In your corner

There is nothing quite so precious as someone who is unequivocally in your corner – every time.

Someone who, when you are afraid to admit how crazy you are, has evidence that they are crazier (there’s nothing quite so entertaining as a crazy-off).

Someone who, when you call them up to say something terrible happened pauses to check if you’re ok before demanding to know who they need to attack on your behalf.

Someone who, even though they live on the other side of the world, always reads your email regardless of how busy they are, and replies straight away when you need them.

Someone who would never believe anything bad about you, and will do battle with anyone who says differently.

Someone who, in loving you absolutely, is also not afraid to wield the frying pan of enlightenment when you’re not thinking straight.

Someone who will tell you you’re being an idiot – and they should know, because they have been that exact type of idiot many times.

Someone who listens to you pour your heart out about negative feedback, sympathizes just the right amount, and then makes you look for the positives, because she knows they’re there somewhere.

Someone who brings out the best in you, just by knowing it’s there.

Someone who can make you feel the sun behind the clouds, even during a rainstorm.

Someone who is some of these things, or all of them.

Someone who reminds you how lucky you really are.

Someone who reminds you that, actually, your corner is quite full of the most amazing people, even on days when you were feeling most alone.

There is nothing quite so precious as the people who are unequivocally in your corner – every time.

 

 

 

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The perils of wakefulness

I’m awake. I can’t explain the simple transformative power of that statement. For years I have not slept deeply. I’ve slept a lot. But not deeply. Now I am awake. I dare say I will get used to the revelation of being awake – at least I hope to have that opportunity, but who knows how long it will last? Life has a way of throwing weird and challenging spanners into my works.

So for now I revel in the unexpected, slightly terrifying intensity of waking having actually slept. Of having energy. Of facing the day without the dragging feeling that I am barely going to make it to the coffee break. Of clutching my coffee as though it is actually my lifeblood – which it very nearly has been.

Not every day, not yet. Maybe not ever. But some days, at least, I bounce. I see everything. I do everything. It’s like wearing very dark glasses and suddenly taking them off and staring into the sun. It’s like having your nervous system muted for decades and suddenly feeling the feather light brush of your hair against your face as intensely as a slap.

On those days I tear around like a crazy thing, interrupting the things I am getting done to do other things that need doing. Piling interruptions on my interruptions, because I need to do everything and nothing can wait. I am here. I am now. I can feel.

The weirdest part is the way I am now feeling everything. I see sunlight sparkling on the dew on a leaf and I am transfixed by its beauty. I am suddenly in tears for a friend who died 20 years ago, and then I am overwhelmed by the fabulousness of a four year old. I can hardly breathe with the emotions washing over me. It’s as though all of the feelings that were muffled in my somnolence are now making themselves felt all at once.

A beloved friend who lives interstate says she would like to be able to show me how to crochet in person and I am suddenly crying hot, passionate tears that we can’t spend lazy Sunday afternoons crocheting together over coffee. Which is absurd, because neither of us could sit still for that long even if we were in the same state. A favourite song pierces my heart with exquisite intensity. I can’t possibly sit still.

I want to call up my friends and tell them how much I love them.  I want to rave to new friends about how much I adore them, and find my old friends and tell them that I couldn’t live without them. I want to embrace the world, and I want to slap the parts of it that are broken really, really hard (and there are so many to choose from!). Coffee with a friend moves me to tears of joy.

Like texting when drunk, all of this is perhaps best kept safely private until I am sober – whenever that may be. I’m not drunk on alcohol (although that might help), but on sleep. I’m not sure I’ll survive it, and I don’t know how long it will last. I don’t think I can explain it. Maybe this extraordinarily altered state is why some people do drugs. But if you get any messages from me it might be wise to view them through a pair of very dark glasses. Or, what the hell, join me in my technicolor wilderness. It’s a wild ride, and there’s plenty of space!

 

Expectation management

I’ve been thinking a lot about political tactics of late. Tactics that make people shrug and go “oh well, it’s just the way things are done now”. Politicians say things they know to be outright lies, and we go “oh well, what did you expect? That’s politics.”

Gay candidates have whisper campaigns run against them in conservative communities – which seems to me to be unspeakably foul – and we say “well, it works, so of course they will try it.”

I think it’s time we stopped shrugging. I think it’s time we valued decency. I think it’s time we told each and every candidate that negative campaigning sickens us. That we want to know what they will do, and what they believe, not how much they hate their opponents.

A few weeks ago the new Labor candidate for the federal seat of Bruce, Julian Hill, was outside my daughter’s school when I arrived to pick her up. Seeing an opportunity to grill him on asylum seekers and climate change (two of the most urgent and compellingly moral issues Australia faces right now, in my opinion), I went to talk to him, much to the disgust of my kids. (“OMG! Mum, he’s a politician! Gross!”)

