Dusk

Coming into my life like dusk, did you know that was my favourite time of day? When the world transitions from light to dark. In this moment there’s a noticeable calm, a surprise of colours and sunsets that still manage to take my breath away. The prospect is short lived yet reoccurring- it’s comforting, powerful and out of human control.

You were this moment.

Coming into my life like that, did you know what was going to happen? At a time my heart was bruised and incapable of repair. You entered, unannounced and self assured. Maybe it was your earthy approach that caught my attention or the fact any anxiety disappears in your company. You were more powerful to me than any force of nature. The only person to overrule my nerves, make a myth out of hangovers and push me through the mundane comfortable hell I’d created. Did you carry these jobs unknowingly? Peace is a very unique gift to bring someone, especially when they’re heavily armed. Words so sharp as they’d launch from my tongue like weapons. I had built a wall and your calm, prudent approach diluted the barrier that once was and I hope you understand my gratitude.

Coming into my life like that, did you know what you were doing? Showing me a different side of love. A love that’s not lustful or selfish- everything I’d never known. A love so patient, I learnt to understand myself. There were no warning signs and no clear trail for navigation. It was the un-known and un-wavering kind. Vibrant splashes of colour started appearing in my clothes, hair and nails. There was a new dynamic to my naturally dark wardrobe. What happened before you? I’m not sure. I just know you arrived so peacefully I didn’t recognise the power. Did you know? You, superseded everything I’d ever known.

Coming into my life like that, did you know you’d be my friend? Your triumphs and failures became mine, like I had lived each minute of your day. I felt every silence, tone in your voice and step in your walk like I was the one walking it. Holding your hand felt more comfortable than my own. Loss of breath from the laughter you gave. Complete lack of air when you leave. And when you’re gone…everything suddenly goes dark.

Did you know? You were my Dusk.

Finding Yourself

 

Coming from a non spiritual upbringing, the words ‘finding yourself’ was the instant trigger for an eye roll. Regardless of my upbringing, my logical sense and natural personality was quick to shut the thought down. I remember hearing it from others and thinking- Do you even know what that means? Does anyone know? Why can’t someone just elaborate on how to identify when one ‘finds thy self’? Even if I did fall into the concept of believing this could happen, how would I know I’ve achieved such spiritual awakening when no one could provide a reassuring answer. You’ll just know was the only response I recieved and that quickly prompted an eye roll followed by the realisation I needed more wine to continue this conversation. Though soon the subject reined heavy into my thought process and I started comparing the concept to falling in love. I guess you just know when you love someone so maybe this is the same? My inquisitive subconscious must of had enough and set out to find answers.

Spiritual enlightenment has been greatly associated with travel and for that part I understood. Travelling forces you out of your daily routine and comfort zone. Landing in unfamiliar territory, with different cultures, food, smells and interactions gives you a chance to grow as a person. You learn and with learning comes growth. Not to say you have to travel in order to ‘find yourself’ because I personally had been across the other side of the continent, anticipating embodying buddha himself and still came home confused and disappointed. Though refusing to give up, I tried over and over again.

My eyes open to complete darkness in a hotel room in Barcelona. I lean towards my phone to check the time, expecting early hours of the morning just to nod back off to sleep. The digits 10.20 light up aggressively and blind my vision. Knowing I went to bed after 11pm the night before, this was not a good sign. We were due for a bus tour up Montserrat Mountain at 10am. God damn these black-out curtains. They are an incredible force, can completely distort all notions of time. I jumped out of bed into the dark unknown while yelling for my daughter to wake up. “We’re LATE, we’re so late. Get up!” Throwing on the first clothes I could find, Sienna half asleep while I shove a toothbrush into her mouth- not the most gracious of wake ups. We dashed across the city towards the meeting point. “There was no way I was missing out on this spiritual experience,” I thought while sprinting across busy streets, Sienna being dragged mid-air from behind.

