Life is one big story and you are the author.

I find myself sitting on the floor at Bond university as a number of schools and their Grade nines, alongside mine, listening to a guest speaker about how he has taken hold of his life. Taken hold of his life story and being the author of his own story.

If your life was a book what would yours say?

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It’s hard to imagine life as a story, but ultimately it is. If you think back to what you have done, where you have been, what you have survived and achieved, we could all write our own stories. Imagine it, a book of life stories from each and every person. What an amazing read they would be.

Some would talk of celebrations and achievements, some would be ridden with trauma and sadness. Others would be so far from our own stories that we would have to re-read some of the pages just to make sure we have read it right. Some would read just as ours would.

My story is certainly still unfolding. I find new chapters starting before my eyes, ones that I have planned for and others that literally bowls me over and said, “this is what’s happening, now strap in, hold on and enjoy the ride!”.

We may never be able to control our chapters or the events that occur but we can approach them all with our eyes wide open. With the mindset of hope, forgiveness, love, gratitude, amusement and pride.

When you write your story or start to think about what has been written so far think of the following:

  1. Hope – always hope for the best. Hope for the future and satisfaction in all you do. This may not happen but we can hope that it will.
  2. Forgive – be sure to forgive, hate and anger is exhausting, trust me I know! It may not happen straight away but practice forgiveness. It is truly rewarding and can only make your story even better.
  3. Love – I have spoken about this but be sure to be open to love, this may result in hurt but to love and be loved is something you must have in your story. Be sure to love unconditionally and with all you have!
  4. Gratitude – be thankful. Tell others thank you, appreciate the thank you’s you receive. Take the time to look around and what we have and where we are. For me this is near the water, the sea breeze coming through the windows the birds in the trees. I often look out the kitchen window and take a moment to be thankful for where I am right then. My life may be falling apart around me but I still take that moment, because I deserve it. You deserve it.
  5. Amusement – laugh, laugh until you cry. laugh until your cheeks are sore. Laugh until you may wet yourself, but try stop before you do. Laughter is the true elixir of life! Find amusement in the small things, amusement in the mistakes you make, the things you do and sometimes in the things that normally stress you out. Amusement and laughter are necessary. No matter how down you are, how alone you feel or want to be, find someone to make you laugh, read something do something silly and you will be amazed at how it makes you feel.
  6. Pride – be proud. Be proud of yourself, after all you are a winner. You may be like, I have never won anything in my life, well you have. You won the race for life, before you even knew it, you had won something. When the egg and the sperm came together you were the product. You won the first and most important race you will ever be a participant of. You won the race of LIFE!

These are just a few things to take into consideration when writing your story, however they are some of the important ones. They are some of the top ten emotions we all need to make sure we use each and every day.

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I ask myself – What would I like to be reading, this is what my story should be and this is how I want it to be read! The story may not always go as planned but everything happens for a reason, whether it be good or bad, seem impossible to overcome or something amazing it was planned for your story. It’s how we fold it into our chapters that matters.

Ultimately, Life is a story and you are the author!

Waiting 24hours!

You may be wondering what I mean when I say, “waiting 24 hours”.

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Well, let me tell you what it means. Just yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a conference held by NextGeneration in Brisbane, and even then, one of the speakers mentioned the crucial, wait 24 hours before your respond.

He stated quite sternly; “Wait 24 hours before you do anything, giving your emotive response time to calm down”. He is so right!

I have come to love this saying as it has a very personal meaning to me. As the guest speaker talked about waiting before responding, my mother nudged me and had this wicked grin on her face as she reflected back to when I myself hadn’t listened to this advice. I didn’t wait the 24 hours, I responded full of emotion and anger, boy did it back fire.

It was a piece of advice my father gave me when I was in Year 12 after something happened which I will tell you about. He is an amazing man, my father, and continues to give me good advice and constantly reminds me to; breathe, take 24 hours, sleep on it, wait before you respond. This advice has saved me on many occasions and I am sure will continue to throughout the life I have in front of me.

Let me set the scene for you.

I was in Year 12, it was 2001 and I had only been in Australia 4 years. We had moved from the United Arab Emirates and an International School. I will discuss this another time. I had this interesting friendship with another girl at my school on the Sunshine Coast, her name was Kate. To be honest we did not get along. AT ALL!

We used to walk the playground, as you do when you are in high school and glare at each other as we crossed paths.

