Ponderance

As published in Warrandyte Diary, March 2017

The first Saturday of the month is always marked on the calendar, **MARKET**

I don’t want to miss it, but often do and I’ve been known to harbour that disappointment for several hours upon realising the day or time has passed.

All other plans for the day are made around this all-important trip to the market.

I phoned a couple of friends, set up the rendezvous point and we met, with kids in tow, to wander along the river.

I’m sure most readers have enjoyed the market walk so I will not go into details of stalls and stallholders, sights and sounds.

You know it well.

But this particular market trip stands out amongst others.

We set off with the idea that the children, 4 of them, aged between 6 and 9, would be happy souls, wandering under gum trees with money in pockets and the promise of frozen yoghurt to spur them on if they grew weary.

We had visions of children skipping through the dust under a canopy of gum trees, happy to be beyond walls.

It didn’t take long before this vision of ‘free range’ had turned into the dusty reality of hot and grumpy children, and the coffee van seemed to be an ever moving mirage, just out of reach.

Our dreams of being earth mothers, wandering by the river, were fading with each utterance from the mouths of our babes.

We didn’t walk the full stretch of the market last month, although we did make it to coffee, run into friends and join the queue at the frozen yoghurt van.

As we headed to our cars we laughed at ourselves, we are just not the earth mother type.

Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.  Proverb

 In the weeks since this market trip I have been pondering the idea of ‘the absence of annoyance’, a phrase often linked to the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’, pronounced ‘hue-gah’, that is described as the philosophy of enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

The ‘absence of annoyance’ is a place in which we can reside between ease and effort.

Where gritted teeth are replaced by a calm breath.

An eternal yoga session

Grace seems to be the key to this place of residence, grace in movement, in thought and in response.

Effort is required, but, as in all things worthwhile, the more I practice this mindset, the easier it is becoming.

I observed our household one afternoon, I sat back deliberately and listened to everyone interacting.

I heard in them what I hear so often in myself.

Annoyance.

I listed the things that annoy each of us all regularly.

The dog that is underfoot as we work in the kitchen, is also the dog that greets us when we walk in the door and sleeps at the feet of the one that is burning the midnight oil.

The child that causes me to grit my teeth is also the one that hangs on for a longer cuddle at the end of the day.

The dishes left on the dining table are evidence that someone has stopped awhile and been at home rather than rushing out the door.

We don’t want to take away the things that are annoying us, for life would be lonely, that I am certain of, instead I choose the absence of annoyance.

Next, I decided to tackle rush.

The idea is not new, I know, but it’s new to me.

Deciding not to rush to the next task but instead to stay focussed on what is at hand, is, I can honestly report, keeping my heart rate down a little.

This insight came after spending time with my 23-year-old daughter recently.

We had gone supermarket shopping together and I heard myself say in so many different ways, hurry up.

I used ‘come on’, ‘let’s go’, ‘you go get this, I will get that’, ‘let’s get this over and done with,’ and other phrases that maybe you have used too.

We rushed, we sighed impatiently at the queue at the checkout, (how dare everyone else be shopping at the same time we are), we loaded and unloaded, then moved on to the next thing in our day.

Later, I reflected on the shopping trip and realised that it was more about spending a few hours with her than getting the job done.

We don’t shop together very often, actually we don’t do a lot together these days.

I was thinking over how that time could have been different had I switched off ‘rush’, all that was needed was a little tweak.

So it’s market day again soon and my friends and I will meet up again to grab a coffee and wander.

With kids in tow.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Nudge

As published in Warrandyte Diary,  6 February 2017

As the new school year starts, each parent or caregiver that walks onto the school grounds or waits for children at the gate has an opportunity to be part of something very special that requires just a little effort.

For many, the start of school will bring the reunion of friends with stories to tell of summer holidays and the invitations for coffee and a catch-up will fly all around the school perimeter like seagulls at the beach.

Except for some – some will not receive those call outs and greetings, and this is our call to action.

This is where we need to be on alert for the new Prep parents, the new families to the school and the new arrivals to our country.

I was disturbed last year when, after many years of not being in the school yard environment how very quickly I saw the groups form.

My youngest was starting Prep and I was back into the thick of things, still a little stunned as I saw the next 13 years and about 2500 school lunches ahead of me.

Many parents knew each other from kinder or other year levels at school, and I could hear the ease in their greetings.

I too knew a handful of the mums around me. But I noticed that a few stood a little way off, closer to the gate.

The space between each of them was a little wider than it was in the fast growing inner circle.

I saw the same pattern every day and it weighed heavily on my heart that the picture of our prep playground parents was a segmented picture.

Each one of the parents outside the inner circle were new arrivals from other countries.

I introduced myself to each one of them including the father of a boy in my son’s class, Youssef.

New arrivals from Egypt. It was a short conversation due to language but we had connected and it was the start.

Over time language and understanding grew.

I checked in regularly with Youssef, as he found the school weekly newsletter quite difficult to understand and the important dates and reminders were slipping by unnoticed.

Then I got busy with my own friends and tasks.

It was the last week of school, a free dress day, and his son turned up in uniform and saw a school yard filled with kids in coloured t-shirts.

I happened to be near the gate and saw his little face as he registered what was happening and what he had missed.

As his heart broke so did mine.

Of course we had all reminded one another in everyday conversations because that’s how it works – we all need reminding, but in my busyness I had forgotten to step outside my own circle and check in with someone on the edge.

That afternoon I asked Youssef what he missed most about Egypt. His reply stopped me dead in my tracks.

He looked me in the eye and said quite sadly, “I miss when one person sits over there with a beer and someone else sits over here and tells a joke and everybody laughs.”

They missed community, they missed friendships, parties and social gatherings – something most of us take for granted.

I will never forget that moment – the raw honesty of it.

We invited his family to our home for Christmas and they accepted.

Food was plenty and the drinks were cold, there were gifts and stories and jokes – we laughed, we ate and I quietly gave thanks to the little voice that had prompted me to make this happen.

Later that evening we received a text message that read, ‘This is the best day spending since we arrived in Australia. God bless you and your family.’

The school may be our common place, where we easily take for granted the surety it brings to our routines, but each one of us can be part of turning it into an inclusive community.

For many families it is the only place they have to form friendships.

I encourage you to tune in, step outside your comfort zone, to offer friendship and see worlds change.

You just may find your Christmas table is a little different this year.