Optimism

This week my lack of this quality has been centre stage. It it makes me smile. Laugh out loud even, because I don’t actually agree.

I consider myself a pessimistic optimist, otherwise known as a realist. I’ve been dealt my fair share of hardships, so much so that when dealt yet another blow earlier in the year, I accepted it.

This was a somewhat new phenomena, the acceptance thing.

My track record with acceptance was dire….having always opted to ignore heartache and trauma. I’d shield myself from pain with layer upon layer of denial, ignoring my human capacity to self-heal.

I’ve come a long way, have begun to accept things on a daily basis, for what they are and not shy away from complex feelings that may surface.

But to be told that I’m not an optimist – it’s just not true.

I’m a pessimistic optimist, other wise known as a realist.

When my best friend called me this week, before she was to board a flight, bound for the  UK, Italy and Iceland. I answer the phone and utter down the phone ‘ I hate my life’.

I’m part way through the delivering an orientation program to group of international students….but I can’t say these four words with enough seriousness and we both start laughing.

‘You are too funny’ smirks my bestie.

‘Just do little things each day that remind you of holidays’ states the beauty who is about to be spa side in Iceland. I swallow hard on that advice and truly mean what I say next ‘ Have the best holiday’

The following day my personal trainer asked post orientation ‘ How are your student group’?

My response ‘ I hate them all’

We both laugh – that is also not true, in fact, this is the first group that I feel totally at ease with. After doing this role for close to 2 years, I finally feel like I have got my role as internship coordinator down to a fine art.

Reflecting on the week that was with my Mum, her advice was to take a bit of optimism from those in my inner circle. Perhaps what she was really saying was to choose my words wisely. Comments such as ‘ I hate my life’, especially to those who don’t know me would be truly confronting. They would not have points of reference for such jaring remarks, that would enable them to appreciate my black humour.

So I’ll take from this self-reflective practice that one must know their audience. And upon careful consideration I am a pessimistic optimistic realist. And a very happy one at that!!

 

 

Ode to Harry Styles

Those you know me well know my questionable taste in music.

Though I continue to age, the musical soundtrack that serenades me on my way has of late, gotten stuck, fixated on youth, beauty and a strong set of vocal chords ( height and killer check bones having sealed the deal)

And so it is that on high rotation I find myself listening to Mr Harry Styles. Song of choice ‘ Sweet Creature’. Also fond of ‘ Sign of the Times’ , and ‘ Two Ghosts’ and….whatever, you get the picture!

And I had to admit this fixation in public recently. I was at the gym, and my trainer, knowing my preference to work out to music by  artists who passed away in 2016- think George Michael, Prince, Bowie. offered to change the music.

‘ No, please don’t!’I whimpered.

‘ But you have good taste in music’ remarked my trainer

‘ Yes, but I do like Harry’

Then in an attempt to cover up this admission, I started over compensating with endless chatter, disclosing that Mr Styles’ album was to be the soundtrack to a June road trip , when a girlfriend and I would drive from Brisbane to Toowoomba and back again, with only Harry on the airwaves. I disclosed that my girlfriend, a mother to four beautiful children, and I decided that Harry would rock our world for the 4 day road trip, at the completion of which, the album would be gifted to her eldest: Ms Eleven.

And to you dear reader, I admit now that I lied.

I will keep the album , all to my greedy little self.

The grown adult in me needs to be reminded of youthful beauty, height, high cheek bones and a good set of vocal chords. That beautiful ‘ Sweet Creatures’, the Harry Styles of this world, do actually exist.

 

 

 

Flora

Flora

Flora

Flora the cat. She is my world. She is my muse.

That is how I came to choose her name all those years ago. I had paid a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the work of Spanish great, Picasso. It was there that I saw a paining of Ms Dora Mar, one of the artists muses. I liked the idea of having a muse in life, a source of artistic inspiration which is a guiding force.

And to muse over something, to ponder and reflect, is a process that takes a great deal of time. You cannot muse over something in a couple of seconds. rather a number of years, decades even.

I borrowed from Dora, replacing the D with the letters F and L, and so came to be the black cat with anxiety levels to rival mine.