I was intending to go in hard, because I am bitterly disappointed by both of our major parties on most issues, and on these two issues I am enraged. I was taken aback, therefore, when Julian proved himself to be thoughtful, considered, and compassionate. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but I could not help but respect the fact that he had thought things through and didn’t just spout a series of pre-prepared slogans, which seems to be the standard political response these days.

I went away and researched some of the things he said and emailed him about them, and he replied immediately. Again he was thoughtful, rational, and decent. I found myself, a Greens member of long standing, contemplating voting for this man. You may think that decency is a pretty low bar to set, but it’s one I think a lot of our politicians would struggle to clear. Decent people rather stand out.

What really struck me about my interactions with Julian is that through talking to him and grilling him on his attitudes to various things, I became much more engaged with the political process. I am surrounded, for the most part, by people I agree with. That’s pretty normal – we tend to seek out people we have a lot in common with – but it does mean that my views aren’t challenged as often as they could be. That, in turn, means that my views aren’t always well thought out (shocking, I know).

I found myself responding to Julian with a lot of “I think”s, so I then went home and set about changing them to “I know”s, or “I was wrong”s by checking my facts. This is another thing there’s not enough of in our current politics. (Incidentally one of the things that impresses me, again unexpectedly, about Ricky Muir – he is quite prepared to find stuff out and be persuaded by evidence. How novel!).

Sometimes when I’m tired and grumpy I don’t like people challenging my views. But I always, always learn from it. (Sometimes what I learn is not to hit the “send” button late at night…)

Whatever your politics and whatever your usual voting pattern, it’s worth engaging with your local candidates to find out, as much as you can, who they are and what they believe in. At worst you might only get chapter and verse of the party line, but that in itself is quite revealing.  If you despise a party’s policies, but then find that your local candidate for that party  has more moderate views, a vote for them can influence the path of the whole party. Even parties who typically vote in lockstep have members with differing opinions who might just be worth supporting.

At best you might learn something about your local politicians. You might even reconsider your own voting patterns – maybe to confirm them, or maybe to change them. It’s a way to ensure that you are voting for the candidate who best represents your personal values.

Best of all it’s a way to make yourself think about what is important to you. And that’s worth voting for.

 

 

 

Our Fearless Leaders

Everybody wants to be fearless, don’t they?  We prize fearlessness, and seem to admire it greatly. But I wonder why? Fearless, it seems to me, is another word for stupid. If you are fearless you either don’t see the danger, or don’t care about it. This is the kind of behaviour that gets you killed. If you are a leader, it is the kind of behaviour that gets your team killed, or kills your business.

Fear saves your life. It gets you running from the moment you hear the deep throated growl in the bushes. It stops you from going too close to the edge of the cliff. It makes sure you don’t go too fast down that hill. Fearless people do all that stuff without thought of the consequences.

Of course, you don’t want to let fear stop you doing everything, which is where the real gold is to be found: Bravery. I want brave leaders, not fearless ones. Brave leaders are aware of the risks, they plan for them, but they take those scary steps anyway, when the rewards are worth it. Brave people listen to their fear, learn what they can from it, and step forward carefully.

Tony Abbott was so fearless that he didn’t believe he was going to lose the leadership right up until the moment he did, even though the rest of the country knew he was down for the count for months beforehand. He was blind, stupid, and utterly fearless, and he was intent on throwing the whole country over his personal cliff. Fearlessness is just dumb.

We see our own fear horribly clearly, but we often can’t see the fear in others. So we assume that people who do the things that we find terrifying are fearless, and we admire them for it. But I don’t admire fearlessness at all. I admire the people who are terrified, and try anyway.  These are the brave ones.

I see bravery every day. I see it in the student who is terrified of public speaking, so she takes opportunities to practice and get better. She is scared, but she does it anyway. I see it in the student who is afraid to fail but who tries things that he has never done before. I see it in the teacher who teaches something he has never taught before, who is scared of getting it wrong but gives it his best shot.

I see bravery in the parents who let their kids stretch their wings when every parental instinct says to hold them close and keep them safe.

I see bravery in the politicians who make decisions that they know will not be popular initially, but that are the right thing to do – like Malcolm Fraser dismantling the White Australia policy and welcoming refugees. We don’t see this bravery very often these days, but it does still happen.

I see bravery in the people who leave their jobs to start a business.

I see bravery in the people who change career and leave their comfort zone.

I see bravery in the people who try, knowing that failure is, indeed, an option.

I see bravery in the people who stand up for what is right, while shaking in their shoes.

We need to make space for bravery, not fearlessness. Lots of things in life are scary. I’m ok with being afraid, as long as it doesn’t always stop me. How about you?