Easy Rider, Easy

A friend recently asked me what type of motorbike my husband owns. “A black one,” I replied with the blunt voice of the ‘reluctant pillion.’ I am one of those, ‘hold on firmly with eyes shut tight’, passengers, particularly when we sweep low around the many bends and turns on the country roads we explore. Neither am I inspired by the numb fingers and toes on frosty morning rides, or the fleeting pungent odour of roadkill in my nostrils.  

My husband loves to ride his motorbike. I hear it in his voice when he is out riding and stops to call me to let me know he’s OK. I hear the exuberance; the sheer delight and pleasure riding gives him.  

I notice how conveniently and quickly I can jump in my car, switch on the ignition and be way down the street by the time he has put on all his gear- a ritual of respectful devotion to all that is required to ride, safely and well. He has a routine that works, as I have learned after the frustration of attempting to switch up the order, only to find you cannot put a helmet on while sunnies are still on your face. Gloves always go on last, just in case something on the helmet or gear needs a final tug or tweak. The ritual makes sense.

And so, from time to time, we ride. And yes, honestly, it is a bit scary, but exhilarating all the same!

I do it because he asks me. Not often, as he knows how it is for me. But he asks with hope in his eyes, and I become the ‘reluctant pillion’ praying for a safe, smooth ride with a seriously good coffee and lunch somewhere along the journey to ease my tension.

He has passed that love onto his sons and again my mother’s protective heart kicks in and I wonder. I wonder.

I wonder why, for some of us, riding a motorbike seems such a daunting and frightening experience to be avoided, while for others it is a sheer delight. I can see the love of the risk, the thrill of finding a new ‘great route’ to master, the pushing to the edge to find what bike and rider can accomplish together. I get it. In this area of physical safety, I am not a girl who likes to go to the edge and push to see how fast or far I can go. My husband and sons on the other hand, thrive, come alive and celebrate life every time they ride.

I love that about them and while my heart and mind have to process all the ‘what if’s’ every time they ride, I do appreciate and accept it is something they want, need, must do.

But go to the edge I must, if I am to grow. I wonder what my edge of risk is? What areas of life I am exhilarated, inspired and enlivened by? I know that if I am to grow as a person, learn what I can achieve, I need to go there. Otherwise, life remains safe, predicable, unchangeable, full of possibility and potential, but not fully realised.

Life is like a ten-speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use! Charles M. Schultz

My husband and sons inspire and encourage me to go through all the gears of life and invite me to motorbike ride, mountain bike ride (dodging trees and rocks down a steep hill, and yes I hit the dirt), surf, (such a great feeling to stand up on a board), go to a screamer band rock concert, (got stuck in a mosh pit) and learn to laugh, love and live to the fullest even with a niggle of fear tucked away but not holding me back.

What is your edge? What is the place of risk for you? How do you push through fear and do it anyway?  That edge will be different for everyone of us. We all have them, edges that is. Places that trigger fear, anxiety, uncertainty and confusion. The beauty of shared life is that I don’t have to go there alone. My family, my friends and mentors help me see the edge, feel the fear and do it when I’m ready. Maybe one of our first risks is to trust others with our edges, our places where we want to go to but can’t go alone.

So my question is: Where is your edge and who is standing there with you to help?

Isa 54:2 NIV

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.God asks us to stretch out our tent pegs, do not hold back. Life is risk.

Photos taken by Glen Yeomans Blog: Zed14.com (Iron Butt Rider Legend)

Change Our World

It is always a bittersweet experience to leave our home state of Tassie. It’s certainly not a new experience for us since our first big move to Sydney in the early 80’s. We left then as young newly married adventurers and idealists wanting to change the world. We had no insight into the changes that would occur in and around us over the years of study and preparation for our eventual move to PNG, where we lived and worked for over 8 amazing years. We have returned home a few times with our ever-growing family of sons for various periods of time. We have also left a few times for long seasons of work and life commitments. And now, we are leaving again.

We are aware it does not get any easier to leave, nor do we think it ever will. We love our beautiful home state! It is a gentle place to live. A place we know so well. We have explored so much of this treasure isle, but know there is always another trail to find, another waterfall, mountain, beach or small town to re-discover.

But even more than the natural beauty, there are some amazing people who live here. We have known, loved and been loved by some beautiful people. Family and friends will always be the reason we keep returning to be reminded of who we are, what matters to us and why we leave to continue to ‘change our world’.  Yes, it is no longer about changing the world, but more about us growing, becoming, risking, exploring, learning, listening and loving our world. We are learning how to allow our faith to change us with each new adventure.

Our latest opportunity will be with a church in Canberra where we at C-Change Counselling and Coaching will be providing a gentle ministry of listening with individuals, small groups and leadership to help them grow together as a community of faith people.

We position ourselves as learners and listeners and look forward to being changed yet again in this ministry framework of dialogue.

We’ll be back. Yes, we will.

Fake it till you make it – or till they find out!

