A Charmed Life


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my tribe; my heart my soul my people

‘Family is not necessarily your blood. We are raised to think that but sometimes our family lets us down and we end up creating a new family for ourselves. Family is all the people you can rely on, people who won’t judge you, people who have your back, people you can trust, people who are loyal. That’s family’

I love this quote, not least because it comes from my beloved Madonna but because it is true of my world. As I have gotten older I have learnt to be more discerning about the people I surround myself with. Not so long ago I even went so far as conducting a people detox to free myself from those who no longer served me, and so to that end – with very limited blood kin interaction – over the past few years it is the tribe I have found and chosen for myself that I have come to consider family.

And even though we are scattered around the globe I live for our interactions. I love my Whatsapp blowing up with epic conversations of everything and nothing, the belly laughs that only they can induce, our FaceTime chats, hugs (both real and virtual), the style tips, precious moments we spend together in person making memories and the unwavering love and support we have for each other through the good, bad and in between times.

I am writing this at a time when I am witness to one of my tribe go through something truly awful, and in my role as her sister friend I am there on the other side of phone; to keep her calm, make her laugh, give advice where warranted, to ensure she knows she is supported but mostly all I do is listen – anytime day or night she knows I am there to listen. And its just my turn, she is there for me when I need her, its just my turn now to be there for her.

Therein lies the magic of a tribe you create for yourself… the knowing;  knowing there are people who always have your back, knowing there are people who will lift you up when you need a boost, knowing there are people who can reflect you back to yourself when you are lost, knowing there are people who support your dreams, who motivate and challenge you. Knowing there are people – my people who teach me soul things and heart math. I read somewhere you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and thinking about it right here right now the five people I have spent the most time with just this last month, I am like ‘Hell Yes! I should be so lucky.’ There is no one I would rather be on this insane world roller coaster with. My tribe; my heart my soul my people.

Sat Nam

And… so Saudi Arabia is finally allowing women into stadiums and granting them the right to drive. This is no small feat but a rumbling war in Yemen, the Gulf row with neighbouring Qatar and the small matter of abhorrent human rights violations still make my blood boil, so yes a step in the right direction but there is too much still to fight for over there #freeAlial-Nimr  Twenty years ago this week I left everything and everyone I know in New Zealand to become a kiwi girl abroad. I left with only one real goal and that was to chase Madonna around the world and as serendipity would have it I well and truly succeeded in doing just that (33 times ten countries) with many many other adventures along the way. It has been one wild ride that’s for sure. Excited for what happens next. Bring on the next twenty #HappyAnniversaryToMe #RollOnNextChapter #PeaceLove

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we could be heroes

I like the idea of a hero.
So I became one.
Not by plan exactly.
Nor by donning a cape and saving lives.
It was more like a series of events – known to you and I as living – that got me believing that I had in fact become a hero.

For as long as my memory serves me (and with my elephant memory it serves me very very well), from all the way back to when I was a wee thing I have had heroes: From real figures like my grandfather who immigrated to New Zealand from Gujarat, India with nothing but hope to provide better for his family, to my selfless, educated aunt the first feminist I knew, to Madonna one of the first people I felt a kindred spirit, to my form two teacher Mr. Emmins the first person to truly see me; to those heroes who reached me through history books Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo and Steve Biko; to the heroes who lived only in stories Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre and Anne Elliot. And so on and on it goes, this amassing of heroes as I travel through this thing called life.

As is the case with heroes, my heroes have been feted and referenced often but until recently I never questioned the need for them. It took for these divisive times for me to think about this notion of heroes, and listening to my inner dialogue I realised I had created this otherness where my heroes lived. This is I think not an uncommon thought as when we think of heroes – they are people who create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive. We human beings are not given to consider how we ourselves create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive in our everyday lives. But we do.

Many of my heroes have transitioned in recent years – some of whom are known Madiba, Maya Angelou, Wayne Dyer, David Bowie and Elie Wiesel and others who are known only to those of us who basked in their light –  and as I became aware of this I had this moment where fear grabbed me. The fear that there is no one to replace them. This fear led me to call a friend for perspective, she said ‘we see in a hero something we think is not in us, so what do you see in your heroes?’ And hearing this was an ‘eureka’ moment. I was so busy looking for people to emulate I overlooked why I needed heroes in the first place. What had been lacking in my childhood that made me seek out people? And why have I kept up this practice throughout my life?

Having been on a journey of self awareness the answer was plain as day. Not only did I hold my heroes in high regard, I paradoxically saw myself on a much lower shelf. And these heroes I was collecting, all these people have had just the one role to play in my life. Of his character Juan in the film Moonlight, Mahershala Ali said he was grateful he got to play ‘a gentleman who saw a young man (Chiron) folding into himself as a result of the persecution in his community and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was okay and accept him.’
Each of my heroes throughout my life exist to uplift me, tell me I matter, that I am okay, to accept all of unique, crazy, geeky, energetic, resilient, compassionate, wonderful me.
Each of my heroes by example of their lives wills me to use my voice to live my purpose.
Each of my heroes has pushed me to be my own hero.

