An animal-to-animal encounter

It’s a bright, sunny morning. The weather app on my iPhone tells me it’s going to be a stinker. So before it becomes unbearable, I take my dogs for a walk.

The three of us make our way onto our habitual route – through the park and onto the shared walk-bike path adjacent to the eastern freeway. I decide to go rogue and stay on the path instead of getting off at our usual spot, to loop back home via residential streets.

This was a big mistake. Of course, I did not know this at the time. Within a hundred metres, coming towards us from the other side of the path is a ball of fluff about four months old. You could tell it was well-loved. It had a floral-print ‘chief around its neck and it momentarily paused taking us in with is black beady eyes.

The puppy doesn’t register me, yet its face expresses elation: oh, here are two of my kind – whoopee! It bolts towards us, crossing over the forbidden white line. Thankfully there were no bikes whizzing by.

But soon a group of men in lycra ride past. I stop walking, so that the puppy stays with us and doesn’t tangle into the bikes. I yell out “This is not my dog” in case I get told off for not having my dog under ‘effective control’. I’m a responsible citizen and the irresponsibility of this puppy’s owner is stressing me out.

The puppy keeps circling us and pouncing in the typical doggie-play position. After over a 100 metres of this, and only being able to move at a pace one would call shuffling, I no longer find it cute or its behaviour endearing. And neither do my dogs. My older one now anxious, continually jumps on me.

The owner is nowhere in sight. And I now I think the puppy might be lost.

With cutesy noises I coax the puppy to come closer and as quick as lightning make to grab its collar with my one free hand. But the puppy is nimbler than me and its collar is hidden under the ‘chief, so on my first go a bunch of fur slips through my fingers.

Second time lucky, I hang onto the collar with my left hand, and stand on my dogs’ leads with my left foot, so I can have my right hand free. I use it take out my phone, and now I only have one limb free.

The collar is leather, beautiful – almost the same colour as the puppy. Its name and owner’s number is etched onto the collar, so it’s tricky to read, but possible were it not for the puppy’s flipping about. It’s twisting, turning – making the collar tighter – and whimpering loudly. With the trajectory of my luck this morning, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to report me for animal cruelty. I’m just waiting for it.

The puppy is fighting back, shaking me about as I try to punch the number into my phone with my right thumb, the remaining fingers gripping onto the phone for dear life. I only managed to get in four digits when the phone drops. Now I feel like whimpering too. But my hope gets restored when I see this couple, middle-aged, on their morning walk heading my way.

“Can you help me?” I ask feebly. I’m desperately hoping they’d agree to call the owner, while I held the dog with both hands and read out the numbers. But you know what they said? And very nonchalantly, might I add. “That’s our dog.”

Whaaat?!!!

Whatever was holding me together gave way. “Where have you been? Do you know your puppy has followed us for the last 10 minutes, stressing out my dogs? It should be on a lead! It could get hit by a bike!”

“Oh.”

I let go of the puppy, thinking it’d run back to its owners. Another mistake. It still circles us, and totally ignores the commands mumbled by its owners.

The owners’ limp scramble to control their dog boils my blood. It’s going to be up to me. The responsible citizen.

We are near an opening that makes its way into a residential street. I head that way, hoping the puppy will get the hint and stay on the path. Wishful thinking. It continues to follow us, and now I think a car might squash it. The owners don’t even bother to follow us. So I return to the grassy bit between the road and path.

Despite my lack of inner calm, I find the motor of my mind whirring for a solution. The puppy is simply not understanding hooman.

Before I know it, my lizard brain takes over.

I leave my dogs on the grassy patch. And then I charge. With my arms stretched above, hands curved into paws and fingers clenched into claws, I scream-growl and bare my teeth. The puppy face tells me it understands. That bear is going to eat me! Run! It scampers off to its owners – I hope – who still haven’t shown face.

My dogs, miraculously, have stayed put. I grab their leads and don’t look around to see whether anyone has witnessed this animal-to-animal encounter. My cheeks are hot and I feel perspiration on my back, my heart in overdrive. After a minute or so, we continue on our walk, my head turning from side to side, wary of meeting the puppy again. Instead, we only meet two women walking a greyhound on a tight lead, who say “leave it” as they walk past us.