Anger eyes

If we sat near one another it was the typical whispering and giggling that girls do when we want the other group to think we are talking about them. Thinking back to it now, it was so silly, so stupid. As a teacher now though, I am the one dealing with these girl issues as their Head of Year, talk about irony!

One afternoon I was pretending to do my Homework/study at home, and yes pretending is the truth, and I happened to check my e-mail. There was this long e-mail from Kate. The e-mail was, let’s just say, not very nice. She used colorful language and wrote things about my parents and used words to describe them that made me angry. SOOOOOO angry!

Anger

The following emotions began to flow:

  1. Anger
  2. Frustation
  3. Irritation
  4. Disbelief
  5. A bomb about to explode…..

These are just a few!

All of them being what my positive psychology course would refer to as ‘red cape emotions’. Emotions that when left to fester can produce a negative response.

As mentioned yesterday at the conference, the fight or flight response became engaged and the adrenalin began to soar. Before I could stop myself, before I even thought about the two choices in front of me I hit the reply button and away I went.

I was pounding those keys, smiling evilly to myself as I thought about how I was replying. The evil grin coupled with the nasty little laugh you hear on the Disney animations when the villain is about to enact his revenge.

How the following day I was going to meet her in the playground and give her a real piece of my mind. She was going to feel the rage I was feeling!

Let’s just say, as my imagination ran away with me at how this ‘meeting’ was going to take place. It did not turn out how I envisioned. Rather much worse.

So I woke up the following day, eager to get to school and enact this revenge. The vision had developed overnight. You can imagine as a teenage girl what it looked like the following morning. ‘Me standing over her body, one foot on her, arms in the air, my body telling those around me, don’t mess with me and my family. Rather ‘gangster like’ but that’s what my mind did.

So I head to school and before I know it, before I get to see Kate, before I get to say my piece I am hauled into the principals office. Now I don’t know about you but it’s the same feeling of dread you get when a police car is behind you. Even though you have done nothing wrong, you second guess everything you are doing and get all nervous.

Well, Kate had shown her parents my e-mail response. Here I was the one in trouble, because I replied, because I did not wait to respond and if I had just taken the 24 hours,  the response would have been much less ‘angry’. To say the least I was ashamed, I was annoyed and when read back to me I realised my response was just as bad as her initial e-mail. I had been brought down to her level and acted just as she did.

Put it this way, this was a life lesson and one I look back on now and smile about. Often we talk about the lessons we learn in life and how they shape us as human beings. This did just that. From that shameful moment on I began to take the time before responding.

Throughout the ordeal of the family and criminal courts, the education system, being a teacher and a parent, there have been many times where I have crafted this amazing emotion filled inappropriate response to an e-mail, text or something of the like and then stopped, taken a breath and deleted it. I kept thinking to myself, if my parents read this what would they think.

Sometimes I would e-mail myself the response I wanted to send, then at least when I hit the send button I felt some relief. I would even sometimes send it onto my mother and ask her to hep me remove the emotion.

This skill of waiting the ’24 hours’ has helped me immensely. I encourage you next time you want to hammer a response or take on the person who has angered, annoyed or irritated you, wait. Take a few breaths, walk away and come back to it when you are calmer and more rational. Its amazing what adrenalin can do and how it will make you respond.

Remember you are not on their level, you are better than them. You are strong. You don’t want to go through the feeling of being ashamed or regret as once you hit the send button or you utter those words as once they leave your e-mail or your mouth you will never be able to get them back. EVER!

Be wary of the hurt it can cause the other person, yourself and those around you.

Drugged…..

This is something we as young adults, parents, educators, grandparents and others fear  ourselves and our young people.

It is something we hope we never experience and those around us don’t either.

Wherever we turn, especially living on the Gold Coast, Australia, we see advertisements about being aware. Don’t leave your drink, don’t go home with strangers, don’t accept a drink from someone and the list goes on.

We educate our young people in schools through talks and guest speakers. Through units we teach, however, when we look at the teenage faces in front of us we see ignorance and the idea that ‘this won’t happen to me’. Its everywhere. We remain ignorant to something like this until we are subjected to it. Until we experience it first hand. Then we are the ones trying to teach those around us to be more aware, we ourselves become frustrated with the ignorance you yourself once had.

Let me clear something up before I get into another very personal story. Being drugged is not something that happens just to young people. It can happen to adults and elderly. You don’t have to be an eighteen year old in a bar or nightclub. You can be in your thirties and at an organised event and it can happen to you.

It did to me.

