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Talking rubbish

My family may say I do it all the time, but never in a million years, did I think I would be talking rubbish.

But here I am, and it is thanks to the thousands of students who marched to Parliament, demanding more urgent action on climate change. I felt inspired, or should I say, my hackles were heckled, prompting me to add my own voice to this incredibly important work of caring for our planet.

Every day I pick up other people’s rubbish. Call it what you like – litter, trash, rubbish, garbage, waste, or refuse – it is on our streets and, sadly, human behaviour is responsible for putting it there.

Thirty minutes into my walk and my hands were full

According to estimates, about 80 % of litter found in oceans comes from land-based sources, from human hands. Rubbish is choking the marine animals and plants. These marine animals and plants play a significant role in the life cycle and in absorbing carbon emissions. I live in coastal Papamoa; I try to make sure I grab what I can before it enters the ocean.

The photo illustrating this article shows my rubbish recovery mission 30 minutes after leaving my home in coastal Papamoa. There are chunks of hard plastic, wrappers, bottles, cans, lollipop sticks, polystyrene, plastic pallet ties, plastic and beer bottle tops, pieces of gladwrap and food containers. Every day.is similar.

People say Covid-19 turned the world upside down. But I felt a grinding tilt in my inner psyche that something was not right a year earlier. It started with the Christchurch mosque shootings and ended with Greta Thunberg’s fiery climate change speech. Both these events disturbed me. By the end of 2019, my belief and hope for a better, cleaner, and more loving world lay fragile and tenuous. The job of changing the world seemed too big for this ‘ordinary’ pensioner. 

Yes, Thunberg’s ‘How Dare You’ speech rattled my cages. I became defensive.  No way could I be responsible for the rising sea levels and the shrinking, melting ice glaciers.

‘Pooh to climate change. How dare you, too,’ I shouted back.

When I reflected on this ‘tilt’ and process the disquiet that had been slowly building, I came across poet Rumi’s quote scribbled in one of my journals.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” [Rumi]

The only thing we can change as individuals is our behaviour.

Yes, instead of looking to change the world on a global and grander scale, I asked myself what I could actively do to address my footprint on this planet, right now. That is when I noticed rubbish on the ground…. everywhere.

I had walked past rubbish on a daily basis. Did I see it, or did I just ignore it?  Not mine, not my responsibility. But it is my responsibility, as it is for each of us. No, I may not have been responsible for putting the rubbish on the ground, but once noticed, it did become my responsibility to pick it up.

Now rubbish practically waves at me. Look at me, it says, I am everywhere, in the gutters, footpaths, parks and beaches. PICK ME UP!

How many students stopped and picked up litter along their way to Parliament building? How many students clean up rubbish in their own neighbourhood?  Marching for climate change would carry much more weight if each student engaged in an activity contributing to making a change, rather than demand change from someone else. What it looked like was an act of hypocrisy. Instead of clogging the environment with their carbon footprint travelling to Wellington, why not each school take the day off and clean up their own neighbourhood?  

Much of the rubbish I pick up belongs to the younger generation. I find it at skateboard parks, around schools, public playgrounds, reserves, and sports fields. Rubbish and broken bottles on Papamoa Beach are a regular aftermath of summer-time beach parties.

So, when I read, ‘We are the last hope’ slogan on one of the protesters placards I just had to say,

‘Crikey, I hope not!’, before putting pen to paper.

But I do have to thank the voice of the young for bringing the matter to my attention.

I’m feeling ALL my feels about ‘ageing.’

It all seems so unfair. All my life, I have desired straight hair. I was born with, not totally curly, and not totally wavy, hair. Most of the time it is an unruly mess, a mix of curl and wave sticking out all over the place. But now I do have straight hair. The only problem is, it’s coming out my chin!  

Somehow, I know without knowing how I know, this is part of the ageing process. And as I allow myself to think about this, a prickle of fear ripples around my heart space. My mortality taunts and I feel frightened. I grab the tweezers and furiously work to safeguard my permanence on the planet.

