New nice thing) Households putting soft toys and rainbow drawings in windows and on pavements to let little people know that it will be alright. If there was a stronger symbol that we are all united and in this together I don’t know if I could find one.
  16. (New nice thing) Going to church in my pyjamas and doing Communion with whatever you have on hand. I’ve done it with a cup of tea, hot cross buns, oat cakes and water.
  17. (New nice thing) Some married friends are making funny videos of their self-isolation world, includes K-pop dancing, meat BBQing and it has a level of irony and snark that I need.
  18. (New nice thing) Seeing the cobwebs glistening on the grass on an autumn afternoon.
  19. (New nice thing) Watching Fitzgerald stalk cabbage moths and hide in the garden beds

So that’s it for now… I know this time is extremely worrying  and I’m in a very privileged position, there is much to be anxious about but I hope like me you are finding time for a few things that make you happy too.

Take care, stay home and breathe.

 

Life interrupted – 2

I put the iron away the other day. I’d pulled it out a few weeks ago to iron my summer work clothes but it seems I’ll be doing work meetings in casual gear for the foreseeable future.  By the time we get out of self-isolation, it will be winter or maybe even spring.

Working from home is not as much fun as they said it would be on the packet. It’s a strangely dehumanising experience, where your colleagues are now just a small square on a computer screen and the nuances of your interactions are blunted by technology. Getting technology to work, and consistently, adds to the stress and emotional labour.

The nature of the work I do means my team talk a lot during our work day.  Those conversations are now much harder and strangely formal, channeled into a few meetings or on a chat stream. They are okay but cannot replace the knowledge sharing, learning and rapport building which comes from a face-to-face interaction. And without these, work feels like it has been stripped of what makes it pleasurable and distilled down to a series of tasks: we may as well be robots.

It’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to see into my colleagues private spaces and seeing a part of their lives that you would rarely get to see. And the guest appearances by children and pets, is a little light relief. But I find I’m struggling with this, even as a person who is reasonably generous in sharing aspects of my life.

Right now, I want to burrow and protect myself and sharing images of myself in my house feels like I’m way too exposed. Don’t get me wrong, I like my team, but I’m deeply uncomfortable with the smudging of the lines between personal and professional. My home is a reflection of the raw and no barriers version of myself, and work feels like an intruder forcing itself into the sacred spaces where you are your most vulnerable.

Everyone I’ve spoken to is finding concentrating hard and productivity low. I  feel like I’m doing less than ever and are more exhausted by that small effort. I really want to be the person I was at work three weeks ago but honestly right now my heart just isn’t it it. I feel as if I need to focus my energy on surviving a global pandemic, not work.

I spoke to a friend on the phone, and she said everyone needs a bit of time to come to terms with what’s happening. She’s right, we are in shock and need time to process. Things have changed so rapidly that it is dizzying, just keeping up with the changes is a challenge, let alone having the time to process them emotionally.

I’m grateful that I have a supervisor who understands this, who has said we need to be kind to ourselves right now and just get through these next few months. My team is pretty indefatigable; we will do our best, rise to the challenge and all that but these first few days are hard. I’m looking forward to the Easter break.

Quite a few of my friends live alone, and we are all feeling the isolation. Even though many of us like our own company, a week or two of that will be enough to have us climbing the walls. We have organised regular catch-ups over Zoom or text. It’s been great in helping me feel less alone, and seems so so necessary to check in and make a safe space for people to say how they are feeling.

But I feel a deep sense of loss that I can’t just run up stairs and say hi to them, or eat lunch together in the tea room. Through government regulations and our choice to abide by them, we just can’t have the freedom to move about or go anywhere right now. We know it’s for the good of all but that doesn’t make it easier.