The case of Me versus Stuff (excerpt)

In 1982 Fiji, TV did not exist. I played outside. I read Enid Blyton. I didn’t read the newspaper. And I can’t bring to mind any specific billboards of that time, even though I’m sure there were a few in the city, where I did not live.

Today, at forty-four years of age living in the era of affluenza and having a disposable income, advertisers know my attention is priceless. Yet, they get it on the cheap. This is despite my creating an anti-advertising bubble to cushion me: In 2014, I deleted my Facebook account. In 2017, my Twitter account. While I have Instagram, I do not use it. And I rarely watch commercial TV.

The ads for stuff don’t just infiltrate this bubble—they gush in. Into my inbox, even when I didn’t sign up for the next celebrity’s latest self-help book because I am something to be fixed. On my phone, when I receive a text promoting a sale of 15% off TVs all day today (and today only!). On trams, trains, buses, buildings, freeways…

The humble bus shelter does not escape from being turned into a billboard either. When I walk my dogs, I pass one that tells me I can “drive away in a Polo Urban for only $16,990.” (Do I need a new car? After all my current one is nine years old, although it is running smoothly. Hmmm…) The posters on this shelter change weekly. It does not allow me the grace to become immune.

Even if I could construct an impenetrable bubble, it’d be pointless. The Internet and its cookies would see to that.

These cookies know—and remember with unfailing memory—what I desire (printed yoga leggings!). And they flaunt my desires by dangling carrots in front of me, whether I’m reading an online article, watching a video on YouTube, or searching on Google.

And if the Internet tempts with its cookies, then it decidedly seduces with its availability. I can now stare at the blue light on my ever-ready smartphone and make decisions to buy yoga leggings whenever I want.

The perfect time to do just that is before I flop into bed, after a long day’s hard work, cooking dinner, washing dishes, and watching an episode or two of my favourite show on Netflix. I should feel elated when I hit the buy button, but I find myself getting into bed not only with my husband, but also with guilt and a larger credit card debt.


This is an excerpt of an article that was shortlisted for the New Philosopher Writers’ Award XVII – Stuff. An edited version of the full article is published on Tiny Buddha. Read the full article.

Eating out – the (lack of) joy

In Melbourne, eating out is a no-brainer.

Here, food is not just for sustaining your energy or feeding your hunger.

No.

It’s a place where food is Art. Fashion, even. (Just ask the hipsters – they wear the café scene.)

And when you can get delicious diversity at a reasonable price, with food better than in its home country – OK, may be not Mexican food; LA can have that one – then why eat at home?

Not even the ‘80s-style dinner parties have survived. The way to catch up, to see people nowadays (and be seen) is usually over a coffee or a meal – at an ‘in’ restaurant.

It’s just so easy, so trendy to eat out.

Even I’ve succumbed to the habit. Coffees (magics, if you please). Brunches. Friday night dinners. The midweek dinner to catch up with a girlfriend.

I absolutely love it.

Well, I did until recently.

I’ve become too greedy for fashionable food, eating out too often. And this has had its consequences.

And I don’t necessarily mean financially. Well, not in the ‘smashed avocado–can’t afford a home deposit’ kind of way.

For me, when I eat out too often, I notice I become a little numb to the experience. That it no longer holds wonder and joy as it once did. That it becomes blasé. Nonchalant.

I don’t wish to feel this way. I wish to light up when I see a beautifully plated dish. To have all of my five senses stimulated. To not take it for granted.

The only way to do this is to choose to decrease my supply.

I pondered the idea of giving up eating out for a month. That thought only lasted for a split second. For the fear of becoming a hermit and not having a break from cooking.

So, here I am, aiming to find balance between making my own fodder and eating out.

But, if you say the magic word, I’ll be there.

Romanticising

A few weeks ago, I introduced a good friend of mine (let’s call her Jacinta) to another good friend (let’s call her Linda).

At this catch-up, Jacinta learnt a few things about Linda’s life (as did Linda about Jacinta’s). Things such as how Linda lives in the city for 3 days of the week, then escapes to her country home 2 hours’ drive away for the remainder – where Linda gardens, paints and writes, with her partner, dog and cat to keep her company.

It sounded all so romantic.