The Mountain itself holds a religious significance. Home to the Benedictine Monk Monastery and statue of the ‘Black Madonna’ also known as ‘The Virgin of Montserrat’ or ‘Virgin Mary’. The monument was believed to be carved in Jerusalem at the beginning of the religion and known to bring miracles to all who worshipped. Although I’m not highly religious, I respect history enough to dote over the experience. This was it. If I was going to transform into a new, better version of myself- this was it. Sienna and I lined up to touch the sculpture and pay our respects. When leaving the alter we had the opportunity to pray in the chapel of the Image and we bowed our heads and prayed. Sienna undoubtedly praying for world peace, while I wished for a sign of change. A spiritually enlightened change.

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The views on top of this 1200 meter-high mountain were breathtaking, showcasing the landscapes of Catalonia. The atmosphere was electric and although an incredible experience, I still couldn’t feel any shift within myself. A similar experience happened in Rome when visiting the cathedrals. I tried the same wish while throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. I caught the claustrophobic tube in London, ate alone, saw the Queen, meditated while looking through floor to ceiling glass windows and walked aimlessly through foreign places in search for this life changing moment. Yet nothing!

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Recently the opportunity to travel to Indonesia with a group of strangers lead me to believe that this was my moment. I couldn’t possibly be thrown out of my comfort zone anymore and besides India, Bali is the epitome of spiritual enlightenment. During my time there I challenged myself to the limits. Not only being away from my daughter for the first time for that duration but I experienced moments that broke my heart. I spent a lot of time alone, trying cultural therapies and ended my trip by visiting popular temples. One of the stand outs was Tirta Empul, home to the Holy Spring Water Temple. This is a place of self-cleansing, though not physically but spiritually.

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A man helped me tuck in my sarong as I stood nervously at the entrance. “Think good thoughts”, he whispered as if he could read my mind or maybe he just felt my resistance while his hands were around my waist. I walked slowly towards the pool of ‘Holy Water’ and observed all my nerves disappear. This has got to be it, this is the moment. Looking around, people were working their way through the water in clockwise movements. Briefly stopping in at the shower-like hoses attached. I followed suit and bathed in the water. I’m unsure if I felt any life-changing breakthrough, though I was strangely calm. As I handed my sarong back, the same man looked at me with enthusiasm as if I should be enlightened. I just starred back while giving him a hopeful smile yet still I felt nothing. Why is this not happening? Right I guess India is next for me.

Like most good things; they will happen when you least expect it. While sitting at the airport waiting for my flight home, it happened. I sat down on the floor of the gate shortly after breezing through a very relaxed security process and thought about the concept. I was proud of my efforts the past week and imagined myself sitting here, book in hand, alone in a foreign airport and thought “Holy shit I have grown up”. And that was it, the penny had dropped.

Maybe finding yourself isn’t a thing, well not something you hit instantly. Finding yourself is not a destination, it is a journey. You could find yourself a million times through life as you’re constantly changing through growth. Growing is the logical answer I had been searching for. YOU JUST GROW UP! Since planting my feet on home soil, this concept was amplified through my behaviour and reactions. I had changed.

It’s reassuring to know you don’t necessarily need to travel to the ends of the earth, dunk yourself in Holy Water or pray to the Virgin Mary to find spiritual awakening. You just need to grow up and it happens in your own time. The experiences you encounter may fast track or delay the process but enviably it will happen. And when it does you’ll just know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rome to Venice through the eyes of a child *

* The worst day of my travelling life

Her right hand intertwined with mine so tightly, while the other hugged my forearm. She was latched onto me as if I could shield her from any potential danger. Me- the 5ft woman who’s heart is pulsating through her own lungs as we board the flight to Italy.

“You’re out of your mind travelling alone with the little one. I wouldn’t do it, even with help”, screeched a mature aged woman, wearing sunglasses with bright red lipstick shaping the contour of her imaginary lips. She was about to board a 13 hour flight at 10pm and felt that Ruby Red and her opinion was a necessity. And clearly the lights from the airport were blinding her arrogant vision- still to this day I don’t trust people who wear sunglasses inside.
“Well it’s a good thing you aren’t doing it.” I reply, while trying to direct my daughters attention elsewhere. As we finally take our seats on the torture chamber, my girl looks up at me with excitement and bright eyes, already minutes into ‘Shaun the Sheep’ and it’s that moment I’m made aware of my responsibilities during this European Summer.