At MPOW, there are some good souls who are organising the work drinks, and the morning teas, who are posting fun stuff in the group chat area, and honestly we just so need them right now. Staying connected and supporting each other isn’t just nice, it’s necessary, for everyone’s physical and mental health. Because despite our thoughts that this will be weeks, it’s likely to be months and we need to make sure we have a workplace worth being at to come back to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life interrupted

It was my birthday yesterday. But I didn’t much feel like celebrating. News from around the world is grim. I spent it pretty much on my own, although with a couple of new four legged friends called Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I’m okay with that, as it seems that it’s a time for quiet reflection and prayer.

Corona Virus – so tiny you need an electron microscope to see it, has turned the world on its head. It’s ironic, when you think about it – how something so small has had a power greater than all the rhetoric, philosophy and religion to bring upheaval.

As a science graduate, this stuff is endlessly fascinating. We studied the plague, the Spanish Influenza epidemic and all of major outbreaks of disease throughout history. Science, which is ignored when inconvenient, now is the only trusted source decision makers can rely on – as it should be.

Last week seemed like a lifetime. There was an anxiousness, I barely concentrated at work. I kept checking the news. Everything changed so fast, even the news presenters struggled to keep up. Social distancing and flattening the curve are new but unwelcome additions to the lexicon.

I’ve been trying for days to gather my scattered thoughts. Like a lot of people, I’m a bit scared. If we thought the hellish fires of summer were the worst of it, well, the world had other plans.

On Saturday we had an extraordinary parish council meeting to discuss the new government regulations on social distancing. I voiced what we all wanted, to stay open; others voiced what was needed, the decision was rightly made to suspend services. There were tears.

A number of people have said how this is an opportunity to do church differently. And how if two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am (Matthew 18:20), all it did was reinforce to me that a church is not a building or a service but a group of people.

In our live-streamed services yesterday, our vicar, talked about Psalm 137 where the Israeli captives in Babylon were wondering how to sing praises to God in a strange land. We are in a very strange land and like them I don’t feel like singing.

I can’t help thinking about all the warnings we have ignored. We didn’t listen, just kept walking down this path thoughtlessly and now we are being made to listen. We valued celebrity over checkout-chicks, CEOs over cleaners; we put stuff before people and we are now needing to re-evaluate.

As humans we believe we are in control and that we can bend Mother Nature to our will. But Mother Nature takes orders from no one. If there is one lesson I hope we all learn out of this, it’s that we control absolutely nothing, and that God, the uncaring universe or whatever you want to call it, is a force more powerful than all the schemes of people.

Everywhere you look there are stories of loss, postponed weddings, dream holidays cancelled, families separated by borders closing. Things that lift people’s spirits like arts and sports are being cancelled, so many people have lost their jobs. People’s mental health is suffering, there’s been a huge increase in domestic violence. The stories out of Italy are horrific. Death of our most vulnerable looms large in our minds.

If you have been to the supermarket it’s unnerving. Seeing empty shelves, as people stockpile food and toilet paper (!!), is the dystopian future we’ve all seen in movies. For people used to having everything laid out for them, it must be a rude shock to realise there’s not an endless supply of everything (imagine that).

Right now, it’s hard to see how we get ourselves out of this mess. I keep thinking about this being the moment to stop and reflect on our choices as individuals, communities and countries – indeed as the world. Perhaps realising that we have responsibilities to our neighbours and communities is the wake up call we need right now.

If you ever needed a reminder that you are more than just an individual, Corona virus is the strongest indication ever that you do not just belong to yourself and your family. Across the world, each of us belongs to each other, all tied together with an invisible piece of string. I find that so comforting because I think it says that there is some other bigger force in the universe. And that is the most beautiful thought ever.

The world is a bit too much for me right now… So I’ve gone small. Forcing myself to think about today only. Right now, I’m thinking about what to make for dinner tonight (steak and veggies). My solar has been installed, Hemingway is purring away beside me, Fitzgerald, in perhaps a mood we are all expressing, is hiding under the couch.

Friends have messaged me, my family brought up cakes. They have organised a zoom meeting to sing me happy birthday tonight. We have another extraordinary parish council meeting.

