2 weeks ago we farewelled my darling. Nellie Florence. This was the reading we did.
Nellie Florence, otherwise known as my Nanna- she was my caretaker from the tiny age of 2 to the age of 6 until I started school. Mum worked for Nan and Pa’s furniture removalist business, and Nanna opted for taking care of me.
I do not remember one cross word. The only time I got into trouble was when it was cousin time, and for some reason when my cousin Kelly and I got together mischief prevailed. My influence of course. She admitted to me years later that often she would have to leave the room, for her terse response to the folly was masking amusement she had to hide for fear of encouraging “silliness.” But every school holidays when I came to visit for weeks on end, it would be Kelly, Kirst and Nanna time. Did we drive her nuts? You betcha. There was that one time we played hide and seek in Nan’s car; only we didn’t tell her? The police were called… oops.
Nan taught me from the time of being very young that it was the small acts of faith that build the bigger ones and I would ask isn’t God too busy to look after little things? And she would say “No! Because we all have angels and God around us all the time, his messengers and they help. So always send a prayer up!” We literally taught that to send a prayer you were physically sending a request from the heart, and she taught us that. So from the age of 3 I knew, you asked for a car park? You got one. In the busiest street of Burleigh Heads. You got a car park. She taught us the importance of service to others.
It was ingrained. Others before self, others before self to the point where even now, its super ingrained! But it was service, service to others. And she showed this throughout her life. As an RE teacher to little children in primary school, it wasn’t that she was Bible Bashing as such, it was that she had an activated REAL relationship with God that lifted sorrow from her, like nothing else. It was her total saving grace all of the time, and she walked in grace all of the time. For her, the idea that other people weren’t enjoying that, and didn’t have that safety net, that sense of joy and faith horrified her. It was NOT for the select few; it was for everyone. She was genuinely worried for other people and she desperately wanted them to know the joy she knew and that peace.
When she saw people were in pain, she would talk to them about her joy and her faith, and for many, it was sometimes a bit much.
But for others, I don’t know how many of you are in the room today, but I know that there are many many people that sought that grace and found it through her shining the torch through a dark time.
Another beautiful part to Nanna was her forgiveness. Her forgiveness for others was so strong that sometimes it challenged us. You would think “How on earth could you possibly forgive that act” or “this person” and she was steadfast in that forgiveness. And one time I said to her in this certain situation “How? She was my Nanna, but as I became older and more mature from a girl to a middle-aged woman, we would have this womanly chats about life and I would ask her “How? How could you forgive?” “and her response would be “But carrying around the hate, and carrying around all that anger, that’s not about them, that’s too heavy for you. It hurts you. It’s not about them, it’s about unburdening your heart from their deeds and letting them go.” Now that I am getting older I am realizing, it’s not about saying whatever that person did is ok, it’s about releasing the heaviness and handing over the weight of hatred or anger.
We have been so incredibly blessed to have her in our lives.
There was a very tumultuous time in her life after Grandad died and we saw events happen for her where she was deeply betrayed by people she loved and cared about; she predictably forgave them. She moved forward but what came next many saw as “oh she’s just getting old” but what we saw in her was pain. She had forgotten how loved she was, to the point where some relatives would visit and she just didn’t answer the door. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to see them, it was because she didn’t believe she had anything to offer. She had lost her value to herself. She had given herself over to service in her life so much, that to not be in service to people due to old age and ill-health had to her losing her self worth.
She stuck to her routine, just passing the time. Life had lost its shine, while she stuck to her beliefs as firm as she possibly could, the nature of people had let her see a side, she probably, in all honesty, didn’t realise was there or didn’t look apon. It infiltrated. She had a stroke.
And for many many years, my sister and I had wondered how great it would be to move to Bendigo if only to look after Nanna. I remember as a little girl saying to her “Nanna, you take such good care of me, why?” her response was “because I love you and one day you might take care of me” well that must have stuck! So right through our adult lives, my sister and I have had this idea of how wonderful it would be if we could care for her. So we went to visit her after the stroke, and it wasn’t looking very good.