After three days in Rome, filling up on pizza, cafe hoping and noticing all the beauty that is the colour mustard we started making our way to Venice. This is when things took a turn. Sadness lingered over me as I soaked in my last few moments of this incredible city. The endless cafe’s that provided such ambiance and comfort, the food, the wine, the people. No part of me wanted to leave. We arrived at the train station which seemed like it had it’s own city within a city. There was at least half an hour before our train- yet I started speed walking, in any direction, concerned if I stopped I’d be trampled by the hundreds of commuters. Massive suitcase, back packs and a child to my left when that feeling I had forgotten something swept over me. I stop dead in my tracks, people forcefully brushing past each shoulder, nudging me forward inch by inch. The heart starts racing, I could feel it beat through my hands as I fumble for our tickets and analyise the mental check list in my head. I glance over towards my daughter and she’s leisurely taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, the Italian accents, mesmerised by the details of the ceilings, oblivious we were mid stampede.

“What’s wrong mum?”

“Nothing baby, I’m just making sure I have everything.”

“You have me, everything is fine.”

I was more alert than ever. Constantly making sure she was attached to me, vigilant of anyone in our 3m radius and making sure no one had cut a hole in my backpack. I was checking our passports didn’t move from the zipped hidden pocket, in my neck sachel, under my shirt, guarded by my right hand. This happened on a 30 minute rotation. Sienna skipped along with the busy crowd, taking in the hustle and being somehow uplifted by it’s fast-moving pace. Songs from the buskers made her smile wide as she danced along, following the foreign sound.

“Sienna, so help me god! Stay next to me, hold onto my shirt.”

“Mum, relax it’s okay. Can you hear the music?”

Through the sounds of my anxiety and train call overs I could barely make out any sound but to be honest, I couldn’t care.

“Mum what instrument is that? Can I play that one day?

“SIENNA… MY SHIRT! Hold my shirt”.

The train ride introduced us to the ‘gypsy’ culture. Well I was acquainted with it, Sienna just assumed lovely older ladies were leaving us notes next to our seat.
“She seemed nice”, Sienna delicately whispers.

Then when younger girls ‘offered’ to help us with our luggage, she again responded gratefully and even complemented their strength. Meanwhile I was 10 Euro down and wondering if ‘fuck off’ was universal.

“Look at this mum”, Sienna pointing to the picturesque scenery out the window, amazed by the whole experience.

“Yeah great babe”, half looking and unimpressed while feeling for the outline of our passports. Still trying to wrap my head around the fact I was just scammed by girls no older than 14.

First change over was in Florence. Patience was wearing thin. The schedule was tight and so was my grip on our belongings.

“Mum we should leave our bags somewhere here.”

“Ahh not happening, they are staying right in my vision.” Still frazzled by my earlier interactions.

So with luggage in tow we boarded another train, dodged any assistance and I bunkered down until Pisa. I was on edge while Sienna made friends with an Italian woman sitting across from her. They were laughing over Sienna’s drawings and although weren’t speaking the same language, they were having a moment. I was fiercly starring down the situation, cautiously picking apart every expression, imagining scenarios and my quick response reactions in my head. I was on guard. They were laughing and I was judging. Unsure if my protective nature was exageratted by that red lipped, sunglass wearing woman at the airport or I was just a nut job.

On arrival, I decided against any further form of transport and followed the crowd to what I could only assume was this iconic leaning tower. We walked for longer than I was mentally prepared for. Longer than my younger fit self could endure. It was disgustingly hot, sweat was dripping and Sienna was getting tired. I was now carrying all of the luggage which included Sienna and a fluffy bear. My patience had worn out and I was mentally ruined. Couldn’t tell if the burning sensation in my legs was from exercise or sunburn straight through my jeans and just before giving up I hear Sienna burst out.