On the inside, I still feel all the ages I have been. My ‘wild child’ roars as much today as it did over sixty years ago. Probably more so. But not many people see the ‘wild’ these days. What they see is more of a thesaurus – wearing out, crumbling, declining, fading, waning, deteriorating -. just a few of the synonyms describing ageing on Thesaurus.com. On the outside, I have been reduced to a synonym. On the inside I want to ‘go a-wandering, with a knapsack on my back’, middle finger raised.

A few years have disappeared since I noticed my first chin hair, but my anxiety and dread around ageing still heckles. I am someone who has spent a long time learning to love my ‘true self’. But now I find myself surreptitiously stalking Google for information regarding face-lifts and eyelid lifting surgery.

 ‘A clean nude nail polish gives a more youthful appearance’, says one description. It takes a ton of willpower to stop myself hurtling out the door to the nearest supplier.

Feelings are for feeling,’ says Glennon Doyle in her latest book, Untamed.

“Feeling all your feelings is hard, but that’s what they’re for. Feelings are for feeling. All of them. Even the hard ones.”

Simple but powerful words. And I’ve been working on this lately – trying to feel ALL my feels, enter into them, embrace them and express them truthfully. Especially my fears and feelings around becoming old and dying. My list of worries looks something like this:

  • Friends dying
  • Family dying
  • Me dying
  • Fear of faculties going and becoming infirm
  • Being a drag on family
  • Vanity – my body and looks deteriorating
  • Losing my usefulness in society
  • Regrets and guilts
  • A certain amount of angst over not realising how short life is and having wasted much of it living to society and patriarchal agendas.

 Last week I met up with a girlfriend for coffee. When she asked me how I was, I decided to take the plunge and reply truthfully. Instead of giving my standard stock reply of, ‘I’m good thanks,’ I said,

“I feel I am quickly passing my ‘use-by’ date and this scares the hell out of me,” I spent the next few minutes unloading feelings, some of which I didn’t know I had until I started speaking them out loud. 

 At the end, my friend said, “Oh my goodness, me too, that’s exactly how I am feeling.”

The anxiety and dread that accompanies ageing isn’t openly discussed very often, especially among women. Plenty of tips about ageing well regarding looks and activity, but deep conversations, what it feels like on the inside, are sadly lacking. Being able to speak my deepest fears felt liberating. I was learning a valuable lesson about my true-self. True self-love, says tinybuddah.com, is valid at any age; there’s no expiration date to that.

 Getting older does not magically make you wiser. The old adage, ‘Age begets wisdom’ is a little misleading. There is more truth to ‘Age begets wrinkles’ than any sort of wisdom. However, getting older does allow for more life experiences, hence opportunities, for acquiring understanding. I would like to think I am using some of this wisdom as I traverse my ageing process.   I read somewhere that if f you want to grow old happily, it’s better to face fears of ageing sooner, not later. This doesn’t mean going into battle with them; embrace them rather than battle them. I find myself doing this often. It makes them a hell of a lot less scary and anxiety-ridden. 

To some people, I may be just a synonym, but my truth is, I am more than just my body. My noisy unfettered spirit refuses to be put in a box, tamed or labelled. So for now, and for as long as I can, I’m off a-wandering, middle finger raised. 

Coming out of the God closet (Part 1)

When I turned sixty, my mortality taunted me. What the heck happened? Where did those years go? What is, and what was, my purpose in life? To placate a rising panic, I self-published a collection of short story/essays about moments in my life that had taught me some valuable life lessons.
Not long after the book was published, I began to feel an inside-out niggle that something wasn’t quite right. I kept seeing an image in my mind of the Disney character, Scrooge, emptying his bag of coins. Then I would see myself emptying my bag of coins, except a couple of my coins were stuck fast. And no matter how hard I shook and pulled the coins; I could not dislodge them. The coins represented two untold stories that should have been in the book. Today I rip the first of these coins from the bag. I am coming out of the God closet.