We checked in with Papa G as we call him- (AKA the mighty Gandalf of the 4th dimension, AKA God, AKA- Universal KingPin, and yes there is a feminine aspect. Have you seen the Shack?) do we take her with us? The resounding answer was Yes. Now is the time. The thing was the consensus in the family was that there was no way in a million years a 89-year-old Nellie Florence was leaving Bendigo, uh uh no way. It’s just not going to happen. She’s not going to leave. We went to her- we said to her- would you let us, would you be brave enough just to bring yourself to this new place so we can care for you? You will be treated beautifully, and you will have a visitor every day. To our absolute shock, she very quietly said “yes”. All she wanted to bring with her was her nighty, her favorite teddy, a picture of Jesus and a few family photos and that was it. It was a new start. She actually became excited again. We found the best nursing hotel aka del la McEncroe we could search for and it was beautiful.
My siblings and I, we went and decked out that room like it was the Hamptons.
We had a ball. It was as though the Queen mother herself was moving to Leopold. It was going to look the Goods. I still remember the nurses being like “Oh my gosh, what’s with the posh designer room?” There were lots of pink things, angels, memories of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. And she got a visitor every day.
We had access 24 / 7 and she was a late night owl, so it would be nothing for us to pop down there in our pajamas of a night-time and tuck her in, or have cuppas and chats about life and love and nursing home gossip. I am pleased to report, with only being there for a couple of months, she turned to me and said “I really am loved aren’t I? I really am loved, I must be with you all doing this for me and wanting to be with me.” And I said “How could ever have thought you weren’t? You aren’t just loved, you are adored. You are the reason we are all here. You.”
And her great-grandchildren would visit and we would say to them, this lady right here, is why you exist and without her, you simply wouldn’t, ” and the nursing staff adored her, they loved her. She was beautiful, she was cute, she was appreciative, she was loved, and she told them and us, while she was there that the last 2 years have been the best in a decade and that is pretty special.
As she relaxed, the stoic sternness of propriety dropped just a fraction, she was as sharp as a tack, and her humor shone through. She developed the giggles and would have us all belly laughing until we couldn’t breathe. She would share stories about being a young woman growing up in Bendigo. Of romance, of funny tales, setting up the dance hall on a Friday night and having races on the cleaning cloths and laughing until it hurt. Of her love for Pa, for her children. Funny stories about her children when they were small.
This recent stroke, it all happened very quickly. I went to her bedside and said to her “I don’t want you to go” She looked at me puzzled and asked why? Because she knew where she was going and therefore I should know better. You see, we spoke about dying her and I. Quite a bit. We had these awful dark humored jokes about who would get there first. Who would be waiting to greet who? There was no fear at all. She would have assumed that I should know where she was going. And she said “Oh, no it’s time for me to …” and motioned her hand upward with the biggest smile. I said “I will buy you a puppy, or do you want two visits a day? What do I need to do to keep you here, because I know its so selfish but I don’t know how to be here without you in it” I tried every trick in the bloody book to keep her here. I should have known better.
She smiled and she said “It’s all fine, it’s okay, it’s ok darling, you are going to be just fine and I am going to be here still.”
When Nanna passed, I had my hand on her heart, and it just stopped. And she didn’t die. She didn’t die. She left. And when one leaves, it means they have somewhere to be.
It occurred to me afterward, that not only did she teach me so much about life, and about living, but she also taught me about my dying that it was a journey and it was not to be feared. So, that was her gift to us. She was a teacher, that was her thing.
For the record, you know you never know when you are going to leave. This is true. But when a doctor tells you that you are, when your body tells you and when a Nanna feels that she is; a feeling happens. I can’t explain it. But the knowing is what sets you apart everyone else. And it isn’t depressing, it isn’t morose. It is a fact of life. We come into the world and we all leave the world.
When I was a child Nanna read to me the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she was a CS Lewis fan and his theology, and as some of you will know, Aslan the mighty lion in the tale is CS Lewis’ Metaphor for Jesus. Not tame at all, but powerful and fierce, protective and strong.
A few nights ago I had a dream that Nanna was a young woman, I was walking behind her, and she opened the door of a wardrobe.
We stepped through, and she waited. She was not old; she was young and beautiful like the photos I have seen of her in wartime, elegant and classy. She stepped onto the snow, and it crunched under her shoes, and I thought- Oh wow, she hasn’t seen snow before. A massive golden-haired lion walked up, she looked at me with excitement and knowing. She climbed upon his back, stroked his mane and whispered something into his ear. He turned and walked away, she smiled and waved farewell to me, riding this massive lion. I was almost envious and knew I had to come back into the real world and woke.