So could I be my own hero! Sounds rather ridiculous and self serving but I do know that my journey of self discovery from hitting rock bottom to getting back up again has been long, hard and full of sacrifice but to my betterment I am not the same person I was five years ago. I also know when I talk to my tribe they see in me my miracle but I have never given myself any credit for it. Another girlfriend has this one line she habitually says when asked for advice, ‘what would you say if it was me telling you this story?’ And when I think about my story there is a hero in there for it takes courage to change your life as I have done especially when you are surrounded by people who do not understand and choose to not join you at the finish line; but if you are fortunate to reach that finish line having become the person you were meant to be like I have, well that sounds like a hero to me.

And if I needed further proof of my heroness I found it last month at The Women’s March. To be part of this massive global consciousness, feeding off the vibrational energy of my fellow sisters and brothers as we came together to be our own heroes was one of the most empowering moments of my life so far.

So here I am – a hero or as my beloved Ms. Maya would say a SHEro, you won’t read about me in the papers or see me on the news, nor am I likely to be referenced in history books (although there is still time) but as long as I create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive I am my own SHEro and that is plenty good enough for me. The actress Viola Davis said it best ‘the fact that we breathe means we have a story.’

Sat Nam

 And… I am a week late but has to be said Superbowl51 was hands down the best game I have ever seen. Like everyone else going into the game I thought the Patriots had it, but then three touchdowns later I had swung the Falcons way. There was NO way the Patriots could win, to do so SO many records would have to be broken. They just couldn’t but holy mother of comebacks, they bloody did. They aren’t even my team but the Patriots have got me seriously rethinking my Green Bay allegiance #TomBradyYouLegendYou  The Women’s March, oh what we can create when we try. I’m always up for a universal love in and I see more of these moments to come as we try to make sense of this new order we exist in #IWasThere #Resist #Forward  I think I fell a bit more in love with Adele after her George Michael tribute at the Grammys, it takes balls to admit a fuck up but to have that fuck up broadcast live around the world is a whole different kettle of fuck up but I just know he was there willing her on. Bravo Adele you SO didn’t mess it up for him, he would have been chuffed to bits, and bravo on the 5/5 Grammy wins, love how you always keep it real. #GottaGetUpToGetDown  Still on the Grammys bravo to our Starman for Blackstar also winning 5/5, we love you and we miss you so ♥ And finally as we watch truth being murdered by the US predator-in-chief and his foot soldiers, can we all take a moment to say thank you to the immigrants in our families. My history at least four generations back is one of immigrants – my great grandparents, grandparents, parents all immigrants and I myself am an immigrant. Each generation has sought to better their life not weaken the lives of those in their new environments. TRUTH: Communities are built on the shoulders of immigrants and WE ARE ALL BETTER FOR IT #RefugeesWelcome #WeAreAllImmigrants #OneLove


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i’ve never seen a rainbow i didn’t love

blogcolour

This past weekend was bookended by the very best and the very worst of humanity. It feels like all I have done this year is mourn. From 10 January (the day I lost my beloved Starman) through to today there has been a steady flow of tears… as I type this I am listening to Anderson Cooper list the names of those beautiful SOULS who lost their lives at Pulse nightclub, as his voice falters my tears have blinded me… I can’t. I’m just so tired of my heart breaking over and over and over again.

The vicious senseless act that transpired in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando has fuelled me with anger, remorse and deep deep sorrow. I have been a champion of the LGBT community for over thirty years (part and parcel being a Madonna lover). I have many friends in this community so I have always known the bigotry actually lets just call it what it is – HATE – I have always known the hate that has been endured. There have been times in my life when I have struggled and it was this community that helped me find my way so I will love, honour and protect this community till the day I die.

The US has a gun problem. The rest of the world sees it. Most Americans see it. But there are others NRA hardliners and extreme right wingers who don’t seem to and yet they hold the lives of their entire nation in their hands. I thought for sure after Sandy Hook there would be real change. The correct reaction to children being massacred would surely be to ensure it never happened again but no it wasn’t to be and mass shootings have increased in the time since. As someone who comes from New Zealand and who has lived in Australia it is hard to understand why the US cannot adopt some kind of variation of these countries’ gun control legislation; legislation that both countries amended back in the nineties when they each experienced a similar type of senseless act. Some twenty years later both countries are proof that robust gun control legislation works.

And yet, yes the US has a gun problem.
But the planet has a HATE problem.
And where there is hate, violence can always find a way. Guns or no Guns.
And we can put this atrocity under the umbrella of religion, terrorism, radicalisation but there is only one actual reason it happened – Bad Parenting.

Too many people think their job as a parent is done if they feed, clothe and school their children; but giving them the confidence to be themselves, teaching and showing children generosity and kindness and how to communicate effectively, to love, respect and tolerate ALL life regardless of race, creed, gender, shape, who one chooses to love – inclusive of all creatures and mother earth – this is good parenting. I am a child of Indian descent, I know the specific homophobia that exists for people of the diaspora, it is a hostility that is deeply rooted in the culture. I have friends who still today cannot be honest about who they are to their families. This will not change until we attack the root cause.

Hatred of any kind is a choice.
A child is taught to love.
A child is taught to hate.
The seed is planted at a young age.