It was a major event, ball gowns and all. An event attended by my colleagues, friends and more. We spent hours on our hair, our make-up and of course the perfect dress. I would like to say it was an amazing evening and event, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember anything.

Now I am a cautious person, I was a thirty year old, educated and a responsible person. I was dressed to impress and enjoy the evening with my friends.We had been lucky enough to book a few rooms at the venue and had spent the afternoon in fits of laughter as we ‘glammed’ ourselves up.

We were ready early, yes I know, unheard of in the female world but we were, so we headed down to the bar outside the grand ballroom and ordered a pre-drink. This is where for me the night ended, or should I say began.

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For me, the next thing I remembered was waking up the next morning, thankfully in my room. However, it was learning what happened, that I couldn’t remember, that made me feel empty, lost and eventually angry.

This is what I gathered from chatting to my friends.

After this pre-drink we headed into the grand ballroom, we took photos, we danced and I spoke and acted like a ‘normal person’. However, not the normal me. I was spacey, quick to make judgements, quick to anger and unable to make decisions.

I remember the following few days, after the event, hearing snippets of what I had done and said, how ashamed I was, how empty I felt, as for me I could remember nothing. It was like someone or something had crept into my mind and stolen hours of my life. Without my permission. Seeing photos or even talking about the evening made me sick to my stomach. I felt violated!

For days I felt physically sick, I couldn’t eat and even more so I was depressed. Truly down. Like nothing I had ever felt before. I rang my dad and told him I thought I had had my drink spiked and how I was feeling. He told me the emptiness is what people who have this done to them must feel. Its the come down. The after effects.

What were my options? Well I could have had a blood test, I could have gone back to the venue and reported the event, but I didn’t. I think this was part shame, part anger and part not being able to fully comprehend what had happened. Having your memory wiped, stolen never to return no matter how hard you tried to fill in the deep black hole that was now present.

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It took me days to recover and months to forgive myself. However, I had to also realise, I didn’t need to forgive myself. It could have happened to anyone anywhere, it was just me on that night.

Living on the Gold Coast, one of the entertainment capitals of the world, drink spiking was, and continues to be a major issue. We educate our young people about watching their drinks, being sure to order their own and never accept one from someone else, but, we must also educate them in the ‘what if’. What if this happens? We must educate them as individuals and also their friends to identify the signs of when things are not as they seem. To give them a lifeline, someone to call, something to do. Have the conversation when the time is right. Make them aware and be there for them. If they won’t ring you be sure to identify someone they will contact. Someone they trust and will not hesitate to contact. I am hoping to be that person for my soon to be teenager.

I can imagine the fear and the anger I would feel if I ever received a phone call like this, however I am convinced through education, awareness and understating I never will be.

If only a friend of mine had noticed or been able to take me to my room, remove me from the evening maybe the night would have been different. This is not a blame thing more an awareness thing. We need to be aware of those around  us, our setting and try be as cautious as we can be.

Don’t get angry with your child if they ring on a night and need you to come and get them, or if they do the wrong thing but reach out. This is the best outcome. Its a life lesson, a hard one but a lesson in itself. Forgive and then educate.

So many times I have wanted to share this personal story with the young people I see who talk about the parties they attend, the things they do and see but my job and need for professionalism inhibits this. I do believe hearing the personal stories and the real life events are what make our young people realise they are not invincible rather we are all just human beings.

To this day I have not been back to this venue. I am not sure why. Maybe its the shame, the anger or even the fear but I have not been back. Maybe one day but not just yet.

Why doesn’t the brain have an off switch?

Have you ever wondered why our brain doesn’t have an off switch.

Wouldn’t it be handy!

I mean think about it, how many times have you;

  • gone to bed wishing you could just switch off for a few hours?
  • stop the thoughts going through your head?
  • wondered if you will ever get through what you have to do as your brain seems to run away with itself and make the small things, into big things?
  • been so tired that all you want to do is ‘tune out’?
  • seen the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other and they are having it out with one another and your brain is just in the middle and cannot stop the ‘supposed’ conversation taking place?
  • Turn off the hurt or the emotions that you have been experiencing?
  • Turn off the grief and loss just for a moment?
  • Turn off the memories, whether good or bad, just take a break?
  • Worried about the bills you cannot pay and the financial stressors in your life?
  • Been somewhere and you see before your eyes, like one of those old movies, the list of things you have to do or need to get done scroll upwards like the introduction to a star wars movie. You may even have the theme song playing in your head as this happens. Your heart races and you almost go into panic mode before you realize you have managed before and you will again?

