Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And Then There Were Three.

Choosing a Top 100 whatever is easy.
Narrowing it down, is not.

Personally, I don’t place much emphasis on what The Times newspaper says you should experience, taste or visit in your lifetime. To me that’s just some editor with a half page gap to fill on page 7 of a Holiday Special Edition. I know. I’ve had to write them before.

This week I was challenged to think about what my Top Three Books are. Now this was not an easy task. I’m an avid reader and nothing puts me more in my Happy Place than an unknown title, with euphoric ink scent, picked off a shelf at a second-hand book store.

Seriously? Three? If I was allowed 10 that would be a different story…many different stories. But no. I am given just three. So these are the ones I choose…

'The Elements of Moral Philosophy' by James Rachels. It’s a book I came across in my first year at university. One of those ones you look at and think, ‘This is going to require concentration…’ which may not sound all that appealing, but from the first page I was hooked. It deals with ethics and explores different moral theories such as Utilitarianism, Egoism and the Social Contract Theory – put simply it’s a challenge to the way we live – for the greater good of ourselves and others or survival of the fittest? Where other philosophers have put people to sleep in their explanation of morals, Rachels managed to write in understandable terms and include relevant examples such as what would you do if put in the position of giving up your own life to save a thousand others? Well, that’s always something to think about, isn’t it…

'Letters of a Portuguese Nun' by Myriam Cyr. History, mystery…what more does a romantic heart need? First published anonymously in 1669, the debate
continues about whether Mariana Alcoforado (1640-1723), a 17th century Franciscan nun, wrote five love letters to Frenchman Noel Bouton, Marquis de Chamilly (1635–1715) a fighter in the Portuguese Restoration War. The correspondence caused a sensation; raw in their honesty, intimacy and yearning. What of faith and a life consecrated to Christ though? Myriam Cyr explores the historical accuracy of whether the nun, her lover and the letters ever existed and the likelihood Mariana penned those passionate epistles. Perhaps this is one story whose origins will never be completely known and that, for me, is good reading.

'Adventures of the Wishing-Chair' by Enid Blyton. Ahh the memories of Mollie, Peter and Chinky the pixie. [insert smile here] All of Enid Blyton’s novels are an adventure so it was hard to select a specific one. Although I’m going with this particular title, the author is the influence. My eldest niece recently discovered The Famous Five and part of her delight is knowing how many books are in the series. I understand her enthusiasm. I’m still drawn in by the characters, places and dialogue. Although I can lie back on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a Blyton in my hand knowing I’ll have consumed it in an hour, I can’t pass them by. They are a reminder of a childhood filled with magic and imagination; where anything seemed possible if you bought a rocking chair at an antique store owned by fairies.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Looking for answers.

We live in a world of sorrows.

A world soaked in conflict, injustice and poverty.

We live in a world touched by disease, that which is incurable, that which is unstoppable.

We live in a world where today’s newspaper is someone’s bedding and a cardboard construction against an unused wall is called home.

We live in a world where you’re too old, too young, too immature, too independent, too co-dependant, not spontaneous enough, not sensible enough, too this, too that but never enough.

We live in a world where tears go unnoticed; where the burdened become someone else’s responsibility and stay medicated to disguise the pain.

We live in a world where hopelessness twists its tendrils into the cavity of damaged hearts and optimism seeps through the once half-full glass leaving it drained dry.

We live observing the innocent abused, their youth spent in a pendulum-like existence choosing to fight or fly, destination unknown.

We live in a world where confidence is foreign or deemed arrogant.

We live in a world where predictions are promises of disasters to come, counting the seconds until it’s outside our door. Knock, knock…who’s there? Do we answer?

We live in a world where faith is mocked, seen as a crutch, a disability, for believing in Something or Someone who may have another point of view.

We live in a world where courage turns its face away because it’s “not my problem” and what’s right or wrong no longer has distinction because interpretation and perception are ambiguous.

We live in a world of mistakes, regrets, brokenness and disappointments.

Why then, why then, is this world still so, so beautiful?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Confession of a gay girl.

Some things you just can’t understand. I was born a girl, grown into a woman. A woman who likes women. But I didn’t ask for this.

My first memory of same-sex attraction was when I was 16 in my second-to-last year of school. A random comment made to me by a female friend, met my: “Why? Are you interested?” with a wide smile, raised eyebrows and…nothing more.

My twenties were spent shoving the “elephant” behind the curtain, attempting to hide it, purge it, deliver it, ignore it and lie about it. Addressing it became more of an issue than pretending it wasn’t there anymore – but truth won’t stay hidden any more than a candle can restrict how much light it emits. To be fair, it was a pretty big elephant.

My coming out was, for some, a huge insult to their outlook on life. It was an affront to the God I claimed faith in, loved with all my heart and wept before to please, please, please change me. Words were not needed; the disgust written in several friends' eyes was a visual megaphone. It made me realise how much effort we put into feeling accepted - and how much we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn who we truly are before being moulded into a form so unlike that which we were designed to become.

The difficult thing is that I’ve read all the arguments; the verses, the quotes, the discussions about being gay. I have learnt from challenges already faced and would be na├»ve to assume the battle is over. I know what it feels like to come eye to eye with something you fear and accept it really is real, no matter how much you’d like to escape it. Unfortunately some things can’t be explained or simply given a dictionary definition which will prove satisfactory to an inquisitive heart. In short, I don’t have all the answers.