So, later, when Linda had left for her country abode, Jacinta said to me, “Wow, I’d love to do something like that. To have a house in the country with a backyard for a garden and chooks.”

“Yeah, I suppose it sounds lovely and a lifestyle to aspire to”, I said. “But I just know myself. I’d get bored. I need the hustle and bustle of city life nearby, with plenty of facilities, and to be near my family and friends [and great coffee!]. Plus, even though I love the idea of having my own chickens, their pooping everywhere would just s#*t me.”

Jacinta nodded her head. “I understand what you mean. I think I’d get bored, too. And I’m not a keen gardener either. May be I’m just in love with the idea of this kind of lifestyle, but, if I were to be honest, it’s not really me.”

__

This is an example of what I call ‘romanticising’. Many of us do it throughout our lives, to varying degrees. I feel it’s become rampant in the age of social media, where everyone’s ‘best’ lives are on show. And so we live in a fear-of-missing-out culture, with a comparison mentality.

My particular romanticising vice is comparing my marriage to the relationships of others – their partner is very romantic, they organise weekends away, hold surprise birthday parties, talk for hours, have many common interests … etc.

When I catch myself in the act of romanticising, I ask myself – is this what I really want in my relationship, too, or would it annoy me? And if it’s what I ‘think’ I really want, then which dark corner if my soul is the light shining upon?

That is, what is it that I’m really feeling, it’s root cause, and what’s the true answer. Because wanting my relationship to mimic someone else’s certainly isn’t it – since romanticising about one aspect of a person’s life never gives the whole picture, the reality.

The thing is, the more you romanticise about wanting your life to be more like others, the more you miss out on living yours. Which can turn you into a miserable sod.

So, whenever you feel the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, stop romanticising and water your own grass. But make sure to do it your own way.

My holiday traditions

I’ve been doing some work for an online magazine. And of all things, I’m writing about grief and loss.

Writing about a sad topic, especially at this time of year, has, however, offered me some soulful insights. It’s got me thinking about memories – and creating them – for that’s all we have when, sadly, a loved one is no longer with us. It’s the happy memories, and even the silly ones, that keep us going – not the material stuff.

Naturally, I began to think about whether I had any particular traditions for the holiday season to build great memories upon.

My side of the family – as with many families – has a long-standing tradition of Christmas lunch. What I love about it, is the extra specialness of getting together as a clan at this time of year – eating yummy food, which is a mix of Western and Eastern, with goat curry being a staple Christmas dish on our table. It has a certain air about it.

Five years ago, Kris Kringle was introduced for the adults too. And my nephews, aged five and seven, now know they need to hand a gift from under the tree to an adult for each gift they open – to learn the joy of giving too (thank you to a dear friend for this brilliant idea).

 

IMG_0217-1My husband is into creating his own traditions, the depth of which I’ve just recently realised. I think it bothers him that we don’t have any particular Christmas traditions just for our little nuclear family of two humans and two fur babies. Without children – for children do make it easy to bring Christmas to life – creating traditions, I have found, can easily go by the wayside.

So, as of this year, rather than the conventional Christmas tree, the hubby and I have started a tradition of ‘his and her stockings’. Blue for his, pink for mine. Clichéd, yes, but, at least, they’re not red and green.

Into the stockings we’ll stuff goodies for each other – mostly what we use, want to experience (or eat!), but which are also a little extraordinary. The essence of this tradition is tuning into each other’s needs and desires – that ol’ mindfulness thing again – to gift something meaningful.

Each year, I’ll enjoy creating memories around this ritual – hanging the stockings, being clued into what my husband is saying for gift ideas, and then sneakily wrapping and plopping the wares into his stocking while he’s none the wiser.

We also mark Christmas by hanging a wreath on the front door.

Simplicity is key in our household.

I’m also creating a ritual of catching up with a few friends, who are my closest. It’s our one-on-one time to recap the year over some great food, talk about how far our friendship has come, and to exchange something thoughtful. I also write something special about our relationship in the Chrissie card.

While these customs are not many, and nor are they revolutionary or grand, they’re my little way of celebrating the big day. And, they’re consciously chosen – from the kinships and gifts to the activities and the number of them – making this time of year a deeply pleasurable one, one for creating memories that feed soul.