If one lacks the appropriate parenting and does not know their own mind, lacks confidence, is disillusioned they are open to being brainwashed by religion, terrorism, radicalisation whatever you want to call it, and as this seed gets watered regularly it grows and the reality is you reap what you sow. Hate crimes will not stop until we grow a different seed.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this weekend for me began with seeing the very best of humanity – Muhammad Ali’s interfaith memorial. This colossus of a man wished for his passing  – as he had his life – to be a teaching moment. If you saw the service you will understand how magnificently he achieved this, if you haven’t I beseech you to watch it, listen to the words and let the sentiment wash all over you for this is how you plant a different seed.

To my brothers and sisters of the LGBT community you forever have my heart; to steal words said so eloquently on Sunday by Lin-Manuel Miranda “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. Cannot be killed or swept aside.” And nor shall it be.

Sat Nam

Also… Muhammad Ali – what a gift of a man – the one person on this planet who transcended race, religion, gender to unite all in their love and respect for him. There is no one left who comes close to achieving this. On a personal note, I owe him gratitude for because of him and his wondrous life I achieved my highest mark in all my academia when in college I did a History paper on his civil rights contribution. It was a joy to research him. It was a joy to listen to him riff. It was a joy to watch him in and out of the ring. Muhammad Ali – a masterclass in what it means to be human and so pretty too. To have lived in your time, how lucky am I #IamAli #G.O.A.T. #AliBomaye ♥ And so the BREXIT campaign enters into the last week, it’s been a minefield figuring out the right way to vote – you only have to look at Greece and Portugal to see that austerity has not worked and that the EU has completely failed to deal with the refugee reception crisis yet being in the EU is like being a part of a cosmopolitan club with trade, employment and travel benefits #ShouldBritainStayOrShouldBritainGo ♥ And my girl Hills – Whop Whop the FIRST WOMAN to be a major party’s nominee for President of the United States. Proving there is no ceiling too high to break. Next stop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue #I’mWithHer #Hillary2016


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this kiwi girl muses about… decision making

I suffer from anxiety.
Its newish.
The residual from some shit that went down a few years ago.
I have gotten used to it.
Maybe too much.

For the most part its manageable. Except when it’s not. I find there is a very fine line between me controlling it and it controlling me. Like when it comes to making decisions. I used to be someone who would just DO, jump right in and think later. It might not sound like the smartest way to be but for the most part it was. Now life has become this myriad of thought processes. I fret about the what ifs. I wrestle with the whys. I ponder the hows. And I hate it. Its crippling and it gets in the way of the DO-ing.

In the last few months my life has been in a state of flux and I have found myself overwhelmed by the decisions that have to be made. I hear you saying ‘but sometimes decisions can be overwhelming for everyone…’ and I feel ya but I’ll raise ya, for my kind of overwhelming manifests into acute chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea and these are symptoms I am okay admitting to, there are others… I can’t be doing with it anymore. I want to get back to being a DOer with this mind here’s what is working for me right now:

Just Dance. When I was a teen my number one stress buster was to dance. I don’t mean ballet or any other professional dance although I did do that, I mean I would close my room door, crank up some tunes and dance my little butt off. As an adult, dancing has been limited to clubs or gigs but I have reintroduced dancing into my life and it just feels so damn good sometimes it’s hard to stop. So once dancing has got me all calm and happy…
I’m starting with the man girl in the mirror. Taking a long hard look at myself, with my objective hat on, I visualise the situation, my role and desired outcome. I hold this vision until I can feel it and then…
It’s the things we didn’t do that we regret later in life. I ask myself will this matter in one week, one month, one year? Will this take me closer or further away from the future I envision. This litmus test always gives me the dose of perspective I need to make the best call but ultimately…
Go with your gut. Before anxiety became my bag, I was very well acquainted with my gut. It’s why I was able to do all the DO-ing. And it is when I stopped listening to it I got myself into all kinds of trouble which resulted in my anxiety. Oh what a tangle web we weave!
Being in an anxious state makes it difficult to see the decision with clarity, so you procrastinate, deflect or ignore making a decision. The gut is the collection of all your subconscious experiences, and it always has your back so if I wanted to get back to being a DOer I had to get reacquainted with my gut. We are still getting to know each other again at this point but when I question why I have been questioning a situation at all… my gut ultimately makes the final decision for me.

Moral of my story – become besties with your gut, listen to it, trust it and follow it.

Sat Nam

Also… Prince. Marvel. Legend. Visionary. Funkmiester. Gone too soon. Another light switched off, I say another with such a heavy heart, this year has been an awful year of loss and its only May. Please stop… my heart can’t take much more. Seeing him perform at Madison Square Garden is one of my favourite gigs – the acoustics, the musicality, the vibe – he had it all going on which is why it royally pisses me off that it looks like he died a drugs related death. This was a man who was vegan, athletic, devout in his faith, principled – that a man who fought so vehemently for creative control over his work should succumb to something so friggin basic! No its not how it should have been, he wasn’t of the same pathetic ilk as Michael or Whitney. It’s all wrong. And yet it’s all true, he is gone, the man named Prince Rogers Nelson. Gone. Be still my heart. Long May He Reign. Nothing Compares.


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this kiwi girl muses about… being the other woman

I was having lunch with some girlfriends over the weekend talking about my current favourite topic the US presidential campaign and how stranger than fiction it has become. You know what I am saying right? Who would have thought, four months out from selecting a presidential nominee that that xenophobic arse trump would be the leading candidate for the GOP. It is better than any television show out there today, don’t you think?

