The Outsider No More

In the wake of Britain’s vote to exit the EU, our household has become a steady hum of conversation.

Late night phone calls with our European friends and family living in London, LBC talkback radio streaming live and several media articles analysed over cups of tea.

What concerns me more than the outcome of this vote, is the unsettling (but not surprising) reasons behind the voters decision to ‘Leave’ the EU.telephone-booth-768610_1280 (1)

The steady ‘discontent over immigration’ is how The Guardian news outlet described it. An article in The New Statesmen  more bluntly stated that ‘prejudice, propaganda, naked xenophobia and callous fear-mongering have won out over the common sense’.

The emotionally charged issue of immigration seems to have been at the forefront of voters minds who supported the ‘Leave’ camp.

Now that the ‘people have spoken’ (only British Passport-holding, those-that-bothered to citizens mind you) it seems their reasoning was mainly based on the desire to stem the flow of migrants coming to the UK.

I love being an Aussie, but I also love my Polish husband and everything that comes with his culture. He like many Eastern Europeans, moved to London in the hope of creating a life that was more prosperous than his potential prospects back home.

Like many immigrants, he worked long and hard for little, but opportunities were abundant and he made made the most of them all. Including bagging himself an Aussie wife (lucky guy).

While living in London we were fortunate enough to count amongst our friends, people from all over the globe, shared in their cultural traditions and festivities and attempted to learn some of their language.

I loved teaching in a culturally diverse school in East London, where the students and staff gave me a far better understanding of the world and the people in it, than I did them.

It was a wonderful place and we were the ‘richer’ for knowing all of them.

The world is becoming a small place, the idea of boarders and the strength of individual nations are not the same as they once were.

This offers up a multitude of opportunities for so many, but the fear of ‘The Outsider’ is still ever present, as this recent vote has shown.

The challenge to move to a new place, be it a country, state or neighbourhood brings with it all kinds of encounters.

The greater the difference in culture, geography and circumstance, the greater these challenges are and so makes the decision (or indeed desperate ‘need’) to move, even more remarkable.Globes

Australia is about as far away (geographically speaking) from the cultural melting pot that is Europe, but is certainly not immune to similar fears of ‘the Outsider’.

We can all be by nature, sceptical, cautious and wary of those that are different. This is not always a bad thing, but I’m thinking that as our earth continues to turn, and our sense of existing in a global village becomes more apparent, we cannot afford to let our prejudices limit our potential to be a collective force.

The problems of the world become just that; all our problems and choosing to remain ill-informed, resentful or even fearful of others only works to harm ‘us’, not help ‘us’.

Seeing our world as the larger community, appreciating the collective place we all share in it and making steps towards understanding, is the only way forward.

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Fate or Choice?

I recently read this amazing novel by young Aussie author Hannah Kent. Her debut novel ‘Burial Rights’ garnered much attention from critics and readers alike.

While the tale may sound a little bleak, (the last execution by beheading in Iceland, 1829) it is much more than a well researched and beautifully written account of one woman’s plight.

For me it was a reminder yet again of that very poignant question when it comes to looking at the sum of all our parts and past: Are we victims of FATE or our CHOICES?

This novel teased us in deciding which of these applied to the main character Agnes. But likewise it made me consider what our struggles are, how we choose to view them and what we do as a result.

We all struggle, everybody does at some point in time and on some level. The demands placed on us by others, not least ourselves, mean inevitably something has to give. It may be our health, our emotional and even mental wellbeing or our relationships with those around us.

My husband and I, my work colleagues and I, my friends and I, can grumble about pressures, stresses and dilemmas we all face, some larger than others. Wine usually helps us face these to some extent, but they are all very real and in most cases require attention, conversation and sometimes even action.

From this we should draw strength, confident in the knowledge that we alone are not the first and only ones to be caught in life’s challenges. But how easy it is to quickly level the blame at others, or at circumstances. I’m so guilty of that.

