Being True to Yourself Series – Part 3. Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

A/N – I’ m delighted to have Bob McInnis as my very first guest blogger.

Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

While I believe there are some absolutes, I am less certain about a lot of things. I read voraciously, listen attentively, think deeply, reflect and synthesize. The condensed product bears a resemblance to the original ideas and witness to a subtle and supple value set. As a recovering postmodern fundamentalist, I lived for decades with a clear, if not personally interpreted, set of rights and wrongs. In 2000, a shift happened in my belief structure (which is a whole different post) but an idea horizon was created and I can never return to that self-satisfied and self-assured state.

So, on this side of the divide, how do I manage truth, fact, discernment and right or wrong? In unfamiliar situations, I am careful, thoughtful and cautious. My understanding is informed by my current values and available information. I do make decisions quickly but my rigorous defence is less strident. If new information disrupts the value pattern, I rethink and where possible re-enact the choice. In familiar circumstances, I think the process is similar but feels more intuitive; as if I can blink and true is revealed (or not).

Regardless, testing right or wrong should be a habit we adopt in every situation. Is the decision just? For me? For others involved? Is it ecological? Does it conform to confirm the values you espouse and aspire to? Will you celebrate or regret the choice in one day, one week, one year? Are you committed to making the right choice? Even when the wrong one is easier? If yes (or no) are you prepared to accept the consequences?

I have applied a current burden of proof to the idea that we are all both responsible for our actions and complicit in the side effects of our inaction. I believe this is right. I have adopted a principle, which I first saw posted in the San Francisco airport “If you see something, say something.” Even though the poster was from the Department of Homeland security, I have expanded it into a wider vision. If I see anything that is immoral, illegal, hurtful, abusive, unsafe or manipulative I name it loudly. This approach isn’t without consequences. I have lost friends, caused a ruckus and received a black eye for my troubles, but from my wider perspective, it has always been well worth it.

Right-wrong: it is a matter of perspective. Yours. You arrive at the decision point, with the sum total of your knowledge, experience and biases. If you put the choice to a factual burden of proof, as best you can and apply the personal rigor above, you will be blessed with discernment and confidence to choose right from wrong in each situation.

You’ll find  more great reads from Bob MInnis on his blog.

My European interlude is coming to a close

Whilst I have enjoyed every moment of being in Europe and have loved teaching, mentoring and coaching, it is time to return to Australia – at least for a while.

I have cherished being in my little apartment and not having to worry about anything except myself and meeting a few deadlines. Well, OK, more than a few! I’ll admit that I haven’t entirely squirreled myself away in beautiful Ecija; I have kept up with clients and projects and taken on new ventures further afield thanks to modern communications, but I have made the most of my idyll here and been very present to the charms of a different culture and life experience, including the cold winter! I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those here who have been part of this wonderful sojourn for me. As usual, it is the people who make the experience special.

San Juan, EcijaI’ve needed these months alone to renew. To focus on what is important to me. The past 3 years have passed in a blur where I hardly had a moment to myself so it has been a real luxury to just be able to run my own timetable. I thoroughly enjoyed coming home to a quiet apartment, to spending weekends exploring local sites, or sometimes venturing further afield to Seville, Granada, Cordoba or Malaga. I had no one to worry about except myself. It might sound selfish, but actually it’s been more of a lifesaver than anything else and once again, it has given me an additional opportunity to develop and grow as an individual which provides additional experiential tools that I am able to bring to my work.

Sasha's graduation day - Batchelor of Journalism
Sasha’s graduation day – Batchelor of Journalism from Bond University

During this time in Europe I have been able to consider what it is that I really need in life to feel content. When my husband of 30 years decided to leave, and I bought him out of the house, it was a massive struggle to stay afloat financially, but I’ve managed. I only bought the house so my kids had a home base. I had a 5 year plan, of which the largest part was to see Sasha (who was then 16) successfully finish school and then university. Once Sasha graduated, I was in a position to pursue the next stage of my plan, which was to base myself in Europe for a year.

