Behind the gym is a swampy area that has a board walk running the length of it. At 6.00am, instead of getting on a treadmill at the gym I go for a walk out on the board walk and I say hello to all the kangaroos that pop their heads up over the marshy grasses to watch me as I go past. There is such a beautiful variety of them, small tan-coloured wallabies and big muscle-shouldered grey males. Their eyes and ears follow me as I walk along and call out a good morning to them. Some mornings recently I have had the privilege of watching the males battle. They ignore me completely which is great because I can watch them unhindered.
One morning, there were three smaller kangaroos on the gym side of the fence. It is a six foot high fence and the kangaroos were jumping along the perimeter looking for a way back to their mob. What was most interesting was the large male on the other side, clucking and jumping along with them on his side, looking very anxious that they should be able to get back to him. I herded the girls on my side towards what I thought was the opening and the large male on the other side watched me with great agitation. Isn't it difficult when you want to help something and they just don't get it and battle you! I talked soothingly but I don't think they got it. At one point one of the girls turned towards me and thumped on the ground with her long forelegs, so I stood really still and let her turn back towards the opening. They eventually rejoined their mob and looked back at me. I don't think they were saying thank you or anything, I think they were just making sure I wasn't still following them and annoying them.
On this walk there are several ponds and what looks like a billabong. There are ducks, herons, cormorants and a variety of grey long necked birds that are also probably a species of heron. In the trees there are rosellas, galahs, magpies and wattle birds. It really is a spectacular place. I also keep my eyes peeled for snakes but it is still cool at 6.00am so I feel quite safe from them. Often I see rabbits and I always wonder what is the point of giving them white tails that make them more visible to predators... I think I read somewhere once that it serves as a warning to each other.
After my walk, I head back into the gym and do a half hour session with my lovely trainer Blake. Today I did chin-ups, dead lifts, hammer curls, reverse flies, pull-ups on the rings and bicep curls. (I have to learn the names of all the moves as I am doing Certificate 4 in Fitness) Now I am stuffed, eating porridge, talking to you and hoping that the load of washing in the machine gets done so I can put it out before I go to work.
I heard recently that genius is the result of the ability to focus on one thing at a time for a length of time. It kind of fits with another thing I learned, that the brain, if forced to look at one thing for any length of time, more than a few seconds, tries to look at and think about it differently. I remember those uni psychology classes where they presented pictures that were actually two pictures and we had to stare at them and see how long it took for the brain to see the second picture within the first.
I may have mentioned before that I am doing a 12 week challenge with my local gym, IchooseAwesome. I may not have mentioned that I am not a genius. I have found it very hard to focus exclusively on the challenge. Even now as I write this, I am distracted by the smell of shoe polish from my shoes. I got up early this morning and one of my tasks was to polish my black work shoes and now they smell of polish and take me back to my childhood and being made to polish my school shoes.
See what I mean about focus? I know there are people at the challenge who are way more focused on it than me. One lovely person goes home and makes healthy snacks and brings them to the boot camp for us all to share. She is focused enough on the challenge to remember it when she gets home. I am not focused enough to even keep my mind on it when I am there. I could be doing push ups, but I am thinking about my day's work...have I written that report, made that phone call, made that appointment. Sometimes when I am at work I am thinking about babysitting my grandson that night or reading the next chapter of Certificate 4 in Fitness.
Genius is about being in the present. It was the message of "The Power of Now" and is the premise of the mindfulness school of psychology. I think I might have to read something to help me stay focused on one thing. It matters too how we focus: we can choose to focus on what is helpful and what is not helpful...
Not long ago, I was taking a flight in America and the woman next to me was obviously very nervous. She was very focused on what could go wrong and she was breathing heavily and digging her nails into her husband's hands. He said soothing words but nothing seemed to be working. I thought we might have a hysterical person on our hands as she started to hyperventilate.
So just as the plane reached the runway to take off, I leaned over towards her and said, "Flying is like great sex." She stopped breathing, looked at me, astonished. Here was this much older woman, with a really strange accent, talking to her about sex. How was that for a change in focus! She said, "what did you say?" I said, "You just gotta sit back and enjoy it." She laughed and we began to talk. She asked me where I was from and we chatted for a few moments. Then she looked out the window and realised we were up in the air and said, "You distracted me, didn't you!" I admitted I did and she thanked me.
On the other side of the aisle was an 8 year old girl who was evidently travelling alone. Toward the end of the flight, I asked her if she had seen "The Rescuers", a Disney cartoon about two little mice who flew around the world on the back of a goose, in a sardine can tied on to him with string. The girl mouse was voiced by Zsa Zsa Gabor (for those of you old enough to know who she is/was)
I described in great detail how the goose landed, wobbling and overshooting the runway and how funny it was. The girl enjoyed the story, but the main thing was that the woman next to me was focused on everything I said. She was entranced by the image of that goose coming into land. Once we landed she reached into her bag and gave me a small present, a magnetised book mark that she had made and thanked me again. She said she would never take another flight without thinking about sex and geese!