You can consciously architect your Christmas too.

What traditions do you have? Which ones would you like to let go? Are there any new ones you wish to introduce?

Why is it your goal?

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

~ Kofi Annan

It’s easy enough to make a list of goals to achieve for the year.

I’ve been thinking about what personal goals I’d like to achieve for 2014 — it’s the first time I’m creating yearly goals — and the question for me is not what but: why is this goal on my list?

If you’ve created or are thinking about creating some goals for 2014, you may like to ponder this question too.

You could ask:

  • Is it because someone else is doing it {and you want what they have}?
  • Is it because you think it would be a good thing to do?
  • Is it because you think you should do it ~ because you think it will make you richer, smarter, more likeable/popular, etc?

In other words do your goals arise from external reasons?

Many of us want to achieve a particular goal because we’re chasing a feeling, not the goal itself.

To chase a feeling, you need to know how you want to feel in the first place.

To know how you want to feel in life, you need to be aware of your Self — and realise your core values and how you want to feel overall.

At the end of last year, I began work on defining my core values. I have 5 {people usually have 3–5}.

My core values are:

core-values_3Jan2013It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, so I’m trying these values on for size. I’m just going with what inherently feels important to me.

It’s ok to change/tweak your core values over time as you grow and/or understand more about who you are and how you operate in the world.

Being aware of your values is like having an innate compass, guiding you to make choices {goals} based on living a life that’s meaningful to you.

Have you created sacred boundaries?

Boundaries-picture-quote

In a world where laptops, smart phones, social media accounts, wireless and broadband internet and TV are the norm ~ it’s become much easier to do more {not necessarily more effective}, and be accessible 24-7, whether it’s for work or personal interests.

In fact, these behaviours are revered in today’s culture.

It’s cool to have the latest gadget and apps.

It’s cool to busy.

It feeds the ego to be busy, to get attention on social media.

{Being busy also masks feelings of loneliness.}

Not only that, never has it been easier to see what everyone is up to.

This can create the fear of missing out, not having enough, or worse, not being enough ~ which may lead you to have desires that are not necessarily aligned with your true nature or how you wish to live your life.

It’s easy to lose what’s important to you in all the noise.

Don’t get me wrong. The advent of smart devices and wireless has given us the opportunity to create a lifestyle we wish like never before ~ as long as we use them as tools to enhance not takeover our lives.

Let’s take me for example.

I use online tools to run my freelance business, work as an editor for an online magazine and write this blog.

Besides, my freelance business is run solely by me. This means I don’t have colleagues, or a boss to report to {the boss is me!}.  I don’t have to leave the home if I don’t want to {and stay in my pyjamas}.

I can do whatever I want whenever I want. There’s nothing to stop me, except for me.

Sounds like bliss right?

Well, yes, but it could all easily go down the toilet. My chosen lifestyle has the ideal conditions for breeding unfortunate habits and addictive behaviours ~ unless I set sacred boundaries.

Without boundaries it would be easy for me to surf the net, watch YouTube videos or TV, check and respond to social media and my emails all day {especially if I had push notifications on}, and chat online ~ that’s because these activities are easier to do than to live {and work} purposefully.

This would have a roll-on impact on every aspect of my life.

Without boundaries I’d be creating a life where it feels like I’m working all the time. As I’d be on a screen or a device of some sort for most of the day.

This would affect my sleep, because my brain will be wired {from the device light}, so it will take me hours to fall asleep.

Over time, this type of behaviour would lead to chronic tiredness and stress, which means I wouldn’t be interested in doing activities that require my physical and mental input ~ such as exercising, cooking and eating well, writing, and spending quality time with my husband, family and friends {it takes more effort to pay attention and listen in person than it does online}.

Instead, it’d be easier for me to do things that are less taxing on the brain, like watching TV and spending time watching others lives on social media.

Can you see the cyclical pattern? 

Since we no longer have any invisible boundaries that were once offered by the 9–5, desktop computers, dial-up internet and non-smart phones ~ it’s up to us create purposeful, sacred boundaries for ourselves.

That’s the beauty of it too ~ you have more power than ever before to set your own boundaries instead of someone else doing it for you. So align them to how you want to live.