Anyway there I was having yummy duck pancakes and glass of vino when the conversation moved onto Hillary/Bill and Monica and that milieu. While I stayed silent, for the next ten minutes or so the others proceeded to deride Monica, praise Hillary and ignore the guy that was involved. Then they turned to me, I suppose surprised that someone as opinionated as me had not had my two pence worth. I decided to not say what I really thought, I didn’t think that these smug marrieds would appreciate it.

BUT it has given me pause to think for… I once was the other woman. I am neither proud or ashamed of this. I say this now because it happened and it is a part of my story like Bill is a part of Monica Lewinsky’s. I have absolutely no regret that it happened, it changed my life forever and for that I will be eternally grateful.

My situation was similar to Monica’s in that I was in my 20s,  he was considerably older, essentially my boss (indirectly), and it started as a meeting of minds. It was through our conversations I fell for him (its all true, intelligence and power are complete turn ons). You don’t choose who you fall in love with, maybe initially but the actual act of falling in love has the ability to render one completely useless to logic and judgement. Certainly for me, I remember some perfunctory guilt in the beginning especially as there were partners (on both sides) and children (on his). I would keep repeating to myself (and to him) ‘there are kids’ ‘what the hell are we doing’ ‘is this wrong’ but once lust and wanting took over there was no turning back.

For what it was, during what it was I was happy and it never felt wrong but it wasn’t all rosy, when you get caught up in an affair there is a lot of subterfuge involved; the continuous lying not just with partners even with friends, plans being cancelled at the last minute, meeting up in hotel rooms is saucy for the first few times then its just not, and it also never felt long term. I knew it was an affair and I knew it would end. When it did end, it hurt by god did it hurt, I had fallen really hard and it took me a long long time to get over him but I am so happy I went there in the first place.

I believe in life if we are lucky we will meet people who will change our lives forever in a good way and this man – my lover (I love saying that) – was one such person. Our time together served its purpose in that it felt like I grew from being girl to a woman; it left me sexually empowered, confidant of my body and helped me to get clear on what kind of man I wanted to end up with. And I did care for him deeply. We are no longer in touch but I still wonder every now and then how he is. So definitely no regrets just fond memories.

Monica doesn’t get the luxury of this. She said once ‘I fell in love with my boss’ I wonder if she can still recall that love when she thinks back to that time. When TED published her talk ‘The Price of Shame’ last year the comments they received were the most negative they had ever got; Monica was called a slut, a whore, her character attacked as well as her appearance, her choices, her right to live even, people made crude jokes about sucking dick and wrote that she deserved the shaming. This to me is very telling of what the last nearly twenty years of Monica’s life has been like. She has been a bum note every time someone mentions Bill Clinton. He has gone on to live his exemplary life, she has struggled and I think it sad and wrong. I don’t appreciate my girlfriends judging her nor Hillary completely writing her off by calling her ‘a narcissistic loony.’ I would have more respect for Hillary if she were to show some kindness towards Monica and apologise for those comments – women knocking other women is just ugly. Coincidentally as this goes to be published it has occurred to me that it is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the achievement of women; we have enough to fight for don’t we? We need to be lifting each other up – supporting the sisterhood not turning on each other.

I am not excusing what Monica and Bill did. I recognise cheating, having an affair is wrong in principle but having been in that situation all I absolutely know for certain is nothing is black and white and you cannot judge someone until you walk in their shoes. To my smug married girlfriends who read this, this is just my two pence worth that’s all.

Sat Nam

Also in the news: I want to riff on the US elections a little bit more to say even though I am a socialist at heart and commend the Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyns of this world for raising very important issues, in this very confusing time I am also a realist, that is why Hillary is my girl. Jane Fonda said of Hillary ‘She has always cared. She has always tried to make her life better.’ I like this sentiment. The world needs this sentiment. Not the dysfunction the Republicans bring. The rise of trump was funny at first, then – because I am a liberal – it was strategic now it’s just fucking scary. This guy doesn’t care about the white blue collar worker who votes for him, he doesn’t care about the people in Flint, Michigan having access to clean water, he doesn’t care about planned parenthood initiatives and he certainly doesn’t care about faraway wars. He doesn’t care, his ego is through the roof right now, all he wants to be able to say is he won, he is the President of the United States but then what? We would all be fucked that’s what. Well luckily we have Hillary to prove her version of LOVE can and will beat trump’s version of hate #LoveAlwaysWins #Hillary16 #ImWithHer ♥ Nine long years I have longed to be able to say this – I am going back to Stars Hollow, thank you thank you thank you dear Netflix gods. My favourite show ever ever ever Gilmore Girls is coming back for four more episodes this year. First it was Twin Peaks, now this I’m about fit to bursting and to return the same year Hillary is running for President is just precious. I won’t be surprised if Rory has some hard core White House credentials by now and it makes sense she would want to be involved in Hillary’s campaign. Any which way they come I am so ready to consume the quick snappy banter of my favourite mother and daughter duo all over again #GilmoreGirls #NetflixAndChill ♥ In my volunteer work as a mentor I meet refugees, under my remit I don’t always get to know their stories but occasionally where appropriate some have opened up about their ordeal. Their opinions seem to matter so little as the bureaucrats of this world tug the problem out, but they have an incite which should be considered. I have long been concerned about the children caught up in this, especially the unaccompanied – they need clothing, education, guidance and love and they need it now before they become prey to traffickers and before the psychological damage they have already suffered gets worse  and what angers me is that there is a solution as told to me by one of my mentorees – many of these children have families they can go live with. For example in the migrant camp in Calais approximately 150 children in the camp have a legal right to reunite with their families in the UK. Why aren’t governments approving their passage and making this possible! With the crisis being as enormous as it is – surely it makes sense to fix the fixable immediately #RefugeeCrisis #WeAreAllRefugees ♥ There have been such loving tributes to David since he passed: Iggy Pop at Carnegie Hall, Gary Oldman and Ewan McGregor at The Roxy in LA, Madonna in Houston, Bruce Springsteen in Pittsburgh, Sinéad O’Connor in Chicago and the BRITs. All reverent in their own way, all a poignant reminder of how extraordinary he was; two months and he is everywhere still, the universal lovefest is nirvana for my soul. I hope you know you are so absolutely loved #DavidFuckingBowie I think you know.