I guess it's true what Shakespeare said: "Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
Time goes so fast when I am busy and it is now ten days later. One thing about writing a blog is that I have to be in a certain mood. I sometimes wake up grumpy, actually most mornings I wake up grumpy. That is, my initial thoughts are grumpy. It's like I wake up and think, now, what was I sad or mad about and I remember all the things I was worried about the previous day.Sometimes I just want to sleep longer. Now I am beginning to realise that I can change that. I can decide not to think about grumpy stuff now. Of all the thoughts in the universe I can decide not to think those ones.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Breakfast is what helps lift my mood, with a good cup of tea. Most mornings, breakfast doesn't happen until I have been up a few hours. Breakfast is based on the work of Timothy Ferriss who wrote "The 4 Hour Body", which means that it consists of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. Occasionally I have porridge or yoghurt with blueberries and nuts.
A friend asked me about my weekly routine and when I began to tell her, she groaned. It's not really that bad, in fact, I think it is pretty good. On Mondays I get up at 5.30am, head to the gym, have a half hour session with the trainer and go to work. Monday nights I do a weight lifting session and Zumba. Tuesdays, I go to a boot camp at 6am and a water aerobics class, then off to work. Wednesdays I go for a walk and then go to work and do the boot camp at 6pm. Thursdays I run two water aerobics classes for the gym, go to work and head back at 6pm to be a participant in the water aerobics class, Friday I do the 6am boot camp, go for a walk and then have my training session. Saturdays I go to a weight lifting session and Sundays I do stuff all! (Although I might go for a walk along the beach). I am asleep by 9.30 at night. It sounds a lot doesn't it, as I list it here, but I am using the momentum of the 12 week challenge to keep me going, and everywhere I go, there is something to like, whether it is the early morning light, the friends I meet, the new muscle I feel. The weight still isn't coming off and I sometimes despair of hitting my target (which is only 4kg less than I am now) but all the above activity is so much fun I don't ever want to stop.
Do I get tired? Yes. Do I ever not want to go? Yes. Do I go anyway? Mostly. What stops me going? An occasional really low mood brought on by stuff that happens in my life. And one day I will tell you about that, when I am in the mood. In the meantime, have a wonderful day!
It has been four days since my last post (sounds like a confession doesn't it!)
I was working out with my trainer (I love saying that, it sounds so cool) this morning and I was thinking about the chapter in my book (Live Well Over 60) about heroes. I looked around me and realised that I am constantly surrounded by heroes. All around me there are people living their lives and helping other people. My postmaster comes to mind. Every morning he is there sorting the mail, chatting to people and making their lives easier. My trainer this morning comes to mind. Kallum trains lots of people but has the knack of making you feel that it was you he was looking forward to seeing. He has the knack of making me feel like I am the one who is the hero. He encourages, supports and challenges me, he tells me my efforts are awesome - which they most decidedly are not compared to most - and he modifies exercises when he sees they are just too much. He doesn't let me get away with anything too, because some mornings I go into the gym and I am really not in the mood to work hard. Five minutes with him (or with the other trainers Blake and Benjamin) and my mood has lifted enormously and I can concentrate on lifting that weight one more time, or doing push-ups on my toes and other moves that I couldn't even have contemplated two years ago.
I have another hero who is there every time I go and is probably there when I am not. She is a few years older than me, is also doing the 12 week challenge and she works out very hard on her own. She is my hero because I am constitutionally unable to work out alone. If I am left to my own devices in a gym, I slow down, I start to think of other things such as my first client of the day, I dream, I do nothing and I leave early. I just can't focus on exercising. I don't know why.
But my friend gets her card, works through all her exercises and doesn't ever complain. She also takes time to notice what I am doing and cheers me on. She is amazingly kind and supportive. She keeps me going and also keeps me committed to going to the boot camp classes. On Wednesday I didn't go and she was the one I thought about. I was letting her down as well as me.
Last night I went to a marketing class run by the Department of Business and Innovation. It was held at a local community centre in Korumburra. I learned that writing the book is a small part of the overall work ahead of me and that marketing is complicated, difficult and fascinating. My hero at the community centre is its manager, who has been there for 30 years,who was also at the course and who is constantly thinking of ways to support members of the community with courses that might be useful to them. She is as enthusiastic about supporting her local community as she was when I met her 25 years ago.
Truly, we are surrounded by heroes. We just have to remember to look.
It's early morning on Melbourne Cup Day and all is well with the world. I got to sleep in until 6.30 so I am counting my blessings. The wood pigeons around my house are calling each other and wandering through the lawn out the back (which needs mowing) and the sky is overcast and still. I woke up with the urge to find a Shakespeare quote for my book and of course, I googled it.