I don’t know why. I sure as heck don’t know why me. What I do know is that my sexuality doesn’t define who I am. And it’s not that I “just haven’t met the right man yet”. I have a couple of extremely attractive male friends who would be perfect husband material! And it’s not genetics; abnormal chromosomes or “she must have excessive oestrogen”. And no, there’s no history of abuse – mental, physical, spiritual or otherwise – in my younger years, teens or beyond. I’m just me.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. This is my life; the adventure I’ve chosen and if I have to do it riding a rainbow, at least I know it’s going to be colourful.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Running out of Vegemite at the half-year mark.

Today, six months ago, I left my homeland.
I left with a pack on my back, a pack on my front, packing my undies. Figuratively speaking.
It seems then like a good time to reflect on what has happened since that October 1, 2010 departure date and think about what the next half year might bring…
I don’t want to do the “unless you’ve been there you won’t know what it’s like” deal but I probably will so just step into the roller coaster seat behind me, strap yourself in and pull down the bar – right now I don’t know where this is heading…
To come to the other side of the world I gave up my job as a reporter, the best house I’ve ever lived at, my car which boy racers tried to drag me off in and the security of feeling settled. All these might not seem like much, and realistically, they aren’t. But when the list becomes more serious like not being able to watch my nieces and nephew growing up or spending time with family on their birthday or Christmas and having to wait for updates in the early hours of the morning when a friend is battling Death and not knowing what the outcome could be leaves you feeling extremely separated and, to be blunt, selfish.
Why selfish? Because I chose this. I chose to save for two years straight with the intention of leaving. I chose to leave and not come back for a decent amount of time. I chose and choices have consequences.
But here’s the thing: I only have one life. And I don’t want to be one of those people who get to the end of theirs and say I never did anything because it wasn’t convenient or the right time for others. Doing that would be denying the opportunities life brings my way and although I’ll put my hand in the air and admit, yes, there are extremely lonely days here, there are many when the sun shines too.
So this is what I know:
- From my window I can see the steeple of a 900-year-old church. I semi-sung Christmas carols with its choir. I have never sung in a 900-year-old church before. I couldn’t do that in New Zealand.
- I have eaten paella (pay-a-yah), a Spanish rice dish, traditional to the country. No matter what people say, authentic dishes always taste different across a border or vast expanse of water. The authenticity of local produce and ways of cooking are lost.
- I am part of a community here, with people who recognise me on the street and know my name – I’m not just, “One of those girls from New Zealand living on Tory…”
- I made it to Ireland. This is probably my greatest personal achievement while being over here, so far. It was on my Bucket List (with stipulations) and I made it with two days to spare.
- I am getting to do and experience things I may never again do in my lifetime.
Will I have changed when I return? I hope so. These six months have shown me what I have back home in Aotearoa but also what I have to look forward to while travelling. And when I board that plane at Heathrow, NZ bound, I’m sure the time spent here will have felt like a single breath.
But wouldn’t it be wonderful if the next six months proved to be even more exhilarating than the previous ones?
I for one, am counting on it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Set in stone.

Most of us, it seems, are dictated to on a daily basis.

Time to wake up. Time to take the kids to school. Time for the morning meeting. Time for dinner. Time to go to bed. Time to go to sleep. Time to do it all again.

I made my entrance into the world at 7.56am. I know this because it was recorded (and the fact that 11 minutes earlier my twin's was also).

Taking a moment to find the definition of 'time' I discover it means a temporal length of an event or entity’s existence. So technically we not only live within the parameters of it, we are ourselves a time zone. We are a space; a spell; a stint; a stretch; a span. Whatever way you look at it we have a beginning and an end.

For how long though? How much time do I have left? How many hours, months and seasons do I have to play with – because at the end of the day, well, that’s one less left in my existence. And who knows if this day I’ve lived half my life or whether tomorrow I have only a handful of breaths to do with what I choose.

And what I choose counts because time waits for no man. It’s been like that since the beginning – but let’s not get into that discussion.

I think Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift which is why we call it the present.”

One day; 24 hours; 86,400 seconds. Time may be up my sleeve but it’s out of my hands to change it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Everywhere You Go.

Novelist Marcel Proust once said a change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

Really?

It begs the question, how much change is needed in said weather to bring that recreation? In the world it can take as little as a split-second lightning strike or maybe something more extensive like the longest recorded drought in history at Chile’s Atacama Desert lasting 400 years from 1571 to 1971.

The world I can understand being recreated and realistically you’d have your head in the sand to say natural disasters weren’t on the increase.

But what about the recreation in ourselves? Or of ourselves?

Every year in the first two weeks of January I get My Song. My Song is something that sets the theme for the 12 months that follow. Sometimes it’s a challenge to see things differently, like last year was U2’s Beautiful Day. Mostly I think it’s to make me look outside myself; learn to be a lot more thankful and recognise the part I play in the world. My Song is an encouragement to see things differently, change perspective, live life fully.

So this year My Song is one I think Marcel Proust would agree fitted his words.

Crowded House’s Weather With You is going to keep me on my toes, but if that’s in gumboots or jandals remains to be seen. If I take the weather with me everywhere I go, then it stands to reason sometimes my inner storminess will need to get blown out to sea.

Growth takes every season’s input and during those three-month time frames important things are taking place. Did you know there are 168 types of weather including: pea soup, solar eclipse, dust devil, bitter brisk, midnight sun, solar corona, whirlpool, meteorite strike, falling star, howling wind and my favourite ~ beastly?

Needless to say, sometimes the forecast doesn’t quite turn out as expected. I can only hope my inner-meteorologist is prepared for whatever the morning sky brings despite what the mercury indicates on the thermometer.