 


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fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending, do they?

I expected to feel a gamut of emotions when I read Go Set A Watchman. I suspected I would be more disappointed than satisfied, in much the same way I felt in the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. When it comes to much loved characters you get an idea in your head about who they are don’t you? Their look, manner, nuances… so I didn’t hold much hope in actually ‘liking’ GSAW. I did consider not reading it for about a millisecond, I thought maybe I didn’t need to know what Scout did next, but by dint of her being the daughter of Atticus Finch would always make me want to know what Scout did next.

I’ve read it twice now, that is about the only good thing that comes out of being laid up with bronchitis, it renders one with little else to do but read. And yes I expected to feel this gamut but I don’t… I mostly feel sadness. Sadness for the crumbling of a fairy tale.

I first read To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager on the plane from Harare to Mumbai and it was one of two books I had on me (the other being Lucky by Jackie Collins). For the ensuing 6 weeks as I toured India with my family, both books would provide a welcome escape when I needed a reprieve from nagging parents or an annoying brother. I read TKAM four times in total during this time, then it wasn’t picked up again until I was in my 20s living in Sydney. By this time I understood the cultural significance of the story, I had watched the Gregory Peck film, I knew the minutiae of Harper Lee’s life, heck I even knew the minutiae of Truman Capote’s life. I knew it all and the book – the story had found a special place in my heart.

But not for the obvious themes of courage and integrity.

For the little girl who found a hero in her father.

Because it was the same for me when I was little.

There is a line Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s uncle Jack, a retired doctor says to her towards the end of GSAW “As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God.” I think that’s what little girls do. Daughters with their fathers. I know I did.

I had the luxury of having my father pretty much solely to myself until I hit double digits (baby brothers don’t count on account of them being too small to actually do anything with) and I was lucky because back then he was a very present father. Despite what the passage of time has brought about, I can still remember moments that were just ours; watching airplanes take off or reading at the library, drinking from his whisky glass, or sitting in his lap and steering the car while he was driving. It didn’t really matter what we did, it just always felt that we had our own secret thing that no one, not even my mother or brother could penetrate. Like Jean Louise recalls in GSAW “I can only say this – that everything I learned about human decency I learned here,” lessons I learnt from my father either by osmosis or by example remain with me today. And just like Jean Louise, I grew up, moved away and realised what a fallacy it all was. We see what we want to see.

I wasn’t surprised that the Atticus in GSAW is a flawed human. I mean quite literally I wasn’t surprised, social media makes it neigh impossible to keep anything a secret these days. This particular nugget became known to me before I had even read the second chapter but still…

I wasn’t surprised by the idea of it either; just open up a paper today and it is very clear, race is as big an issue now as it was over 55 years ago when GSAW was first written. This story is set in Alabama in the 50s before the civil rights movement properly gained momentum. I didn’t live in this time so I don’t know what hardships must have been endured but I do know regardless of the era you live, you do get conditioned by your environment; so that an aging white man of the South has racial attitudes is actually a realistic portrayal. That he is the same man who defended a black man wrongly accused of raping a white girl shows how we got swept up in the idea of Atticus being the ultimate icon of fatherhood and the law. Harper Lee obviously never intended it, GSAW was written before TKAM.

When Atticus revealed himself “Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” I screamed ‘NOOOO!!!’ and I could feel my heart being crushed a little. Atticus as a reactionary racist, destroys forever the Atticus Finch I created in my head when I read TKAM, but I can accept this, in the same way I have accepted how my father, the hero of my childhood isn’t the romanticised ideal I imagined him to be. We see what we want to see but ultimately we are all flawed and men get old, set in their ways conditioned by their environment…

and little girls grow up and realise fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending.

Sat Nam

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee; beautiful in parts, long in others. while comparisons to TKAM are inevitable, they are not companion pieces and as such should stand alone. Having said that no one is reading GSAW having not already read TKAM. TKAM is a far superior read but I thought GSAW was a good read, and I was happy with the epiphany (of sorts) at the end for Scout, it balanced out the story of the two books to a nice natural resolution.