Whilst here, living a simple Spanish lifestyle, without the trappings that go with having a family home, I’ve come to the conclusion that, on a personal level, I actually need very little to live on. I can be happy in the moment as long as I know that my family is cared for and safe. It’ll be five years this August since Steve and I split up. It’s been tough for me, but at the same time liberating and life affirming as I know we (Wayne, Sasha and I) can manage on our own. Together we look after the house, each other and our dogs. We’ve become a closer family unit even if it meant a bit of a struggle at times. I feel that the kids and I have bonded more closely, and it’s also been a defining moment for both of them as they have stepped up to take more responsibilities. We have jointly made decisions about our future directions and I am extremely proud of the two beautiful people that they are.

It is now time to sit down and decide what the next step will be. What do I really want to do?
Michelle

Granada – here I come!

I’ve dreamt of visiting Granada since I was a young girl reading novels set in the days of Muslim rulers, and then in the period of Isabella of Spain. My dream is finally coming true!

Getting organised to make this trip has been no mean feat!  Student timetables had to be rejiggled so I could have today off to add to the public holiday which is tomorrow. I’ve put in very long hours, cramming  in the extra lessons  as well as maintaining all my freelance deadlines.

I’m very luck to work with great people who’ve helped make this possible through their understanding and flexibility.

We’re travelling through hill country dotted with olive groves and the road climbs higher and higher past fields sprinkled with wild poppies whose vibrant red adds a bold splash of colour to the greenery. Far in the distance the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada loom and I can’t wait to reach our destination.

Michelle

Self care – an essential

419290_511331578905810_463274963_nLooking after yourself. Taking care of number one. It doesn’t always come easily. However, it’s also absolutely essential we learn to practice this on a regular basis.  In today’s electronic age it’s too easy to always be ‘on’, to feel the need to check emails and answer mobile phones with little regard to the day or the hour.

I know, from first hand experience, that we are faced with onerous responsibilities, tough decision making and coping with a myriad of demands on a daily basis. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be engulfed by the burdens that are an integral part of todays corporate landscape. This frequently includes a tightened budget which translates into more needing to be done with less. Less human resources to tackle tasks have a tendency to result in longer hours, placing even more pressure on individuals.

Self care should be embedded in our lives. We are all different and there is no one size fits all but, the one thing that is common to everyone is that, unless we practise self care we are unable to continually thrive and function at optimum levels.

Most of us naturally place our families first and foremost – definitely the way it should be. But, it shouldn’t be at the expense of our own sanity or the risk of losing ourselves.

Self care means setting boundaries. It means valuing and respecting our own worth. It means being able to say no without having an attack of the guilts. It means carving out time especially for ourselves and regarding it as a necessity as opposed to an indulgence.

Michelle

Living in the moment

When I was a child a year seemed like an awfully long time. It was an unbearable wait till Christmas rolled around each year. At boarding school the terms seemed to drag on interminably whilst I counted down the days until school holidays. I think that’s pretty normal for kids, approaching life with gusto, keen to move on to whatever comes next.

I remember wishing that I was 16, then I wanted to be 18 and before I knew it I was celebrating my 21st birthday. After that the years fled by at the speed of light. The older I get the faster they whizz past.

As I’ve grown older I’ve become much more aware of how important it is to cherish the precious moments in life. It’s not about the places. It’s about the moment we are in. We don’t have a rewind button so we absolutely have to enjoy experiences the first time round. I think many of us struggle with remembering to live in the moment, after all how often do you find yourself walking or driving along thinking about what you will cook for dinner tonight, or about a meeting you have to attend, a place you want to go next or something else in either the past or the future?

When we do these kinds of things (and hey, I’m as guilty as the next oappreciating_full_400f this), what we are actually doing is robbing ourselves of time to enjoy and appreciate what surrounds us at that very moment and place in time.

I know that when I am consciously in that exact moment, I notice so much more. My powers of observation are much sharper and this is a good thing. I am focussing on what is right there in front of me. It might be the beauty of some little detail on a building I pass, a wonder of nature, or a subtle unspoken key that a family member, friend or colleague is transmitting.

If we are too busy looking forward to a future point in time, we are cheating ourselves of experiencing life to the fullest. Some of the happiest people I know are not those who have everything but rather those who truly appreciate and take the time to live in the present moment.