And tomorrow, tomorrow I start to work from home.

How to chop an onion without crying

I love Jamie Oliver, I own most of his cook books… I like how he now tries to cook for everyone rather than fancy pants 25 exotic ingredient that you only use once.

Back in his naked chef days, off camera a producer asked him how he managed to cut up onions without crying. He said something like he didn’t know but didn’t mind a good cry.

Chefs don’t cry when they cut up onions from what I’ve seen. I think it’s because they have the knife skills to cut it up pretty quickly.

I do not have good knife skills. In fact I have the knife skills of someone likely to cut themselves or others in the attempt. When they say dice finely, I think rustic/homestyle will be much better.

A winner of Masterchef I would never be. Thus a sharp object and running eyes are to be avoided at all costs.

I cannot claim my technique for cutting onions without crying is foolproof, I can say it works for me most of the time… when I remember how to do it.

So here it is.

Place your onion with the root bit pointing towards you on a cutting surface. The pointy bit should be stick away from you. It doesn’t matter if you peel the onion or not at this stage.

Just in case you think you know what’s coming…. Do not cut the onion in half from the pointy bit to the bottom, repeat do not. I don’t know why but this sets off the strong smell, stinging your eyes, resulting in sniffles and tears.

Instead cut your onion in half through the middle horizontally. Leaving the pointy bit and the root bit intact but seperate.

If you haven’t peeled your onion you can do this now. And then slice, chop or dice your onion as required by whatever you’re making. But just like magic you’ll be doing this without crying.

The first time I did it (by accident it must be said), I was so surprised but it’s worked almost every time and I now claim this as my one and only culinary party trick.

Hurrah – for no more tears onion cutting.

Sunday vignette

I was awake early this morning 6.15 and up at 7.00. I was on morning tea at church, you are meant to be there at 8.00 to set up. I’m not a morning person, I like to take my mornings leisurely and with tea.

But I find myself awake early most weekends. I tell myself I should use this time to do stuff. Mostly I just curse that I’m chronically unable to sleep in. Now it’s dark it’s harder than ever to get up, even the birds seem to stay asleep until after 7.00.

If there are some joys in the early mornings, I usually listen to ABC Classic FM where Ed Ayres has the perfect mix of get up and move and quietness. I use tea cups rather than a mug on Sunday.

When I look out my windows I see swallows flitting over the water, having breakfast. The magpies are chortling, and this always makes me feel like the world is still okay. Sometimes you can hear Kookaburras.

There’s the ever present ducks who sneak across the road and eat my grass. In someways this is a good thing because it means I hardly ever have to mow. They rush off when they think I’m looking.

By this stage, I’m running a bit late, I need to get dressed and go. I always feel a bit bad that my time management skills as adult are not as they should be. But there are few times when you don’t need to rush here or there and Sundays should be one of them.

 

Setting intentions

At the beginning of yoga, the teacher always sets an intention for your practice. Intentions are usually compassion, gratitude or being fully present. I never really understood why we did this but assumed it was for some vaguely religious reason.

Apparently this is not the case, the intention is metaphor that takes yoga from being exercise to something that’s a part of your everyday life. I like this idea and have decided in 2018 rather than setting resolutions or goals I’m setting intentions.

Find a job
This seems blatantly obvious but important for me to write it down. For practical and other reasons I’m considering jobs outside libraries, although it pains me to think that after eight years maybe this just isn’t for me but it’s something I realistically need to consider. While my current situation is depressing, the upside is I do get to take a step back and really assess things; what am I good at, where do my passion and skills lie, are there other areas of GLAM or other fields that would suit me.

Cultivating Gratitude
Last year a friend and I read the Psalms together, it was an enlightening experience. David was incredibly human. He went through some really dark times, was often in danger, sometimes laughed at and he did some terrible things (See 2 Samuel 11 for the story of David and Bathsheba), but he never stopped being grateful and praising God. I found this very confronting – how can you be grateful when everything is falling down around your ears? This year being grateful in any and all circumstances is a strong focus. If David can do it when he’s on the run after an attempt on his life, then so can I.