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." Shakespeare
I wonder if that's true in its purest sense. I know that there are many things that one culture may think of as bad that another will accept as perfectly fine.
The most obvious example of that is the variety of beliefs about how women should dress. Some cultures accept bare breasts and others don't accept bare anything, not even faces. Is there truly a right or wrong, or is that our thinking (or environment) has made it so? It is easy to see how standards of dress might have developed through the ages. I think if I lived somewhere with 40 degree days and covered in sand I would cover up entirely to protect myself. Similarly if I lived in a warm tropical island, I would uncover to allow the sea breezes to keep me cool.
Are all beliefs environmentally based at their origin? Did men then decide to cement it in law by saying that God willed it? Well, if he did, he willed a massive variety of all things! Eat pork, don't eat pork, cover up, don't cover up.
I like Esther Hicks' quote too: "Beliefs are just thoughts you keep thinking."
That loosens them up a bit doesn't it! If a belief is just a thought I keep thinking, then I can change it by choosing to think something else! Maybe that might be how the 21st century might be remembered by those who come after us. Maybe the 21st century will be remembered for how much we are changing the thinking of the 20th and previous centuries, how things we assumed were bad we came around to thinking were not so bad at all. Phrases like 'mixed race', 'unmarried mother', 'born out of wedlock', 'until death do us part' may become archaic and irrelevant. Maybe not. I'd like to come back to find out which aspects of our thinking we will keep and which we will let fade away.
On a more local subject, all around Melbourne young women are thinking about their outfits and hats for going to the races and I am thinking about the loads of washing that need doing and just how lovely it is to have a day off simply because a horse race is being run. I guess it is a no better reason than the Queen of England having a birthday, and I am not complaining. So many people are taking the Monday off before Cup Day so that they can have a long weekend. I don't blame them. It has been months since the last long weekend. I live in a small seaside town which has thousands of visitors on long weekends. The locals have their garage sales and the visitors fill the restaurants and pubs and walk along the beach. I hope for their sakes and those in Melbourne at the races that today is a beautiful day. Last weekend we had the Grand Prix motorcycle race here and the weather was glorious. I just love the roar of all the bikes that go through town and enjoy anticipating the appearance of a head and face when the bike riders take off their helmets.
I had a moment of absolute joy the other day, a fleeting 'all is very right with my world moment' which made my heart sing. I was taking my daughter and her partner to Korumburra to a party and on the way, we were listening to music and singing along. I don't know if you know the South Gippsland hills but they are lovely. We were singing along and I felt a surge of absolute pure bliss. Life is made up of of such little pleasures. At those times we can say, "All is very well in my world."
Did I say only four days ago that I wouldn't be drinking any wine during the week? Did I say it with all the conviction I possessed? Yes. So why, when I went out for dinner last night, did I have not just one glass of sav blanc (yum) but two?! Not only that, I had pasta! And I haven't had pasta for six weeks as part of the challenge. I had even decided on a cream-based fettucini (is that one c or two?) but at the last minute had a seafood pasta instead. The excuse I am giving is that I hadn't eaten for most of the day, it was extraordinarily cold and windy and pasta was under $20. I sold my soul for $4 because a warm chicken salad was $24... It was a nice restaurant and I had great company and all I wanted was pasta and a glass of wine. I didn't even think about my resolution of four days ago. I didn't even remember it! Why is that?
Why can some people set themselves goals, disciplines and resolutions and stick to them, while others, like me, just can't, or don't. And why, when I went to bed and mentally beat myself up for falling off the wagon, did I compound it by saying I couldn't possibly do boot camp this morning and set my alarm for an hour later? Was I punishing myself? Imagine that - punishing myself by not letting myself go to boot camp - wow, have I ever changed how I think!
I still went to my training session and I still worked out in the pool for half an hour afterwards so all is not lost. And as they say, it's not how many times you fall down it's how many times you get back up that counts. But I am still confused by myself and my behaviour as I imagine millions of people are when they say they want something (in my case to win the challenge) and then do something that goes in the opposite direction.
Apparently we are the only species on earth that deliberately does things that are not good for it, including smoking and alcohol. What makes us so perverse? If I say I won't have alcohol week days for six weeks, I should be able to stick to that, right?
I am going to give this some thought during the day today and see if I can come up with an explanation. Is it simply that immediate pleasure is stronger than the prospect of greater pleasure later? I remember the experiments done with children where they were offered one lolly now and were told that if they didn't take it, they could have five lollies in five minutes. They almost always took the one lolly immediately. Is that how we are made? Can we modify that? Can I possibly not have a glass of wine mid-week for the next six weeks in the hope of having a great result with this challenge?
Well, I will let you know. I fell off the wagon and it was my own wagon (!) and now I am getting back on. Maybe if I understand myself better, in six weeks I will tell you how I stayed on and how you can too. I live in hope...