I genuinely couldn’t work out why or how I landed the job as a Principal of a school many years ago. I felt apologetic and embarrassed when asked what I did. I called myself a ‘small p principal’ just filling in until ‘they’ (always hard to nail who ‘they’ ever was) would realise their mistake in giving me such an opportunity. replacing me with a real Principal who would do the job so much better than I ever could.

It was not the first time I’d felt this way about myself. In so many arenas of life I perceived myself as a ‘wanna be’, never the ‘real deal’; always fearing people’s closer inspection and inevitable disappointment when ‘they’ realised, I wasn’t what ‘they’ expected. This led to an unconscious strategy come pattern of self-sabotage by withdrawing before something even got off the ground such as a friendship, further study, a new venture, a job opportunity, or any risky undertaking where I might be exposed and found wanting. It also led to a pattern of cutting and running when people got too close, or challenges mounted in a situation I would perceive as potentially unmasking my outer layer of well-constructed but fake confidence and capability.

I’ve lived with a constant undercurrent of anxiety in all facets of life. As a wife, mum, daughter, sister, friend, student, employee and so on. I’ve always felt lacking, never enough, not quite the real deal.

I’ve described it as having one foot facing in and one foot facing out of most of my life; poised, alert, ready to run for fear of being unmasked, judged and rejected. I’ve lived with a restlessness, a wariness and weariness, always on guard, anticipating, pre-empting and proving over and over that I truly am not enough.

Some years ago, while in the midst of ‘sweating all the small stuff’ in my role as the self-titled ‘small p principal‘ in a school community, I participated in a 3-year training in the Enneagram. I experienced quite a few ‘ahhah’ moments in the quiet of the nunnery where the gifted gentle trainers taught us through reflection, meditation, oral story-telling and solitude how to recognise and hold for the first time, our true self, our wounded self, our image of God self.  I recognised the Perfectionist; the good girl who strove to measure up, meet expectations yet always seemed to miss the mark. There is much more I could say and for anyone who knows and has worked with the Enneagram, you would agree it is one of the most intimate, wholistic and helpful journeys of self-discovery.

During this time, I was finally given the skill and the courage to come face to face with my ‘inner critic’. I had been introduced to him during a prayer retreat some time ago and I’d dubbed him ‘the crow’.  I recognised him as the cawing strident ugly voice who constantly criticised, condemned, compared and crushed me. Yet seemingly he also protected me, prompted me, proved reality and truth about myself and my capacity in every situation.

He came out from the dark shadowy recesses of my mind and was exposed through the course of the sessions. I wondered why God had waited over half my lifetime to expose this nemesis hidden in my mind. He had done so much damage.

But now was the time to begin the journey, the painful hopeful letting go of this friend/foe.

It has and continues to be the ‘thorn in my side’ work for me.  God has been at work patiently teaching me to daily listen for the Shepherd, to recognise, trust and obey His voice in my life. A voice of ‘perfect love that casts out fear’ every day, every day.  As I write this blog, with niggling fear, because the ‘inner critic’ condemns every sentence, every phrase and even now wants me to hit delete, I know I am not alone in this journey of ‘unworthiness’ of which ‘imposter syndrome’ is a symptom.

Freedom, love, joy, peace and abundance have for many years been elusive. I haven’t deserved them, my ‘crow’ would say, as he reminds me of all my flaws and failings.

A friend once said in response to my ‘crow induced’ self-pity and habitual moaning about not being good enough, “Of course, Di, of course you aren’t enough, nor are you worthy. That’s the whole point of the gospel. That’s what God has been saying since the beginning. We as human beings are not able to live perfect lives, please everyone, measure up, be all that every situation requires. God knows this and gave us His son Jesus to set us free, to live an abundant life now and a life with Him in eternity. It’s nothing you can earn, nothing you need to fix or do. It’s God. It’s all Him.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew this. I knew this. But in that moment, my head and heart fully embraced the truth and as for ‘the crow’, well, his voice has for the most part, despite minor skirmishes from time to time, dulled, loosing his claws of control and his harsh pecking of power to steer my course.

I’m learning, still very slowly and haltingly, to enjoy being loved, appreciated, thanked, praised and equally misunderstood, criticised, judged and rejected. It’s all still happening, but how I respond is gradually shifting. I’m still hesitant around risks as I perceive them, still anxious first. But I do enjoy choosing to have a go, make mistakes, develop curiosity, wonder, awe and delight in the myriad moments of ordinary life.

I seriously could write a book. (Back off inner crow! – I could!) There’s so much to be gleaned from honest and open reflection as I have come to understand in the years of living that many of us crazy making humans are blighted/gifted with the ‘inner critic’. One thing I do understand is that this voice has given me an equal and opposite desire and hunger to hear God’s voice, to pursue a faith journey, to long for a fulfilling and satisfying life that I genuinely enjoy in all it’s imperfection.

I’m a teacher, a counsellor (a listener), a writer, a friend, a wife, a mother, a woman of God and most of all I am loved, cherished and treasured. I’m OK.

2020 ‘Annus Horribilus’ or……?