Kindness
The world doesn’t need more librarians or writers or success stories. It genuinely needs more people who believe that kindness is something worth pursuing. Not just in the way you treat other people but for yourself as well. It’s not about being a doormat or being taken advantage of because you need to be “nice”, it has personal boundaries; it’s something else, a genuine expression of your love of other people I guess. It also has an element of living in the here and now to it: like stop worrying about all the stuff and focus on being your best self right now.

Starting a book group
A friend and I are starting a book group. It’s literary fiction but not high brow just genuinely good stories. And in great book club tradition is likely to include wine. I’ve never been in a book group before but I’m so excited by it.

I’m leaving home
I’ve lived in the same house for 41 years. I brought some land and have signed contracts with a builder to put up a house. This process started early last year and I was hoping that it would be over by now. But this year my first home will be complete. I can’t wait.

Writing
I’ve booked into a writing course with a well know Melbourne author/commentator/famous type person. I booked it out of the hundreds available because it looked like a lot of fun. I want to expand my writing skills, try new things, learn to separate myself from the story so I don’t always just vomit all over the page. I hope it will help me make something of this need I’ve had since I was eight to tell stories.

Yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices
I stopped doing yoga for a large part of last year. I went back towards the end of last year and it was great. Physically difficult but for the hour or so I was totally engrossed and welcomed the peaceful calmness of the yoga space. Living quietly with space for contemplation, prayer, reflection, it’s essential that I find time for this.

Being myself
My massage therapist may or may not have a gift… During the three seasons I’ve had with her – let’s just say she’s said some pretty accurate things, which makes me wonder. At our last session she said to me that I should stop trying to fit the mould everyone wants of me and trust my instincts. I’m going to take her advice. I particularly want to stop saying sorry when I am in fact not sorry. This is something distinctly female I do when I feel I am (but not really) imposing or asking stupid questions or feel like I’m annoying people because they are stressed, irritated or I’m not 100% confident I know what I’m taking about. It needs to stop. I noticed one thing working in tech is that men don’t do this – they say things with complete confidence. So this is definitely something to work through.

To be read
I have a massive to be read pile and this year I plan on working my way through them. The pile includes Hemingway, Richard III, and a whole bunch of romance novels.

So that’s it… That’s my intentions for 2018, not an exhaustive list but it feels like the essential things I’ll focus on for this year. Of course as things change my intentions might change too – so a final intention would be to welcome all the changes with an open heart.

I hope you are excited about your 2018 journey. I know I am about mine.

Namaste.

Why I couldn’t write about hope in April: a post on faith, libraries and gaining perspective.

I loved April’s AusGlamBlog challenge to write about hope but couldn’t manage it. To say April was difficult is putting it mildly, let’s just say a whole bunch of stuff kept in check for ages exploded out.

There wasn’t just one trigger for this explosion but many – turning 40, exhaustion, health concerns, stuffing up a tech project , doing two jobs and most alarming realising I might not love libraries quite as much as I used too.

There’s something about that number 40 that is a big deal, even when you don’t want it to be. For me, it was like being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future all at the same time. Issues I thought I’d dealt with years ago came back and had a good laugh, while all those roads taken, decisions made with the best information at the time, suddenly seemed like maybe the not quite right roads.

And then there was the question of where to from here.

For eight years, I’ve thrown myself headlong into my library career. I lived and breathed libraries. When I decided to change careers at the age of 32, I figured there’s no point in not putting everything into this or not doing whatever it took to get into the industry.

But in doing so I let go of some things that were not just important but essential to my life. You’re not supposed to talk about faith in polite company, but before libraries, I went to church every week. It was the cornerstone of my life, made the rest of my week easier. I longed for the tranquility and renewal that came from being in that space.