“We are here, look at it. Can you see it mum? Wow.”

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Like most attractions in Italy, it’s a beautiful piece of infrastructure but now I have sweat in places I never knew existed and I’m sure my hand had gone numb from lack of circulation. We viewed the tower through a sea of thousands of other sweaty tourists, attempting to hit that glorified ‘leaning’ shot. It was a bouquet of people striking the same pose with arms and legs stretched out, flying away with their dignity. No thanks, not today. I wanted to leave. Everything looked identical. Why is there no cabs around a massive tourist attraction? Praying my legs wouldn’t buckle from within me, we started walking. Sienna stopping at every statue, touching it, climbing it, chatting to random people who complimented her. While I have my head in my phone googling ‘cabs in Pisa’ and cursing the lack of transport around this Leaning Tower. Time was catching up and knowing we had minimal minutes until our next train otherwise we could forget Venice- my heart started racing again. The beat could be felt through my finger tips, confident it was prominent enough to make sound. Somewhere between searching numbers, feeling for our passports and watching my child- I lost it. I was fed up of walking, done with carrying luggage and not knowing where I was. I had average reception, minimal battery and I was fearful I’d failed. Failed as a mother and as a tourist in general. Also why am I the only one carrying fucking luggage?

The woman from the cab company must of heard the severity in my voice. “Where are you?” she asked. I look around in the blaring sun, no street signs, no standout restaurants, nothing! Everything is actually identical. I look at Sienna, standing patiently next to me with a hopeful smile and I just cry. Shit was lost. Pure frustration came streaming down my face and I wanted to collapse right in the middle of apparently nowhere. Sienna embraced my fragile body, grabbed my phone and stopped a man walking past and said- “Can you please tell them where we are?”
My first thought was- I will never see my iPhone again.

“Sienna no, you can’t just give people my phone.” I cried.

“We have to mum, we don’t know where we are.”

She hands over the phone with a smile, like this 6ft gent was a family member. The kind stranger started speaking Italian to the woman and said- “The cab will be here in 5 minutes, wait just around the corner.” He gave us a smile, placed headphones in and continued about his day. Sienna acknowledges his friendly nature while waving him goodbye and then proceeds around the corner while I stand still, shocked and ashamed of my untrusting nature.

We made the connecting train, with minutes to spare. My girl could feel my relief as I lugged the massive bags up the last step and onto the platform. We made it! Sienna starts dancing as a result and signals me to join. After the past few hours, I was in no position to question her choices- so we danced. We had a good thirty seconds of twirling around in happiness on the busy platform before we sat back comfortably on the last leg of our journey. This turned into my moment of reflection on how different interpretations are from children to adults. Children view things much more beautifully and innocent, because they are. They haven’t been done over by life yet and their encounters are not hindered or based on bias or religion, but love and kindness. I wanted to reverse my time to see visions this clear, this simple.

Eventually I step out into the clear skies of Venice, smiling. Despite feeling drained of all energy and overwhelmed by the days events, I decided to perceive this beauty from a child’s eye view.

“Oh my goodness mum, they don’t have roads here. We are catching a boat.. YAY! It’s like a fairytail mum, look!”

“You’re right baby, this is magical.” I reply, as I stare into the unfamiliar distance. I finally drop the luggage, grab her hand tightly while the other hugged her forearm. And I looked, seemingly for the first time.

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Pass It To The Public And Watch The Shit Show

“The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.”-Charles Bukowski.

I steer clear from politics probably for the same reason Bukowski did- tolerance for humans is already limited and that significantly decreases when discussing political topics and above all- I’m not that interested. Though since the latest uproar in our government over the same sex marriage debate, I’ve been propelled to say a few words.