2020 has been a ………. year! Fill in the blank but check out the questions below to help give perspective.

Moving forward into 2021 will involve an honest look at 2020. Before we hastily dub 2020 as ‘annus horribilus’ which for many, it truly was just that, we need to take time to reflect, ask questions and find a realistic perspective on the year that will certainly be remembered worldwide for all sorts of reasons. Between catastrophic summer fires, famines, floods, explosions planned and unplanned and a worldwide pandemic thrown in for good measure, there have also been many families affected by the more ‘normal’ slings and arrows of life too.

Yet, in speaking to a good friend today she reflected on the safe arrival of two new grandchildren, the welcome return of friends to their home, quality time with family via all means possible both online and face to face when allowed.

Another friend mentioned the joy of having time, (as an introvert), alone, with quieter routines and less hustle and bustle in the days. The change of pace was a welcome reprieve to life’s demands and pace.

So I ask the following questions to help find a more balanced perspective on 2020. Reflection at this time of year is even more significant and helpful given the relentless negative and hyper intrusive media flooding our daily lives with the conjecture and statistics to drown us in fear.

Take some time today or over this festive weekend to consider these questions:

What did I learn this year? About me? About life?

What did I accomplish this year?

What challenges did I overcome this year?

What significant events occured for me this year?

What has changed for me in this year?

What burdens/habits have I let go of this year?

What am I grateful for this year?

Would love to hear your responses to these questions.

Unexpected

I have many wonderful memories from childhood of long summer family holidays on the East Coast of Tasmania. Scamander was a favourite spot for us with its long white sandy beach, pelicans parading on the sandbars and the beautiful Scamander River for fishing. My dad used to take what he called his infamous ‘bream rod’ and every year we’d keep a tally of how many fish the bream rod caught.  One year we hired a small tinny to try and catch more fish and so my dad, my younger brother and I ventured out onto the dark tea tree coloured waters in search of the elusive bream.

My father and brother were much more serious fishermen than I, consequently they had the rods and I was given a hand line with no expectations that I’d actually catch anything.

Ah, the serenity, drifting along with an easy current and occasional turn of the oar as the summer sun glinted on the water. Pleasant to be away from the ants, mozzies and snakes we’d find when we went to our usual haunts on the banks of the river. So there I was, leisurely dangling my hand line over the side with a small amount of bait attached, when suddenly, the line grabbed and the small hand reel was almost reefed from my grasp.

I got so much more than I bargained for because the pressure on the line was incredible and cutting through my hand. As I wound in the now taut line, up from the depths of the dark water came what looked like a snake, spiraling it’s body around the line, attempting to free itself from the hook.

Yes, no surprise here, I panicked, screamed, stood up quickly in the tinny and hurled the hand line in the direction of my father. Into the boat came a rather large eel which promptly landed in the bottom of the now wobbling tinny.

Both my brother and I scrambled as far away as we could yelling and screaming as this monster from the deep writhed just under our feet.

Firstly, my dad told us to sit still and be quiet.

My brother then boldly got out his fishing knife and attempted to pin the eel just behind its head. Instead of dying, the eel wrapped its body around the knife and pulled it out.

Again my father had to remind us to sit still and be quiet as we tried to scramble further from this frightening creature. Dad proceeded to cut off the head of the eel, which meant the body and head now separated, still writhed in the bottom of the boat all the way back to the jetty where my brother and I leapt out, relieved to be on land again.

My dad skinned and cut up the eel to take back for our dinner. Mum carefully placed the pieces of eel in the fridge on a plate only to find on the next opening of the door that all the pieces had wriggled off the plate. We, all except our father, decided we weren’t going to eat something that still wriggled. He said we’d be missing out on a very sweet meal.

Suffice to say, all these years later I still remember the unexpected encounter with an eel and while now I can smile about it, at the time it was rather terrifying to a young girl.

No doubt you all have some events like that in your life, where something occurred that you least expected. For me, I, with the poorest equipment, caught the only catch of the day.

There are times when we cope well with those unexpected moments, the ‘surprises’ of life. And sometimes, not so.

Then as a young girl, I had a father who took charge, kept us afloat and relatively calm, heading us safely back to the jetty.

In life, I find that I look to God to do that for me when I feel out of my depth and trapped in situations or circumstances I feel unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with.  I am thankful for a heavenly Father who is in control, can deal with all the situations I face in my life, protecting and providing for me when I need it.

Yes at times, I still get wobbly and panic when I feel out of control. It’s human nature and no surprise to our heavenly Father who sits right in the boat of life with us. I’m not alone, God is a constant gentle presence in every circumstance. He’s a very good Father to his children.

My hope is that you can find safety and protection in your life as you turn to your heavenly Father for the help you need in the unexpected out of control moments of life. He keeps his promises and can be trusted always. He’s in the boat, right there with you. You are not alone.

Letting Go

This is a self-paced reflective retreat. It involves five simple reflections and can be done in a day or over time.

Please click here to download a pdf copy of the retreat for you to use and share.