Personally I have this happen to me at least once a day. I find my brain sometimes even has a conversation with me. Whereby I say to myself, just get out of my head, or file this, as I imagine a filing cabinet and then the to do list, the concern, the worry or whatever, is filed for later. This ‘filing’ in my head even comes with a slamming of the draw. Sometimes I feel internally satisfied that I have achieved something by being able to file away the non-urgent things.

Lately, in schools, education, workplaces and even on an individual basis we are becoming more aware of peoples mental well-being and mindfulness. Some schools have installed sleep pods, meditation classes or even built a well-being center. Some work places have created surveys or run frequent staff morale events to ensure their mental well-being is taken into consideration.

Facebook has become more populated with small advertisements which promote – ‘Do nothing for 15 seconds’, then you see this amazing rain falling on the leaves of a tree and you are meant to feel calmer and more whole after watching it.

Others have Yoga, Pilates, boxing or even a glass of wine to achieve the same thing.

If only our brain had an off switch!

Inside the human mind

It truly is an amazing organ, so much goes on in there!

No wonder we often feel overwhelmed and we can’t keep going. I mean our body tires out when we are physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted so why cant our brain get ‘tired’. Maybe when we say ‘my head hurts’ because you have been using the brain too much this is in fact when the brain should be able to turn off. Maybe it is tired….

Maybe it is an evolutionary fault – not being installed with an off switch. Imagine what a difference it would make if we could go to bed and just like our bedside light, switch off our minds, completely. Maybe it is a fault of the recent generations, becoming more technology focused and reliant. Becoming busier and busier. Trying to complete what we would have done  in a week in only a few days.

Maybe it us, maybe we are not letting the brain switch off? Maybe we can’t for fear we will never be able to wake up, reboot, or even I believe our greatest fear is missing something. Maybe we will miss something or wake up and be left behind. We are afraid.

Then when we wake the next morning we just turn it back on and it’s had time to reboot. It’s had time to rest and re-group. We would be so much more productive!

Our phones, computers and everything electronic often requires time to be ‘shut-down’ in order to be able to work at its best. Why is our brain not the same?

The neighbourhood – the mysterious house!

So I don’t know about you but there always seems to be a mysterious house either in your street or nearby….

Well we have one of those!

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The mysterious house in our neighborhood is not far from our front door. It’s a house I now avoid, unless I’m in a curious mood when walking the dogs.

If I happen to walk past it I try not to look like I am snooping, this is where the dogs help. “Oh” I say, “you would like to smell the letter box”…okay… all while I peer, and feel this the nervous tension creeping into my bones as I peer into this mysterious house.

The garage door is always propped open with a brick, this brick never moves and I mean never moves. The bins are overflowing as though they are never emptied, the same one window open on the side of the house and in the past year, I have not seen anyone there.

It’s the house with the overgrown lawns, the one that when you look at it you immediately imagine the horror movies you love to watch where a crazy person is inside secretly peering out, watching you while you watch the house.

Something drops near by, and this could just be a leaf or twig from a near by tree and I am off like a rocket, the dogs oblivious to the nervous tension that I now have.

My walk a little faster and the mind racing. I will have another look maybe later in the week.

One time my husband and I were walking past the house, again with the dogs and the stench that came from it was overpowering. The lawns again almost a metre high. I turned to him and said, “what if someone is in trouble?”. A dark barks from inside and it sounds angry or desperate, crying out for help.

I never knew a dog lived there.

The mind racing and the worst scenario in our minds we had a look and called out but no one replied. All we heard was the barking of a dog from inside and the stench coming from that one same window which is always open.

We pondered this mysterious house for the rest of the evening. Finally coming to the conclusion that we should report it to police link. If someone had fallen or the dog was trapped inside then they could help. Their response was interesting. This is what they said:

“Go back and take another look”

“Ask the neighbours”

“Have you seen anyone going in and out”

I thought to myself, I am not going back to the creep house and knocking on the door! What if I was abducted, attacked by the dog or there was a crazy person with a knife on the other end. Yes you may think my mind is running a little crazy but the place is mysterious enough to warrant this response.

So we hang up and think it’s all we could do. We may take another walk past there but not tomorrow.

The weirdest thing happened the next day when I drove past, not walked, the lawns were mowed, the bin taken out and the dirty toilet paper which had been strewn all over the front yard was gone…

Don’t know about you but that was creepy? Maybe it was a safe house, maybe the police knew about it?? Who knows, it’s still the mysterious house on the street and always will be!