Flora the cat I have mused over her for 10 years and counting.

When I think back to the summer months of January 2007, when I dared to think that maybe this renter could own a cat, I thank my lucky stars that this little bundle of black fur chose me.

For Flora, had you known what was the next 10 years entailed, would you have stuck by me? Would you have bothered to scale the fence of my Leichhardt property and projectile meow into my bedroom window till I begrudgingly let you inside? Why did you single me out and not bother my flatmates? What was it that drew you to me?

Whatever the reason, I needed you more than you could have ever known. Back then I did not know myself.

You willingly comforted me every step of the way along the long road to acceptance. You cushioned the seemingly endless brutal blows with your soft fur and calming purr, you absorbed my tears and provided endless opportunities for cuddles.

Family and friends have been instrumental in supporting me too, but you my little fluffy muse, you have been by my side each and every day, more so than my nearest and dearest. You have seen the good, bad and the truly ugly.

To muse over something takes a good number of years, decades even, That is how long I will think of you Flora, for all you have done for me and for guiding and delivering me safely to a point in life with which I can honestly say I am truly at peace.

Thanks you for finding me.

Surprise

With a keen interest in the recent birth a primary school friend’s third baby this story surfaces.

I was 11, turning 12 the very next day ( oh the elation!!) and an all girls Friday night sleep over had been organised. Everyone was invited, all 8 of us Year Six girls.

There was to be popcorn, a horror movie, ghost stories and very little sleep. Our excitement was palpable. The school day could not finish quick enough, and when the school bell tolled, heralding in the weekend, I recall party invites squealing.

But not me….for some reason I was not walking with my girl pals to the party venue – it was to be a pack of 7 not 8. I first had to go on a shopping expedition with my parents, which was to include a long stint in the local bank.

Then I could join my friends.  The host knew this in advance but neither of us knew how long it would eat in to party time.

This was the era before mobile phones- 1990. If I had been carrying a medium-sized brick in my back pack, it would have been ringing off the hook as I stood side my side my parents in the bank queue : ‘ Where are you?’ ‘ How much longer are you going to be? ‘

But there were no phones and the bank teller explained that it would that 48 hours to get currency for our impending Fijian family holiday. It was an explanation that felt like it took 48 hours – ‘ I had a slumber party to get too’ I wanted to scream, instead I opted to slump in complimentary waiting chair , head in my hands, nervous energy surging through my body.

‘ Where have you been? It doesn’t matter!! Surprise!! Happy Birthday!!’

The host closed the front door behind me and I was swept up into a celebration just for me.

A sea of friendly faces all looking in my direction, a birthday cake, complete with candles, beckoning me to make a wish.

I am overwhelmed, taken aback, that my friend had gone to so much effort to make me, humble, unassuming me, feel special, centre of attention special.

My mind could not compute- but this is YOUR party I wanted to say, please don’t shine a light on me, I just want to be a wall-flower. Just being part of this social occasion elevating me to levels of social anxiety never previously experienced. And now this…..

‘ Make a wish Kate! Happy 12th Birthday’

I have never forgotten this brief moment in time. This person made me feel special, signalled me out for some undivided attention with only the best of intentions. The fact that is made me feel a nervous wreck, second guessing my self-worth, a cascading downward spiral of emotions she could never have known.

This young girl has gone on the be an inspiration to many, successful on oh so many fronts. None more so than as a Mother, to three beautiful, most cherished children.

This story is written to thank that person for noticing the beauty within, long before I became aware, let alone comfortable with it.

You have an amazing capacity to bring out the very best in others.

Thank you. I am lucky to have crossed paths with you all those years ago.

Ode to Hannah Gadsby

Last Friday night I travelled from Sydney to Wollongong for a night out. A comedy act that I had long admired was in town for one night only. I booked my solo ticket and caught the train South, smiling ear to ear.

A couple of years ago, I would have never have imagined it possible,  that a comedy show, in the Spiegeltent no less, would grace the Coal Coast. Culture, class and top-notch entertainment finally in the ‘Gong, some 15 years after I left…in search of just that.