It’s not so easy to do but I highly recommend trying to slow down, to appreciate the here and now rather than dwelling in the past thinking about what we could have or should have done. It’s past and can’t be undone. Don’t dwell too much on the future either because nothing is certain. Instead, enjoy today – as the old cliche says ‘that’s why it’s called the present’.

Michelle

PS I’ve often spoken about the importance of living in the moment but I’ve never put it down in a blog but I was inspired recently by Marie Griffith with More painful th..to write it all down.

Education – a key to change

EductionThe rights of the individual, the topic of our informal conversation class last night, provided for a stimulating conversation. We always begin our informal sessions with one of the students, introducing the area they’d like to talk about, and as this is a vast topic the scope is enormous, with the choice being very much up to the speaker as to which aspect of a topic they choose to explore.

As this is a C1 level class, it means there is a high degree of fluency, so the evening is always enjoyable and there is no predicting which way the conversation might flow or which areas we may segue into. The experience is highly authentic for all concerned including me.

Our lively discussion kicked off with genital mutilation of females and somehow or other managed to, very naturally, finish with the right of individuals to exercise their votes at local and national elections. How did we end up here? Well, it all came down to the our discussion that both these areas need individuals to be educated in order to stop a barbaric practice (genital mutilation) and the importance of voters exercising their right to vote in order to ensure the systems in our countries do not fail those who need them.

If we do not provide access to education for everyone, then there is little chance for improvement. Without education individuals are left in a position of ignorance, it is not their fault that they are unable to make an informed decision.

Education takes many forms, formal and informal including life experience. What is clear is that it is only through education that we evolved and therefore it must be the fundamental right of every individual to receive a basic education in their formative years. Easier said than done, but if each of us, as individuals, does our own little bit towards ensuring this is happening, the world will surely but slowly change.

I am very fortunate to have received an excellent education, not just formal but also in the university of life, and as I get older I appreciate this even more and realise that this is the most wonderful gift that an individual can ever receive. It is a gift that cannot be taken away and I thank my parents for the sacrifices they made to ensure that I received this wonderful gift.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Michelle

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY

It’s already Australia Day but, where I am, here in my little flat in Ecija, Spain, rugged up in 4 layers of clothing with the heaters on, it’s not yet the 26th. I am however reflecting on my journey to becoming Australian.

I wasn’t born in Australia, but then again, neither were so many others that call this country home. My entry to Australia was relatively easy as I didn’t need to sit any IELTS tests, apply for sponsorship or come on a boat seeking asylum. I am very grateful and blessed!

I first visited Australia as a 19 year old travelling overland from London to Athens on a bus, flying to Bangkok and Singapore to visit friends and family before landing in Sydney and heading to Canberra before eventually travelling up to Darwin to visit more family members. Little did I know that Darwin was going to play a big role in my future.

It took me a great many years to become completely comfortable living in a country that was so totally different to where I spent my childhood – the Middle and Far East – even though I went to the UK for my final years of schooling. I felt like a fish out of water for a very long time because it was so culturally different to what I was used to. I didn’t really identify as any particular nationality even though my passport said British, and I rather suspect, this was due to my global upbringing and not having a fixed home base. Home was wherever my parents were.

On reflection, I was lucky to have ended up in Darwin as it’s undoubtedly the most multi-cultural city in Australia, a real melting pot where everyone lives side by side and there are no enclaves of particular ethnicities.

Today, I most definitely identify as Australian and consider myself extremely fortunate to live in a country that offers wonderful opportunities and provides, a predominantly, safe environment for children, as well as a warm welcome to those who manage to make Australia their home, even if there are lots of hoops to jump through and things are not always quite as some of us would like them to be.

I applaud all those who work so hard to make Australia a better country.  I give kudos to those in our armed forces who fight to protect our liberty and our freedom and I congratulate all the wonderful people who have been honoured in the 2015 Australia Day Awards. It’s especially pleasing to see Rosie Batty, a domestic violence campaigner named Australian of the Year, her story is truly inspirational and shines the spotlight firmly on a topic that is all too often avoided.

Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends
Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends

I’m missing the Australia Day Ball and other festivities, both madcap and serious, but I will be bringing a little bit of Australia into my Spanish classroom tomorrow.

Thank you Australia for all you have given me. I am proud to call you home.

Happy Australia Day!
Michelle