Do you have one of these?

Awe – one of the top ten.

Awe, one of the top ten emotions I learnt about in my positive psychology course.

It’s actually a great word.

Before I talk about it let’s define it:

Awe is: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder” (dictionary.com). It’s synonyms include: wonder, amazement and astonishment.

I hadn’t realised how many times I had experienced this emotion until I took the time to think back and reflect on all I have done, everything I have seen and where I have been!

Here are some of my ‘awe’ moments, where I have felt amazement, wonder and complete overwhelming appreciation for beauty. Being in that moment, in that place at that time to capture what I have.

1. Sitting in a cave which acted as a safe haven for the women and children. Housed in the mountains of Kenya, one of the guards puts down his machete and picks up a camera to take some photos.

2. The skull of a deer lying next to a watering hole where lions and elephants frequent. The circle of life in real time!

3. An African sunset. I just couldn’t believe where I was and how lucky I was to experience this alongside people just as motivated as me and who take the time to develop our young people. Taking them across the globe to volunteer and dedicate their blood sweat and tears to help others. A truly awe inspiring thing to do!

4. This picture says it all. Sitting in a hotel sipping on a cider looking over a watering hole and this is what we get to see. Animals in their natural habitat. A truly unique experience, and amazing to be a part of.

5. A young monk sitting in the temples in Cambodia. Days spent dedicating his time to helping others give thanks. Only having one meal a day, he is still so thankful and always willing to do what he can to help others appreciate their surroundings and to be thankful for what they have.

7. Cambodia 2017 – working as a volunteer alongside some students in our sister school. Two boys who have nothing, sitting next to one another watching what was going on. A special moment for them both that I captured. I was in awe of how resilient these young people are despite the hardship they face each day!

8. A small puppy in Myanmar, one of many, that just sits alone in the city, the temples or any place where tourists may be. Some are used by the locals to get money or donations as they ‘cannot feed themselves’. A helpless puppy.

9. A tree that has shown us building a temple will not prevent it from being all it can be. One of the most beautiful temples in Cambodia.

Taking back its space!

10. A cupcake parlor called ‘Blooms’ in Cambodia. Run by an English lady who educates the local women and gives them a skill. This amazing cafe is situated on a street full of dust and pollution; however, behind the glass walls resides this magical place and the most delicious cupcakes!

11. Three of the children from our sister school in Cambodia. They may have walked 5km to school that morning, had no breakfast and the only clean water they can access is when they are at school! Despite this, they are still so truly happy and grateful!

An amazing culture!

12. A picture tells a thousand words. The killing fields in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A confronting experience no matter how many times you go. A bracelet made and hung as a sign of respect and acknowledgement to every body, set of bones or child killed in what was a very hard time in Cambodia.

13. In the skies of Myanmar, a bird takes flight!

14. Like life sometimes we refer to the light at the end of the tunnel. This just made that statement seem so real! It resonated with me as on another level as the tunnel may seem dark, but there are always patches of light along the way!

15. Early in the morning, camped on the side of the Clarence River in NSW, we wake up and find a spider has spent hours crafting the most beautiful and intricate web. The dew made it even more amazing to look at. The time, the effort and detail was amazing!

16. Working with some horses in Gatton, QLD, and this little spider (mind you a very poisonous one), is out getting some sun!

17. Snow on the Gold Coast.

18. I thought this was normal, I mean come on, everyone has a snake help them when they are marking. She was so comfortable!

19. Taking the pet snake for a walk – is this normal. The looks we got that day!

These are only a snippet of the many times I have experienced the emotion, ‘awe’.

Be sure to take the time to look up,put the screen down and take a moment to appreciate your surroundings!

It is truly amazing!

The Ten Emotions

So again I am going to return to the course I am doing in Positive Psychology. If you have no idea what I am talking about go back to the post I wrote called the ‘Three Blessings’ and this will help you relate to what I am saying.

In the second module I explored the ten top emotions we all have, these were:

1. Joy

2. Inspiration

3. Hope

4. Gratitude

5. Love

6. Awe

7. Serenity

8. Pride

9. Amusement

10. Interest

I was amazed as when I listened and wrote these down I realised how I experience, and you probably do too, each of these from time to time. Maybe more often than that.

However, it was how they explained each of these that really blew me away.

Throughout my blogs I will touch on each of these, some more than most. Each of these are parts of our lives we may not even know we are taking part in, let alone experiencing!