Upon hearing of the Spiegeltent’s one month seaside residency, I made a pact with myself that I would support the event whole heartedly. I told any one who would listen that the tent was in town, and with reasonably priced tickets for world-class comedy and musical acts, it was a win win situation.

Perhaps in my heart of hearts, the advocacy work I did spruiking the event, was my way of making peace with my 22-year-old self, who had turned her back on the Gong for the UK in 2001, Who, upon return had lasted but a year before another move to Sydney. Always searching, finger on the pulse for the next comedy show, the next musical, the next music act.

But in 2017 – the Gong, Wollongong, proved that good things come to those who wait. Fifteen years of searching behind me, I was happy to be home turf.

It was the best night out. My Father, who had NEVER been to a comedy show in his life decided to join me. Hannah Gadsby was headlining.

It. was. amazing.

Did the show start with Ms Gadsby stating she was retiring from the comedy circuit? For good? I don’t recall when this remark was made, but I knew very early on that this was going to be unlike any comedy show I had seen before. My Dad….he was in for a ride!

Hannah’s voice controlled, measured and her delivery on point. She did not waver from a common theme thread though-out the hour-long performance. She was retiring after 10 years at the top of her game,  no longer prepared to withhold the personal truths erased from all accounts of her comedy shows, no longer willing to shield her audience.

But not last Friday – with conviction she barely stopped to breathe as she recounted story upon story that revealed deep suffering. From the audience, there was little laughter, her decision to retire was final and we would be free to make what we like of her daring, bold, often confronting stories.

Of course Hannah made us laugh, some cried, her brave account, her honestly, her smile and her generous insight was beautifully refreshing, enlightening, moving, above all, raw.

As we left the Speigeltent that night, John Farnham’s classic played loud and clear ‘ You’re the Voice’. Never had Farnsie seemed so fitting –  Hannah had come full circle, to an understanding of the power of voice, an acceptance of story, and a burning desire to for truth and accountability.

I thought about this show for days after, my Dad did too.

‘ Not all comedy shows are like that’ I told him on the car ride home.

But given the importance of what we had witnessed, the bar has now been set so high that Ms Gadsby, I believe it will be the first and only comedy show my Father attends whilst on earth. Perhaps too my search is over for the perfect comedy act. I’ve seen it – it was hard-hitting, it was Hannah Gadsby. It was in Wollongong, 2017.

So thank you Hannah – an ode to you. In your show you mentioned you have a soft spot for Nanna’s. One of my Nan’s favourite sayings, which my Mother recited at her eulogy in 2014 ‘ Thank you for being you’

Hannah Gadsby ‘ Thank you for being you’ – we need people like you to make up stop and think. And then have a nap.

To Be With You – Mr Big

Down South yesterday for the quarterly hair cut and colour, the drive from Austinmer to Shellharbour, the perfect amount of time for a nostalgic post to take shape.

The South Coast, or ‘ Coal Coast’ as it is now referred to by the bearded and the hip, was in fine form yesterday, the sun shone, the ocean glistened blue and the Illawarra escarpment, bursting with an autumnal glow.

I was listening to the Coal Coasts band of choice , ‘Shinging Bird – Black Opal’ . I had down right refused to take the 45 minute drive without there cd and song six and seven were on repeat. But in between the repetition, my mind drifted to a moment in time, some seven years earlier when I received an out of the blue phone call.

It was the beginning of 2010. I was not in a particularly happy place. When consumed by sadness, such was the tendency to shut people out, decline invitations in favour of my own company.

That was how I came to decline the invitation of my life long friend, one of my most supportive allies – Mim – and her Hen’s weekend. I just could not face it. I was an anomaly in guest list – 6 years older than most of the girls and not part of her close-knit group of school mates. But like all on the guest list, I loved and admired the hen. Reason enough to go?

The invitation was declined and I busied myself with the blues.

The phone rang.

Was it Friday or Saturday night?

The fact that I answered it took even me by surprise as often when faced an inner battle with black, the phone rings out, goes to voice mail.

‘ Hello’

Laughter, lots of it can be heard down the phone.

‘ Kate, I had to call you’

It is Mim.