So I will leave you my favorite CS Lewis Quote:
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now, at last, they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Chat soon Ponderers xxx
For those that are interested, one of our favourite movies that has been adapted from The Shack stars Sam Worthington- check out the trailer:
Last week I took a deep breath and I remembered a story about a bear. It gave me the idea for a series of blogs I shall call:
10 steps to feeling chipper when possible impending doom is breathing down your neck– or Chronicles of an ‘Over-Sharer’? I will let you decide
Step One: Give Up Your Day Job…or Not.
When one decides to Give up Their Day Job; they must be absolutely certain that none of their ego and identity pleaser is attached to the afore-mentioned day job, they cannot have any personal identity attached to the said career and must relinquish it immediately in order to survive; regardless of bills or financial concern…said no one ever.
What sort of deluded self respecting over achiever does this? We all dream and fantasize sometimes about not working…but me? I am a worker bee with a mission to succeed baby. I am a power source of success, eponymous with entrepreneurial flare and know how. This team of pizazz has taken sales of three zeros and turned em into 6’s. The old adage Hard work = Success. You can’t take the elevator to success you have to take the stairs… Ok I am talking smack. But I am a hard worker and this hard work has apparently paid off handsomely in every aspect of my life.
Doing what you love makes hard work even easier. So you fall in love with your work, your art and a relationship of attachment is formed. Its pretty simple. I made mine so accessible my studio is on our property, my children have had full access to me throughout this 11 year career, I’ve completely molded it around our family, so its not caused any hassles nor complaints. It has been the perfect love; giving and giving so much.
Now, I am just going to Give it up.
All of it.
The financial income, the personal fulfilment, the being in charge, leaving Return-on-relationship -investments hanging off a cliff with one finger, business conferences of mind blowing excitement left in a dusty corner, a design portfolio stack most would dream of hanging by its ankles on the clothesline fading in the sun…and I am going to Give it All Up.
More disposable income from excellent business practices
Give it up
Holiday to Noosa…give it up…
Cool business networking groups…
Give it up…
Means of $ philanthropy to others less fortunate…Give it Up (the worst one)
Then when you give it up, be prepared for others to say
“You can’t give it up! You’ve taken so long to build this, this is you !”
Total and utter attachment to the endth degree.
So what deluded numbskull would give this up indefinitely? Me. And it hurt.
Why did it hurt? Because I was as ATTACHED to this love of my life as a Kardashian to a selfie stick.
Attachment is a funny word isn’t it? But what does it mean?
According to the Oxford Dic- it’s a Noun- always a good start and it means; an extra part or extension that is or may be attached to something to perform a particular function. A bond, closeness, devotion, loyalty.
Yup. I know that word well.
I was loyal to my business, dedicated to it, devoted to it, bonded to it and it became an extension of me. Not necessarily a bad thing, but when one surmises that if they don’t do some serious healing they are going to be non existent on this earthly plane it calls for priority making and heavy decisions. My need for rest and concentration on wellness has to take the first priority due to the whole impending doom gig, so unless I wanted to dive headfirst into depression caused by this loving attachment I had to learn how to rest properly and effectively and dis-attach myself from work.
The only time in my adult life that I have rested fully was in rehabilitation after a Craniotomy in 2012. For those that don’t know that part of my story, I was left blind after an epic 9 hour surgery with 106 skull drill holes to heal, a brain chopped through the middle with hundreds of stitches, concrete pieces, titanium, acrylic and pins holding it together like a Mary Shelley- Frankenstein daydream and a need to learn to walk again.
This took quite a few months of hospitalization. You kind of have to rest with that going on, its not much of an option. But yours truly on imposed rest just squeezed all that energy through another door. Like Brain fluid; I still leak a bit of that at times. Women talk about bladder control, mine’s cerebral control. I tried crossing my eyes but it didn’t turn out so good… (my bad)
Within a few weeks of “rehab rest” I was brainstorming on steroids, literally. I came up with new business ideas, a new candle range, new designs, 4 patents, talked my husband into buying a new business, planned holidays. I was like a fart in a bottle.
Then the restless part crept in, and I started coming up with ideas of fun. This was tricky due the being blind part.
An example of this side tracked energy is one particular escapade; one morning in rehab I was craving a coffee and I really wanted to eat a Yoyo biscuit. I have a thing for these little morsels of delight. I was getting really annoyed with my lack of independence, needing to be showered, walked everywhere, I was reliant on others for every little thing. I had just got to the stage whereby walking had progressed to a graceful zombie shuffle with the assistance of my trusted steed- the walking frame.