When I was younger I used to blame my loses at Monopoly on my brother’s frustratingly frugal habits. I’ve claimed an oven at fault for a Time fliesruined meal. I even regularly blame time, as the root of all my misdemeanors.

But just how much of our predicament is based on the choices we make? Is it right to disregard the part we played in getting to where we are now?

“You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult.” Helen Mirren

In Agnes’ case, fate certainly seemed to have taken its hold on her, like the grim winter that stifled her existence in Iceland, in that era; she was a woman, born a bastard and poor. Choices were extremely limited and so luck, fate, providence, chance played the greater odds.

I’m thankful to say that in our modern developed world, being a woman is no longer a hurdle we have to contend with from birth (although some may still disagree)and being born in a developed nation, choices are abundant regarding our social movement, opportunities for work and lifestyle. Meaning it’s not as easy to claim fate as a result of our suffering.

But what about those random events, those ones that just knock you for six. The ones where life freezes momentarily and you are left feeling helpless in a numbing way? Fate like a force of nature, does like to remind us at times that we are not always in control.

I am slowly learning that it is at these moments when the subsequent actions I choose to take, determine the fallout, just as much as fate controlled the initial situation.pleasant pathway

Emotions can quickly direct me and not always towards the ‘better’ choice, but the fact is, there are choices. They may not always be ideal or the preferred choices. They are more often than not the harder choices, the less appealing. But they’re there, if I choose to acknowledge them.

“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling

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The Numbers Game

I turned 38 yesterday. Cake was eaten (too much), wine was drunk (possibly also too much….I’m feeling the after-effects more as I age), cuddles were received (never enough), and friends and family wished me well.

Life was good…. it still is today.

But with the ever constant hand of time, I was reluctantly reminded that yes, I’m another digit older and moving closer towards that flaunting figure of ‘40’.

Just to be clear, I’ve never really cared too much about my age. I have always eagerly anticipated the celebrations that come with a birthday (like a child) too much, to care about that number.

As a kid though, 40 always seemed old. It’s not of course (I can say that now). But what age is ‘old’?

And why do so many of us choose to care about the number allocated to our life in any given year?

I get it. For some it is an issue of our physical state; a concern over our looks, vitality and physical strength and the loss of this as we age. The botox and personal fitness industry are thriving as a result.

‘A study of 2,000 women conducted by Superdrug in 2012 found that women start to worry about the signs of ageing at 29’. The Guardian Newspaper.

For others, it’s more about the need to ensure personal security; financially, socially, or professionally so they can look back with relief at their life. Superannuation scheme…check!

These aspect apply to me in varying degrees too, but I think it’s more than these that give me cause to consider my age.

It’s the desire to play and win at the game of life.

I love I! Every sordid, awkward, heartwarming, stressful, enlightening, sobering and comical part. But, on occasion, the competitive streak in me and the desire to win at it before making that Finish, can sometimes overthrow the joy of simply playing at it.

Where am I at? What do I have left to do? and how can I make sure I get these done before some form of a finish line, edges its way closer to me?

We’ve been aging since we were born……..obviously! It doesn’t simply old woman laughingcreep up on you once you hit a particular number. Yet, in our society we seem to regard aging as a ‘dilemma’ that needs addressing, possibly around the age of retirement, if not before. Why is that?

Surely with age, comes MORE. More knowledge, experience (which counts for more than conventional knowledge in my books), self-awareness, memories, understanding, family and even friends.

How many of us have grandmothers, grandfathers, parents, mentors, teachers, friends who are vessels of MORE and yet themselves acknowledge they too are still learning, on the journey, playing the game that is life?

We can choose to see our birthdays as celebrations which mark another year of age, maybe even wisdom gained. We can choose to see it as a reason to party – we’re here…… still.

Or we can do both those things, as well as see it as a gentle reminder to continue on the board game to bettering ourselves, our relationships with those around us and this world we live in.

Yes, I’m hopeful that by partaking in this game of numbers, I might just win out before my time is out.Happy Birthday

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