‘ We are playing the first pop song YOU introduced me to – I had to call you’

Coming down the phone line is the tune ‘ To Be With You ‘ by Mr Big – a sure-fire hit from the mid 1990’s.

‘ Kate, are you there?’

I am in shock, had I know idea I had this kind of influence in Mim’s musical education – if I had known, perhaps I would have introduced her to David Bowie, a Whitney Houston classic, Michael Jackson – Mr Big???

‘ I love this song because it makes me think of you’

I don’t remember what I said to Mim, I just recall the joy in her voice,  the laughter of the group of girls in the background, singing at the top of their lungs ‘ I’m the one who wants to be – with – you’

Mim’s call induces intense feelings of guilt – I should be there, celebrating in person instead of home alone on the couch with Flora. It was as if the call snapped my out of my sadness, if only temporarily, to remind me that I did matter to people, people like Mim.

The phone conversation ended – a champagne bottle had popped in the background and I had encouraged Mim, who does not drink, to go and at least have a sip for me.

That conversation was 7 years ago, I have never forgotten it. That bolt from the blue, totally unexpected, shaking me out of my head, and piercing my heart. Whilst it did induce guilt, the overarching feeling it left me with was one of connection. It has never left.

I have no idea why this story surfaced yesterday, it took even me by surprise. The Coal Coast has a way of doing that I guess, the more time I spend South of Sydney, the more I find myself reflecting on my past in order to make sense of it all. Write it down, get it out there, move forward.

Note this Coal Coast chick is currently answering the phone, accepting social invitations and being much more careful on my musical influence on the young.

Lest We Forget

Four years ago, I heard for the first time the story below, as told by my Grandfather, one of his experiences of World War 2. It was a story he would often revert to until his death in February 2015. In his final years he became very teary, almost childlike and he became stuck on certain themes…the war was one of them.

Both my Nan and Grandfather have now passed on but one of my proudest Anzac Day memories was accompanying my Nan along George Street in the March in 2007. I held back tears – Nan was legally blind and managing crippling pain for a bone disease with endone, yet one foot in front of the other – we marched in time, hand in hand, bag pipe music serenading us down the street. So proud.

And my Grandfather, the private man, who held so much in, told me the story below on the 25th April, 2013.

 

Catch Up With A Mate

 

My Grandparents- Bruce and Joan Gibson- True Anzacs xx

My Grandparents- True Anzacs

Anzac Day, 25th of April, 2013

My Grandfather told me a story about his war-time experience that I hazard a guess he had never told anyone. It made for a very special day, I felt honoured and privileged that he opened up to me and told me a tale that for 68 years had never had an audience….

‘ His name was Alton Neil Robinson….but we all called him Bill. He was a few years older than me at school and very intelligent. He completed his leaving certificate at Mudgee High School ( 5 years of High School). I only did three years of secondary school’

‘ In Bills civilian life, he was a very talented cyclist. He also had a passion for languages’

‘ How many languages did he know?’ I asked but I did not…

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Shaping Young Lives into ‘ Perfect Storms’

Any one who knows me is aware of my vivid imagination – I have a tendency to run off with it at times. Yesterday was no exception.

The end of another student internship program. Farewelling bright, bubbly twenty somethings, with hopes, dreams and burning desires to bring about change in their chosen professions.

I listened to Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘ Invincible’ on repeat as I churned through the days administration tasks. It was a busy but in between the emails, phone calls and filing I chatted to students as they submitted their internship time sheets, dropped of bags for storage, prepared for final exams.

Beat down on me, beat down like a waterfall cause I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed

The noticeable shift in the student interns demeanour – a quiet confidence oozing from every pore, a new found belief and mastery of their unique skill sets, their gifts.  

I was hiding from the world, I felt so afraid I felt so unsure. Now I am invincible , I’m the perfect storm.  

The students recounting the challenges they had faced in the workplace and how they had overcome them. How the highs and lows had shaped them and provided moments of clarity.

Cause it’s being weak then strong. And the truth I’ve found, I have courage now, gonna shout it out. 

Teacher I feel the dots connecting

The mentors who had guided them for 12 weeks, the connections they had built and the skills honed. Many students told me of job offers, remote work projects they would continue upon returning home. I wanted to hug one student whose entire career path has shifted gears, who detailed plans to keep the momentum going upon returning home.