So I got dressed in plain clothes (I still wonder to this day if they were in the right way) grabbed my trusty wonder of wheels and skiddadled – or zombie shuffled quickly- around the corner of my ward to the hospital coffee shop. I honed in my auditory skills following the sound of coffee machines and sweet scent of cake. I ordered my goodies, waited for them to be made, anxiously waiting for someone to notice the escape artistry, then carefully placed them on the seat of my walking frame and crept back to my room with a grin that would dazzle New York. I was like creepin Jesus. I couldn’t stop laughing to myself and thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. Bragging rights resulted in being told off by worried staff and family.
Quick side story- With one exception I have this gorgeous cousin who has been my partner in crime since birth. We once played hide and seek with my Nanna without telling her. Police got involved. It was fun at the time. She was the ultimate disruptor at age 11 and I was her Robin. She is my eternal ratbag- in- arms, my sœur effrontée, so imagine my delight when the coffee shop manager popped his head into my hospital room and asked if I was Kirsten; because he had a Gift from “Cuz”; a $50 coffee voucher with a message to Keep up the Escape Work and Don’t let the Team down; the joy this gave was MISCHIEF FUN x 10. I never get sick of telling this story. Note; Don’t ever underestimate the healing power of humor when recovering from brain trauma.
My whole adult life -just about every micro energy unit goes into my family and my business with a little bit of time spent on study and getting better so no one worries about me, and then subconsciously filling in the gaps with endevours.
So given that since energy is inversely proportional to wavelength from the equation:
E= hv=( hc / l ) X TimeforSelf =Jack + Shit.
More than a decade learning mindfulness, meditation, yoga, theology, philosophy and yet here I was consumed by everything other than healing my Self. These practices were foundational and without even realizing it they had been a trickling investment for stability and resilience. A tool chest for overcoming obstacles if you like but on a bigger scale again. With an impending possible doomsday brain explosion though; there’s no time like the present to change things up a bit.
The action of un-attaching gently from the running of the day to day of my business, handing the reigns over to my manager (otherwise known as brother) including unravelling layers I didn’t actually realize were hiding. It has been harder than I ever imagined it to be. There was a word mentioned- Control. What else was I attached to? It appears the attachment to Earning One’s Happiness layer popped up, otherwise known as Entitlement Issue #482.
See the thing is, I thought I had earned my stripes already. The whole learning to walk again, re-firing the neurons again thing, using your feet again thing, walking laps for months, painful exercises, a year of retraining and 3 years of hard work to finally reach a place of contented happiness was a stripes earning feat. I ran a marathon to raise money for Vision Australia as a milestone event for my kids to witness my return to the living and to give thanks for all that joy. I earned my right to be joyful, to be excited by life, to be happy. You see what I did? I worked hard. I worked really hard and I gained good things from working that hard. I learned so much along that road, don’t we all? How could I not have? But this hard work deep seated belief sat close to my heart in a non-obvious way. I was the biggest advocate in the world for working smarter not harder and yet at my core was this Hard Work ethic.
Hard work pays off. In life and business. And this not-this-AGAIN situation, well its just…well this isn’t karma. This is cruel. Are you ready for it readers, here is comes… WHY ME? This is NOT FAIR. Why did it happen? I don’t deserve this…
Well just cos. It just did. Now watchya gonna do about it?
This punched in the sternum feeling, breath strangling moment was either going to break me into a million little pieces or create another opportunity for wisdom and expression or.. in the words of CS Lewis-
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched, cracked or go bad.”
It was time to get hatched and do so promptly. Humpty Dumpty style. The Kings horses and Neuro-team cannot put me back together again, so its DIY time.
I was going to have to work hard again. Or was I?
The moment I escaped, became completely still within a natural environment, breathed in deeply and mindfully it became crystal clear that I had forgotten my Self.
- 1.a person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.”our alienation from our true selves”
What if I were to tell you that it isn’t hard work that gets us to Self. How did I forget? A busy mind forgets. This is the truth. Every single thing you ever need to know that you need resides within you and your Upstairs-deep inside Self, your instinctive Barometer, your Reminder-of-what-you-need Manual. I am not talking about what you Want. But as a human being, what you need is answered clearly from within your own Answer Box deep within that is connected.
Because being instinctive isn’t hard work, you just have to create the space to activate it. It isn’t brain science is it?
We are a species with mass social amnesia. I think we forget the species bit at times, the human race has a habit of placing itself above and beyond natural order; with an idealogy of success stomping on an all too tolerant earth. Many are the all powerful beings at the top of the food chain, holding dominion over the planet. But we are a species with instincts, love, skillful intelligence and wisdom at our core. The faculty of natural connection is getting lost in translation.