A note to my family: 
When I die, I want to be remembered for the story of my soul. Currently you are not that interested in my soul. Understandably, you are busy with the busyness of your own souls. But I know, once I am gone, you will be curious to know more about the person behind the monikers of Mum, sister, wife, Aunty and Nana.

If I were to ask you what was most important to me, you would probably list a variety of outside-in activity – running, yoga, family, friends, coffee, excitement, and my love for adventure. And you would be correct.  They have given me great pleasure in life. But what you cannot see is the excitement and adventure of my spiritual life. Nor can you hear the thunderous, persistent never-ending hum of yearning saturating my inner life. I’ve always known the ‘yearning’ is somehow linked to God, and I want you to know God, is very much my adventurous inside-out, every minute of the day, activity.

It shames me to say, I have deliberately kept the extent of my relationship with God quiet. You see, I’ve become pretty adept at skirting the peripherals of God. Good at perfecting my ‘safe from ridicule’ image. Comforting myself with small peeks from within the security of my closet while withdrawing when I sense any sort of opposition. The reason? Fear!  I have been consumed by fear. Terrified of being thought of as foolish. Scared of being different in a society that demands uniformity.
Yes, fear has been a constant companion alongside my hum of yearning. Fear is so powerful. It lurks in the dark, so I want to bring it out into the light. Declaring loudly my love for God, stating ‘I am a Christian’ is my way of bringing my fear into the light.  In a way I’m facing a bully. Because that’s what fear is, a crippling, debilitating bully.

I know some of your painful life experiences will have you doubt a loving God. ‘Why did, and why does God allow bad things to happen to me?’ How I wish I could make your pain just disappear with a swish of a magic wand. Just make it go away for you. But I can’t. I don’t have a magic wand, and apparently, neither does God.  But I know this one thing.  You will continue to find many ways to soothe your pain and you can choose to do this with, or without, God. From my experience though, there is no better way to rant, rave, sob, shout, swear, laugh, be angry and pour out your pain, than doing this with God by your side.

Alongside the cacophony of noise in my soul are the doubts. How do I know you are real God? Can you believe this – professing my love for God, and then my doubt that God exists, in one breath? Yes, I do doubt. But these doubts are very much a loved part of my God journey.  I read somewhere that ‘when your faith has no room for doubt, then you are just left with—religion, something that takes its place in your life among other things—like a job or a hobby.  Doubt is God’s way of helping you to not go there.’

When I doubt, is when I seek God the most. And questioning has always been a part of my seeking – never forget this, and never forget to do this.  Questioning helped me dismantle the myths, perceptions and misconceptions that have, at times, plagued my inside-out life.  Believing just by ‘faith’ or because someone tells you to, without questioning and challenging what you hear, makes you a slave to religion. In Part 2 of my ‘note’ I explain my proof that a living God exists.

But please don’t call me religious. This terrifies me.  I do not believe in organised religion.  Separating God from religion was big me. God and religion are very different. Oh, you should have heard the melody in my soul when I realised everything, I perceived God to be, was a lie.   When I finally understood there was nothing I needed to do, or belong to, to experience God, or God’s love.

Oh yes … love! We are all looking for that place where love has hidden itself away. People carry such wrong notions about love. And most of us journey a long way to find what is near. We look everywhere for our perception of love. For years I bought into the ‘love is a feeling’ concept. I searched for it everywhere. Did things I am not proud of, in the name of love. Tried to love according to my own, and of others’ expectations. Love was a never-ending battle of effort and, of course, failure for me.

The aching for love is a strand of yearning that links us all. And if you are seeking this love, then be sure of this one thing, this love is also seeking you. You see, what I’ve come to understand is, God’s love is inside me, not outside. Love cannot come into you; it can only come out of you. God’s love has a completely different look, feel and outcome, than the ‘love is a feeling’ concept. And it is this love that lures me out of the God closet for I cannot fully serve the truth, or follow Love’s footsteps, with one foot in the God closet.

To seek love is to seek God, and that is the story of my soul. My pondering, wandering soul in my ragged, ragtag body.  It is God. It is love.