Yesterday was a most rewarding day. As with my imagination, I have glossed over the prickly bits of the 12 week program…. of course they were there. 

But I focused on the ‘ perfect storms’ I helped to shape –  future disruptors of industry, innovators and change agents. Students whose self belief has been injected with invincibility magic dust.

10 years ago….

Catch Up With A Mate

10 years ago I wrote a short story titled ‘ The Gift’

It is a story that still resonates. And today is a good as any day to repost it on Catch up with a Mate.

And Five years ago I posted in on my blog

I wrote it about a person I knew at the time, who I have since lost contact with, writing a fictional story about the situation was my way of coping…. a way of expressing my anger, sadness, helplessness and disbelief that someone could live such a constricted and constrained manner.

I was merely a bystander, looking on, I could not say or do anything as this person would not have taken too kindly to any suggestion that they might want to stop for a minute,  slow down and take a few deep breaths…simple steps which would have provided the opportunity to ponder whether this…

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Anne of Green Gables

Yesterday when I was having lunch it dawned on me that I am what you call a passionate person.

I asked the question of the group who were dining at a local Ultimo Cafe, what movie defined their childhood. Given that one of the lunch guests was mid seventies, his answer was a book….but it took much prompting to get that from him.

Others had delayed responses, little excitement in their voice and even fewer hand gestures. Another factor might have been jet lag, two of the party having taken international flights a couple of weeks back…..

But really, when it boiled down to it….in my opinion, this kind of question allows a passionate person to go to town, to reminisce and indulge in a time gone by, and recount how said movie changed the course of ones life.

The movie I offered up was ‘ Anne of Green Gables’

The title alone should send shivers down a passionate person’s spine, could very well cause water to well in eyes, bring on contagious smiling, bouts of blushing,girlish giggles.

How many times did I watch this film at a 10 year old? Countless.

Why did I love Anne, the red-haired beauty from Prince Edward Island, Canada? Because she was bold, brave, lived in her head and loved with her whole heart.

This movie shaped me as a young girl, it was the very first film I recall sobbing uncontrollably to when kind-hearted Matthew, Anne’s adoptive Father, passed away. I think I hid my tears well, as no one in my family came near me, but I cried and cried – to the point where I could not even understand my sadness.

Today, I have come to understand why this on screen death deeply affected me – Matthew was a quiet, unassuming man, second fiddle to Marilla,  Anne’s formidable adoptive Mother. Marilla was the disciplinary and Matthew was advised ‘ not to put his oar in’ when it came to child rearing.

So he stayed in the background, but that was where he was most comfortable and could do the most good. He loved Anne, it shone through all his actions, was evident in the very few words he spoke.

Besotted by her, whole heartedly captivated by her spirit and energy, it brought out the best in him too – he adored her, spoilt her, mostly with the gift any child most wants – love, but with the occasional material possessions too – a beautiful blue ball gown with ‘ puffed sleeves’ (20 pounds of brown sugar accompanied this dress purchase- having struggled to articulate the real reason behind his shopping expedition, sugar preceeded dress sale)

In many ways Matthew was, and very much is, a version of my own Father.

My Father’s actions have always spoken louder than words – and his love for me is on display in everything he has ever done and continues to do, hopefully for many years to come.

This is but one reason I identify with this movie so strongly, so passionately, with tear filled eyes and runny nose. I saw myself and those I hold dear to me in the characters so beautifully acted out in the 1985 Canadian telemovie.

Oh, there is so much more I could say….this movie prompted a road trip to Prince Edward Island when I found myself in Canada is 2002, on the search for my own personal Gilbert with childhood friend Leonie and her P.E.I beau, Darin. The bouts of melancholy the film induced if watched on repeat in my teens….My love for the country Canada that runs oh so deep…..

But as a passionate person you have to learn to tell stories in short burst.

Sensing my enthusiasm for Anne of Green Gables was a little too much for my lunch guests I keep the account to under 2 minutes and then new that the rest of the tale was for my blog post.

Lucky readers….

To Be Continued.

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