When I started studying, Church began to seem like a chore, something else I had to do when my brain, already crammed with full time work and part time study, just needed a break. Pulling back and using the the time to rest or study seemed necessary. It was a sacrifice but not a mistake.

I put being a librarian at the centre of my life, before my faith, before almost all other things. And I have mostly been happy doing it. Libraries are special places, I have had amazing experiences, I have found my people there.

I can’t tell you when I started to feel that the shine of libraries was starting to wear off. I know it started because the reality frequently doesn’t match the ideal. Librarians are people who want to make a difference. They are passionate about assisting their communities. The opportunities to really feel like you are making a difference are limited.

The recurring thought that maybe, after eight years I’d burnt myself out, and maybe I just didn’t want to be a librarian anymore was terrifying. This was inevitably followed by a ‘Well what else are you going to do?’ There was no answer to this question.

As a person who gets anxious, I hate uncertainty. I hate not having a clear plan or vision of where I’m going. On a small scale this is manageable but when it comes to my life, feeling uncertain and scared about where things are going, well let’s just say that leads to dark places.

If you have never suffered from anxiety then you are fortunate. Anxiety at least as I have experienced lately has been the stuff of nightmares, the monster under the bed, clawing at you, squeezing and not letting go.

The worst time is always first thing in the morning, waking up with a racing heart, breathless and unable to stop the tidal wave of nerves. Then there would be the sick feeling in the stomach, the churning guts, a tightness in my chest. Sleep and my appetite went on an adventure somewhere together, I was exhausted.

As a classic overthinker, I became fixated on certain things; believing that if I could just think about the problem hard enough or long enough some insight that would reveal all the answers would come. It didn’t really work.

Talking helped, I blurted out stuff to my family and friends. I talked to colleagues, whenever I told people how I was feeling, the pain in my chest eased a little. I kept going to work, because sitting around thinking about stuff was worse.

After eight years of single-minded focus the crash was always going to be hard. Being a workaholic wasn’t healthy, readjustment is painful. After having one proper holiday in eight years, I’ve made one of my new birthday resolution to take holidays because I’m less likely to get overwhelmed and exhausted if I take time to properly rest.

And while it’s been awful to live through it’s also been useful, I’ve started putting things back into their proper perspective. I’ve started going to church again, I’ve joined the bible reading team, something I always wanted to do but was never confident enough to do before. Now I figure if I can do storytime, then reading scripture in front of people should be a piece of cake.

Losing some idealism about libraries isn’t a bad thing. Idealism is tough to live up to. Has the ideal even been defined anyway?

The question for me has become, how do I as an person who wants libraries to be all they can be, find hope in this less than ideal world? It’s by remembering that all the small things I do in my less than ideal way all contribute. It’s speaking up or putting forward an idea. It’s keeping up with trends and being interested in the best way forward. It’s realising that we can only do so much and that change comes in degrees. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Mother Teresa once said, you can do no great things in this world, only small things with great love. And this is the essence of libraries, small things – helping someone print, finding the perfect book for them to read, running storytime, done by passionate staff with great love for their community and industry. It’s never going to be the big dream ideal but it’s always going to make a difference.

So what about libraries? I still love them but I also want to pursue other things too. It may have taken some tough days to get here but finally I’ve realised that if all I am is a librarian then the well runs dry, but if I am all the things I want to be then I’ll always be a better librarian. And maybe in that I can find hope.

One of the reasons I wanted to write this post is to highlight how anyone can suffer from mental health issues. It doesn’t discriminate. And we need to talk about it and make it okay for people to talk about what they are going through.

So my plea to everyone if you are feeling overwhelmed by life stuff or if you have anxiety, please talk to someone. Many organisations offer free confidential counselling but if this isn’t an option for you, talk to a friend, colleague or family member. Please don’t suffer in silence. Talking about it can be hard but trust me you’ll feel better once you do.

Life Line Australia – 13 11 14

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636