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embracing love

KeithHaringLike many of you, I feel heartsick thinking about the unconscionable loss of lives and the destruction caused by the earthquake(s) in Nepal. When tragedy like this happens I struggle with the ‘why,’ it churns over and over in my head until I feel like I’m going to burst. Of course what I think or feel doesn’t make the tragedy not exist so I know there is no point on dwelling, what is done is done, so I am trying to let go of the negativity and focus on embracing love.

Mother Theresa said ‘Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in that action’ and because I believe god is in the details I’ve compiled a quick list of ways to take responsibility for our own energy to embrace love (in addition to other goodies like meditation, prayer, being in gratitude…):

  1. Allow yourself a little extra sleep. I say this because sleep is something, as I wrote previously  I had to learn to appreciate. Now that I understand the value of sleep I actively try to get a little extra now and then whether it’s by going to bed a half hour earlier or sleeping in an extra fifteen minutes. I always feel better for it.
  2. Replace strenuous exercise with something less intense like yin yoga. I have an exercise regimen which I am very strict in following daily but I have learnt that is okay to have a day off but because it is not in my nature to do absolutely nothing, I find yin yoga to be a good substitute on these down days.
  3. Express yourself creatively. Dance and sing, get up and do your thing. When you are engaged in something fun and expressive you are less likely to stress and over-think.
  4. Tell someone you value “I want you to know you make a difference in my life. Thank you for being you.” It’s an instant feel good for the recipient and for you.
  5. Identify what you’re really seeking from technology. This is huge bugbear for me, for the growing reliance on technology does not sit well with me at all. I am pretty good at being disciplined about how long I spend online but I know there is still room to improve. There was time before Facebook and Twitter, it’s a bit hazy now but it did exist and it wasn’t so bad so whether it is acceptance, acknowledgment, or stimulation you are seeking from technology, switch off and look for ways to get that without logging on.
  6. Stop what you’re doing and look directly into their eyes when someone is talking to you. It is something I do naturally – maintain eye contact but increasingly in this age of smart technology it is getting rarer that I see people doing so with me. It’s not just good manners, it also makes you more appealing.
  7. Count successes. Coulda, woulda, shoulda… it’s human nature to think about what didn’t happen. Well I say Meh! to that and instead make a note of all the things you’ve done well, and give yourself permission to be proud instead of frustrated with what you haven’t done.

A special epoch in my life came many many moons ago when I shared a flat in London with one of my treasured friends and her partner (now husband). Looking back, we were very much like The Odd Couple for while we had a shared history (same school, same ballet class and a love of English literature), she loved to hoard and I so did not, and where I like routine she rocked a more boho vibe. Despite this, I am constantly reminded of the many lessons I learnt while we cohabited; for where I would reserve weekends for mundane tasks like house cleaning she would encourage me to:

  1. Be Together. She taught me to relax and enjoy each other’s company. One our favourite things to do on a Sunday was to veg on a sofa and watch the Eastenders omnibus or some obscure channel 5 show whilst drinking copious cups of tea.
  2. Go outside and immerse yourself in nature. With Hyde Park at our doorstep we used to frequent those grounds all the time. Before I was never one to like being near trees or grass but in this time I learnt how to make daisy hair bands and to love the feel of grass underneath my feet, dancing in the rain, laying like broccoli on the grass watching birds fly by and star gazing. What I didn’t realise at the time was I learning how to be mindful.
  3. Set aside some time to play. It probably speaks to our sensibilities but we did the most silliest of things; go out in our pyjamas, eat cake for breakfast, skip whilst holding hands and it was so much fun. As we get older and focus on the minutiae of life we tend forget what awful fun it is to stop thinking so much and be childlike. Okay you might look a bit naff on a swing but I bet you would have the time of your life swinging.

‘When we function from a place of positive energy, the world around us becomes more positive.’~Gabrielle Bernstein

In the spirit of this post today – embracing love  –  please join me in sending a kiss to the sky for our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives in Nepal (and in Tibet and India) AND spare a thought for a very courageous man… one Bruce Jenner. Never in this lifetime did I think I would ever say this but it seems that there is a redeemable member in THAT family. To Bruce, your bravery will save lives, sending so much love to you as you go about your journey to be who you authentically are.

Sat Nam


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this kiwi girl muses about… being a kiwi girl

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I became a kiwi girl abroad when I left New Zealand at 23 years of age. I can still remember the smile across my face as I made myself comfortable in my window seat on the Air New Zealand flight bound for Sydney, that smile said everything my heart felt; looking back I liken it to the same feeling I’m assuming one gets when they are released from jail.

For as long as I can remember I did not want to be in New Zealand, not because I was unhappy because that definitely was not the case. Its just I never felt like a New Zealander in my heart. It was born out of the idea that I saw myself as a citizen of a global community and being in the arse end of the world left me feeling isolated. As a result I grew up cringing all things kiwi; the accent, kiwi-isms, music, rugby in fact I was so unpatriotic that I would root for any country that played New Zealand in any sport even if that other country was Australia (mea culpa!)

It wasn’t until I had had a lot of distance, experienced some of what the world has to offer and heard how highly New Zealand is regarded on the global stage that I started to feel a stirring in my heart for my home country. That stirring that turned to pride was first felt when I went to my first All Blacks game and started blubbering when I heard the national anthem, so much so I couldn’t even sing it. Now it’s just part of what makes me ME, as is unfortunately the on cue crying that happens every time I hear ‘God Defend New Zealand.’