From my understanding the Governments plan is to hold a plebiscite or potentially a postal vote in November regarding same sex marriage. A vote that will cost taxpayers $122 million, inflict hatred in the process and be voluntary. A vote for peoples right to live and love; only if you can be ass’d having a say. Right, okay. Now where do you begin with such a catastrophe? Let me start by addressing the fact our incompetent Government have turned this debate into a circus all because they can’t make a decision. They have thrown the lives of some Australians into the hands of others who have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with said life. You’ve got Mary and Jim for example spreading hate while sipping cups of tea voting ‘NO’ over the lives of Steve and Tom- who they will never even encounter. It’s distressing.

I would love to think Australians have moved forward and we would bound together and vote ‘YES’ for marriage equality so we can all get on with life. Though sadly after reading comments relating to the matter- I’m concerned. I’m concerned for the lives of friends and family members who could be subjected to such hatred. I’m greatly worried for our children growing up in a society where backwards adults could influence a decision leading to their acceptance. I read a comment today saying “It’s not about love or hate, it’s about changing Lord’s creation and satisfying the devil’s”. SATISFYING THE WHAT MATE? Now there’s no question this woman was a weirdo, I mean a full-blown mental hazard. She’s the reason I won’t let my daughter catch public transport and the same reason I dislike some people. Though the saddest thing is these people are able to walk freely around society and now thanks to our Government could vote against others right to marry. Against human equality.

Whether you’re for or against same sex marriage or like Bukowski and don’t really give a shit, the process is still costing tax payers $122 million. I personally could think of better areas where this money could be spent;

  1. Healthcare
  2. Education
  3. Homelessness
  4. Housing
  5. Drug epidemic and support for families
  6. Harassment / violence
  7. Charity funding
  8. Subsidised childcare
  9. Feeding the stray dogs of the world
  10. Rebuild Communities

Obviously the list is endless though the main point being- Australia is about to spend $122 million on voting for a basic human right. This is not okay.

Let’s end this now 🌈http://www.aec.gov.au/enrol/

 

 

 

Broken In Bali

“But don’t give up on us. The children here need help.”- Alison Chester

Surrounded by high off-white jagged walls filled with splashes of childlike drawings of green and red floral, housed a saddening issue in Indonesia’s city of Denpasar. Laughs and cries of young children spiralling around me was the shock that broke my already hurting, over privileged, naive self to the core.

Jodie O’Shea’s Orphanage, home to 99 resilient children in the back streets of Bali came about in July, 2005. This establishment is named in memory of Jodie, following her tragic passing in the 2002 Bali bombings. Alison Chester and Riyanto Samadi are the founders of this life giving home and they strive to provide the best care, love and opportunity for these young kids. The children are not all orphans. Some are born into severe poverty, others victims of neglect and abuse. With a growing population in Indonesia of over 250 million, making it the 4th largest nation in the world, it faces endless challenges resulting to this type of life for the younger generation. An estimated 2.7 million Indonesian children are involved in some form of child labour, as a result of severe poverty. ‘Street Kids’ as they’re most commonly known, will pull heart strings as they ask for money or hypnotise you skilfully with their sales tactics. Some of these children are not attending school and therefore grow up with a life far less desirable than most westerners can even imagine. This is survival. As an alternative, struggling parents will give their child to an Orphanage, with the knowledge they will at least be provided with food and shelter. The thought is devastating, though this is reality.

“I will get a call from locals, informing me of an abused and abandoned child eating from the trash.”

