King Solomon is quoted saying that there is nothing new under the sun and many insightful people throughout time have voiced the same sentiment. There is nothing new or unique, it has all been done before.
But it’s not a challenge to be unique as a human being because as individuals we each have an amazing uniqueness. Our DNA fingerprint is exclusive to each person but on top of that the sum total of what we are is not just our DNA but rather the imprint of our cultures, our upbringings and the influences and circumstances that surround us – we are all very different and each one of us IS something new under the sun.
It is a shame that the environment we inhabit is so populated with unobtainable role models in movies, on the telly and in newspapers. I want you to know that you can be encouraged and stand proud knowing that it’s not these diva lifestyles and physical attributes that matter, rather it’s who you are and how you live life that truly matters.
Our DNA, the influences in our lives, everything that makes us uniquely special can be utilised to be a positive influence in our worlds. It’s the choices we make when we use our uniqueness that make us heroes and heroines in life.
Let's celebrate our diversity, our differences and individuality as well as celebrating the ability we have to hold fast our courage and live in a way that spreads kindness, encouragement and wisdom like confetti at a wedding.
My dad was fond of saying “There are two things in life you can never avoid – death and taxes.” While people can certainly get creative about tax, none of us can circumnavigate being touched by death, and sorrow is something none of us manage to dodge.
With the sudden loss of my long-time fur baby companion to cancer this week, I’ve been thinking about sorrow and grief a lot. Animals as pets are part of our heritage and it’s rare to find a Kiwi who hasn’t loved and lost a beloved pet after far-too-short a time.
My experience has taught me that losing a pet helps us understand that life does go on, although in the enduring sorrow it’s hard to believe that. We suffer through the mental and emotional pain, the sleepless nights and the lingering grief, BUT eventually all these fade. Our agonising sadness becomes a gentler ache which no longer cripples us, and the happy memories of our lost companion find a way of surfacing in their own time.
I’m thankful the kitties and pups I have loved and lost over the years prepared me for a more mature grief when I lost a loved one I expected to be a life partner. I already knew that while grief doesn’t go away, it changes over time, and while it felt then like my life was over too, I knew life would go on. I could endure the process, it would get better - and it did.
So if you are hurting, if you have lost a fur baby or a loved human, don’t fear the grief will be unbearably painful forever. We are designed to survive, and you will survive this.
I promise it will get better.
It’s over, the grace period after New Year when everything feels full of exciting possibilities. Kids are back at school, everyone is back at work, the traffic is crazy again, the news feeding in from overseas continues to make you wonder how humanity can be so cruel to its own and back here politicians squabble as usual. Darn, nothing much has changed.
Here is the thing – we have very little control over what happens out there. The only thing we have real control over is ourselves. Me, moi, the personal pronoun ‘I’ – that’s what we can control, that is what we can change.
Personally, I’ve never been one for chasing wild fires and trying to put them out. I’m more of a ‘deal with the smoldering embers around me’ kind of gal, make sure the fires at home stay dampened. Oh, it’s great to pursue notable causes; someone has to and I’m not disrespecting that lot because we need people like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, Malala Yousafzai … the list is long and extensive, and heroes and heroines every one of them.
I don’t know about you but I’m never going to make that list however I’m not impotent when it comes to creating change – neither are you. Every decision to exhibit an act of kindness, every act of forgiveness, every act of tolerance every wise word or loving, caring comment and a helping hand reaching out makes a difference. It creates change, not just in others, but most importantly in ourselves.
It’s an old adage “charity begins at home” and yep darn straight it does! If each of us will mend ourselves and be charitable to those we come in contact with, one day we WILL collectively mend the world.
I have recently begun using mosaic as an expression of my arty side and I love it. I love taking things that are broken and sticking them together, making something new and beautiful out of what would normally be discarded.
The Japanese have a tradition they call Kintsugi - ‘the art of broken pieces' -where they repair broken ceramics with precious metal. Kintsugi philosophy recognises the history of the object and incorporates the repair instead of disguising it, with the result being something far more beautiful than the original.
It got me thinking about how people are like that. We all suffer, that is the nature of human kind. It was once written ‘man is born to trouble just as sparks will always fly upwards’ and I think we all know the truth in that, it is a bullet none of us get to dodge.
The difference between a pile of broken pieces and a beautiful vessel fit for use again is what we do with our suffering. We can let it break us completely, or we can put ourselves back together again with things that are valuable. Precious things like patience, forgiveness, forbearance, thoughtfulness, hope, love …. we each have own list according to our own troubles.
Nowhere can I see that this is easy. Like fitting pieces of a smashed bowl together again with gold, it takes time. It can be difficult with a few false starts and sometimes it takes a helping hand.
But there is one thing I know, it’s doable because humanity is resilient. So, let’s aspire to have sparkly preciousness reflecting out of our lives because within every one of us there is the potential for something amazing to emerge out of hard times.
When we break, aspire to become something more beautiful from it. Kia kaha friends - Kintsugi.
It happens every year - Christmas. I don’t know why it comes as such a shock as it shouldn’t be any surprise but like summer leaking out of spring and winter falling on us after autumn – it’s sort of new every year with its excitement and frustrations.
I have friends (bless their hearts) who get so excited they start counting down in July. Their spectacular trees are festooned with delightful handmade ornaments and parcels which look like they were wrapped at Harrods. Others dread the coming season with homes filled with kids bored already in the holidays and the expectation of presents the budget just can’t keep up with.
Don’t forget those who lost loved ones at Christmas, to whom the smell of pine and the array of twinkling lights only exacerbates their mourning. Then there are the broken and melded families who are wondering how they split their time between two or more groups of parents and grandparents without upsetting anyone’s sensibilities.
It’s a glad time, and a sad time and even a scary time often all mingled together.
So let’s not forget what Christmas is all about – it’s about celebrating a birthday. A birthday that divides the western calendar between BC and AD and underpins the very nature of our culture and the rights of humanity we hold so dear.
It’s not about trees at all, or presents, or stuffing ourselves with scrumptious seasonal food. That’s all just peripheral because it’s really about a baby born in a manger who lived, died and rose again. His name is Jesus.
In recent weeks the open secret of the ‘casting couch’ experience has been hitting headlines. Rumour and innuendo has come into stark focus as women who lived in craven fear of losing their status in the movie industry are coming forward and opening up about the abuse they experienced at the hands of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.
It all seems a long way away from here but in some respects New Zealand had its own casting couch experience when in 1993 Louise Nicholas took courage and spoke out about the police officers that she alleged had raped her a decade earlier.
She too was afraid and thought no-one would believe her. She too fought for truth when the perpetrators were protected by colleagues. Accounts of the abuse of power during those times is chilling reading.
Nicholas persevered when immense pressure was put on her to fold and we know the story, we know the result wasn’t ideal but in the end the truth was exposed. As for Nicholas, she went on to champion women’s rights and deservingly won prestigious awards for her work.
We are reminded that her experiences have made new pathways for women who face the same type of abuse. These stories encourage all women to speak out and there is now good infrastructure to support and walk with women going through the process of finding their own justice.
I take my hat off in respect and celebrate Nicholas and brave women like her. What they have done is not easy but it’s the right thing to do, and they and those like them in our own backyard deserve our support.
(09) 623 1700 HELP 24/7 – Helpline for sexual abuse survivors. www.helpauckland.org.nz
(03) 377 6747 MSSAT – Helpline for male survivors of sexual abuse. www.survivor.org.nz