So I am a kiwi and that’s not easy to define to the unversed as I found last year when I was on a course in Singapore. I had befriended a young lady and during the time we spent together I think I must have been throwing the word ‘kiwi’ into the conversation quite a bit because she eventually asked ‘what makes a kiwi different?’ We were already acquainted with each other at this point, I knew she grew up in rural China and she knew I was from New Zealand so her question wasn’t about origin it was quite literally ‘what makes a kiwi different?’ I was stumped, I couldn’t articulate how being a kiwi was different from being from another part of the world other than the obvious geographical distinction. The only thing I knew in that moment was that after spending the first thirty or so years of my life slating the country, I felt it my duty to say something profound so after some quick thinking this was my answer…

“It’s not that we are different, we are all human after all, it is about the feeling one gets when one enters kiwi soil. Say you were to go around the world and take all the best bits of the people you meet… that’s a kiwi… they have generosity of spirit, laid-back no nonsense attitude, warm friendliness, great sense of humour which includes the ability to laugh at themselves, they are loyal to the core, creative, adventurous  and they are very natural people and you see this everywhere from the kia ora you get from the customs officer at the airport to the smiles you get from strangers you meet, strangers who more often than not become new friends.”

I know not exactly profound but definitely heartfelt and I must have done an alright sell because she recently told me she is booked to holiday in New Zealand later this year. Tourism New Zealand has got nothing on me. It’s true you know that old adage… you can take the girl out of the country New Zealand, but you can’t take the country New Zealand out of the girl and although I do still feel I am a global citizen, I do love my little corner of the world (barring the accent, I will NEVER love that) #veryproudkiwi

“Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.”~ Seneca the Younger

 

Sat Nam


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when nothing goes right… go left

I am left handed and in all my years I have hardly given it a thought, until last week when I received text messages out of the blue from some random¹ about being left handed.

Totally weird coinkydink!

So now of course I can’t stop thinking about being left handed.

There are quite a lot of us out there, we are said to make up about 10% of the world’s population and we have been bestowed a day, given for the celebration of being left handed -13th August- whoever creates these days needs to work on their marketing as I never got the memo and I feel cheated, of what exactly I have no idea but I feel cheated nonetheless.

The word left is from the Anglo-Saxon lyft, meaning weak or broken so it’s no surprise then that as I have read through the history of left handedness, we are not portrayed in a positive light in practically any culture. The Scottish use this saying when describing an unlucky person ‘He must have been baptized by a left-handed priest.’ If you are to believe information that is available: We left handers are scaredy cats. The Devil is left handed (i.e. in religious paintings he is depicted as being left handed). We are three times more likely to become alcoholics and have mental disabilities, but on the up side we adjust more easily to seeing underwater. We are better at multitasking. We are creative, innovative and have a greater chance of being geniuses. Lefties also make better sport people (southpaw anyone?)

Only a couple times in my life do I remember being left handed being an issue. One time was when I was in India when I was four; we were in Mumbai at our family home where many of my mother’s elderly relatives lived. In an Indian home the elderly are much revered and their word considered gospel, counter that with the fact that in Indian culture the left hand is considered unclean because it is supposedly used to clean oneself after one uses the amenities; you can imagine how little four year old me trying to eat with my left hand went down (think lead balloon). On an elder aunt’s say so, in an effort to coerce me to eat with my right hand I spent the rest of my stay eating meals with my left hand tied to a chair. Needless to say there was more crying than eating done on that particular trip.

Other times I thought about it was when I was at school like when handwriting with an ink pen, writing left to right with ink is messy and smudgy for a leftie, same goes for writing on a blackboard OR when sitting on the chairs that are attached to a writing surface, I either had to get to class early to find the one left handed chair (think needle haystack) or sit on the edge of the chair side-saddle.

That’s where my memories end, for you just get on with things don’t you and you ignore all the little, everyday inconveniences; you don’t think about why can openers exist to cause you pain or why you have to manoeuvre your body so you can swipe your card with your left hand on the tube turnstile or how awkward it is to take a selfie/use a camera or why you have to twist your arm to read the measurements on a measuring cup or why spiral notebooks are the absolute worst to use or why the only guitar lesson you ever had was an awkward experience thus thwarting your rocknroll career before it ever got started.

As I ponder on all this now I still don’t think it a big deal that I am left handed but I do rather like the company I am with… MARILYN MONROE Oprah Winfrey ALAN TURING Friedrich Nietzsche BART SIMPSON Julia Roberts MARK ZUCKERBERG Julius Caesar PICASSO Nicole Kidman BARACK OBAMA Diego Maradona BILL GATES Mozart RICHARD PRYOR Winston Churchill DAVID BOWIE Amitabh Bachchan PRINCE WILLIAM Lewis Carroll GOLDIE HAWN Kate Hudson JOHN F. KENNEDY Jr. Caroline Kennedy HILARY SWANK Bill Clinton MICHAELANGELO George Michael ARISTOTLE John McEnroe JON STEWART Leonardo da Vinci ROBERT REDFORD Albert Einstein JIMI HENDRIX Benjamin Franklin GANDHI Diane Keaton BACH Robert de Niro Rembrandt DAVID ROCKEFELLER Angelina Jolie FRED ASTAIRE Babe Ruth JOAN OF ARC Ronald Reagan BEETHOVEN Napoléon Bonaparte EMMA THOMPSON Prince Charles HELEN KELLER Charlie Chaplin CARY GRANT Buzz Aldrin JUDY GARLAND Mark Twain EMINEM Henry Ford MARIE CURIE John-Paul Gaultier

No, not too shabby company at all.