Being still enough, quiet enough within and mindful helps to restore this connection. The healthy non toxic environment you have grown your mind and soul in just amplifies the connection to everything living and energised. Do the opposite and watch the chaos unfold. We really can overcome just about anything with peace if we are tapped in.
The disconnection happens in an often hypnotic and powerful modern world and remembering our species is difficult. Chaos, madness, noise, have-to’s, numbers, language, technology, bills, bank accounts, rent, mortgages, pay-rises, healthcare, employment… being manipulated and consumed with the pretend glories of the world and the powerlessness of being an everyday ordinary person? What does that even mean?
It goes on and on and on and then on some more. The great and amazing procrastination to connection is the logistics of the modern world. This world we live in now has so many wonderful advantages but we can become enslaved to it, with its weight pushing down heavily on our shoulders. This can be so affective that we don’t even always notice it; the connection fades so quietly that we forget we had it in the first place.
It is so effective that it often silently hermetically seals us into a systems of economy and “SHOULDWORLD” an hypnotic trance, the stuff that makes you wake up one day and ask is this all there is? Why do I still feel empty? Existential angst at its finest.
There is a story of a Bear I want to share with you. He was no ordinary Bear, you see he was a dancing Bear. His tribe of Bears were the most marvelous dancers and would bask in the joy of their forest dancing, bringing happiness to the world around them and each other. The Bear realized his own cleverness born from the necessity of tool making and ingenuity of skills. As his skills and tool making grew he thought more about cleverness and newness than he did about dancing. His intelligence knew no bounds and with it his children and grandchildren built a Church of Cleverness to worship in. Eventually hundreds of years later; his great-grandchildren lived in a world of haste, of excellence and tools, problem making and solving and cleverness in plenitude. But it was a very sad story, because they had forgotten how to be Bears. They had forgotten their Dance; one thing that made them so special, unique and joyful.
I have come to believe and know to be true that it is crucial, it is NECESSARY to make space in your life to just be or to dance. You must remember your connection.
One step at a time, one day at a time, it isn’t new and it will never get old.
You have instincts within, so get to them.
Start to trust your Self. Your inner. The best bit? It costs nothing at all and its completely contagious. We have full access at all times to a live connection that knows how to lick our own wounds, to know what to do and how to go about doing it. We have built-in resources. How often do you get advice from people or hear experts telling you things and you think “Oh, I somehow already knew that, that makes sense?” Because chances are you do already know it. You just didn’t know to trust your own instincts, thoughts and information. How often do you get a hunch to go to a doctor or action something but you ignore it, or even follow it to realize how important that call was? Again, good old instincts and intuition. The more we be still and listen to it, the louder and clearer it gets. It is not something you need to pay for, or take. It is there for you to access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, your birthright. Your humanness. It’s the good stuff.
As we re-create the connection to ourselves and begin to live in a more natural state, the pent-up difficult emotions and attachments we hang onto start to organically release and vanish. Even ones we didn’t even know existed; buried deep down escape their prison. The chords pull free and we begin to feel lighter, happier. The things we need to do for ourselves become obvious.
It might start at 10 minutes a day. It might involve taking a tent and going camping surrounded with nothing but nature. It might be turning off all electrical devices in the house of an evening and practice sitting still. My favorite is to go to the beach, close my eyes and listen to the ocean, letting thoughts roll in and roll out with the waves, not focusing on any more than the sounds. Being still or meditating can be as simple as being in a natural environment and un-focusing your thoughts like you un-focus your eyes.
Start with a little bit each day and watch what happens. Its your own unique journey and very powerful. You might even want to journal it and watch your story unfold. You don’t have to give up your day job, just…
In between stories of dancing bears and writing, mothering, distant business mentoring, relationship building and other stuff I do; I now have a sense of mindful contemplation like nothing I have experienced before. It has created a mental and physical space that allows me to be more observant, proactive than before. My sleep has improved, my calm and sense of clarity, focus and peace is more than I have ever felt in my whole life. Given the current situation; that’s a pretty extraordinary result from a little bit of nature with a little bit of me.
Call me an idealist; but our interpreting minds are better seasoned in a natural environment. It’s time to shift the gears into neutral for moments of reflection and stillness so that the muted story within can spring forth.
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”
― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Next Blog: – The Sometimes Mind of an Angry Pacifist with Skinny Legs
Note- thanks to you John M, my friend for the new title xx