Unfortunately orphanages in developing countries are sometimes run as profit centres and sadly Bali is no exception. Child labour, trafficking, scams, exploitation and abuse is rioting through the Island and this is a serious problem- not one that can be fixed by visiting, taking a selfie and uploading it to the gram. They are not a tourist attraction. If you’re going to visit an orphanage please do thorough research and make sure you impact and contribute or walk on. Add value; teach, supply food, toys, books, clothes, other material/mental needs. Jodie O’Shea’s orphanage isn’t government funded and does rely solely on the generosity of others so they do welcome and encourage visitors. Avoid walking in there with your social media, taking selfies with #helpthechildren and then hand over your 10000 IDR ($1 AUD) at the door. At Jodie O’Shea’s orphanage the donations go directly to the children’s needs. This is an establishment that provides a home for 99 children, three meals a day, snacks, clothing, education, rehabilitation, 24 hour security guard, carers and most importantly another chance at life. If you have any questions or queries about where your donation lands- the option to purchase food with a member of staff and older children and watch it directly enter the kitchen is always available. My non expertise suggestion is to visit and see for yourself as It’s a short distance from Denpasar Airport. You only have to open your eyes, heart and mind to realise it’s desperately needed. Above all else, they are children. How important is that Marc Jacob’s bag anyway?

As I walked cautiously through toy trains and pieces of lego, it became apparent that I’m in fact a weak piece of shit. This powerfully eye opening experience is flooring. Emotion rose up through my body, all movement slowed down and tears were fogging the view to the exit. I’ve glided through the air struggling to remember basic motor skills until I reach an opening of child free space and can breathe. Desperately searching for that breathing exercise I learnt from a yoga class back in ’07’. I recall questioning the need for such a simple exercise back then, yet a decade later and it seems crucial. The following two minutes was a heated argument with myself based around the fact- I’m definitely a weak piece of shit. Compassion and strength go head to head like a Mohammad Ali fight and just before heading into round two I was greeted by a young boy. My blurred vision could make out the blue checkered shirt with the most adoring stare, holding one of my strongest nightmares. A glittery pen. A blue glittery, sticky pen and he was aiming it towards my face. I hate glitter. The mere thought of the substance makes me uncomfortable. But his magical presence won any mental battle and quickly we were painting each others face like old friends, oblivious to anything around us or my close call breakdown. This was my first embrace of many by the children at the orphanage and also the moment I fell in love with glitter.

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Determined to push aside any emotional struggle, I set out to interact with as many kids as possible. These humans are incredible. The most resilient, strong, intelligent, talented and funny individuals. Broken hearted but I was battling through to connect with as many as possible. A tiny goddess of a girl made herself comfortable in my lap, while the strong smell of shampoo flowed from her neatly plaited hair. Two young boys that looked half their age with missing teeth jumped on my back while another ran towards me eagerly from the front. Despite their disheartening start to life, these children are smiling, they are laughing and just share everyone else’s desire to love and be loved. A shy 10 year old boy, confidently bilingual and wise beyond his years started singing ‘Miracles’ by Whitney Houston as we sat across from each other on the playground. WHITNEY BLOODY HOUSTON! The tears started fogging my sight again. The delicious smell of dinner travelled through the outdoor area as children made their way to the dining domain at their own leisure. One very large family, scattered messily throughout the metal surfaced tables. Finding a seat wherever there was space. It was free and beautiful. Childhood. Embrace after embrace, I was moved and shaped into a different person. Each interaction confirmed that I needed to do more while I was here. How can I help? I can’t go. Fuck.

“Time to leave now”.

Never being one to ‘let go’ gracefully, I started planing my second visit. The panic-filled hour cab ride, drowning out the awkward conversation with the non english speaking driver was all worth it upon arrival. Walking through the now familiar childlike drawings of green and red floral, I found a sense of contentment. The familiar smell from the kitchen, the giggles and the reactions from the kids were remarkable. Children running around, no shoes, kicking soccer balls, holding pieces of fruit while playing card games. Real childhood. These children look out for each other like family, similar to the workings of the road etiquette in Bali. The setting isn’t ideal, it’s crowded and unpredictable but everyone looks out for one another and somehow- it works.

“What happens if the money runs out?” I asked Alison, nervously.

“I don’t even want to think about it, that can’t happen,” she replied.

If you are travelling to Bali, I encourage you to take a small portion out of your day to visit. They have a wish list of items in need on their website- http://www.careforkidsbali.com/html/wish-list.html
or contact orphanageadmin@careforkidsbali.com. Have a look for my heart too, it’s left somewhere between lego.