Sat Nam

¹To the mystery person who arranged for me to get these text messages – thank you for giving me something new to think about but you can stop now, it’s not interesting anymore.

 


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the art of letting go

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I found myself singing ‘Let it go’ today, on account of spending time with a five year old who is obsessed with the movie Frozen (is there any little girl who isn’t?) I have these words stuck in my head ‘Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go let it go. Turn away and slam the door.’

Letting go, if only it was as easy as turning away and slamming the door. The first sutra of the Aquarian Age is to recognize that the Other Person is You and I have struggled with this because I allowed negative energy to live in me. For years I held resentment towards a family member for perceived wrongs I felt had been done; this resentment affected my relationship with my family, the way they interacted with each other and it affected me personally in that this negative energy seeped through all aspects of my life – how I thought, how I felt, how I expressed myself. I can’t remember the last time I attended an extended family Christmas and I have been known to coordinate trips to visit my family with this person’s trips abroad so there could never be any danger of bumping into them. Carrying this bitterness never sat well with me but I continually ignored that inner voice that kept on trying to steer me to let it go. Even when mindfulness entered my life, and I had started to recognise that this resentment was only hurting me, I stubbornly stuck to my resolve. I was right, everyone else was wrong.

“Remembering a wrong is like carrying a burden on the mind.” Buddha

Then a miracle happened. I had a breakthrough in therapy. Through therapy I learnt the art of letting go, which began with forgiveness. For me, the forgiveness bit happened the second I decided to forgive – long before I actually saw this person again. In that moment of deciding, it was like a huge weight lifted and in its place I was left with an overwhelming feeling of love. When I finally saw this person I found that I didn’t hold any bitterness at all – the past was firmly in the past. I enjoyed my time getting to know them again – and recognizing how similar we are. I would even go as far as saying that it saddened me that I had wasted so many years not being present in this person’s life, still no point in dwelling on that  – regret is a useless emotion.

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.” Ajahn Chah

It is easier said than done, this letting go business, that is why I call it the art of letting go. My particular story may come across as though it was relatively easy but I had spent years – decades – angry and bitter and in the end I think I was just tired, tired of carrying that extra burden. Situations can be challenging, people can be challenging – we are all guilty of  carrying some baggage  – I truly believe if you want to live happy and mindfully and in peace – you have to let go of any bitterness. Although in some circumstances it may take a lifetime to truly let go, here are some tried and tested (by me) techniques that may help with the process:

Forgive   forgive and then forgive some more – forgive yourself, forgive the other person, forgive the situation – whatever it is forgive it. Recognize that the Other Person is You and as such treat them with kindness. Wish that person well and, if possible, send them your feelings of love. What started me on my journey to letting go were some words my counsellor said. He said ‘forgiveness is for you, not the person you are forgiving – it is a gift you give yourself.’ It’s not a new thought but something in those words and the timing in which he said them vibrated in my soul and I knew in that moment I was ready.

Write it out. I’m have become a great proponent of the idea ‘better out than in’ and I find writing a cathartic outlet to do this. Whether you journal your thoughts OR blog OR write a poem OR write all your stresses down and then throw them away/burn them OR write a song OR write a letter/email to the person who has upset you (which you may or may not want to send) – whichever mode – clarifying your feelings will help you come to terms with your reality as it is now.

Cry it out. I have always thought there is nothing like a good cry but then I would seeing as I am a cry baby. It now appears science agrees with me for it has been proven that crying away your negative feelings releases the harmful chemicals that build up in your body when you are stressed, so cry like there is no tomorrow I say.

Rant Window. Set aside some time, a window, where you allow yourself to let it all out – a day and hour whatever is required but be strict about the time once that time is over move on. If you need to confront someone who is troubling you ranting first may diffuse the hostility and give you time to plan a rational confrontation.

It can be hard to let go of something when that negative thought/feeling is constantly in your head. Try wearing a rubber band on your wrist and flick it when that thought/feeling is upon you. This action will train your mind to associate that type of persistent negativity with something unpleasant and in time that thought/feeling will become less dominant. I also used this technique when I felt I was swearing a lot and it worked, swearing is practically non existent for me now.

Engage in a physical activity. My favourite one size fits all remedy. Exercise decreases stress hormones and increases endorphins ergo it improves your state of mind. This one is a no brainer for me.  

Throw it away. One method I learnt in therapy was to hit (or toss) tennis balls (always remembering to retrieve them afterwards). Another just as effective way is to throw pebbles in water. Whether its balls or pebbles  – label each one as a part of your anger then as you offload them feel the tension subside.

There will never be a time when life is simple but if how you choose to respond to life is all that matters, then surely it is worth letting go any negative baggage. ‘Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door.’ 

Sat Nam